Letter from New York — Quarantine, Day 74

Only in contemporary America would the idea of donning a mask become a political act. In some parts of the country the reactionaries refuse to wear one because only ‘Liberals’ and ‘Democrats’ do that. Really? Everything is ‘political’, hyper-partisan. This politicization of mask wearing comes from the Left as well, who use the issue for shaming others or are donning it for their own political reasons. No one side is immune to this. It’s no longer public health issue for some, which concerns literally everyone, but a ‘political’ one in order to push forth whatever ‘agenda’ they have in mind, a partisan political act to either boast or shame. I honestly wonder whether people determine what side of the political divide they’re on when they take a shit in the morning. Was it a ‘Red Shit’ or a ‘Blue Shit’? As I’ve been saying for some time now, ideological enslavement is as much a virulent virus as COVID-19.

I’ve only been watching the news regarding the latest updates about New York, to see how much longer things will be on ‘Pause’. Things are looking up locally. The cases, hospitalizations, intubations, and deaths are way down (less than 100 deaths statewide the past few days). Long Island and Westchester may begin opening up as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, leaving New York City the only region left on ‘Pause’. This news makes me feel less anxious about hopping on the subway and heading downtown to take care of some errands I’ve been putting off for weeks now. I have my fingers crossed as people return from the Memorial Day weekend that there isn’t a spike in cases and prolong this nightmare but I guess that’s to be seen. Even if the city begins its reopening next week, it will be at least a few months before things even begin to ‘normalize’. Being that we’re already almost at the halfway point in the year, it’s safe to say 2020 is pretty much a lost year for everyone.

I’ve been biding my time writing and the time sequestered has, at the very least, allowed me to focus on a new novel, which I began writing just two weeks before the lockdown occurred (when I was suffering from a very bad ‘sinus infection’, which I’m not sure now it was considering the timing). It’s coming along, albeit very slowly. It currently stands at around 34,000 words. I would have been doing this anyway but being more or less forced into ‘social distancing’ for the past three months kind of enforces discipline and negates any excuse to go fuck off somewhere, as I tend to do during ‘normal times’. I’ve also been catching up on much neglected reading and watching a lot of old classic films. These endeavors help ward off going stir crazy.

As of this writing, the COVID-19 case count in The United States is approaching 1.6 million, along with near 100,000+ deaths, a number which is hard to wrap one’s mind around. Any crisis is often a learning experience and this one has certainly highlighted the social divide taking place in this country. I’m not interested in politics. I have no love for any politician nor any political party or any specific ideology, nor do I consider myself a religious individual (far from it). Whatever opinions I have are solely based on individual issues. My conclusions aren’t formed by party lines. So, if one must slap a label on me politically — which many try to do — I guess you can say I’m an ‘independent’. From my past ‘quarantine postings’ on social media it’s clear how hostile others can be when they bump into disagreement. It’s not a simple disagreement on the issues, it becomes personal. I’ve had to jettison some folks due to the needless personal nature of their ‘disagreement’ (and even delete some of those older posts due to them degenerating into a shit storm). Whatever the case, it does highlight the social divide I speak of above. I’ve no time for that bullshit anymore, from anyone. I’m not going to argue with those who act as if insulting a politician is akin to insulting their fathers or mothers. It’s not personal but apparently it is for a hell of a lot of people — too many, in fact. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if many of these folks weren’t so hypocritical. The chasm between their so-called ‘ideology’ and what they actually do and how they actually treat other people is wide and growing ever wider. It doesn’t matter what you do, apparently. Even something as simple and as innocuous as posting a photograph, an artwork, an article of interest that has nothing to do with politics, there’s always that one person who will make it about politics and it’s tiring. The truth is no one really cares as much as they pretend to, about most things in life, including this, for which I am under no illusion that anyone really does. Then why do it? Yeah, exactly. Why do it?

Julian Gallo is the author of 'The Penguin and The Bird', 'Last Tondero In Paris', 'Existential Labyrinths' and other novels. He lives and works in New York City. This is his third 'letter from New York' for QMT. @JulianGallo66
Image: 'Mask" by Eric Linker, around 2000.

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