We Are Living in a Failed State
- Written by ibro

May 12, 2020 When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.If the new coronavirus sends us back, somehow, to olden times, I’ll be prepared not with fresh-caught food and firewood, but with doilies. I’ve been crocheting them, obsessively, when I don’t know what else to do. Two weeks ago, as the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in my hometown, I began a circular floral pattern in a thin, wine-colored cord. By the time my office shut down, I’d made hundreds of tight, tiny stitches, and my wrist ached; events were canceled one by one, and I switched to using a larger hook. Supermarket shelves emptied, and I made the back panel of a black cotton sweater. My uncle had symptoms but couldn’t get tested, and I ran out of black yarn.I’ve turned to old-fashioned crafts in recent weeks to calm my anxieties, to hold something tangible in my hands and my thoughts while uncertainty swirls around me. I don’t know how long the pandemic will last; whether the food I’ve stocked is too much or too little; whether I’ll help my community more by stepping up or by simply staying home. In the long chain of actions and accidents that can lead to a stranger’s life or death, I don’t know where I fit or whether I’m doing the right thing. But I know how to do this; I know how to link one loop of thread into another. I know I can unravel my work and start over if I do it wrong.

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