Archive for July, 2020

Letter from the Vineyard 07 21 2020 Far from the madding crowd, unabsolved…

July 21, 2020


           Sunday was grey, foggy, warm, windows all open, catching a light brush of wind mid-morning; essentials needed handling, some grocery shopping, other errands to tidy the threads of life, doing them at a leisurely pace, the first day in a long stretch not in the bookstore.

Hydrangeas nestle summer porches, bookstore included, a flower never appreciated until I was on island; bloomed beautifully this year, providing me joy, beauty in the midst of pandemic.

The island bustles but not to bursting; mostly people wear masks, mandatory in downtown Edgartown, a rule not always followed, better since the order. Lucky here, the count is low; I suspect many feel safer here to be unsafe, a disastrous plot line elsewhere. Let’s not repeat.

As many do, I get unanchored in time, days always nearly the same, up, a little exercise, off to the bookstore, home, dinner, read, repeat.  In the middle of a night, I woke, realized it was Wednesday, meaning I had missed something scheduled for Monday. All I could offer were apologies, thankfully, to someone who understood, as he’d done the same.

Likely, most of us have similar stories in this age of coronavirus, dreaded rising numbers, cases, deaths.  We are looking to the runes for economic guidance, all bets off on how this will go.  Extra benefits, a lifeline for many, run out this week.

When I signed on for a Zoom with the Center for the Digital Future a few minutes early, its founder, executive director, Jeff Cole, also signed on, in his home office in California, where he has sequestered now for months, a lucky city, state turned coronavirus unlucky, low numbers rocketing; telling me I was in one of the safest places he could think of, praising me my intelligence to have settled here, now.  Unconscious competence is all I can claim; who knew last November this future we were marching into?

Fall is facing us, meaning school should start.  It will, though not normally in many places, with some going full digital in the fall, waiting to see what pandemic landscape evolves in winter. Other schools are busy raising plexiglass barriers, creatively seeking social distancing, warmer states looking to parking lots for classrooms.

Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, said this past week, “The science should not stand in the way” of school openings.  It was a double take moment; if not science guiding us in a pandemic, where should we look?  Tarot cards?

Pandemic still raging, the president seeks to slash health coverage, remove funds for testing from forthcoming stimulus packages, to my astonishment though not surprise, this current president seems determined to hurt the nation he is governing; in the process, wounding his chance for re-election. Polls show him trailing Biden badly though 49% of whites want Trump.

2020 will likely be all about Covid-19, who we think will steer government in such a way to bring to hand a disease not disappearing despite all of Mr. Trump’s statements and hopes, which are approaching delusional.  This is not a case of “the sniffles.”

Simon & Schuster, the venerable publishing giant owned by ViacomCBS, has the two hottest Trump books, Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened” and presidential niece Mary Trump’s, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

Both are flying out the door; Mary Trump’s exceeded all expectations. We’re waiting for more, backordered as no one expected a million copies to go in a day.

On the streets of Portland, Federal officers are deploying against protestors, in clashes which have turned violent.

This is what was said by a first-time protestor, “It’s just us normal people out there. There were a whole group of pregnant moms standing out there linking arms and they got gassed. You hear people like [President] Trump say it’s just a bunch of wacko fringe people in liberal cities who are out there, but no way. We’re all just normal people who think what’s happening is wrong.”  Christopher David, graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, former member of the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, wanting to know what the officers involved thought of the oath they had sworn to protect and defend the Constitution.

Two bones in his hand were broken for asking the question; he was gassed, beaten, he offered no resistance. *

What a strange world it is when Federal officers leap from unmarked vans to attack protestors and a president is unsure he will accept an election result he doesn’t like.**

My faith in America is tested as my comfort in summertime hydrangeas grows, grateful to be away from the madding crowd, though unabsolved from the call to change.

*Washington Post, July20, 2020

** Interview with Chris Wallace, “Fox News, Sunday,” July 19, 2020

Photo credit:  Alexander McMullen

Letter from the Vineyard 07 08 2020 Fiddling while we sicken…

July 8, 2020


“Coronavirus girl” by is licensed via Creative Commons

Night, soft, gentle, seeped into Vineyard life as I stood outside BTB, the restaurant behind the bookstore, chatting with Gustavo.  He runs the restaurant, I the bookstore, sharing property, owners, and some similar and dissimilar problems.  It was the evening of the 4th, a day different from other 4ths, no parade, no fireworks, no waterfront party to celebrate as rockets’ red glare broke against a starry night.

Different, too, in that entrance to the bookstore requires masks, gloves if you want to touch books, arrows must be followed, occupancy monitored.  This is not the world we once inhabited.

We are learning to read smiles from eyes, not mouths, learning to quickly cover if coming into close proximity with another, learning how to live in this new unnormal, disrupted world.

We have been forced into a new way of living because of the coronavirus; a science fiction novel come to roaring life in our own lives.  Those who failed to heed the call of a world changed are paying a bitter price. Florida refuses to command masking even as infections soar toward the stratosphere.  Texas is buckling into reality, California, so good at the start, tumbling into serious crisis.

We are exhausted with precautions, yearning to return to what was normal only months ago. On Main Street in Edgartown people in familiar groups shun masks as they stroll together, pulling them up encountering strangers.  Cars roll down the street, masks hanging from the rearview mirror, at the ready.

This is our world.  Masks, hand sanitizers, rubber gloves, arrows on the floor, limits on numbers, temperature checks, Zoom, FaceTime, Google whatever they call it this week.  Only 10% of Americans want to return to the office every day.  50% of us have better relationships with our spouses/partners and children. *

The old world is gone; creating a new one, in record time. Nothing like this has happened in the history of the world.  Twenty, thirty years of transformation has been condensed into four months.

Back in America, we have in Donald Trump a president doing his best to emulate Herbert Hoover, who refused to see the problems his country was facing; like Hoover, nothing is as bad as it is, except that it is.  Trump has lost the thread on coronavirus, claiming we have it under control as numbers grow exponentially.  We have 4% of the world’s population, 25% of cases, 25% of deaths.  No, Mr. President, you are woefully wrong.  Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Trump prevaricates as America sickens.

Six weeks ago, 20% of the country relied on Trump as the best source for information on the coronavirus crisis.  Last week it was 12%. Fauci is at 44%. *

Events are cascading upon us.  We have had 1918, 1933, 1968 in four months.  Is it a wonder our minds reel?

“Black Lives Matter,” as a movement, post the death of George Floyd, has had more people participate than any movement in the history of this country.  Time Magazine called this “an overdue reckoning.”

It is.  The country is accepting the grim tardiness of this reckoning, painfully acknowledging treating African Americans in appallingly cruel ways since forcibly dragging them to our shores in chains.  We are understanding, at last, our bigotry to anyone not white.

The country is beginning to accept historical culpability for oppressing people by virtue of skin color.  Small southern towns are showing up for this movement, moved by yet another black man crying out:  I can’t breathe, ending up dead at the hands of the police, who are supposed to protect us.  Whatever George Floyd might have done, he did not deserve to pay with his life.

Social media is a boost and a bane, platforming lies and sharing videos of horrific injustices.

We are at a turning point.  Every fault line in our society is being laid bare; we will have to make it work.  We need to work to be the shining city on the hill or decide to surrender to the nascent oligarchy of the last twenty years.


*Results from the Covid Disruption study conducted by the Center for the Digital Future, USC Annenberg, where I am a Senior Fellow, study with a 3% +/- margin of error.