New York City, a Covid19 photo essay

I just looked through this photo essay featuring images of NYC throughout the duration of this pandemic so far. And it is as moving as it is thoughtful. Stunning work. Unfortunately you need a subscription to the NYTimes to view it. But if you do, please take a look.

When I was growing up, raised in the south by two loving parents whose values gave huge priority toward being educated and to “think for myself,” New York City was painted as being the cornerstone of American ideals. It was called the melting pot, because it was the port of entry for most immigration in a traditional sense, and the Statue of Liberty welcomed boatloads of immigrants with a glowing torch and an inscription that reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

On top of that, my dad is an immigrant. He was born in a Dutch countryside. And until he was 13, lived a life of notable poverty. The U.S. was an idyllic country to the west that offered magical buttons that turned lights on and off. He tells stories of hating wooden shoes so much he’d try to break them. Of pole vaulting over dikes. Of meals after meals of potatoes and the occasional meal that included meat.

When a government run program to send Dutch families to the US to unload some of the financial burden of the poor on the war stricken economy, my grandfather signed up. He even had his wife, my Opoe, my grandmother, go to the socialist dentist office to have all her teeth removed, because they knew in America, medicine was not “free.” So at a young age, she needed dentures so they could avoid that expense in the new world.

They loaded up on a boat, and “legally” crossed The Atlantic to find America, waiting with open arms.

It is no mystery to me that these are the ingredients that makeup the menu of my mind, the seven course meal of who I am, what I’m made of and why I “believe” the way I believe. Why I stand as a democrat, not with pride, but with shame, because no party completely embodies who I am. And in my mind, no party should be more important than ideals. But we’re forced to have two. And I just so happen to have 51% affiliation to 49% conservative … so it’s enough to vote blue.

NYC = diversity and freedom. America = a land of opportunity and where the destitute dream of getting out of shitty lives in poverty stricken nations.

My brain synapses are confused when the leadership now hates these policies, these traditions, these old, rotten ideologies because white faces are good. Anything south of brown is going down.

I have read a declaration of independence that says, “All men were created equal.” And yet history shows that America was built on certain men were created equal, women and blacks are not as important … and those equalities would wait years to ripen and be harvested from the rowed fields of words that make up our framework.

I was taught that enemies are to be welcomed and cared for. I was taught that adultery was evil. And that truth is more important than almost any other character trait.

And yet here we are. In a blood soaked pile of bodies, wondering why America is in the shitter. Covid deaths are through the roof, but it is what it is. Windows are being broken and the shitheads and destitute are pilfering their asses off. Blame is pointed at one party. Then the other.

The leader of one party berates another man as someone who is going to “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God”? And yet no demonstrable effort is made by the one leader to value marriage, to value conservative business, to value our soldiers fallen and tortured, to value our disabled or our poor. I didn’t realize the creator of the universe could be hurt. I thought he was all powerful. Boy, I need to go back and read that big book everyone keeps talking about.

What is happening in America right now is a screaming-at-the-top-of-our-lungs dodgeball game. But the game is long ended, because whoever won cheated and everyone is standing out on their sidelines. Isn’t it ironic that in dodgeball, being sent out means you go to the right side of your side to await returning to the game. Everyone that is wrong is on the “right”. Or they think they’re right for their wrongs. It’s crazy.

We’re not Americans if it weren’t for our diversity of ideals. Of our differences of opinion. And yet those things are being used as a driving force to wedge us apart.

I LOVE New York City. It stands in my mind as THE most creative, ingenious, kind, bustling, hardened yet soft city. It is to me the quintessential land of creativity, greed, progress, possibility and intrigue. You can’t help but feel invigorated by its energy.

People seem smarter, well-rounded, critical, judgmental, accepting, and beautiful. Prejudice is hard to qualify when one’s neighbors fit into almost every category of human possible.

But in a certain conservative circle, New York and diversity in general is now heralded as the enemy. The very enemy that Christian ideals are advised to accept and help.

I have been speaking to an old friend of mine on google meeting lately. He, too, grew up as a conservative Christian, attended a very religious school. But over time, he grew away and now identifies as atheist.

On our google call, I mentioned how I feel more allegiance to Christian ideals now than ever. As a student, I was a zealot for Christian proselytization and strove to be the best version of one I could be … but I was defeated by some conservative social values that didn’t represent the black & white of the faith.

But now as a self-identifying atheist, I feel free to express myself as a Christian without all the mess of churchy weirdness that proves time and again a level of hypocrisy that is as stunning as it is stomach turning. I’m proudly devoted to my wife and know without hesitation that my behavior as a husband is essential to a good marriage … or I’ll find myself holding divorce paperwork and my dick in my hands. I pay my taxes. I strive for honesty, even when it hurts. I give time to self introspection and thankfulness to blessings. I used to call that prayer. And maybe it still is. Instead of asking God for forgivingness, I ask those whom I have sinned against for forgiveness. Because this is who deserves that devotion. Not a breathy window washing in my head.

I know strong ethics and morality are the cornerstones to good business. That relying on credit can damage one’s ability to manage a good and honest business.

“I’m a better Christian now than I was as a Christian,” my friend said. I agree. I couldn’t agree more.

That doesn’t mean that Christians are bad or inferior. I think they are truly doing their damnedest to be true and honest. I think we all get lost in the jungle of our minds, balancing and adjusting our views to fit a certain framework of concepts. Just like I am doing mine. We’ve all interpreted the world in which we live with different shades of sunglass lenses, and it’s okay. I hope it is. I thought that’s what this country was built on? Didn’t you?

I revel in putting words to digital paper, so I can spell these ideas out and let them breathe. This is my picture that is actually a thousand or more words.

Captured.

Shared.

Amen.

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