Light and Breath: Beyond the Wreckage
by Lester Strong
I have been close friends with Richard and Shirley Flint since our college days in Santa Fe during the 1960s. I was best man at their wedding in 1968, and over the decades that friendship has only deepened. Noted historians of the early Spanish incursions into New Mexico, and especially of the Coronado expedition in 1540, they still reside in New Mexico, these days in my hometown of Albuquerque.
Every Christmas-New Years season, they send out holiday cards of their own design to family, friends, and professional colleagues. This year was no exception, but the card was sent via email, not snail mail, and for the first time its text centered on the political and medical upheavals and disasters in this country, not just during the past year, but during the past four years.
The letter summarized the situation so well that, with their permission, I reproduce it below as the latest entry in my blu sunne blog. The illustration that accompanies the written content of the letter was drawn by the Flints, based on an old photo they consulted showing a train wreck that occurred somewhere in America’s Midwest during the 1930s.
The Trump train may finally have run off the rails, but its wreckage still blocks light and air. Many thousands of casualties, and many more thousands bereaved. There can be no forgiving the willful disregard of past lessons or the giddy cheering-on of the lunatic engineer and his reckless crew. The carnage strewn in their wake will not be forgotten or pardoned. Shame on them all. Shunning is the least we can do. Voting enablers out of office and keeping them out permanently, an imperative.
Remember the kids in cages; the lost kids; the lost parents. Remember the Muslim ban. Remember George Floyd and the countless others before him and since. Remember the outright refusal to lower the death toll from Covid-19. Remember the casual disregard of plentiful data and overwhelming scientific opinion regarding climate change. Remember the hate-filled insults and disrespect toward all sorts of people. Remember the poisonous racism, sexism, and homohatred. Remember the disparagement of science and expertise. Remember the elevation of fantasy over fact. Remember the contempt for longtime foreign friends, colleagues, and allies. Remember the obscene embrace of despots and tyrants. Remember the habitual lying and infantile name-calling. Remember the depravity of routine grifting. Remember the sleezy and wholly undeserved self-promotion. Remember the solicitation of fake dirt from a foreign president. Remember wholesale circumvention of rules and laws governing hiring of subordinates. Remember a mobster president who tried over and over to disenfranchise whole segments of the population. Remember the shameless toadyism by members of cabinet and Congress. Remember the daily lying and obfuscation by officials charged with keeping the public informed. Remember a president, with profound indifference to governing, AWOL for weeks after the election. Remember all these things and more when incumbents next time try to hide their boosting of these disgraceful, pernicious actions or their determined silence about them.
We cannot simply close and board up the door on 2020. The past is not only prolog to the future, it is the still roiling stream underlying the present and threatening to burst out again in the near future.
There will be pleasures and delights in 2021 and beyond; there will be amelioration of ills and righting of wrongs. But only remembrance and vigilance can sustain those gains. To that end, we’ll be watching Harriet, Denial, and The Best of Youth again, along with other signpost movies. Our best wishes and affection for the new year and always.
Richard and Shirley
Lester Strong is Special Projects Editor for A&U, with a twenty-year history of writing about HIV/AIDS among many other topics and issues.These short articles, mostly related to the disease, are reprinted from his blog blu sunne: Notes from a Pop-Up Life in the Arts. For more of his writing on a variety of topics, visit his blog at blusunne.com.