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“Quarantine Diaries,” by David Garyan (Day 4)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 4 March 18th, 2020

Trento, Italy

Humor Me

Seeing as how the craze around Italians singing from balconies is taking the internet by storm, I thought about attempting my own jam session—all in the spirit of having neither an Italian nationality nor even the ancestry.

So, there I am with my first guitar (a Washburn D-10S that I bought fifteen years ago from Emerald City Guitars in Downtown Seattle) playing to a crowd of zero—it’s safe to say there are pretty much no musicians living nearby either. I’m starting to doubt whether there really are as many maestros in Italy as videos like this have made everyone believe. What I don’t doubt, however, is the Italian spirit—the people have the passion of musicians, the creativity of poets, the warmth of painters, and the energy of sculptors.

I don’t really care in which cities these popular balcony videos were taken, but, as you can see, my brother and I live in a rather isolated neighborhood of Trento called Vela; we’re thus deprived of the opportunity to have impromptu jam sessions with neighbors that we otherwise wouldn’t have had jam sessions with were it not for the coronavirus. I mean seriously—how often do we really care or even notice the people around us?

Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean academic and former President of the UN Security Council, said: “Sometimes you need a major crisis to bring people together.” After Katrina, for example, residents of Baton Rouge invited people from New Orleans to stay in their homes; hotels meanwhile housed displaced families, along with their pets, according to The New England Journal of Medicine.

Similarly, after 9/11, “the boundaries and class divisions between people dissolved: people greeted each other on the street and were more considerate, sensitive to each other, and gentle than normal,” according to the Scientific American.

However, the issue is more complex than that because although there can and was unity after both instances, solidarity didn’t trickle down to everyone. Among all the social cohesion which followed 9/11, it was also quite common to hear of assaults on Sikhs who were thought to be Muslims because of their unique headwear—the turban.

In fact, fifteen years after Balbir Singh Sodhi was gunned down in Mesa, Arizona following the terrorist attacks, the violence against them still hasn’t quite subsided, according to a 2016 CNN article. Perhaps it bears repeating that the Sikhs are neither Muslim nor were they in any way responsible for the attacks—the latter being especially true for the aforementioned 52 year old gas station owner pictured below.

After Katrina, the image presented in this academic article is also much more complex than the one previously highlighted by Scientific American: “While there were well-documented instances of brutal hijacking, rioting, and looting in New Orleans after the deep flooding caused by the hurricane, there were many more reports of altruism, cooperativeness, and camaraderie among the affected population.” What do you expect in a situation like this? No, it’s not a picture of Venice—that’s New Orleans after the devastation.

I’m going to ask a question I’ve been posing a lot in these diaries: What’s the point of all this? Why am I bringing this up? Honestly, I don’t know—blame it on the coronavirus like I’ve already said a million times. All I want is to believe that crises really do bring out the best in people. I want to know that tragedies can be avoided in the midst of tragedies. Is it really necessary to repeat the past? I hope not, but that’s exactly what seems to be happening as coronavirus hate crimes have emerged in the West.

Although the pandemic is here and it looks to stay for a while, I don’t think it’s really necessary to infect ourselves with virulent greed, panic, and violence as happened after 9/11 and Katrina.

I know. I know. Whatever humor this entry started out with today has quickly led to some pretty heavy stuff; however, sometimes the situation demands what it demands and this is a great moment to remind people that crises don’t always engender solidarity, as evidenced by the shortage of toilet paper, frozen foods, and the insane spike in gun sales.

Welcome to the freak show, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you’re enjoying the ride—let’s hope it doesn’t lead down a dark path.

All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.

Until next time.


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