One of the characteristics of the extended lockdown is that readers tend to go back to their libraries for the tried-and-true volumes. Those that we know are worthwhile.
In this case, I plucked down Bradbury's "R Is For Rocket."
Full of exploration, distance, time, yearning, and humanity in the middle of all that distance, and in the expanses of all that time.
And the yearning.
During my first marriage, my then spouse got really, really, disturbed when I didn't give her the "right" answer to a question.
The question was, if I had the chance, if I miraculously were to pass the academic requirements, and somehow pass the physicals, and the psych exams, would I want to be an explorer of the solar system, and the stars.
And the answer she refused to accept was my "yes." She never understood the urge to see, with my own eyes, the shine of that translucent marble we call "Home." Never understood what it would feel like to see the stars in their unblinking, naked glory, or to see the horizon made by Saturn's rings.
To her, the upset of the status quo ante was too much to deal with, coupled with a feeling of abandonment, that I would chance accident that would leave one unable to return. And it created issues for some time.
It was only much later that I realized that it was not really a potential abandonment issue, but a very real issue of any extended absence, even one that would never, in reality, come to pass, would leave her in a situation where she could not control what I was doing, where she could not control my actions, or my activities.
What this rereading of Bradbury brought to mind was that this current national experience of this pandemic has upset all the apple-carts, where things will never be the same again.
As with the title of the Thomas Wolfe novel, you can't go home again. Not because of the nostalgia of a misremembered past part, but because the societal landscape has irretrievably changed. Travel will never be the same, new perceptions, and the actuality, of safety in general, will never be the same.
Like an abusive partner who refuses to admit the reality of autonomy for those they wish to control, huge sections of the population refuse to accept the reality that the COVID-19 virus is real, and that the reality of something truly independent of their instant control is destabilizing their entire world. So they deny the reality.
They don't care that the act of defying mandated precautions like wearing a face mask affects not just them, and their families, but complete strangers.
That insisting that in-person schooling has to return is a death sentence to some families.
And this pandemic is exposing more and more cracks in our societal framework. For some, sending kids back to in-person schooling is a defiance of the pandemic, for others it's a more immediate consequence - even though it would be beneficial not to do in-person schooling, for many in our society there is no choice- either the children go back to school or their parents are not able to go to work. And there is really a limited subset of our society that has the privilege to have jobs that allow them to work from home.
The rest have to show up, in person, to provide the supports that allow those who work from home to do so.
The IT service worker replacing the defective server, the warehouse worker running the forklift to unload an incoming truck, the order picker pulling groceries for the online order, and the gig driver who is the last leg of that "contactless" delivery.
They are the vital pieces, both most at-risk of contagion, and most poorly paid and liable to be without adequate benefits. And yet the economic circumstances of this country are such that there will always be more bodies to fill those roles, at those low wages.
And part of what those who are fighting the mask mandates, and denying the existence of the virus, are trying to do is to preserve the system that says those parents in those jobs have to send the children to in-person schools, not because they want to, but because both parents have to work, and there is no childcare they can afford.
And like the abusing partner, threats of force, in the raiment of "protesters'" open carry at legislative and government builders are being used to try to keep the power and norms of the ancien régime in place, even if those norms are catastrophic for all concerned.
And the abuser tries to justify the threats with appeals of "but the economy!" Or "I got my rights!" So they can stay in control over everybody else. And invent shadowy dangers like the "deep state" and "socialism" and deny that there is anything wrong when police can indiscriminately murder and face no consequences. Because those who are murdered are "other," and "not my kind" and "it's their own fault." And tell the "other" that the violence, and inequity are "for your own good."
What will finally be the reality of this nation after this pandemic has run most of its courses is unknown. All we know is that the changes are going to be irreversible.
You can never go home again.
It's burnt to foundations, ashes.
And there are no architect's drawings to show the way.