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


           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

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