August 20, 2020

Machine

Yes, I wept during Biden’s convention speech. And I was annoyed by my tears, even a little ashamed. But why?

I wanted to flatter myself as a media-savvy cynic who’s immune to a televised assault on my emotions. But I sniffled through those well-produced biopics as I remembered my bouts with grief and loss, and I found reassurance in home-video clips of folks telling stories about Biden shepherding them through difficulty and mourning. (And now I half-expect Biden will appear at my bedside when my time comes.) Catharsis doesn’t care about the cause.

Yet part of me was still mad. Not just because my preferred candidate didn’t win, but because of the political fuckery before Super Tuesday when the powers-that-be seemed hellbent on manufacturing consensus for restoring the “normal” that led to someone like Trump in the first place.

But February was years ago. Before lockdowns and masks. Before 175,000 unnecessary dead. Our lives have been tinted by too many new shades of grief and uncertainty—universal emotions that can draw us closer if given a chance. So I’m heartened by the prospect of a president who can speak honestly about the shock of sudden loss, who is fluent in sorrow and knows how to reckon with grief. An empathy machine sounds like a pretty good leader right now.

Each night in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.
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