• Daniel Ethan Finneran

On An American Re-Opening

May 2020


The period of our self, or perhaps government-initiated confinement, the two months and a half of our collective retreat from the world, seems very nearly to be approaching its end. What began in earnest at the outset of March, could very well conclude with the waning of May. Merciful a fact though this may be, it is, sad though I am to say, a terribly unpunctual one; for those from whom any large payment of a bill or settlement of a debt is expected, or those upon whose weekly income a hungry family’s table and sustenance is dependent, any prolongation of time, in the absence of an exceedingly empathic creditor or charitable friend, is a rival without an equal. It can, very well, be a tyrant to whom there’s no redress.

Immurement, it seems, is the last step before complete immiseration, and liberty is the only thing, really, by which all can profit, and all can be paid.


To that man on whose shoulders these frightful circumstances so heavily weigh, as well as to all and any of us so similarly burdened, the past few months have been, to put it mildly, an ugly and unnatural condition of life. Certainly, it’s not a style of being to which we’re favorably accustomed, nor one we’d voluntarily adopt. This, of course, is to understate the new, and hopefully transitory, “normal”, through which we’ve all been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to live. These months have been a manner of living, at once inert and restive, languid and insufferable, of which recent history, so vigorous and fresh, offers no useful example. We know not what we’re doing, even when we’re doing nothing. There is no precedent by which we might be instructed and encouraged as we drag ourselves out of the seemingly interminable motonony of this mess.


As such, it’s been a highly, even painfully ambivalent time, a time of uncertainty and tension from which we’ve found it impossible to disentangle ourselves. We know neither what we should think, nor how we should act—assuming we should think or act at all. Throughout it, we’ve been in a state that’s totally incoherent and foreign to the natural inclinations of our kind—one that’s inhospitable to repose, yet unaccommodating of action. We cannot sit still, yet we’re forbidden to move. We cannot remain idle, yet we’re locked in our homes. Deeds, especially those performed outside the four walls of our house, are impermissible, if not fully illegal; we mustn’t venture their performance. Public exertions, so long as they’re public, are not allowed; they’re crimes for which we’ll sooner be pilloried, incarcerated, or roundly shamed. The only reminder of our stifled humanity is our etiolated faculty of thought—to which, in the absence of light, scant nutriment has been added.


We’re caught in a state, instigated by an alien virus and propagated by domestic decrees, to which we can neither submit, nor prove ourselves superior. It’s a situation to which we can neither concede, nor claim ourselves equal. This is the morass, sticky and contagious, in which we’ve become uncomfortably suspended. What, then, are we to do?


These weeks have brought with them a combination of somnolence and anxiousness, of tedium and agitation, of mounting lassitude and physical fervor, as the unprofitable consequences of a national lockdown have made obvious their awesome and lasting effects. At the time of this writing, over thirty-million Americans are officially unemployed—many more if one’s register counts those to whom the government’s gaze is, for lack of better data or actuarial tables, at least partially insensitive. The associated medical issues, of which so bleak an economic outlook is always productive, are only minimally known at the dawn of this hour, the breaking of this inauspicious day. The status of the mental health of this now unemployed population, to speak nothing of the ravaged confidence of which it was once so admirably possessed, is undoubtedly in a state of woe. The concomitant ailments, among which, with increasing sadness, we list such problems as depression, alcoholism, drug, spousal, and familial abuse, and the horrible sin of self-violence, forever lurk beneath the surface of so large an unemployment number. These are the quiet ripples of the large stone dropped in the center of the pond, the unsteadied waters of which we, readied with life-jackets and kind words, should never be left unaware.


That said, this tide will shift. We will navigate the tremendous deluge of its waves. The tempest by which they’re stirred will finally wane, and the climate, once again, will be settled and calm. We will be steady sailors yet again, a nation of mariners behind whom the gathered armada of the rest of the world directs its uncertain bow.


I urge you, find solace in the knowledge that our fetters are loosening their grip. We are a people incapable of being held for any extended period of time. Though our pundits might encourage it, our constitution won’t allow it. The very thought is one from which, imbued with the spirit of our revolutionary origin, we involuntarily recoil. It isn’t in our blood. We are a people forever free. And so, bursting with a boundless energy and a virility of touch, our shackles will be but small impediments of which, with a shake of our leg and a flick of our wrist, we’ll be once again unencumbered. Once again we’ll be daring and free. We are the Samson to whom those ill-fated pillars were tied, the Heracles to whom those luckless labors were tasked. Our intrepidity and our native brilliance simply won’t allow us to fail in the continuation of our unique and enviable life.


And any thoughts of fear are thoughts of which, right here and now, we should collectively disabuse ourselves. This is a point, quite essential, on which, with a unified and reverberative chorus, we should all agree. If we are capable of fear, we will everywhere find terrors. Let us move out of this lockdown undaunted and without fear, but with sober awareness of a lingering and invisible disease. Let us enter the month of June, the month of our resuscitation, the month of our invigorated body and soul, an heroic and insuperable people upon whom there can be no constraint. Let us enter this new age, before which the road to success is unfolding, a people strong, sapient, resilient, and, above all else, contemptuous of that ignoble emotion, that persistent and contagious fear.

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