Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Texas Freeze

Sitting in my own house wearing mismatched gloves
Ten blankets and duvets piled up on this bed, hoodies on
Everyone in the same room, the retreat was complete
The look on the children's faces was beyond pitiful:
Now what? First the coronavirus, schools closed
No friends, no playdates, no birthday parties
Masks, Zoom lessons, and now this curve ball

No electricity, no heat, just the freezing cold
Seven layers of clothes, it was getting old
Well below freezing outside
Forty seven degrees inside
Stuck indoors with our winter hats
We kept checking the damned thermostat
The solar chargers weren't of much use after day one
The blizzard conditions didn't make for much sun
Taps dripping for fear of frozen pipes
All creature comforts duly denied

You started to consider the offers to bundle with luckier neighbors
The alternative: you'd just read the tweet about the warming shelters
Turns out The Authorities had belatedly opened the school gymnasium
(The public health department issued a double mask recommendation)
The specter of upended plumbing, the burst pipes
The trees that fell, buckling under the weight of ice
Those friends seeking tarp to deal with holes in their roofs,
Like you, were being taught hard lessons and American home truths

The instrument panels at the gas power plants that froze over
Frozen coal, who'd have thought? Certainly not those in power
(That last a dubious proposition by all reports
The lessons of the earlier disasters were simply ignored)
Perhaps this time, when they review these matters
(There's one born every minute, losers and suckers)
They might finally revisit the winner-take-all capitalism
(An unlikely prospect, of course, hold fast to your skepticism)

But mostly it's the look of dismay that chafes
Your underlying condition: internally displaced
And the sound of your children's voices stands apart
It's their simple question, "Why Daddy?", that breaks your heart

a long walk during the Texas freeze

II. Food Bank USA

After walking around Austin in the aftermath of the Texas Freeze, and watching the news, I kept wondering if the iconography of the lines for food banks would stick to Brand USA.

Throughout this covidious interlude, the sight of the SUVs lining up at food banks has been iconic and worrying, yet, for whatever reason, the images haven't cut through. To my eyes, the cultural impact has been diffuse, but perhaps it's my bubble.

The Essential Worker Industrial Complex doesn't have a lobby. Anyone know an agent?

I suppose the Reagan-led war on trade unions neutered the most viable opposition. Coupled with the lack of a shame culture, the rule of greed and managed capitalism won.

What labor has left as offensive weapons are likes and, what, memes?

The community centers turned food banks (or the schools turned warming shelters just days earlier) take the shine off God's own country, as well they should. I guess the term of art is brand damage.

I'm not into public relations or communications, I don't have the gift of prophecy, but I've been wondering for a while now what will stick, what could ever pierce the exceptionalism. For that aspect of the USA, the self regard, is world historic.

America has well-oiled cultural machines. Hollywood's golden age took in the Great Depression, hot and cold wars and the civil rights movement; Madison Avenue kept purring throughout.

All that glitters...

I have a long memory but American outrage doesn't seem to stick. Throughout the Bush years all the way through the Trump years one kept asking what will be the last straw? What will be the watershed? But perhaps that's the wrong framing.

Gil Scott Heron's band was the Amnesia Express.

III. Tradeoffs

I will say that at hour 75 of the Texas freeze, I was idly speculating about whether I would trade hunger for freezing. It was a close call. I know many had (and have) to deal with both so I'll just leave the thought there. Mindless speculation about life at the extremes...

Mind you, I heed to the skeptic's credo, and plan accordingly and make my own bubble. Like my parents, I expend tremendous energy maintaining these protective layers. It takes considerable effort but I'm used to things falling apart.

snowman after texas freeze

The Texas Freeze, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note spotify version)
See previously: The Golden Yam

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: February 19, 2021

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