Wednesday, July 22, 2020

dreaming of vacay in quarantine

(please excuse formatting irregularity, I cannot get the paragraphs to function correctly)

I need a vacation more than I know how to articulate.  120 days today since our
quarantine began in March, and while my kids did have one sleepover recently
so that my husband and I could have a night off, we have been without our
community, for one third of a calendar year, and I am coming apart at the seams. 
The kids are unraveling on a daily basis, multiple times a day.  They are addicted
to their screens and I have facilitated that by asking them to learn online and then
be plugged in to stay relatively quiet for my meetings.  We have suffered the loss
of more people in 4 months (some due to COVID, others for other reasons) than
in many years.  We have lost friends much too young to pass onto the ancestors. 
Our collective mental health is not okay.  We are grieving, and empty. 

Yet, we are very blessed and have much to be grateful for.  We are behind on
some bills, but mostly able to keep paying rent, car note and have enough food
in our fridge.  We donated some of our stimulus check, mostly to our beloveds’
families to deal with final arrangements, and to bail funds. We have lights on, AC,
internet and all the devices. I am grateful everyday to live with a chef. I can survive
on $40 for a whole week, that is my survival skill.  I am frugal and want to learn to
garden, un-school and skillshare; maybe I will have a chance to do so earlier than
I ever imagined.

I digress.  I need a vacation.  So badly. Summer is a teacher’s time to travel and
enjoy what the world has to offer, even if on a shoestring budget.  I know how to
enjoy summer vacation thoroughly, as we pack our bag/the car each morning and
set off for new destinations -- pools, parks, lakes, friends’ houses.  This year it
cannot be, and we mourn also the loss of summer.  Some of us, anyway.

As reports start to come in of new COVID cases acquired from 4th of July parties,
I remember the piece I wrote a few years back about the white privilege of summer vacationHow one sector of our people are working all summer away, and another sector is at the Hamptons each weekend, aggressively showing their privilege in their ability to “get away” at a moment’s notice.  For me, part of becoming a teacher was moving up from working class, and getting to have a summer vacation, time off to write, breathe, think and enjoy.  But it is privilege, and on the other side of the coin, are summers filled with violence. This summer is no different. 

This summer is marked by police violence and “rioting”, as many summers are,
when the heat gets oppressive and the hypervigilant surveillance in the hood
means daily harassment of young black and brown boys and girls.  I witness it
all the time, and try to stand in and stand up when I see it occurring. But the
sustained protests demanding defunding of police and affirming that Black Lives
Matter and we won’t stop until the systems are eradicated and the people
liberated, they are not going away.  This is enraging to those who hoped it would
die out when the media coverage did.  To those who “allow” some civil dis-
obedience, but quickly want to return to the normalcy of oppression.

We have been tossing around the phrase “I want to get back to normal” so casually,
but none of this is normal.  A government that refuses to protect, and is even arming
paramilitary against the people, citizens who take the affect of toddlers in their
indignant refusal to wear a mask to protect others.  Schools, if they open, will cause
outbreaks and be forced to close soon.  Students and teachers will die.  I’m writing
furiously just in case this is my time and really should begin figuring out my will.  I
just turned 40 last month.  My dear friend passed away at 36.  I know that tomorrow
is not promised, but to be looking into the face of tomorrow, as a teacher right now,
is like stepping off the edge of a cliff.  I have more to do on this earth and I will not
sacrifice my life, or my students’ lives, or my children’s lives because my government
doesn’t care about my life. 

Everyone being home and confined to one space all of the time means that we
are starting to grow sick of one another.  This is true of family units and neighbors,
though I love my squad and our reggae dance parties every day.  The desire to
“go somewhere” is strong in almost everyone we are near.  I feel like I understand
the riots of 67 in Detroit and the riots of 1992 in L.A. more than I ever have.  There
is so much pressure, from all sides, and the fever pitch of noise and chaos is evident. 
From nightly fireworks since early June disrupting our sleep, to new incidents of
police violence against peaceful protestors and unarmed black people, to the
continued lack of arrest of Breonna Taylor’s killers, to the systemic racism that allows
for 40% of COVID-19 deaths being Black people in Michigan, despite only representing
13% of the population.  There is so much to want to get away from, and nowhere
to go. 

We need a break, some respite, to take a breath, so that we can return to the fight. 
Please do so safely, my comrades.  Be like Samirah, and take to hiking trails, or like
A’yen and paddle rivers.  Commune with nature and get your vitamin D.  Pause and
unplug as you need.  But we must keep looking ourselves in the mirror, as a country,
and keep fighting for justice, for equity, for systemic change, from the root. 

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