I have, against all expectations at this stage of my life, become a fiendish criminal on the run from the authorities, subject to arrest and imprisonment at any moment.
This morning, I left my house with the express intent of breaking the law, dodging the cops to knowingly commit a serious felony.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye
As I recently mentioned, I’ve liberated myself from keeping up with the news. It was truly a great decision.
In the past week, I finished slogging my way through Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (interesting in parts but it bogs down heavily in the middle due to fact that plate tectology wasn’t understood then and old Chuckie D was pretty bad at guessing how that shit worked), the Communist Manifesto (total snoozefest), six novels, two novellas, and one non-fiction book about exegesis that was simply excellent.
For a while, the only news I kept up with was the local state-run channel here in Pridnestrovie, but I quickly gave up on that one too after being flooded with 70+ messages a day with panicky, scary shit that I don’t care about such as the bonkers crap that is going on in Ukraine.
But even shutting down the news and the TV didn’t allow me to escape.
Every single day, multiple times a day, at what certainly feels like random intervals, police cars cruise up and down the streets (and my balcony faces the main street) playing a pre-recorded message about all the new laws in effect.
So yeah, after 15 plus years of working from home and earning a living with technology and being hyperconnected to social media, the news, and the online zeitgeist, I am now getting my fucking news from a robot voice coming out of a police car.
Chalk that up to yet another one of my life’s interesting experiences!
Duck and Cover
One of the new rules that the increasingly paranoid and scared president of Pridnestrovie, Vadim Krasnoselsky, has implemented is that it is now illegal to go outside, by yourself, and sit on a park bench.
Mind you, just me saying this is, in itself, also a crime (“extremism” in PMR parlance) because you’re not allowed to criticize the president and his “handling” of the coronavirus.
But at this point, I’m already an outlaw, so adding another charge to my pending indictment is a bit anticlimactic.
I’m allowed to take my dog out for a walk, but only if I stay within 100 meters of my house. Other than that, I’m only allowed to go to work (but, of course, I work from home) or go to the grocery store or pharmacy.
Going to the grocery store is something that I do every day anyway, but I have to keep moving. I can’t stop or sit anywhere because then I’m not going to or from the grocery store.
Just yesterday, my wife went out into the courtyard behind our block of buildings and sat there – completely alone, mind you – and the cops came up and told her about the new rules.
Technically, she should’ve been fined (and the second violation results in a jail sentence), but the cops around here are all pretty low-key and friendly, something that outsiders always refuse to believe could be true, so she got off with a warning. But from my balcony, I saw them “busting” other people right and left yesterday, and not everyone got off with just a warning.
But I will lose the last shreds of my sanity if I don’t get some outdoor time, and there’s nothing that I love more than going down to the river, so this morning, I left my house for the express purpose of breaking the law.
About a million years ago, I visited the Harriet Tubman Museum.
Obviously, I knew who she was before I went there, but as a white person living 150 years after slavery ended, her bravery and heroism had a kind of objective distance to it that made it all feel rather academic.
This morning, though, as I crept through the bushes to find a spot hidden from view from the path above, I realized that I was now experiencing just a tiny fraction of the fear that Harriet Tubman and her “passengers” must’ve felt.
Of course, if I had gotten caught, I wasn’t risking being shot or enslaved or whipped or any of the other horrors that Americans once inflicted on runaway “slaves,” but I was still in a tiny bit of fear.
And that fear came not from anything that I was doing being fundamentally wrong or unethical or immoral but fear of being punished by an unjust and oppressive system. And so, while my fear was certainly not proportionate to anything that Harriet Tubman experienced, it was related.
As I sat there, enjoying the quiet tranquility of the water flowing by, and seeing nature expand and flourish in the absence of human encroachment after three weeks of this ridiculous coronavirus lockdown, I finally understood just how bizarre it really is to be a fucking fugitive from justice just because I wanted a little freedom.
Freedom has always mattered to me, a lot. Freedom is one of the main reasons why I moved from post-9/11 paranoid America to Europe all those years ago. Freedom is why I always take the train when I can and not the bus. Freedom is why I work from home for less money than I could probably make if I chained myself to an office desk for 40 hours a week.
But I never quite did appreciate the truly fundamental freedom of being able to walk along a riverbank with the sun on my face and the music of birds chirping in my ear. Because that’s a freedom that I never thought would be denied to me.
And the very fact that some paranoid micromanager surrounded by a coterie of yes-men (and one yes-woman) decided, apparently after consulting a Magic 8-ball, that a lone individual going outside to get some fresh air and exercise was posing a lethal threat to society and thus deserving of arrest and possible imprisonment, was fucking crazy.
Just as fucking crazy as deciding that a person’s skin color or genitalia determines their intelligence or autonomy or legal status. It’s enough to make a person raise their fist at the sky and shout, “What the fuckety fuck?!?!”
It reminds me of Simon in episode 5 of Firefly, when his sister is about to be burned at the stake for “being a witch”, and he starts shouting at the stupid villagers, “Your ignorance! Your stupidity!”
Yeah, I feel ya, Simon, and I feel for Harriet Tubman, and I feel for anyone else who has had to deal with the mindboggling stupidity of being treated as a criminal just because they wanted to walk this earth as a free person.
So, just to be clear, while I do not espouse violence in any way, shape, or form, I am now declaring myself to be an outlaw, a felonious criminal, and a member of the resistance.
Because I am not gonna give up my freedom to sit by the river and enjoy a little fucking peace and quiet and sun on my face, not even if this coronavirus is 100 times deadlier than the Black Death and Ebola and the swine flu combined.
I’m getting Patrick Henry up on this bitch, and you’ll have to pry my freedoms from my cold, dead hands, you motherfuckers.