I feel like I’m too young to have this many friends dying already, but then again, everything we know today, from the streets of tear gas to the weary figures of the ICUs, who grind through the exhausting fluorescent and gray in scrubs twelve or thirteen hours at a time — all of this reminds us that no life is to be truly expected. Two old friends of mine passed away recently and unexpectedly, but not entirely shockingly, in deaths that will fall forever into the quantum space between maybe-COVID, maybe-not. They lived reasonably long and mostly rewarding lives, so what can we complain about?
I’d complain that this man and this woman both lived for learning, teaching, and social justice, and they did not get to see some of the things we’re seeing now. No one lives to see everything. But sometimes the really big surprises come a few diurnal clicks too late. There is plenty of horror to behold, not the least of which is the brute force of police violence that goes on taking lives metronomically, unfazed by communities in convulsion around them. But I also wish my friends had gotten to witness a quickening groundswell of rage and political commitment not seen in America during my lifetime, and not really seen since my friends’ own youths in the 1960s — Americans who are willing to risk life and limb because they can’t bear to live another day, week, or year where their lives are treated as worthless anyway. I wish they could have seen the truly shocking decision from the United States Supreme Court of June 15, 2020, which confirmed against seemingly all the odds that our queer and trans friends, neighbors, siblings, and children deserve to be able to earn a living in America. I’d wish that their hearts could hold out to see more of the dignity of those who work patiently and without fanfare to keep them beating, just a few minutes, hours, or days longer. I’m also glad that I’m still here, because there were many times when I thought I wouldn’t be.
The writer John Green recently told a story about Polish goalie Jerzy Dudek on his podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed. It’s a sports story, seemingly incongruous to our times, and perhaps even banal. But its lesson was nonetheless timelessly true. We find it very easy to anticipate the terrible things to come — losing our parents and other loved ones, becoming frail and sick, facing death, knowing full well that at least some injustice and cruelty will go on in the future, even if we move Heaven and Earth to try to prevent it. But we often do not think of the wonderful and beautiful things that will happen in the future, because they are almost always more difficult to imagine or predict than physical pain and death, which we know will come. But both bad and good things are ahead of us, and we shouldn’t let the certainty of the former snuff out the grace and generous serendipity of the latter.
To our friends — we miss you, and we’ll keep trying to bear witness, to keep the human panorama going on a little longer.
- Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on How Do We Change America? (New Yorker)
- The Real Economic Catastrophe Hasn’t Hit Yet. Just Wait For August. (Buzzfeed News)
- What the fuck is wrong with Charlie Kirk? (Nate Hochman)
- Harvard Reaches Tentative One-Year Contract with Graduate Students Union (Boston Globe)
- For Black Residents Who Saw D.C. Burn Decades Ago, Floyd Protests Feel Like Hope (WaPo)
- Masha Gessen on The LGBTQ Rights Movement’s Biggest Victory (New Yorker)
- Friend-of-the-blog Victoria Wolcott on America’s long and troubled history of segregated public parks (NY Daily News)
- You’ll Never Walk Alone and Jerzy Dudek (Anthropocene Reviewed)
- An Open Letter to the Stanton Foundation (Nursing Clio, co-signed by ToM and others)
- Faisal Devji on Celebrity Academics (Hurst Publishers)
- Hundreds of CUNY Adjuncts to be Fired and Lose Health Insurance: Interview with Laid-off Adjunct Professor of Africana Studies (Left Voice)
- The “Lost Cause” Goes West: Confederate Culture and Civil War Memory in California (Boom)
- How Black women are reshaping Afrofuturism (Open Democracy)
- The Joke’s on Us: Conspiracy Theory in the Rise of Postmodern White Supremacy (3 Quarks Daily)
- Larry Kramer, Pioneering AIDS Activist And Writer, Dies At 84 (NPR)
- Can We Get a Wellness Check on Ben Sasse? (Seeing Red Nebraska)
- Reopening reality check: Georgia’s jobs aren’t flooding back (Politico)
- Friend-of-the-blog Christine Ehrick on Hidden Women’s Radio History in Uruguay (Radio Survivor)
- Democrats’ covid-19 relief plan shows charges of socialism have lost their bite (WaPo)
- The Failures of SESTA/FOSTA (TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly)
- China ‘copycat’ buildings: Government clamps down on foreign imitations (BBC)
- Why Iceland banned beer (BBC)
- The reason we’re so uncomfortable wearing masks (WaPo)
- We have begun the dreaded third quarter of isolation, when — yes — things get weird (triple j)
- Together But Apart: Virtual Connection in the time of Corona (Valerie FM)
- Veena Dubal on A Brief History of the Gig (Logic)