“The World Is Too Much With Us” in Spite of Writing, Photos, and Popsicles


I’ll start with one of my favorite therapeutic activities:  Making a List

  • Covid-19
  • Trump’s Zero Tolerance Policy at the southern border
  • Systemic Racism
  • THE ENTIRE CAST: Donald Trump; Mike Pence; Ivanka and Jared; Stephen Miller; William Barr; Mitch McConnell; the “Base”
  • Runaway Capitalism

An incomplete list because there is too little or far too much to continue. I find myself at a loss to name the elements of our world that have caused a kind of shutting down of my usual ability to parse a problem and begin to understand it.  It’s a formula we all seem to use about our terrible frame of mind these days, “I am depressed because x, y, and z are happening.”

And certainly any item on the list would be cause enough for depression. My own final straw was the border. I was confident that, at last, that would be the thing that even the Republicans wouldn’t be able to tolerate, the situation that would drive them to stand and object. Surely they heard the recording of children crying when they were taken from their parents. And when nothing happened, when they responded with silence or excuses, when I realized that it was continuing without a pause, a kind of miasma dropped over me.

I cannot find my way in a world that flooded me with lies and atrocities for nearly four years and then marooned me with my brain reeling.  This is how dictatorships succeed, this overload and confusion. This is how people are brainwashed–the pounding of loud noise followed by a sudden silence. The noise again, then solitary confinement.

I know this from reading history. I am not unaware. I am prepared. It doesn’t seem to matter.  The hideous has become ordinary and there is nothing to be done. Our souls retreat.

Possibly the worst thing about this past four years and, especially, most of 2020, Is a blank place in the brain, this switch that has simply turned off all awareness of and reaction to what’s going on in our world.  My terrible fear, from the day of the election, has happened.  The unthinkable has become normal.  Just like that. Our Democracy is being eaten away, undermined carefully and meticulously on every front, and I, at least, am too dead to do more than read the headlines and nod.  I find it hard to summon rage.  Too much to rage about.

Soon after the election, David Remnick, Editor of The New Yorker, hosted a small panel discussion. One of the participants was Salman Rushdie, the controversial British Indian novelist. When asked what he thought was going to happen, he responded in part,

What I think is this, I think that the
intensity of what’s going on at the moment,
the speed at which things are happening, is very unstable.
It’s very destabilizing and it can’t go on like that
for four years, something has to give. . .
When a machine is running as badly as this,
something is going to blow.

Ah, Mr. Rushdie. You, of all people, should know that things can, indeed, go on in the worst ways, for far longer than four years.

From the NYTimes, 6/19/20  5:49 p.m. EST



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