I’m not in Washington. It’s just that COVID-19 seems so globally significant, so life-altering, so biblical, that the years ought to be ordered according to their relationship with the disease. Now we are in the D.C. era: During COVID-19. Everything that came before this novel coronavirus is B.C.; everything that will come after is A.C.
It’s been only about two months since I last wrote on this blog, but about a decade has gone by in each of those 60-something days. It seems there is a gaping abyss between everything that I wrote here in the B.C. past and everything that is going on in the D.C. present.
B.C., say, three weeks ago, I thought I’d better get around to writing about my trip to Cote d’Ivoire in December, and the intense cabin fever I felt while cooped up in a hotel room for twelve days. That seems laughable now.
B.C., I thought my pictures of northern Italy, where I went on vacation at the end of January, might inspire jealousy. Now I know they will only inspire sadness. All of B.C. feels like a lost world of innocence — especially the parts of B.C. that were actually D.C., only we didn’t know it yet.
I do want to get back to writing here, because writing is a frustrating process that somehow leads to a soothing satisfaction. I could use both soothing and satisfaction right now.
I do still want to post my travel photos from the past few months. But I also feel massively disgusted by the thought of doing that in the D.C. era.
I recently read a scathing one-line indictment of a system in which rich people jet around the world for business and pleasure, spreading COVID-19 to poor countries that don’t have the systems or resources to fight it, and then return to their homes and shelter in place with their Fresh Direct and Clorox while poor people die of diseases that don’t belong there. I felt that criticism deeply, especially because I was traipsing around Italy in January as a stopover vacation on my way to a conference in Nairobi the next week. (And because I headed to Portland to see my sister a few weeks later. And because, until COVID-19 cancelled the trip, I was supposed to go to Costa Rica to visit my cousins last week.)
I was already morally wrestling with my increasingly jet-setting lifestyle, knowing it made me a climate change hypocrite and a bigger part of the problem than the solution. I was just beginning to wrap my head around what to do about it, when coronavirus turned flying into a double-whammy.
But I’m shelving that line of inquiry for now, because it can wait. Right now, I’m too busy thinking and worrying about the friends, colleagues of friends, and parents of friends, who are struggling through coronavirus. I’m thinking and worrying about the thousands of people who are at once perfect strangers and my New York City neighbors, who are fighting for their lives in hospitals where visitors are not allowed. I’m thinking of all the unemployed people, and the underpaid workers at risk, and the overburdened healthcare workers in the city.
And I’m thinking and worrying about my friends and “family” in Senegal, as well as my colleagues in West Africa, East Africa, and Southeast Asia, who are next in line for this thing and whose countries are exceedingly ill-equipped to deal with a health crisis of this proportion. Despite my agnosticism, I have started to pray, because it seems the only thing to do when confronted with a rapidly unfolding catastrophe that is completely out of any individual’s control.
I’ve also been praying with my wallet, as it were, by donating not only to local and national organizations but also (and mostly) to global response efforts — like WHO’s COVID-19 fund — that will aid the communities least equipped to deal with this crisis. My contribution is a drop in the bucket, but a billion drops can fill a pretty big bucket.
I feel a bit like this is going the way of Gal Gadot and friends singing “Imagine,” so I’ll stop performing my humanity now…
Wishing you all a good week despite the exceptionally difficult times we are going through. I hope you are able to find moments of comfort and calm (and connection!) in the midst of it all.