my eyes aren’t what they used to be.
I sit here squinting at my monitor, my eyes itchy from the strain and adapting to looking at the monitor with glasses off after most of the day with them. i’m almost tempted to grab my reading glasses (fancy ones with neon green stems that i spent too much on at Nordstrom’s with the hope that they might make me feel slightly better about the need for them). I spent most of the evening after putting M to bed looking at tiny letters in Putty.exe, struggling to remember how to use command line, then after having resolved one issue, going back to look at php code (with which i am wholly unfamiliar) and then trying to go back to fix the site i broke when i imprudently updated the php version without looking carefully at what I was doing. pretty typical, really.
most of it is back up now, but it’s sad that many of the plugins and widgets were from the early aughts whose functionality and relevance has faded into internet lore. do you remember dooce? or automattic? how about vox.com as a blogging site? posterous? for all the whinging that things on the internet live forever, it’s terribly apparent that that isn’t true at all, even if you want it to be for sheer convenience. the internet is, like all forms of attention, exactly reflective of human pre-occupation and all the jealousies and pettiness that encompass it, staying alive as long as someone keeps feeding the flames, and as quickly forgotten once the the fan is put down. it’s too bad that reality doesn’t work the same way.
we’re in the fifth month of shelter-in-place with this pandemic, and there are no signs that it is slowing down in the US. my aunt in taiwan has sent us 200 face masks out of panicked concern for how bad things are here. my how the roles have reversed. Before, my mother, the sister in the US, would bring back treasures from the Beautiful Country whenever returning to her motherland. Now WE are appreciative for the medical supplies she ships to us from Taiwan, a country established by democracy-loving Nationalists who fled Communist China 70+ years ago that now possesses one of the best health care systems in the world, as evidenced by its great success in keeping the virus under control. Now it is we who are residents of a despotic nation whose citizens can’t catch a break, whose livelihoods are thwarted by powerful politicians who couldn’t care less about our well being. We can look to Taiwan now as standard bearers for an ideal of democracy, with free and fair elections and smooth transitions of power and whose media hasn’t been completely overtaken by corporate interests to become propaganda machines. Even Democracy Now!, the program my westward-looking cousin listened to religiously as a teenager and which inspired him to make America his home, has been corrupted by partisan interests. I can’t help but wonder, and even as I write this I am afraid to truly think this, whether America’s time is over and the grand experiment is done.
Anyone who’s followed American politics since the 1970s can see it. It’s been a long slow march to this point. Trump isn’t the disease. He’s a symptom of 40 years of GOP power-grabbing, from consolidation of television stations across the country to alt-right radio to gerrymandering and the radicalization of evangelicals and poor whites around abortion and gun rights. So even if Trump is removed, we have the entire GOP system (as evidenced by Mitch McConnell) that is perfectly fine with keeping things going the way they have been for decades, but without the weight of the president’s handling of the pandemic that comes along with him. They are still totally fine with cheating and rigging the system in their favor, all while lying to Americans about what they are really doing. There isn’t any particular reason for them to change.
So I am grateful for this time this summer, and I treasure the freedoms that I have at this moment. I recognize what a gift it really is, this present that I live in right now. I am thankful that I can spend this time with my son, who turned six today. I am lucky to be able to take for granted that my paycheck came through last Friday, because at least for now, I have a job with a company who is reaping some dividends from everyone staying home and playing video games. I can order boba to be delivered to my doorstep, debate whether I will order Whole Foods delivery of some beef tenderloin and scallops to prepare a special dinner for my family. I can watch my son build a motorized Lego train set from bricks to finish, and while he cannot hug his friends, my husband and I can give him an abundance of time in a shared space for months on end in a way that my parents could not ever fathom doing for me. I have been able to watch him grow so much since this all started, and while it’s been stressful, it has also been an incredible pleasure to watch him develop into such a funny, chatty, and inquisitive boy.
And who can see what tomorrow will hold, what new terribleness our country’s leaders will introduce in the weeks and months to come? Who knows if Trump will relinquish his power, or whether we will just more obviously manifest ourselves as a failed state with a fascist leader and his hateful acolytes? Who knows whether the figurative sickness of the republic and our society or literal sickness of the pandemic will end up overwhelming us. Maybe somehow we can turn this ship around. But it feels ever more urgent to hold on to these moments as if they are my last in this world as it is right now, because it feels so apparent that they very well might be.
Happy birthday, M. Mommy loves you. I hope I can continue to watch over you and keep you safe while this world has caught aflame. And I hope I can somehow make your life better and safer for you, the way my parents did for me by coming to this country so many years ago.