In fall and winter of 2001, venturing into Manhattan required some fortitude (I'd pack a transistor radio to stay informed in case of emergency). We New Yorkers, in our weakened state, were deeply rattled by the subsequent anthrax attacks. We had no idea what was coming next. Would wrecked urban landscapes and burly dudes pulling bodies through smoking mounds be our new normal?
At that time, I thought to myself: "History won't note any of this. It will be remembered that there was an attack, and we were all sad. No one will record the lingering anxiety, the not-knowing, the wrenched feeling in our stomachs - not from missing a couple towers few of us ever loved in the first place, but from the disorienting feeling of being unable to touch bottom - the not knowing how different it would all be. It was months, perhaps years, before we consensually decided New York was a city rather than a war zone.
Fifteen years later, I see that I was correct about history. The upshot is, indeed, that there were was an attack, and we were all sad. Tight and concretely clear. This happened, and that happened. Historians record only tangible actions.
I'm having that same feeling this week. And, as in 2001, I don't need to ask around to know that I'm definitely not the only one. We know now that Donald Trump won't win. That horrifying prospect is gone. What's more, we haven't learned anything significantly new about Trump in months. Absolutely nothing in the past month has been a surprise. Yet, even though I'm no sensitive snowflake, I find myself consumed with sadness. It's that old feeling again, deeper than our personal emotions; this is the visceral etching of history on our spirits in real time.
It will be recorded that a fascistic narcissist came dangerously close to the US presidency, and was rebuked. But this feeling I'm feeling (and I know without asking that many of you are feeling, as well) of free-falling dread that's not the least bit mitigated by the meteoric rising of Clinton's poll numbers - even in safely red states - and the avoidance of our most feared outcome, is not lifting. It won't be recorded in history. This is only for us. We need to remember.
I noted the turning point on Monday, saying that "if you're going to pay attention to politics once in your lifetime, now's the time. It's a privilege to live through history - even unpleasant history. I don't want to just read the synopsis later. This is not a moment to hit the fast-forward button; this is a moment to hit "play" and pay full attention." I'm indeed paying full attention. I haven't done much else this week. I don't want to spend decades trying to process my feelings and adjusting to tectonic changes that happened in my peripheral vision. I want to live straight through this with eyes wide open and the clearest possible perspective.
Several friends got flu shots this week, and report feeling even crappier than they usually do afterward. My suspicion is it's not the flu shots.
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