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letters from the pandemic #4 June 17 2020

“The pandemic will pass, life will go on for most of us, but some things will most probably change for good. There’s no way of predicting where this will lead to, only that we have to answer to the challenge of our humanity“.

I wrote this when we were just 3 weeks into a crisis which turned out to last more than 3 months - and is still going on - before another murder of an unarmed African American man, George Floyd, by a police officer raised the level of consciousness about systemic racism and inequality in this country.

Nationwide protests rising to the level of the civil rights movement in the 60’s ensued over the past 3 weeks, all the while the country is still dealing with the highest infection numbers in the entire world and is deeply divided along ideological lines, governed by an incompetent and corrupt federal government, not to speak of the enormous impact the national shutdown had and has on the economy.

This seems to be the time for change, the United States is a dynamic country with a most diverse population and a shared (if faded) ideal, which can rise to any challenge presented. It has proven that in the past, and I, as an immigrant, deeply believe that it can do so again - we can do so again.

We’ll need to fall back on our ideals, reaffirm our institutions, the checks and balances of government and answer the challenge to our humanity, our ethic and moral values and rid our government and society of the rampant corruption we allowed to fester for too long. Greed was yesterday.

It will only be possible to do that if we acknowledge that ideology amounts to stupidity in its blindness to the facts, to reality in all its facets, by its wish for a certain outcome. We’ll need to return to reason, clear minded rationality, which allows us to make informed decisions.

I am encouraged by how New Yorkers largely answered the challenge presented by the virus and the civil unrest in a most conscious way, we brought down the infection numbers from the highest level in the country to the lowest within 100 + days, we didn’t conflate the legitimate protesters with the criminals, who took advantage of the situation and looted hundreds of businesses in the city.

It has been and it is still tough for me to maintain discipline (wear a mask, social distance, stay sane, don’t panic, use reason, be emphatic), while gingerly going back to the studio, working on some ideas for larger paintings.

I don’t believe in political art, but I believe that artists should be observers of reality - externally and internally - we have a responsibility to the truth of that reality.

David Stern NYC June 17 2020


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