Pandemic Pangs

On Trying to Write During Corona & Quarantine

Film Forum has enabled a rental streaming service for its current run. I decided to rent and watch Down and Out in America, Lee Grant’s 1987 Oscar-winning documentary. I thought it would be a good place to start writing about all this. By all this, I mean the the dramatically different effects the coronavirus and quarantine have had on the less privileged, underemployed, underinsured, those whose professional value and personal dignity have been eroded by the gig economy and other not-inevitable economic forces — those generally overlooked and those who don’t quite realize just how badly they needed those safety nets they thought were meant for others — amid some musings that people will finally understand why we need government. Also, the quite intentional and near-fraudulent forces that led us to a place where so many sincerely believe that government has been the problem (I do believe it is something close to fraud — if you need a reminder of how intentional, disingenuous, and systematic it has been, read or reread Dark Money by Jane Mayer and Transaction Man by Nicholas Lemann).

Can these forces be undone? How? Can we make people understand that it’s about them? Like the film makes clear, no one is immune from poverty in this country (and makes it clear it wasn’t always the case — in 1979 a team of doctors travelled the country and then were able to declare that hunger had been eradicated. In 1985, the time of the movie, approximately 20 million Americans did not have enough to eat). And yet the average Trump voter still identifies with the rich because he or she would like to believe he is one lucky break away from becoming one, and why begrudge anyone their fortune (you know, by regulating water pollution or for instance; logical right?). And/or resentment is misdirected by respective criminally misleading news outlets.

And I’d still like to write that. But sheesh. It’s just so damn depressing. And all too close to home for so many of us right now (hard to write about people on the verge when you’re worried about your own job). My focus is torn between the urgency of what’s relevant, and a complete need to escape. In the meantime, my brain is just firing in every direction.




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