Yet America at large has not been permitted to grieve. At the most basic level, this is to keep us safe; funerals are heartbreakingly difficult to hold when gatherings are so dangerous, and there can be no moment of silence before a baseball game if there are no baseball games to begin with. It also seems misguided to hold a memorial when we’re still in the thick of the tragedy. It would be a denial of the truth, that hundreds of people are still dying every single day.
At the same time, this leaves our grief unmoored. There is no ceremony to it, no ritual. We experience the stages of emotion at unsanctioned moments: sometimes I feel pity for those who refuse to listen to public health directives, sympathetic to the fact that denial is simpler, and sometimes I feel an explosive rage toward complete strangers that takes me hours to cool down from. Our mourning is directionless in this way, since we have not reckoned with our American tragedy collectively. We do not have a national memorial, there is no reading of the names of victims from the White House podium, though this weekend flags will finally be flown at half mast.
What scares me the most, though, is that we cross the threshold of 100,000 largely without a sense of catastrophe. It has been weeks since I organically stumbled into a daily death count on a front page or headline; it took me several attempts while I was writing this before I could find a website that showed how many people had died in the country in the last week. I share Teju Cole’s longing “to be directly confronted with the fact, the enormity, the irreducible sadness of all these deaths.”