Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

Pick a SPECIFIC date to explore

Jul 24: At least 18 people in the past week have been arrested as federal agents continue to crack down on protests in Portland, Oregon. The CDC says as many as a third of coronavirus patients who were never hospitalized do not recover within three weeks of their diagnosis and instead experience ongoing symptoms like fatigue or a cough.

Jul 25: More than 1,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 each day since last Tuesday. Protesters return to the streets in several American cities Saturday in solidarity with demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice in Portland, Oregon. 

From the cutting room floor ...

The battle over Portland is in its fifty-fourth day. It is currently being fought with leaf blowers.

It is the absurd made real, the objects of everyday made exceptional. It is a manifestation of creative protest and a harnessing of the alternative spaces and tools that the great leviathan state has overlooked. All of these protests are participating in a long historical tradition. The Wall of Moms harkens to the women’s movements that have historically mobilized femininity as a weapon against the status quo. It conjures images of angry women wielding rolling pins as they marched to Versailles and dethroned Louis XIV in October of 1789. In the 1960s, Women’s Strike for Peace used to their sacred roles as mothers to justify their protests against continued nuclear testing. Today, they do the same, declaring that they are compelled as mothers to defend their children from the rubber bullets and tear gas. Today, instead of rolling pins, they carry leaf blowers. Even more profoundly, these protests are reminder that the quotidian can also be heroic. As the Chinese literary scholar, Xiobong Tang, has argued, in the living of our every day lives, we can attain a kind of “revelatory desolation,” a quiet triumph brought on by everyday kindness and empathy beneath the relentless march of our rapacious world.[1] 

I ran an informal poll on social media asking people what they miss the most. 350 people replied. Here are their answers in order of frequency:

    1. A predictable, regular world (including going to work, kids going to school and getting to be regular teenagers, being able to wander in TJ Maxx or the thrift store, eating in a restaurant, taking taxis, and having a mundane daily schedule)
    2. Being with friends
    3. Seeing, hearing, and performing Live Music and Theatre
    4. Travel, particularly flying places
    5. Not feeling so distraught about the state of the nation and its leadership
    6. Hugs
    7. Family, particularly seeing parents
    8. The movies
    9. Cocktail Bars
    10. Going on dates
    11. Drinking less
    12. The gym
    13. Buffets
    14. In person church services


Ann Powers, a music critic for NPR, wrote to me that she misses the ability to feel good around people who likely have very different political views that music concerts enable: “especially at country music shows, I could get into a zone where I felt connected to people in a crowd who might be visibly displaying social and political stances I don’t espouse, because we’d all be united singing along to some song.” Unfortunately, she says, she can’t imagine that anymore. 

Are we really in a place now where even music cannot tear down our boundaries? She is right. I have had to break off contact with some of my oldest friends because their complacent racism cannot be dismissed with a laugh and shrug. It never could. I have to be honest, I have come to a place where I do not think I can budge on this question. I know that my implacability does not foster dialogue, but it is time now for the other side to come to us.

By the way, the thing I miss the most are the movies. My children could care less; everything is streamable at home, after all. But there is something magical about the dark, cool theatre and the grand cinema, larger than life, that cannot be replicated on my couch. I pray that the theatres will come back.

I also just miss not being here. My husband told me this morning that he can see my “pilgrim soul starting to clang against the bars.” You know things have gotten weird when going to your office at work feels like liberating, risky behavior. I used to travel in the Middle East alone and brave men with machine guns to get into archives. Now I feel rebellious when I pick up takeout from the Egyptian café downtown.

And I am one of the lucky ones. Another 1.3 million people applied for new jobless benefits last week. I bet we could guess what they miss if we asked them. 19.3 million people are now received unemployment benefits, all while we hit a new weekly high of 60,000 in COVID cases.


[1] Xiaobing Tang, Chinese Modern: The Heroic and the Quotidian (Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books, 2000), 5.

Read more

McDaniel, Piper. “Portland Protests Draw Thousands, Intense Federal Response, Gas Friday.” OregonLive, July 25, 2020.

Ford Fischer, “Heavily Armed, All-Black NFAC militia marches in Louisville, KY,” News2Share (July 25, 2020),

Ford Fischer, “Heavily Armed, All-Black NFAC militia marches in Louisville, KY,” News2Share (July 25, 2020),


*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page.

Goin, Stephen. “LMPD Announces Safety Plan Ahead of Black Armed Group Action, Counter Protests.” WAVE3 NBC Louisville, July 23, 2020.
Kenning, Chris, Phillip M. Bailey, Hayes Gardner, Savannah Eadens, and Ben Tobin. “Louisville Protests: NFAC, Three Percenters Demonstrate Downtown.” Louisville Courier-Journal, July 25, 2020, sec. Local.
McDaniel, Piper. “Portland Protests Draw Thousands, Intense Federal Response, Gas Friday.” OregonLive, July 25, 2020.
Mondainé, E. D. “Opinion | Portland’s Protests Were Supposed to Be about Black Lives. Now, They’re White Spectacle.” Washington Post, July 23, 2020.
Woodstock, Tuck. “No Matter How Many Meals We Serve, They’re Still Going to Attack Us.” Bon Appétit, July 29, 2020.
Social Media
Additional Links

* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.