community, creative writing, Friendship, Poetry, Politics, Social change

Gaslight in waiting

You told me to wash my hands and yet to raise them high in wanton communion,

You ridiculed us as turkeys lurking and squawking whilst you traded your fortune,

You told us it wouldn’t matter if we were close, and we inhaled it in, deep.

I did. For a while
I stopped, worrying in hope of you stemming my fear.
You were sorry, not sorry, that the science had changed.

You made me feel I was going mad for caring about my future,

You asked me to stay home, in case I could be a vector of this unknown disease,

You said I must restrain myself, from company, as the numbers kept climbing.

I did. For a while. 
I stopped the questions in hope of your answers.
You were sorry, you felt we were sorry, but no remorse came

You left me to wonder as I coughed and the chills sweated out of me,

You pleaded me to trust you, to protect what you had already stolen,

You bowed your head, looking away from the helpless tragedy you created.

We all did. For a while
We gave you the time to shine a light, when life was dimmed (and too many fought for their last breath)
But you weren’t sorry, no never sorry, just preparing us for the inevitable:

Your message,
Carefully branded,
Language chosen by (cloaked) advisors

“The fault was ours. Only ours”

And, with that, you sealed in the blame.


As soon as it became apparent that the corona virus was moving from the abstract into our living rooms I shut down creatively. I wanted to write about how I felt, what was happening, maybe offer words of comfort or envisage a world post covid19 where we valued our connections and the most simple things that gave us contentment. But all “selfs”, that make up me, stayed quiet.

I have been writing a little, something that I call vignettes of prose on my Facebook page, A Quiet and Simple Space, find a poem that someone else has written that are able to articulate what I and others might be feeling. It has prompted some creativity but just a moment, a crack of light in the darkness, rather than the dawning of a new day.

In the early hours of Monday morning that shifted. I had been reflecting on the messages the UK government had been giving – the mantra, most reasonable and effective – Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. In crisis mode one of my “selfs” is a pragmatic sort who will follow authority and leave questions till later in order to get done what needs to be done. I supported the government’s efforts using empathy to understand that this had never been done before and how no-one had any answers. There was also no way those of us who did not agree with the ideology of this government could mount an effective revolution, and any action to do so may cost time and lives, so I focused on signing petitions, finding out who was asking questions, pushing and prodding rather than resisting.

I followed the guidance, barely going out and when doing so always moving, staying away from people, not touching anything. I did what I could, and still do, to support people who have anxious thoughts, like me, and who are isolating and/or vulnerable. My husband and I got sick for a while with possible covid19 symptoms which have only just cleared but we continued to act with vigilance in managing anything coming into the house.

People started posting about others going out, not following the rules, laying about in parks, pushing into supermarket queues. Social media was full of righteous anger about those “bloody people” who were too ignorant to follow what the government said. I too had my moment of judgement with this, challenged by my ever egalitarian Aquarian husband, rightfully so.

Stay home, the government said. Stay home, the people said. Save Lives.

But the numbers kept climbing. And the anger climbed alongside it too.

Stay home, the government said. Stop the spread.

More shaking of fists, more indignant messages on Facebook and Twitter, more of these “ignorant cunts” being blamed for going out, stopping on a park bench, getting too close in the queue.

Stop the spread, the government said. Fucking stop it, the people said, you are causing the spread.

(You’re causing the spread)

(Not us, the government said, it’s not because of us)

The government didn’t say that, not out loud at least. They didn’t need to, they had us to do it for them. They had us to act as judge and jury to the populace that we found wanting.

I got it then. This over-used Trumpian technique of deflecting the blame away from the one’s who had the capacity and capability to do something when it mattered. Who could have acted differently, followed the model of other countries, but chose a different path but rather than stand by their path, doggedly defend it as if it was an absolute truth. And a major part of that defence was to deflect from any failures that could be attributed to them. This, is both unreal and unrealistic. No-one gets things right all the time especially in a situation with so many unknowns; no-one can predict the future no matter how many behavioural and statistical models they use, so why not create some room for humility? Why not admit the obvious?

But no, instead it is much easier to find a villain for the piece. Don’t tell the truth, tell a story. It’s much more compelling and easier to spread. Doing it amongst good and useful advice is even better. Staying home and stopping the spread is the right thing to do, and so was acting earlier when people were going to concerts and singing in churches; protecting the NHS is absolutely essential, and so is ensuring we have a health service robust enough to deal with a tragedy of this scale when it comes; saving lives is our number one goal, and so is ensuring all lives are treated equally and all people have access to food, medicine and shelter.

Stay home, they said. And we did. Protect the NHS they said. And we did. Save Lives, they said.

And we tried. Oh how hard we all tried.

Will that be remembered? Or will we lay blame on each other rather than compassionately work through all the lessoned learned. The story is up to you but –

Remember that your brother and sister in this is every single one of us on the planet. And remember that your government is accountable only to you.

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