A Plea for Reason during This Pandemic

Are you scared? I’m scared. There’s no shame in that. Anyone with any sense right now is scared. And during times of heightened fear, it is natural for us to want to seek out some sort of magic bullet that will save us all from invisible evils such as COVID-19. But I’m asking you to use your head.

In the past few weeks, several friends have forwarded a variety of voice recordings to me. There are many things these voice recordings have in common.

  • The person on the recording never identifies him or herself by name.

  • The person claims to be in the medical field, or claims to have gotten this information from a reliable source in the medical field.

  • The person then goes on to give all sorts of medical advice that has been “proven” to help you avoid getting COVID-19, or perhaps help you recover quickly if you test positive.

Some of the things they have suggested are:

  • Taking large amounts of Vitamin C.

  • Avoiding Ibuprofen, or, specifically (for some unknown reason), Advil.

  • Avoiding cold liquids.

  • Drinking hot liquids, because this washes the virus into your stomach where the acid then takes care of it.

  • Drinking nothing but lemon.

  • Drinking bleach.

I can’t stress this enough:

⇒ ALL OF THESE THEORIES HAVE BEEN DEBUNKED. ⇐

Ask yourself these things:

  • If any of these magical cures actually worked, don’t you think that Dr. Fauci, and the rest of the doctors from the Centers for Disease Control, would be broadcasting it every 5 minutes on TV?

  • Don’t you think that they’d be shouting it from the rooftops?

  • And why would these unidentified, supposed doctors in all these recordings be passing this information on in an unsophisticated way, as if they’re giving you some sort of privileged, insider scoop?

Here are some more myths that need to be busted:

  • The mistaken belief that you can get the virus by eating Chinese food.

  • The insanity that opening a package from China is more dangerous than opening any other package at this time.

  • The outrageous belief that all Asians are somehow to blame for this and deserve to be punished.

  • The dream that this will all be over by Easter.

  • The erroneous idea that most masks will protect you from the virus, when in fact they’re much more effective in preventing you from spreading the virus to others.

  • The conspiracy theory that this virus was intentionally created in a lab.

  • The fantasy that this virus is no worse than the common flu.

I am begging you, pleading with you:

  • Do not pass on unsubstantiated information.

  • Do your research.

  • Don’t simply share things about this pandemic because it sounds plausible and makes you feel better. It’s only causing more confusion.

Next thing you know, they’ll be telling you to sacrifice chickens, while naked, during the light of the full moon. While this might prove to be an amusing break from the monotony, the chickens sure wouldn’t appreciate it. Not even a little bit.

I know it would be nice to have a get out of jail free card during these trying times, but I urge you to listen to the easily identified infectious disease experts, not other people (who shall remain nameless) with an agenda.

  • Wash your hands.

  • Remain socially distant.

  • Stay at home whenever possible.

We can get through this. The vast, vast majority of us will. That’s a fact.

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PLEASE DON’T DO THIS FOR ANY REASON!!!!

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13th

I know it can be a hard sell to get people to watch documentaries, but if you watch only one documentary in your life, it should be this one. 13th can be seen on Netflix. I’ve had the good fortune to see it twice. Once on my own, and once as a part of my Race and Social Justice Initiative training at work. Each time, it brough out a storm of emotions within me.

This movie discusses a very shocking loophole in the 13th amendment to the US constitution. The amendment reads as follows (italics mine):

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

We’d like to think we’ve abolished slavery in this country, but that’s not at all true, as this movie makes blatantly obvious. Once “official” slavery was abolished, this country had a big, sucking vacuum where all that free labor used to exist. The solution to that problem became obvious rather quickly. After emancipation, convictions for petty crimes began to rise, and they’ve been rising steadily ever since. As it stands, America has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the world’s prisoners. There are 2.3 million Americans in prison today, and the majority of them are African American. And oh, are we ever good at putting them to work.

We’ve criminalized drug addiction. We’ve waged war on crime. Politicians began to talk about “getting tough” and “law and order” as a backlash against the civil rights movement. We’ve had harsher sentencing for crack than we do for cocaine, and these drugs are divided along racial and economic lines. We’ve called these people super predators and beasts. They are considered enemy combatants that we should be able to stop and frisk with impunity.

We’ve perpetuated the myth that black men are rapists. Something we rarely think about is that the history of interracial rape is far more white male/black female. Which makes a creepy amount of sense, given the unequal power dynamic.

We created a three strike policy in this country that requires mandatory minimum sentencing. This means that judges can’t dispense justice with any type of discretion. For example, if someone had been convicted of two petty crimes as a brash young teenager, and then lives an upstanding, crime free life for another forty years, and is then talked into plea bargaining for a crime he didn’t commit to avoid this mandatory minimum situation, that person will practically be thrown under the jail, as the saying goes. 97% of those locked up have plea bargained for that very reason. Which means they aren’t really getting any justice at all.

Even former President Clinton now admits that his Omnibus Crime Bill was a mistake. It has militarized our police departments, and funded a lot of prisons which then needed to be filled to remain profitable. It has doubled the prison population.

This has decimated the African American community. Black men have a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison, whereas for white men, the statistics are 1 in 17. It has left a whole generation of leaders incarcerated. African Americans comprise 6.5% of the US population, but 40.2% of the prison population. This makes it difficult for the black community to defend itself.

And have you ever thought about the injustice of the Stand Your Ground laws in some states? Stand your ground allowed George Zimmerman to hunt down and kill Trayvon Martin. Where was Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground?

And then, you have to think about all the convicts who pay their debt to society and never have their rights fully restored. It can be nearly impossible to find a job when you get out of prison. And 30% of the black male population in Alabama has lost its ability to vote. Is that democracy? Really?

Two other issues that this movie discusses in depth are ALEC (the American Legislation Exchange Council), and Prison Labor. Those issues are so intense that they’ll each have a blog post of their own.

The frustrating thing about the modern day slavery in this country is that I feel personally helpless to do anything about it. And if I’m honest, most of the time I get to not think about it. I can sit in my white privilege comfort zone and focus on other things, like my next vacation or the fact that my dog wants to go for a walk. It’s a big source of shame for me.

The very least I can do is blog about this issue in an effort to signal boost the voices of the less privileged. So here I am, doing the very least I can do. But it sure doesn’t make me feel any better.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA:  CIVIL WAR/BACKGROUND:  SLAVERY & ABOLITIONISM
The scars aren’t as visible these days, but they’re still there.

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Tomorrow, In Mexico, A Day Without Women

Femicide. It’s a word I’d never heard until a friend of mine in Mexico introduced me to it. It seems that violence against women is an ever-increasing trend in that country. In fact, according to this article, they averaged three femicides a day in 2019 and one in three Mexican women is a victim of sexual harassment or violence. That’s horrifying and unacceptable.

As is typical of most governments these days, the Mexican government doesn’t seem to be taking women’s issues seriously at all. So there has been an outcry on social media asking women in that country to “disappear” for a day. Don’t go to work, don’t go to school, don’t go out at all. Women comprise 52 percent of the population, 50 percent of the students, and 40 percent of the work force, so this could potentially have a huge impact on the country.

According to the New York Times, this day was sparked, in particular, by two recent femicides that rocked the nation. (Brace yourself.):

Ingrid Escamilla, 25, a Mexico City resident, was stabbed, skinned and disemboweled. Her body was found on Feb. 9, and photos of her mutilated body were leaked to tabloids, which published the images on their front pages, adding to the public outrage.

On Feb. 11, Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett, 7, was abducted from her primary school in Mexico City and her body was discovered wrapped in a plastic bag next to a construction site on the outskirts of the capital.

If enough women participate in this day without women, it could cost the Mexican economy 1.37 billion. (I’m unsure if that’s pesos or dollars. The Times didn’t specify. Still, it’s a lot.)

Protest today, March 8th, International Women’s Day. Take to the streets, if you feel safe doing so with COVID-19 lurking about. (I know the Women’s March here in Seattle has been cancelled, and even though that’s understandable, it saddens me.) Then drop out tomorrow. Let them see that they can’t survive without you.

Please join me in standing in solidarity with the Women of Mexico in their efforts to feel safe in their own land. Every woman, every human being, deserves that basic human right.

#UNDÍASINNOSOTRAS, (A Day Without Us).

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Happy Birthday, Estonia!

I missed a very important anniversary recently. On February 2, 2020, Estonia turned 100 years old. But their independence was declared (but didn’t actually “take”) on February 24th, 1918, so by that count, I guess you could say that today they are 102 years old in spirit.

Yeah, I know. You probably go months or years without thinking about Estonia. But to its 1,328,360 people, I’m sure this anniversary was a big deal. It’s no mean feat, being the 153rd largest country in the world, especially when you border Russia.

Estonia is not even 3/4ths of the size of the State of West Virginia, but hey, at least they’ve got universal health care and free education for all, so they’re a heck of a lot more civilized than we Americans are. Something I didn’t know is that its territory includes 2,222 islands as well. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t been easy being an Estonian throughout history. Since the place thawed out and human settlement reached the area 13,000 years ago, it has been occupied, fought over, or at least invaded by Scandanavian and Germanic tribes, the Danes, the Germans, the Russians, the Swedes, and the Polish-Lithuanians, with all the devastation and famine such wars and occupations can cause. Then Russia stood on their neck, basically, until around 1850, when people started looking around and saying, “Hey, we have a national culture and identity, here.”

After decades of struggles, crackdowns and revolutions, World War I, and invasions back and forth between Russia and Germany and Russia again, And that unsuccessful independence declaration in 1918, Estonia and Soviet Russia signed the Tartu Peace Treaty on February 2, 1920, and Soviet Russia “permanently gave up all sovereign claims to Estonia.” Happy birthday!

But you knew it wouldn’t be that clean cut, didn’t you? Of course not. Constitution after constitution, the Great Depression, and then, blam, World War II, which placed Estonia back into the Soviet sphere of influence, causing it to be officially occupied by them. Again. Whew. I’m tired, just reading this, aren’t you?

Then came a period of oppression, deportations to Siberia, and war, where part of Estonia was captured by Germany. Then the Soviets invaded. Again. And the Estonians didn’t want to be on either side of this conflict, and therefore got caught in the middle. The Estonians resisted the Soviets after the war, so the soviets responded with a campaign of Russification, which encouraged Russians to settle the area. By 1989, Estonians only comprised 62 percent of the population.

So why do we consider 1920 to be the establishment of this poor battered country? Because many Western countries considered the annexation of Estonia by the Soviets to be illegal, and so a government-in-exile was established. Their independence was restored on August 20, 1991, and that’s a national holiday to this day. But they also celebrate February 24th as their independence day since that was the date they first declared independence in 1918. The last of the Russian army left Estonia in 1994. If I were them, though, I wouldn’t rest very easy, because, well, Putin, and clearly they can’t count on help from Trump.

Through it all, though, Estonia has trundled on, and has even managed to develop a very strong IT sector. Estonia is where Skype was born. And it was the first post-Soviet republic to legalize civil unions, too. Good for them!

So I’m thinking, if any country needs birthday wishes and a slice of cake, even if it is belated (or not, depending on how you look at it), it’s Estonia. Happy birthday! You sure have earned it, a thousand times over.

Estonia

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Why I Love the Primaries

Recently I had the privilege to attend a Bernie Sanders rally at the Tacoma Dome here in Washington State. Yep, that arrow, pointing to the blue smudge amongst the 17,000 other attendees in the picture below…that’s me! It was exhilarating to be among so many like-minded people.

I imagine it would be even more exciting for someone who was still on the fence about who they intend to vote for in the primaries, but I’ve been for Bernie since the last presidential election, so this was more of a confirmation of my beliefs in what he stands for. I will definitely vote for him in the democratic primaries.

But I’m not here to convince you to do the same. Make up your own mind. Seriously.

No, this is a post about primaries in general, and why I think they’re so critically important. It drives me insane that so many people skip the primary process altogether. The voter turnout is always much lower.

I’m a democrat, but here lately, it’s mostly by default. I would sooner die than vote republican, because they represent everything that I DO NOT stand for. But I’m losing faith in politicians in general, if I’m honest, and that’s heartbreaking.

I do believe firmly in the democratic process. I think voting is the most patriotic thing a person can do. When you vote, you’re helping to decide the moral shape of your country, and that’s important.

In a way, though, I think you have more ability to make an impact in the primaries than at any other time. When you vote in the primaries, you’re telling your political party what values you hold, and what direction you want them to take in the future. Even if your person doesn’t win, they’ll think, “Wow, that person stood more radically for women’s rights (for example) than any other candidate, and got 30 percent of the primary vote. Maybe we should take women’s rights more seriously, moving forward.”

I see primary platforms as my wish lists. If my person gets elected, do I actually think they’ll achieve everything they set out to do, given our obstructionist two party system? No one can, regardless of party, the way things stand these days. Not by a long shot. But even if they get partway to where I’d like this country to go, it’s better than the alternative. And if your party learns what truly matters to its constituents, then it will start putting up more candidates that hold those values. And then if that person wins… like I said, baby steps. But steps nonetheless.

So don’t skip your party’s primaries, folks. Don’t skip any election, for that matter. Vote! Vote! Vote!

Me at Bernie Rally

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One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor you can receive from this country. According to Wikipedia, it’s supposed to be given to people who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

In the past it has been given to an auspicious list of people, including Mother Teresa, Georgia o’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Martha Graham, Sidney Poitier, James Stewart, John Steinbeck, Elie Wiesel, Aaron Copland, Aretha Franklin, David McCullough, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Jonas Salk, Bill Gates, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, Gloria Steinem, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Desmond Tutu, Margaret Mead, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Sally Ride, Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, and Billie Jean King.

Yes, there have been controversial awards. No one will ever agree completely upon whom such honors should be bestowed. But I’m still nauseous after the most recent one was given at Trump’s State of the Union Address.

Rush Limbaugh? Seriously? The man who compared Presedent Obama to a monkey and coined the term Feminazis? This divisive, hateful, racist purveyor of misinformation? Here are some of the lies he has spread:

  • The existence of gorillas disproves the theory of evolution.

  • A recent decrease in hurricanes disproves climate change.

  • He claimed President Obama wanted to mandate circumcision.

  • He called Sandra Fluke a slut for wanting insurance coverage for contraception.

  • He said soldiers who opposed the Iraq War were phonies.

  • He claimed that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster was created by environmentalists.

  • He stated the Adam Lanza did the mass shooting at Sandy Hook due to the Mayan calendar.

Entire books have been written about the lies this man has told and the problems he has caused. To have this unrepentant racist wear the Presidential Medal of Honor around his neck spits in the eye of every former recipient. Especially during African American History Month.

But then, having someone as president who talks about grabbing pussies and who strong-arms allies at war in order to get them to sway American elections spits in the eye of everyone who has been president, too, and he’s the one who decides who gets the award, so what do I expect?

Next, he’ll give one posthumously to Charles Manson, for getting all of us to put dead bolts on our doors.

PresMedalFreedom

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Is Environmental Regulation Good?

How you answer that question most likely has a lot to do with whether you live in a red state or a blue state in America. Conservatives, in general, feel that governmental regulations are bad, and that industries should be allowed to self-regulate. They feel that federal regulations impede industry’s ability to be profitable, and therefore they have a negative impact on jobs and the economy.

This is one of the many ways that conservatives and I part company. I have never seen industries act in the best interest of the common man, so I feel they need to be watched over very closely. But everyone is entitled to their opinion, and subsequently their vote. That’s how democracy works.

I only hope that when people vote, they cast educated votes. I certainly try to. In an attempt to educate myself about the vast gulf in my opinions as compared to the average conservative, I decided to read a fascinating book entitled Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. I highly recommend that you read this well thought out book, regardless of your location on the political spectrum. The author is a sociologist who spends a year in conservative Louisiana to get to know the people, and learn how they have drawn the conclusions that they have on a variety of subjects, including the environment.

Louisiana has been ground zero for an unbelievable number of environmental disasters. (See also, my post entitled, “A Forgotten Catastrophe.”) According to page 79 of this book, “residents of red states suffer higher rates of industrial pollution than do residents of blue states. Voters in the twenty-two states that voted Republican in the five presidential elections between 1992 and 2008—and who generally call for less government regulation in business—lived in more polluted environments.”

But she also discovered that it isn’t just a state by state issue. She looked at data on the EPA website, which breaks down risk of exposure to pollution into counties, and she compared that to people’s answers on the General Social Survey, that linked what people believed about the environment and politics county by county.

What she found was very interesting. “If, in 2010, you lived in a county with a higher exposure to toxic pollution, we discovered, you are more likely to believe that Americans ‘worry too much’ about the environment and to believe that the United States is doing ‘more than enough’ about it. You are also more likely to describe yourself as a strong Republican.”

I find this paradox both fascinating and heartbreaking. Just because I disagree with you politically does not mean I want you to suffer. And, of course, I feel that your children should suffer even less. Unfortunately, your stance on the environment effects the planet as a whole, as well.

You don’t have to agree with me. But can you at least understand why I would find this contradiction in thinking confusing? Therein lies the crux of our extreme divide. By voting the way that they do on environmental issues, conservatives are hurting themselves and the rest of us. And that hurts to watch.

Like this Escher box below, I struggle to understand this logic.

Paradox

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