By Jacob Derin
Yolo County joined most of the state in being placed under a stay at home order Thursday night. Over the past year, we’ve become so used to this kind of statement that it has largely lost its capacity to shock us.
I don’t think it should.
I am 21 years old. That means that I came to political consciousness sometime around the end of the Obama Administration. I have lived meaningfully through three presidents, two recessions and the longest war in American history.
That isn’t much in the grand scheme of things––a few grains of geologic time––a few microseconds on the Doomsday Clock.
Maybe I’m naive.
I am old enough to remember the Marjory Stoneman Douglass massacre, the bloodstained hallways and the grief-stricken faces. And, most of all, I remember the politicians and pundits who insulted the survivors of the atrocity and insisted they were too young to speak with authority.
Maybe that’s where I am too. Maybe I’m just a 21-year-old college kid from the Bay Area who is too naive to know how “real politics” works.
Maybe I’ve been lied to by the “lamestream media,” by the mock-serious faces of journalists on the ten o’clock news.
Maybe it’s perfectly normal for a major party candidate to solicit and welcome foreign interference in our elections.
Maybe I’m too young to understand the profundity of the mind, which thought to separate children from their parents in service of our country’s borders.
Perhaps I haven’t read enough history to know that our political conversations’ tenor has always been like this. It is nothing new for a President to refuse the peaceable transfer of power. That the threat of political violence always attends to the American electoral process.
Am I too blinded by age and ideology to see the proper cause of the 290,000 Americans dead?
It’s possible. I might just need to accept the new normal––the long days alone while under the shadow of a raging pandemic. The thousands dying every day and the millions that continue to suffer.
Yes, probably I’m too sheltered, privileged and elite to understand that our government is blameless for these things.
That it did all that it could.
That withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO) amid this devastation was a wise decision.
That our leaders really should shout and bully their way through public debate, and they should be strong and uncompromising and never give an inch.
The list goes on. The list doesn’t stop. It is burned into my brain like a religious mantra, like a talisman I might use to ward off evil. I thought once that if I could memorize it and say it with clarity and honesty that it really could make my country better.
I was raised to believe that words matter; that people are responsive to logic and reason. But, that too might just be naive.
I listened recently to a man from Sri Lanka describe what it is like for a society to fall apart. He said that we in the First World don’t understand––it’s not getting bad. It is bad. This is what it’s like when a society falls apart.
He said that he thought it would always be like that growing up during his country’s civil war. And I thought about that a lot because it made me realize something.
Maybe I am naive, that this really is the way things have always been here.
But there’s one thought that has haunted me since the beginning of the pandemic and the Trump years. I go to sleep with it. I wake up with it, and I live with it in between.
The thought is this: it didn’t have to be this way.
Jacob Derin is a third-year English and Philosophy major at UC Davis.
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