The latest issue of The Christian Century arrived in my mailbox today. In it is an article that ties in nicely with my blog post from yesterday: “Are we really ‘at war’ with the coronavirus?” by Jason A. Mahn.
“War language is the language of power,” writes Mahn. I share Mahn’s misgivings about using war language to describe the current situation with COVID-19. As I mentioned yesterday, war rhetoric without a clear enemy is dangerous, because the passions ignited by such rhetoric can be too easily aimed in the wrong direction. When Trump calls COVID-19 “the Chinese virus,” the target becomes not the disease but an entire body of people. Furthermore, by painting Chinese people as the enemy, Trump also inadvertently (or not?) lumps all Asians into the same boat, because many xenophobic Americans see all Asians as Chinese, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc. In other words, Trump’s racist portrayal of COVID-19 incites further racism and stereotyping.
Beyond the possibility of misdirected anger, war language can hurt us all by encouraging false bravado. After the Boston Marathon bombing on Patriots’ Day, April 15, 2013, the phrase “Boston strong!” rang out not just in Boston, but throughout the country. The slogan initially instilled a warm feeling of community solidarity but very quickly evolved into a cry for bloodthirsty revenge. I’m all for patriotism, but rallying around “My country can beat up your country” jingles is not always healthy.
What would be a better way of talking about COVID-19? Well, for starters, let’s not pin the blame on a nation or an ethnicity. Let’s focus on solutions and working together for the good of all. Let’s make sure the public is informed, not misled. Let’s stop playing war games.
Humans are resourceful and resilient. We can get through this, but let’s try to get there in one piece.
Yesterday I mentioned Library of America. I recently bought two boxed sets of science fiction from them, American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1950s and American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s. When a schoolmate turned me on to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series in junior high, it was love at first sight. I devoured every science fiction book I could lay my hands on. Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison (don’t tell him I put him in the sci-fi category!), and many others. This lasted most of the way through high school.
But tastes change, with books and in other things. I drifted away from science fiction, and mostly ignored it except for an occasional dose. But lately I’ve picked it up again in a big way. I’m especially drawn to the classic sci-fi of the 1970s and earlier, so the two LOA collections mentioned above are perfect, promising 3100+ pages of entertaining reading.
Here are a couple of lists I’ve found with some good book recommendation:
And if your science itch needs more scratching, check out a couiple of fun YouTube channels from VlogBrother Hank Green:
I am 55. Getting older is hard. Things hurt that never used to hurt. I have less energy than I used to. I also have less optimism about both my own prospects and the prospects for the world at large. Now we find ourselves in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic with no clear end in sight. Here in the USA, we have a leader whose sense of obligation doesn’t extend past his own skin, and our elected officials don’t seem to have any interest in reigning him in, or really in doing anything other than continuing to amass more wealth and power for themselves. It’s hard not to feel helpless.
I intend to step into all of this bad news and try to come up with some ways to cheer myself up. With any luck, I’ll be able to help at both individual and global levels. It’s a tall order. That’s what I’ll be chronicling here.
To start with, during this time of closures, cancellations, and quarantines, there’s never been a better time to read. An organization I support and believe in is Library of America. According to their website, “Library of America, a nonprofit organization, champions our nation’s cultural heritage by publishing America’s greatest writing in authoritative new editions and providing resources for readers to explore this rich, living legacy.” Think of them as the good guys in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, making sure great writing is preserved in high quality books so that the history, knowledge, and learning preserved in them doesn’t disappear. You can buy directly from them, or make a donation to the cause (they are a non-profit) at their website. Even better: You can buy their books through your local bookstore, which accomplishes two good deeds at the same time!
Here’s a problem with blogging: I hate typing. Not only do I hate it; I suck at it. I can’t type three words in a row without having to correct a dozen typos. (Well, that’s probably a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one.) And no matter how much I practice typing, no matter what methods or typing courses I attempt, I never get any better. So typing remains a frustrating enterprise. I’d much rather hand write everything, but that doesn’t help much when sooner or later whatever I write has to find its way onto the computer in order to find its way into the blogosphere.
I never took typing in high school. I had so many music classes during my day that there was simply never room for it in my schedule. I had to take both night school and summer school as it was in order to complete my American and World History requirements. When I graduated, I had WAY more credits than I needed, but typing was not one of them. And forget those rumors you may have heard about piano players being good typists; I can prove that one wrong!
My plans, as is the case with most people lately, have changed. My original intention with this blog was to narrate my attempts to find something positive about reaching age 55. Foremost in my search was to be a new job—something to replace my two part-time jobs. Well, thanks to COVID-19, both of those part-time jobs are now gone, along with two theatrical productions I was counting on for not only some extra income but also to scratch my itch to perform. You see, I play piano and low brass and was just wrapping up tech week, previews, and the first two performances of Singin’ In The Rain at the Des Moines Playhouse. Rehearsals had already begun on a production of Guys & Dolls at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). Both shows cancelled. Losing two jobs and two shows in less than two weeks hurts. A lot.
Okay, so this blog about me—Who cares? For starters, I do, and since I’m doing the writing here, my vote carries some weight! A less glib answer: I’ve been looking for a blog, vlog, website, chat group, etc. for others with whom I share some experiences and concerns. I am 55, married but with no kids, struggling financially, frequently feeling as if my ship has sailed and I missed it. My guess is that one or more of those situations resonates beyond only me. If so, maybe we can have a conversation about it!
As we as a nation and a world enter into what for most of us is unfamiliar pandemic territory, I will once again plug a handful of websites that I find comforting and/or educational:
Kahn Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/)
Crash Course (https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse)
Even while limiting the time we spend around other people, we don’t want to term into hermits! Nor do we want to waste our days mindlessly following unproductive internet clickbait. (Too easy to fall down that rabbit hole!) The information superhighway can be both informative and super if we use it wisely.