When I talk about my time in Paris, sometimes I mention a funny thing that happened one day at Parc Montsouris in the 14th, where I used to hoop every day after class. On another humid July afternoon, a bunch of nebbish park officials stormed the court and told us game over. A thunderstorm was brewing and out of caution the park was to be closed for the rest of the day.
I was incensed. For one, I had finally mastered the double rim and was looking like a young Steph. Also, I pride myself on knowing too much about the weather and didn’t think it was going to rain at all. But more than anything, the whole affair never made me feel more American. My Parisian teammates skedaddled at the sight of the first bespectacled bureaucrat. But I nobly dug in with my black and blue T-Macs, ready to fight. Cowards! See, us Americans have the right to be in a public park whenever we’d like, and even stand under a tree while clutching a steel drum during a severe thunderstorm. Sure, it’s stupid. But it’s my right. Because I’m free.
Post 2016, I’m more willing than ever to question our systems and way of life. 45 is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s about publications and people I respect doing small but insidious things like still referring to that man as “Mister.” To be sure, many of these outlets and individuals are plenty angry and Very Agitated. But they’re not worked up enough to abandon AP Guidelines or custom, or the high virtue of civility. It still somehow all begins with the premise that our American president, by definition, must be a noble man. Everything else springs from that. So even if you see him lose another tango with a teleprompter, time passes — not much required in our era — and later you get to the blank page, or a clear mind, and breathe in the idea of an American president.
How could it be that this man, though white, doesn’t care about me, and doesn’t know how?
This damn virus might cut through everything we know about being an American. We like to be certain. We can no longer be. We like to be brazen and tempt fate. We now might need to adopt more humility and superstition. We are never wrong, as I proved on that piping hot Paris afternoon.
Nope, there was no storm that day, not even a drop of rain. And even if there was, and I didn’t listen, and I enlisted a handful of baller accomplices, the larger Paris politic would not have suffered for our foolishness. This is the inverse of our new virus, where your well-being is also, ultimately, my well-being. Where my 500 Amazon primed hand sanitizers might send my featherweight neighbor soaring into muck. Don’t shake my hand and stay 6 feet away. Those tents we hop over on the street with disdain? They’re now in our very living rooms.
Sometimes, the individual is not the most precious thing. Or rather, (s)he is too precious — fragile as glass. We can either prop up the legend of the lone cowboy, or work together in a way we ought have long ago.
All our lives now depend on it.