Written on 11-04-20
As election night approached, I became more and more distressed in mysterious ways. It is clear that I am changing. After four years of Trump and six months of Covid, I am not the man I was at the start. I, and so many of us, enter this new decade of the 20’s having crossed a metaphorical desert, or a mountain range, or an ocean. America is a new land from sea to murky sea. This land’s not for you and me. A new time is a borning, no matter how the details play out.
Over the weekend I started binging on junk food — ice cream, cake, French fries. It was out of control. On Halloween night, I was almost almost sleepless in Vallejo.
On Sunday, for the first time in six months, I drove to the city (San Francisco) and, masked, visited a museum.
All my life, in times of stress, the company of Frans Hals (in particular) has always rewarded me with delight. Rembrandt inspires, certainly, but Hals is a buddy. Rembrandt embraces a vision of God entering into the world by light; Hals embraces a vision of light which bursts out of our humanity. As a human, not a God, this is what I prefer.
Hals is the Dutch renaissance master who seems to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” And THAT is what I needed this past weekend.
It helped, but in spite of that relief, I still felt odd as I drove through the city towards the Legion of Honor. I kept thinking “where am I?” In my state of angst, I couldn’t recognize my hometown. Perhaps that is why I was so drawn to visit a museum, and meditation upon the past and the dead and what lives on.
I stopped by George Segal’s Holocaust memorial, with its effigies of the dead lying in a pit and the figure of a man grasping and peering through a barbed wire fence. A teenaged couple followed me (they were masked too), laughing and giggling. I wanted to shout at them, challenge them. “Where the fuck do you think you are?” They must see something in my face, even under the mask. They stare at me and whisper to each other and wander off, holding hands.
I want to feel more human because I have felt for weeks like a ghost.
The next two days (Monday and Tuesday), I spend online as a substitute teacher, hanging out with 11 and 12 year olds. We tell jokes. They are excited about the election and their video games. It’s all the same to them. They give me hope. They are, emphatically, not ghosts.
In the evening, its back to binging as I watch cable TV. It feels like a bloodbath.
I wish I had the right words for the occasion. I don’t.
I went to bed, worried that Trump had won the day. I woke to hear he had declared victory. I knew it was a lie.
I suppose Biden will eventually take the electoral college in the next few days. But Trump will not go willingly. He’ll never concede.
Evil, I’ve learned, never concedes. The evil of racism in America has never conceded, will never concede, is not capable of conceding. It might, someday, die off. And, make no mistake, racism is the bloody, brutal, blasphemous core of all our crises.
The hope is in the children and in our humanity, the light that shines out, that old Frans Hals knew so well.
I’ll give Master Rembrandt his due. There is a light that shines mysteriously into our world from some mysterious Other.
But right now, it seems to be masked. It is our inner light we must rely on.
Shine out, friends. Shine like everything depends on it.
Because it does.