One more time…

I keep telling myself that I am going to post about something other than Donald Trump and the havoc and disaster he and his goons have wreaked on the United States. Sometimes, I write to help myself figure out my own conflicting emotions. These days, I begin to write with all intents and purposes of relaying some aspect of life here on our five acres. I have done that on this blog on and off since I retired six years ago, and have been happy for the most part with the results. But now, every time I begin writing about my garden or the large number of red-winged blackbirds that are nesting and having babies around our pond this year, or any of a multitude of things that I have written about or considered writing about before, I can’t seem to do it. It is so difficult to think about anything other than what this horrible President, this completely terrible, corrupt, evil human being, is doing to our country. And then I think about the number of people who still support him. How can they? What is wrong with them?

I know it may sound crazy, but sometimes when I think of the direction our country is headed, I can’t think straight. None of it makes any sense. I ask myself the same question again and again: What is wrong with those people? Are Trump supporters really all racists and/or wanna be white supremacists?

When I was in elementary school, the danger we all worried about would come from above. I’m not talking about God’s wrath. That was pounded into us during weekly Sunday School services. The biggest national fear in the fifties through the early sixties was nuclear war. There were air raid drills in elementary schools across the country. When the siren sounded, students were instructed to crouch under their desks, cover their heads with their hands, and keep their eyes shut tight. That was to protect all the good little citizens from flying debris and radiation. Yeah, okay, sure. I’ve been told by a few others who attended Killbuck Elementary with me that we actually did that at least once a year. But I honestly don’t remember ever doing so. Could I have been sick that day every year? That’s doubtful. But I guess we did it, even if it has somehow escaped my memory.

I do remember hearing a lot of discussions about the merits of bomb shelters. As I recall, someone in town supposedly built one in his basement, though if it existed I never saw it. I really wanted my dad to build one to protect my family and me from harm. I’m pretty sure I nagged him about for awhile. I remember drawing up plans for Dad. That was during my ‘I want to be an architect when I grow up’ phase. That phase didn’t last and no bomb shelter was ever built at 900 North Main Street. Fortunately, no bombs ever landed in Killbuck or anywhere else in America. My Dad, Mom, and President Eisenhower kept us from harm.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have Eisenhower or someone like him as President now?

I have always been a practical person. Way back in 1969 I was voted ‘Most Reliable’ in my class. Big whup, right? But that is part of who I am. I have always been good at identifying what can and cannot be changed, sorting out my options, making a plan, and then proceeding; but not now.

How can Trump’s base… perhaps I should say sheep, simply accept the lying? Donald Trump lies so easily every single day. The last I read he was up over 18,000 lies. I read a few online excerpts from his niece’s book, which will come out next week. According to Mary Trump, he relishes his lies, and the fact that he has always lied and gotten away with it. He enjoys the actual lie he is telling, and he loves knowing that anyone with one iota of intelligence knows it’s a lie, and that he still gets away with it. Most of us who are parents teach our kids not to lie. We tell them that lying is wrong, and they will get in trouble if they do. But Trump’s base is totally comfortable with his lying. They seem to enjoy it as much as he does.

When you know something for sure, when you see with your own eyes that the sky is absolutely blue, and yet someone insists, even argues, that it is in fact yellow, your mind reels. Back near the beginning of his Presidency, Trump told people not to believe what they saw with their own eyes or heard with their own ears, but just to believe what he says. His base has taken it to heart. They believe every lie that comes out of his lips. If presented with facts that are in opposition to what he says, those facts are simply labeled as “fake news.”

I keep thinking that he can’t get any worse, but the lack of leadership from Donald Trump grows more appalling by the day. Every day, the chaos and mismanagement grows ever more dreadful, contributing to a growing sense of anxiety. Donald Trump reminds me of a sleazy salesman peddling snake oil every time he whips out another silver bullet against the virus. Now he is telling us to just live with it.

We are failing to confront our problems. Trump, his supporters, and most Republicans refuse to acknowledge that our collapsed economy, Trump’s handling of the pandemic, and the racial unrest have anything at all to do with his utter horror of a Presidency. It’s all the fault of the Democrats.

A FB friend of mine recently admonished her followers to turn off the news, ignore all of the bad things happening in our country, go outside, and work in one’s garden. She said that working in the dirt is good therapy. I agree, to a point. I enjoy being in my garden, and it is nice to put what is going on out of my mind for awhile. But… what an excellent example of privilege.

To be so lucky to live in one’s own little unaffected section of reality, and fortunate enough to be free from the suffering in so many parts of our country right now that you are able to turn off the news and simply go outside and dig in the dirt or do whatever floats your boat, strikes me as a bit selfish. We all need to escape now and again, but never forget the reality of three million people in this country who have, or have had, this virus, and the more than 130,000 who have died from it. They won’t be escaping to their own personal garden anytime soon.

If you have the luxury of turning off the news for a time please do not ignore the virus and the toxic President who keeps pretending it isn’t there. If you do so, you will be perpetuating the toxicity of this President and his administration. Please vote in November, and vote blue.

Next time I post, I swear it will be about birds.

Maybe, Just Maybe, the Times Really Are A-Changin’

In 1964, Bob Dylan released his third album, featuring the title track, The Times They Are A-Changin’. During the summer of that year, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed The Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The act was first proposed by President Kennedy after protests began springing up all over the South. In one such Alabama protest police brutally beat nonviolent demonstrators with clubs, high pressure fire hoses, and attack dogs. After that, Kennedy decided he must act, so in June of 1963 he proposed the most comprehensive legislation ever to that date, stating that the United States “will not be fully free until all of its citizens are free.”

After Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963, President Johnson took up the cause. There was strong opposition in Congress, to put it mildly. After a long fight in Congress, the Senate voted 73-27 in favor of the bill. President Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1864.

That following school year, after discussing the new law and the absolute necessity of its passage, my eighth grade English teacher assigned us to read Black Like Me. Published only a few years before, it had been written by a journalist named John Howard Griffin.

In 1959, Griffin decided that he wanted to try to understand Black people’s lives. So he devised an experiment. He decided to become black. A dermatologist prescribed a drug that darkened his skin. He also spent hours under sunlamps, and grew darker and darker. In 1959 the newly Black man began traveling throughout the South in order to try to comprehend what it was like to live as a Black person.

It didn’t take him long to discover what Black people had long been enduring. Whites avoided or scorned him. While applying for menial jobs, he met the ritual rudeness of Jim Crow. A foreman told him, “We don’t want you people. Don’t you understand that?” Again and again, he heard the N word. Of that word, he said, “You always hear it, and it always stings.”

Griffin was shocked by how little he recognized his own country. The restaurants he would have eaten in were no longer open to him. He had to plan ahead if he wanted to use the bathroom or drink from a water fountain. A few whites treated him decently, but they were exceptions. Nothing prepared him for the disgusted glares and the insult of being judged solely by skin color, the hate stares that made him “sick at heart before such unmasked hatred.”

Being exposed to the ‘hate stare’ left him sad and angry. He grieved at how “my own people could give the hate stare, could shrivel men’s souls, could deprive humans of rights the unhesitatingly accord their livestock.”

Six weeks into his experiment, he had had enough. A fight almost erupted when blacks refused to give up their seats to a white woman on a bus. This sent Griffin hurrying to a “colored” restroom where he scrubbed his skin nearly raw until he could “pass” for white. That was the end of his journey.

Black Like Me was published in 1961; it was translated into 14 languages, made into a movie, and included in high school curriculums. Griffin became notorious throughout the South. He was targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and trailed by police. The Ku Klux Klan caught up with him once, when he had a flat tire on a southern road one night in 1964. They dragged him away from his car and beat him viciously before leaving him for dead. By the late 1960s the Civil Rights movement and rioting in Northern cities highlighted the scale of racial injustice. Many Americans at that time saw civil rights as simply a “Southern problem”, but Black Like Me strikingly illustrated that racism was widespread. In the preface Griffin wrote, “The real story is the universal story – one of men who destroy the souls of other men. It is the story of the persecuted, the defrauded, the feared and detested.”

When I read the book, I was shocked, dismayed, and horrified at the treatment Mr. Griffin described. How could people be so cruel to other people because their skin was not white? At thirteen, I was convinced that if people would just read the book they would change their behavior. How naïve I was. By the late sixties, American had not witnessed much improvement. The summer of 1968 was awful. After that summer I thought, again, that things had to get better.

Years passed, and there certainly were improvements. By the time Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, many people, myself included, believed racism was finally receding in this country. It didn’t take long to realize that the election of a black man to the highest office in the land just brought all that latent racism bubbling back up to the surface. When Trump was elected President, the racism and hatred started to spew out into the open again, like the old days.

Donald J. Trump has taken us back to our racist past. I am sorry to admit it, but many of the racists never stopped. They just kept quiet. But now, with a President who seems to support white supremacy many have become more vocal. It is frightening to behold.

Like many others I was absolutely dumbfounded at the photo op that the President and his henchmen created a few short weeks ago. This spectacle was created by law enforcement in full military regalia pepper-spraying and firing rubber bullets at peaceful protesters, while also hitting them with batons and shields to clear the path for dear leader and his entourage. And then, there he was, stone-faced, holding a Bible and looking like he had never before touched one in his life. What a ludicrous and pathetic display.

But after that cluster-fuck moment, maybe, just maybe, things are starting to change. Thousands, and more likely, millions of protesters in every state in our great country, in big cities and small towns, are showing up and marching day after day, night after night, and week after week. Before our eyes, they are transforming themselves into a movement that is not going away, even in the face of Covid-19 and some police determined to thwart them in any way possible.

Black Lives Matter has become a movement that cannot, and will not, be ignored. We are seeing all kinds of faces in the crowds — young, old, Black, White, Latina, Asian, Native American. If you’re my age, you well remember the protest of the sixties – protests against the war in Vietnam, and the ones in support of the women’s and civil rights’ movements. Unbelievably, in 2020, here we are again.

I was thirteen years old when I first read Black Like Me. I vividly recall the impact it had on me, how horrified I was, and how certain I was that things would certainly change when people understood what was truly happening in America. Some things have changed. Today, there are no more ‘Whites Only’ signs displayed in store windows. But the racism is still with us.

I cannot change the world. But I will keep donating to the ACLU and similar causes. I will also continue to write and speak out on social media and to people I know. I didn’t create the situations that we as a society are facing today, but I cannot sit back and ignore situations that clearly need to be addressed.

In 2020, the determination in the streets is a powerful force. I don’t think that I am the only one who believes that something bigger than we have seen in years is happening today. Donald J. Trump’s distasteful Bible walk was a turning point.

George Floyd, a victim of systemic racism, was buried in Houston two weeks ago. Rayshard Brooks, anoter victim, is being buried today. I know they won’t be the last victims, but I fervently hope they will be among the last. There is much work to be done. Bob Dylan’s song, written in long ago 1964, is just as timely today. John Kennedy said that the United States “will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.” The time is now. Things must change. America must move forward and include everyone in a more equal, just, and prosperous country. We the people demand it.

Civil liberties and public health: Liberty or life?

The balancing of liberty and security is difficult in times of crisis. In the last two months, the federal and state governments across the country have enacted policies in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Recently, some individuals have grown frustrated being forced to stay home. So, certain groups of people, funded by wealthy, ultra-right wing donors and encouraged by President Trump, began to push back against some of these measures, arguing they are unwarranted violations of basic rights.

In case it somehow slipped your mind, the point of the lockdown effort, in fact, the entire purpose was to buy time to flatten that curve so that our hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed all at once. And, equally as important, that was when the federal government was supposed to do its part during this time to ramp up testing and to stockpile equipment which would be needed in the weeks and months ahead.

Instead, our federal government did not do that or much of anything else either. According to most reports, in many areas we are still where we were weeks ago, when we knew stay-at-home orders were necessary because we wanted to avoid the hotspots we couldn’t contain because we didn’t have the tools for it. We…still…don’t. And with every passing week, the death and economic tolls are increasing.

Protesters maintain that our economy will collapse if we don’t reopen immediately. If our economy does collapse, it will be because Donald Trump’s government was too delusional and ignorant to react quickly, too pig-headed to provide actual relief. Republican senators have kept busy spewing out their usual bullshit: that paying people unemployment will render them useless and lazy. And let us not forget the cronyism that ensures that a business like Amtrak will survive, courtesy of the $1 billion dollar cash infusion pushed through by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (who happens to be the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), and honest-to-goodness small businesses will get little or nothing.

Our federal government is botching what needs to be done on all fronts, and rushing down the path toward reopening. Protesters are saying that unless we reopen immediately, businesses cannot survive. Of course, business failures are problems, but 85,000 plus Americans dead, with thousands more still to die are not simply problems. Businesses can be brought back to life. People cannot. It is as simple as that. Why is that so hard for so many to comprehend?

Did you really believe that the United States would have waltzed into the ‘happily-ever-after’ part by now? During your vocal and physically threatening insistences to be allowed to get your hair done and shop again, have you ever once thought of the more than 85,000 Americans already dead from Covid-19? Or, is it simply that if you don’t personally know someone who died, you just don’t give a shit?

If you thought that the lockdown would last a few weeks and then simply end and everything would be hunky-dory, exactly like it used to be, you were sadly misled. Yes, be angry that you are still locked down, but what about directing some of that anger where it belongs, with Donald Trump’s administration, which really is not interested in solving the virus problem or the economic catastrophe? Be angry, that despite weeks of this, there is no visible exit strategy. All Donald Trump cares about is being reelected, not about you, or me, or anyone not in his orbit.

By insisting on reopening before the country is ready, you and your fellow protesters are encouraging exponential growth of the virus, overwhelmed hospitals, and panic as one after another reopened salon, restaurant, and store become potential Covid-19 hotspots.

America is a strong and resilient country, but to believe that hundreds and thousands of employees and consumers getting sick and dying across the country will result in our economy soaring back to life is false. Is getting your hair done worth 100,000 lives, or 250,000, or more? If you were only endangering your own life, then okay, good luck to you. But you won’t just be endangering your life. Asymptomatic spread means that every protester stands a greater chance of killing someone else than of dying himself. It could be your children, or your parents, or your doctor… or even your hairdresser.

To me, the demands for unobstructed and immediate liberty during a national emergency like this are selfish and unpatriotic. The protesters bellowing about liberty are undoubtedly concerned about their jobs and businesses, but for some reason the caterwauling reminds me of a child shrieking: “You’re not the boss of me! You can’t tell me what to do!”

There are times when government must curtail individual freedoms to protect the public. Those measures must end once the threat passes, but, unfortunately, the time of Covid-19 has not passed.

Day 62

This is day 62 of Todd’s and my self-isolation, which we began on March 11. We started before the official “flatten the curve” order was put in place, just to protect ourselves. Prior to that date, we spent the month of February and the beginning of March getting ready for the coming pandemic by stocking up with groceries, first aid items, and other supplies. We were fine for about six weeks, but of course, eventually we needed to restock.

We’ve made online purchases for years (we’re not that old), but I had never purchased groceries online. We’ve tried both Walmart and Kroger, and though neither is perfect, they have been perfectly fine alternatives to going out and shopping for ourselves. We figure the virus cannot get us if we’re safely tucked here alone on our property, either inside the house or outside on our 5 acres.

Every morning I wake up, grateful to be alive and still healthy, and head to the kitchen to make our first pot of coffee for the day. Then I check the online news, knowing that the sky is still falling and there will be no miracle disappearance of COVID-19. I try to limit the time I spend online reading the news or watching it on TV, because as much as I want stay informed, it is so goddamn depressing. For the first several weeks, one of the next things I did every morning was to text my kids to check on them and their families. But the last couple of weeks, I have lightened up on that. Now I try to limit my texts to about three times a week.

Most of the time, when I’m in a highly emotional state, I am a prolific writer. If I am truly worked up about something, my creative juices flow and words seem to spill out. During those periods of emotional inspiration my sentences rapidly and even sometimes effortlessly turn into paragraphs and then pages, and it all makes sense. Earlier in this pandemic, I wrote a few posts for my blog and was happy with the results. But now, though I am still pretty damn worked up, my anxiety overload has hampered my literary juices from flowing. Part of the reason I am writing this post is to try to find some way to get the words flowing again.

In the meantime, stay safe and continue to stay home if you can.

Dear Facebook Friend,

That’s a lot of Republican bullshit, even for you!

How’s that for an opening line, Facebook Friend? Caught your attention, didn’t it? Now, replace one word in that opening line. That was the comment you wrote about an opinion I posted to social media a few weeks ago. In my post, I called attention to a piddling few of the thousands of proven lies number 45 has told us. The specific lies I referred to concerned the President’s handling of Covid-19. I remember some of the disparaging remarks you have made over the years about people who do not share your conservative views. But your angry retort to my post puzzled me. I asked myself, how can you, or anyone, continue to support this horrendous president?

I wondered that a month ago, and I still wonder. Recently, Facebook Friend, you shared a post written by a right-wing Evangelical. Her son was a Navy Seal who was killed in the service of our country, which is certainly sad, but some might say that the woman and her family have been using the tragedy of their son’s death to elevate support of Trump’s presidency. In her post, she compares Donald Trump to a fireman. She writes that she wouldn’t complain if the fireman carrying her out of a burning building dropped an F-bomb. She would just be glad she was saved. She says she doesn’t have to like what Trump says or does. In her post, she describes him as a “salty sailor”, and states that he is trying to rebuild our country.

Oh, my goodness, Facebook Friend, post writer, and right wing conservatives everywhere — you cannot really believe that! How can you not realize that he does not care a whit about our nation? Donald J. Trump’s sole goal is to fill his own coffers, and those of his billionaire buddies. He is not trying to rebuild anything, but instead is seeking to completely dismantle our federal government. The writer finishes her nauseating post by writing that she doesn’t care if Donald Trump is even a Christian. Why, I wondered? The reason, she says, is because Trump is doing God’s work. How in the world could anyone actually buy that nonsense? Do you really buy that, Facebook Friend? I guess you do, or you would not have re-posted it.

Facebook Friend, after I read that post, I briefly contemplated responding by throwing your words right back at you. I mean, that really is a lot of Republican bullshit, even for you, my Facebook Friend. But I didn’t because I thought: What would be the point? You and the other 42% of his base cannot give any kind of reasonable explanation why you still support this man. Can you? And I don’t mean silly comparisons to Trump as some sort of crusty, but charming “salty sailor”. I mean an explanation that makes sense.

So I keep wondering: Is there anything that will shake his base, that 42% that seems to love, or at least tolerate him, no matter what? Is there any limit to how much you personally will tolerate, Facebook Friend? Were you one of that 42% who hated President Obama because he’s black, educated, and intelligent? Or was it because he believes that a woman should have the right to decide what is best for her own body? We both know Republicans can’t have that. Or was it just because he is not a conservative, but…. (Gasp! Clasp right hand to chest and left hand to beaded brow!) a LIBERAL?

I know you don’t care for liberals, Facebook Friend. You have made that crystal clear. As I recall, you, as a true conservative Republican, are not fond of government regulations. At one point, early in Trump’s presidency, you commented on social media about disliking the EPA rules. When Trump made clear he would remove regulations the Obama administration and EPA had put in place to protect our nation’s wetlands, you were happy. I assume that you are not concerned at all what the loosening of those rules means for wetlands not only on your farm, but throughout Ohio and the rest of the country.

I know you also hate liberal policies of giving anyone a helping hand, for any reason. You don’t seem to have a very high opinion of poor people in general. It’s their own fault they are poor, correct? If they had any pride, they would get better jobs and lift themselves up. They have all had the same opportunities you have had, haven’t they? They all had the opportunity to attend college out of state, just like you did. Excuse my curiosity, but I keep wondering whether you have received any price supports from the federal government for your farm over the years. But no, you certainly would never accept anything like that, would you, Facebook Friend? You hate government handouts. And tell me, Facebook Friend, will you return your stimulus check when you receive it? Or do you only object to handouts to others?

Though I don’t know about you, Facebook Friend, I have come to the opinion that by now much of that 42% really does understand their dreadful mistake in voting for Donald Trump. I don’t think most of that base understood their mistake at first. And again, I don’t know about you, but many of them didn’t like Trump’s mouth or his habits or lots of other things, but you know … their stock portfolios were pretty darn good, and they did want to go on that cruise next spring, or they just bought a new house or an RV, or…. Of course there was always the satisfying knowledge that they were doing so well economically, and the best part, they figured, was that they owned the liberals. At least, they thought they did.

But I believe now that whether they admit it or not, many of that 42% understand they were terribly wrong when they voted for this pathetic, morally bankrupt excuse of a man. I also think for most of that base the worst part is this: They just HATE it that the LIBS were right! He is just as awful, and maybe even worse, than any of them even dreamed. But that base will never admit it will they, Facebook Friend? Will they? Will you?

Hiding from the monsters

When I was very young, my brother used to insist that a monster lurked under my bed, waiting patiently for his chance to grab me by the ankle if I ever happened to venture out of bed at night. Consequently, I always tried to make sure I stayed tucked tightly under my covers all night. No monster was going to get me. And once I figured out that there was no such a thing as monsters, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

But as it turned out, monsters do exist. Today, a monster is stoking fear in millions of us. This invisible monster isn’t under the bed, but it has kept us in hiding from work, school, family, and friends for several weeks now. Here in Ohio and in all but nine other states, we’ve been encouraged to stay home to ‘flatten the curve’. There is reason to believe that this effort is working. But even if we are successful, it will still be weeks or months before we can feel any confidence that our lives can start to return to normal.

Right now, COVID-19 is growing exponentially. It isn’t going away by Easter, or anytime soon. This monster waits as patiently as any under-the-bed monster ever has. It only needs a second for a germy hand to absentmindedly rub an eye, scratch a phantom tickle under a nose, or smother a yawn. Then it enters though our mucous membranes, and we can begin to spread it to others without even being aware of doing so.

And now we have a White House that is not ruled by experts of any kind, least of all scientific ones. At the beginning of all this, Donald Trump denied the problem. Then he blamed the media and Democrats. Next, he said there was only one patient in this country; a few days later he admitted there could be five. He advised Americans to go on cruises, and compared COVID-19 to the flu. Then he said it would all be over by April, which obviously is not true. And it never had a chance of being true because the President refused to act quickly and responsibly.

When the President finally began to come around to the idea that he wasn’t going to be able to talk his way out of the pandemic, he did bring in a few experts. We all feel fortunate to have Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, but the President only seems to listen to them when he feels like it, which is not often. Then, after he has publicly agreed with one of their assessments, by the next day, or sometimes during the same press conference, he changes course and disagrees again.

If COVID-19 is the monster that is no longer hiding under the bed, then Donald Trump, his administration, the Republican Congressmen, and those nine Republican Governors who refuse to issue stay-at-home orders and continue to declare their fealty to him are the monsters in front of us. They all seem to have made a disturbingly easy peace with hundreds or even thousands of deaths here in America. They all drone on about not wishing to step on individual freedoms and their fervent distrust of big government, but the only thing they really care about is the economy. Everyone else is expendable.

COVID-19 was always going to take lives. But this Republican administration’s failure to act means the scale of America’s disaster is going to be much greater than it should have been. Trump and his minions made choices that gambled with the lives of Americans and their families. They treated us, and treat us all still, as disposable.

The world is at war with this virus. But the President for some unfathomable reason keeps refusing to get the necessary protective equipment to our health care professionals who so desperately need it. He keeps spouting unproven, possibly dangerous alternative theories for cures, things he “has a feeling about.” He touts these during his now-daily COVID-19 press briefings, which he emcees like some sort of political pep rally/popularity contest.

Imagine if the United States’ government sent soldiers into war without proper equipment; for example, if helmets were only distributed to every third soldier, or bullets were rationed to the platoons whose commanders were most accomplished at kissing the supreme leader’s butt. Would that be acceptable to everyone… to anyone?

There will come a time when we can quit hiding. But for now, we’re all going to have to keep hiding from the monsters: the virus that has escaped and the ones in the current Republican party and administration. We desperately need science and community cooperation to defeat the monsters we’re hiding from. So many lives are on the line; if only we had a President and an administration that respected academics and listened to science.

These are the times…

In December of 1776, Thomas Paine wrote in American Crisis, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Truer words have not been written. One of the central tensions of American life today seems to be the conflict between freedom and community, between individual will and the public good. Invisible and silent, the Covid-19 virus is forcing us to consider that conflict and what is really important in our lives. Infections and illness from Covid-19 are expanding exponentially, with no apparent end in sight. An unsettling uneasiness has settled over all of us. Are we carriers? Could we have accidentally exposed family, friends, or co-workers to the virus? Will we be infected? And if we are infected, will we die? We are living in a moment of devastating uncertainty. We have been told to practice ‘social distancing’ as a way to slow the spread of the contagion. In less than two weeks, most of us have become acquainted with ‘social distancing’. To me, it’s nothing short of remarkable that this catch-phrase has entered our vocabulary so quickly. I guess there’s nothing like a good pandemic to imprint something vital on our collective psyche.

We have become so accustomed to the idea of constantly interacting with each other that the sudden lack of that interaction is jarring. I think some people feel more than a little lost. Hopefully most of us will find ways to cope… maybe with humor, yoga, meditation, or simply picking up the phone to speak with people we care about.

Hopefully we are all becoming more aware of the chasms between the haves and the have-nots, and I am not talking about the chasm between the one-percenters and the rest of us. The have-nots I am referring to are now forced to play a daily game of Russian roulette because they still have to go to work. Retired people like me can post endlessly on Facebook about the importance of staying home in our attempt to ‘flatten the curve’. Those who have been forced to work remotely can take to Twitter to wax on and on about the value of such work. But don’t forget that our society, and the comfort it provides, particularly in these trying times, only exists because of the people I am referring to as have-nots, those who work because they do not have the luxury of staying home or working from it. If they don’t work they won’t get paid, and if they don’t get paid, they can’t feed their children or pay the rent.

How sad that it takes towns and cities emptied by a pandemic to make those that we usually don’t appreciate visible. They are the people who keep our pharmacies and groceries open, the mailmen and women, the ones who clean the buildings to protect the rest of us from the virus. They don’t have cushy office jobs. Many of them do not even work full-time. Many have more than one part-time job… with no benefits, of course. Though we probably wouldn’t think of them as have-nots at any other time, today they are also the nurses and doctors fighting to keep people alive. All these people are integral parts of this game of life, the one that has overwhelmed us all in the past days and weeks.

We’re obviously grateful to them, but gratitude only goes so far. Will we do anything for them? What are we going to do to help those who cannot take the time off to stay home? Any intelligent person can see that a $600 or $1200 check from the government is nothing more than a cheap trick to win votes. It doesn’t matter how long this pandemic lasts, whether it is weeks or months. Either way, our daily routines have changed drastically.

We are stumbling into the full turbulence of this pandemic. There is already confusion, isolation, pain, suffering, and death. But we can hope that this state of affairs will provoke honest self-reflection, an increased effort to listen to others’ concerns, and maybe even social transformation? Maybe pandemic hardship can bring on pandemic change. Trapped in this unsettled moment between our past and our future, perhaps we can all take time to reconnect and, to quote T. S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

March 17

Kolton doing his famous standing back flip

Today, St. Patrick’s Day, also happens to be my oldest grandson’s 17th birthday. The day he was born was windy and unusually warm, with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. By evening, when we got word that the baby had arrived, Todd and I gathered up 5 year old Mckinsey and headed to the hospital. At 9 pounds and 5 ounces, with a head full of the same thick and curly dark hair his Mom was born with, Kolton Riley was adorable (obviously!) and completely dwarfed all the other babies in the nursery. By the time we arrived, about an hour after his birth, he was on his stomach, lifting his head, pushing himself up to check out the world. I kid you not. He really did! I have never before, or since, heard of any other baby doing that so soon. Everybody visiting the hospital nursery wanted to see that baby and the Mom who birthed him without benefit of any drugs.

Seventeen years ago, our nation was three days away from entering a war with Iraq. Today our nation is facing a completely different type of war. And though we will not have any injuries or deaths on traditional battlegrounds in this war, we will lose people in our struggle. Last I read this morning, 85 people in this country have succumbed to this Covid-19, and I fear there will be many more.

Like nearly everyone I know, we are watching the news and waiting for whatever it is that comes next. Fortunately, more people are beginning to heed words of caution. But there are still many who refuse to believe anything is wrong. My daily FB feed is filled with Republican friends who are furious at the measures being taken by Governor DeWine and other state governors, insisting either that the media is exaggerating, or that it is a Democratic hoax. But things are undeniably radically different, whether one wants to face the facts or not. To me, it feels like the period of time after JFK was assassinated, with so much uncertainty, and more questions than answers.

During my years as a school librarian, dystopian books like The Hunger Games were wildly popular. Girls in particular were enthralled with Katniss, who saved her sister and her people. I remember a number of teen and preteen girls who found the thought of a dystopian society wildly thrilling, which I never quite understood. I doubt it still holds that fascination in times like these. In the words of Jim Morrison, “The future is uncertain, and the end is always near.”

My grandson long ago lost his baby fat. He’s a slender six feet two inches, and he still has that thick, curly dark hair just like his Mom. He is a good-looking kid, if I do say so myself, but he is also smart, thoughtful, and kind. He always hugs me hello and goodbye, but I didn’t get my hug today because we figured it would be better not to go see him. Obviously, he doesn’t remember the day he was born, but I am sure he will remember this particular birthday. Happy birthday, Kolton. Enjoy your day. And I fervently hope that your next birthday and all the birthdays that follow will not be as full of fear and uncertainly as today or the day you were born.

Decades from now

Decades from now, the late winter and early spring of the year 2020 will be a period of time covered extensively in history books. The world’s, and more specifically, our nation’s reaction to the Covid-19 virus, which by then will have been exhaustively researched and discussed, will feature our President at his worst. History will remind people that the more than 14,000 documented lies that the President had told by then were nothing compared to his bungled, selfish reaction to Covid-19.

History will show that by mid-January, when the virus first showed up on the West Coast, the White House insisted that only the government would be allowed to supply testing kits. And then those kits were defective, so that the results were not reliable. It took several weeks before the WH Administration allowed any private companies develop their own kits. And the number of companies allowed to develop kits was restricted. Then, kits didn’t get sent out to where they needed to be. By Monday, the 8th of March in 2020, it had been weeks since the illness first broke out in a nursing home in Washington State, the one where 28 residents who had the virus died. During all that time, 65 employees of that same nursing home had symptoms, but tests were never delivered, though they had been requested for weeks. (On Tuesday, March 9, those tests were finally delivered to the nursing home.)

President Trump’s answer on Wednesday, March 11, was to read an emotionless speech from the teleprompter, misreading a few sections and therefore misspeaking about Administration plans. Those future history books will show him as the fraud many of us knew he was for decades. His goal was not to help people who were suffering, and the many more who would soon be suffering. His goal was to prop up the big banks and his friends, all those billionaire one per-centers.

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, 2020, (how appropriate!) the President declared the pandemic a National Emergency. He refused to take any responsibility for failure in testing and the federal government’s slow response to the crisis, and he assured the American public that tests will be coming within a MONTH! (There are theories that the President doesn’t want people to be tested because the numbers will be through the roof, and that would show the public how bad the virus really is.) Trump’s lack of leadership in this public health crisis will be defined by death and enormous economic fallout.

Everyday life in America changed this week. People who thought the whole thing was a ploy by the Democrats and/or the media began to pay attention Wednesday and Thursday when schools began to close and sports abruptly ended. Many are still pooh-poohing the whole idea of widespread catastrophic illness in America. But more people are paying attention as more and more doctors and scientists speak out. We are all worried about the people we love. In the past few days there has been much discussion about the importance of “flattening the curve”. After seeing that phrase a few times, we begin to realize that we, or someone we love, might be part of that curve. It’s sobering, and more than a bit scary.

I read this week that here in America we have 2.8 hospital beds for every one thousand people. How will hospitals cope if they are inundated will seriously ill people? That brings us back to that whole “flattening the curve” thing. Sadly, it could come to the point that decisions will be made in hospitals over who is well enough to be worth saving, and who to simply let die. I know that I am not the only one who fears that this whole situation could rapidly evolve into that type of Spanish Flu event. I think that even if our nation suffers nothing remotely close to that worst case scenario, it’s going to be bad.

So, while keeping a safe distance from other overwrought shoppers, stock up a bit. But don’t strip shelves. Get what you and your family need and save the rest for others. Stop hugging and shaking hands for awhile. Listen to science and distance yourself from others in the days and possibly weeks ahead. Maybe call your friends on the phone instead of going out to eat together.

Out of an abundance of caution, Todd and I have decided to self-isolate for awhile. We’re not ill or showing any symptoms of being ill. If you know us, you know that we are not exactly social butterflies. Party people we’re not. But we’re passing up on a couple of recent invitations because of all the uncertainty, and the fact that the virus is far more dangerous for those over 60; sixty is in the rear view mirror for both of us.

Remember the 80’s TV series, Hill Street Blues? In it, the character, Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, used to say at the end of roll call, “Hey! Let’s be careful out there.” I urge all of you to do the same. Good luck. I wish you and your families well.

When?

When Elizabeth Warren dropped out last Thursday, my first thought was to ask, again: When it will ever be the right time for a woman president? My second thought was that this could well mean I will never see a female president in my lifetime.

Elizabeth Warren is a fellow Baby Boomer. She is a little older, but we both grew up in a time when abortion was illegal and not that many girls went to college. I was the first girl in my family to attend college. If I mention that now, I get a look. You know the one. It’s the one that says: She really is old.

I’ve seen that look, and the accompanying scorn that was often voiced when Elizabeth Warren’s name was mentioned. And then I would hear the person say, “I just don’t care for her.” If asked why, the response was vague. Sometimes, the person simply parroted Trump’s preferred mockery, referring derisively to her as ‘Pocahontas’. If pressed about Warren’s policies, that person had no comment, likely because he/she had no clue what they were. However, more than one person offered: “Her voice is so shrill.”

Really, that’s the reason you don’t like her??

Baby Boomer women thought they could make big changes. And…don’t get me wrong… many of them have. But my fellow women Baby Boomers and I told our daughters and granddaughters they could do anything. They believed us. And many of our daughters and granddaughters have done lots of wonderful things. But the depressing reality is that not one of them has become President.

In my opinion, Elizabeth Warren was the smartest and most competent of the entire field of all twenty-three candidates. I think she had the best understanding of what our economy and our country need, from her research and her own life. She knows how to get things done. She proved this by dreaming up a federal agency to protect consumers from financial abuses. The she got it enacted, and set it up. She had plans, lots of them.

But, we will not have a female President in 2020. Having adjusted my expectations yet again, now my hope is that Joe will select a woman to share the ticket with him. And then, maybe in a few more years….

In the meantime, P L E A S E… Vote BLUE!!!