Andrea has had a peace lily since I’ve known her. It’s a polite houseplant. It is happy for a while, then the leaves start to droop. When it gets droopy enough she soaks it in water, letting it drink its fill. The leaves perk up, good as new, and we put it back in its window until it signals that it needs water again.
I’m starting to feel like that houseplant. I’m OK for a while, then I really start to droop. Unlike the houseplant, though, for me it is more emotional than physical. Rather than adding water, I usually just wait it out. But it’s getting harder to wait it out. I’ve found the last few days to be difficult.
More and more people are getting sick. More and more are dying. Heavily-armed protesters storm the Michigan state capitol, demanding their right to infect others. Workers are ordered back to meatpacking plants in Iowa despite the rampant spread of the virus. There are still those who claim covid-19 is no worse than the flu. After all, 24,000 to 62,000 people died of the flu in the last six months. But covid has killed more than 66,000 in one-third that time. (And that is probably an undercount. There are reports that coroners in Florida have been told not to report deaths as covid.) Gallup, New Mexico had to seal its borders, limiting access to the town. Sections of its Walmart are cordoned off, limiting purchases to food and medical supplies. It’s discouraging.
David Brooks wrote in his Friday column about weavers and rippers. (There’s an old joke about how there are two kinds of people in the world — those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t. David Brooks often falls into the first camp.) He wrote about how some people work to weave society together. They see us as interdependent and work to strengthen the fabric. Others see social interaction as war, gaining personal advantage by ripping the fabric. Brooks thinks that the experience of this pandemic is moving more people to be weavers. I hope he is right and the rippers don’t kill us all in the process.
I started delivering newspapers when I was seven years old. Being in the newspaper business, so to speak, I read the papers thoroughly. Sometimes I even stopped mid-route to read the paper on Mrs McCormick’s front steps, much to Mr Brown’s annoyance as he waited across the street for me to deliver his paper. One of my favorite columnists was Sidney J Harris, syndicated out of Chicago. He wasn’t a political commentator — more of a social one, perhaps a bit like David Brooks. One of the things Harris would do would be an I-you-him comparison. The one I remember went something like this — it was more than 60 years ago, so I might not have it exactly right: My son is spirited; your son is troublesome; his son is a juvenile delinquent. Your interpretation of something can depend on your perspective. While I was searching for an example of Harris’ I-you-him, I ran across this quote of his:
“Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, ‘the greatest,’ but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.”
Sidney Harris died in 1986.
The son of dear friends was airlifted to a hospital with a brain aneurysm. He is better now, and we hope he will have a full recovery. But it reminds us of how tenuous our lives are.
After a very dry April, the rains have returned. Maybe the rains will water my inner houseplant.