Talking to myself during the pandemic

Here we sit, a few days before the presidential election, and seven months into the pandemic.

While I talk to myself all the time, I never thought I’d be talking to myself during a pandemic, and never thought I’d spend so much time talking to myself about politics and race and the state of the country. But there you have it. The very foundations of America have never been threatened like they have been for the past few months, thanks to the strongman delusions of Trump and the shocking cowardice of the Republicans party.

In order to keep myself calm during these days of worrying about the future of the country, I’ve been following an author I really like, Anand Giridharadas, the author of Winners Take All. He’s also a TV talking head, the one with the grey hair that stands straight up.

Anand Giridharadas

He also has a weekly newsletter called The.Ink that you can sign up for (recommended), and if you pop for $50/year (worth it) you get a weekly zoom chat with himself as well.

In the newsletter and chats he talks a lot about what the future holds (assuming we survive the election) and how the country should deal with the long series of in-our-face shocks we’ve had: everything Trump, the horror of incompetence-driven pandemic death, the racial and social inequality it has laid bare, the gaping flaws of employer-based health insurance, the gross income inequality, and the recognition of just how awful Republicans are and just how much white supremacy still reigns.

It’s a shock to see just how failed the country actually is. As Clare says, we’re a a third-world country with a Gucci bag.

In his interview with Deval Patrick, he deals with some of this, as he questions whether we can tell the truth about ourselves and still find something good about the country to love.

“Can we learn to tell the truth about America and still believe that America is special, that it’s good, that it’s worth loving? A lot of the people who are doing the best work of forcing us to tell the truth about ourselves do not speak in a language of there being anything redemptive about this country. And a lot of the people who speak in a language of there being something redemptive about this country, or this country being great, are not honest about the truth of our origins and our history and our present.

“This country has profound, deep flaws, and not just flaws. This country is conceived in sin, on the native American front and the Black front. … America is misbegotten; America was born wrong. And this is hard. Born with the Three Fifths clause. Born with slavery as a practice of people who wrote the most gorgeous documents imaginable. We were born wrong. And to be able to be truthful about that, and still be able to redefine our love for ourselves, is one really important work.”

He sees a lot of the toxicity around Trump as a reaction to this whole idea of being honest about how we got here and recognizing how we’re growing more diverse. And then he says we are worth loving because we are building a country not on a common ethnic background, but on ideas.

“We are on a path of becoming something extraordinary, which is a country fully divorced from a particular ethnic belonging … that is purely united by shared institutions and shared values. If we are falling on our face right now in America, it’s because I think we are attempting a high-jump; we are jumping higher, attempting to do something harder than France or Germany or Britain or China …

“We are attempting something special. … one of the most daring sociological attempts in the history of the world. And I think we can do it. But it requires a true coming to terms with who we are, and an ability to find love for ourselves on the other side of that.”

Anand is asking how we can come to terms with ourselves, how can we love ourselves as Americans after fully processing America’s original sins.

It seems overwhelming, but I’m guessing some people, especially young people (yay millennials), are already figuring it out, already doing it, and I’m guessing the key is something as simple as seeing each other first and foremost as human beings.

Somehow I think this is what I will be talking to myself about for the foreseeable future, along with, of course, any random topics that tickle my fancy.