Rejecting the Father

Few people knew of my family as well as the denizens of Saranac Lake, our hometown in upstate NY.  We were eminently recognizable, especially to our fellow congregants of the First United Methodist Church.

There was no missing us.  Every Sunday, with the consistency of a Swiss train, we arrived for services.  Unlike that Swiss train, we were never on time. We were wont to arrive ten to fifteen minutes after the minister made his welcoming address.  The choir would be putting away hymnals, the congregation rifling through prayer books looking for the Apostles Creed, and we would make a grand entrance.  All nine of us. 

Each week, the same usher, an elderly man with a large red mole that sat like a laser pointer on the top of his bald head, would lead us to the nearest empty pew, and each week, Dad would ignore the designated bench and lead the way to one closer to the altar.  That way we could parade by the entire congregation.  Dad would step deliberately, serenely, looking neither to the right nor to the left, fixing his gaze on the cross and squinting his eyes in pious prayer.  His children would follow him like biblical offspring – Carla, David, Helen, Alfred, Elizabeth, and John – the issue of his begetting – and we always made a scene. I scolding the young ones in harsh whispers, the youngest ones squealing and climbing onto the back of the pew, the middle whining about someone picking on her, and others cowering close to mom, who had brought up the rear. 

I was perversely proud to be part of the disruption.   These people were my posse.  An exclusive club to which only a Swett could belong.  Long after I knew it to be untrue, I believed that to be a Swett was to be superior in every way. We were imbued with God’s favoritism.

Until I was eleven, which is when I learned that things were not as they appeared.

I was in  7th grade when against the advice of my English teacher, I read Exodus, which made me dizzy.  I began to piece together the German, Italian, and Serbian fragments I’d been hearing all my life,  the hushed despair as telegrams arrived, the silent brooding.  Reports of my grandmother’s mysterious trip to Vienna when I was a toddler. I knew they were Jews. But it never occurred to me . . . . 

 “God is love,”  my dad insisted. And I believed. But how does a loving God . . . ?

My mother was a deeply good person.  She never denied Jesus, and she never rejected Christianity. When I was little, she told me about the adored sister she lost to meningitis and the beloved brother who died of anaphylaxis. She agreed with Daddy when he explained that God took innocents to be with Him as a reward for their goodness, that they were happily in Heaven reaping their rewards. 

But this new information was unjustifiable.  God is love, but God permits genocide? 

I read the book in a single Friday night then spent Saturday processing the revelation.  I cornered my mother as she stood at the stove frying our weekend breakfast pancakes.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“About Hitler.  About the camps.  About Europe. . . .”

“What’s to tell?  I lived.  Not interesting. “

The next day, when my Sunday morning alarm rang, I pulled the covers over my head and burrowed more deeply into my pillow.  Dad knocked on my door, and the sound was muffled, but I heard and did not respond.

“Come on, Carla. It’s getting late.”

“Go away,” I called through the door.  “I’m not going.”

“My father laughed. “Of course you are.”

“Nope.  I’m done with church.”

“Stop being ridiculous.”

I got up and opened my door.  Dad had already descended to the landing of the grand stairway that was right outside my bedroom.  I stood at the doorway and watched him for a moment. He was waiting for me, examining the snow on the roof outside the small window.

I shuddered and addressed him in a near-whisper.

“I am not going, Daddy.”

He got very quiet.  I knew what was coming.  I had experienced it a few times, and I often watched my younger brother endure it.

 The belt. 

Dad pivoted, climbed the half-flight of stairs, and went to his bedroom.  I ducked back into my room, back under my covers.  I was a big girl.  He would leave me alone if I held my ground.

But he didn’t. 

Dad entered my room and dragged me out of bed, out of the room.  I tried to escape by bolting downstairs toward the front door, but I tripped on the third step and fell onto the landing.  Dad was already there and stood over me, staring, the belt poised.

I could not take my eyes off his knuckles. 

Suspended above his head, poised to strike, the knuckles were ominous. Bulging, red, striated by the bleeding cracks wrought by repetitive frostbite. His oversized, gnarled hands, scarred by physical labor, yellowed from cigarettes trembled under the strain, misleading in their appearance.  I knew those hands as the ones that soothed my night fears when he rubbed my head as he chanted the Canterbury Tales in sing-song middle-high English.  I braced myself and looked at his face.  He seemed about to cry. I sighed. He was not the kind of man who would beat a child for disagreeing with him.

I whispered desperately, “I won’t do it. I can’t.”

“Silly girl. Just get ready.  God will forgive you.  God is love.”

“No, he’s not,” I screamed at him.  “If God were love, mommy’s family would still be in Vienna. They’d still be Jewish. They’d still be  –”

Now, Dad’s face reddened and glistened with anger. His temple throbbed.  His April blue eyes darkened to a sinister gray.  I was sure the thrust was coming, so I jumped back,  thinking to break away. He caught me, and we struggled, locking one another in a desperate kind of wrestle hold.  If either of us let go, we would likely both fall down the steep stairs, undoubtedly to our deaths.   I held my breath and silently submitted.

He relaxed.

He calmly grabbed my shoulders and righted us both on the landing.  His face calmed.  The light returned to his eyes.

I heard my mother call us from the kitchen,  “Breakfast is getting cold.”

New London Daddy

Every summer until I was four, my mother’s older sister Herma and her Serbian artist husband Borislav invited the whole family to share their bungalow on a beach along the Long Island Sound in New London, CT.

My memory of the house – undoubtedly flawed by time and distance — is of a single-story expanse with multiple windows standing upright, tall in every room. Their diaphanous, draped white curtains fluttered and danced in the omnipresent breezes.  No matter how hot the air might be elsewhere, the briny, vanilla-scented cool of the beach enveloped us when we entered that house.

My father, usually staid, reticent, and subdued, transformed the minute we arrived. As he got out of our car, he shed his grumpy silence and turned giddy.  He seemed to me one of those sea creatures we used to order from the bubble gum cards.  Add water, we were told, and the creatures would animate.  Salt sea air was enough for Daddy. He would bound into the house, ebulliently embrace the assembled relatives, and rush to any corner that afforded him enough privacy to change into his swim trunks.

We children – the first three of eleven cousins-to-be – were always his first invitees. “I’m off to the water,” he’d announce. “Who’s with me?”

Cousin Peter, eight years older than I, remained aloof. He thought himself too mature to be so childishly exuberant. Johnny, eight months my junior, could only go where his mother took him. He adored my dad his Uncle Alfred, but he would stay behind.

I could not wait.  I would strip down to my crisp white drawers, ask my mother to secure my towhead mop into tight braids, and follow him into the gently undulating water. He walked slowly, watching my every move, coaching me to tiptoe carefully over rocks and shells, beckoning me to stop and marvel at the crabs and jellyfish that tickled my shins and scraped my toes.  Once, a crab mistook part of my foot for a tasty morsel and chomped down hard.  I screamed, more afraid than injured, and my father laughed.  “Too bad for that little guy. You’re way too big a prey for him.” 

In the afternoon, Dad would take a blanket down to the edge of the Sound, wrap himself up, put a hat on his head, and coo, “Nothing like the lullaby of the ocean to sing me to sleep,”

Then he would nap for what seemed like hours, while Peter, dressed in his cowboy chaps and holster, would point his toy pistol and chase Johnny and me all about the beach.  Our mothers would watch us, laughing and applauding, as though we were brilliant actors in a spellbinding film.

Nowhere else, at no other time were we all as insouciant as we were then. Uncle Borislav would join us on our beach blanket when he took a break from his easel, and if there were no Yankee game on the radio, Johnny’s father my Italian Uncle Fernando would be there as well. Borislav would do magic tricks, and Fred would tell silly jokes. No one ridiculed my father, cocooned nearby. We were, in those moments, entirely happy.

The best parts of any New London weekend were the early mornings. Daddy would wake me before dawn to walk with him and watch the tide come in.  We would stroll along the waterline, giggling at the horseshoe crabs scuttling away, peering strenuously into the darkness for a glimpse of a ship or a dolphin.  Wading in, we’d let the deepening water lap at our legs. 

Later , when the tide was lowest, he would invite me to a grand adventure.

“Come on,” he’d chortle. “Let’s walk to China.”

“I don’t want to go to China,” I’d laugh. “I wanna see Paris?”

“Sure!  But you have to hold my hand.  It’s a very long walk.”

As we walked further into the Sound, the water level remained unchanged for what seemed like miles. Further still, where I became buoyant, he’d hold me while I half swam among the sailboats lazing in the summer sunshine.

“Maybe we won’t get all the way to Paris today,” Daddy would sigh at last.  “Let’s come back tomorrow.”

Dad’s ordinarily worked tirelessly, as he had a lot to prove. To his in-laws, he sought to prove he was worthy of my smart, well-educated, cultured mother. To his children, he needed to prove that he was impervious. Most, of all, to himself, he had to prove he was worthy of redemption.

Work and prayer were his salvation. He had devoured Calvinism as a boy and was convinced that any outward show of happiness might bar his way to Heaven. Only by the water did he allow himself spontaneous expression of pure pleasure.  

At the beach I savored his fleeting laughter. I milked his joy and made it mine. 

Taking Cover

A Rant: The Trouble With Guns.

Columbine changed my relationship to America. 

Once upon a time, I was proud and unabashedly grateful to be a part of this remarkable experiment called the USA.  Then suddenly, in a blaze of terror, fifteen children were brutally assassinated, 24 more were wounded, and countless more left with interminable PTSD.  In the aftermath, our collective failure to heal the national addiction to guns murdered my faith in my country. Today, I feel like an orphan. The country that gave my family refuge, the place I felt comforted, safe, no longer feels like home. 

I began to feel betrayed.

Just weeks after the Colorado tragedy, as I prepared to teach my first period of the day at a Connecticut high school, a shooter invaded our premises. The principal commanded us to lock our doors, to stay on the floor where we could not be seen through the windows that faced the hallway, and to wait there for updates.  My students and I crouched against the wall of the room, terrified of what might happen. 

Nothing did. The gun-toting stranger never fired a shot and was caught.  But I decided then and there that I could not put myself in this kind of jeopardy anymore.  I wasn’t just afraid of being shot – though I definitely was! – I could not envision being forced to watch in terror as children were mutilated.  I didn’t have it in me.  I quit teaching, went on to other things. And I got involved in trying to make a difference.

I wrote letters, posted blog rants, called lawmakers, and spoke out wherever and whenever I had a platform.  Sent money to the groups promising to fight for regulations.

Guns proliferated. Every year brings a new array of tragedies wrought by angry teenagers or disgruntled postal workers or distraught fathers or rabid fundamentalists. . . all armed with guns.  And oh, Sandy Hook.

Surely, I told myself, the images from Sandy Hook must change everything.  Even if the men in our culture insist on suborning murder by clinging to their guns, surely Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, teachers, sisters. . . the women of America will rise up to ensure that our babies are not so easily jeopardized.  Sure there will be an outcry to eradicate the monstrous misuse of weaponry that inflicts such terror.

I was wrong.  Even as Alex Jones defamed the Sandy Hook victims, even as assault weapons continued to violate sanity, nothing changed.  The horror persists. Today, I a longtime friend, a woman I respect and admire, posted a plea on Facebook for concerned citizens to write to Congress and demand they defeat the assault weapons ban, that they protect our right to bear arms, that they stop the Democrats’ bill to curb the insanity.

How can anyone justify the stockpiling of semi-automatic pistols and rifles?  I empathize with those people who feel so threatened they might put their faith in a gun, but I reserve none for those who believe that our government should not – cannot –  regulate the way in which guns are bought, owned, operated. Without regulations, our children are never out of danger.


Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, nearly 300,000 students have been on a campus during a school shooting.  949 school shootings have taken place since the Sandy Hook Elementary School exploded in December 2012.  Just yesterday, February 13, four more people were shot to death at Michigan State University. So much carnage.  Not only the dead. . . . the wounded, the destroyed families, the traumatized children and teachers who bore witness.  Communities forever changed.

In January 2023, a six-year-old child walked into school with a 9 mm handgun in his little backpack.  He shot his teacher and was miraculously stopped before he turned the gun on his classmates.  The trauma of that day will live on in every one of those first-graders’ hearts and minds to their last breaths.  Yet “given the child’s age, no charges will be brought,” reported the local police chief.  Nor have charges been brought against the parents.

The absolute degeneracy that the case of the six-year-old shooter represents is stultifying.  We live in a time, in a country where a small child, who must be reminded to put shoes on his feet to walk out the door, can blithely pack a gun and shoot his teacher.  Ours is the only country in the world where this is possible.

I have a daughter and a grandchild living in Turkey. Every day someone asks me how I can stand knowing the dangerous conditions of their life there.  I am frequently asked, “Can’t you insist they come home?”  Danger?  Sure, there are difficulties for a western woman living there, and there is volatility.  But no one in Turkey, except the military police protecting the airports, carries an assault weapon.  No child would dream of going to school with a pistol in his pocket.  In Turkey, even earthquakes are more predictable than gun violence is in the US.

The gun industry is a cartel.  It controls our lives in subtle and critical ways.  And we allow it to keep on keeping on.

Memorial Day Musing (from

The Second Battle of Bull Run, August 28–30, 1862–15,000 Union troops died in two days, and the Confederacy wond a decisive victory. Hiram Terwilliger fought valiantly and (barely) survived.

Memorial Day Musing

Insomnia plagued my childhood. My mother was a refugee from Nazi Europe, who never spoke outright about what had happened back there. Eavesdropping on the muffled conversations she had in clandestine German with her sisters and parents, however, I felt the anguish wrought by the dismal truths they shared. I inferred that some dark force was out there, still looking for us. When I closed my eyes, I pictured evil monsters, and I could not sleep.

In those days, my father was rarely home. He traveled around the country, representing, depending on the year, surgical supply or pharmaceutical firms. He repaired machinery, consulted with physicians, sold his products, and was often absent for weeks at a time. When he was at home, he was the center of my universe. In his presence, I felt safe. We had animated, prolonged family dinners. There were Sunday afternoon restaurant meals and bedtime stories that extinguished the nightmares.

Mom was not one to wait bedside until I drifted off to sleep, but Dad reveled in the opportunity to display his performance repertoire. It was a rich one that included Biblical episodes delivered with dramatic flourish, Chaucerian tales recited in crisp, Middle High English, a medley of Protestant hymns sung in a sonorous baritone, and, my personal favorite, tales of his grandfather’s Civil War exploits.

Hiram H. Terwilliger(1838–1935), ca. 1923

Hiram H. Terwilliger was my father’s maternal grandfather and the god of his idolatry. A gentleman farmer in the Catskills, Hiram was descended from a line of Dutchmen who had emigrated from the Netherlands early in the second decade of the 17th Century. By the time of the American Revolution, in which Hiram’s own great-grandfather had distinguished himself as a warrior patriot, they had begun to intermarry with English landowners and had taken their place in the highest echelons of Knickerbocker society. Dad’s narration of this family lore always had a pointed purpose: Terwilligers take heritage seriously. It defines how they are to live their lives..

A lay preacher in the Dutch Reformed Church, my great-grandfather was a rabid abolitionist. He and his sister Sarah were conductors on the Underground Railroad, and the family farm was a relay station. Though passionately pacifist, when the purveyors of human beings refused to end their vile trade, Hiram enlisted in the Union Army, in 1861. He was wounded and sent home mere months after he joined. As soon as he was healthy again, he re-enlisted, this time elevated to the rank of Corporal and subsequently to Sargent.

Sarah Elizabeth Terwilliger Warren(1840–1940), ca 1940

In 1862, at the second Battle of Bull Run, Hiram was shot nine times, sustaining at least three wounds that should have killed him. He refused to fall. After retrieving the Union flag from the ambushed color guard, Hiram kept moving, leading his battalion into the fray. I can still hear my father’s tear-stained voice whispering, “He said he would not rest so long as all Americans were not free.”

Recovery from the wounds and from the subsequent surgeries was long and painful. Summoned to the hospital in Fredricksburg, where Hiram had been taken from the field, Sarah, who volunteered with the corps of battlefield nurses, cared for him until he was well enough to travel. She accompanied him back to the family homestead, where she dutifully nursed him for over a year.

Though they both married and lived separate lives, brother and sister remained to committed to the cause that nearly killed him.

Sarah, who lived to age 100, was a popular local heroine, known in Ulster County as Auntie Warren, her married name. She became a suffragette. Hiram marched with her. He preached universal suffrage from his pulpit and took his message to conferences and convocations around New York and New England. Toward the end of his life, Hiram suffered paralysis from his waist down but continued to preach from his wheelchair. Whenever he heard of discriminatory practices enacted against any of his neighbors, Hiram was there to preach equality. He had a special affinity for Native Americans and was a continual thorn in government’s side, writing letters and making sermons admonishing the powerful hypocrites, who betrayed the People with broken promises and violated treaties.

Dad would finish Hiram’s story with a grand flourish as he looked into my sleepy eyes with a singularly intimidating look. “And so,” he would whisper, “now you understand your responsibility.”

“My grandfather nearly died,” Daddy would whisper as he left the room. “So that what happened to Mommy’s family in Europe will never happen to people here”

Since Mommy had clearly suffered from whatever it was that befell her beloved home, I embraced his assertion. She had escaped the Nazis and had come to America because here she could be safe, and her children would be protected from discrimination.

Every year of my growing up brought new awareness of America’s salient truths. People were not safe here. Discrimination was rampant. My father’s best friend was a physician, who was forced to take maintenance jobs in order to feed his family he finally found a hospital willing to grant him admitting privileges. I spent a weekend billeted with a Mohawk family on the St. Regis reservation, and I was appalled to come face to face with what my white forebears had done to this proud, generous people. By the time I graduated from high school, I deeply understood the hypocrisy of the opening words of the Declaration of Independence, grasped the depth of the evil perpetrated on villages in Korea and Viet Nam in the name of American democracy. My great-grandfather’s story became my reassurance, my inspiration.

I attended Malcom X lectures, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., explored the beliefs of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, et al. I studied languages and traveled abroad so that I could obtain a deeper understanding of the world around me I believed that it was possible to be an American, and to uphold the rights of humankind, to extol the virtues of immigration, to embrace multiculturalism. I struggle now — a struggle exacerbated daily by new events, such as this week’s brutal murder of George Floyd and the idiocy of Christian Cooper’s encounter with a white woman’s performative fear in Central Park — to suspend my disbelief.

I miss the days when I bought into the myth of America. Once a year, I force myself to make a valiant effort to retrieve my faith.

Every Memorial Day, I doff my cynicism and think about old Hiram Hauslander Terwilliger and his sister Sarah Elizabeth Warren. While many of the principles they espoused are still unwon, their story reminds me that we can do better. Men and women before and since have given their lives to the belief that we will do better.

The future of this country demands that we must do better.

Corporal Hiramm Hauslander Terwilliger, 1861

A View from the Edge (Reposted from Medium.Com)

These days, my oldest grandchild, age 11, often telephones me from her home in Westchester. We have not seen each other since mid-March, and we are not used to so extended a separation. We normally spend at least a weekend a month together. So, she calls to tell me about her day, to ask for advice choosing the right word to complete a verse of the song she’s writing. Then she asks me to tell her what my day has been like here in the valley of the shadow of COVID-19. Last week, she issued a challenge.

“You should record your observations, Lala. Write down what you see, what you hear.”

I wish I had more to share with her. It embarrasses me to admit that, in truth, I am observing little. My sequestered life leaves me out of the loop, experiencing this crisis vicariously. Watching through the veil of social distance puts me at odds with my natural inclination to engage with the world around me.

In fact, I hardly know myself. At 72, I have always taken pride in being somewhat intrepid. Growing up in a remote region of upstate New York, I spent many teenage nights listening to the Milkman’s Matinee on WNEW in New York City. I would lie in bed straining for reassurance that the vigilant denizens of my emerald city were monitoring the myriad dangers that lurked beyond the mountains. I nurtured the delusion that confronting the things that threatened me meant I could control what happened to my family and me. Then I grew up and migrated to the city, became an insider at last. I traded my childish notions in on a thick skin, an existential shell that enabled me to be nosey, be involved, observe from the inside of whatever’s going on, to calmly assert myself wherever I might be relevant.

These days I am never free of the unfamiliar knot of anxiety in my stomach. At night, I succumb to sleep only after setting the timer on the television. Its mindless banter drones out the perseverating voices in my head shouting, “Run. Run.”

When I wake, I walk.

Each morning, sunrise finds me on the far west side of Morningside Heights. I dodge the occasional runner, sidestep the meandering drunks, race the sparse but speeding traffic and hike toward Riverside Drive. It’s a great time to be out. The eerie city is more like it was in olden days — two months ago — no emptier than it is on any predawn weekend morning I would venture into. Pink wisps of clouds linger over the Hudson, and a floral profusion of varicolored petals dance contentedly in the springcold breeze. Finches, cardinals, robins sing without restraint. For them the absence of people means the absence of danger.

I notice that there is little garbage to mar the pristine landscape, and the lifeless blue gloves strewn insouciantly about remind me why the sudden clean is as disturbing as it is delightful.

Too soon light begins to blanket the streets. The absence of cars, the desolation of sidewalks, the darkened storefront windows revive the irksome panic, and I hasten back to my little apartment, to my illusion of safety.

My seventh floor windows overlook a dormant Catholic Church and its tenants: a vacant parochial and empty charter school. Cars park in front of the buildings all day, all night, unencumbered by the “NO PARKING ON SCHOOL DAYS” sign. No steady stream of worshippers, no laughter of children at recess, no chatter of activity outside the corner bodega clutter the air. Occasionally someone plugs in a boom box and blasts loud rap while he cleans his car. Several times a week, a zealot with a microphone stations herself on a nearby corner to scream end-of-the-world warnings to the deserted streets and open windows. Sometimes at night a drunken cluster of errant youngsters gathers to blast music and throw bottles and chicken bones at the church walls. Until the FDNY arrives and points a megaphone blaring, “Please disperse . . . COVID-19. . . . “

Because there is nothing I can hope to control, because I cannot dive into the fray, I deliberately limit how much I take in. From up here, it’s easy to look away from the harbingers of disaster. I avoid electronic babble and listen mostly to my I-Tunes library, When I do seek something to watch, I am more likely to choose Larry David reruns than Governor Cuomo’s Dire-side chats.

What I see from my precarious tower is mostly a world torn between fear and disbelief. It is fear that governs the new abnormal, a fear exacerbated by the counter-intuitive way we are forced to respond to the crisis. It is the wont of most humans to lean on one another when we are threatened. This virus forces us apart at a time when we most need to cling to one another.

All around me fear expresses itself as derision or anger. A neighbor blurts obscenities then laughs maniacally because I don’t join her unmasked self in the elevator. When I pass her from my 6-foot distance, she scowls. On Amsterdam Avenue, fights break out over small disagreements. In grocery stores, beleaguered cashiers yell at customers who ask too many questions.

Everyone feels powerless. A weak imposter president, who would gladly sacrifice every one of us to the gratification of his ego, endangers us all. This reckless narcissist defies science and encourages the covidiots, who worship him, to flaunt their disregard for herd immunity. He suborns sedition by promoting rebellion against state governments that insist on sheltering. Our citizenry is caught between logic and farce, between sanity and idiocy. Confusion augments the fear and compounds the anger.

Few among us are free from financial concerns. Many in this time of Covid-19 teeter on the edge of an ominous precipice. One of the lucky few with a job I can do remotely, I am obligated to keep working. I cannot afford to be ill. No net is in place to catch me. Should the scourge erase my limited salary or eliminate my miniscule annuity, I would be left without resources.

I am not unique. Widows and divorcees in NYC are typically under-equipped for disaster. We comprise a confederacy of older New York women, who have cast ourselves adrift on an ageist, sexist sea of limitations. When I pass my cohorts in the grocery store or on the street, I can see my strain mirrored in their eyes, etched in their faces.

Also reflected there is the lingering doubt that we will ever see our progeny again. We are repeatedly told that we are at great risk. Who among us will get out alive?

Many of our children, now in their thirties and forties, comprise the essential work force and are constantly in harm’s way. My son’s wife, a fearless physician, who specializes in the care of newborns, is back at work in her hospital, having wrestled with the disease and won. My daughter’s husband, too, a pilot for an international airline, has probably been through an unconfirmed case. These two and sare emblematic of their co-generationists. Even as they protect themselves with maximum caution, will they be safe enough?

I hate to disappoint my granddaughter. Her mother the doctor would be a much more reliable narrator, were she less engulfed in the maelstrom of responsibility with more freedom to record what she sees.

The only light I am able to shed is a lesson I learned in high school French class, where first I encountered La Peste, Albert Camus’ chronicle of a plague year in Oran, Algeria in the 1940s. Frequent references to this book have been cited since the pandemic began. And for good reason. Though Camus meant his pestilence to symbolize the Nazi occupation of France, it is a perfect mirror of our current morass.

The Oran plague is allegorical, Camus’ exploration of what happens when The Absurd engulfs reality and renders it incomprehensible. A cautionary tale. There will always be, Camus asserts, diseased rats of one kind or another that will rise up and roust the world from its complacency. There is no antidote that can change uncertainties to reassurances, threats to promises. No messiah is on the way. Our only hope of vanquishing our foes is to find the best that is within ourselves and live with grateful enthusiasm in our present, providing the most comfort we know how to give to those we care about.

We can’t know what’s coming, and there is only so far we can go to stave off disaster. The rest is submission. Submission to the belief that all things pass. That there will eventually be sunshine or a rainbow. . . .

Or at very least a nice big puddle to jump into at the end of the storm.

Carla Stockton
18 April 2020