Intermissions for Thought Police (Lockdown Journals V)

Vera Rima 2020

**I don’t usually tackle such topics here — intro for this project can be found here, from first section (Lockdown I, II)

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The Root of the Problem

Wherever we fall on the ideological spectrum
It’s worth asking, why are we so angry?
It’s not enough to just say “divided.”

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Part V

Tough Love for Americans (and hope beyond the conflict)

Once again setting party affiliation completely, absolutely, totally aside.  It’s true that many are quite happy to sacrifice, for saving as many lives as possible and slowing or preventing the spread of disease.  Others question whether this solution is truly proportional to the problem, considering the multitude of other problems to be created in its wake.  Whatever the case, I find myself disappointed in the condescending, self-righteous, patronizing, and even irrational attitudes I encounter, even among people whose values I generally share. While I rarely tackle “political” topics here, in this case I feel it essential.

It is a fact that unfortunately makes many uncomfortable, that people in this system have the right to assemble and protest under any circumstances when they are unhappy with the decisions their leaders are making.  People who protest perfectly valid and sensible policies, are not all automatically idiots.  Ignorance may abound, but only as much as it abounds on the other side of the aisle as well.  Quite simply, the people just see it differently and they do not agree.  They do not agree that the course of action is appropriate.  Whether we agree or disagree on any issue, whether we scoff or not, dissent must be permissible.  Now let’s be clear, I am not talking about dissent that occurs as a result of a misinformation campaign and conspiracy theory – that’s a whole other subject.  This is not about what we could probably refer to as a “misinformation crisis.” I’m talking about legitimately justified dissent provoked by verifiable choices, decisions made, actions taken by elected representatives and leaders.

Dissent is not misinformation in and of itself — although it is rather convenient to call it so when we do not agree.  Protest and dissent are a communication, an interaction between the public and leaders.  Dissent is not a liberal enterprise or a conservative enterprise.  It is an American enterprise.  Like it or not.  Agree with it or not.  Believe me, I am angered by some of the things people object to, and especially angered by those fighting to take away rights we have already won.  But I would still stand up for an opposing side’s right to express their view, as much as I really really don’t want to, because this is a right I also want to have for myself.  Free speech is a treasure for all of us – just as much for “us” as for “them.”

When people want change or they do not agree with what their leaders are doing, they protest to have a say in the matter.  It is very important that we do not erode this.  Of course this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t critique a protest or an argument, but we can choose how to use our own voice in an effective way.  An effective way, hopefully.

However

Valid as protesting the shut down may be in one sense, in another sense it also underestimates our creativity and potential for vision.  Let’s not forget, we are already free.  A fight to defend freedom as it is, in its current concept as we know it, may be short-sighted as it is limited.  And essentially, backward thinking if we are fighting for a freedom as we knew it, rather than seeing and utilizing freedom as it is available to us now.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can get creative in what our idea of freedom is, if we want this force, this crisis and our response to it, to become generative rather than destructive.  Because on an average day we do choose to flirt with a variation of “force,” too — a level of force by choice, and we still find freedom in this.  We choose school, university.  We choose jobs, bosses.  We choose hard core exercise regimes.  We choose relationships.  We choose limits.  We choose to be “forced” to do things in our own lives.

This situation with the pandemic is obviously unique, I am not arguing that.  But we do choose constraints on a regular basis because for most of us, a certain level of constraint may ironically bring more satisfaction and more freedom.  So we can get creative now.  We can do things differently.  We can choose another kind of freedom.  We can reimagine our lives right now.  We can say, if I had this whole life to do over again, what would I have done differently?  What would I have started, what would I have followed through on, had I the confidence and more importantly, the time?  Because we have nothing but time now, if we are “stuck” at home.  If we can just wade through the stress and anxiety… it is good to ask questions, but it is also good to reimagine, to reinvent.  We can honor the recommendations, and still be free.  We could even be more free.  Anything is possible.  Anything.

May 27, 2020

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(Part VI

FINAL THOUGHT I)

I’ve always preferred poetry, since poetry is better at questions than answers.

Poetry knows that nobody knows all the answers.

Even at its most candid, poetry rises unknowns and mysteries, prizes them.

I wrote all this because poetry won’t, however, be my cop-out.

June 9, 2020

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Turn To the Quiet

 

It’s one of those mornings when I’m on the road again in my head.  Packing sleeping bags in the cold mountain air.  Blowing steam off my coffee in a circle of other travelers.  Packing up to leave, pulling on heavy boots.  Twelve thousand feet above sea level.  Hungry but exhilarated.

It’s easy to forget the struggle: what it takes to choose the adventure over the safe.  To get to those places and exist in them longer-term is mostly a matter of willingness to abandon fear, to detach from whatever status or position achieved, and then there’s the objects of our affections to be suspended or let go of.  An apartment, a car, a job, a semester, a social circle, a mentality, an ideology, a lover, a life dependent upon the comforts of the known.  Easier done when you have less to lose, but even then most will naturally balk.

For me, all this was nothing compared to what it took to return.  To reintegrate back into a culture built on and fascinated by the concept of freedom, yet embracing a type of freedom warped by comparison to the freedom you’ve just experienced on the road.  A freedom that almost looks like imprisonment – a rat race.  Yet this is the same rat race that gave you the road, the resources and privilege to earn it by struggle.  You yourself, you realize, love the rat race too.  Each day suppressing true feeling, true significance in order to keep up.  From time to time you wholly accept its superficial qualifications and you strive to reflect them, become them.  You get off on it, at least one small part of you feels this is natural.  Until the day that you just can’t take it anymore.  And then you turn to the few people whom you’ve ever really loved, in your mind.  You turn to the waves, the trees, the birds.  Sand, rivers, the clouds.  Tiny lights flickering in the shadows.