Three days before arriving I stood on a rise in the desert; below were hundreds of steel buildings housing thousands. People heading home, people heading to war. The haze and dust of hangs with the smell of oil in this small country, and even in February the heat in the late afternoon makes the horizon watery.
The rumors of one person (or more) in quarantine circulated. Together we shared rooms and bathrooms, dining halls and cafes. Looking down it was clear how fragile we were to the challenge ahead of us; there is no “social distance” in a transient facility, nor in the planes to and from. Here we share the same air and space and the enemy is not a bomb but a cough. We were cogs in a machine spread across continents and whether we made it home well or sick was a matter of chance at this point. “Inshallah” the locals say- you only wish for good things Inshallah never bad. So we will all make it home alive and well as God wills it.
Even as “it’s just a flu” made the rounds, the news from Italy and Iran seemed dire. Americans are not above this world- we are not gifted with special immunity to illness. At one time we had a belief in science and the ability to focus our wealth and power on singular challenges. But that time is fading and we care more about the price of stocks than the health of people, and that day stocks weren’t doing so well either.
“It will be fine” my dinner companion said
“No really, we are screwed” I replied.
He laughed and shook off the “fake news”. A year in the land of Fox News has taught me there is no reasoning with some trains of thought.
A sort of grim reality set in for me, as there was one path home for me- through those dorms where a hundred men slept per room, on an airplane sharing recycled air for 30 hours, another dorm. There was no escaping this. I was sick going to get sick or not. And so were many others. Just watch and wait, pack and repack, processing outbound.
It’s been a week and 12000 kilometers since that day. Instead of a clean chapter ending I am left with a sort of murky expository dump of paragraphs. Trying to teach my tactile daughter not to touch my face, wondering what the next days bring. I am saddened by this new reality but hardly surprised. Since the ascension of our current administration it has been inevitable that we would fail some test. Like all disasters it has been preceded by near disaster; the failure to help Puerto Rico, a fantastical giveaway to the rich, a thrice-divorced bankrupted adulterer held up as a Christian Prophet and moral standard-bearer. We as a people have turned our back on truth and the results are predictable and inevitable. Nature is not mean or spiteful but she is true and certain. We as a people have been running self-blinded through the wilderness for too long.
Virology does not care if you believe in it.
Climate change does not care is you believe in it either.
This is both a disaster and the premonition of the next, larger one. Each choice made now sets the course of the future, so choose wisely.