Life in the coronaverse

Friends, it has been a really strange three years.

Three years ago in November Donald Trump was elected president of these United States, and we all woke up the next morning staring at one another in disbelief, if we even managed to sleep that night at all (I, personally, did not). We felt like we had somehow veered suddenly into the wrong alternate universe. We had all become unwilling residents of the Stupidverse.

Two years ago in November, a similar seismic shock hit my personal life, as I found out that my marriage of nearly twenty years was over, suddenly, brutally, without warning. I didn’t sleep much that night, either. And for a long time after that, nothing in the world made sense, outside of my life or in it.

Somehow through all of this, I kept writing cartoons. The one constant in my life was the weekly deadline — a relentless burden in some ways, but comforting in its familiarity and routine.

Over these past few years, cartoonists and comedians have grown used to hearing the same comment over and over again: you must have so much *material*! Unfortunately that’s not really how it works. Satire is the art of taking something to an absurd extreme in order to highlight the problems of the current moment. The thing is, we are living in the absurd extreme. I try my best, but it’s impossible to come up with something so ludicrous that Trump won’t actually end up doing it in reality, often before anyone even reads the cartoon.

Satire in the age of Trump is exhausting.

Under previous presidents, there were interesting things to say. There was an important niche to be filled critiquing a popular president like Obama. It felt like it mattered to stand up against the wave of jingoism and war fervor of the Bush years in the aftermath of 9/11. Now the challenge is to avoid stating the obvious, over and over again. Trump is an idiot and his acolytes are cultists — everybody knows this! That’s been the professional challenge over the past few years, made more complicated by the fact that I was simultaneously trying to re-invent my personal life from scratch and survive the profound trauma of divorce. Trauma which has been re-awakened as this global crisis throws the precarity of my current life, as compared to the old one, into stark relief.

All that is solid melts into air. I literally have no idea what the world will look like a month from now. You’d think, after the past few years, that I would have embraced the fundamental uncertainty of existence as a constant. You’d think after all these years of working at home, I’d be used to life under lockdown. My apartment is moderately spacious, by New York City standards, which is to say I’m not crammed into a single-room studio. But it is still … small. It feels a bit like being on a reasonably comfortable spaceship, but instead of the void of space, I look out onto blossoming trees and sunny weather and I miss the life I had, the lives we all had, a few short weeks ago, when we could gather with friends and do all those things humans enjoy doing together.

I may start blogging again. Or maybe not. Did I mention that the future is unknowable? I’m not going to turn on comments — too many assholes in the world, and I don’t want to spend time moderating them. But feel free to write me — tomtomorrow@gmail — or to reply on twitter.