Personal Responsibility

I am really proud to live in the State of Washington. I’m impressed at how we’re responding to the pandemic. I listen to Governor Inslee’s press conferences every chance I get, and he’s doing a terrific job keeping us up to date. We are not rushing to open things back up. We’re prioritizing lives over profit. I know that that is causing people to suffer, but in the end, staying alive is more important. This is a time when we all need to make sacrifices, even to the point that it hurts, in order to protect our fellow citizens.

I understand why some states are opening back up too soon. To do otherwise is probably political suicide. People are sick to death of being locked down. People are desperate to get back to work. Those things are tangible. The air is thick with impatience and frustration. Whereas this virus is invisible. You don’t actually see it until someone you love dies.

So I admire Governor Inslee for taking the moral high ground. He’s putting the people first. That’s not something you see many politicians doing these days.

The irritating thing about his press conferences on Facebook is the comments that stream past as he speaks. “You can’t make me wear a mask.” “Who are you to decide whether I open my massage parlor back up?” “Contact tracing is unconstitutional!”

In kindergarten, along with the concept of sharing your toys, it seems that we need to teach children about personal responsibility. While it comes naturally to many of us, it appears to be something that needs to be taught to others. In short: The world does not revolve around you.

You’re absolutely right. No one can make you wear a mask. And no one should have to tell you when to open your business. And while I’m pretty sure you may have to reread the constitution, I’ll admit that contact tracing is a bit of an invasion of privacy.

But you are part of a civilized society. And if you are going to take advantage of the benefits thereof, there are certain sacrifices that you need to make. That’s the contract you’ve entered into. You don’t have to like it.

Just as you shouldn’t shout fire in a crowded theater just because you think it would be funny, and you shouldn’t kneel on someone’s neck for nearly nine minutes simply because you have superior firepower, you also should not do anything else that increases the risk that people around you might die.

You’d think that would go without saying, but apparently not. Every single day that I’m at work, I sit in my bridge tower and watch the pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists go by. Fewer and fewer of them are wearing masks. More and more of them are out and about. There seems to be a general feeling of, “It can’t happen to me, and I don’t particularly care if it happens to you.”

What these people seem to overlook is that their actions don’t only affect them. If they engage in risky behavior, they also risk bringing the virus home to their loved ones, or to their coworkers, or to the innocent schmuck who happens to pass too close to them on the sidewalk, or to the health care workers who have to risk their lives to care for us. Those are the people I worry about.

If you want to act stupid, that’s your prerogative. But you’re also making bad choices for everyone you come into contact with, and that’s unconscionable.

How American it is to think that just because we’re tired of this virus, we can ignore it and move on. Boo hoo. It’s not fun. It’s a hassle. We want to think about something else. But this virus only has legs if we give it legs. In cases like this, moving on isn’t an option.

Every day, at the beginning of my shift, I sanitize everything in my work space that I think could have been touched by coworkers. I do this for me, and for my husband, and for anyone else I might encounter. And at the end of the shift, I sanitize again. I don’t do this for me. I do this for my coworker who is about to occupy this same space. I think about his son and his wife as I clean. I think about the fact that a 10 year old boy needs both his parents to be healthy to take care of him.

No one can make me do the right thing. No one can make me do anything, technically. I do these things because I know I’m personally responsible for holding up my end of the contract of civilization. I do it because I’m an adult. I do it because I care about my fellow human beings.

personal-responsibility

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Shopping for the Apocalypse

A few days ago, I realized that if I was going to bake a cake for my husband’s birthday, I’d need a few ingredients. With that in mind, I decided to stop by my local Fred Meyer store after work. Social distancing and COVID-19 pandemic be damned.

What a nightmare.

The first red flag, the one that should have made me turn around and get out of there, was the fact that there were no shopping carts available. I had to stand in line in the lobby and get someone’s cart as they left the store. Not only was half the free world shopping ahead of a possible quarantine, but the store was severely understaffed. (And who could blame them? Would you want a cashier’s job right now, where you get to touch stuff that other people have touched all day long?)

And yet, I persisted.

When I finally got a cart, I noticed that there was no Purell available anymore to sanitize the cart handle. I was not the only one in that store that was pushing the cart with my shirt sleeves. A lot of people were wearing masks, too, and many were swerving as far away as they could from other patrons that they passed.

I had a hard time finding the products I required. As you can see from my photo below, whole aisles were empty. A lot of items were in unexpected places. I spent an hour finding what I needed, and as I fed off the tense atmosphere, I started grabbing things that I didn’t need, just in case. Because you never know.

All the paper products were gone. And hand sanitizer? Forget about it. The milk had been picked over, and the soup aisle was sparsely stocked. The only bread available was of the French variety. Oddly enough, there were plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to be had. But you couldn’t buy a fruit rollup for love nor money. The section of the store where they sell clothing, auto parts and small kitchen appliances was completely deserted.

I saw two women arguing over the last bag of flour. It occurred to me that I’ve never been in a position where I couldn’t obtain whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it, as long as I had the money. The thought of having the money and yet having to go without is new and scary. How fortunate I’ve been.

After spending an hour desperately searching for everything (whether I needed it or not), I felt like weeping. It was just so overwhelming. Our world has changed so quickly that it feels impossible to keep up. But my adventure had only just begun. Now it was time to see the cashier.

The lines were so long that they snaked down the aisles. And everyone was quiet. So quiet. I realized, suddenly, that the store did not have music playing as they usually do. The tension was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. It felt like a riot could break out at any minute, but how do you blame an invisible virus for turning your life upside down?

While standing in line, the thing I dreaded most happened. I had a coughing fit. I tried to suppress it by clearing my throat. I pulled my stomach in so far it felt like it was trying to pass my spine. My eyes were watering. And I had left my cough drops in the car. I coughed helplessly into my elbow. I suddenly felt unsafe.

Everyone around me looked at me nervously, and some tried to move away. I was afraid someone would call security or something, and I’d be dragged out of the store without my hard-won purchases. So finally, I broke the silence.

“I swear to God, y’all, this isn’t COVID. It’s allergies. I’m being treated by a doctor. There’s no lung involvement, and no fever. I swear to God.”

That confession seemed to break the tension. Everyone started talking at once. About their allergies. About their relief. About how crazy all of this is. One woman actually apologized to me for her visceral reaction to my cough. I told her that I didn’t blame her. I’d probably react the same way under the circumstances.

Finally, I was able to check out. Someone was waiting for my cart at the door. I have never been so happy to go home in all my life.

I told my husband about the crazy experience. I had dinner. I watched a little TV, and then I went to bed early.

Around midnight, the dogs started barking. My husband was coming in the front door, laden with grocery bags. He had been shopping at a store that stays open late. Because you just never know.

For the first time, I feel like I’m not writing for you, dear reader, but for future generations who will wonder what this pandemic was like. They’ll be able to read all the articles about disaster preparations, deaths, and political maneuvers, but there will be fewer things about what the experience was like for the average person. We are living history. So if you’re reading this decades from now, hello from across the years and miles, from Seattle, ground zero of the American outbreak. May heaven help us all.

shopping

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This Isn’t 1918

Most of my life I’ve heard of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. It may have killed up to 100 million people globally. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. I remember reading somewhere that every human being who survived at the time most likely knew at least 3 people who died.

I often wonder about the psychological impact that global tragedy inflicted upon the populous. Now, watching the fear and panic that COVID-19 is causing, I have a stronger sense of what it must have been like.

But this isn’t 1918. Back then, people knew that something was seriously wrong, of course, but they didn’t know what was causing it. According to an article in The Atlantic entitled, The Coronavirus Is No 1918 Pandemic, people back then thought it might be caused by anything from a misalignment of the planets to volcanic eruptions.

The uncertainty must have been terrifying. The article goes on to point out that we’ve come a long way, medically, since 1918. Back then, it took them 15 years to figure out that this illness was what we now identify as a virus. Back then, there were no antibiotics to treat the subsequent bacterial maladies such as pneumonia. Desperate physicians were trying everything, up to and including dry champagne and blood letting. And rather than isolating people, they dumped them into huge wards, where cross contamination ran rampant. They didn’t even understand the importance of hand washing.

Another difference is that the pandemic in 1918 was over relatively quickly, because people died quickly. It burned brightly and briefly. COVID-19, on the other hand, is going to do a slow, persistent burn. It is most likely going to be with us for years to come. We can’t keep up this level of panic for that long. I’m glad we have much more information sharing than they did back then, and a much better grasp on health care. That’s a comfort, at least.

Most of us will probably get COVID -19 at one point or another. And most of us will survive it. Eventually, a few years from now, they’ll develop a vaccine, and we’ll all get in the habit of being vaccinated once a year, just as we do with the flu. (Well, except the anti-vaxxers, who won’t, and will probably pay the price, all the while spreading the virus even further.)

The bottom line is that this is our new reality, folks. It’s scary, but it’s a long way from 1918. Stay safe, take precautions, but don’t stop living your life. That would be yet another tragedy.

1918
1918

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Syphilization

In the past, I’ve written about the plight of the bees and the plight of the bats. Frankly, I haven’t had the heart to write about the fact that our butterflies and frogs and coral reefs are disappearing, too. It’s just too depressing.

And then just the other day a friend told me about Starfish Wasting Disease. I guess I hadn’t heard about it because until recently I lived back east, and we had problems of our own. Apparently this disease was first detected in 2013, and now it’s estimated that 95 percent of the starfish on the west coast of North America, from California to Alaska, are dead. That’s millions of starfish. And this is a ghastly virus, folks. Within days of contracting it, their legs curl up and pull away from their bodies, and then they turn to mush. Horrible. Nightmarish.

There’s not nearly enough funding being allocated to study this tragedy. Probably because we don’t eat starfish, so people are not as concerned as they should be. And they should be, because this virus is in our oceans, and could jump to other species. Species that are a vital link in the food chain that leads back to us.

Scientists suspect that the reason this virus has been able to spread so quickly at this point in time is that the oceans have been unusually warm. And that, of course, is directly related to global climate change. For the love of God, how much more evidence do you need?

starfish
[Image credit: theepochtimes.com]

Sneaky Memes

/meem/ n. [coined by analogy with `gene’, by Richard Dawkins] An idea considered as a replicator, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/meme

I’d never even heard the term meme until I got a Facebook account, but they certainly are like parasites. More and more I’ve seen people post “quotes” on Facebook that are 180 degrees out from what you’d expect a particular famous person to say, at least in public, and yet people believe these quotes because they were pasted over that person’s photograph. You’re looking right at them. You’re reading the words, so they must have said them, right? Especially if you see quotation marks in there. But speaking from experience, if you do a little bit of checking, in most cases if it doesn’t seem true, it isn’t.

 gandhi fake quote

(This will probably go viral. I’m going to hell.)

Another sneaky way to use these memes to get your point across is by using a cute photo to get people’s attention. Which of these would make you vote for Hitler? Well, hopefully neither one, but hey, that puppy is awfully cute!

cute puppy Adolfnazi destruction meme

(Puppy photo credit: http://www.fanpop.com)

And you can also twist things around to scare people away from a certain belief.

 Death meme

(Photo credit: http://www.bubblews.com)

What it boils down to, basically, is that people will believe what they want to believe, or at the very least, what they refuse to take the time to question. In this age of ever increasing paranoia, we will have to learn to be more skeptical, and, for the love of GOD, more RESPONSIBLE about what we put out there for the world to see.

Don’t Get Your Knickers in a Twist

Is it just me, or is everyone experiencing a spate of mounting hysteria? I know the economy is bad, and there are wars and abuses and crime and tragedy. I know that there are plenty of causes and issues that need to be addressed. The four horses of the apocalypse are being kept quite busy, indeed. But something is different.

For example, here in America you’ll always get your fair share of people complaining about the president if he wasn’t the guy they voted for. That’s the beauty of democracy, in my opinion. But suddenly it’s not just the usual griping, it’s extreme panic. To hear them tell it, all guns will be confiscated so that we can all be trundled into concentration camps by the illegal immigrants, our senior citizens will be killed off, the rest of us are going to be sprayed in the face with some new government created virus, and while we experience a slow and agonizing death from that, we’ll all be forced into a gay marriage. But hey, at least the weather will be nice, because global warming is apparently some huge hoax that was devised in a worldwide conspiracy by 98 percent of all scientists to benefit…whom exactly? Beats me.

It’s even getting to the point where Facebook isn’t fun to visit anymore. Not only does it seem like the latest global outrage is the order of the day, but three times in the past two weeks I’ve watched debates turn into fights in which people who are supposed to be friends engage in hostile name calling.

What has happened to reasoned discourse? Where have courtesy and respect gone? What has happened to checking facts instead of spreading ridiculous rumors? When did we become so gullible? At the rate we’re going, this time next week people will actually believe that Godzilla is rampaging through the streets of New York City.

I long to sit down in a restaurant and hear everyone around me discussing sports, the weather, books they’ve read, their kid’s t-ball game, movies, music, art, dating, travel…anything, ANYTHING but fear, prejudice, hatred, disaster and death. Please. I’m begging you.

If I were queen of the world, the first thing I would do is issue a brown paper bag to all my subjects so that we could all breathe into them and stop this global hyperventilation.

Everything is going to be okay. Really.

Namaste