This Saturday feels remarkably similar to most of my Saturdays. I woke up earlier than I wanted to wake up, alternated between reading and staring at my phone, took a couple of pictures of my cat snoozing hard on my wife who was also snoozing hard, and then finally got up and made coffee and breakfast. She usually makes coffee on Saturdays–sign one that things are different.
And they are. It feels like the walls are closing in, and honestly, I wish they’d closed awhile ago. There doesn’t seem to be any public health information now that we didn’t have a month ago, and yet here we are, inching along even as all the numbers tell us every slow inch means massively more death. It is unbelievable, but we don’t have to believe it to act. We have got to shut everything down.
So far, shutting everything down hasn’t meant we can’t go outside for exercise, thank goodness. I know it could come to that, and if that were the instruction, I’d follow it. But for now, I’m going to ride my bike and keep my distance from other riders, something that’s increasingly difficult as everybody gets out on their bikes–which is fine by me!
Today’s ride took me over to the Maryland Cycletrack again, and down to the sports stadiums. The news is reporting the National Guard has begun mustering in town, so I wanted to see how much that’s true, and if it’s looking like April 2015 yet. I saw the vehicles coming into the city on Monday, and Hogan activated the Guard last week, I think, so I wasn’t surprised to see that yes, they’re here.
And they are, but what I mostly saw were empty streets and empty parking lots and closed shops and a closed casino that led to a fantasy of being trapped inside a la that movie Night of the Comet, but that’s for my own brain. I snapped this picture of the only vehicles I could find. One had a big red cross on the side, and all of them were stamped “military vehicle,” though I assume they are National Guard vehicles. It’s not much, and the governor promises they are here to aid with things like supply delivery, nothing to worry about, nothing to see here.
I am sure that they are here for that, and that individual members of the Guard likely want to be here to help out. I’m sure that they are here first and foremost to move supplies around, and maybe to help out with the fantasy drive through testing facilities we’ve been hearing so much about. But the thing is, these few vehicles are the start of something. And that something will also be security, and security generally means securing private property for some and creating mass insecurity for a whole lot of others.
Not always, of course. During the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, for example, the Maryland National Guard saw its lot aligned with the workers. Those were their brothers and fathers and friends on strike, not the rich railroad barons extracting 10% stock gains while cutting wages–familiar story, eh? But that’s not guaranteed. Whether the appearance of another military-level security force makes you feel safer or not depends on your relationship to state security forces in general.
This is what I mean when I whisper worries about fascism sneaking in while we aren’t looking because our attention is rightly on the emergency, right now, to save ourselves and each other. We are scrambling to survive, but those whose survival is largely assured due to access to power and resources are doing something else right now. And it probably has to do with making money now, and later, and taking power, now and later. This is how these institutions work, no matter the good intentions that the people in them might have at the start.
So no, I didn’t see martial law in Baltimore today. After pedaling away from the stadiums I headed to the Inner Harbor, which was dangerously filled with clumps of people not adhering to social distancing guidelines, which made me turn back and head the other way and back toward home. What will it take to get people to take this seriously, I wondered. Will it take martial law?
I made a quick stop at the Safeway on 25th & Charles to pick up a prescription. The place was packed to the gills, a fight broke out at the checkout counter, and somebody called the police. I took my meds and headed back to my bike and to home, where I washed my hands for several minutes and made the ladyfriend and I sandwiches. This is going to be a long and complicated haul, like they all are.