Excuse Me While I Shout Into The Wind

Pandemic Diary Entry #73

Photo by Vlad Chețan from Pexels

January 18, 2020

I am of the generation that participated in ” duck and cover” drills at school. When I was in the second grade these drills apparently gave me nightmares for days on end. I do not have any memory of the nightmares.

What I do remember is my grandfather, who would have seen both World Wars, telling me it would all be okay. The world has been through a lot he told me, and we are still here.

This last week has had me, along with millions of others, dumping dry January, eating too much, and not sleeping enough. And yet, I know we will get through this, what I am not sure of is what we will look like on the other side.

I have always found the best way to express myself is through my writing. In conversations I tend to be hyperbolic and disjointed in my utterances, my brain usually moves too fast for its own good. But lately, I have felt, even in writing, that I am shouting into the wind as I watch our country slowly being attacked from within.

I believe that a large portion of my depression throughout all of this is my inability to effect change. What can I do? How can I help to bring about change? I donate to causes I believe in and I give of my time as I can during COVID, but I still feel side-lined and inadequate.

They say this is what caused the people to commit sedition, they feel “unseen”, they feel powerless, obviously our expressive mechanisms manifest themselves oppugnantly.

I have no doubt we are going to see more bloodshed and property destruction by the far-right, even the FBI is sure at this point. How much will be more a result of our judicial system than anything? I believe that if we adequately pursue the wrongs that were perpetrated upon our country and our Capitol that a message will be sent. I am not naïve to think that everyone will receive the message, we are talking about humanity after all, but consequences, when properly applied can send a message. And as this is the US of A, the punishments must be fair, lawful and, acceptable to the majority.

But the political split in this country feels insurmountable. This is a chasm that defies “let’s agree to disagree”. In the words of John Pavlovitz “this isn’t just a schism on one issue or a single piece of legislation, as those things would be manageable. This isn’t a matter of politics or preference. This is a pervasive, sprawling, saturating separation about the way we see the world and what we value and how we want to move through this life.”

This political schism has been around since Newt Gingrich imbued the concept of Us v Them into the Republican platform. Or put more eloquently by McKay Coppins - Gingrich’s “combative, tribal, angry attitude in politics will infect our national discourse in Washington and Congress for decades to come”. That is never a way to accomplish anything, tribalism is exactly what you saw on January 6th.

Let us start with, how do we get back to a place where we trust our national press? Many no longer access national news. Instead, more and more people are getting their news from the Networked Fourth Estate. That is both a good thing and a problem.

The Networked Fourth Estate differs from the traditional press and the traditional fourth estate in that it is diverse in both its actors and its delivery. This ever-expanding segment is taking over from the small number of major news outlets that are disappearing all over the country every day. These new media include small for-profit media organizations, non-profit media organizations, academic centers, and a network of individuals participating in the media process with larger traditional organizations.

More news organizations give rise to more view points, but at the same time, it gives a place for opinions to coalesce and become the only message some people hear. These small fringe actors, spewing lies and misinformation, gave rise to Q-Anon and other outré organizations.

When did ignorance become a badge of honor in this country?

It seems that Americans have developed a propensity to reject the advice of experts. It was somewhat manifested on January 6th. Was it a way for some to assert autonomy and demonstrate their independence from so called elites? Where did we develop this concept that well established, highly competent people like Dr. Fauci are not taken seriously and often simply dismissed?

Where did informed arguments, a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy, go? Replacing them with shouting matches has obviously accomplished nothing.

We need to back away from a Google/Wiki, anyone can write a blog, way of obtaining our “expertise” and start listening to the real experts. There are over one billion websites on the world wide web, we would all benefit from remembering Rudyard Kipling’s “Four-fifths of everybody’s work must be bad..” or Theodore Sturgeon’s Law “90% of everything is crap”.

If people do not trust the experts, or the politicians that consult them then the concept of expertise has failed. And at what point does it completely fall apart? When will our democratic leaders and their experts become fed up with an ill-educated electorate and lean-in to the constituents with big pockets or the latest new thing?

Over the last four years I have been horrified by children in cages (I donate to RAICES), the destruction of Native Land to build a border wall (I donate to Native American Causes), and I support Black Lives Matter with donations. I watch with fear as our country leans closer and closer to fascism (for this I just count down the days to a more open and level headed administration). I would like to think we are better than that, and 81 million people voting out the administration that gave us those policies would like to think so too, but we have a long, long way to go.

I sit in a place of privilege. My life is not affected by the horror we see around us, other than my conscience won’t let me sleep at night knowing these atrocities are being inflicted upon our democracy, the lives of the poor, and people of color. I feel helpless, so I write.

At noon on Wednesday we will have a new President and very excitedly, a mixed-race female Vice President, a chance for a fresh start. I am not thrilled with another old white guy as President, but Biden won the election and I respect that.

We will be a different nation when we exit this COVID hell. To begin with, well over a half a million people will be dead of this virus. These people have left a hole in the hearts and lives of everyone they touched, that pain will not heal easily.

We began this pandemic with an unemployment rate not seen since the great depression. It has improved somewhat, but that is no comfort to those that are still unemployed. Coming back will be a slow slog. The companies that make the headlines will come back easily if they aren’t already reaping record profits, but the small Mom and Pop businesses that are the heart and soul of the American economy are looking into an abyss of debt and a mountain to climb in rebuilding.

The Woman’s Movement has been set back fifty years. In December of 2019 100% of jobs lost in the US were filled by women. 100%! Women lost a total of 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. This is even worse for women of color. 8.4% of Black women and 9.1% of Latinas were unemployed in December compared to 5.7% of white women and 5.8% of white men. Around the world, women make up 39% of the workforce but lost 54% of the jobs.

If nothing else this points to the need for a better childcare system in the United States. Many women simply dropped out of the work force during the COVID crisis as childcare centers across the nation shut down. It is not easy to come back from that.

One of the things that has me throwing shoes at the television is when men make laws taking away the rights of women to make choices regarding their own bodies and then not give a spit about the children once they are born. We spend less than .5% of our GDP on early childhood education and care — but 3.2% of our GDP on the military. Don’t you dare tell me you care about kids Senator, I am not listening until you take this broken system seriously and help women get back on a strong foothold.

The world has many other challenges including global warming, refugees just trying to make a better world for themselves and their families, and the overwhelming economic divide, but those problems existed before COVID, now we have added more stones to Sisyphus’s load, the road to recovery will not be paved easily.

This Wednesday will open doors and bring changes. To all that will be responsible for those changes, please help to prove my grandfather was right! And if I can help — please tell me how.

Trivial Things

San Francisco weather: 69 degrees and sunny

NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: Market Closed For MLK

COVID cases in the US: 24,488,739

Deaths from COVID in the US: 407,256

OED word of the day: kitchen-sinking -The action of bringing up all of one’s grievances or complaints in an argument with someone about an unrelated issue

Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 308

Reading: The Line Becomes A River — Dispatches from The Border by Francisco Cantú

My Black and White Picture of the Day

Something Silly From the Internet:

My travel blog www.PassportandBaggage.com and my www.ArtandArchitecture-sf.com blog are quiet due to the Pandemic. I need to write, so here I go.