This week beats all. I started this post with this sentence before all hell broke loose across the USA and now the world. More on this in a minute, as the air reverberates from the force of military helicopters flying over my apartment in Los Angeles county.
I started with this sentence because my computer battery died this week. I left my apartment for five minutes. When I came back, the screen was black. Maybe it was symbolic for what was to happen later that day. All that was left was the battery charging icon.
So off I went to computer repair which is considered essential business in California. Yup, new battery needed. Since the batteries come from the east coast for this company and are delivered only by ground transport, I’m without a computer for a week, or so.
I used to have a second computer. It died though around Christmas after almost 10 years. I procrastinated on buying a new back-up computer and then the pandemic hit. Now I’m trying to work as a writer and editor (at least as a writer) without a computer.
A friend was frantic, worried there would be no Lockdown Diaries for week 11. I’m only handicapped, I told her, because there’s always pen and paper.
But then you do need pen and paper.
I have enough pens-I still write checks-but I had to search for paper. I no longer keep yellow legal pads around for any reason, and there’s paper for printing, but I didn’t want to use that. I finally dug up a lined notebook that was half empty. So here I am copying a post that began in an abandoned notebook half full of stream of consciousness writing exercises.
While I write a lot of short letters and postcards, it’s been a long time since I tried to write a complete coherent document on paper. It just doesn’t work for me. I don’t know that I would have ever started writing without a computer. I’m not organized in my thinking process. I tend to barf up a piece, reorganize and edit like crazy. This is easy to do on a computer.
I had a colleague who would sit down at a typewriter and write a science article from beginning to end and that would be it. Every one of his papers was in a high impact journal. It’s rare that I can sit down and type anything even into my computer from beginning to end. Maybe my travel stories. The first draft of anything I write is nothing like my final draft. So this post might be a bit raw transferred from paper onto my iPhone which is already giving me a headache after typing in just 400 words.
The week has felt even more lonely than usual. At the beginning of last week it was because of my computer. It was the first time I’ve felt depressed in almost three months of lockdown. I wasn’t sure how I would manage without it. I had to skip my yoga classes on Zoom. But I indulged in painting which if anything gave me a break from watching my country split even further. Words like pandemic and lockdown crashed into my daily vocabulary weeks ago. Now the word curfew joins, just as uninvited as the others.
I’ve wondered the last few days, is this still America? For as long as I can remember, I wanted to live in another country. And I did, for a little over seven years. I knew America was a free country before I went to live under another government but I didn’t fully realize what makes America unique. It’s simple. Americans are free to do things. And they do. There’s a spirit here that you can’t realize the depth of until you go to live somewhere else. And I went to live in a country ranked as one of the happiest in the world.
Americans are inventing, designing, improving-we have initiative, it’s what we do. There are no boundaries in America. There is no hierarchy. You are free to be who you want to be your whole life. People aren’t put in categorical “boxes”.
Or so I thought.
Which brings me to Mr. George Floyd and the video. It’s horrifying to watch both the policeman who took his life and the three standing by who remained silent. The three standing by who remained silent I find even more disturbing, if that’s possible. Not very many of us could ever imagine taking the life of another person. But the three standing by who stood silent, well, they could be any one of us.
What’s happened in the aftermath, this is not the America I know. We’ve somehow zoomed past the part where we all unite in our universal condemnation of Mr. Floyd’s murder to fighting against each other. Against our property, our bodies, and even in minor details such as whether or not we kneel together at a peaceful protest. Come on, who is this about?
I’m afraid and I’m worried and I’m sad. I can’t believe after all the accomplished people I’ve worked with in my career in brain tumor research (neurosurgeons, physicians, scientists, oncologists) or become friends with in life who are black, that we are all stuck somewhere in the 1960s.
It’s just not true. Americans have even elected a president who is black.
So as I watch the protests and the rioting taking place across the country, I feel I must remember that there is a tomorrow and a next day, a next year, a next decade. How will I behave toward my fellow Americans then? Those are the days that really count. Like learning a language. You can read a book to learn one, but you’ll never really become fluent unless you go out and speak it with people.
Today I feel we are fighting for what it means to be American. People come to the USA for opportunity, not to be managed. The intersection of Mr. Floyd’s murder (and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor unfortunately etc.) with the pandemic has exploded because of the loss of opportunity, and that people are being managed.
I for one am looking forward to change.
Yes, push the button to get justice for Mr. Floyd. I wish it would be that easy.
Stay safe everyone…
©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com
Looking for a scientific editor or writer? Contact Janice Nigro at Janice Nigro Ink. I have published in Cell, Science, and Nature, and articles I have edited have appeared in Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, PLoSONE, the Journal of Surgical Oncology, and Oncotarget.