Where do I even begin?
Over the weekend, the president fired the federal prosecutor of the Southern District of New York. The prosecutor was looking into whether the president’s allies were working as foreign agents while also working for him. The office may also have been looking into issues of money-laundering. The firing was an attempt to neuter the office. This would be alarming enough, but the federal prosecutor’s office in DC has already been neutralized and at least three inspectors general have been removed recently. If all this doesn’t worry you then I can think of only three possibilities: You aren’t paying attention, you don’t understand the need for checks and balances, or you think the president can do anything he likes — it’s his country to rule as he sees fit.
Meanwhile the streets are still filled with protestors. People are protesting a system of brutality and the systemic brutality continues. The stories coming out are horrific. I’ve been attacked and have been robbed, but fortunately I’ve never been beaten. And I’ve never been made afraid for my life by a police officer on official duty. My own interactions with the police have always been respectful even if sometimes wary. There was that one incident in Connecticut. I thought he was going to lose it, he was so worked up. But fortunately I was wearing my protective shield of white skin.
The tide may be turning as more people speak up. We even had people here at this retirement community standing on the street during rush hour with our Black Lives Matter signs. There was a surprising turnout — perhaps 70 of us oldsters, which is amazing considering the number of people here with severe mobility issues. We got a lot of honks and waves and thumbs up. We got a few thumbs down and stony-faced drivers, too, but that’s to be expected. Andrea and I only lasted half an hour. It was 87º under a cloudless sky. I don’t have the stamina I did 20 or 40 or 60 years ago.
The pandemic continues. There is talk of fear of second wave, but we never finished the first wave. Here’s a sample of the increases in known cases in the past week: 27,000 new known cases in California, 25,000 in Texas, 22,000 in Florida, 10,000 in Oklahoma, 8,500 in North Carolina. That’s the increase in just seven days. It’s still difficult to get tested in some areas, so not all cases show up in the count.
But we’re all tired of being inside, and there’s a strong American mythos of independence, and “no one can tell me what to do.” There’s always talk about our rights and responsibilities. Actually, it’s more like RIGHTS and responsibilities if it’s not just truncated to only our rights. People object to wearing masks. Beaches are crowded. During the stay-at-home order here, a church in eastern Oregon held a service that resulted in over 300 new cases.
The president said he told his people to slow the testing so there wouldn’t be so many cases. Why do we need to explain to anyone why testing doesn’t increase the number of cases, it just increases the number of known cases? The actual case number is the same, regardless. If someone steals money from you but you don’t notice it, does that mean the theft didn’t happen? (Hmmm, I’m beginning to see the connection.)
On a personal note, I went to the drugstore last week. I went to one I knew had wide aisles and was usually pretty empty. I was surprised I wasn’t more anxious. It had been twelve weeks since I’d been inside a store. When we first shut down, I was worried about getting agoraphobia. I heard from a California acquaintance who is in the area. He wanted to meet for a socially-distanced coffee date, but I told him I’m not ready to go out yet. Still, I’m confident I will be ready at some point.
There’s an election in Kentucky today. The state closed 90% of its polling places. You can’t vote out the people in charge if you can’t vote. Is it any wonder people are fed up? Any wonder even us old white people are standing on the side of the road with our signs of support for a move toward justice, equity, and accountability. We used to send observers to other countries to make sure their elections were fair. Looks like we’ve lost that cred.
It’s Pride month. Somehow that doesn’t seem all that important to me this year. But then, I don’t have a lot of pride. I didn’t come out until I was 65, and during the 1990s I was just a silent observer while the movement argued about whether to include trans people in the push for equal rights. There was the concern that fewer straight people would support equal rights if trans people were included. After all, trans people are just too weird. Now there is movement to include black trans people in the Black Lives Matter movement. The killing of black people continues. The killing of trans people continues. It’s like those who are born transgender and are also born with dark skin won a twofer. There have been people who wanted to kill me — for what I’d done or for who I am or for what I am — but so far they haven’t acted on those feelings. And I still have my protective shield of white skin (although at this point in my life my skin is getting mostly pink and blue with some brown freckles and age spots). Besides, Pride has gotten pretty commercialized. But that’s the American way. Perhaps it is a sign of success. We can already see a little commercialization of Black Lives Matter, so perhaps the push is working, at least a little.
And of course there’s still climate change. It’s 100º in the arctic. Hurricanes are stronger. Carbon emissions dipped when things shut down, but now they are increasing again. With habitat loss, we can expect more animal viruses to jump to humans, where the viruses will find hosts who have no immunities to them. The habitat loss continues unabated. And our legal protections against pollution have been gutted or repealed. We aren’t able to take the moral high ground with other countries, urging them to clean up. We’ve abandoned that hill in our rush to grab for ourselves what we can before it all implodes.
We are at a hinge point, a turning. Will we move toward a more equitable society? Will we manage to save ourselves? Or will we continue on the path toward a repressive kleptocracy? This is going to be a long, hard slog. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll make it through. But I’ll do what I can.
I’m reminded of the geese. They fly in a vee so that each can draft the one ahead, each easing the way for those behind, honking their encouragement forward. When the lead one tires, it drops back to fly more easily in the draft of another, and a new one takes the lead.
As we go forward, I honk my encouragement to those with the stamina to fly ahead of me.