I Took a Day to Myself from Sky to Throat : Poem

I Took a Day to Myself from Sky to Throat

I took a day to myself                         got into the car            and just

bought coffee and a donut                                                      and just drove

around for hours                     screaming in the dust

-filled air                                                                                 you can hear

it in my voice now. Above                                         Contra Costa, the settled

smoke

looked like the “Swamp of Sadness”

from the Never-Ending Story—minus           any dragons

or luck                                                             (these are things not to be found here.)

The round brown hill, a resting                                  turtle shell; do not disturb.

I went up to Lawrence Hall and looked                                 for my city

but that had been rendered                                                      by a nothing

a swift blanket of grey climbing

higher than the sun

and I was the only one there

and that had never happened before

the flowers      be        low                  a          back

roads.

There was an old man standing                      outside his car as I

took a swift turn. I think, for a second, he saw                                               me

and I saw                                                                                 him and maybe

he heard

the cacophony of noise                                                           noise

happening

outside of my car,                                                                  maybe he saw

the round O of my mouth.

At some point, as I circled

back

home, I thought

about another poem I wrote                                                                about

the smoke-ash

as people that we have loved.             I breathed

in harder, trying

to take in this loss

like

if I could taste                         them, then

they were not gone                                          and the trees

the hillsides.                The immensity                                    of everyone’s grief

could be breathed.                                                                   It could be breathed

in and held

and I could hold it

with these unearthly opera                                                                  lungs.

I don’t sing anymore but maybe

this instead could be my gift

registering                                                                               the sound of loss

and where it falls from sky to throat.

Power and Prerogative in the Time of Covid-19

Power and Prerogative in the Time of Covid-19 By Kari Flickinger

Timothy Caulfield’s article “Pseudoscience and COVID-19” points to a veritable “explosion of misinformation.” While he quantifies false information as “countless,” the World Health Organization does seem to agree, titling this phenomenon an “infodemic”. Caulfield suggests the major sources of this misinformation include politicians, universities, and healthcare institutions.[1] This is a serious problem as it offers credence to theories that can, have, and will kill the very people who are seeking respite from Covid-19.

When people look to authority figures as the most educated sources for treatment, they will trust that those treatments are efficacious. Unfortunately, the status quo of popular thinking applies many of the aspects of pseudoscience. Methods in Behavioral Research authors Paul Cozby and Scott Bates define pseudoscience as “the use of seemingly scientific terms and demonstrations to substantiate claims that have no basis in scientific research.”[2] Too little time in the research stages of potential treatments leads to inaccurate, vague, and untested data information. [3] For instance, President Trump has touted the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. According to a Forbes article from March 2020, this irresponsible authoritarian compelled a Texas man and his wife to take chloroquine phosphate, which they confused for the drug, leading to the demise of the man.[4] This death could have been preventable if the authority figure in question had exercised due caution. However, this is just one of the many, many Covid-19 related deaths that we have experienced just in this country. When dealing with a proliferating illness, people need to be using their strongest tools. Our tools are too blunted by the range and aggregate of misinformation.

Part of the reason for the vast amount of misinformation has to do with the very method of dissemination that Caulfield suggests should be leveraged. He suggests that those with a professional responsibility “[t]weet.” While well-intentioned, a complication with this line of thinking is that Twitter provides a platform that may be too fast-moving to lend itself to the amount of time needed for research. We can share results eventually, and often do, but under a verifiable peer-reviewal process, a great deal of research comes too late to reasonably debunk per social media. The way we are consuming information is making it impossible to have accurate conversations.

While researchers and those familiar with the scientific method might have learned to question their world and the credibility of those that would offer them advice in it, there are too many who may look to leaders to provide that depth of thought in times of duress. Those who have the tools to think critically have a responsibility to society to use those tools. As Caulfield puts it, “[w]e need physicists, microbiologists, immunologists, gastroenterologists and all scientists from relevant disciplines to provide simple and shareable content explaining why this hijacking of real research is inaccurate and scientifically dishonest.” Sharing credible information and offering verifiable sources obtained through testable and peer-reviewed channels is just one step in the long march to beating Covid-19 and pseudoscientific practices.

For more reading on upping your media literacy skillset, I suggest JSTOR Daily’s article: “Media Literacy & Fake News: A Syllabus”


[1] Caulfield, Timothy. “Pseudoscience and COVID-19.” Nature. 27 April 2020. Online.

[2] Cozby, Paul and Scott Bates. Methods in Behavioral Research. 14th Edition. McGraw-Hill Education. 2020

[3] It does not mention it directly in Caulfield’s article, though it gives it a definite nod.

[4] Haelle, Tara. “Man Dead From Taking Chloroquine Product After Trump Touts Drug For Coronavirus.” Forbes. 23 March 2020. Online.

Clear

My dear friends, I want to express something in a loving way that I think may be unclear.

Keep in mind that it is because I respect you all so deeply that I even considered writing this. If you think this is personally targeted, it is not. Nearly everyone I know has shared some little bit or other. I know so many of you are brilliant brilliant human beings, and this is not an effort to undermine you in any way.

A cluster of good-natured and quite well-meaning friends and family members have been, to find and keep some joy in our dark moment, sharing tales of dolphins and swans in the Venice canals. About translucent waters, and clear skies in factory towns and big cities. About elephants drunk on corn wine nestling in flower-beds. We all love a story of pollution reduction, especially the tall, animal-featured variety. These images and stories have been truly enchanting. However, there is something more complex at play when we express our delight in these tales.

This whimsy is being attained through the unimaginable suffering and death of so many. As of the time of my writing this, there have been almost 50,000 Coronavirus deaths, and almost a million cases, worldwide. Those watching the progression of this virus believe it has not peaked in the United States, yet. People are frightened and overwhelmed. I myself am frightened and overwhelmed. Which is why I want to deliberately convey to everybody in my life in one fell swoop that it is okay to hold on to some whimsy, but please understand that when you express this on a social scale, you may consider the depth of this argument.

Clean air is being traded for the lives of our loved ones, our extended families, our global community. But it is more complicated than this, because those that suffer under the most degraded life conditions are those that will pay the higher tolls. This means, it is not just death, but the death of the poorest sections of society. Those without access to basic needs like healthcare, shelter, food and water. And this is a wedge of society that is disproportionately composed of minorities.

The suggestion that we have to sacrifice some contingent of our population to keep our economy moving is an ecofascist expression of the order of our society. Ecofascism is the sacrifice of individual humans for the benefit of the ecological whole (Zimmerman).  For example, when a political figure says we should return to work during a global pandemic (Levitz) in a bid to stabilize the economy, they have decided that the exchange of goods is of higher value than the citizens that should be considered under their purvey. And they know this. They do not consider the individuation of humanity, rather the net cost of human casualty.

It is treasonous against our survival to ignore that entire specific swathes of our society must be, now explicitly, sacrificed to ensure our way of life under late capitalism. If we are going to keep with the hopeful attainment of whimsy, then consider ours a moralistic fable. We are living in an Ursula K. Le Guin story. We are ignoring the perpetual misery of the most vulnerable to have beautiful horses with ribbons in their tails.

I think it is important to note that I am not so good as to believe I can lecture anyone about ethics. I have been equally delighted at the thought of seeing clearly through the Venetian Canals. After a month and a half of being barely able to breathe most nights, I am ecstatic about nearly anything that resembles the outside world. However, while the power imposing this situation in our time may be a virus, we cannot laud these changes without looking at the structural consequences of such an expression. 

Hold on to your whimsy. But, keep a light in your mind lit for what is sacrificed. When the virus moves on, and we are all facing one another on the other side of loss, what world do you want to build? We have lost hope in our time. We are letting down our children, our families, our friends, ourselves, who we have inundated with whimsical tales of the glory of goodness. Goodness holds no glory unless it is shared. All religion teaches this lesson. How can we reconstruct ourselves to offer the hope of a brilliant blue sky without imposing this continued sacrifice? 

 

 

Works Cited and Related Reading

Daly, Natasha.  (2020). “Fake animal news abounds on social media as coronavirus upends life”. National Geographic. Web.

Jackson, Shirley. (1948) “The Lottery” The New Yorker.

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1973). “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” New Dimensions, Volume 3.

Levitz, Eric. (24 March, 2020) “No, Trump Can’t Revive the Economy Through Human Sacrifice”. NY Mag. Web.

Zimmerman, Michael E. (2008). “Ecofascism”. In Taylor, Bron R. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Volume 1. London, UK: Continuum. pp. 531–532.