I just read an important blog post on Medium by Dr. Lyra D. Montiero, “Please Professors: Stop Pretending the Dying Isn’t Happening.” It was written by her after reading the tweet above, and in turn, what she wrote inspired this short response from me.
Several of my students have lost relatives in the past two weeks, others are working in hospitals and groceries as poorly paid, mostly unprotected “essential workers” and they’re frightened or worse, too numb to feel afraid, too dependent on their pay to simply “shelter at home.” Two that I know of are ill. What we say to them and how we treat them always matters, but at this traumatic moment, it’s crucial that we empathize and allow them some space to learn a new “normal.”
When my brother died (in the same week that beloved relatives were murdered) a professor on my dissertation committee told me I should work through it and put it all into my work. I’ve rarely been more shocked and infuriated and hurt (I thought he was an understanding human being until then)
My response to him was “My brother was worthy of my mourning him and I’m taking time to do so.”
There’s a huge push to act and produce normally, but in the face of these upheavals and death, that can be a dehumanizing and cruel position to take. For some people keeping to a schedule is comforting, but in my experience, that’s often part of a delayed reaction or even denial. I’m a big believer in being present to your feelings and actually feeling them, not only thinking them. It’s part of our essential humanity and connection to Life and it’s a part we should want to cultivate as we consider the society we’ll be creating post pandemic, because whatever else happens, we are not returning to the “normal”we had before. And that can be an extremely good thing.
I know many folktales and songs. When I was a kid, my mother would sometimes sing songs from her childhood in North Carolina, and I was young when the folkies of the early Sixties were on the rise. At school we learned anthems, more folksongs and dances from around the world, so there are a number of obscure lyrics rattling around in my head, a number of which are quite disturbing to me.
Since I was quite young, I’ve found Polly Vonn a particularly disturbing song. You can’t tell me that dude didn’t intentionally murder his fiancé. I always figured that it was an arranged marriage and the thought of being tied to some long necked pasty faced woman with a honking voice sent my boy over the edge. Hunting at dusk is suspicious and who eats swans? The meat isn’t desirable, and by all accounts takes more prep than chitterlings to make it palatable. (Thanks to Dr. Kendra Hamilton for this information)
What about it, crime solvers? Innocent mistake or premeditated murder?
Furthermore, let’s consider Charming Billy:
Who is questioning him, and what is up with Charming Billy? That’s a pretty intense interrogation, so Billy either has some incredibly nosey neighbors, a suspicious mum, or he’s been in the pub trying to convince the fellas that he actually has left his basement without a pub stop and has been on a date with a real, live, human girl. So:
Is his intended actually far too young for him?
Is she dodging his creepiness?
Is she actually a Time Lord? (My TL thought was that given the contrasting ages, she might be different ages at each appearance as she slips in and out of their time together.)
Is she a figment of Charming Bill’s imagination?
Inquiring minds want to know. Folklorists, where are you?