Yesterday I had lunch with a friend, the kind of friend you can ask, “Are we living in The Parable of the Sower or The Handmaid's Tale?”--which will result in a fascinating conversation for hours, which was what happened.
We have been meeting for many years, since our first meeting when she interviewed me for a creative nonfiction class that she was taking. It was a cool assignment; we had to meet in a place that said something about me or the relationship so we met at a British tea room that was open at the time. She had met me as a student in my British literature classes that I taught, classes that I am fairly sure will be the best classes I have ever taught. And we have continued to meet for tea or a meal; across years and decades we have continued to meet.
We have often remarked that we wished we could capture our conversation, as it seems like the kind of sparkling dialogue one would find in, say, a Jane Austen novel or The West Wing. We have often thought about what we would be doing if we were characters in a TV show who met regularly. Our conversations might be too strange for mainstream television--we're not talking about sex like those Sex in the city girls, and we're often making obscure references to say PBS shows like Frontier House.
Yesterday we talked about some of the resources we still had or once had resources that would be handy if we found ourselves living in an episode of Frontier House, needing to figure out how to survive without the comforts of modern life. That show was sobering because it showed us how few people made it as pioneers—2/3 would die or go home.
Yesterday we talked about how strange it was to be having one of our last lunch is during a time when the Supreme Court had just overturned Roe V wade with rumblings of more reversals to come, a time when I had just purchased a house that looked like it could be a station on the Underground Railroad. We talked about how if we were reading this material in a novel, it would stretch credulity. After all in the decades that we've been meeting we've seen a lot of progress being made in the area of human rights, and now it looks like it could all be undone fairly quickly. I talked about my naivete in believing that somehow having a seat as a Supreme Court Justice granted a superpower of impartiality. That illusion has been stripped away.
My friend has just gotten a dream job, and after a few weeks, it continues to be a dream job. I am off to fulfill my dream of taking seminary classes in person on campus. It feels like the end of an era, in both good ways and sad ways.
It is strange to be leaving for North Carolina, which now seems like a more progressive state than Florida. When we moved to Florida in 1998, we knew parts of the state were not progressive, but it had republican governors in the old style of Republicans, fiscally conservative, with a faith in business and the family and programs to support each, as well as at the same time having a certain live and let live attitude towards those who wanted to move to Miami and try something different. It was a state that understood immigration in ways that perhaps it no longer does.
We are in a time of transition, both my friend and me and the whole nation. Some days I'm a little spooked by it all and worried about where we're headed. Other days I have a faith that we will figure out what needs to be done, just like our ancestors did. I'm trying not to think of my friends ancestors who died in pogroms in Russia or my ancestors who were cash poor but could grow the food they needed and so they survived. I continue to hope we can survive some of the grimmer possibilities of life in a dystopia.