Covid-19 fatigue is entwined with DJT exhaustion. Both are life threatening. DJT’s failure to understand and contain the virus has left 500,000 U.S. residents dead, countless families and communities reeling, and our local economies and state governments in shambles. I am a retired law professor who deeply believes that it is our responsibility to perfect the Union; the rise of DJT challenged our aspirational dedication to multi-culturalism and justice. The summer’s George Floyd demonstrations reminded us that we have far to go to achieve racial justice and equity.
Shut in since March 15, 2020, living in midtown Manhattan, I was shocked by the loss of stimulation and purpose that had dominated my retirement. No more lecturing high school and college students on voting rights and the importance of informed voting to a vibrant democracy. No more theater, museums, lunches with fellow retired colleagues, dinner parties that filled our apartment with young people and old.
Like most of us I learned how to use Zoom. I transferred as much of my service work to virtual, explored European Netflix series, and wrote postcards into Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia, imploring potential Democrats to vote—by mail, early, or as a last resort in person. I discovered the restaurant wholesalers who deliver quality food to residential households, I divided up housekeeping into doable daily chores, and I scoured the Times and Washington Post for new recipes. I meditated daily and missed my daily exercise routine.
By October I was working a national voter assistance hotline five days a week, helping voters from around the country register to vote, sign up for absentee ballots, and coach them through asserting their right to vote in the all-important 2020 election. I stayed on the hotline through the Georgia senatorial runoff.
On January 6th, I was ready to celebrate the unlikely wins by both Reverend Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff as Georgia’s first African American and Jewish senators. Instead we got the spectacle of a white nationalist mob invading the Capitol looking to lynch Mike Pence, shoot Nancy Pelosi, and provide the opportunity for DJT to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Then on January 13, I got my first dose of Pfizer at the Javits Center. Now I am fully vaccinated.
With DJT finally out of office, I don’t need to keep MSNBC on all night, a network that successfully combined Covid and DJT into its ambiguous mix of news and commentary. Suddenly after almost a year of virus and four years of DJT, I can anticipate seeing friends again. That’s a lot of change to my life all at once: the diminishing threat of Covid-19 and the disappearance of DJT from the news.
For four years, we lived under the tyranny of DJT, whose method of control was to infiltrate every day of our lives, demanding that we pay attention to him. Always. As Jamie Raskin, House Manager of the second impeachment trial, recently noted in an interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker, DJT violated every boundary between public and private life. That’s how authoritarians take control: by making everything—quotidian and exceptional—about themselves, always. Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents adds to that understanding of how fascists and authoritarians gain control. “The Nazis could not have risen to power and done what they did without the support of the masses of people who were open to his spell.” Later she writes, “Germany bears witness to an uncomfortable truth—that evil is not one person but can be easily activated in more people than we would like to believe when the right conditions congeal.”
After watching our democracy come dangerously close to disappearing, and needing to remain vigilant while still stuck inside, I knew I needed an infusion of love to keep me safe.
My 32-year old daughter helped me scour the websites for rescue cats. Nothing fancy, a stray cat in need of a loving home. We found Simon, offered for adoption by the Animal Lighthouse Rescue. Simon was a street cat, fed first by a kind woman who took him to Animal Lighthouse Rescue, then with a foster family in New Jersey. On Friday night, at the tail end of a two-day snowstorm, Simon arrived, ready to let us love him.
Perhaps mirroring my own skittishness with being among people as my vaccination takes effect, Simon hides under the couch although he comes out for meals and petting. Loving this fragile, young creature has kept my heart open as we near mid-winter with more snow than New York has seen in years. Getting to know a shy creature when my own vulnerability has made me shy once again grows empathy and compassion. As we hibernate for a second winter, growing love inside me makes it possible to imagine joining together to rebuild this tattered democracy in the wake of a pandemic and threat to the Republic.
With love in our hearts, we have nothing to fear.