It’s not as safe as I thought going back to 1955

My novel in progress, set in the Florida Panhandle in 1955, started me thinking that if only I had a time machine, I could go back to 1955 until the Pandemic is over. That means worrying about the KKK, but I’ll stay out of sight.

Tank ventilator known as the iron lung. Wikipedia photo

Crap, there’s a cold war going and the feds are developing ICBMs with nuclear war heads, Eisenhower might use force to protect Taiwan while sending military advisers to South Vietnam. All of that is bad and might wipe out the world. Little did he know how much of a mess those advisers would ultimately cause: 1,353,000 deaths, including 58,220 U.S. casualties.

Meanwhile, everyone’s worried about polio, with over 16,000 new cases each year, 1,879 of which were fatal. Those who loved gallows humor suggested saving the coupons (redeemable for merchandise) from their Raleigh cigarette packs for an ion lung. Since I’m suddenly psychic, I know that Salk’s polio vaccine will be out in a couple of months.

Wikipedia graphic

Marian Anderson has just become the first Black singer to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. My characters would like that. About a month later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was kicked, handcuffed, and verbally abused by police in a Montgomery bus for refusing to give up her seat to a white lady. My psychic powers tell me that her lawsuit resulted in bus segregation becoming unconstitutional the following year.

The U.S. is in the middle of the second, so-called “Red Scare.” McCarthyism is sweeping the country like a virus.

Okay, the hell with it, I think I’ll stay here in 2020 in spite of the year’s threats and challenges.

Malcolm

Does the on-going pandemic add to your stress levels?

There have been complaints about how the crisis has been handled, from the seeming impossibility of getting straight answers to when quarantine restrictions should be relaxed to the progress (if any) made on cures. People who work outside the home are often without a paycheck. People with kids don’t know when the kids are going back to school and that leads to uncertainties about the whole family’s scheduling.

Wikipedia Graphic

The twenty-four-hour news channels keep up continuous coverage, trying to account for every fluctuation in illness and death levels, policies and procedures, and unexpected and unfair incidences of collateral damage caused by the lockdown and the disruptions of products in the supply chain.

Add to that the fact some of the COVID-19 symptoms match what people experience with seasonal allergies, chronic sinus problems, colds, and low-grade flu-like symptoms. One wonders am I getting it? And, if so, getting tested is an apparent crapshoot, and then if there’s no cure, what good does it do to know you have it when medical aid is limited?

In one respect, I’m not impacted as badly as most people because I’m semi-retired and work from home. On the flip side of the coin, my age and my wife’s age put us in the group of people who are the most at risk.

The bottom line for many of us is the tidal wave of uncertainties, including the rather hopeless opinions from many that even if the virus were snuffed out tomorrow, “normal” is a long way off.

In many ways, it seems as though the emotional damage caused by the pandemic and our response to it might be worse than the virus for most people. Though, as the death tolls increase, more and more homes will experience the virus first hand and/or will know friends and close acquaintances who died.

Plus, everything’s up in the air: sports, concerts, beach time, flying anywhere, getting back to work, eating out. . .

Some editorialists wonder if we’ll ever get back to “normal” or even if we want to get back to “normal.” They suggest some things might be changed forever, while other things might need to be re-invented in new ways that are better.

I have no answers for any of this, but my sense of things is that COVID-19 is the biggest disruption to our way of life since the flu epidemic of 1918, World War II, and perhaps the Korean War. It will be hard to recover from this, I think, even when the virus is gone.

My 2₵. I’d like to hear yours.

Malcolm

 

 

Does bashing the country help fix it?

People are talking about COVID-19 these days, how to fight it, how to stay away from it, whether or not the lockdown approach will end up being more harmful than the disease, and when–if ever–the country will get back to normal.

Reasonably, we’re debating the nature of the country’s response and whether we could have done something better or something sooner, and where do we go from here?

But now another ingredient has been added to the mix, often stated about like this: Why would we want to get back to normal when normal was pretty much all bad?

So here we have people using the pandemic as a springboard for steering the discussion back to the same political agenda they were pushing before the pandemic began. Sure, there’s an election on the horizon and people want us to remember the issues that separate their platforms from other platforms.

But we go a step too far when we say that the normal we had was 100% terrible and that, in fact, nothing about it is worth celebrating. I want to say, “If you think this country is totally rotten, why don’t you move to a country that either is less rotten or is still fresh as cherries just plucked from the tree?”

I would like to challenge the people who say everything about the pre-pandemic normal was horrible, to try and come up with a list of things that we not horrible. I don’t trust a person who is 100% negative to ever put together a vision for what this country should be moving toward as we fix the known ills. I want them to begin by saying, “I love this country in spite of its flaws–and here’s why.”

If they can do that, then we have hope for the future as they see it. If not, they look like the kind of people who don’t know beating a dead horse won’t get them anywhere, much less charm the people who owned the horse.

Malcolm

Protect your writing time

Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you. ~Zadie Smith

Perhaps this will seem like a surprising time to talk about protecting one’s writing time. We’re all facing the possibility of empty store shelves, prospective quarantines, disruptions of travel plans–not to mention getting COVID-19.

Many of those who write say it’s as important as breathing and that they can’t live without it. I’ve written before about the challenges the stay-at-home writing spouse has with protecting his/her time. If that time is not bringing income into the household, then the 8-5 spouse/partner who is supporting the family might assume the writing is a hobby and can be disrupted as need be with calls to pick up something at the store, prepare dinner for the boss with little notice, keep the house clean, and do all the shopping.

Now, as the U.S. has raised the threat level of the virus from “What, me worry?” to “Find out who’s to blame,” conserving time to write will probably become more difficult; if you were around during the 1970s gasoline shortage, then you know that thousands of people spent a good portion of each week trying to find a service station with any gasoline and, once they did, there might have been a wait of an hour or more in a long line.

If this happens again with such essentials as toilet paper and food, then trips to the grocery store might take many hours per week. Obviously, the family comes first, whether it’s food or safety. The 8-5 working spouse might get furloughed if they work for a company whose product or service takes a huge hit from the emergency.

Yet, I encourage you to write and/or do the online research or library research your stories need because this is what defines you as a person whether it’s bringing in money or not. Yes, I know it’s difficult seeing multiple hours of daily writing time collapse down to an hour or 30 minutes. Perhaps your approach shifts gears from poetry or a period novel to something like “Pandemic, a Diary.”

Even stolen moments of time can be enough to keep you breathing and give you a reason to hope that when the pandemic’s over, you’ll be a fulltime storyteller again.

Malcolm