I think I may be done with grief for a bit. Recounting significant loss has drained me, brought me to some intuitive sense of closure, at least temporarily. I’m not entirely sure that one is ever done grieving a loss. As I keep saying about this pandemic recovery, we are innocently presuming, hoping in spite of our supposed adult posturing, that once we have the elusive herd immunity things will go back to the way they were before. Um, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but … no. Not gonna happen. We’ve gone another revolution around the Sun, and things have changed. We can’t rewrite the past, nor erase this past year’s growth, although I accept that we are prone to resort to both when dealing with uncomfortable things. But, I digress. Grief changes us, and we are not the same people any longer, so we can’t simply return to a previous state of being. We’ve aged, we’ve adapted, we’ve had loss, we’ve had gain, we’ve seen different things and seen things differently. We can’t go home again, not to the same place as before. Even if all we do is make cosmetic changes, call the late-night advertiser to give us a new bathroom in a day, get a new television…but something has to change. Something has to change because everything has changed. We can’t ignore the fact that we have figured out how to use technology to widen the circle, how to bring a large group of people together without travel to distant places. How to exchange ideas, support each other, produce innovations…all from the comfort of our lairs. We can’t forget that we know how to do this. To do so would be merely punitive. So. We need to grieve, and get on with it – not over it, not through it, but engaged in it. And moving with it.

Anyway, I watched the first episode of a PBS special, “The Black Church”. It’s a Henry Louis Gates exploration of the origin, evolution, significance of the Black Church experience. Just about everyone is cognizant of the tremendous role the Church played in the American Civil Rights movement. A large part of the movement was centered in the Church, namely the Baptist and AME sects. That was no surprise to me, because I had learned that churches were one of the few places Black people could gather during slavery. New Orleans history cites Congo Square, an area just outside the French Quarter where slaves were allowed to congregate on Sundays, as essential to the development of the eclectic musical tradition of the city. The PBS episode also brought out the repeated suppression of gathering places like Congo Square by slave owners and white government agents. There were actual laws passed in some places to limit the noise level of singers and instrumentalists, particularly drummers. They apparently feared the jubilation of the participants, even requiring a white person be present to “monitor” the gatherings to make sure there was no planning or organizing for possible revolt. Ain’t that somethin’?

The show also touched on some of the reasons Blacks in America embraced Christianity so frantically. I had learned a while back that while there was still a significant language barrier with newly immigrated African or South American slaves, the iconography of Christianity resembled some of their native figures. This likely comforted some of the new plantation residents, who were still trying to figure out what had happened to them and even where they were. Gates brought out an interesting twist on that, however, and said that some of the Christian iconography (slaves were not allowed to learn to read or write during those times) of things like the Egyptian slaves being freed and led out of Egypt by Moses were resonant with the new immigrants. They saw themselves, chained and forced into labor, but freed by following Moses. They saw Pharaoh drowned in the parting of the Red Sea. And they gained hope. They saw people like them who were eventually freed, and they embraced the depiction of a deity who manifested that outcome. So, the bond with Christianity was deep, and so it remains.

When I contemplate spirituality, the best I can do is…I don’t know. However, I know what I feel, what feels right, what clicks into place on some deep level. It doesn’t feel right to justify or rationalize separating immigrant families at our Southern border. It doesn’t feel right to dictate a woman’s choice to have, or not have, a baby. It doesn’t feel right to blame people for their own distress. It’s never felt right to do things like that. I understand that many people are convinced that some people are inherently lazy and want to take advantage of “the system”. I’m sure there are people who “get over” on the system, but I seriously believe they are not the majority of people who receive benefits. I refuse to plan systemic response that responds only to the small minority who do the wrong thing. If we did that, we’d all be in the gutter.

People are homeless, and hungry, and struggling to put together even the barest standards of rational living. That seems unreasonable to me, because it just doesn’t have to be that way. There is enough, we just allocate badly. Even though we allocate badly, there’s sitll enough. The reason we allocate badly is because we are focused on scarcity rather than abundance. Most of us believe this is all a zero-sum game, so if one of us passes GO and collects $200, that means the rest of us have to give up some of our holdings to make up for that. I don’t believe that’s true; that’s not the way the game works. Congress just approved nearly $3 TRILLION dollars in direct and systemic aid for COVID relief – direct stimulus, money for schools, money for families, unemployment benefits, and so on and so on. Capitalism is a tightly woven interdependent web, so the legislation attempts to address that. Simply providing aid to open the schools while ignoring the fact that parents are out of work and can’t feed them is not a solution. But where does the money come from?

When I worked in local government, I had a budget and a finite amount of money each year to carry out specified duties. It wasn’t simple, and unexpected circumstances always arose. The municpality overall was in bad shape economically, and so fiscal operations more closely resembled a circus juggling act. Money would sometimes disappear. But, we protested, the budget says that we have sufficient funds – why have our expenditure requests been rejected? A manager finally explained it to me, in an exceedingly simple way, and I’ve never forgotten it. He said, “You have numbers on a piece of paper. That is not money.” There is not $3 trillion in the coffers of the government, nor gold bars in the vaults of Fort Knox. There are numbers on pieces of paper that people agree to honor. It’s a shell game, and money is…numbers on pieces of paper. In our case, on greenish pieces of heavy paper that say things like “In God We Trust”. I suppose we are rather delusional, by agreement. There is no money, but there is power. That’s more the capital than anything – power, influence, talking the good game. Since that’s the case, I would imagine I come by my pauper’s status quite honestly.

Regardless, I suppose the contract we’ve all agreed to is that we’re gonna be vewwy vewwy kwiet, and we know there are no wabbits out there, but people will give us prizes for pretending, so that’s what we’re gonna do. Anybody that says there are no rabbits will be destroyed. Anybody that says they’ve captured a truckload of non-existent rabbits will be promoted and given a car. And a house. And some really good dope so they won’t have to think about the absurdity of the entire useless exercise. And they’ll be the trainers of hopeful sycophants who want to know how to duplicate that success. Yup. That’s the ticket. There are no rabbits, and there is definitely no money. There are numbers on pieces of paper. Big numbers, big pieces of paper, but for all practical purposes, we may as well be living in the Warner Bros. cartoons, or Wonderland, or The Matrix. Just play along, and we’ll all be fine.

Given my off-the-wall theory about our reality, I suppose I can’t condemn people for choosing to believe in their own unique versions of reality. Only problem, though, is I’m only talking about financial resources. They’re talking about terra firma and whether or not the sky is blue and wanting organic food in a jail house. Everybody knows you don’t’ get organic food in jail, Skippy. Of course, everybody also knows you don’t get taken seriously when you show up to a political protest with moose horns and a spear. But that guy DID get taken seriously, and he was trying to perpetrate a takeover of the U.S. government. So, not only is truth stranger than fiction, this was truth-lite. There was help on the inside that enabled this inept coup attempt to get as far as it did. There was denial and other agendas that were hidden from even Mr. Moose Horns (who actually believes he’s a shaman of something). This is the same energy that is creating our dependence on those numbers on pieces of paper…we’ve made an agreement about what those pieces of paper can do, and that is their only power. People made an agreement about believing some faceless person who claims to know things, but what they have is … letters on a computer screen. That’s it. They have nothing to back up that hype, and I don’t know that we have much to back up our hype, either.

I am thinking that how we walk our talk, and present an authentic face to the world, to each other even, is by figuring out what’s really important. By figuring out what is truth, and what’s a lie, and how we can stop doing so much damage to each other. By having the courage to listen to each other’s stories, witness the pain, even if we have no frame of reference for someone else’s experience. We claim to believe in truth, justice, and the American way but most of us have no real idea what that looks like. What is the American way? It seems to be different for people based on their ability to play the game. If I don’t believe there are rabbits out there, and better still if I don’t believe having the most rabbits of anyone makes me a better person, then I do I get voted off the island? Unfortunately, in many cases, that is exactly what it means.

I guess I’m thinking we need a do-over. We’ve got the perfect opportunity right now – we can emerge from the COVID shutdown all bright and shiny and new, having learned from our past mistakes and starting fresh. We can link arms and hold hands and sway together, singing old songs and gazing lovingly into each others’ eyes. All is well.

*<record scratch>* For the record, I have not been smoking or drinking anything, but I apparently did just have a psychotic break. Or I was asleep. Or something. We all now that can’t happen. We haven’t screwed this up nearly enough yet. We’ve still got plenty of time to run this right into the ground.

A new day is going to come, and we don’t have anything to say about that.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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