At this point in the modern plague, probably everyone is familiar with the old-timey plague doctor uniform. But why was it so macabre? For a bad reason, it turns out, but with good consequences.
We need a new national mythology, one that makes room for all of us. Everyone needs to be able to see themselves in America’s origin story. We need to all be able to take pride in where we came from and how we got here.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison get to form our origin story. In truth, the people who enabled them to have the time, wealth and energy to pursue such things were the ones who did all the hard work and only received punishment and pain in return.
After visiting Monticello at the age of 8, I became a confirmed Thomas Jefferson fangirl. Then, I started to learn about the guy.
My feelings for Jefferson? They became complicated.
And then, they got downright ugly.
Can I be honest, guys? There are moments I don’t recognize my life anymore. I don’t mean moments where I think, “Huh, isn’t this different?” I mean moments of dissociation where I wonder if I’m living the right life, or if I somehow got body-swapped into some other, horrible place and time. Because the life that I’ve been plonked down into is both strangely familiar and terrifyingly foreign, and I don’t want to be a part of it.
If you want to know, I’m not doing alright. My breathing is fine, my temperature is normal and I am not coughing. But I am not ok.
We don’t live the same anymore. We measure time in cases and bodies — yesterday the world crossed over a million positive tests; tomorrow, we may see ten thousand dead in America. We stay up as late as we want and sleep when our restless minds allow. We wake when we feel, or if duty compels, we make an effort to work our way through the day. We don’t live the same anymore.
Soon, there was news of the disease cropping up everywhere: Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea — even the U.S. But I wasn’t alarmed. We could handle it. I was certain. Then everything changed.
I read one historian urge people to write down their impressions of this remarkable time that we’re going through, so for now, I’m going to repurpose this blog. I’m not able to do my research and rewriting and editing anyhow, so I’ll keep up on how life has changed and how, I hope, we’ll get back to some sort of workable normal. And sometime soon, I hope to get back to what I was working on. Because if nothing else, if this damned disease does come calling for me, I’d really hate to leave without finishing this project.
Elected officials in Amsterdam are considering issuing an apology to the people of Suriname for the actions and legacy of slavery. And that’s not an outlandish thing to ask for when you consider that the Dutch West India Co., the corporation that oversaw and ran the Suriname colony, wasn’t just based in Amsterdam, but funneled much of the wealth that powered that city’s Golden Age. What if the U.S. followed suit?