Been crazy busy at the day (and night) job at the Big Box so this strange, tumultuous roller-coaster of a week has been one I’ve witnessed from the sidelines in surreal, partial updates on my phone during lunch and breaks in my shifts there. Trying to absorb all of that while maintaining the cheerfully indifferent, can’t-talk-about-this-here demeanor of retail has been disorienting. (“Cheerful” isn’t something that comes naturally or easily for me. Nor is “indifferent,” for that matter. It’s helped that my mask covers the little twitches at the corners of my mouth.)
The recording of the disgraceful, unhinged phone call that our disgraced and unhinged president made to Georgia’s secretary of state came out this week. Whatever horrors people have imagined might have been on the missing 18 minutes of Nixon’s Watergate tapes weren’t as damning or disturbing as that. That was how this week started.
And then the next day brought the run-off elections in Georgia. The Rev. Raphael Warnock of the Ebenezer Baptist Church is now a United States senator from the heart of Dixie. The enormity of that took me back to all the hope and possibility of that painful, pregnant pause in then-Sen. Barack Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech here in Philly in 2008. “We can do that,” Obama said, of exactly the kind of shallow, racism-haunted politics of white resentment and white distraction that the execrable Kelly Loeffler exemplified 12 years later in her ugly attacks on Warnock. “That is one option. Or …” And then a long pause that made you hold your breath.
Warnock’s victory in Georgia was like catching that breath again. And it was followed, early the next morning, by confirmation that Jon Ossoff had won the other Georgia run-off, ensuring Democratic control of the Senate and, at long last, some possibility other than the endless continuation of government of Mitch McConnell, by Mitch McConnell, and for Mitch McConnell.
But the relief and hopeful thrill of that scarcely had time to breathe before the following day brought us the madness of a Trump-incited riot that saw a mob of his self-deluded followers interrupt a constitutionally mandated joint session of Congress, sending our lawfully elected representatives fleeing to a secure location as Q-Anon LARP-ers, white supremacist militias, and actual Nazis ransacked the Capitol. Some were there in hopes of witnessing an insurrection while others were there earnestly trying to carry one out — all with the blessings and at the urging of the man who still has the nuclear codes.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the pandemic, which is raging out of control, with a quarter of a million new cases registering every day alongside worst-in-the-world daily deaths surpassing 4,000 and rising. (We had a covid scare here, but the ‘vixen’s test came back negative. As I said, phew.)
The pace of events — multiple severe crises all demanding urgent attention — is just overwhelming. I’m struggling to absorb what I’m seeing and to make sense of it. In a sane world, I’d have had the time to sit with the wonderful news of those Georgia elections and to celebrate them properly. And also to celebrate the wonderful news of my wife’s confirmed covid-free status. (And maybe also to celebrate the far-less-important-but-also-wonderful news of Francisco Lindor in a New York Mets uniform. Sorry, Cleveland.)
But for every piece of good news it feels like there are 10 larger and more urgently pressing pieces of bad news. How do you rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn simultaneously? And constantly?
In a sense, this week has been like watching a speeded up re-run of the past four years. There’s a horse in the hospital. And now, it seems, the horse has rabies. It’s unsettling and I am unsettled, yet with everything going on, settling down seems as irresponsible as it is impossible.
But, OK, I’ve got a couple days off at the Big Box — a couple days in a row. So let me catch my breath. Because a new week starts tomorrow.
Anybody else feeling like this?