Part 5: The Infection Was Initially Mild

Welcome to the 5th part of my 5 Part Series: The Infection Was Initially Mild: My Small Town City Council Run, the Toxic American Pandemic Response, and What Both Mean For the Future Of the Country. 

You can also read the entire series now, download it in entirety in PDF format, catch the disclaimers in the Introduction, listen to it on Text to Speech (I have to warn you it’s a little awkward), or watch the Text to Speech on YouTube.

Also, more resources, videos, updates, and Pay What It’s Worth links can be found there too!

CLICK HERE for The Infection Was Initially Mild Landing Page

So this is the thing about politics: the wound started out incredibly small. The infection was initially mild. 

The coronavirus pandemic, and everything that came with it, quickly put on display everything that is wrong with this country. Our politics are too local. Our response is too rooted in money. Personality has become too much a part of policy making. Messaging  – not policy, or simply right or wrong – is a make or break tool, which is absurd when you really get down to it. What begins as something minor can explode into a big problem, a crisis, in a matter of just days. This is exactly what has happened.

Politicians on every level showed themselves to be incapable of handling the crisis before them. On my city council, we had so many people that couldn’t see past years of just saying what sounded best; and they failed to anticipate that this would result in a rapid erosion of trust in the community. 

When COVID first hit the United States, two of the residents of our city were on that first cruise that returned with the illness. The patients – Patients 0 and 1 for our community – were ill for a week or more before they were even tested. When we all finally found out that they had, in fact, come back with SARS-COV2, naturally the public had questions. I asked several of our city council members if we knew the locations the people had been: when I come home from a vacation, I’ll do things like take an Uber, go grocery shopping, if we came down with a cold or flu we’d go to the pharmacy. One city councilmember replied to me “well we should hope that the community helped them get what they needed so they could isolate.” Except they didn’t even know they had COVID yet, and so the trust began to erode in those earliest days for many of us. Unfortunately, and on every level, it didn’t take long before it was all lost. 

My city council race was nothing particularly unique; in fact, it was exactly what every other race in America is like. It is exactly what the future of America may end up being. People that run for water boards and school boards today get into the same type of toxic political wielding that the president does. We would be foolish to believe this is not intentional.

In fact, I know it is; as do many within the upper echelons of the two, major political parties. When I was interning at the end of my undergraduate degree, I went to the California Democratic Party’s annual convention in Sacramento as the denouement of my internship. I still vividly remember meeting with my academic advisor afterwards where I described to him the talk I attended by some group presenting what they called The Red Takeover. This was the Republican Party’s plan to takeover American politics by filling in every non partisan seat they could with party line favorites. It didn’t even matter if the people were qualified or had experience in government or public policy; all that mattered was that they were allegiant to the party and its ideologies, at all costs. My advisor’s face filled with horror as we talked about this, and – as idealistic as every other college student – I giggled and said “but that’ll never happen.” 

At the retirement community’s candidate’s event – the one where the moderator was an ardent supporter of my opponent – one question came up about what our political affiliations were. A non partisan seat in name only, it was still well known that he and I had both taken Party endorsements, and yet he had claimed on his campaign signs to be Independent, so someone was trying to draw out of him the truth. In his answer, he admitted his allegiance to the right-wing faction of the GOP, and then went on in a whisper of a voice, leaning in to the microphone, about how the thing to remember about me – me, remember he was campaigning on not being me, rather than his own merits – was that the Democrats had an insidious plot to install puppets in non partisan seats all over the country. Projecting as many good Republicans do, he slithered this accusation into the microphone, while I realized that he was also probably right. Not that I was some Blue puppet going to takeover the council with the Democrats’ agenda. But the plot he described was quite clearly real overall. It was over 15 years ago that I saw that presentation at the California Democratic Party’s convention, and the truth was that I had left halfway through it. I didn’t even stay to hear the part I should have stayed to hear: that the Democrats were planning to align their strategy with the Republican’s, to fight fire with fire. They both planned to do it, and today it appears that they’ve been successful.

This, surely, is how in my own city we could have a nurse sitting on the city council, in the middle of a pandemic, doing absolutely nothing for public health and nurses. When the nurse’s union approached me about an endorsement, it was mainly to air grievances about how they did not feel protected while working in our community when a secondcity council member (my opponent) sits or sat on the board of the local healthcare district. After the election, this clear preference to party politics and staying in office superseded what was right – with the pandemic, as well as a host of other measures that came before the city council that would impact the quality of life, health, and safety of our residents. With all of them, and not just in this city council. Once it became so evident to me that all of our non-partisan seats were simply puppets installed with wads of cash and a familiar name, it was easy to identify just who landed on which side, and why so much had gone wrong.

This isn’t to say that there’s anything particularly wrong with people choosing a side – so to speak – and then running for office. It’s what I did. But they have to be allowed to deviate from the Party on certain issues, and there still has to be some core aspect of them that is fundamentally qualified to lead independently. This, I feel, is like antibiotics to an infection that left otherwise alone would become deadly. 

Instead of this though, what has happened, is that Party leaders have taken up the practice of handpicking who will run; they groom their candidates. This happens in big Party leadership – where the Party decides and elevates high profile figures to run for big ticket offices. And it happens, probably more prevalently and dangerously, in local political party-affiliated groups. People in my community have handpicked and installed – either by genuine and well funded elections, or by appointment after someone retires mid-term or dies – a handful of puppets to take seats they are otherwise not qualified for. 

This has only been made worse with the rise of influence of social media, and culture wars stoked by both Parties meant to politicize otherwise non-politically divisive issues. Examples of this would be masks in schools and what textbooks are used to teach middle schoolers sex education or history. Critical Race Theory, Black lives matter, and the concept of systemic racism. False flag and rallying around a cause have always been used as political rhetorical devices, but thanks to class Party politics and growing divisions, stoking the flames of these cultural divisions only stands to make it all the more easy for political parties to hijack these hot button issues to win non partisan elections. Even though none of them truly believe in any of it. 

How this relates to a real crisis – be it the pandemic, or something more long term like homelessness – is that then you have these bodies in place of leaders that are simply ill-equipped to handle what’s been put before them. 

These people, these political drones that run on slogans and pep rallies, are so tuned in to suiting only the interests of their donors and their ideologies, that this is how they approach a crisis that affects everyone. With the pandemic, we saw it on the local county and city level with small businesses. Small businesses make up such a large percentage of campaign contributors in my community that this became the default beneficiary of CAREs funding when it was time to doll that out. In a public health crisis, public health was a mere afterthought; county supervisors were mostly concerned with when weddings would again be allowed, and how soon the malls could be back to full capacity. FEMA-funded programs, like meals for seniors and free hotels for COVID positive isolations, quickly were shut down the first chance they could as well, because while seniors were still hungry and people in multigenerational households still had a hard time isolating from vulnerable family members, the interests of restaurant and hotel owners came first. As things began to open up, community leaders branded those that still stayed home as selfish and hurting small business. This is how far afield we’ve gone in our thinking: that as community members, if we don’t support their donors, as we support them, we are in the wrong. 

Moreover, it’s become even more evident over the years that on some level, many of the people both in elected and appointed office don’t even believe in the principles on which America was founded. 

The GOP so clearly does not believe in representative democracy; while the Democrats have stopped pandering to the idea that there is such a thing as a social contract. Now in office for over a year, some interviews of White House staff and advisors include comments from these people outright saying as such. And in local Democratic groups and more Conservative organizations just the same? Talk to any of them and they don’t even know what a social contract is. If the two political parties do not even believe on some level in the government they are elected to run, what – really – is left? When we entrust them with our lives, as the social contract dictates, and they in turn do not even attempt to keep up their end of the bargain, we know that America’s disease has raged so far beyond a point, it may not be possible to bring it back from the brink. 

Perhaps the evidence of just how deadly our infection in American politics truly is can be found in the politicization of the pandemic response. When I say this though I don’t mean things like “masks are for Democrats,” or “Republicans are antivaxxers.” Beyond the fact that statistically speaking, neither of those is an entirely true statement, rather the issue of each is nuanced and rooted in a variety of issues (some political, while others socio-economic and racial), those are not the real sentiments that have politicized the pandemic. 

It’s been in how decisions at all levels of government have been made.

At some point, it became evident that pandemic policy was going to be dictated not by what was right or wrong, but how people would react. This alone is the very definition of politicization. Mask policies were not a blue state or red state thing, rather an issue of whether or not polls came back stating people would wear them or thought they were useful. Critical voter blocks were polled, rather than scientists and doctors. Mandates for vaccines or vaccine verification were made, or not made, on Party line philosophies, as well – not on the truly empirical evidence that showed the efficacy of vaccines (the shots, not the mandates). 

My problem as a candidate, and an organizer and advocate since, is that I have failed to jump in on that Party line. In return, I’m accused of being everything: a socialist, a communist, a radical, an idiot, an anti-vaxxer, a conspirator, a Trump apologist, a CCP agent, a demon sent from hell to inject people with COVID vaccine. Everything. My status as just as much not a puppet for the Democratic Party as not a puppet for the GOP became clear to many of them when, quite some time after the election, I criticized a decision of Joe Biden’s on Twitter. Suddenly I was seen as a liability to the Democrats, too “progressive” in my thinking. Some thought it was a sign I was a Republican plant (I can assure you all, I am not that interesting). It really doesn’t matter in the end who I was with, though; the point was that I was not blindly allegiant to any of them, which we see now – on both sides – gets you kicked out. And this is the real crux of the argument: the Democrats and the Republicans are just one club of infected political ideologues. Blue MAGA, Red MAGA – both are fundamentally MAGA.

And as Carlin says: “it’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.”

The truth is, I advocate for what I think is right. I really, and truly, believe simply in improving our material conditions and quality of life. I really, and truly, believe this can be done from the standpoint of public health. At the end of the day, almost all things can lead you down that road. Typically, I can argue for this from the perspective of facts and reason; unfortunately, though, those are two things that come as a threat to those unable to easily use them when those very things confront the sycophantic drones of either Party. 

When I was running for city council, early on, another candidate who was deep into the local Democratic Party contacted me to lecture me about FEC laws and my campaign materials. In it she offered to bring another Dem Party “insider” to help me out. Having worked on so many campaigns in my life, as well as for the labor unions, I knew how it all worked already. Should I have been insulted that she didn’t know this? Maybe, but then I didn’t have time to be offended. The truth is, I barely had the time to run the campaign, let alone do that and play extraneous personality politics. I thanked her and politely mentioned that I was aware so wouldn’t need the help. Perhaps that was my mistake; but with the little time I had to run my city council campaign, I didn’t prioritize humoring local political party “insiders” (if you can call them that) on my schedule. 

I rarely heard from any of the local Democrats again after that. So I stopped worrying much about what they thought, stayed true to myself, and in turn got into a lot of trouble with the locals. 

When a local mom blogger, who is in local politics insofar as she’s on committees but is too narcissistic and unhinged for me to pay much attention to, was drunk-posting on Facebook about another mom not tipping enough to her Instacart driver, I commented “maybe she simply didn’t have the money but still needed the service? Could she be COVID positive?” This became her rallying cry to consider me the loose cannon that other Democrats had “warned” her about. She’s had a target on my back since.

But those were more personality politics than they were policy politics. Of course on those I got into trouble too.

When locals that had called on the community to stay home, social distance, and do the right thing all along, were suddenly having parties, going to work sick, and bragging about going into stores mask-less because they had been vaccinated, while children out in the community still were not, I called them out and asked them to please hold the line to protect kids. 

Another rallying cry.

I wrote our city council, asking them why they broke from the state’s mask guidance, making masks optional even as children in our community were being hospitalized from COVID. Later, I wrote them again, begging them to have mobile vaccination clinics at community events. When they didn’t respond to either, I called them out in the local paper.

Another rallying cry.

When Democrats and Republicans alike started to back further into their corners, openly suggesting retaliation towards their political opponents on school boards and neighborhood councils (one even suggesting that a school board member be evicted from her home so she could no longer represent the district, something that has since initially writing this happened to me and my family), I spoke up. 

Another rallying cry. 

Ultimately, I’m just a mom. I write. I post on my blog. I take graduate courses. I advocate for others. I spend a lot of time talking to people that are in the community that want better material conditions. And I spend the bulk of my days just being with my kids. 

On the campaign, and every day since, I have come into contact with so many people just like me. Many volunteered for my campaign, many have continued to contact me to this day. Just average people sick of the disease that is running our community; sick of the infection that runs unabated in city hall and beyond.  

The infection was initially mild. It was a wild plot to takeover America, but that nobody ever thought would happen. It was some infighting in just one, toxic Congressional district. It was one, unqualified Party favorite council member, on a board of otherwise entirely qualified and impartial individuals.  

Today it is all of them. It is all of them, and they are in control of everything. 

As time goes on since my failed bid for city council, I’ve become more worried about both my community, and America on the whole. It would be one thing if this was just isolated. But quite clearly, it is not. Politics has always been cutthroat and nasty, always in the state of nature; but never has it been so toxic that the host body joins the mild infection in destroying everything in its path – friend or foe.

The solution, of course, is that we inject the body politic with massive amounts of medication – antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatories; the works. 

We reform elections so that money becomes less of a driving factor, so that lobbyists cannot control so much of our public policy. Who reforms elections is as important as the reforms themselves, though; reform must be done by the voters. Not the mom bloggers, committee members, and each board or council doing it their own way, but the voters. All of them. Universally. 

We take limits a step further than number of terms, and apply them to election spending. We publish campaign contributions for each candidate in the election pamphlets that come with the ballots. Because who you elect is never just the personality you click at the polls, it’s everyone that donated to their campaign too.

We hold leaders accountable for their failings. We have more oversight. In a municipal government, we allow voters to take part in appointments and have hiring hearings that the public can view. In higher levels of government, like Congress and the Presidency, we do the same, only more so. 

Perhaps the boldest move would be that we institute ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting, combined with very systemic election reform created by voters (not politicians) would go far to break up the two party system, and level the playing field so that more qualified candidates may come to the surface. 

Because let’s be honest: both the Democrats and Republicans are equally, in their own ways, the source of the infection to begin with. And representative government does not work if the representatives see who they represent by how much money they’ve donated, or don’t believe in the government they’ve taken an oath to uphold.

Doing this, and more, would go far in changing America. In curing the infection, and in restoring us to a place that can do the work of representing people on every level, these reforms must be had to restore integrity. As high as the Presidency, and as low as a sanitation board, if we do not stop this infestation from plaguing us, it’s hard to see how we will come out the other side of it.  

Remember that we can always go back from whence we came. The infection was initially mild. It may never be completely gone, but it can be controlled to be mild again.

Thank you for tuning in to my 5 part series on running for city council in my small town So Cal community. If you feel so inclined, please click the link to PAY WHAT IT’S WORTH. This is so much better of a way to sell my books than to go through the process of publishing them; and it allows me to offer my writing for free to those that haven’t the means.

Part 3: The Subterranean Termites Come To the Service

Welcome to the third part of my 5 Part Series: The Infection Was Initially Mild: My Small Town City Council Run, the Toxic American Pandemic Response, and What Both Mean For the Future Of the Country. 

You can also read the entire series now, download it in entirety in PDF format, catch the disclaimers in the Introduction, listen to it on Text to Speech (I have to warn you it’s a little awkward), or watch the Text to Speech on YouTube.

Also, more resources, videos, updates, and Pay What It’s Worth links can be found there too!

CLICK HERE for The Infection Was Initially Mild Landing Page

Every fall or early winter, late in the year, it begins to cool in Southern California, and eventually it rains. Most years it’s been so dry that even the slightest bit of rain becomes an epic event. What I always notice about the first “big” rain (sometimes it is no more than a spit, and that’s all we get for the season) is that immediately after, the subterranean termites come out in a swarm.

Subterranean termites are these little termites that are white and translucent. They don’t do damage like the termites that rot your attic; but they are annoying nevertheless. What I always notice is that there are just so many of them. One day you’ll be enjoying the first rain of the season, and the next you can’t even look outside without seeing clouds of them in swarms, just flying around. 

Flying for the sake of flying. Existing for the sake of existing.

One year, so many of them came up from underground that they also died in droves. They got stuck in window sills, smashed over the front of my black SUV so that it looked grayish white from a distance, and the ground was covered in their translucent wings so you heard a crunch and a squish, turning the wings into a translucent goo stuck on the bottom of your shoes. It was a sight of horror, one forgotten as quickly as they resurface until the next first rain of the season.

People in politics, in every fashion, are like those subterranean termites. They come out only at certain moments of the year. They fly around in swarms, and infest every open space they can. Leaving behind trails of translucent, gooey wings, and the scent of infestation, politicos (from politicians and electeds, to commentators, bloggers, and volunteers) are like annoying gnats on the ass of America. Few have any redeeming qualities, and they appear to exist for no reason but for the sake of themselves. 

Flying for the sake of flying. Existing for the sake of existing. The subterranean termites come to the surface. 

The city council in my city is perhaps synonymous with any other governing body in America: they are clueless, do very little, and understand even less. 

Our city council is pretty typically made up of any handful of your garden variety locals. There is usually at least one self-professed businessman, whose business is a bit nebulous and sounds more like a Ponzi scheme. A lawyer is always smattered in there somewhere, since lawyers notoriously possess the cut-throated narcissism required to be a politician, and because voters tend to assume that someone who knows how to manipulate the law will also be good at running the city. 

Our city has a hard on for small business, as many cities do; so there are two businessmen and one businesswoman on our council presently. The men are like pieces of Wonderbread, sort of blending into the chamber walls with their weak-willed comments, and hangers-on status. One was up for re-election the same year that I ran, only in a different district, and he acted surprised when my daughter gave him a Halloween treat bag at the Farmer’s Market. “Even for an opponent?” – he asked, to which she had to remind him that he wasn’t even in the same district as me. The other, he seems harmless (and I don’t mean that in a good way). The woman – whom my youngest called “Grandma” whenever he saw her on the screen during a meeting – has been there since the 80s. She’s taken turns being mayor just shy of 10 times (8, to be precise); and, as with the men, most of us remain unclear what business she’s actually in besides grifting the taxpayer dollar. 

There are also the occasional politicos that come and go on the council. These are the people that parrot party lines, like “Black lives matter,” and “Vote Blue no matter who.” Of course neither of those phrases – in the typical election year – would even remotely be tolerated in this community; and yet somehow, some way, one of them managed to get on the council. She’s up for re-election this year, and if I’m reading the pulse of the city right now, she will be a one hit wonder in terms on the dais. The shocking part about her is that in a pandemic, as a nurse, I cannot think or find evidence of a single thing she’s actually done for the public health aspect of it. Even today, into the third year of this collective nightmare we are all living through, I watched recently a video of a council meeting in which she was wearing a loose-fitting, inappropriately layered, mask at the meeting. A nurse. A person who is supposed to know things like ‘how to wear a mask,’ and ‘what type of a mask to wear.’ Someone who was touted as exactly who we wanted to be there during the pandemic, she effectively did nothing for public health education, vaccination or testing efforts, and everything in between. 

I believe – and this is just my own personal belief – that this comes more from the cronyism that is pervasive to our community, and as it turns out in the bigger political picture. Hand picked successors are everywhere. When a council member either terms out or retires, there is always someone that has a familiar name and face that’s been waiting in the wings to pick up the position. This can be done traditionally, with an actual vote of the people (that comes from hefty funding and a lot of local name recognition); or – more often – when someone leaves in the middle of the term, and the council or board or whatever convinces the public that it is more financially responsible to shun the voices of voters, and let the all-knowing remaining electeds select their new colleague.  

My community has no shortage of either. Decades ago, one of the area’s Congressmen died suddenly and tragically, and in the special election his wife ran for and won the seat. The funny part of that was that when you polled most of the voters in the district, they were both unaware it was her (and not the dead husband), and didn’t even have a grip on when regular elections were supposed to be held, and just voted when told to. 

On the more local level, we had a county supervisor on the board for decades, before the county finally gave in to the will of the voters and instituted term limits; and someone totally and completely ideologically opposed – though sharing the last name – got enough money from local oil and natural gas companies to plaster enough name recognition pieces around the community that she was elected in a landslide. This county representative – now on a re-election – has no more than bananas for brains, and will blow whichever way her biggest donors sway her (I can only assume the air between her ears helps with the flight). Often she harms the community with her total cluelessness, and subsequent harmful (at times dangerous) policies. 

Most people in the community, though, still think they’re voting for the last lady.

On the flip side are the institutional cronies that are in just enough local groups, and have been around the political scene long enough, to simply step onto the stage the moment an opportunity presents itself for them to do so. Often times, it is so glaring when it happens you can’t help but be insulted that these people, this pack of cronies deciding everything from what roads are repaved, to which books our children in the public schools learn from, think we are both blind and dumb. 

Perhaps, since we go along with it, we are.

In the last couple of years, the real offenders were the ones who knew they wouldn’t serve their term. One school board member had already contracted a move, but notified the public only after she was re-elected. This allowed the school board to handpick her successor, again after reminding the public that this was the fiscally responsible thing to do. Nothing gets your average community member like the idea that their tax dollars are being wasted, even if it comes at the expense of the authoritarianism. Make no mistake about it – handpicking successors is exactly that. 

Another school board member in recent years died of a terminal cancer she knew she had and kept secret through her re-election; again she was replaced by installment. Two city council members that same year met the same exalted status locally, when seats opened only after other council members won higher office. 

Of course we could have municipal laws that prohibit a candidate from running for office while holding another that would require them to resign, leaving the path open for this kind of malfeasance at schools boards and city halls all over the country. This would at least eliminate some. We could also end the ability for installment, and require special elections under all circumstances. But this brand of local authoritarianism is kind of what the whole game is about: making sure that only the people in office can decide who else is there with them. 

All the Parts in the Machine

What makes all of this possible – at every level (water board, city council, county supervisor, state legislature, Congress, and so on) are the insiders. Paradoxically, this is a group of people that believe they are inside and influencing decisions, when the reality is they exert about as much weight as that of their pinkie fingers. Not much. 

Sure, political influencers and some employees play a part, and can make or break a candidate or an elected official with their own actions or part in the dance. Like the city clerk who handles the elections – she could simply not return the phone call of a candidate until the time has passed for the candidate to file, and that’s about that. In the year of my own election, a man that ran for mayor in a neighboring city became victim of the malicious incompetence of the county clerk, who just happened to “accidentally” leave the man’s name and candidate information out of the election handbook mailed to all voters. 

Beyond all these tertiary elected and appointed subterranean termites, there is also the mega-bureaucracy at the city and county levels, who portray and highlight those elected to office with their own particular brand of incompetence. If I am constantly having a problem dealing with the people in the property tax office at the county, it’s unlikely I will continue to vote for the incumbent on the county supervisorial board that is supposedly meant to oversee these clowns. Right? The same could go for almost any department the average citizen encounters, or so you would think. 

Except when everyone is incompetent, including their replacements, what else can we come to expect over the years? Now, in 21st century suburban America, this standard of incompetence is matched only by the amount of gaslighting done in the public view. Community members accept this low standard of public service thanks to messaging and social media posts that have glossed over an otherwise abysmal electoral track record. 

This was especially highlighted in the pandemic, when the inner-workings of the local government showed itself to the public to be inefficient, idiotic, and – in this case – deadly. But at the same time, they messaged the hell out of the story with social media posts and pretty pictures, and now the collective perception of how things have been handled is divided between those that watched from the protection of their homes and Internet, and those that suffered the greatest hardships. 

Even our public health is made up of installed puppets, bureaucratic cronies with interests beyond their scope and practice. In the earliest days, our county took the strategy of protecting businesses at all costs. Those costs were, naturally, human lives – mostly of the elderly, low wage workers, illegal immigrants and guest workers, and members of multigenerational, low income homes. Still, the vast majority of CAREs funding the county received went to business grants, and to cities which then distributed further business grants. Very little went to public health (beyond testing, which they rapidly phased out the first chance they could). To make matters worse, the public health professionals made recommendations and guidance at the pace of snails, not wanting to hurt small business through this difficult time. As community member fatalities began to stack up, our public health director ignored the call by the public to publish what businesses had experienced employee outbreaks as well. They do it for other public health violations, but an outbreak of COVID among employees was seen to them as too politically controversial, and would harm local business. The list of these, and other, transgressions over the years of the pandemic has stacked up, rivaled only by the list of people that have died of the disease and their gross negligence. But again, the messaging is at peak gaslit, and the public has been profoundly removed from the gross negligence that has gone on. 

This raises a very serious issue in American politics: what the general public doesn’t always seem to realize when they vote is that they aren’t just voting for the person or identity of the candidate, themselves, but for everyone they bring with them. 

This extends beyond just who they install when a seat on their own council opens. With the president, it’s judges and administration officials. With counties, it’s everyone running the show – from your jails to your elections to your child support services. In cities, it’s the manager and the city planner. You have to ask yourself, in a city like mine, why the council hasn’t been able to find residents of our actual city to hire as city managers and planners; or why when a once in a lifetime pandemic hits, there’s no one of all the people working at city hall capable of being moved into a position to better coordinate a more well-rounded local response to save lives.

All of these people are a part of the same whole: flying for the sake of flying. Existing for the sake of existing. In essence, accomplishing and contributing very little to society as a whole.

Finally, you have all the rest of the swarm that can be seen everywhere. Like the subterranean termites, they gaggle into groups, serving only themselves.

They are the local media, who cow tow to local elected officials because it is local governments that fund their struggling newspapers. 

They are the special interest groups, that average people believe only exist in the highest levels of government, when in reality they exist at all levels and are most insidious in their influence at the bottom. 

They are the two bit activist groups, who have some nebulous and general cause that is used as an excuse to get together, drink wine, and gossip. 

One of our city council members has a somewhat influential mother in one of these groups. A gaggle of old women and one, gay man, they get together multiple times per week to gossip about everything going on in the world that pisses them off, write checks to personalities they like, and get sauced on a local Chardonnay in the process. On one occasion they invited me and the other woman running in the city (in the other district) – a pink-haired Democratic activist that talked down to me, and routinely interrupted to ramble into oblivion on topics no one could understand. The event was 80% her talking, 19% the group complaining about Trump, and I was given about 2 minutes to state my name.   

Most malignant are the local political groups, whom are usually more cliquish than they are substantive in their activism. Like a cancerous sore on the body politic locally, these groups in my community are why the leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Caucus (also known as the D-Triple-C) once told me at a union junket in Sacramento that because of the toxicity that is pervasive to these local political groups in this district, the caucus typically considered it a political black hole. 

Especially in my own experience, with the Democratic groups, they are the grassroots embodiment of the party at large: overpromising and underdelivering. For our own election, the local Democrats sent emails upon emails to candidates promising volunteers, phone banking, mailers, and the like. In the end, we got a couple hundred text messages sent, and a stack of door hangers with a long list of names on it (mine was towards the bottom). No manpower to distribute them except the Young Democrats who gave us a few hours one Saturday. And, of course, that couple hundred bucks from just one of their many groups. 

Of course with social media, the groups expanded into things like political mom groups, and everything that comes with them. If Facebook Mom Groups are the state of nature, my own experience with them has been quite Hobbesian: nasty, brutish, and short. The political moms groups of course divide into the ideological camps, and I managed to piss off both of them. 

For the conservative moms of the community, it was quite obvious. Most of them believed I had that conspiratorial “agenda,” of which they themselves could not even articulate. On social media they would claim they saw me being “nasty” to fellow moms, and contemptuous of our community members. None of this was true, and when asked for the proof they could not produce it. That started the next conspiracy, that I had spent years of my life gleaning my presence on the Internet, something any mom of three knows I have absolutely no time for. A lot of them were hyper-religious and took offense to my positions on public health as well (it remains to be seen how wearing a mask has anything to do with Jesus).  

Naturally, the defund the police rumor, was at the front of their sentiment against me. In the end there was going to be no winning them over for this reason. True or not, they had heard too much. 

The Democratic moms, though – them I did not see coming. Considering myself a very issue-based voter, organizer, and politician (if I even called myself the latter), there are a lot of things that I wasn’t particularly in agreement on with the Democrats. Perhaps that was a part of the problem, but if I understand it more clearly now, it was my own identity and demeanor that was a problem to some of them. For some in particular, that I ran in the first place.

I’m not an insider to them. For over a decade, I didn’t go to local Party events, I didn’t attend the rallies or the fundraisers or the Democratic Labor Day picnics. I stopped being on the inside of all of those things years ago, so to resurface today was jarring, I can only assume, to many of them. Especially when so many were new.

I probably didn’t help myself with occasional gaffes stating the obvious. Comments like “it’s so nice to see new faces!” are not welcome by people that consider themselves establishment figures in that particular community (whether it’s rooted in reality, or not). 

I also didn’t tone down speaking up about things I saw that I believed were wrong. When the Democratic moms Facebook group decided to host an online candidate meet and greet for a man running for the community college district school board, and a mom running herself asked to be given the courtesy of the same opportunity, she was ignored. I spoke up. 

When they defended people going out and breaking their COVID quarantine, including – many of them including many elected officials that should have been setting an example, I spoke up. 

When they left several endorsed candidates off their list of locals that had been endorsed by the Democratic Party, I spoke up. 

When my kids were followed around at the public park by supporters of my opponent, and filled cups from McDonald’s were thrown at my front door, and one of the organizers of the group said we should all forgive my opponent for staying silent on this issue “because he’s a nice man,” I spoke up.

Later, I learned, that the speaking up, and running for city council to begin with, was what I did wrong in that group. In reality, it was what I did wrong in front of all of them. It made the community (the moms, the conservatives, the cogs in the bureaucracy machine) feel threatened. It was where Blue MAGA and Red MAGA found a common enemy.

Me. 

My Opponent the Toad

My opponent was as bland as water, and as in-actionable as a toad. 

Remember the old story about the two toads on a log? There are two toads on a log and one decides to jump. How many toads are still on the log? Two. Toads think about doing things, but rarely have the energy, drive, or will to actually do them. This sums up my opponent, and everyone that surrounded him for that matter, in a nutshell. 

To make matters worse, he looked like one too. 

Being fair, I only met him in person on one occasion. It was at a carefully curated debate-style event for the senior community in our district. I call it “carefully curated” because it was crafted so as to protect him as much as possible. At the time, I had no idea I was walking into a room full of his supporters running the event; finding out later only after reading over his campaign contribution list, and recognizing all of their names. And to be clear: this was a cohort of toads, obsequious to their leader, and mostly condescending towards me. 

The queen toad – his wife – accompanied him and upon walking in, she talked to me like I was one of her gal pals at Bunko. “Oh, you’ll get used to these events,” was the first thing she belched at me, while clutching her handbag and evidencing for me that she clearly had not read my bio, nor had even the slightest inkling that I – a young woman in her late 30s – could have possibly been to any of these events before in her life (I’ve been to plenty).  

The moderator. The cameraman. The producer. All toads, all with that same leathery and blotchy, reptilian skin; at least a few with a bullfrog’s neck goiter. 

Through out the entire campaign, this toad man – the token lawyer on the city council – painted me not just as a radical liberal, but as an idiot. In certain crowds on Zoom events and candidate forums, he would answer questions by first stating that I didn’t know what I was talking about – this was why he should be re-elected. When he wasn’t running on this, he was doing so on his totally unfounded defund the police claims. He never actually campaigned on what he would do with four more years. He simply highlighted that he wasn’t me. (And it worked.)

Of course if he had highlighted what he had done with four years in office, he would have had nothing to talk about. Besides contributing to hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer waste by getting the city sued several times, this supposed-lawyer didn’t have much else to account for. The material conditions of residents were no better (arguably worse), the city was bleeding jobs even before the pandemic as well. I can’t blame this toad of a man for making me his solo talking point. If I were as much of a lame duck, I would have done the same. 

Of course I always managed to overcome his incessant and condescending bullfrog noises – his gurgles and belches, that said less in substance than I even thought was possible of someone speaking words as fully formed sentences. After all his man-spraining and treating everyone like a village of idiots, I kept my cool, stated facts, and always ended events with more supporters than I came in with. Yet either a fault of the pandemic, or more just the way things are in local politics, the general public was by and large not present for these candidate forums and face-to-face  (or Zoom-to-Zoom) events. There were 10, maybe 20, at each. Add all the candidates from the combined events, and you had an online total of maybe 40. Not enough to sway the vote, because in the end what it came down to was who had the most money. 

This was when I simply got outspent.

Newsletter #3: We Need To Talk About Accountability

Another week, another shit show.

Around the World

Well, this isn’t exactly around the world, but it’s certainly national news: Texas effectively overturned Roe versus Wade. I feel as though we live in this fucked up, dystopian reality, only there are only some of us that get it.

Between climate change and the disasters literally flowing (or, in some cases, burning) from that; COVID and its ever-evolving descent into state of nature society, and now these bat shit ass crazy laws that keep getting passed around the United States, I can’t help but feel as though we’re on the brink. Of what? I’m not sure. I just know that this feels eerily familiar to Handmaid’s Tale, and moreover my worst nightmares.

As for myself, here in California, I’m relatively safe – for a variety of reasons. One is that I’m married and already have three kids, so ain’t nobody gettin’ pregnant around here (if you know what I’m saying). But also… I’m in California. Not Texas.

The only thing itching at the back of my neck, though, is the possibility that on September 14th, the governor will be recalled and replaced by Larry Elder. Larry Elder is like if Greg Abbott and Donald Trump had a baby – which of course would be stoned to death, because the Republicans hate gay butt stuff. Larry Elder is so bad, though, he wants the minimum wage to be $0. Can you imagine that? He’d also make damn sure to use every legal tool in his box to bring on exactly the same thing here as has just happened in Texas.

So I don’t know. Scary times I guess around the world. I’m just ready for the day when the news is boring again.

Around My World

Welp, I told you guys that I was going to talk shit about the locals, so don’t say I haven’t warned you.

For those of you unfamiliar: I live just North of Los Angeles, in a coastal, suburban community full of right wing nut bags, and Democrats who would be Republican if it were more socially acceptable to do so in California. They get away with it by registering as “No Party Preference,” or some other obscure political party no one knows about, but is an option as an official ballot designation. Or, they register as Democrats, then support all these crazy, local, right wing cronies, because they’re good friends, and they vote “because he seems like a nice man.” (Side note: cronyism is so endemic in this community, we have a local chain of bars named after it.) As issues voters, they typically blast hard line Democrats for being too much. They ALL hate AOC (not saying I particularly like her either). Their brand is Conservative with just the slightest hint of a purplish-blue streak, once in a while. My county went around 60% to Biden, which many of them say is evidence that we are irrefutably a blue county… yeah, sure. A county that votes 40% for Trump, and for whom 5% of all registered voters signed on to the recall petition for the Democratic governor is not, and will never be, Blue anything. In the Presidential elections we vote for the lesser of two evils, who happens to typically be a Democrat. But overwhelming in down ballot elections, state and local initiatives, and in public policy running the gamut of issues, we are as deep red as a bad period.

I find that the people that tout voter registration statistics and trends on the national level have only a thin grasp of reality as to what really goes in to making a particular geographic area tick. To really understand whether it’s Conservative or Liberal, you have to look at who is running the local appointments, elected seats, and what kind of public policy you have. Our county is – overwhelmingly – Conservative on this level. When I ran for city council last year, my opponent was described by many as “the local version of Donald Trump.” One of my biggest supporters once told me: “he is the most manipulative, psychopathic, and right-wing people I have ever met.” And it was true.

Conservative isn’t just how they vote, it’s how they live. There’s a reason a lot of people call us the Florida of California, and the problem is that now – because of COVID – it’s killing people. And the most glaring part about it, is that in the most conservative of places… there is zero accountability for it.

A few weeks ago, one of the local high schools caught a football player coming to school and practice with a known COVID positive case. The kid was unvaccinated, and had tested positive; the parents knew, and they sent him to school. That week, the team was grounded from playing (obviously), but by the next Saturday they had all gotten back on the field to win the game for the week. Here’s the crazy part about it: the day before the winning game – exactly one week after the team was placed on quarantine because of the kid that had come to school knowing he was positive – the same high school’s softball coach DIED OF COVID 19.

They dedicated their win – their win that was just a week after they found out a player had been coming to school knowingly carrying and possibly spreading COVID 19 – to the man.

I have yet to hear about any accountability, or even what local public health citations or consequences there are for doing something like knowingly breaking one’s COVID isolation. The spoiler, I’m sure, is that there are none.

A week later, another local high school was featured in the local paper for the acts of their heroic football coach. You’re probably all saying to yourselves: well surely this can’t be about COVID too, can it? It can, and it is. The paper did a feature article about how the coach was quarantining for a COVID contact… but was still coming to the team practices, parking just down the street, and coaching via drone. He could have been carrying COVID 19. His car could have broken down on the way home or whatever, and he could have spread to an unsuspecting, vulnerable tow truck driver. Talk about what’s wrong with this? Nope. We venerated him in the paper.

This is the problem with hyper-local communities with conservative values, and conflicting ideologies. They live under this veil of not really taking a side on things, and then do nothing when it comes to actually addressing issues that are at hand. Rather than hold people accountable, they look at the positives: oh sure, the kid maybe killed people by coming to school knowing he had COVID, but isn’t it nice that the team won and dedicated the game to the dead softball coach? Very special.

STFU Fridays

Well anyway, on a lighter note: today I started decorating for Halloween. I know what you’re all thinking: it’s only the beginning of September! Well my response to you is: shut the fuck up.

Who gives a fuck what other people do when it bears absolutely no impact on you or your life in any way? Why are we in this weird place where everyone seems to think they can send their kids to school with a deadly virus and possibly kill people, but that others are not within their rights to put an artificial pumpkin in their rose garden before October? If you don’t like the spider webs on my front porch, and the Halloween tree in my bay window, shut your trap, and move along.

Shut the fuck up with your kill joy negativity that is only there if it suits your suburban narrative. I don’t need your approval to put up my “the witch is in” sign, and I don’t give a fuck if you are judging me for already putting a candy bowl out with an animatronic zombie hand on my kitchen counter.

I’ve got news for you motherfuckers: I’ve had my “oh my gourd” sign on my front porch since August.

I don’t give a shit if it’s 89 degrees and sunny out this weekend, I am going to start using my skull mugs and skeleton bone silverware.

Here’s the thing: life fucking sucks right now. For everybody. If your life doesn’t suck, you live in some fantasy land where nothing is wrong and the shittyness of the world doesn’t bother you one bit until it affects you personally, and for that I feel sorry for you. You must be quite lonely in your glass house that will surely shatter to pieces one day, and likely soon.

If putting up Halloween decorations in September, or – fuck it – Christmas decorations back in July, makes you feel better about the shittyness that is the world and humanity right now, well cheers-the-fuck to you.

I am tired of the pandemic. I am tired of shitty people making it worse. I am exhausted beyond belief with the political news cycle, the chaotic state of our world, and the fact that every single fucking thing is a million times more difficult to do now because we live in this dystopian hellscape.

This is why I am just done. I’m done giving a single shit what people think of me. What people think of my plans. What people think of my parenting, and what people think of my potty mouth. Done.

To the people judging me for putting up my Halloween decorations early, or to the people judging you if you’ve done the same: judge me when you are perfect. And until then, shut the fuck up.

See ya’ll next week!

Am I Destined To Live In the Ghetto?

ahhh-the-ghetto-50504

I ask myself often: do I live in the ghetto? No, not really. I live in the suburbs.

But as time has gone on, and we’ve moved from one nice area that turned out to be not-so-nice, to another, I’ve come to realize something: the suburbs may be synonymous with the ghetto.

We moved on June 1st to a condo owned by my husband’s family. It was purchased for him and his brother, and as a general investment, when the community was first being built about ten years ago. They’ve had a slew of renters coming in and out for several years. Eventually he and his brother, and their various roommates, moved out and got married, and they had a family friend renting for a few years.

But as we recently found ourselves in the position of having to either (a) pay rent beyond our means in our prior apartment to stay in town near family, or to (b) move back to the city of Los Angeles (where my husband works) – we all realized that it was time for us to occupy the condo.

We really had no other choice if we wanted to stay close to our families, or should I say if our families wanted us to stay close to them.

About a month ago, I was pulling into the drive and parking my car when a crazy-looking, middle aged man approached me and my daughter getting out of my SUV. He was shaking – noticeably – and started screaming at me about how he didn’t like my driving before I even got out of the car. He went on to tell me that my garden on our patio offended him, and – just who did I think I was trying to make the rest of the neighbor’s patios look dumpy compared to my nice set up. Was this guy serious? I still don’t know. I did not engage him in a fight, I simply tried to calm him down and assured him that I drive much slower than I should need to, in a community where my kids and friends have almost been hit twice, already, by crazy drivers. And that we have only the best intentions with our admittedly nice things.

11872302_851094782623_7718313065513953767_o11921727_851094378433_5672761055234370595_oHe wasn’t having it though. For him, this confrontation was not about having a reasonable discussion – it was about the fact that he thought we were renters, just like all the other people that have come and gone through this, the family home. It was about the fact that he felt he needed to threaten me with his supposed-HOA credentials. And, I can only assume, it was about the fact that the guy clearly gets off on accosting and harassing young women in parking lots.

I finally gave up, and just walked into the house as he continued to scream – crying much harder than I should have been.

Naturally, as any blogger will do, I took my upsettedness to Facebook. I talked about the incident on my page, and about how the man brought me to tears. Many expressed sympathy, some talked about the actual issues in my community with me – something everyone should do, because no place is perfect. Then one friend (as she always does), asked “why does this crap always happen to you?” In response I answered a question with a question: “because we keep moving from ghetto to ghetto?”

I never said this was the ghetto.

I never said this place was a dump.

I never actually said anything, other than that I was accosted by a middle aged man in the parking lot, and that it upset me. I cracked a jokey question about ghetto behavior seeming to be everywhere.

(As anyone with any experience with others knows, anytime a white girl such as myself refers to something as “ghetto,” she is referring to a behavior, not necessarily a place.)

The response and the gossip that followed, however, turned into something I could have never – not in a million years – expected. It wasn’t about whether or not I was OK. It was about me saying I lived in the ghetto (which I didn’t ever actually say), me talking trash about my in-laws on Facebook (which, obviously, I would never do), me being ungrateful that we are “allowed” to live in and care for this home (didn’t realize that staying close to family while my husband still commutes 100 round trip miles a day for work, paying the monthly mortgage amount, and caring for the place as if it were our own was an allowance)…and so on and so forth…

So reported my husband, it eventually got to his parents and now – naturally – the gossip wheel left me feeling deflated and bullied, and looking like an asshole to his mom and dad.

All I really wanted was to come home and not be yelled at by a strange man.

Since then, there have been several more incidences:

-We received a letter in the mail that we had violated the HOA’s rules by screwing things into the front door and patio walls (there are no HOA rules about this, not to mention the things hanging are done so with removable, outdoor mounting tape).

-We received another letter in the mail that our plants were not sitting on proper drainage plates when set on the ledge around the patio (there is an HOA rule about this one; however, there absolutely are proper drainage plates under my ledge-lining plants, which I can’t say the same for our neighbors – some of whom are actually on the HOA).

-Someone has stolen and/or destroyed at least 75% of the plants on our patio.

-We saw someone in the middle of the night, just a few nights ago, creeping onto our porch at 4:15 in the morning, and pouring something into our plants (I was wondering why my last crop died suddenly and unexpectedly in August).

-The list goes on…and on…and on…

However, I don’t feel as though I can talk or post or say anything about it to anyone, because the results of me saying anything disparaging about people around here are: gossip, outright lies, and harassment from people that (a) don’t even live here themselves, and (b) should be loving and supportive.

Today – the doozy – I opened the garage door to take my daughter to tennis, only to find the wife of the guy that accosted me standing there. She yelled just like her husband did, that I am not allowed to open my garage like that. I said “like what?” and she replied “have it open unless you are coming and going.” I responded “um, I’m taking my daughter to tennis…I am literally in my car and we are literally talking as I have halfway backed out of the garage. By the way, are they doing anything about getting some speed limit signs up in this drive?”

She told me that the speed with which people drive through the community is not the HOA’s problem.

My daughter got into the car and we drove off, closing the garage door behind us. I saw that the woman had moved on to another victim: our neighbor, who she apparently finds reason to illegally tape record.

Yes, the HOA woman had climbed into the bushes of our neighbor, and was leaning into the balcony to tape record a conversation going on inside. When we got home from tennis, I saw her out by the school next to our complex. She was yelling at the crossing guard about the position of her chair, where the volunteer sits waiting to make sure children safely cross the street.

Finally I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore: I had to talk about this. I had to share about the experience on my Facebook page. I had to write this blog about it.

Not only because this experience is just another in a long list of behaviors that are not-so-nice, in a community that could otherwise be a very good one; but because lies and gossip should not dictate whether or not I speak out about what I think to be right and wrong.

A lot of people may not like that I say this, but the suburbs – at least in my experience – are ghetto.

This isn’t to say that there are are only trashy communities in the suburbs.

This isn’t to say that there are only terrible people in the suburbs.

Actually, quite the contrary: the suburbs are often much more beautiful than the city, more well-kept. You find better landscaping, and often better neighbors in suburbs.

I’m just saying that there is a common thread that the suburbs of any major metropolis are known for, and that is the suburban sense of entitlement. People in the suburbs often pay more, so a lot of them – read a lot of them, not all – think they can tell other people what to do. They don’t give a fuck about who sees them acting however they are acting, and on that note they often believe that what they do is the right thing (even when it’s sitting on your front lawn with no shirt on guzzling beers). They think they own everything – the streets, the neighborhood, other people’s patios – and that they can tell others what to do.

Again: a lot of, not all. But enough for it to have earned suburbanites a reputation.

In the city, this is one of the biggest complaints people have about the ‘burbs. Everyone is up in each other’s business, and everyone wants to tell others how to live. And this, well this is ghetto. It’s unsavory to act so trashy, entitled, arrogant, and self-centered.

Of course then in bigger cities, you do have true ghettos. Like the Jewish ghettos during WWII, where minorities are segregated into run-down, slum-like districts that have been gentrified for years to keep the bad behaving the way they do because they have no other choice. So between the slums of the gentrified inner-cities, and the truly trashy behavior of a fair percentage of suburbanites, we are stuck. There will always be a chance that someone will act ghetto in a place that is otherwise nice. And we’ve all seen what happens to Hilldale in Back to the Future – there will always come a time when the newest and nicest community becomes the next gentrified, slummy neighborhood.

This of course leads me to believe that: yes, I am destined to live in the ghetto. Until some of these attitudes change – until people are willing to talk about the issues, and not bully those who want to make a change; until people put a stop to gentrification and change their attitudes about what they are and are not entitled to do and say – we all are.

Funniest_Memes_only-in-the-ghetto-will-you-find_7759Oh, and for the record, there’s a lot of stereotypically ghetto shit going on around here all the time too. Like the weekly ghetto cardio, i.e. some random guy running down my street being chased by the police. The random shopping cart that occupies parking space #210. And the tumbleweave that’s been in the grass across from our garage for going on two months now. And we live in the *nice* area of town.