Distopia

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I read this today: “worst health crisis since 1918… worst recession since 1933… worst race riots since 1968.” This is the worst start to a hurricane season, ever. Second day, already three named storms. Eli told me on Sunday about the internet chatter he’s been seeing. The super volcano under Yellowstone National Park is getting ready to erupt. Worst natural disaster since the Cretaceous Period. My friends, we’re screwed.

My favorite literature genre is dystopian fiction. Distopia: (noun) an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic. Or more simply put, the opposite of utopia.

Since my early adulthood, I’ve sought out books featuring er, challenged societies. The Rift: The aftermath of a massive earthquake; Lucifer’s Hammer: The aftermath of a climate changing meteor strike; One Second After: Nuclear holocaust; Earth Abides: Pandemic; The Stand: Weird showdown between good and evil. These books feature exciting plots of survivors living by guile and wit, eking out an existence, and if they’re lucky, a life. These books offer an escape from my cushy, modern life with two cars, a desk job and a three-bedroom house.

It’s been a couple of months since I read a book. I can’t concentrate. The daily news leaves me agitated and distracted. I click on Coronavirus stats and unemployment figures and the Dow Jones closing price. I click on CNN twenty times an hour to see what’s changed. I read last week that a third of American adults are currently showing signs of anxiety and/or depression. I have a history with both, I know the signs. My inability to open a book is one of them.

Just when you thought nothing could get worse, some jackass cop in Minneapolis murdered a citizen accused of a misdemeanor. Because the killing took nine minutes to commit and was performed on a busy sidewalk, it was video recorded. And because the victim was yet another black man being treated in an inhuman fashion, the shit has hit the fan.

Since the pandemic took hold in America and spread disproportionately compared to every other country, I’ve been viewing the entire episode as something of a karma exchange. A giant swath of our population, led by our commander and chief, is one part stupid and two parts arrogant. We refuse to take Covid-19 seriously, we mistreat our allies, coddle our adversaries, and flip a middle finger at everyone in our country who isn’t of European descent. I could easily write a two-thousand-word essay by simply listing the egregious actions and statements made by Donald Trump since he set his sights on the presidency, but I won’t. The list is well documented and available to anyone with an internet browser.

In 2004, I read The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. As I read that book, I envisioned the darkness that must have swept over the nation. So many Americans dying of a random and uncontrollable disease. I couldn’t see how society could cope with so much sorrow.

When the covid-19 pandemic struck, I wrote many blog posts describing the sinking “it’s all over” vibe I was feeling. I was waiting for the darkness I envisioned in 1918. It never came. What I learned is humans are adaptable animals. Everyone keeps talking about the new normal, where normal includes living in fear, tracking cases and deaths, wearing a mask, isolation. It’s been bad, but it hasn’t met my dreaded expectations. This pandemic thing seems doable.

But now my sinking feeling is back. It’s in response Trump’s handling of the protests sweeping America. His strongman/dictator demeanor and rhetoric over the past week has helped me see just how bad off our country really is. The presidents in my life—all presidents—have stepped into the role of unifier when a crisis hit.

Trump didn’t do this during these early days of the pandemic and the recession, and he isn’t doing it with the protests. Instead, he pours on gasoline and fans the flames. He has offered nothing but threats of violence since the protest started. He even threatened the citizenry with military attacks. Not once has Trump suggested that the protesters might have a point.

The United States is spiraling out of control. We’ve taken the three biggest disasters of last century—pandemic, recession, riots—and molded them into one giant pill. Then we shoved it down our own throat. Every civilization has an arc. America’s was clearly on the down slope over the past twenty years—escalating debt, crumbling infrastructure, sky-rocketing drug overdoses, and a declining middle class. But now it seems our downward arc has turned into a cliff.

Why not have the Yellowstone super volcano eruption right now. I say get it over with. We’re on a rocky downward ride pretty much of our own making, and I don’t think anything will start to improve until we finally hit the bottom.

Photo by Gary Saldana on Unsplash

36 thoughts on “Distopia

  1. We had a curfew in my city last night. We have NEVER in my memory had a curfew. There were riots, burnings and looting in the neighboring city (I live in a satellite city of San Diego).
    Trump has spent the last 4 years making hatred acceptable. People are tired, with COVID-19 scaring everyone and the loss of income…yeah, all it needed was a spark. And a powertrippin cop in Minnesota provided it.

    I have faith in people. The building of neighborhoods during the lockdowns will help. People want to look out for each other, it’s the powertrippin dipsticks we need to watch out for.

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  2. Please, no … I’ve had enough of this dystopian novel that has become our reality. I’d settle for a plain old topia. Nothing flashy. A wounded country reemerging, rolling up its sleeves, tackling a few of our most pressing problems with Joe at the helm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. Here’s an interesting perspective though, yesterday I heard a teenager say something along the lines of Donald Trump? Joe Biden? Same thing. I sort of get the point, but I hope and pray that isn’t an accurate sentiment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They’re both old white guys, but that’s all. Joe would never tear gas a group of protesters to hold the Bible for a photo opportunity. Or demean a disabled person. Or defend the actions of a white supremacist. Or willingly alienate our allies. Or actively work to abolish the checks and balances of the free press. The list goes on. If people don’t acknowledge these truths when they vote, we’re screwed in November.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re right about all of that, of course. I guess my point is that Biden isn’t doing enough to distinguish his differences. Recently on NPR I heard an independent voter say “I’m voting for Trump. Biden is creepy.” Even the interviewer gasped. But that’s what Biden needs to overcome.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow. He definitely needs to be visible and forthright about what he stands for and how he will work to lead our country, heal our wounds and restore decency.

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  3. Good morning, Jeff. As I read your post today, I can’t help but cry. Cry for a country that is in DEEP trouble. I live in Minneapolis and my city (one of the most liberal in the country) is also one of the most racists with a police force that is lead by a union that fuels these abominations. When I start to feel helpless, I get out in it. I volunteer, I talked to my kids, I encourage people to get educated on institutional and systemic racism. The likes of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are not even worth my thoughts or words anymore. It is a disgrace. I have hope that Joe Biden has his ego in check enough to surround himself with good, smart people. Take good care. Barb

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was having a bad day the other day and I had to keep reminding myself, “Things could be a lot worse. Don’t test it.” At this point, I feel the same idea applies to the big picture. I heard about the hurricanes, I did not hear about the volcano – but yeah, it fits! I can’t even imagine what is going to happen next, but I agree, something else is going to happen.

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    • Well hopefully the volcano rumor is hyperbole. I read that Yellowstone is having high seismic activity, but really they always do. One day it will erupt. I’ve read that book too. It isn’t pretty. I hope to not be around to see it. Yes, things *could* get worse and I agree, they probably will.

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  5. There’s been some debate about the statement from Canada’s Prime Minister. For myself, I appreciate the fact that he could be quiet before he spoke, that he demonstrated the kind of weariness I feel at the endless outrages from the White House, that he could speak in a measured way that our leaders seem incapable of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just watched his comment/non-comment. I’m not sure what the debate is. He said it perfectly. He kept his mouth shut about Trump (because nothing good was going to happen if he slammed him) and then acknowledged that this isn’t just an America problem. I’d like to see more of our politicians get up and speak eloquently about the reality of the situation. I think the time is past due for Obama and Biden to address the nation. Someone needs to fill the void.

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      • Well, I’d say there was some nuance to it, but I heard him loud and clear. Looking forward to what Obama has to say. We’re really missing his level headed intelligence. I’d like Biden to make a ‘presidential’ address. I’m sure the networks would cover it.

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  6. I’ve watched shows about the supervolcano before—very anxiety producing. I don’t remember all the details but I think I live in an area where we would be covered in volcanic ash.
    It sounds like the Derek Chauvin had a problematic record before he killed George Floyd–why wasn’t he fired or reassigned before this happened?
    Why did the store clerk call 911 over a supposedly counterfeit bill? My daughter has worked in retail—that is not what she was taught to do.
    I thought the Democrats would do better than Biden. Oh well, anything is better than Trump.
    In my midwestern hometown a protester was shot and killed , most likely unintentionally by another protester. Curfews for the entire county–have never seen anything like that previously.
    Two black law enforcement officers have lost their lives in this tragedy.
    Trump is not trying to help, he is only fanning the flames of hatred. It will be a disaster if he gets elected again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m OK with Biden if he selects Harris as his running mate. Sanders and Warren weren’t going to work with a ‘socialist’ label. From my perspective, (Wash Post, CNN) it looks like the whole world is ganging up on Trump. So I popped over to Fox and found a completely different story. It looked like they were talking about a different day. It’s a really screwy situation we’ve got ourselves in.

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    • Thank you. We *seem* to be just passing the uncontrolled phase. I’m hoping things settle down so we can begin our years-long effort to rectify our country. This has been a horrible week, but absolutely necessary to open our eyes. Like is so frequently (always) the case, as things improve we tend to forget that there’s a problem. Hopefully we won’t do that this time.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re not alone in saying that you find you can’t read in this time – many of my friends and family say the same. I hope you can find peace in some way and stay safe. As someone living in the UK, I’d add that the virus “spread disproportionately compared to every other country” here as well – in fact worse than the US actually, we have the worst death rate in the world. We also have a useless leader who refused to take it seriously until too late – see what’s happening in Brazil and Russia too. All the countries with right-wing authoritarian-leaning leaders. How will they act to retain their power in the inevitable fallout and public anger over all this? Scary times.

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  8. Why, why, why would your son tell you about the Yellowstone volcano? That’s like pouring gasoline on a fire! 🙂

    I take it you are tired of all the “winning”, Jeff? Any more “winning” and the US will be wiped off the face of the earth.

    I’ve gotta have hope and faith that the good guys will win in November and start to turn this ship around.

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