I watch my state burn
Blood sacrifice to hubris
And can do nothing
I watch my state burn
I watch my state burn
Blood sacrifice to hubris
And can do nothing
Since I work in emergency management, my supervisor has been urging our team to document our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s good advice; nothing of this magnitude has happened in the recent past and it’s obviously fucking up a lot of our established paradigms. When experts say we won’t be able to return to the way things were Before and we need to embrace a “new normal”, they aren’t exaggerating. COVID-19 has shaken human society in a way even our recent megaquakes, which have literally shaken the entire globe, could do. So it’s good advice, yes. The problem is just that everything I have to share is so gods-damned bleak and I don’t want to seem like I’m whining when others have it much worse. I guess there’s wisdom in the telling, though, and I’m sure I’ll value these words years down the road, so here goes. I’ll go easy on you and start with…
In July 2019 I made a much-needed career pivot into my dream field of emergency management. I was hired by the Washington State Emergency Management Division (WA EMD) as a Tsunami Program Coordinator, and thus my day job consists of preparing locals for The Big One. For the last 3+ months, however, WA EMD has been activated for the COVID-19 response. This is unlike anything WA EMD has faced before and so it’s all hands on deck 24/7. That means instead of worrying about being laid off or furloughed, I’m actually working more hours than ever. My team is currently on a three-week rotation, meaning for two weeks I work my normal job and then the next week I’m activated Sunday through Saturday for 7 12-hour shifts in the state’s Emergency Operations Center. Not only is the extra pay providing a much needed financial buffer (you’ll see why), I’m receiving some great hands-on experience. No amount of online or classroom training can really prepare you the way an actual disaster can, so even though I’m way outside of my comfort zone I’m very conscious of how good this work is for me. I’m also relatively healthy, at least immune-system-wise, and glad I can help the effort to keep others safe. It’s pretty surreal to be even a tiny cog in this great machine. That being said, here’s…
I AM SO STRESSED. Between work stress, personal life stress, and all these concurrent global crises, I am absolutely filled to the brim with stress. And lucky me, my stress always manifests as flare ups of my various chronic illnesses. These days I’m just constant IBS stomach aches, migraines, carpal tunnel pain, angular cheilitis, exhaustion that’s apparently at least partly narcolepsy, and some weird uterus stuff that I’m super hoping isn’t fibroids. It’s a lot. I’m honestly surprised my shingles hasn’t come back yet, but I’m sure it’s just biding its time. On top of that, my mental health wasn’t particularly stable going into this pandemic and weirdly enough witnessing preventable death on a mass scale because those in power care more about propping up the corpse of late-stage capitalism than saving lives isn’t exactly helping. So enter the panic attacks, severe depression, and uncontrollable dermatillomania. My wife has been wonderful, though, and is basically the reason I haven’t had an actual breakdown yet. Which brings me to…
I might be more willing to find the bright side of this whole mess if it wasn’t for everything that’s happened with my wife. Just thinking about it makes me so angry I’m having trouble getting the words out so I’ll give you the tl;dr version. My wife is a truly amazing person and the world enjoys crushing her for having the audacity to be queer, Asian, and chronically ill, among other things. When COVID-19 went down she was working for a company that pretends to be progressive but is really just out for the money (what a surprise). On top of that, her position required her to be stationed in a major retail space which is considered essential and therefore never closed, nor has ever really bothered to put any employee protection measures in place. Since she has severe asthma and catches pneumonia on practically a yearly basis, my wife and I were understandably very concerned about her being in such a public-facing position. COVID-19 could quite frankly be a death sentence for her (which I think about constantly because Anxiety).
Anyway, flash forward like 2 miserable months and her employer has not only refused every accommodation she’s requested, they are actively punishing her for asking. Last week they used a note from her doctor as an excuse to cut her hours enough that she’ll lose her health insurance at the end of the month. IN A PANDEMIC. This was the final straw (she’s been taking their shit for years) and I’m proud to say she walked right the fuck out of there. Problem solved, right? Except just to twist the knife a little more, they’re refusing to give her a letter stating when her benefits will end so I can add her to my insurance plan – a technically legal but absolutely unnecessary delay that will probably force her to go without health insurance for at least all of May. Again, IN A PANDEMIC. I really can’t express how cruel they’re being without sounding like I’m a conspiracy theorist, but it’s true, and it’s happening to countless other people right now because Capitalism™. This instance just especially hurts me in particular because she’s MY people.
But wait, there’s more! Yeah, we’re not done. So on top of dealing with aaaallll this shit, my wife is also being regularly harassed in public because of her race. Yes, even in western Washington, bastion of progress (that was sarcasm) and home to a pretty sizeable Asian population. It happens every single time she goes somewhere and if it wasn’t for her refusal to let me come with her I might be in jail right now with several murder charges to my name. It’s the fucking worst. If the various feel-good COVID-19 stories ever had a chance to renew my hope in humanity, that chance has been thoroughly crushed. We really are in the Darkest Timeline.
So that’s a brief glimpse into how my pandemic is going. Which is great. Everything is great and totally fine.
…Oh right, I was supposed to record some of my observations, not just wordvomit about my life in particular. Uh, here are some non-me-centric observations for history or whatever in no particular order:
– Traffic is so light that someone has been doing donuts on the Narrows Bridge, which is fairly impressive.
– Traffic has also been so light that I can see the Olympic Mountains every night as I drive home, something usually only possible on the clearest summer days. So that’s cool, but also horribly depressing because that means the reason I don’t see them as often is air pollution.
– You ever think about how there are probably a lot of kids who are only alive right now because schools closed so early in the year that their would-be school shootings never happened?
– You can’t find wheat tortillas anywhere right now. Who’s hoarding all the wheat tortillas?- I hate to be all “I was right” but when Trump got elected I totally predicted a wide scale disaster would hit the west coast and he’d deny us aid because we’re blue states. I just thought it would be a megaquake, not a pandemic. So close.
Anyway. Have a good apocalypse everyone!
Sleep, oh weary wreck
Salt water dissolves your bones
The tides soothe your ghosts
The day is dark
I’m all alone
If you are there
Please let me know
Please let me know
It is time to rest, brave one. Your father has been dead these seven years and now you must follow him into the Undiscovered Country. You have traveled far and seen many things no one else has ever seen; take your discoveries and images back to him with our gratitude. Thanks to you two we have walked among the stars, we have tread in red dust, we have touched the loneliness and vastness of space. Sleep now, faithful friend, and wait out the storm. Perhaps someone will find you one day and stir your cold heart, open your darkened eyes, but it will not be us. We will be long gone by then, a fading memory of a half-buried ruin in the sand fifty-four million kilometers from where you lay. Forgive us our trespasses, for we cannot forgive those who trespass against us. We have done much evil in our time, and even now we hasten our end, but at least we have done this one good thing. At least we birthed you and sent you forth to explore where we could not go. Stay safe, child of science and man’s yearning for knowledge. Dream great dreams. You are our legacy.
I have faith
That you are safe
the earth is on fire and also underwater and i’m trying to embrace this whole apocalypse thing since that seems like the only way to stay sane here in the end times but it’s hard, you know, i’m feeling more and more like crazy cuckoo crackpot cassandra every day or like i’m the only person in pompeii who looked up and thought hey, the mountain’s sure acting weird this week, and if i don’t provide a viable solution to my fear-mongering that’s only because i really don’t think there is one, at least not at this point, not this far down the dead-end road, but hey at least i’ve got some really good news for people who love bad news
Look, it really depends on what you mean by “doomed”. It’s true, after all, what lan Malcolm said: We haven’t got the power to destroy the planet – or to save it. In the planetary sense everything’s fine. Man is just the briefest blip on the geologic timescale, just a pack of fleas the earth will wipe out with a twitch. Earth will remain so long after we are gone that the mind is incapable of grasping such immensity. However, if you define “doomed” as the inevitable extinction of most major species on earth, well, that’s different. Earth may not be doomed but every beautiful, complex, unique form of life upon it is, and isn’t that what we’re really talking about? No one’s worried that we’re going to annihilate single-celled organisms – just, you know, the millions of other precious lifeforms that can’t survive a nuclear holocaust. We are the product of billions of years of evolution, yet in a few thousand we will have managed to ruin everything. So are we doomed? Are we witness to life’s final death throes? I guess it just comes down to semantics. If we are gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us, he said. But it certainly won’t ever be the same, either.
there’s this scream in my throat i’ve been swallowing for years and i used to be ashamed of it, you know, tried to hide it, to bide it, to bury it deep, but now i’m thinking maybe it’s here for a reason and i ought to embrace it, maybe i’m some sort of modern banshee for a modern world and i’ve come to tell everyone that we’re all gonna die, that the end is and has been extremely fucking nigh, and if so then i have a duty to let everyone know, a destiny to detail the destruction entailed, ’cause if you don’t think we’re there yet then oh man do i have a dirge to sing for you, come listen, friend, there’s no melody but i promise it’s a doozy
What will you do with the deck tilting ten, twenty, thirty degrees under you? Look around; there are no lifeboats left, they’ve rowed away with those privileged enough to buy their safety. The rest of us losers better figure out something else fast. Will you chance the frigid waters that lap about your feet? It’s a long wait until dawn and that light on the horizon isn’t real hope, you know, just a mirage. Certainly there’s no saving this sinking ship; I think we can all admit by now that we’re far beyond the point of no return. So in that case, what’s left to do but grab a glass of champagne, hook an arm around the nearest rail, and listen as the band plays on? If we’re well and truly fucked – and we are – we might as well greet the end in style. It’s a lovely night for a concert anyway.
Bleeding heart is a good label for me right now; my heart certainly feels like it’s been bleeding for a while. Actually, it feels like it’s hemorrhaging so much I’m leaking red out my eyes and mouth and leaving a trail wherever I linger. I don’t know how to stop it. I try ignoring it but then I slip in the unexpected puddles. I try staunching it with prayers and spells and good deeds but they soak through too quickly. There’s no change I could effect in the world big enough to fill this hole so I just keep bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. Is there a source to this fount? Will I ever run out? Or will I just keep overflowing with sorrow?
Sometimes history’s repetitions are comforting, the knowledge that others have come before to fight this fight, to suffer this suffering, to stand with arms linked until the tanks or the tear gas or the water cannons mow them down. Sometimes it is enough to know this moment’s horrors aren’t unique, that we will never be the first to want these things and can never be the last to die before they are won. Sometimes being able to stand back and watch the great wheel turn, turn, turn through all of humanity’s existence offers the necessary perspective, the needed distance to see the wisdom of the larger picture.
And sometimes the wheel’s inevitable turning crushes us beneath its rim, presses us into the mud to join the bodies of those who came before. Sometimes knowing the wheel spins in place, ever turning and yet going nowhere, is a cruelty we cannot bear. Sometimes fighting the same old fights, suffering the same old sufferings, facing the same old tanks and bigots and bullets is just too much, and we wonder if there’s any point when those who come after us will face these things as well. Maybe we haven’t figured out how to learn from history yet – or maybe as long as the wheel spins in place, we can’t help but repeat the past.
I remember taking refuge in a hotel bathroom in Switzerland because hearing on TV about a man who dressed up as a cop to murder children in Norway made me want to sob.
I remember feeling sick to my stomach in a Red Cross office as I learned about a man who had shot up an elementary school in Connecticut, killing adults and children alike.
And now I’ll remember laying in bed on a quiet Sunday morning, reading about a man who killed fifty people in a queer nightclub in Florida and wishing it was all a dream. I’ll remember rolling over to place my head on my girlfriend’s chest, wondering if there will come a time when I no longer hear her beautiful heartbeat; wondering if someone will shatter my family the way so many others have been shattered in the blink of an eye.