A few days ago, I had an acute allergic reaction to either something I ate, or something blowing in the back window of our house. Many of you all remember, we recently moved from a mold-infested hell hole, so my body is still recovering and attempting to reduce the level of extreme inflammation that comes of living under those types of conditions. So… a bad allergic reaction was bound to happen…
When it was at its worst, I considered going to the emergency room, but when checking on the wait times found that the ER in my own town – the best option – had a 10 hour wait time. On a Tuesday, in the middle of summer. I couldn’t believe it, so we took a drive over, and sure enough: at 7 o’clock in the evening, with a line out the door and people sitting on the floor of the waiting room, four ambulances docked in the unloading area, the wait time appeared accurate. I decided to go home and just hope for the best.
The following morning, I called my doctor’s office and told them I had experienced this acute allergic reaction, and I wanted to make an appointment to see him since the ER wait times were so long. I had made it through the night, I thought surely they could get me in that day, even with a PA, a nurse practitioner, or another doctor.
They scheduled me for the following Monday.
Today, I woke up to an alert on my phone that my order from Home Goods – which was due to be delivered Tuesday – was delayed due to “inclement weather.” A quick look at the national weather radar proved that was, very likely, a lie.
No date it will actually be delivered.
The Federal Reserve reports that several million people are now out of the work force, due to what doctors coin “long COVID.” Long term symptoms of COVID 19 infection vary by person, in symptom and length; and at least 1 million people are permanently disabled from this post-viral condition (and estimated 4.4 million partially). And this is only two years in, with a virus that provides absolutely no long term immunity, and every reinfection showing to increase your odds of developing lifelong health conditions, possibly disabling, exponentially.
I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it seems a great way to resolve the growing crisis with funding social security is to either:
a. Kill everyone that is presently living off of it; and/or,
b. Cause the entire system to collapse from an unmanageable burden
So it seems, the US has decided to do both.
Nevertheless, this is what living with COVID looks like. Wealthy, elite members of our own communities, and oligarchs running the government, have access to paid sick time ad infinitum, ample healthcare, and access to care and treatments many in America cannot even dream of being able to access, while the rest of us hope for the best.
But it isn’t just about getting sick and dying that remains an issue; for many who have been lulled into believing that COVID is just a cold (to be clear: it is not), just as for those that still take precautions and engage in personal mitigations to prevent getting or spreading the disease, living with COVID is a matter of being delayed, hampered, inconvenienced, and otherwise endangered.
Living with COVID is maybe not having a police officer available to come if your house is burglarized.
Living with COVID is not having reliable access to an emergency room for an emergency.
Living with COVID is being stuck somewhere on vacation because your flight was canceled.
Living with COVID is catching COVID on a cruise and being forced to be airlifted off for the pleasure of other passengers, even if you’re feeling relatively well (because no matter how well you feel, you could still harm someone – this is true).
Living with COVID is not being able to get in to see your doctor, or any doctor for that matter. A friend of mine recently went to the emergency room for ear pain; and while he was able to actually get in and be seen, when they recommended he see an ENT, he found out the next day that the earliest he could get in was … next year …
Living with COVID is having unqualified people teach your children, having your children learn over computer in an auditorium because there aren’t enough teachers in that week; having someone not even qualified to drive a school bus drive your child to school.
Living with COVID is packages arriving whenever they can, maybe. Definitely not on time.
And as it turns out, living with COVID is placing the burden of all of this more and more on the individual. With decreased mitigations and funding from the government, comes more emphasis on personal responsibility. People are told if they want to wear a mask, they can. There is, however, no clear and assertive guidance to the fact that masks work.
When it comes to items that are costly, this again comes down to personal burden. Individuals are asked to test, but at their own cost. Some are free, but only a couple times (at most, three batches, which should be long used up by now); some insurances will cover, others do not. Medicare covers them, if a senior wants to risk traveling from pharmacy to pharmacy until they find one that has the batch Medicare covers in stock.
Schools never upgraded ventilation, and have spent their American Rescue Plan funds ten times over on administration fees, so testing is cutting back, as is quarantines and the like. This is being done in the name of giving kids less disruption, as if being taught by a sophomore at the local college, learning your teacher just died, and having to go in and out of school because you’re always getting reinfected with the same virus over and over again is not disruptive to a child’s development… this is living with COVID.
Yesterday, we received a text message from the community college. Living with COVID for the last two years has been forcing my daughter to wait on having excision surgery for endometriosis; now that the surgeon has opened up her availability, my daughter has decided to defer college for one year to have the surgery. Of course the possibility for COVID to upend that happening as we all “live” with cancelations and inabilities to travel is there, nevertheless, while she does this she’s going to attend the local community college. The text message yesterday, though, stated that the board of directors for the community college system had decided to eliminate the COVID vaccination requirement.
Of course this is not about public health or the health of the students at all, and we all know that. Community college, and colleges in general, have increasingly been having a hard time with enrollment numbers – as students faced a variety of challenges through out this ongoing pandemic. Some students are no longer attend college because – surprise! – they have long COVID and are now permanently disabled. Many are now working full time and caring for a younger sibling, as over 200,000 children under the age of 18 have been orphaned due to COVID 19 in the last two years. Some learned the hard way that the president will not be forgiving student loans, that this was an outright lie; and the cost of living has been allowed to spiral out of control, the type of job you get after graduation will not pay the bills; that college in a very rapid period here has become attainable to only the wealthiest, who have the money and the ease with which to address housing, cost of living, travel, and tuition. Tuition programs even have been cut back, at our local community college they make it as difficult as possible for students to get their tuition covered with grants; because God forbid we make it easier for kids to navigate an education in these ongoing times where personal responsibility has forced them at a very young age to make tough choices.
So enrollment numbers have waned. Whereas it was a struggle to find a course with an open spot months before the class even started when I went to community college, now if you search open classes at the local community college, there are so many openings, it’s a little overwhelming. They’re even running ads, with classes for the fall starting tomorrow.
Far be it for them to admit that all of these problems are factoring in to lowered enrollment numbers, though; they instead point to vaccination requirements, and again – like everyone else – have decided that living with COVID will be to capitulate to the anti-vaxxers. The few out there holding out, will now be allowed to enroll in person in courses that previously had the requirement.
I don’t dispute that you can get COVID vaccinated. Not by a long shot. But even the very health department they claimed to have consulted admits that you are still significantly less likely to test positive for COVID 19 if you are fully vaccinated; and if you wear a mask, get tested, and stay home when sick.
The colleges though? Have decided that living with COVID will be much as in everything else: living with more disruption, with more personal risk, with more consequences to average people just trying to get by in life, while overall profits and financial considerations take precedence over the health of our community members.
Living with COVID. Frankly, I’m not sure who can call any of this living.
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!
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.
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.
Welcome to the first 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!
Also, please don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY – free to enter, just like or share on one or multiple social media outlets. The winner will be drawn tomorrow February 2nd on Instagram LIVE!
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I think to myself at least once a day: remember that time I ran for city council? I don’t think that way to myself often about many other things. But on the city council run, I do.
This isn’t to say that I am in absence of thought about random things that happen in my life on a daily basis. It’s to say that when I think about it – the city council run, it comes across my mind like a surprise. Over a year later, and I still am in shock that I did such a thing. In fact, the further time gets from the election, itself, the more ephemeral it becomes. Like a passing daydream, or a nightmare that reoccured for a period, and was traumatic enough to remember but not significant enough to keep in the forefront of my mind.
I – a stay at home mom of three kids, who writes part time, here and there; is in a graduate program in political philosophy, also part time; and, who is generally misanthropic and a little agoraphobic – ran for city council. Put myself in front of the entire city (in actuality, only one district) and asked for people to elect me – me, of all people – to lead for four years.
It’s just such an overtly bizarre thing to think about because it was probably a bad idea. Had I been elected, I am certain I could have done a good job in fulfilling my campaign promises, and bringing order to a community that has become completely disordered through the course of the pandemic. The truth is, I’m still doing that now, for having just run.
But I also would have had to button up my mouth, and play politics in a time when the last thing leaders should be doing is engaging politically.
Me running for city council, in reality, was tantamount to the time I believed that I could design a village of chicks out of neon-colored deviled eggs. To make matters worse, I used bits of black olives and carrot shavings for the eyes and beaks, and positioned them upright in uncooked white beans; and in the middle of setting the whole thing up, decided I would use guacamole in the filling for half of them, and make little signs for them to hold on toothpicks that said “chick me!” I’m not sure just what I was thinking at the time, but it was surely rooted in some level of temporary insanity; and in the end, it looked, and felt, like vomit.
Remember that time I ran for city council?
In 2020, I ran for city council in my small, wanna-be rural town. I say it’s “wanna-be rural” because the concept of the old days, flannel shirts and cowboy attire, and phrases like “all the fixins” are pervasive to our culture. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Backwoods rural communities and the middle of nowhere seems like a pleasant experience two years into a pandemic that has relied entirely on communities working together, when no one wants to do anything for anyone but themselves. The purpose of pointing to these qualities, though, is in highlighting some of the consequence, and the fact that it’s simply not true. Positioned just 50 miles north of Los Angeles, with a citywide population of just over 70,000 people, we are anything but rural. No, with an airport, growing community needs, and a Starbucks on every corner, we are urban-suburban sprawl. Still, many locals equate flannel shirts, backyard BBQs, and American flag-bedazzled Fords with a rural community; one where anyone can openly shout racial slurs at passers-by, and everyone knows everyone else. One where “it ain’t your business” is a community motto. Where community leaders are meant to handle miscellaneous things like missed trash pickups, and spray paint on signs in town; but ultimately the only other expectation is that they protect the townspeople from other governments (county, state, etc) reigning on their parade. Many of them long for the “good old days” that existed in other places of America, things that this community has never really seen.
At least 59% of people living in this city are living on generational wealth; this is to say they work blue collar jobs (or, in some cases, no job at all) and have homes entirely paid off decades ago. 76% live in homes owned by another entity (such as a private landlord or property management company). Approximately 30% are involved in conspiracy groups, mainly QAnon. Unsurprisingly, a good chunk of voters in my district – comprised of some of the wealthiest homes in the city, alongside those of less good fortune – do not want affordable housing, or people of color, living anywhere near them.
Ag and 4H is big (nothing wrong with that); as is the county fair and country music (I suppose these both get a pass too). Military families from the nearby naval base make up a substantial portion of our city, and Patriotism is codified in the fabric of our community, so much so that when people hear a jet overhead, someone immediately posts in the town Facebook group for moms: ”that is the sound of freedom!”
Religion is a big thing around here, with more churches than I can even count, and the average conversation with a neighbor always inevitably turns south when someone in the group randomly blurts out “isn’t God amazing?” Again, nothing wrong with religious groups, but in many circles it turns into a pass for unsavory and unethical behavior if you simply add some trite, colloquial religious phrase to the end of it. “Oh, Darrel shot off his brother’s big toe at the range the other day because he had one too many Coors? That’s too bad. Blessing be to the Lord our God it wasn’t his whole foot.”
On that note, perhaps the most notable thing about our community (at least in my view) is that the gun store is a hallmark of our So Cal town, so much so that there is regularly a line out the door, and the city celebrates it at the annual wine walk.
Now I say all of these in a blunt and overtly descriptive way, and some has a pejorative connotation to it. This was one of my first problems: my frank way of stating realities came across as an affront to a lot of people. Perhaps that was for good reason. Politically a really stupid move, I philosophically believed we as a community should be confronting some of these things that could tease out the best parts, while leaving behind the antiquated and divisive ones, the things that actually harmed each other, to grow into a better community. (This was, in the end, not exactly a winning strategy.)
Remember that time I ran for city council?
We are divided into districts, and in my district there is a special brand of non-partisan voters that decide every single election. During the campaign, I precinct walked my entire district (flyering and doorhanging, only, because of the pandemic), and I cannot think of a single street that was absent a Trump 2020 flag. Each election, both of the major political parties seem to claim these non-par voters as their own, but the truth is they are the anti-establishment and anti-party voters who liked Trump because he wasn’t your normal politician. This view has not changed for them, in spite of all the chaos that comes with it.
In truth, I only needed around 4,800 votes, plus 1. My district, in fact my entire county, has had a static presidential election year voter turnout around 80%. With only one other opponent in a race that is albeit easier to win when there are several options, 50% of that plus 1 would still win me my race. As it turned out, likely due to many people in my district being Conservative and/or pro-Trump, but knowing that in California this would be a waste of a vote, we only had a 67% voter turnout, and of that I only turned out 22% of them. A wet noodle of a result, if you ask me.
On the larger scale, my county is nestled in a more conservative swath of Southern California. It would be generous to call it purple. Here we have a lot of elected officials that are even branded as Democrats, and I believe they’re just so ineffectual and dysfunctional, the Republicans won’t even take them. A great example of this is my state assemblywoman. Originally a city council member in a neighboring town, this woman uses the Democratic Party like my ex-boyfriend that used me for rides to school. She has less interest in the Democrats or social justice, or any of their claimed causes and policy positions, than probably the Libertarians do, and yet she runs as one time and again. To be honest, it isn’t even exclusive to how she uses the Democratic Party, either. She uses closely aligned racial and cultural groups too, with zero interest in truly advocating for them. During the election I ran, she was at a candidate’s event I attended hosted by the local Islamic center. In response to the question on what she intended to do to fight Islamaphobia in and around the community, her response was: “I don’t know, but I always like your food!” When she decided to run for state legislature, she was pretty handily elected – a “just to the right of the center Democrat in a red pantsuit” is what I like to call her. Even further evidence to this Conservative underpinning is not only in her voting record, but the fact that out the door she endorsed my opponent – a right wing Republican, described by some in the community as “a miniature Donald Trump.” (Miniature in scope of office, and just because he is really a small, small, very small man.)
In the presidential elections, we usually go about 60% to the Democratic nominee, and last year was no different. However, every other race down the ballot – from governor to water board – is more of a mixed bag. Our local elections are non partisan, but this is neither a genuine designation, nor an accurate reflection of what powers control our grassroots community initiatives. The political party affiliation is either quietly known, or something people are overtly aware of: there is rarely an in between.
The average voter though doesn’t even know that our local elections are technically non-partisan. This is something I learned fairly early on in the campaign. I did manual texting until the very end, and an explanation for my voters about what non-partisan meant, and how our city council seats were technically run in that manner, was needed so frequently that I ended up creating a note in my campaign phone that I could copy and paste it from. Just because you run non par, though, never meant you actually had to be non par. My opponent and I both took endorsements (and money) from our respective political parties. Him the GOP, I the Democrats. The thing I failed to get out ahead on, though – perhaps one of my earliest failings – was that in reality I’m politically all over the place. The Democrats just sort of fit at the time. In truth, I disagree with both the Democrats and the Republicans more often than I agree with them.
At the end of the day, my opponent again masterfully manipulated my own messaging to portray me as a leftist radical that would turn our city into one where people were shackled by socialism, forced to wear burlap sacks and live in a communal shanty while paying allegiance daily to a dark Stalin-esque overlord. While he signed a fair campaign promise to not smear his opponent, he told people I – his opponent, just a mom – wanted to defund our police department and turn the city into a crime-ridden cesspool.
This was my second major failing: as I did when I first got into politics out of college, I lived on my own fantasy island where people had educated political and philosophical discussions, and then chose candidates based upon whose ideas made the most sense. And, that people that agreed to fair campaign practices campaigned fairly. Stuck in my esoteric realm of academia and childish naivety, I let him control my message with his rumors and identity politics before even making my first campaign appearance.
This failure of mine, and masterful manipulation of his, was even displayed on his signs: he was the independent and loyal candidate; I the partisan hack with a a secret agenda. Never mind the fact that he contracted with a local political consulting company that is exclusively by and for Republicans, and I hardly had the support of any local Democrats, the party simply endorsing me (I assume) because of an absence of any other options – none of this mattered, because most voters barely even knew there were local elections going on, let alone had the sense to check his campaign contribution filings to see who he was sending money to for the management of his campaign. Nevertheless, when he and I were in front of our largest audience – the 55 and over neighborhood located in the center of our district – he manipulated the elderly by telling them that he was “Independent and Loyal” while I was a part of a Democratic conspiracy to sneak my way into local public office. I sat in disbelief – in the same way I sit in disbelief when I think about the entire candidacy today, as he said right into the camera for these Bettys and Berts to watch on their closed circuit television station. And while I moved to correct this glaring lie immediately, it was clear that the damage was done. They never hear the truth, they only hear what was said first.
In any event, I ran. I lost. The decision to do so was precipitous, my family and I still feeling the disastrous social consequences of the choice. Here I am, more than a year later. I learned a lot of lessons, but more importantly I am still left – in many ways – bewildered that I did the thing at all, that it was real and serious and – most importantly – resulted in the most eye-opening and lesson-filled year of my entire life.
Remember that time I ran for city council? To be honest, I’m not sure I could forget.
I’ve been hesitating on posting on the blog until I have my straight-to-blog book about running for city council last year ready to hit the publish button. But this topic is just too important, and while the debate is gaining a fever-pitch for another critical moment in this ongoing pandemic… well, I just had to throw in my two cents.
We all have felt the whiplash of the back-and-forth recommendations from public health over the last year and a half; many of us as parents even moreso since the CDC announced that masks could be burned in the fire in almost all situations for anyone fully vaccinated. Our states quickly followed suit, along with individual businesses and enterprises everywhere making big announcements – as if such a thing was even necessary. Now I’m not saying that people always wore masks perfectly everywhere, but there is something to be said for just quietly changing rules instead of making such a hoopla over it.
Even local journalists were hosting Twitter threads announcing what locations immediately took off the masks; a shocking admission of their position on the matter, and moreover not equally covered now – weeks later – as cases have risen, neighboring counties have reinstated mask recommendations, and failing today to report on the actual quiet changes the CDC has made, such as reinstating mask mandates in homeless shelters for vaccinated people experiencing homelessness. To put it simply: the pressure on politicians and public health officials was strong from the press to take the masks off, but to back off on that? Not so much.
Now, a bit after the mask guidance dropped, and as coronavirus infections (for some) and variants (all over) have risen in number and prevalence all over the country, the mask debate goes on. I see doctors taking selfies unmasked, because – as they say – the vaccines do work. But I also hear wet coughs and comments about “freedom from face diapers” by people wearing t-shirts that say things like I will not be your medical experiment while I’m at the pharmacy picking up my unvaccinated four year old’s medication. As has been the case for the vast majority of this pandemic, when public policy has not intervened, the honor system has been asked of people. And while before public policy was effective enough to at least deter some of the negative effects, now – so it seems – people of all political persuasions have donned the Trumpian MO of staunch, and at time narcissistic, individualism. I got mine (vaccine), so you get yours and you’ll be fine. No more public policy needed.
Except every human being alive today under the age of 12 is not eligible for vaccination just yet.
In my own city in Southern California, the city decided they would encourage masks for everyone, but also make them entirely optional even for the unvaccinated. They (masks), thus, largely no longer exist. Anywhere, and for anyone – this being a total and direct defiance of county, state, and federal public health guidance. If immune compromised kids or adults want to go visit our local public library without at least some level of worry, they can – essentially – go blow.
(I wrote my city council on this, by the way, and not a single one of them could be bothered to respond… including, and most notably, the nurse.)
Masks, at this point more than at any other in the pandemic, have become so deeply political and incredibly controversial – both keeping them on and taking them off, and what each means in so many different situations – that I find myself spiraling down a hole that can best be described as Reverend Lovejoy’s wife on The Simpsons, just screaming over and over again in abject horror: “think of the children!” in hopes that some part of this will at some point settle down, and make sense. Pretty much 24/7.
Yes. Think of the children.
Please. Think of the children.
Severe COVID in children is exceptionally rare, though as more transmissible variants crop up, this may not remain to be the case. As with all new diseases and science – they just don’t know. As it stands, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that in the week ending July 1st, 1.3% – 3.6% of COVID cases in children required hospitalization, with an all time figure since COVID appeared ranging between 0.1% AND 1.9% of all children infected in the entirety of the pandemic (to this point). A concerning increase? Maybe. I’m not a doctor. But the real issue is that the more people in need of acute care in a hospitalized setting, the less people and supplies there are available to care for them (resulting in more severe outcomes).
Death from COVID in children is even more rare, with somewhere just above 300 children in the entire United States having succumbed to the disease, most with underlying health conditions. A child in my own county died earlier this year of it, and the most disgusting, and common, reaction was to normalize it by saying “but he had other health conditions.”
Nothing about having other health conditions changes the fact that without COVID, they would still be alive today. If there is more we could have done to save that child’s life – any of those children’s lives – we have failed them by not doing so. Which is exactly what we are running the risk of doing now as virtually all mitigation measures are being stripped systematically by hacks in local government who care more about being re-elected than doing the right thing.
Children Need To Be In School In Person Next Month
The same thing that happened last summer is playing out again this year: the debate about how schools should open in the fall are ramping up. At the same time, we’re seeing viral Twitter posts, alarmist doctors, and legitimate news sources with clickbait-headlines about debated studies (from Israel) on vaccine efficacy, and disastrous accounts of more and more breakthrough cases cropping up. Mask guidance has again become nuanced – because we apparently don’t learn our lesson about how the general public deals with complexity and nuance.
The CDC has not even put out its guidance for schools in the fall yet, while some school boards have already made their decisions about what – if any – protections they will be putting into place. And at the same time, cases are rising in some areas of the country, even in my own heavily vaccinated state of California.
And yet the facts remain about school and children in the time of COVID: distance learning has profoundly affected children on an educational, as well as social and mental health, level. It’s also become a socio-economic hardship for families to have one parent staying home, with extended unemployment benefits expiring in the fall as COVID still ravages parts of the country, and other teacher’s unions signal they will not come to reasonable agreements over fears about breakthrough cases and variant transmission.
And yet still, I personally know of a handful of mom friends all over the country who are looking at rising cases in their communities, feeling uncomfortable with what safety measures their individual schools have planned, and are planning to keep their kids home, and in many cases strapping themselves even more financially, simply because so many people in their communities are now clinging for dear life to this rugged individualism that is killing people in real time.
There have been several studies proving without a doubt that children in school faired better with COVID. That is to say that in school with proper protocols being followed (ventilation, masking in some scenarios, etc), kids got sick less and had far better outcomes. With teachers and staff being protected now through vaccination, it seems to make sense that if we properly protect kids with other mitigation measures until kids can be protected through vaccination as well, getting them back into school is the right choice.
As all things pandemic have been politicized to this point, what has become increasingly clear is that more than simply the educators and scientists will be making the decisions on this. Politicians, interested parties, and the parents with the loudest voices (though both sides are pretty loud and backed into their corners at this point), are already making school reopening policy with their rhetoric, and the virus and the media with their headlines.
To me, the logical thing to do to make sure we get kids into schools in person this fall in a safe environment is to universally mask back up until there is much more certainty about the variants, as well as the vaccines; until the headlines about the breakthrough infections subside, and the schools are at the point of no return to get kids back in their desks and in school.
It will put an end to headlines like we saw here in California yesterday, about the news that staffers at the Capitol had an outbreak with an unusually high number of post-vaccination breakthroughs, and only after the Capitol had slightly relaxed its masking guidance for vaccinated employees. It will slow workplace outbreaks, in particular in low wage service industry jobs that are public facing, where we rely on the public to be honest about who is in the store without a mask or a vax.
Because people can make their personal choices all they want. When you operate on the honor system, unvaccinated people by choice are violating this honor system, and in turn getting sick. Mask mandates in indoor public spaces showed they worked. Even with people continuing to gather in homes, at gatherings, and with capacity limits being lifted. By toning down the news cycle (which the media clearly cannot see any sort of moral imperative to do), we can make sure the ammunition in the school reopening debate is eliminated.
Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?!
There are some other key points here that make sense to even someone like me – just a mom who pays attention:
People under 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination yet. Full stop. To say that it’s on the unvaccinated to protect themselves is a pretty dicey proposition to so many people literally cannot. They rely on the goodness of everyone else, and right now everyone else is not showing themselves to be very good. And while we already established that severe outcomes from COVID for children, including death, are exceptionally rare, long COVID (coronavirus symptoms more than 120 after testing positive) remains a persistant issue for children, just as: well, they’re kids.
Not a single child on this planet brought this pandemic on themselves, and to look at them and suggest that their risks are low, so we’ll now do nothing is… well, I can’t even think of a word to describe how awful that is.
Kids are also not as dumb as adults seem to consider them now. For the last year and half, we’ve asked them to make enormous sacrifices to protect the adults, in particular the elderly ones. We’ve taken away school, sports, aid for kids with special needs, consistency, they’ve watched families die, sacrificed much of their future, decimated their mental health; we’ve isolated them from friends, subjected them to greater food insecurities, pushed some into abject poverty and homelessness. Not everyone agreed with that proposition, and the science in the end has shown that some measures went too far.
But I continue to find not a single child that had a problem wearing a mask. And more so, including when I ran for city council, over the last year and a half, I have found that the kids were the most adaptable; the most willing to do what they had to do, no matter how hard it was, for the sake of caring for the adults. Will it hurt them in some way in the end? Probably. But they were willing to do it, because kids are like that – they have empathy and compassion that the rest of us seem to have, sadly, lost.
I have three kids, you guys know this. One is 17, one 13, and one 4. My 4 year old was the hardest to convince to deal with the discomfort of wearing a mask, but when it came down to him understanding that we were doing this to protect others, he immediately complied. This was the theme of the mask debate in the earliest of days, including after the Biden Administration took over the pandemic response, and he issued that 100 days to wear a mask and protect our communities in doing so. Masks work if they are worn universally. They provide some protection for the wearer alone, but if everyone does it they work remarkably well. This, like all of the other things we’ve discussed, is proven.
So what does it say to kids that know they still aren’t protected that suddenly no one is wearing a mask? Kids under 12 know they haven’t gotten the COVID shot, some (like mine) were there when siblings got it. They know COVID is still out there, they know some places still require masks or some of their parents are still working from home. Many still have family dying of the disease, wondering if they or another loved one is next.
After a year and a half of asking them to wear masks to protect everyone, what does it tell them now that the adults won’t wear masks to protect them?
The pandemic did require sacrifice, and it still does. From everyone. And while we can debate on whether or not some was just or went too far: at least some lives were saved in the process. We may never know if it could have been more, we may not know what will be required of us in the future. Today, we find ourselves in a new stage of the pandemic: one that is about controlling the virus, and preventing the variants from causing more large scale catastrophe until everyone has had an opportunity to be protected. It is a fact that everyone hasn’t, and another one that a lot of people do not care. It is a stage that the CDC and Dr. Fauci argue should be based on each person’s individual risk assessment. But is that a realistic and grounded expectation of the average American? To assess their own risk and act accordingly? Arguably, based on the behavior of a lot of people over the last year, in addition to just the reality of the different paths and struggles we all walk every day in this modern American life, I would argue not. People barely have time to sleep more than a few hours a night, let alone take the time to read studies, follow community transmission, and consider personal risk assessments. Many also just trust the government to do what is right, and as a mom it seems right now like they are doing anything but.
When all is said and done, I would argue that everyone should still be wearing masks as we continue to think of the children. On the precipice of kids getting back to some sort of a normalcy this fall – with school, sports, friends, and good health – is it really so hard to just put the cloth back over your face sometimes? Personally, to me, it says more about you as a person if you won’t.
The global pandemic we currently find ourselves in is, without a doubt, not a war. It is not. Analogizing it to one is both incorrect, and irresponsible.
Let’s walk through this.
Donald Trump Is Not A War Time President
Early on, after finally admitting that the virus causing COVID-19 infections and deaths around the world was actually a problem (and not just a hoax brought on by the fake news and Democratic party), Donald Trump switched gears and decided this was “the unseen enemy.” He was to be our honorable Commander in Battle.
While it is tempting to label this virus an enemy, as we do with a lot of medical maladies, really it’s just a talking point. A talking point for the victims who fall ill with it to feel empowered; a talking point for those who swoop in with remedies to claim victory.
But Donald Trump is not a war time president, and this is not a war. It’s is a global pandemic of a highly communicable virus, that in rare instances causes mortality. Unfortunately, at the present, enough instances are proving to occur on the whole that the mortality rate is quite high for us, in a healthcare system that was taxed going in.
Allowing Donald Trump to overshadow the egregious and flagrant wrong-doings in the prior days, weeks, months, and years of his Presidency – including, but certainly not limited to, the fact that only months ago he, a sitting President, was Impeached on counts of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress – to overshadow all of that, and come out of this spinning the inevitable success of modern medical science into his position as a war hero (conveniently in time for the 2020 Presidential election) would make every person that ever likened this to a war complicit in the necessary election win that would come with that honor.
Donald Trump is not a war time President. This is not a war.
Frontline Workers Are Not Soldiers In Battle
This is probably my point that will flare the most feathers, but before jumping to conclusions, hear me out.
The sacrifices and risks associated with working in any quote-unquote essential line of work right now are, unmistakably, great. In particular, those that work in medicine, pharmacy, even janitors in the hospital setting; and especially in light of the on-again off-again relationship they have with adequate and complete personal protective equipment – well, those people are by and large in hot water from now until the time a vaccine is readily available.
So are the grocery workers, who have every cough, sniffle, and sneeze effectively sprayed all over them several times a day. So are a lot of people that continue to work to allow the rest of us to afford such luxuries as food, water, and electricity.
But they ain’t soldiers. We will not be erecting a monument to them that looks like doctors, nurses, and janitors Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. They may receive additional compensation and pay for risk assessment and to incentivize them to work, but it is not hazard pay.
This isn’t a measure to disrespect or discredit the work they are doing, and the sacrifices they are making. Do not mistake me: they are heroes.
Infectious diseases happen, and while COVID-19 is new and a lot about it is unknown, it is a part of the job. It is a part of the call to duty that came well before that person in the wet market in China even thought about eating the undercooked bat. Every time you step foot in a medical facility, there is always the element of the unknown. Sure, this time it is higher of a probability that you could catch it. But even I wonder to myself whenever I’ve had to take my kids to the emergency room for a sports injury or high fever: you know, I wonder if the person in the room next to us has bacterial meningitisand here I am exposed to it. Because it is a very real possibility, and that possibility is always there.
And there are two things most dangerous about likening the “frontliners” as we now like to call them with warriors in the trenches of something like WWI, or possibly worse: it sets a dangerous precedent for their own personal actions that could, in effect, result in even more death.
For one, in continues on this dangerous “take one for the team” mantra we Americans like to espouse. Arguably, this mantra is one of the things that got us here in the first place. We don’t feel well. We have chills, body aches, maybe a cough. But your [insert workplace] needs you. You are so essential that if you call in sick, the ship will go down. So you go to work, and infect several more people, putting more stress on the system than what would have come of you just staying home for a few days until you got the all clear from your immune system.
A more dangerous one:
Early on in the worst of Italy’s days, a nurse committed suicide because she started feeling a little punky, and decided to swab herself. She tested positive for COVID-19, and rather than just recover as 98% of other people do, she committed suicide to prevent spreading the disease to anyone else. Dangerous does not even begin to describe the precedent that we set when we then venerate this poor, clearly unwell, woman as something like a kamikaze doing the right thing by her country.
Tangential to this as well is the fact that the vast majority of people working in these essential jobs deserve a recognition of their own. Like the firefighters and many police after 9/11, or actual soldiers that have fought and won wars for centuries, their position in this is unique and should be treated accordingly. (Perhaps a monument would be appropriate, somewhere and at some point… but to replicate Iwo Jima would be a discredit to both today’s and yesterday’s heroes.)
The Messaging Is Blinding Us With Fear
In World War II, the messaging and propaganda was so profound, particularly in European countries in opposition to the allies (mainly, Germany) that people were so blinded by fear of the war, that they largely did not see what was going on right in front of their faces. The same went for Americans: blinded by the fear of another costly and deadly battle, Americans resisted involving themselves in the war – in spite of the humanitarian crisis that had unfolded in the Jewish and “undesirable” communities in Europe.
This is what happens in a war: diplomatic and political messaging is so critical for the community to get on board with whatever the agenda of the leadership of the time happens to be. Everyone does it. Now, in treating this like a war, our community leaders and politicians are doing it again.
Every week seems to have some sort of a theme to it. The first was all about the exponential growth charts, and statistical analyses, and the Johns Hopkins interactive website. The second were 45 paragraph letters from Emergency Room physicians who are really so busy they aren’t sleeping much, but also have the time to write lengthy explanations of exactly why we should be concerned about COVID-19. The third week was the rash of viral posts from Italy. Warnings to Americans. Rising death tolls. And that horrible video of the woman leafing through the obituary pages that went on and on and on, as if we weren’t sad enough about this already. The fourth week started the stay at home campaign, which continues today; coupled with a lot of mixed messaging coming from all sides of the political spectrum. Take the hydrochloroquine, but don’t. It works, but Trump touted it so probably skip it. Listen to your doctor, question him. Bill Gates is a hero, I don’t trust what he says. Open the economy, no don’t. Go for a walk to get exercise, just kidding that’s a bad idea. Dip your groceries in bleach, wait just kidding soap and water is fine bleach will kill you.
It is exhausting just listening to all of this: the analysis and the arguing and the incessant viral postings about what this politician did wrong and what that politician said, and who is complicit in this and who is a hero, and PPE and bats and … and … and …
This is the point of propaganda, and while I’m not likening what Trump, his “task force,” and more local governments are doing right now to what the Germans did in WWII, there is definite messaging going on here. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t have new buzz phrases, like “in these unprecedented times,” and “we are navigating through unchartered waters,” and – my newest favorite, “we are here to meet this moment.” You also wouldn’t have gotten probably 600 emails from every place you have ever shopped or spent money at, in an effort to let you know what increased measures they were doing to keep things safe and clean – all the same copy and pasted letter full of buzz words and messaging that was meant to calm your nerves, but only – instead – piqued your fears.
What happens when we are afraid in times of war and stress is we act irrationally. We fight with our community members, we shutter our hearts to those in need. A nursing home in my community got flack a week ago for telling a patient he could not return because he had suffered from COVID-19, even though he had recovered and tested negative two subsequent times before being released from the hospital. A homeless man a town over was unable to get a propane bottle for his camping stove, that allows him to cook his food and keep himself warm, because it is now considered a “non-essential good.” One woman in a Mom’s Facebook group I am in locally sparred it out with me about this, when I commented on a post about it asking how we could help him. The defining moment of our argument was when she said that because we live in California – “no one is going to freeze to death!”
The Social Contract In Times Of War
Few people realize that what is going on right now in our own communities from a public policy perspective is a matter of the social contract that we all live in as American citizens. The basic premise of our structure in society and government is that in exchange for the protection of our overarching body of government and government leaders (and all the services that come with it, including public hospitals, police, and fire), we are willing to in effect sacrifice certain freedoms and liberties in exchange for that protection. The idea comes from the great political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whose writings inspired our revolutionary forefathers when he said:
“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry… no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts;no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (see: The Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes)
It’s a bit wordy, so I’ll break it down for you: if left to our own devices at certain times in society, life would be unnecessarily awful and painful; and would end quickly, whether we liked it or not. Sometimes, let us help you. You just have to give up a little for us to be able to do that – in times of war, mainly. But pandemics are also times that it could be argued we have to retain less to be able to live more.
As soon as Trump started declaring National Emergencies, Major Natural Disasters, and referring to himself as a wartime president, the road was paved for every Tom, Dick, and Harry politician, from big time national leadership, all the way down to Mo, your local City Councilman who shows up for the council meeting drunk and in his swim trunks every week, the diplomatic and political power to chip away at those freedoms and liberties we hold so dear to us, in the name of the social contract and protection in times of turmoil.
Do I think that there are a lot of measures that do – absolutely – need to be taken to curb the spread of the novel virus that causes COVID-19? Absolutely. Shutting down bars, movie theaters, churches… that all makes sense. Social distancing and increased hygiene and safety measures – absolutely.
But locally, at least where I am, we have gone far afield from just shuttering non-essential businesses and asking people to stay home as much as possible. Now, here in California, cities are requiring by law that people wear face coverings, even when just driving down the street to get their mail. Alone. They’ve shut down sections of stores that disconnected and privileged city officials think can wait a while, like the clearance clothing racks at a local Wal Mart – in a community that houses thousands of migrant workers who are low income and do not have access to computers to simply order online.
Overreach doesn’t really describe what is going on here. And while I get it: we need to stay in, we need to physically distance, we also have to live our lives.
In recent days, I have talked to several seniors that are either family, or friends of family. They all sounded the same, exact resounding chord: they appreciate the community trying to protect them, the most vulnerable; but at this point, quality of life is an issue, and this is not a life worth living. One where you cannot go for a walk in the warm sun, or have the smallest of gatherings with less than 10 people seems cruel.
Perhaps the most striking thing told to me, which I then heard a physician – a medical doctor – echo on television about his own 87 year old mother’s sentiment: what if I die in isolation here, and I have never had the opportunity to hug my grandchildren one more time?
Certainly, the social contract is a necessary part of what keeps us alive. But only in war should it be evoked to such the degree that it is being evoked in communities through out America right now. And this is not a war.
It is tempting to liken this global pandemic to a battle. It requires strength, perseverance, and fight within all of us to get through whatever effects we feel from it – be they physical illness, economic hardship, or mental health belaboring as a result of the physical and social restrictions placed on us. But it is not a war. And we are not warriors.
Unfortunately – and I say that not really meaning what I’m saying – I might lose some followers after this post.
It’s not really unfortunate.
It’s fucking great.
A little known fact about this here blog lady is that she (I’m talking about myself) used to work in politics. First as an event and fundraising planner, then as a community organizer, and finally – just before the burn out and disillusionment set in – as a voter registration coordinator. It’s very complicated really, and I’d prefer to not get into it; but I say the disillusionment set in because at some point I was at some bullshit political meeting and not a single person in the room I spoke to could describe to me any of the following:
a) what policies they liked that their candidates were proposing;
b) what they found to have been “jobs well done” by their current local representatives; and,
c) a goddamn thing about the Constitution or the way American government works.
So I got out and buried my head in the sand for many, many years. I went to grad school, thought long and hard about how much the world really did need to be educated; then in a rough and tumble-y turn of events, I became a Stay At Home Mom, and part time writer and artist.
As my kids age, and depend on me less, I have started reading more and following the political sector once again. CNN and MSNBC are on the television as background noise as I cook, clean, and fold the laundry. And while I will never get involved in local politics again, with the 2016 election I am rapidly finding myself embroiled – mentally – in everything-politics, for every minute my mind isn’t wandering into the “what did I do with my life???” abyss.
That being said, this isn’t a political blog. It never will be. Occasionally I’ll post something that could be considered a political issue. But to talk about policy, candidates, and the like – well you won’t be finding that here.
Except for today.
I feel like we need to clear the air on this whole Don Trump thing. And I’m sure that after clearing it, a select few of you will be out the door. Never to return. Goodbye forever. Sayonara.
As I said: good.
Don Trump Is Racist
When W Bush’s comments to Muslims shortly after 9/11, assuring them that we welcome and accept all of them and do not regard them as terrorists – when the comments of the man who was unambiguously the worst president in the history of our time are now becoming the voice of reason, you better believe there is something wrong.
Don Trump is a racist; but beyond that he is a religious bigot, a sexist, and a terrifying spokesperson for a very broken part of our nation.
Over the past few days since Trump’s clear rise in likelihood to secure the Republican nomination, I have watched video after video of people at Don Trump’s rallies being interviewed; and so many of them mimic his exact platform. Keep the Muslims out. Send the Mexicans back home. Build the biggest wall you can build to keep everyone out that isn’t white.
Don Trump Has No Substance
When asked about his specific proposals and plans as president, Don Trump shouts things like “make America great again” and “we’re going to help our vets and troops.” When he’s accused of just being vague and not actually talking about actual real-life plans or proposals, he fires back and says “I’m specific. I am a very specific person.” But then doesn’t go into any specificity.
His campaign is fueled by a negative policy. Negative in the sense that he focuses on how much he thinks is total and utter shit about this country right now. He’s going to get rid of the Muslims. He’s going to get rid of Obamacare. He’s going to get rid of all the behaviors and policies he thinks are wrong, and yet he never describes a) how he’ll get rid of them, and b) what he’ll replace them with.
In fact, the most detailed proposal he’s come up with was at a rally early in his campaign when he said he’d stimulate the economy by starting a war with Asian nations.
Seems like a legit policy plan.
Don Trump Is A Moron
At tonight’s debate, a question was asked regarding Trump’s tax returns. Something about Mitt Romney thinking there was something wrong with Trump’s returns, and that this was why Trump was not releasing them.
Trump was right in a lot of ways in his response; and quite frankly, he was on point this one and only time when he described how up front he has been in all of his financial disclosures.
Where he miss-stepped, though, was when he made up a word to describe something as being large. Or largely something-or-other.
Trump referred to something as “bigly.” BIGLY.
Yesterday, after the Nevada primary was declared his, Trump did say he loved the poorly educated. I can only assume he included himself in that demographic.
Don Trump’s Rise Is The Closest Political Rise Any Nation Has Come To Hitler In Modern Times
The hate speech that comes out of Don Trump’s campaign, and the idolatry of him by his supporters, is so terrifying that I am a mix of paralyzed and stupefied. Every day I read the statistics, scan over the polls, and hear all of the supporters coming out in droves, and I sit with my mouth agape that this is what our country has come to.
I remember several years ago there was a movement to raise money to do a full historical preservation of Auschwitz – the Nazi death camp that held prisoner millions of Jews during WWII. The rapid falling apart of that camp’s grounds, along with dwindling numbers of WWII survivors world-wide that could recall and share their experiences of the war, was cause for concern among many politicians and historians as to the consequence of people not being able to experience first hand, in some form or another, what happened during the Holocaust and the War.
If we don’t have these reminders, will we forget? And if we forget, could it happen again?
And now here we are in 2016, where the fear and hatred and lack of education throughout much of America is giving rise to this man who is nothing more than a Reality TV buffoon. A character of quirky faces, ridiculous hair, and scapegoating hate speech. He says he would like to punch dissenters in the face. He wants to build a wall and kick out anyone with a religion or skin color that he does not like.
And his supporters at rallies have been documented saying things like “I wish I had my gun, I want to shoot some Muslims so bad right now.”
At the very least, Don Trump is the alternative 1980s Biff Tannen when Marty goes back to find that Biff has married his mom in the alternate, fucked up universe in Back To The Future 2. The man is tyrannical, just as Don Trump no doubt will be if he gains power over this country.
For me and my family, if Don Trump is – by a long shot – actually elected President, this country will have indicated that it is full of people with whom I no longer share values. My family and I will be out, not only for that reason but for our safety.
I just don’t see Trump and his supporters to be a good kind of crowd to hang around.
So now I’ve made myself clear.
Beyond that, I could give a fuck who you vote for. On the Right Ted Cruz’s appearance is terrifying, I have a major crush on Marco Rubio, Kasich is probably the only person remotely Presidential in the bunch, and Ben Carson makes me wonder if I too could one day become a brain surgeon, if his level smarts are all it takes. And on the Bernie/Hillary side, I just wish the Democrats would shut the fuck up with the attacks on each other, vote, and move on.
But Trump…if you plan on voting for him, let’s just say our goodbyes and move on. You with your guns and your hate and your bigotry and your idolatry of a man most foul. Me with the knowledge that we’re all better off with out your type around these parts.
Okay, first: I don’t hate gays. I love the gays. I love the straights too. I am a straight, I have a bagillion gay and lesbian friends. An old friend took his own life a few years back because of a depression stemming over his family’s rejection of his homosexuality. If my children ever come home and tell me they are gay, not a damn thing will change. I’m not going to tap dance around this for fear of losing followers: I believe in equality for the homosexual community in every way, shape, and form. People are people, regardless of what they do in the bedroom.
If you have a problem with that, you can get the fuck off my blog page. Now.
I’m Catholic. That means I’m a Christian, by virtue of the fact that the Catholics worship and try to follow the teachings of … wait for it … Christ. Christ (the bearded guy who died for all our sins – sins I can only assume did in fact include ancient-style homophobic hatred) preached one thing above all others: love.
Love, motherfuckers. LOVE.
Not judge. Not hate. Not make moral judgments for which you have limited moral understanding. Not claim that you could actually – in a million years – know with absolute certainty God’s agenda.
Love. That’s it.
So are we clear on these things before I go on? Okay, great.
So this whole Phil Robertson-Duck Dynasty thing has got me super riled up. It didn’t start out that way. At first I didn’t care, because seriously I do not understand why in the actual fuck the world is so enamored with those long-bearded hillbillies. Then as the day wore on, I saw more and more people on Facebook and Twitter and all of the other areas of the Internets (which I am now convinced should really be called the “Everyone’s An Expert Soap Box”) claiming that this guy’s right to free speech was being violated because he was suspended from the show for making homophobic comments. Phil Robertson for President Facebook pages were popping up. Keep Calm and Boycott A&E shirts were being sold.
Put down your shot guns and slow your fucking roll, hillbillies!
My friend Ava over at Journey of Jordanna East said it perfectly: “One of the biggest problems with America is that Americans don’t actually know how their own country works. It’s so sad.”
It is true that we have a freedom to speak what’s on our mind in this country. That is – essentially – the essence of the first amendment, though there are limitations. One of those limitations is that it truly is with regards to free speech on government matters. And it does not protect freedom of speech in areas like sedition or treason. I could continue, but this is a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo that’s deviating from the point. Did Phil Robertson have the right to make whatever homophobic, racial, or otherwise comments he wanted? Sure. Of course he did.
That right to say whatever he wanted, though, did not in any way, shape, or form protect him from the consequences of those hateful and hurtful words. That’s just not the way the constitution works.
People don’t seem to have gotten that, though. In fact, even when confronted with this logical discussion, and the basic facts of the constitution, people just seemed to be screaming louder and louder – FREE SPEECH FREE SPEECH. As if just saying that over and over again will refute any and all truth.
And as the day wore on, it got worse. Suddenly the world of Twitter was discussing what everyone’s opinions about the first amendment and the definition of free speech is. I’m sorry, huh? Opinions? Interpretations? We aren’t talking about varying interpretations of the color of a person’s bowel movements here. We’re talking about an empirical and constitutionally upheld fact. Are you on the Supreme Court? Then all your fucking opinions are INVALID.
Here we have the reason why I think it’s about time we all get over the Duck Dynasty fad the nation has been enthralled in for years now: all this hillbilly TV has just further contributed to our collective stupidity. Instead of learning about things like the actual freedoms protected by the constitution, we slap ourselves down on the couch for six hours of television every, single night. We scream FREE SPEECH from behind the safety of our computers, all the while refusing to actually read about and understand what freedom of speech really is. And we do it not only behind the security of a computer screen, but under the sanctity of our religious views.
This is why so many people think religious people are ignorant anyway – because they choose ignorance over intelligence time and again, out of laziness and a general sense that saying something (FREE SPEECH!!!!!) over and over again will make it actually come true.
But it doesn’t make it true, no matter how many times you say it; and it doesn’t make Jesus love you, because Jesus does not love bigots. No matter how much the constitution guarantees their rights to proclaim that bigotry.
The thing that is so fascinating to me about the Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty controversy is that people seem to be too chicken shit to actually say they want him to stay on the show because they hate the gays too. I mean some people are saying it, but more are just screaming that freedom of speech line and claiming Robertson had the right to speak “God’s plan.” Why all these smoke screens? Why not be real and say that you hate the gays too? That the thought of gay sex is icky to you and, therefore, Robertson can say and do whatever he wants?
Is it because of some fear that there may actually be consequences of you exercising your own free speech as well? But if you acknowledge that, then of course you’d have to accept A&E’s suspensions, which would then require you to acknowledge just how inherently wrong others in the world think your hate is.
I hate gays because FREE SPEECH? I love everyone just because.
This afternoon I was cleaning up the various clutter that has taken over my house when I got a message from my friend Raynor.
We had just gotten home from our girl’s lunch. We went to Yama Sushi and had udon and yakisoba – my favorites, especially when it is cold. While there the tragedy in Connecticut was on the news, and I explained what happened and how we pray for those innocent children and educators, and for their families. Pookie told me that she hopes Jesus lets those kids play with our dog Watson, who died a few years ago.
So we were cleaning clutter and Raynor sent me a message with a meme attached. He was upset. He actually said he wished he knew who created the meme, because he would go kick the living shit out of the person. If you knew Raynor, you would know that Raynor doesn’t normally talk like that.
As I looked at the meme I was pretty horrified. And here is where I ask: just what is wrong with you people?
Raynor sent me that message on Facebook, and so I then perused through the updates in my newsfeed. Almost everyone had posted about today’s tragedy, although a few were rambling on about guns not killing people, people killing people, and how there is no resolution to the mental health issues this country has been ignoring for decades. Another said that it’s sad, and she’s glad to know that would never happen in her town. I commented on six of those updates, each of them the same: what is wrong with you people?
Earlier this year when the Dark Knight Tragedy in Aurora, CO happened, I felt physically ill when I watched the news and saw an interview with an average movie-goer in Hollywood who said “that’ll never happen to us.” Then and now, I am just dumbstruck by the attitude with which so many people seem to be carrying on their lives.
What is wrong with you people that you cannot see that we have to change everything about our way of thinking, living, and breathing, or this same bullshit is just going to keep happening? What is wrong with you people that it all comes down to your guns and your freedoms and your tax dollars you don’t want to be spent on things you consider “needless”? What is wrong with you people that you cannot see that this culture of “it’s sad but it will never happen to me” is the biggest part of the problem?
I am not advocating for ridding the country of guns. I am not advocating for keeping them either. I am not saying all our tax dollars should go to mental health services. I am really not saying anything political or ideological, I am just saying that we need to wake up. Something is wrong with the entire way we are living our lives as an American people, and to me it seems that as a nation we are stuck in a hazy somnambulism. Everyone is asleep in the cozy comfort they have wrapped themselves in until something like what happened today happens to them.
What is wrong with you people that you can’t see it is wrong to politicize a tragedy? What is wrong with you people that you truly believe your ideological viewpoints are worth preserving more than the lives of innocent children? As I continued to message back and forth with Raynor about that terribly crass, and ultimately pathetic, meme he was so upset over, I kept perusing through my Facebook feed until I reached a point I could not take it anymore. That point was an update where someone posted: “What is wrong with people that they would take the lives of innocent children like that? No one is safe anymore!”
I signed out of my Facebook and thought about what I believe the real issue is. It isn’t that people are sick, people are demented, and that no one is safe because of them. It is that no one is safe anymore, so long as America is asleep. What is wrong with you people that you can’t see the only way to protect the innocent is to to wake up and make a change?
I read this morning that Mitt Romney said he didn’t know if the voters always make the right choice, and that he couldn’t guarantee they would in this election, but he hopes they do. Way to have confidence in those you depend on Mittens.
But it reminded me of my own state, California. We don’t have confidence in anyone either: evidence of which can be found on our state ballots, which are packed full of stupid propositions meant to overrule the laws made by our very own lawmakers. Lawmakers we voted into office.
This is the principal problem with politics in America. There is no confidence, in either direction. I don’t give a fuck if you are well aware that sometimes the voters make mistakes: if you don’t have confidence in your tax-paying, vote-giving constituents, you probably shouldn’t be running for office. And the same goes for the voters – stop voting for people you don’t trust. If Californians can make better laws, maybe they should run for office instead of shoving divisive, costly, and time-wasting propositions on the ballot every election.
I wish people would just shut the fuck up already with the “Obama’s a terrorist” and “Obama wasn’t born in this country” bullshit. None of that is relevant to the actual election. Nor is the fact that he’s black, although I will admit that Chris Rock’s endorsement of Obama as the whitest candidate is pretty hilarious.
Another sign of the growing stupidity with which our country has run rampant is the fact that so many people focus on things that have nothing to do with qualifications. Obama’s black. Romney’s a mormon. I heard Obama’s a terrorist. I’m pretty sure Romney’s the devil incarnate, here to bring on Armaggedon.
I wonder if anyone that votes anymore votes on the actual issues? Like economic plans? Not “what has he done” or “what did he promise” … but their actual economic plan. Or things that are important, like health care, medicare, social security, women’s rights, human rights, foreign policy, national security, disaster preparedness, proactive environmental initiatives, and so on.
The fact that you voted
Seriously. I don’t fucking care. This is not to offend any of the many friends, blog followers, or otherwise acquaintanced people, but I just don’t care. Hear me out, though, before you start unfollowing me or deleting me as a friend on Facebook.
I don’t need to see your Instagram photos of your voting sticker. I don’t need to hear about where you put your sticker. I don’t care that you stood in line for thirty minutes, or that you engaged in a delightful conversation about the weather with the woman running your polling place. I don’t give a shit if forty ladies said your baby was adorable, and covered him/her in stickers too.
Do you want to know why I don’t give a fuck, though? Because last week some of you called the President of the goddamned United States a “nigger.” Because the week before many of you posted memes of Romney and Ryan having PhotoShopped anal sex.
It causes me too much stress to now know that you dumb, bigoted motherfuckers voted. To think that the future of our country rests in your hands.
For the rest of you, I truly am happy that you voted and took the opportunity to share it with me in every way imaginable. Now let’s move on.
My neighbor’s teenage son
Apparently some schools are off on Election Day around here. I’m not sure why really. The rest of the world has to work, why the fuck should the schools be able to use that as another excuse to litter our streets with punk ass kids? Especially when over 95% of the people in those schools are too young to vote.
And come to think of it, the polls are open until late this evening, while most schools get out by 3 around here – so what the fuck?
In any event, some of the schools are off for the election. Yippity-doo. That means that my neighbor’s teenage son was home today, and his girlfriend came over. So when I went to get my third Diet Coke of the day, they were on the front patio, hiding from his uber-conservative Vietnamese mother.
You know what they were doing? It. They were doing it. They were having sex, fully clothed – right there on the front patio.
Ultimately I don’t give a fuck. Kids are going to do it whether you give them the ease to do it or not. I just hope the kid was wearing a rubber.
But that’s besides the point: this is what happens when the schools take all these superfluous days off. Little fuckers ride their bikes around the neighborhood, throwing shit at people’s cars and screaming early in the morning while I’m trying to sleep. Every place I go to is jammed with kids that should otherwise be in school, stepping on my feet and slobbering their gooey hands all over my purse when they push past me. Drug peddlers have more access to kids, that are out getting into trouble instead of hitting the books in school.
My tax dollars pay for what again? Teachers and administrators to have an entire day off to go vote, when the election places are open late anyway (also paid for by my taxes). And for kids to screw on the front porch.
So this is the most political I will ever get on this blog. And really it’s a testament to why I cannot stand politics. I’ve worked for those people. I even met Obama, long before he became president. When I decided to major in political science, I took a class about American Government. Our primary text and task was to assess whether it’s a good thing when the masses vote or not. Is it good when people vote because they hate black people? Is it a bad thing for people to vote based on their religious values? Sure I vote, and I’m glad when well-educated people do too. But as for the others…
You be the judge. But quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck.
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