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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Seventy-Five

Minnewaska Long Distance Swimmers Beach, copyrignt Carol Bergman 2021. The solace of open spaces and sport, much needed at this time.

 

Whiplash; Some Thoughts

 

 

 

The American political system has come down with a case of long Covid.

           

 -Alexander Burns, Political Memo, The New York Times, 7/31/21

 

 

 

How are we doing this week, how are we feeling? Not so good. The parking lot of my apartment complex is empty, everyone traveling and visiting and hugging and breaking bread together in faraway locations, and no mechanism to mandate vaccination or masks in the private sector. But my son-in-law's parents are not traveling from the UK, nor is his sister and her family. A reminder that this is still a global pandemic. On we go.

 

We're all exhausted by the restrictions, of course, and skeptical of the dangers of Delta if we don't know anyone who is afflicted. Nothing to do with me.  Really? Fully vaccinated friends headed for Boulder to see a new grandchild are navigating the conundrums with care. Do we wear a mask to protect this baby, or not? How will babies grow up only recognizing their grandparents' eyes and eyebrows? Though seemingly humorous, this is not a joke. Remember those experiments with motherless monkeys? They became attached to mannequins. What does this tell us? That attachment is vital and always possible, but can be odd and sad. We—humans and apes and other sentient beings—will  grab onto anything, anything at all to survive.

 

Am I supposed to applaud the ingenuity of mannequins and robots? My own personal Bank of America robot, Erica, just wrote me a very personal email suggesting we get together for a heart-to-heart talk about my finances. Not interested.  This writer insists on real-time connection. Mask-free real-time connection. Not telehealth. Not labyrinthian customer service, dial 1 or dial 2. Dial? Who dials anymore?

 

But we've got the Olympics to distract us. Simone Biles, for example. What an athlete, what a person, what a back story. Human to the core despite the intense sometimes robotic training and sacrifice of that training, despite the sexual assault, she has survived and thrived. And there  is even an announcement today that she will compete again this week. Bravas are not enough. I envy the editor or ghost who will mentor and shape her book. Or has she already written one? Oh, I just checked, she has. Well, maybe she'll write another in a few years' time.

 

Simone reminds me of myself—if that is possible. When I was about ten-years-old, I, too, reveled in the release and joy of athleticism; I told my parents I wanted to be a competitive ice skater. They obliged. My stepfather took me to Wollman rink early in the mornings before school for training. But books and school were just as important to me, and to my highly educated parents, so after falling asleep at my desk for a month or two, I quit, or they persuaded me to quit. I did have choices, however: I chose to not compete. In other words, I did not require--or latch onto--an athletic training to survive. I was not a baby monkey in search of surrogate parenting. Are Olympic athletes symbiotically attached to their trainers who push them and push them relentlessly? Just a question.

 

In order to do one thing, one often has to sacrifice another. I still had plenty of sport in my life—tennis, track, field hockey, basketball, softball, volleyball, swimming—and loved it all. To this day, I get up from my desk at regular intervals and move around athletically, if only for a hike, or to take the compost to the Village compost pile, or swim laps and laps and laps. I only know a few writers who can sit at their desks for hours and hours.

 

So what is happening today, as I write? I've got a Zoom call in a few minutes. I have read the headlines and await announcement of boosters, as do all of us who got our shots early. A mask is in the back pocket of my shorts again, and I look forward to hearing about any ingenious protocols my friends devise to bond with their new grandchild. How is it possible to remain distanced from a baby? Beats me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pussy Riot At The Olympics

Photo from the New York Times

I met Pussy Riot’s lawyers at an event at the NYU law school last spring and was inspired by their story. Now these brave women—protest performance artists I would call them-- have recovered from their incarceration and are in Sochi demonstrating against the autocratic Putin regime. Though their staged events may seem silly, their intention is deadly serious. Hopefully, it won't kill them.

Whenever I hear about a police state suppressing artistic expression, I have nightmares. The fear of such suppression—self-censorship—gives me even more nightmares. There is no reason for us to be timid, none at all, yet fear of exposure is a constant in a writer's life even in a Great Democracy such as ours. And we do have to remain vigilant in a democracy, despite our Bill of Rights. Thus, all the necessary conversation right now about surveillance.

Students arrive in my workshop—and I will have a bunch of new students next week—eager to find their voices and their subjects. It is their mandate, I tell them, to speak loud and clear about whatever interests or moves them, and to shuck the editor on their shoulder telling them not to write about this or that. We don't live in Russia. We don't live in China. We are as free as we dare to be.  Read More 
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