All that morning I wrapped myself in a protective coat of whatever one does after a chaos of rage and protest has swept through your city. I put in my earbuds, played soothing music and played about thirty games of solitaire. Basically put my head in the sand.
Two more times this week the street outside my apartment has filled with righteous souls (no irony intended) marching to protest the murder of George Floyd last week, and so many men and women and children before him. Last night I stood on my balcony shining my flashlight into the night sky for exactly 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd lay, face to the pavement, under the uniformed knee of Derek Chauvin. I extinguished my light and felt the pain of his life being extinguished, all of us witnesses. I contributed to a former student’s birthday fund raiser for NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. I blacked out my Instagram feed on Tuesday, correcting my use of #BlackLivesMatter after being gently prodded to by at least two people.
And I’m aware it isn’t enough. Of course it isn’t. I didn’t go down in the street and march myself. I stayed at home and worked at my desk in my living room, feeling the weight of the 12th week of isolation, combined with the pain and rage of injustice. I stress ate for the first time in at least six weeks. I no longer went out at 8:00PM to bang on a pot for three minutes to show my gratitude to the medical workers. Neither did the cat strangler across the way. We’re still grateful. We’re just tired and not sure the show is worth anything.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
It is a dark time to be in isolation. I have so little faith in our “leadership.” Leader of the free world AKA #Bunkerboy. The St. John’s Photo op debacle alone was enough to convince me of that. But I’ve become glutted on the hate treacle that our lives are embedded in.
Here’s a solution. I need to put myself on a social media diet. In my regular media diet, I get plenty of roughage; I get three daily newspapers: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. I control the reading of those by beginning the day and ending the day looking through the news.
On the social media side, it’s become a little too Pavlovian. Those endorphin-producing numbers light up my phone showing notifications from Tiktok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and insipid Cosmo-type articles on Medium Daily Digest. Social media sites beckon with tendrils of truth in a forest of falsehood and rivulets of friendship and caring in a sea of toxic discord. I’ve listened to podcasts that have convinced me of our vulnerability to someone else’s algorithms and filters. If there weren’t enough competing forces for our attention in a global pandemic flattening in it’s fourth month, we’re all waiting now for the devastating rebound which will result from unprotected free speech in our city and across the country. And the subsequent tightening of restrictions. Los Angeles’ entire downtown is boarded up. It’s a ghost town, populated with tumbleweeds and sporadic waves of thousands of protesters. I understand the need for expression. I can safely say that my meager participation in social media isn’t contributing in any substantive way to my betterment or Los Angeles’.
To be honest, I’m just worn out. I’m tired of being told how to feel, how not to feel, how to express my feelings in the appropriate way. So I’m going to take a social media break. Deleted the apps. Going to sit on the sidelines for a while. Read my newspapers. Take a hike. No, literally, I’m gonna take a hike. You’re welcome to come along. You can bring your dog. Give me a call.