COVID Diary: Historical Ruptures

Daniel fazio's image of a dirty sink from unsplash, having nothing to do with covid
The Symbol of COVID-19

being a diary not about having, or being infected by, covid-19—at least not that I yet know—but about this sudden rupture in my life and the life of everyone … else (our dog seems to be unaffected, although she is thrilled we’re spending so much time around the house) human.

On September 11th, 2001, I was teaching a class in the Introduction to Philosophy. I suspect I may have still been teaching Plato’s Republic at that point in the semester. That was fortuitous. But even before I had gotten to school and begun teaching, the towers had been struck and were burning. Someone had called me that morning to let me know. While I was driving to school, I learnt that a plane had crashed in central Pennsylvania.

That was a rupture in history, from my narrow American perspective. The consequences are still being borne out, including the election of a certain He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Of course, if the latter is true, it’s also true that the election of Barack Obama was also partially a consequence of September 11th and its vestiges.

The point here is this, things changed in a graphically dramatic way. No one alive then who had watched the television that morning will forget watching the continually repeating scene of the planes flying into the towers; or that of, after hours burning, the towers collapsing and the city being engrossed in an expanding cloud of dust. No one would forget the dumb look on Dubya’s face after he’d been informed of the towers being hit and the minutes that passed before he got up and left.

Simone hutch's image of a gable roof and sky from unsplash, also unrelated to covid
The symbol of Sept 11th

Now I sit in my resolutely white middle-class home—only blocks away from the color line (Girard Ave.) separating blacks and whites in this portion of Philadelphia—calmly looking up at sky but not fearfully like I had that day when the sounds of commercial airliners and scrambled fighter jets were equally menacing. There is no graphic representation of the end and beginning of things.

Such ruptures in history fascinate me because of the audacity involved in proclaiming them. Any good fascist regime marks them. I only know of a few: The Nazis, il Duce and his crew, the French Revolution, etc. and of course no one would say the Christians). We want to say something like what Mark Jarman said in his poem “Groundswell,”

But that's my ground swell. I must start
Where things began to happen and I knew it.

Where things began to happen. That’s not the part. It’s what comes after that: and I knew it. Things had already been happening, and they kept happening. Before a sick bat or pangolin inadvertently passed on the covid-19 to an unsuspecting person, things had been happening. That covid-19 didn’t come out of the ether.

But Knowing comes along and cuts a line in the sand time.