Letter from the Vineyard 30 November 2020 Is Paris Burning?

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Letter from The Vineyard

30 November 2020

“Is Paris Burning?”

            Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Shopping Saturday, all in our rear view mirror, a Thanksgiving for most of us unlike any other, certainly for me, spent physically alone while connecting with a dazzling array of people, friends and family, people seen Zoom regularly, those I haven’t seen in years, all the while cuddled at home, cooking, sipping blanc de blanc, coffee, orange juice with the Vineyard resolutely grey, a constant drip of rain, mixed with momentary slashes.

            The island is cautious, cases up precipitously from earlier points; Edgartown and Tisbury Red Zones, the owner of Cronig’s returned from hospital in Boston just in time for the Great American Feast, to the relief of the island.  I don’t know him though admire his dedication to this place, the throwback feel of his store on State Road, shopped when I do runs to Lapel’s.

            When I discovered my traditional Thanksgiving would be missed, I grieved.

            Then I decided if I could not be physically with people, I would be by Zoom or FaceTime, the technological glue holding us together in pandemic separateness.  

            It was glorious; a morning visit with Matthew, Anne in D.C., noon coffee with Tory, Pam in Nashville, cooking prep, a Zoom with Nick over on the Cape, dashing across the country to Brentwood to “see” Medora and Henry, cooking prep, back to Nashville for Jerry and Gail, followed by a family Zoom of epic proportions, my two siblings, my brother’s children, their children.  I had not seen my brother’s Oregon grandchildren for years; they have grown into lovely young men and women.  It took me a moment to recognize Isabel and Clare, the twins, so transformed by time, now confident teens. FaceTime with Meryl and Ray, oh my!

My Thanksgiving was a tech extravaganza; at the end I was delighted, satisfied, grateful, having had a magnificent time when I had originally thought depression would ride shotgun.

            None of us discussed politics or pandemic; choosing to live in the warm bubble of the Thanksgiving moment, transformed this year to something new and different, gleaning all the happiness we could.

            For beyond our bubbles, the world is not a pretty place.

            While the stock markets break records, lines at food banks grow miles long.  Unemployment benefits will soon fall away for many; a dark winter in front of us, pandemic raging, hospitals stretched, the disease coming ever closer to us. 

            While hospitals are being overwhelmed, we can’t seem to agree masks are a good idea.

            Beyond the pandemic, we face political stress, a president who will not concede, fighting court battles with judges he appointed; rejected with scathing opinions; his appeals reflect the president’s long practice of believing if he says something is so, it will be so.

            He will step down if the Electoral College votes against him, holding hope, I suspect, his operatives will convince State Electors to vote for him, not Biden, as he is the “real winner.”

            We witness the sad spectacle of Giuliani, once “America’s Mayor,” now to be remembered for his embarrassing performances in support of Trump, including an ill-advised press conference at a Four Seasons Lawn and Care business, another during which he dripped something brown down his face.

            It seems Iraq is on high alert, fearing Trump will make some move against Tehran in his final days, to be fought on their soil.  

It appears he is rushing to cement his “legacy” of turning back environmental rules, making corporate pollution easier.

            Perhaps more myth than reality, German General von Cholitz disobeyed Hitler’s orders to destroy Paris as the Germans retreated.  “Is Paris Burning?” wired Hitler.  What is not myth, is our debt to individuals like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and other Republican state officials who did their jobs honestly while undergoing severe pressure from the likes of Trump and Lindsey Graham, including death threats, to find fault with the electoral process.

            An Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in Tehran, a move possibly limiting Biden’s options with Iran, a move suspected by some of Trump, in his White House bunker, ordering a scorched earth policy in his final days, his own way ordering Paris burned.

            This morning, watching daybreak, I offer a silent prayer of thanks to those who withstood pressure, and one of hope Trump will be surrounded by men like von Cholitz.

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