Strong medicine

Dear President Trump,

The graphic accompanying the WP’s lead story this morning announcing that the official US number of covid-19 deaths passed 100,000 yesterday isn’t the gut punch that the NYT’s Sunday cover was, but it’s still quite moving. The idea that each person’s death is marked by a point of light on the map and that when lots of points are in close proximity, they coalesce into beams of light heading up into space is poignant. It’s also a little too lovely a representation of what those people and their families went through. As the woman who spoke of her mother’s death in the closing quote in the article (by Marc Fisher) put it:

“You always hope she’ll have a quiet death, a death in your sleep. She didn’t. It was not a good death.”

These were not good deaths. And despite your fantastical willful ignorance, we aren’t done with these deaths (Tweet quoted in Amber Phillips’ WP article):

“For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number,” he wrote. “That’s 15 to 20 times more than we will lose.”

Your Tweet (your f*cking Tweet) indicates you think there’s some magic switch that will flip off now that we hit the official 100,000 covid-19 deaths mark. Are you really that daft? Or is it that you know the propaganda machine is whirring in the background, getting ready to shift into high gear to start peeling off chunks of the numbers so that even as we add more deaths, you all are subtracting just enough from the “official” toll that you can claim we are done with all this?

I don’t feel like getting into a full blown rant today (I need way more rest before I’ll have that kind of energy again) so I’m going to switch gears and tell you about a couple of poems.

First, in yesterday’s poem-a-day poem (https://poets.org/poem/francisco-x-alarcon-1954-2016), which is by Eduardo C. Corral and is entitled To Francisco X. Alarcón (1954–2016), we learn that some Mesoamerican elders believe there is a fifth direction (in addition to the cardinal directions). It’s neither up nor down, but rather it’s the person right next to you. Some of us certainly need to shake up who we are right next to so we can broaden our empathy beams to include people who don’t look (think, feel, believe, love, etc.) just like us, but even without this qualification and taking the idea at face value, it’s beautiful and could be very strong medicine if we would just take it.

Today’s poem from the same series is by Shane McCrae (https://poets.org/poem/what-sadness-anywhere-sadness), but this time it isn’t so much the poem that spoke to me, but rather the title of McCrae’s new book, Sometimes I Never Suffered. The cover art shows the silhouette of an African American woman where all but her hair is covered with what look like pulsing spots of light in different colors arranged in loosely organized loops and lines. It’s gorgeous. Now, holding the image in your mind, try saying the title to yourself a few times really slowly. I know it can’t technically make sense since if one has ever suffered it can’t be that sometimes one never suffered, but the idea that someone who clearly knows suffering might have moments when the suffering recedes so far from consciousness that it’s as though they sometimes never suffered is beautiful and could also be very strong medicine if we would just give it to one another. If we would just give one another the kinds of lives that in spite of some unavoidable suffering are so suffused with goodness and care that we can’t help but have good deaths, this odd idea could be very strong medicine, indeed.

May we be safe even as we slip away.
May we be willing to reset around loving care for all.
May we be strong medicine for one another and the planet.
May we have the support and skills to be kindness and to be peace.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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