Today is Friday June 12th. Kia ora katoa.
On Wednesday I went to town, determined to do my bit to help the local economy. I started at Unity Books, where I bought a new Anne Tyler novel, and looked for Camus’s The Plague (La Peste). They don’t have it in stock, but it is on order.
Then I went to New World Metro in Willis St. They didn’t have anything I wanted to buy – neither my favourite doughnuts or the grated carrot salad they sometimes have, so I didn’t buy anything.
I worked my way back down to Lambton Quay, as I usually do. I stopped for lunch at Smith the Grocer – a bagel and a long black; thankfully it wasn’t quite as busy as it sometimes is.
Then as I was walking past Glassons, something caught my eye: a rack of pale green knit-like jerseys. I tried one on (there was one medium size left), and I bought it. The store was humming along.
Further on, I went to Whitcoulls, but didn’t buy anything. I did go to Farmers, though, where they had a special on cardigans. I bought two, with my discount voucher thrown in. Then I walked to Bed Bath and Beyond, but didn’t buy pyjamas. I couldn’t find nice baby rattles at Toyworld or at David Jones, but both stores were quite busy.
Then I bought some unscented deoderant, and some hair spray.
Then I caught a bus to Johnsonville, and another to Churton Park. It was sunny and quite warm, a nice trip.
The next day, on Thursday, our singing group was to meet again at the Khandallah Town Hall, for the first time since before lock down. We were able to have morning tea, too, and go till 12:30 – new freedoms! We talked lots about how good it was to see everyone again, and how nice it was to sing together. Some faces were missing, but there was a good turnout.
Afterwards, I walked to the local store. We are back to the not-so Good Old days. The trolley had a sticky handle, the hand sanitiser holder had run out; there was sanitiser for the trolley, but no paper towels to wipe it with, and the woman at the counter did not offer to pack the few goods that I bought. There seem to be no more raspberries. I made sure to wash my hands extra carefully when I got home.
Today I posted a parcel to my grandson in the US, with masks and disposable gloves; goodness knows when it will get there. There is still a Post Office in Johnsonvillle Road, but no Kiwibank now. Unlike the nice post office in Ganges Road in Khandallah, where you can buy all kinds of things, there is now nothing to buy here except posting stuff.
It is now over two weeks since George Floyd died at the hands of four Minneapolis policemen, and mostly peaceful demonstrations continue. There is a profound feeling aroused in many Americans, and many of us around the world, a new realisation about the desperate cruelty of slavery, of colonial treatment of colonies, of the need to establish different mechanisms of safety and security and justice (“Defund the Police”). Statues are being evaluated, and pulled down. The chapter in history that is slavery and mistreatment of native peoples is being re-evaluated and re-assessed. Although there are detractors, there is a feeling that things are going to be different.
Two things have astonished me during this unrest. One is the education of conservatives in the US, who had no idea that the hurt and harm was so pervasive. I guess they just took it for granted, as with feminism. That movement has grown and changed so much since the 1970’s and 1980’s. One of them spoke of watching the movie “Selma”, and now realising just how important voting rights are.
The other is that I have listened to story after story in podcasts told be well-educated black people who are highly regarded: journalists, lawyers, actors, politicians, who recount growing up knowing they were different; being taught to fear the police; and having an amazing amount of close relatives and friends the victims of shootings or other violent deaths at the hands of those in authority, and of feeling that however respected they might be, they could barely function in the white man’s world, knowing how unfair the situation of black people and ethnic minorities is.
One lawyer described how hard it is to get safe running water; letting go of environmental protections means the air can be dangerously polluted; it can be hard to afford to buy good food locally; there may be no hospitals; it’s known that the US has a rising infant and maternal mortality rate. While some white people have it really hard too, and have horrible things happen in their lives, for the most part they tend to have things easier financially and in every other respect. Someone noted that black people tend to have high blood pressure because they’re so angry. We have seen some of that anger expressed in the marches that have followed George Floyd’s death. It’s well known that black people are worse affected by the coronavirus.
At Mr Floyd’s funeral service in Houston, the Rev Al Sharpton spoke very movingly again, saying that the stone rejected by the builders has become the corner-stone; and also saying that God made George’s neck, and no one had a right to kneel on it. This had me in tears, again.
But things are changing in the US, for many people, although the President seems increasingly alone, and unmoved. He is concerned about his re-election prospects, which aren’t great at present. Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to cut a swathe through US States. States, including some that were previously less affected, are now having more cases of infection and sickness and death. There seems to be a general feeling that changes must be made; the total number of Covid 19 infections has reached two million, over 110,000 people have lost their lives, and the stock market fell badly today, after a more optimistic streak, despite predictions. It seems that infection will continue to plough a swathe through the US people, and thus their economy. People seem to be ignoring the President as best as they can.
So here many of us have mixed feelings. We have been so well looked after, and we have come through this phase of the virus quite well. I keep saying that we haven’t had to watch our loved ones dying, although of course we wouldn’t have been able to watch them. We feel so much for loved ones overseas, but at least they don’t have to be worried about us. There’s a bit of angst here – guilty pleasure as we get on with our lives and get back to whatever used to seem so important. I remember saying early on that This too shall pass. Thankfully, for us, it has, and I trust we’re all somewhat the wiser and better for it.
I can still pray, and I can still sing. There is a great deal to be thankful for.
Nga mihi nui.