Thursday, April 2, 2020

Shifting Pronouns

Overnight, it seems, we have gone from US and THEM to US and IT. IT may yet bring us together as the unifying force sharing our tenuous destiny on this orbiting hunk of dust. IT seeps under and over walls and gates and gulfs and chasms indifferent to the folly of borders and artificially color-coded maps. 

Yes, of course, there is ample blame to be assessed but it serves little purpose at this point although cable news thrives on it. It seems too easy. Vehemence has worn thin. The time to mock, vilify or (God forbid) praise HIM has passed. Leave that for historians. He has already established himself by a unique combination of arrogance and incompetence. But why waste our breath in condemnation; it could be our last.

It seems we stood and talked like this before
We looked at each other in the same way then
But I can't remember where or when.

MY impulse is to look back in history toward those instances where the US and THEM dissolved and then resolved themselves. In 1905 Theodore Roosevelt presided over peace talks between Russia and Japan ending the Sino-Russian War in which both imperialist countries fought over control of Korea and Manchuria. For this T.R. was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

As a goodwill gesture Imperial Japan sent over scions from thousands of cherry trees which were planted along the tidal basin in Washington D.C. During World War II our bombers destroyed Japan’s prized trees. After their surrender we sent cuttings from our cherry trees back to Japan. Years later, when ours died from some sort of blight Japan sent cuttings again to revive our Washington cherry trees. US and THEM had vanished. Humanity can be a force more powerful that distant pronouns. THEM got replaced by WE.

This could be the propitious moment to find our commonweal. Sporting events are a paradigm for competition but they are also a model for hugs as we see in the NBA where arch rivals often engage in a long post-game embrace. It is, after all, a form of theater.

If all this sounds like I am over-selling the positives I don't disagree. I'm trying to convince myself as I write.

When the last ventilator becomes an objet d'art in a museum exhibit alongside Duchamp's urinal we will ask ourselves, What just happened. Greed and virulence lost to community and survival. Scientists along with that person who waters the lettuce in the market won the day. There is a substance within that prevails. Damn the C-virus but without it we forgot how we share a fragile tenancy on this place called Earth and how much we need each other as custodians. Otherwise we may lose our lease. 

In addition we are encroaching on wilderness land with no resistance to their many virus. Another teachable lesson to be learned. Globalization is a double-edged sword creating great wealth for some and destitution for others. I suspect this will help return some vital supply sources back to our shores.  

It does feel to me this is OUR existential moment. Whether we survive is paramount and how we regard one another and our kinship to our fellow survivors is where our focus needs to be. As the poet, Auden, wrote, we must love each other or die. 

This crisis may just be prelude to the next as chunks of the polar ice cap raise ocean levels and islands disappear. The message is to listen for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for all. 


  1. so special. your writing, your thoughts, your reflections -- all terrific

  2. Thank you, Sybil. Writing is my recreation. I enjoy seeing how the blank page gets filled with my scribbles.