The Insanity of Duck and Cover

“In the event of an attack, put a mattress over your front door.”

As I mentioned in my last post, Active Shooter Drills: The New Duck and Cover, children were told to do some very insane things during the duck and cover era. I’m sure a lot of these adults meant well, but the science behind nuclear fallout was poorly understood by much of the general population, and they were in such a panic that they came to some very strange conclusions. Those duck and cover drills were created by people with the best of intentions. But what they turned into were general panic-fests, studies in misinformation , and psychologically damaging safety theater.

There’s actually something to the duck and cover concept. You can survive a nuclear bomb if it’s low-yield, and doesn’t detonate within 10 miles of where you are ducking and covering. It really is worth it to be able to plot out a blast radius.

What follows are some of the insane policies enacted by politicians, teaching professionals, and just about anyone old enough not to be restricted to the kiddie rides at the county fair. These people should have known better. With the tiniest bit of scientific curiosity, any responsible person wouldn’t have subjected children to any of these things.

  • One school actually had the children tattoo their blood type in case they needed transfusions.
  • Many others had kids wearing dog tags that included their name, address, DOB, and blood type. Some made those children put those dog tags in their mouths during drills, and children quickly realized that that was so people would be able to identify their bodies.
  • One parent told their child not to eat freshly fallen snow because it could have fallout from nuclear bomb tests.
  • Many households stashed supplies despite having no bomb shelters.
  • Kids were taught that when they heard the air raid sirens, they should run home as fast as they could.
  • Some were instructed to put a mattress over the front door at home in the event of an attack.
  • One woman noted that her town’s only nuclear fallout shelter was in the basement of the local Sears store, but it was common knowledge that most people wouldn’t make it there in time, and if they did, they wouldn’t all fit.
  • And let’s not forget the fact that many of these shelters had no plumbing whatsoever.
  • But in the event that there was a functioning toilet nearby, children were told that a toilet tank was a safe source of drinking water, but they weren’t told what to do when that ran out.
  • And no one questioned these bomb shelters’ air intakes. Were they all filtered? How?
  • I once did a blog post entitled Seattle’s Weird Cold War Relic which will tell you all you need to know about this country’s lack of comprehension and extreme irrationality regarding the big picture of nuclear war.

In Jacksonville, my old stomping grounds, children were instructed to bring backpacks to school that contained canned fruit and vegetables, a bleach bottle filled with water, hard candy, and sugar cubes. These packs were left in the cloakroom. During drills, the children would take these backpacks and walk 3 blocks down to railroad tracks. In an emergency, they were told that a train would come and whisk them to safety. The children took these drills as an opportunity to share the hard candy. Some of them wondered where these trains were waiting, and/or how they would ever find their parents again if they were loaded onto a train.

Meanwhile, at a school in Seattle, children were lined up along the perimeter of the school grounds, facing outward, and were told that in the event of an actual attack, school busses would come and take them to safety. One woman found that to be very creepy, just as I would have. She vowed to never get on that bus. She had an escape route plotted out. (And to her I say, “Come sit by me.”)

In one district, parents were asked to write a letter to their kids in case of disaster. Many of these letters said something along the lines of, “Goodbye, I love you. Here’s the phone numbers of distant relatives, just in case.” When the children changed schools, the parents got the unopened letters back and they were asked to pass them along to the next school, or provide a new letter for their now older child. Those letters must have been horrible to have to write.

One school decided to conduct an experiment. All the students were to run home as fast as they could. Ready, set, go! They were timed in their efforts to see if it was feasible to do that in the event of an attack. Nope. Since they were all good kids, they obediently returned to school after that failed endeavor.

Many teachers made it clear that these duck and cover drills were an exercise in futility, which added to the anxiety, while other teachers totally freaked out, leaving children to conclude that adults were crazy and no one was in charge. One teacher, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, burst into tears and told the marching band, who had been practicing on the football field, that he was proud of them and didn’t know if they’d get to perform their show or not. He then walked inside, leaving them standing on the field.

Another girl’s first grade teacher marched her class outside to the water side of the New Orleans levees, and then she told them that in the event of a real nuclear attack, the kids should run there and cover themselves in “at least” 6 inches of mud. (And breathe how, exactly? And how long were they supposed to stay buried like that? Weeks?)

A few Catholic school stories were told. (Those are always fun.) One class was supposed to pray during the drills but giggled instead. They were told that prayers would keep the nukes away. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, one school had 800 kids in parking lots chanting the Rosary for an hour. Later, a nun said they had saved the world because God had heard them. In another school, the children were asked if the communist came, would you renounce your faith and live, or never renounce it and be killed? One six-year-old girl said she would renounce and live. For that she was beaten until she could barely stand.

This was a time when children were often reciting the pledge of allegiance in a building that had been designated to be a nuclear fallout shelter. In some cases, the basements beneath their feet were full of civil defense crackers. What a strange world to grow up in.

Some teachers made a point of telling students that the Soviets and the Chinese and the Cubans lied to their people about America, and the only way to save ourselves from these evil people was to duck and cover, because they could drop the bomb any second. Meanwhile, one woman who grew up in Eastern Europe said she and her fellow students were being told the same thing about the United States.

It is interesting to note that children who went to Department of Defense (DOD) schools often report that they were never subjected to duck and cover drills. Was that because the parents who worked there had already drank the Kool-Aid, so no further fear mongering was required, or was it because they already knew enough to realize these drills were futile? There’s no real way to know, now.

If you’d like to experience some of the cold war propaganda firsthand, check out the following:

Duck And Cover (1951) Bert The Turtle This is the ultimate indoctrination movie that most children were forced to watch. (I tried to pretend that I was watching this at age 7, and I still have a knot in my stomach because of it. One woman told me that she came home and told her mother a confusing story about turtles and ducks in covers afterward.)

Fallout: When And How To Protect Yourself (1959) While watching this one, I was struck by its naivete. Sure, you can go out for brief periods. Just wear a raincoat and rubber boots.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Films HD Movies like this one were sometimes shown as a sort of cautionary “this could happen to you” tale in the 1950’s and 60’s. Its focus seems to have been the impact on the buildings. Human beings are only mentioned twice, as a mere afterthought. I’m sure that when this movie was shown to children, the fact that America is the only country to have ever used nuclear bombs in combat, and that those bombs were deployed over civilian cities, was conveniently ignored.

These children were quite often shown the footage of the nuclear tests that we conducted on Bikini Atoll from 1946 to 1958 as well. I’m quite sure that most of us have seen at least one of those, if only in the form of a still photograph.

One woman remembered being shown a film about how to deal with a body should someone die in your bomb shelter. It said to wrap the body in plastic, open the door, put the body outside, and quickly shut the door again. She was 12 years old when she saw that. I looked high and low for that film. I think she is referring to the British Protect and Survive films that were made between 1974 and 1980, which were classified by the government and only intended for release in the event of dire emergency, but they were leaked to the public.

Now anyone can watch these public information films on Youtube here. (The one that deals with body disposal is about a minute and a half long, and appears around minute 57 of this compilation.)

Even more troublesome, there was a movie that came out in 1984 called Threads. It is based on information from the Protect and Survive films, and is considered by many to be the most terrifying film ever made. I hope no child ever sees that. It’s available on many streaming platforms. I see that I can see it on Amazon Prime. Now I just have to work up the courage to do so. If I ever do, I’ll be sure to give you a full report.

In my next blog post, I’ll be writing about the impact of these duck and cover drills, and how they still influence our culture to this day.

Special thanks to the women of the Facebook Group Crones of Anarchy!, for revealing so much about their duck and cover experiences. I’ve learned so much from all of you, and I hope my blog posts do the subject justice.

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Active Shooter Drills: The New Duck and Cover

When these drills are conducted, the kindergarteners are just terrified.

Here’s everything you need to know about our warped American gun culture: When looking up statistics for the number of mass shootings in this country, I was actually relieved to discover that, according to this report in Statista, since 1982, these atrocities have only occurred in 38 states (plus Washington DC). We’re still horrified by these events, but we’re also becoming habituated to them.

Of course, Statista goes on to clarify that they’re only counting those shootings that were reported. They also note that, “since 2013, the source defines a mass shooting as any single attack in a public place with three or more fatalities, in line with the definition by the FBI. Before 2013, a mass shooting was defined as any single attack in a public place with four or more fatalities.” So the numbers are probably a bit low. Great.

They also point out that, of the 137 incidents considered, 13 of the worst mass shootings in the United States have occurred since 2015. The vast majority of the shooters in these incidents were white males, and since 2000, police have intercepted 351 active shooter incidents in the U.S. Until we call these events what they are, domestic terrorism, they’ll never be taken seriously by this government. But this government is hesitant to call white males terrorists. Or rapists. Or anything else, for that matter.

When I was in public school in the late 70’s, early 80’s, one time, one time, someone brought a knife into a classroom. It was a huge scandal. The kid didn’t even use it, and he wasn’t even in any of my classes, but it took me months to feel safe again after that. It just didn’t occur to anyone at the time to bring weapons onto school grounds. Well, except for that kid. He’s probably the CEO of some major corporation now.

Little did I know that those were the salad days of public education. I fell in the sweet spot between duck and cover and active shooter drills. I was never made to crawl under my desk in anticipation of nuclear annihilation or bloody death. Not once.

Nowadays, kids are subjected to those active shooter drills along with their totally whitewashed and historically inaccurate lessons. I often wonder how that is fundamentally changing this generation’s perspective. It’s sad to contemplate. My research on the topic broadened my worldview to the extent that it is resulting in three posts, of which this is the first.

According to this article, as of 2017, 95 percent of all public schools conduct active shooter drills. They can be as mild as just going through the motions of turning off lights and locking doors to the extreme of playing gunshot sounds over the loudspeakers while actors dressed as gunmen roam the halls. I don’t know about you, but that extreme end would seriously freak me out, and I’m 57. I can’t imagine how a 7-year-old would handle it. A kindergarten teacher told me recently that when these drills are conducted, she tries to keep the students calm, but they’re just terrified.

The article goes on to describe a study that was conducted by Georgia Tech regarding active shooter drills. Just by comparing the social media texts of community members from 90 days before a drill to 90 days after, they concluded that there is a 42 percent spike in anxiety and a 39 percent increase in depression for months afterward, and not just in the students. The teachers and parents were similarly impacted.

Frankly, I’m of the opinion that drills, as we Americans conduct them, don’t actually prepare you for any catastrophic event. They don’t empower you. Our drills teach fear and panic. When the stuff hits the fan, if you’ve been living in a state of constant, low-grade fear as politicians make us do, all bets are off. You get primal. And quite often you make poor decisions. Now, throw hundreds of small children into that mix, and you have chaos. I’ll be offering suggestions as to how to improve these drills in my third post.

But these drills, in their current format and cultural context, are nothing other than safety theater. They allow bureaucrats to give the impression that they’re doing something, when, if they really wanted to do something, they’d be advocating against weaponry, beefing up security, and insisting upon more mental health professionals on staff. Instead, we want to look like we’re doing something, so we do something. Not the right thing. Not the reasonable thing. Not the thing that makes an actual difference. But, hey, we are doing something.

While wondering about the psychological effects of active shooter drills, I began to think about the duck and cover drills that, thank God, had just stopped being commonplace a year or two before I went to school. I really feel sorry for those who had to experience them. I probably would have been that child who said, “Why do you think our desk will protect us from a bomb? How stupid is that?” And then I would have done what I was told, because I may have had a big mouth, but I was still a good kid.

I happen to be a member of a Facebook group that is mostly comprised of women from the duck and cover era, so I decided, out of curiosity, to ask them what their experience was like. I did this a about a year ago. I don’t know why it took me so long to write this blog post. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of insight I would gain from these women. (I had good intentions of getting this done. I lugged about 150 printed out pages of their comments back and forth to work for months. My backpack is so heavy that it triggers my car to insist on a passenger side seat belt, such is the weight of my unfinished projects.)

My post to that group said the following: “I am just young enough to have missed those cold war bomb drills that children used to have to do. You know. Duck and cover, because your desk will save you. (Sheesh.) I was wondering how many of you remember doing that. What did you think as a child? Do you think it changed the way you view the world? Was there common knowledge that these drills were an insane waste of time back then, or was there a general buy-in of this concept?

Those questions must have hit a nerve, because I got 400 replies. I wasn’t expecting that. No two people are the same, so naturally there were a variety of ways that these kids processed the duck and cover experience.

I’d say that about 55 percent were either bored silly by these drills, thinking of it as a nice break from math class, and/or too clued in to think that duck and cover would do any good at all. At the other end of the spectrum, about 30 percent were seriously freaked out by the process. (I’m quite sure I would have been in this group, even if I had been clued in.) The rest seemed to have been confused by it all, and since the adults around them weren’t telling them anything rational or understandable or true, they didn’t know what to think. That’s a really unpleasant state for a child to be in.

The 50’s and 60’s were a high stakes time to be a kid in America. Most of that generation had no expectations of living to adulthood. During the cold war, the brinkmanship displayed made them feel like the inmates were running the asylum. And when they heard about Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the table, the kind of thing that really gets a child’s attention, that provided them with all the confirmation they needed that the adults in charge were crazy. (The shoe incident made such an impression on me, a decade after the fact, that to this day I could swear I’d seen footage of it, but no such footage exists. Isn’t that strange?)

That generation’s anxiety reached its peak during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many of children concluded that the Russians hated them personally and wanted to kill them, but they didn’t understand why. They came by their reactions honestly. Here is some of the propaganda of the era that they were treated to every single day:

These kids also bore witness to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and both Kennedys. And, lest we forget, many of these children were growing up in the south and dealing with the KKK, segregation, and an utter lack of human rights as well, so they felt more anxiety from terrorists within the country than they did from communists a half a world away.

What follows are several points that the amazing women in my Facebook group proffered for your consideration. I’ll paraphrase the comments and avoid specifics so that I don’t have to track people down to get permission to quote them. (Sorry, ladies.)

Duck and Cover Drills came in a variety of forms. As the name implies, many students had to crawl under their desks with their hands protecting their necks and/or the backs of their heads. Others were ushered into hallways to hunker down in rows, facing the walls or the banks of lockers. Some went down into the creepy, dirty basements of their schools. One woman reported that her class had to walk single file, with the teacher at the head, and she’d drop them off at their houses, one by one by one. (I’m assuming this was a small town.) Not only was that hard on the teacher, but it must have been creepy for the last group of children on the route, thinking about radiation raining down upon them with every step they took. Location, location, location, as the saying goes.

There seemed to be a wide range of communication or lack thereof, about these drills. Some kids were told entirely too much, in my opinion. Small children should not be shown videos of mushroom clouds and disintegrating buildings and melting bodies. Eight-year-olds shouldn’t memorize all the signs and symptoms of radiation poisoning or be instructed on the best ways to build and stock bomb shelters. All that should be the realm of adults.

On the other end of the spectrum, a lot of children were not told anything at all, and were left to draw their own, sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying conclusions, including the following:

  • “Fallout” meant things falling from the ceiling, and therefore climbing under their desks made perfect sense.
  • The Russians would come and take them from their parents and/or they’d never see their families again.
  • Bombs must not be much of a threat if the solution was to hide under a desk.
  • Every plane that flew over had the potential to kill them.
  • I don’t want to die crouching in a hallway.
  • While we do these drills in school, are the adults doing the same thing in the bomb shelters?
  • My parents will be blindsided unless they keep the radio on.
  • These floors are really dirty.
  • The boys are trying to look up my skirt.
  • At least we don’t have to freeze outside like we do for fire drills.
  • How will I find my family?
  • Walking home was scary, because if a plane flew over you didn’t have your desk to save you.
  • Some were scared for their parents because they didn’t have a teacher to keep them safe like the kids did.
  • The Communists or some vague enemy would break in any minute, and that would be the end.
  • They only practiced these drills at school, so school seemed dangerous.
  • One girl, whose school had them pressing their noses against a wall, thought that the paint must be strong if it could save her from the bomb.

Some children comforted themselves with the belief that nothing bad was going to ever happen to them because they lived in America and that was the safest, smartest, strongest place in the world. Others thought that since Russia beat us into space, they must be more militarily advanced. Those were likely the same children who went home and tried to build bomb shelters out of cardboard boxes in their back yards or basements. One brilliant girl even surrounded hers with lead pencils, because she had heard that lead would protect her.

In hindsight, many women were grateful for the honesty some adults were willing to provide. Some kids were told how painful their deaths might be, and actually found comfort in the idea that they were at ground zero and would die instantly. Photographs from Hiroshima made it clear that immediate death would be preferable. One woman remembers being grateful for just being sent home to be with her family during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At least that was honest.

And I found this quite interesting. It seems that nearly everyone was told that their location was a prime target. They lived near military bases. They lived near factories or power plants or big cities like Washington DC, New York, or Chicago. They lived near a transportation hub. In the heartland, the communists would target their farms to starve the country. And everyone in Florida, to this very day, knows that Cuba is only 90 miles away.

Everyone seemed to believe that they would be the first to go. No one stopped to think that Russia couldn’t bomb everywhere at once. If they could, there would be nothing left of this planet.

No matter what they thought, these kids did these drills because that’s what they were told to do. Unfortunately, they were told to do some very insane things. I’ll discuss that in my next post, The Insanity of Duck and Cover.

Special thanks to the women of the Facebook Group Crones of Anarchy!, for revealing so much about their duck and cover experiences. You guys are awesome!

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Quagmire’s Quarterly Review

“Your utter disregard for regular office hours has been a point of concern.”

Thank you, Quagmire, for coming in today. Several matters have come up which we feel the need to discuss with you, yet again, during your quarterly review. Please be advised that this review will be a permanent part of your personnel record.

We will address each bullet point individually, and if you have any questions, please let us know so that we can provide clarification.

First, there’s the issue of dress code violations. This company only allows Hawaiian shirts to be worn on casual Fridays, and yet you seem to wear them every day of the week. While we do agree that you look quite handsome in these shirts, we feel that formal attire would be more appropriate for our head of security. A suit and tie might go a long way toward avoiding those hostile encounters that you seem to have with the mailman on a regular basis. And, for the love of God, you simply have to start wearing trousers. Remember, you are the public face of this company. Please dress accordingly.

Next, despite the fact that your resume specifically states that you have a business degree, and that you graduated with honors, there seem to be several distressing… shall we say… gaps in your general business knowledge.

It has come to our attention that you believe that you are paid by the bark. In this, you are sadly mistaken. Like all of us, you are in a salaried position, and it’s a quite generous salary, given your productivity. While enthusiasm is usually appreciated, we have received several complaints about the fervor with which you greet visitors to our establishment. It is alleged that several potential business partners have felt the need to run for their lives, and are refusing to set foot on our property again. I hope you can agree that this is not an effective business model if we wish to maximize our profitability.

Your utter disregard for regular office hours has also been a point of concern. Per company policy, you are allowed two 15 minute breaks during your shift, and yet you’ve been found snoring in some very unusual places, for hours on end. This sets a bad example for the rest of the staff. We understand that you still manage to put the hours in, and we appreciate that, but yours is not a flex schedule. We need to be able to count on you.

Yes, we agree that you’ve been quite effective at deterring thieves in the early hours of the morning. However, it is difficult to prove the genuine motivations of a racoon or a rabbit, and since charges rarely seem to stick in those instances, we feel that your talents might be applied in more effective ways. The graveyard shift, in particular, would greatly appreciate it if you would cease all covert operations in the wee hours, as it tends to interfere with their ability to have a good… work routine.

And speaking of wee, we have been informed that you still insist on marking your territory even though that territory should have been well established during your probationary period. The janitorial staff is becoming extremely frustrated with your behavior, and they have threatened to report the company to OSHA, because they feel that you are creating a hazmat situation.

If your behavior does not improve post haste, we have been told to provide you with adequate references so you can seek other employment. Do you have any questions?

Please, sir, try to maintain some level of dignity. It’s not as if you haven’t been told all of this before.

Awww. Don’t look at me like that. You’re just so cute. Tell you what. Take the day off. Maybe go to a spa and relax. Get pampered.

Then, think long and hard about your particular skill sets.

We’ll revisit this on Monday to see if we can come to a consensus as to whether or not you’re a good fit for this organization. If, upon reflection, you feel that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, we’ll discuss opportunities for retraining and remind you about the Employee Assistance Program’s many benefits. Give my best to your family! Have a good day!

Do you like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Bridge Woman

Everyone deserves a place where they feel safe.

As you prepare to eat a nice warm meal on this Thanksgiving day (provided you’re are able to overlook the disturbing colonial overtones of this holiday), and whether you’re spending the day with family or friends or all alone, I hope that you remember to count your blessings, dear reader. I know I’m making a lot of assumptions about your circumstances, but the fact that you have access to the internet tells me that, like me, you’re a lot better off than many people are.

I’d like to tell you about someone who doesn’t have it as good as we do. As I write this, she’s sorting through garbage in a ditch, not 20 yards from where I sit. Perspective.

Here at work, I spend a great deal of time watching the comings and goings of the people who cross my drawbridge. After doing this for a while, I began to spot patterns. I’ve learned people’s routines. I’ve created backstories about them in my head, which, admittedly, are quite likely inaccurate, but it helps me feel a certain kinship with these people, even though they probably don’t even know I exist.

In the past month or so, I’ve been seeing quite a bit of someone that I’ll call “Bridge Woman”. I considered calling her “Drainage Ditch Woman”, but that seems undignified.  And she needs all the dignity she can get.

I suspect that this woman is mentally ill and/or homeless. She spends hours on the bridge approaches, sitting on the curb that separates the sidewalk from the bike lane. She is completely engrossed in the detritus that flows down the drainage ditch. It’s as if she is panning for gold. She doesn’t even look up when someone goes past.

She sorts through the gunk, sifting out little bits of God-knows-what, and puts those things in what she deems to be their proper place. Some things are placed on the sidewalk, some on the curb, and apparently some things don’t pass muster and are returned to the ditch. I’ve tried to figure out her method of categorization, but I’ve yet to succeed.

She doesn’t do anyone any harm, and it is, after all, a public sidewalk, and she’s far enough away from the part of the bridge that moves to be safe, so I let her be. And I’m painfully aware that her odds of continuing to “be” are a lot higher when she sits on this bridge and quietly organizes away. Here, she’s relatively safe. No one hassles her. No one influences her or takes advantage of her vulnerability. If anyone tries to hurt her, there are witnesses. I strongly suspect that these things can’t be said about the rest of her days or nights.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, women comprise only 29 percent of the homeless individuals (as opposed to families) in this country. This means they’re greatly outnumbered in most places. Women who are unsheltered have a much higher risk of premature death, mainly due to mental health and chronic health issues. And, “The rates of victimization and assault, including robbery, physical abuse, and sexual assault are much higher for women than men.”

An article entitled, “Rates of violence against the homeless are worse than you think” spells it out in upsetting detail. It also contains a link to a comprehensive report entitled, “Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against People Experiencing Homelessness which details stats from 2016-2017.”

Here are some of the statistics from the article and that report that jumped out at me:

  • Life expectancy for someone who is homeless is 20-30 years less than the general population.
  • About 13,000 American homeless people die on the streets each year.
  • 1 in 3 homeless people have been deliberately hit, kicked, or experienced some other form of violence, including having things thrown at them. Some are urinated on, intimidated or threatened, or verbally abused or harassed.
  • While 1-3% of the general youth population report sexual assault, 21-42% of homeless youth have reported sexual assault. 1 in 3 teens are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of living on the street.
  • 1 in 3 homeless youth engage in survival sex.
  • The experience of violence in the lives of homeless women: A research report, showed that 78.3% of homeless women in the study had been subjected to rape, physical assault, and/or stalking. Those who experience such assault while homeless also lack access to legal, medical and mental health services, which can worsen the post traumatic effects of the experience.
  • The report also briefly focused on Seattle, my city, by saying, “many cities do not often provide free public restrooms that are easily accessible. For example, Seattle, which has the third-largest homeless population in the U.S, only had one functional 24-hour restroom, downtown, as of 2015.”

Homelessness is a rough life for anyone, but it’s even more so for women. So when I see Bridge Woman organizing garbage in the ditch, oddly enough I’m happy she’s there. Yes, I would like much more for her, but given the current state of the world, I think that that ditch is probably a safer place than many of her current societal alternatives. It makes me sad, but I genuinely believe that it’s true.

As winter approaches, and the cold, raw, Seattle weather settles in for the duration, I worry about Bridge Woman. I’m relieved to see that she now has warm clothing and good shoes, and she looks clean enough that she would blend in with the general population if only she were not so focused on the task at hand. I assume that she has been in contact with someone who cares, at least, either personally or professionally.

I hope her situation improves even more.

It probably won’t.

When the ditch is flooded with icy water, she may not enjoy her project quite as much. She’ll most likely choose to pass her time elsewhere. I hope that she continues to find safe places, ideally places that are warm and dry, where she won’t be hassled, even if it’s only for a few hours a day.

Gazing out the window at her, I count my blessings and think that she deserves better. I wonder if people understand how much we have let this woman down, or if they think she gets more than she’s entitled to. I have no idea what she wants or what she can get. I hope she is loved.

At a bare minimum, I’d like to think that all but the most cold-hearted among us can agree that everyone deserves a place where they feel safe. I’m glad my bridge has provided her with that kind of respite, if only for a short time.

I hope, dear reader, that like me, you use this holiday to give thanks for all that is good in your life, rather than thinking back, with pride, on the wholesale theft of this continent and all the bloodshed that was required to rip it from the hands of the people who were already here. If so, then Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude should not require a holiday. But if you’re giving added focus to it on this day, please consider ordering my book, Notes on Gratitude. And happy Thanksgiving, dear reader. I’m so glad you’re here!

A Masterpiece of Activism?

Well, they got our attention.

Two weeks ago, Tigrayan expats decided to protest against the genocide in Ethiopia that has been going on for two years, and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their people so far. I genuinely believe that this is an outrage that is worthy of protest. I’m glad these protestors got our attention for one brief, shining moment.

In this internet age, people in general and Americans specifically are hit with so much information that they are hard-pressed to focus on anything. They’re too overwhelmed. There are too many atrocities in the world. There are too many problems to solve.

While it’s hard to believe we could forget about an entire war, this is not the first time we’ve done so. I’m sure it won’t be the last. We don’t seem to care about anything unless it impacts us directly.

This protest was an act of desperation for the Tigrayan community in Seattle, which is the second largest in America. Only Washington DC has a larger community than ours. Back home, their people are dying. They’re being bombed and tortured and starved. The expats have no way of communicating with the loved ones they left behind, so they don’t know whether to grieve or “just” worry.

So, on Friday, November 4th, during afternoon rush hour traffic on the only North/South interstate that goes through the city, a large group of protesters gathered, blocking not only Northbound I-5, but also the I-90 ramps to I-5 in both directions. As if the Friday afternoon commute didn’t suck enough in this densely populated town. This, of course, caused total gridlock city wide.

Fortunately, I was going southbound. My commute time was “only” doubled, due to lookie-loos and people trying to take less familiar routes home. But I saw the Northbound traffic, at a complete standstill, for nearly 6 miles. And it remained that way for over an hour.

I’m sure a lot of people were weeping tears of frustration, trying to get home after an exhausting week of work, trying to pick up their children from school, trying to get to some much-needed food, and desperately wanting to pee. Not to mention that there was at least one ambulance caught in that mess, and it was carrying a patient in critical condition to the hospital. The police had to clear one lane to get them through, and it caused a significant delay. I hope that guy is okay.

I think that the general city-wide irritation quotient must have spiked higher than it should have because most of us didn’t know what was causing this delay until it was nearly over with, and even then, we were told there were only 6 protesters, instead of the several dozen that were actually on the scene. There were also several police cars present because it’s illegal to protest on an interstate, but in the end, they made no arrests.

It’s amazing how the forgotten slaughter of an entire group of people can make you sound like a whiny little b**ch when you complain about an hour and a half of your life being taken from you. It makes me feel rather pathetic and bloated with false privilege. It also made me drop the illusion that I have any control whatsoever regarding anything in life. But I can’t sustain that reality for long or I’ll go completely mad.

This protest hit every single local news outlet. It was talked about for days afterward. If reminding us/educating us all about this horrible genocide was their only goal, then I’d say mission accomplished, and then some.

But is that what they were trying to achieve? Or were they hoping to bring an end to a senseless war? If that was the plan, I don’t think shutting down Seattle was the best way to get people on their side.

I’d be all for a protest in front of an Ethiopian Embassy. I’d even be down for a protest that targeted some part of the American Bureaucracy, or even that of a local government agency if it has investments in Ethiopia. Power to the people! But blocking a lot of random individuals on an interstate? That had the wrong kind of impact.

I know I was frustrated. And I still, to this day, have no idea what I could do to help end this genocide. I have never believed that thoughts and prayers were that effective. I can chant, “May peace prevail upon the earth” a million times, and there will still be power-hungry a**holes acting out all over the globe.

I could call my congressperson. Yeah, yeah. But we’re all starting to realize that the political agenda and the people’s agenda are mutually exclusive. The American government is not going to care about Ethiopia until that caring benefits them.

I don’t think blocking traffic on a Seattle interstate is going to change a thing in Ethiopia, any more than pouring soup on an artistic masterpiece is going to stop oil. Are these protests masterpieces for their causes, or are they just a speed bump on the roads of our lives; a mild irritant until we move on? I suppose time will tell.

It’s the oil protesters who should block interstates. And maybe the genocide protesters should be pouring tomato soup on the politicians. I certainly wouldn’t blame them for that, even though I don’t condone violence in even the soupiest of forms.

The bottom line is that I think that the bulk of us whiners stuck in that commute from hell were made to whine for no good reason. I feel bad that that’s the case. Truly I do. But the only change it brought about from my perspective is that I got another reminder of my helplessness, and I had to take a nap when I got home. As I drifted off, I was grateful that I had a warm, dry, and safe home to go to.

But as I write this, the war in Ethiopia rages on, despite the Ethiopian Government signing a cessation of hostilities agreement a few days prior to the Seattle protest. And this surprises me not at all. Homo sapiens may think they are a superior species, but they’re sadly mistaken. Lest we forget, we humans are simply primates with delusions of grandeur, and we’ve proven, time and time again, that our prime motivation is power tightly intertwined with greed and selfishness.

Slightly off topic: I’ve been struggling with the reasons for my outrage at those throwing soup on masterpieces, but if you want a spot-on, albeit foul-mouthed explanation as to why this activism is so unacceptable, check out this Facebook Post by Advocatus Peregrini. Well said, indeed.

Sources:

A Deep, Deep Discount

The arrogance.

There is nothing that irritates me more than not being taken seriously. I don’t mean that you have to agree with everything I have to say, but don’t be dismissive. Don’t roll your eyes or smirk or do a bitter little laugh that implies “Oh, here she goes again.”

There’s nothing more rude than assuming that what I’m saying must be wrong because I’m, I don’t know… me. How am I supposed to make a touchdown if you instantly place me 30 yards deep into my end zone, while you allow others to start on the field?

It’s especially annoying when I happen to be expressing an opinion. Opinions aren’t facts. They’re how a person feels about a subject. Again, you don’t have to agree, but to imply that I don’t really know how I feel, or that how I feel does not bear any consideration whatsoever, or that you know how I should feel better than I do? Nope. Not acceptable. My opinion does not require your stamp of approval to be valid.

If you’re not even willing to entertain what I’m trying to say, then why do you bother asking my opinion in the first place? It’s insulting. It’s a waste of time. It makes me think rather less of the person who is doing it.

I come by my irritation honestly. I am discounted all the time. All. The. Time.

Sometimes it’s because I’m a woman. Sometimes it’s because I’m of a lesser rank in one pecking order or another. And heaven forbid that things happen the way I suggested they would, or that others eventually come to the same conclusions that I did. Do I ever get an apology or even the tiniest bit of credit? Of course not.

A few examples:

There’s a minor repair that is long overdue in my office, and I have even volunteered to do the work myself, if they will just provide me with a particular product that I’d need to do the job. I’ve been asking for over three months now. First, they sent me a different product, and I explained why that wouldn’t work. Next, they ignored me for weeks. But I kept asking.

Mind you, this product costs less than 5 dollars, and it’s readily available at a store where they shop for supplies on a daily basis. The fact that they refuse to provide said product when it’s so cheap and easy to get leaves me with only one conclusion. They think I don’t know what I’m talking about and/or they don’t think the issue is important.

I remodeled my first house, for the most part, all by myself. I may be “just a girl”, but I know what I’m doing. And why would I lie about the importance of the issue? Why on earth would I make all this up?

And to add to my irritation, winter is finally upon us in terms of temperature, even though the solstice has yet to occur. That means that the needed repair is going to be much more urgent. But I guess since only three of us will suffer by freezing in this office, it’s insignificant. Forget about the fact that as the problem worsens, our options for repairing it will be ever more expensive and time consuming.

But, you know, my thoughts don’t matter. They’re not even worth hearing. The arrogance!

(UPDATE: Admin finally provided the product I needed. It only took 13 weeks.)

And I get that same dismissal any time I walk into male-dominated territory and attempt to contribute to the narrative. I walk into a mechanic’s shop and explain what’s going wrong with my car, and I’m not believed. I walk into an auto dealership because I’m hoping to purchase a car, and they think I haven’t done my homework, and that I’ll primarily be interested in learning about features such as the makeup mirror in the visor, or that certain buttons were designed so one won’t break one’s nails. (Never mind the fact that I don’t wear makeup and I keep my nails cut short.) And the arrogance of some doctors when I’m attempting to explain what’s going on with me, the person who has occupied this body for 57 years, is beyond the pale.

Don’t worry your pretty little head, honey. Just take my word for it, or buy this overpriced lemon, or shut up and take the damned pill. Why do you insist on thinking?

Even my own mother, may she rest in peace, was such a product of her generation that she would discount me all the time. When she was cold, I used to tell her that you do lose a lot of body heat from your head, so if she’d put on a hat, she’d feel warmer. I told her that every winter for decades. She ignored me. But when my brother-in-law said the same thing to her, exactly once, she put on a hat, and said she did, in fact, feel warmer. I wanted to scream.

Throughout my adolescence, I kept telling her that my mattress was too short. She said I was being silly. I spent 7 years having to sleep with my feet and ankles sticking out over the edge of the bed. Even when I showed her that this was the case, she didn’t believe me or her own eyes. Then, one day, when we were moving, I took a break by lying on my mattress, which was, for the moment, in the front yard. My feet were hanging off one end, my forearms were hanging off the other. She looked at me and said, “Wow, that mattress is way too short for you.”

My head nearly exploded.

After spending the summer in the Youth Conservation Corps, I was looking forward to showing my mother and my oldest sister the many construction projects we had done. I was really proud of them. My sister wanted to go see a certain project, and I said, “We might want to skip that one. To get to it, you have to go several miles down a road that’s covered with deep, soft sand, and I guarantee you that your car will get stuck.”

She said nonsense, and insisted we go. I told her it was a really bad idea. And sure enough, her car got stuck and had to be towed. She was furious.

So when I suggested we see a different project, she refused to go. (She often meted out this form of punishment, and I think she delighted in it.) I told her the work site was on a paved road, with a paved parking lot, and there was absolutely no risk in visiting that site, and still she refused. And at first, she convinced my mother not to go either.

Why would I lie when I hadn’t lied about the first project? What would my motivation be? Did she think I wanted to ruin her car or something? Did she think that, at the age of 16, I was incapable of distinguishing pavement from sand? It felt like I was at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. I half expected one of them to turn to me and say, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Eventually, my mother did go with me, and was impressed by what we had accomplished. Unfortunately, by that time I was so frustrated at having to beg to be believed that the compliment fell flat for me. I still struggle with the idea that she felt I couldn’t be trusted but at the same time knew that I had done some very complex construction work that required a great deal of trust.

Another example: When I mentioned to someone with no drawbridge experience that opening a drawbridge for a vessel on a river that has a strong current is much different than opening for one on a canal with almost no current at all, he said I was wrong, and that, anyway, the canal had a strong current.

I only sit here 5 days a week, looking out at this body of water, and the behavior of the vessels thereon, all shift long and have done so on one bridge or another for more than 20 years. But of course, I’m wrong. (He also believes in mermaids, and that homosexuals are aberrant. So yeah. He’s an expert. Pffft.)

Like every woman on the planet, not a day goes by when I’m not underestimated. I’m told I shouldn’t feel the way I feel, shouldn’t react the way I react, can’t possibly know how to do x, y, or z, and that I need to be quiet and just take whatever comes my way, all while being told that I should smile much more than I do.

Discounting people seems to have become the cultural and political norm. Women are not even allowed to control their own body parts. Politicians are ignoring their constituents. I worry that all of this will end badly.

There is no end to the damage that can be done when people believe that they have a right to determine who gets to be heard. It’s like a heinous, twisted, even more despicable version of banning books, because the censorship takes on human form.

I am so f**king over it.

Burj Al Babas: The Love Child of Cinderella’s Castle and Kudzu

The castle-like homes are interesting. I’ll give them that.

So, I was fiddle-farting around on YouTube, as one does, with no particular destination in mind, when I stumbled across a music video entitled, MEDUZA, Becky Hill, Goodboys – Lose Control (Official Video). I’d never heard of them. (Her?) So I figured, what the heck. Give it a listen. If I didn’t like what I heard, I could always move on to something else.

That, that right there, is how one winds up spending a half day on YouTube. Just sayin’. But I digress…

Anyway, the song isn’t in my preferred genre, but it was a catchy tune. It would make a great ring tone, or something to be danced to at some club when you’re 20. (Do people go to clubs anymore?)

But what really left me glued to my monitor was the video itself. It was filmed in this strange place that looked, in my opinion, like the love child of Cinderella’s Castle and kudzu.

This place is so ugly that it’s beautiful. And it didn’t look computer generated. I had to find out where it was, if it actually exists.

With hardly any sleuthing whatsoever, I discovered that the video had been filmed in a housing development called Burj Al Babas, which is located in Turkey, half way between Istanbul and Ankara, the nation’s capital. That wouldn’t have been my first guess. But wait, it gets even better.

The castle-like homes are interesting. I’ll give them that. They do have turrets, and I’ve always wanted a turret. If I saw one such home, I’d find it delightful albeit quirky. It’s kind of an ill-advised mishmash of styles. Gothic meets Disney meets French Chateau, with a little Turkish, British and American architectural influence thrown in for good measure.

Unfortunately, the builders decided to erect 587 of these, er, unique villas, and they are all lined up like little soldiers on a hillside in the middle of nowhere. Burj Al Babas is now a ghost town, with nothing but stray dogs and cats and curious tourists roaming the streets. I bet it’s creepy at night.

It could have been worse, though. The original plan was to build 732 of them. The desperately hopeful catalog for this development explains that there was to be a central complex full of pools, Turkish baths, saunas, steam rooms, a shopping mall, health and beauty centers, cinemas, restaurants, sports facilities, gardens, a mosque, conference halls, and meeting rooms, as well as a car wash and nursery services free of charge for all residents. There would also be free internet.

I have to say that the images (unfortunately just mock-ups for the catalog) make the interiors look luxurious. A dwelling fit for a sheik. And indeed, the target audience for these homes was to be rich investors from the Middle East who wanted a vacation home in a Mediterranean climate.

And you could have one of these homes for $370,000 to $530,000 depending on location. Not bad. For a time, it looked like the developers would actually pull it off. They did sell 350 of them.

The developer broke ground on the site in 2014. Then, in 2016, there was a failed coup attempt in Turkey, which resulted in a great deal of unrest in that country. But the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was able to quash the coup.

Unfortunately, Erdoğan’s Turkey is rife with corruption, inflation, and military overreach. He himself now has the power to intervene in the country’s legal system. After the coup attempt, there have been purges of state institutions, and there is no tolerance of dissent. More than 50,000 people have been detained, including soldiers, journalists, lawyers, police officers, academics and politicians.

Recently, Erdoğan has attempted to criminalize adultery and introduce “alcohol-free zones.” He stands firm against equal rights for women, and disapproves of birth control and family planning.

Such was the atmosphere in which Burj Al Babas was being built. Needless to say, this was making investors nervous. And when oil prices plunged in 2018, many buyers backed out or stopped making payments.

The developers, who had spent 200 million dollars on the project to date, filed bankruptcy in 2018, and all construction came to an abrupt halt. The company was 27 million dollars in debt. They had tentatively resumed construction of the contracted houses in 2019, and then COVID-19 rushed across the planet in March of that year, leaving economic destruction, among many other things, in its wake.

The developer made one last desperate effort to keep their heads above water. In 2020 they stated that if they could just sell 100 chateaus, they would be out of debt and could start working on the projects currently non-existent infrastructure. Alas, it was not to be.

Burj Al Babas has since been snapped up by an American corporation, and they have yet to say if they’ll turn it into a tourist trap ghost town, complete the construction as originally designed, or soften the design so it looks less kitschy, and demolish the excess, unsold units.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Burj Al Babas. If the political climate were more like it was when I visited Turkey in 2000, I think I’d make a beeline to this place, if only for the creepy photographs it would yield. Instead, I can only imagine it.

If you’d like to see some drone footage of the entire (un)development, check it out here, on YouTube.

The scene I can’t seem to get out of my head is an endless row of turrets, lit up by a full moon, with a stray dog wandering down the unpaved road out front. The only sound would be the wind kicking up dust in the un-landscaped yards. That would be something to see.

Additional Sources:

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Gone but Not Forgotten

I long for blissful ignorance on days like today.

The older I get, the more dread I feel when I think, “I wonder whatever happened to…”

Naturally, my friends are getting older, and you just never know. Times like these, I wish the internet didn’t exist. Before that, when you had that question, you had a much harder time tracking down the truth. If you were curious enough, you’d go to the library and pore over the microfiche, looking for news or obituaries, and then you’d flip through census records and phone books. Usually, you’d eventually give up and accept the fact that you probably weren’t going to get an answer.

I straddle the internet age and the non-internet age. I was in my mid-twenties when the world wide web first gained traction, so some of my friends are very internet savvy, and some find computers befuddling and mystifying on a good day. Because of that, some of my friends, usually the younger ones, have a big internet footprint, and others, usually the older ones, can barely be found at all.

Before the internet, most of us walked around blissfully ignorant of the passing of people we loved but had lost touch with. Now, it’s sort of a mixed bag. Some of my Google searches yield instant results. Some make me wonder whether a person had been a figment of my imagination.

Once, when I looked up an ex-boyfriend whom I remember fondly, not only did I discover that he had passed away, but also that he had left behind 19 children! Good grief, talk about losing touch. That was a shock to my system. But is it better than blissful ignorance?

I kind of long for that blissful ignorance on days like today. Because today I thought of someone and I Googled his name, and now I’m sad. Not surprised. Just sad.

I have no idea why I thought of Max today of all days. Just reminiscing, I suppose. Max and I go way back. We met 35 years ago because we both worked for the State of Florida, in different departments, both of which had burdened its employees with client caseloads about 10 times larger than they should have been. It was a windowless building that was a warren of individual offices. It was like a white collar prison. The stress levels in that building are impossible to adequately describe.

Max and I would cross paths in the lunchroom, and we bonded over our mutual burnout. As we got to know each other, though, we also bonded over our politics, our love of reading and writing, and the unspoken realization that we were both able to address issues in more depth than most of our coworkers, as much as it pains me to say that.

We kept up with current events. We enjoyed history. We read for pleasure. We loved to talk of our travels. Our horizons were broader than those of our peers. Max, for me, was like an oasis of nerdiness in a desert of monotonous groupthink. I always looked forward to lunch.

It may sound as though I had a romantic involvement with Max, but nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, he was 29 years older than I was, had children my age, and had completely different cultural references than I had. As much as we enjoyed each other’s company, we knew we were two entirely different types of primates, so to speak, and that was fine. We each, in our own ways, could be a bit much, so sometimes we’d get on each other’s nerves and have to take a step back. But it never lasted long.

Max was full of fascinating stories. He remembered nearly starving to death in the Philippines during World War II. He had been 5 when the Japanese occupied his country, and 8 when they were cast out. During that time, 500,000 of his countrymen died. He remembered having to hide from the Japanese. He remembered eating anything he could. Those experiences shaped him. I ache for that little boy.

In particular, Max was interested in reading anything he could get his hands on about José Rizal, one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines. Rizal’s writings helped inspire the Philippine Revolution of 1896, and he was therefore killed by the Spanish Colonial Government that same year. He was only 35. The country gained its independence from Spain two years later.

It was nearly impossible to have a conversation with Max without hearing about Rizal. I think he was intrigued by the idea that someone who had only lived a few decades could make such an indelible impact on a country. Max also sometimes lectured about Fil-Am History at a local college. He wrote many book reviews. He had been a teacher before coming to this country, just like his father, and I think he remained a frustrated academic for the rest of his life.

After a few years, his department moved to a building across town, but we still did our best to get together for lunch at least once every few weeks. At a time when I was struggling to figure life out, I’d ask him for advice, and sometimes I’d even follow it. And he’d speak of his family with such pride. I admired that about him. He knew what was important.

And then the lunches became once a month. And then a few times a year. By the time I started writing my blog in 2012, we had almost no contact at all except for the occasional email. But he would read my blog, and that meant a lot to me. Now it means even more.

One day, Max emailed me and asked when we could have lunch again. I had to remind him that I now lived 3,100 miles away in the Seattle area. And then I had to remind him of that every time I responded to his emails. It made me sad. For someone who had always lived a life of the mind, it must have been really hard to lose cognition, if he even knew it was happening.

Eventually, when he’d post a comment on my blog, it would be gibberish. Word salad. Impossible to comprehend. The first time it happened, it scared me quite a bit. I could tell he still really wanted to connect and communicate, but his ability to do so was gone. I never quite knew how to respond to those garbled comments, so I have to confess that I didn’t. But I’d think to myself, “Hello, old friend,” and I’d reach across the miles and years and squeeze his hand virtually.

Eventually the comments stopped coming. Ours was a friendship born in the workplace, so I never met his wife or family, never went to his home, and I doubt any of his loved ones knew I existed beyond being some lunch friend. Max was a very social person, so I’m sure I was one of many. I didn’t know anyone I could contact to inquire about him, and I didn’t want to upset anyone, including me, if he no longer knew who I was.

So today I Googled him, and found nothing. Then I found a half written, unofficial, only partially accurate obituary about him, posted by someone anonymously. I found no newspaper obituaries. Feeling slightly sick, I searched for him in FindAGrave. Nothing. I found an old Facebook page that he started halfheartedly in 2015, but never followed through with. On there, a niece had posted something recently that said, “Happy Birthday in Heaven, Uncle!”

I nearly burst into tears. And then I researched property records and discovered that his house had been transferred from his and his wife’s name to just his wife’s name, and the document she provided to do that was a death certificate.

There it is, then. The opposite of blissful ignorance. Sorrowful awareness?

I’ve been walking the earth for about a year and a half under the illusion that Max was out there somewhere, in body, if not in spirit. Perhaps his body finally went to that place where his mind had been dwelling for years. Who knows.

It occurs to me that we never discussed religion. Why didn’t we ever discuss religion? There’s never enough time.

If Max were alive now, he’d be 86. It’s exceedingly strange to only begin to mourn someone long after their passing. It feels wrong.

Goodbye, old friend. Thank you for the much-needed oasis. I’ll miss you.

A No Fly List for Unruly Passengers?

We all should be able to fly without fear of idiotic violence.

As I write this, I’m awaiting an upcoming continental flight with a certain amount of dread. People are just too cra-cra these days to risk sealing yourself up in a tube with them for hours on end. And all the airlines seem to give less and less of a sh*t about customer service.

I miss flying in the ‘80’s. You had leg room, decent food, and people were polite and civilized and secretly felt rather privileged to be flying. It was like you were in a debate club that was accidentally invited to the United Nations. What luck!

Even better: You didn’t have to bear the insult of encountering TSA. You could count on having empty seats beside you if you wanted to stretch out and take a nap. And you could bring your 12-inch Bowie Knife aboard and nobody would bat an eyelash.

Those were the days. Now, you consider yourself lucky if no one on your flight gets into a fist fight and causes your plane to be diverted to another airport. It’s like the wild wild West once your plane takes off.

The COVID Federal Mask Mandate brought out the worst in people who don’t believe in science. And conspiracy theorists and hyper-conservatives used that mandate as an excuse to act the fool. Violence on airlines skyrocketed.

So when the mask mandate was overturned in April, 2022, I’m sure a lot of flight staff were relieved. At least at first. Because violence did go down. But it didn’t go away. And now they get to be sealed in a tube with a bunch of triumphant anti-vaxxers who are breathing all over them for hours on end. I have to say that Flight Attendants have a dirty job, and deserve our gratitude in the face of so much public douche-baggery.

As long as alcohol is served in airports and on airplanes, there will be a$$holes making the friendly skies a lot less friendly for all of us. And there’s absolutely no excuse for abusive behavior, especially when you’re in a small space with a bunch of other people and there’s no way out.

Imagine just trying to get home to visit grandma, and suddenly you’re thrust into the airline equivalent of a prison riot. YouTube is lousy with videos of such bad behavior. I even saw one where the captain got on the intercom and asked that all strong healthy males come forward to help restrain an out-of-control passenger. So, not only are you involuntarily thrust into a prison riot, but then they throw a prison guard uniform at you for good measure. What fun.

This is why many of the unions that represent airline employees are encouraging the passage of H.R. 7433: Protection from Abusive Passengers Act. According to Govtrack, this act “would add people convicted of assaulting an airline’s crew or staff on a no-fly list. The penalty would only apply on conviction, so it wouldn’t apply to a passenger who was merely reported or investigated alone. Such convicted passengers would also be banned from using either the TSA’s Precheck or U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry programs.”

Of course, some people are opposed to this, because they say it would equate passengers with terrorists. Well, according to Oxford Languages, the definition of a terrorist is “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

If the shoe fits, wear it, I say. We all should be able to fly without fear of idiotic violence. No one should have a right to thrust us into a terrifying situation with no way out. And bad behavior is a choice one makes, and therefore consequences should be as expected as they are deserved.

Sadly, this act seems to have stalled in committee, most likely because politicians were hoping this would all go away along with the mask mandate. But here’s something totally unacceptable that happened just last month: Passenger who allegedly punched a flight attendant charged.

This has got to stop. Even though the politicians, as usual, are useless, it did find one source of comfort by reading that article. “While the number of reported incidents has declined, the number of cases where enforcement action was initiated has gone up. So far in 2022, there have been 468 enforcement cases initiated. In 2021, there were 350.”

And some chickens are starting to come home to roost with regard to violent anti-mask passengers. I was thrilled to read this article, entitled, “New York woman sentenced to prison over altercation aboard plane”.

Yes! Serves her right! But that doesn’t mean I won’t be saying a Unitarian Universalist prayer in the hopes that I make it through my upcoming airline experience unscathed. And that shouldn’t be necessary. Not for anybody. But humans are not nearly as civilized as we are purported to be.

Please call your congressmember and encourage them to support HR 7433.

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Climate Change: Are We Finished Being Selfish Yet?

It’s time to wake up.

I started writing posts about climate change back in 2013. I’m sure I would have written about it sooner, but I only started blogging back in December, 2012. All my posts on the subject back then seemed dire and anxious and urgent.

The good news is that I no longer feel like I’m the only one who is concerned. According to this article, the number of Americans who are alarmed about climate change has more than doubled since back then. And this article from Newsweek says that now only 10 percent of us are non-believers. The bad news is that we’re still not doing enough to stop it. In fact, many scientists believe we’re past the point of being able to do so. But we’re not even doing enough to slow it down. Frustration is mounting, yet political inaction still rules the day. There’s just too much profit still to be had from fossil fuels. To hell with the fact that we’re killing our grandchildren.

Today I read an article that broke my heart. Entitled, “The least-visited country in the world may be the first to disappear”, it discusses the tiny country of Tuvalu, nestled halfway between Australia and Hawaii. At this point, it doesn’t really stand a chance. And it’s the fault of humanity. Can you imagine having your country washed away? Can you imagine intentionally making that happen? Well, mission accomplished. We are doing this.

If you really want your heart broken, read this speech that the Prime Minister of Tuvalu gave to the United Nations back in 2007. He is all but begging them to prevent his nation, language, and unique culture from dying. And yet we did nothing. And here we are.

I know that people prefer not to dwell on bad news. I know it is so much easier if this is someone else’s problem to solve. But this is everyone’s problem now. It’s just that some of us will be treading water sooner than others, and the rest of us will be fighting for a foothold on our ever-shrinking, sun-blasted land masses. Shame on us.

For a basic primer on climate change, read my blog post from 2013 entitled Climate Change: Points to Ponder. The most discouraging thing about that post is that every single ponderous point has been proven to be true. Nealy 10 years later, I stand by every word.

It’s time to wake up.