Using Humor to Take Down A Wannabee Dictator: The Importance of Joy and Playfulness in Our Lives Today

We hear that Joe Biden is ahead from 3 to 12 points in almost every national poll and we want to jump for joy and act silly. But we know we can’t trust polls. His victory won’t happen unless we make it happen.

 

Other than polls, there is little in the news to bring most of us joy, not after we hear about a plot by white militias to kidnap, maybe murder, Gretchen Whitmer, a sitting Democratic Governor, attack police and incite a civil war.  Not after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg⎼ and instead of passing legislation to help the millions suffering from the pandemic, the GOP in the Senate rush to replace her with a sycophant judge and turn the Supreme Court into an extension of DT’s court. Not after over 219,541 deaths and when 28 states are experiencing a spike or second wave of the coronavirus. And instead of leading the nation in dealing with the pandemic, DT leads the nation in trying to hide and deny it.

 

DT claims to be the “the most perfect person”, “an extremely stable genius” but he is the liar-in-chief, more like a red-faced, malignant ostrich with sticky hands trying to hide his head not in the sand but in a tv set. He has assaulted almost every aspect of this nation, from Social Security, Medicare, the USPS, school children, workers, especially those who are brown and black, the air we breathe and water we drink, our right to protest for justice or to vote.

 

Considering all this, who has the inclination or energy for joy? It would be inconsiderate, or sacrilegious. Fear, depression, anger and outrage seem more appropriate.

 

Or anxiety. I am so anxious about the election I can barely stand it. But we need relief, ways to relax and let our minds clear, and mindfulness and nature walks can only do so much. This is true not only at home, to keep our relationships with family and friends fresh and caring⎼ but also so we aren’t manipulated by DT’s tweets, lies and actions, which are often based on, or are the source for, Russian disinformation. I’m surprised he hasn’t developed a Russian accent. Especially after an unwatchable “debate”, humor can release us from fear and introduce us to compassion. It can help us more clearly perceive our ties to others, our power, and better understand the necessity and the means to act effectively.

 

For the first few years of the DT era, comedians were a prime source of humor and relief. Jimmy Kimmel and other late night comedians helped influence the effective fight against the GOP attack on our health care in 2017 (although there were some who blamed comedians for making the divisiveness in this nation worse. Humor can be used to oversimplify and obscure, as well as to grasp the complex and reveal what is hidden. Intent is important.)

 

In the 9/26 Sunday New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote a piece called “To Beat Trump, Mock Him. The lesson from pro—democracy fighters abroad: Humor deflates authoritarian rulers.” Before DT, we in the U. S. didn’t have much experience confronting authoritarian rulers and so are often stumped about what to do to hold DT accountable. The more normal frontal attacks, and revelations of his corruption and malignant actions don’t work as we expect. As Kristof points out, the impeachment hearings seemed to elevate him in the polls….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to the Good Men Project.

The Sounds that Create Silence: A Practice that Creates Strength

I love the sound of crickets and cicadas. I sometimes sit outside and just listen, in the morning and the heat of day to hear the cicadas or in the evening to hear the crickets. For some reason, it’s reassuring and comforting. The sound begins with the warmth of summer and ends when it gets cold, so it’s a message that summer is here. And crickets become silent when anyone or anything big gets near, so their voice can be one of safety.

 

When I was working as a teacher, and the end of vacation grew near, I especially took note of the sound. If I had any regrets about not spending enough time outdoors or having enough fun or not doing enough to help others or to find moments of calm in my own heart— the crickets reminded me of what had been there for me all along. As my schedule sped up to the fall, and vacation time transformed into work time, the crickets reminded me that the essence of life was individual moments. It reminded me to take a few moments to just listen and focus on what was here right now.

 

Listening to the crickets can be a mindfulness practice. Instead of focusing on the breath, you can let your mind settle on the crickets. When you do so, their voice grows clearer and purer. You hear a concert of millions of tiny wings rubbing together to produce a sound that might calm and help clear your mind. Or if it’s morning, you could focus on the cicadas.

 

So, simply sit outdoors on the grass or in a chair⎼ or indoors, near an open window. Let your hands rest on your lap, your eyes be partly or fully closed, or open and resting on something comforting⎼ and sit with the sound. Let your mind be simply an ear to the world. Just breathe in and enjoy a concert of crickets or cicadas as you inhale⎼ and settle into the moment as you exhale….

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Are We Now Living In A War Zone? How Can A Poet Help Us?

Any conversation I have now with good friends is shadowed by, or turns directly and painfully, to politics. Even responding to a polite “How are you?” can require great creativity, to somehow be genuine but not devolve into tears or rage. “Considering the state of the world, I am fine,” is one of my usual responses.

 

In one discussion, a good friend said our country is now more and more a nation at war. Another said we’re a nation ruled by an incompetent, oppressive, and wannabee dictator.

 

DT is clearly turning our nation if not into a war zone then into a zone of lawlessness. He says he is the only candidate who can protect America, but whatever lawlessness is happening now is already during his watch, and he is certainly provoking the violence and is one of the nation’s biggest lawbreakers.

 

For example, he sends Federal officers, in violation of the constitution, without identification, to create havoc in cities with Democratic Mayors, who are hosting protests against racial violence and injustice. And when white militias show up In Kenosha, Wisconsin, and police allow a militiaman with a gun to shoot and kill 2 people, DT barely mentions the murdered victims in his GOP Convention speech, likes a tweet supporting the murderer, and his supporters blame the protestors.

 

As Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Oregon said on Sunday (8/30): “It’s you [DT] who have created the hate and division. It’s you who have not found a way to say the names of two Black people killed by police officers… And it’s you who claimed that White Supremacists are good people.”

 

He dares to call himself “the law and order President.” Talk about the Big Lie. No President has been sued like DT. He has been impeached by the House, committed more corrupt acts, has had more members of his administration indicted, has undermined not only laws but the rule of law and the constitution itself⎼ and he calls himself the law and order President? He’s the father of disorder, the violator of law and the violator of the constitution.

 

He lies so blatantly and caustically that many words and concepts have become haunted with his venom. Think of ‘media’, ‘immigrant’, ‘fraud’, ‘election’, ‘liberal’, ‘socialist’, ‘mask’, let alone terms like ‘Post Office’, ‘fake news’, ‘health care’, ‘pre-existing conditions’, ‘Social Security’, ‘first responders’, and ‘essential workers’. Although there are some words and terms that have taken on more clarity, that wake us up, like ‘vote’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’.

 

Our mouths, minds and hearts have been mined with emotional time bombs, traumas, which is just what DT wants. …

 

*To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Stealing Our Ability to Speak: The Threat to Humanity

We the people need a new pandemic relief bill. We need it now. Yet instead of meaningfully and honestly trying to get resources to those who need it, or resolve differences between legislative proposals, DT threatens and then takes executive actions most of which help no one but himself. His actions are doublespeak, attempts to steal the words, talking points, battle cries from those seriously attempting to help us, the American people. With words made meaningless, we can cry and shout but not speak.

 

For example, DT says he wants to get more money to American workers by enacting a payroll tax cut or deferral for September to December, by an Executive Order. But this action is merely a delay until after the election, to garner votes that he’s losing badly, and does nothing to help those who have no income. And since the President does not have the authority to nullify the laws dictating the collection of the taxes, businesses and corporations must collect the tax money anyway. This puts them in a possibly corrupting situation: What do they do with the money? Do they hoard it? Turn it into a corporate slush fund? They probably can’t give it back to workers, because they might be responsible for it in the future. The result: workers get nothing.

 

Another example is extending unemployment, which sounds like a reasonable thing to do until we see the details. His order calls for $400 per week to aid unemployed workers, instead of the previous $600 in the lapsed CARES Act and the plan proposed by Democrats, or the $200 in the GOP plan. Why DT didn’t push more for a compromise in negotiations with Congress is the question.

 

Look at the reality of what DT did. The executive order forces the states, instead of the Federal government, to cover one-quarter of the unemployment payment, while states are already in a dire economic situation and need their own relief package. And since DT does not have the legal authority to enact legislation, he must take money from already approved funds. In this case, he plans to take money set aside to help people and municipalities who suffer from tornadoes, hurricanes, massive fires and such, as if we haven’t been suffering from any natural disasters for the last few years. How will we help those victimized by hurricanes or wildfires if the funds are gone?

 

Another example is the supposed extension of the moratorium on evictions. His executive order does not ban evictions, nor does it provide money to help renters. Instead of this executive order or the lies and half measures which just keep the pandemic alive, the best remedy would be to protect the income and jobs of workers and to enhance unemployment insurance while closing the economy down for 4 – 6 weeks and putting an end to the pandemic, as a top Federal Reserve official recommended. Instead, DT’s order asks Alex Azar, secretary for Health and Human Services, and Robert Redfield, of the CDC, merely to consider if an eviction ban is needed. Meanwhile, 40 million people could face evictions, and create the most intense housing crisis in our history.

 

DT wants to put on a mask as a savior (but not one to protect people from the virus) while he sacrifices Seniors, as he has already said he would sacrifice brown and black workers, children, etc. The payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare, two crucial and popular programs that help millions. DT and his GOP backers have for years been trying to destroy or privatize any government programs that help people live more decent lives, even ones that the beneficiaries actually pay for, unless those programs generate profits for the already over-wealthy. And as he made clear when he signed the Executive Orders on Saturday, if elected he will make the cuts to fund Social Security and Medicare permanent.

 

We need times of respite and calm. They are necessary for our physical, mental and emotional health and also to push ourselves to take clearly considered political action. But there are no sidelines anymore. DT’s response to the Coronavirus, to Black Lives Matter protests, to polls showing how likely it is he will lose the next election, and almost everything else he’s done since elected makes it clear⎼ he is willing to take everything from us, even our lives.  All those seemingly safe places for us to retreat to, our homes if they’re paid for, an apartment if we have enough money saved, won’t help us for long if we don’t find our voices, our hands and feet, and find ways to act now.

 

In my experience, we can make 4 calls in 5 minutes to GOP Senators. Writing letters or making calls to get out the vote, joining street protests in our home towns or cities, in Washington, D. C. or at Congressional offices, takes more time. But combined with the efforts of thousands of other people, in the government and out, is what provides the only safety we have.

 

**For more details on the Executive Orders and what led to them, read this piece by Heather Cox Richardson.

 

This article was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

The Walk That Reveals Dragons: Walking So Our Capacity for Compassion Is Strengthened Along with Our Legs

Walking has taken on new significance and importance today, due to the coronavirus. Gyms are closed, so the outdoors have become a gym we all share. Or we have always shared this gym, but maybe we now do it more deliberately. Almost everyone I know says they take walks. Where we each go⎼ that is not so shared. Some have the privilege of deep forests, beaches, or river sides, others city streets, parks, or parking lots.

 

I took a walk a few days ago that could have gone on forever. Our home is in a rural area, on a steep hill, and I only stopped when my legs tired. I was also experimenting with how to walk as more a meditation⎼ how to lose myself for at least a few moments. And how, when my mind wandered, to kindly return attention to the basics⎼ breathing, looking, listening, and feeling.

 

When I first started my corona-walks, I distracted myself from each step so the weight of steps wouldn’t drag me down. The walk up our hill is challenging. I would set a goal to exercise for maybe 30 minutes or an hour. But if I began each walk thinking about how many minutes I had left to finish, each step would become a burden. So I either counted steps or thought about interesting ideas or people or projects I could take on. Or I played this game with myself. I pretended I would only walk to the big house up the road. And when I arrived there, I’d tell myself to walk just a bit more, to the maple tree where I saw the turkeys last week. And when I reached the maple tree I’d continue to the next memory or turkey siting.

 

But not this time.

 

In an online birding class I took recently, the teachers spoke about how we honor the birds we live with by knowing their names and their songs. This was a new and beautiful idea for me. But as I walked, I just wanted to listen. To name the birds would be another distraction from the song itself. It would mean me, here, and it, there. But to stop walking and just listen, the sound grew closer and clearer. And when the song ended, the trees and insects and stones and cars on the road were waiting for me even more distinctly.

 

In the past, I often thought about what it meant to feel at home someplace. This is the answer. That the gullies, streams, and trees, the wind, heat, and the house I owned would live inside me, not just me inside it. That I’d be open to all of it. That it would be a place to love and think.

 

There are so many ways to think. We can think rationally and critically, use words, concepts, examine theories, research and organize facts. Or we can let our minds wander through imaginative realms, memories of the past or ideas of the future⎼ through our pictures of ourselves or how others picture us. Or we quiet the mind, by focusing on a singular chosen point of focus⎼ the breath, sensations, the maple tree, and especially feeling⎼ or awareness of whatever arises in the immediate moment, including awareness itself….

 

**To read the whole piece, go to the Good Men Project.

 

*For information on walking safely when you might meet up with other people, in this time of the coronavirus, please refer to this NPR program, Masks and the Outdoor Exerciser.

Enough Is Enough: To Vote in November, Act Now!

On Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the arrival of the news of emancipation from slavery, rallies were held throughout the U. S.. It was the Friday before the weekend of the Trump rally in Tulsa, at the end of the fourth week of protests over the murder of George Floyd, and a week where 23 states had upward trends in new coronavirus infections (and states like Florida had seen record increases of over 3,000 new cases per day for 4 straight days), when DT took another shot at ending the separation of powers in the U. S. government. And he did it while trying to hide it behind a whirlwind weekend.

 

He fired Geoffrey Berman, the U. S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. This is one of the most powerful independent legal offices in the nation and one that is investigating DT’s associates including his present personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and previously investigated his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. But the fight is not over.

 

He first attempted to do this on Friday, Juneteenth. He had Attorney General Barr falsely announce Mr. Berman had resigned, and that he would install his own candidate, Jay Clayton, the Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman and a friend of his, to the office. But Berman issued his own statement. He denied he had resigned and stated he refused to do so. The President then had to officially step in on Saturday, the 20th. The result of Berman’s defiance and the negotiations which followed was that Barr and DT could not immediately install Clayton to the post, and had to allow Audrey Strauss, Berman’s deputy, to temporarily assume the office and thus continue current investigations⎼ at least until the Senate could approve a permanent successor.

 

This will not be easy for DT to accomplish, as even his supporter, Senator Lindsey Graham, has said that he would not allow the Clayton nomination to move forward without the approval of the 2 Senators from New York, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who have called on Clayton to drop out of contention for the office.

 

This follows months of DT firing 5 Inspector Generals and pardoning corrupt officials. He has threatened to formally adjourn congress and subvert the constitution.

 

In May, Eric Lutz, in an article in Vanity Fair, speculated that DT might be trying to set the stage to cancel the November election. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, DT threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada, “lying that the states—each of which is governed by a Democrat — are allowing illegal voting.” He attacked the state of Nevada, “baselessly accusing it of attempting to ‘cheat in elections’.”

 

He claimed voting is an “honor” not a right guaranteed by the constitution and he and his adherents in the Republican party are doing all they can to disenfranchise voters, especially voters of color.

 

The protests in the streets calling for justice for the murder of George Floyd and other African Americans by police are one of the few forces protecting the last remnants of democracy in our nation right now. The protests have spread not only throughout the country but the world. Not only do the protests proclaim Black Lives Matter but the civil rights protections in the constitution matter and must be enforced. Our voices matter. They show politicians and other people with institutional power that the power of the people once released will not be silenced. Enough is enough.

 

And DT is clearly afraid of the protests, as well as polls showing him trailing Joe Biden by a considerable margin. In February, as COVID-19 was just striking the US, before he even became the recognized Democratic candidate, Biden was leading DT by 4.8 points. In June, Biden went ahead by 8 points or more. A June 17 poll by Reuters/Ipsos showed Biden ahead by 13 points. In swing states, Biden is gaining considerably, putting into play states that used to be Red.

 

Even the Tulsa rally this weekend, which DT said would be filled to capacity and was supposed to lift his spirits and campaign, failed to do so. He had to cancel planned outdoor events because the audience for it did not exist. Even inside the arena, a good portion of the seats were empty. The Tulsa Fire Department estimated there were under 6,200 people in the 19,000 capacity arena.

 

Trump blamed the limited attendance on the media and the interference of protestors outside the arena. But the numbers of in-person protestors was relatively small. If anyone had a hand in the smaller numbers, besides DT himself and his declining approval ratings, it was young people. TikTok users and K-pop fans said they registered for potentially hundreds of thousands of free tickets, and then posted they couldn’t go.

 

DT is losing in many areas. Whether he actually tries to cancel or delay the election, pull a surprise coronavirus vaccine out of the air to distract voters from his malignant, corrupt, negligent and racist response to the pandemic, or declare some other kind of “emergency,” it is clear this election is and will continue to be different from any other⎼ more fraught with election interference from Russia or elsewhere, more voters threatened or subject to long lines and other obstructions. We will have to prepare to protect polling places or to go to the streets to protect the election results.

 

And to do that, we must act now. No matter our race, we benefit from joining the Black Lives Matter protests and calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. Right now we must call Congress and demand an investigation into the firing of Geoffrey Berman, universal mail-in ballots, more voting places, extended voting hours. Right now, we must call to protect the USPS. We have the coronavirus pandemic, the hundreds of years old pandemic of racism, and we have DT. All 3 are interconnected and the time to fight them is now.

 

*This post was syndicated by the Good Men Project.

 

Amidst Anger, Fear, and Outrage there is Hope

Maybe I’m crazy. Amidst the anger, fear and outrage I feel right now, there is hope.

 

I am white and I support Black Lives Matter. I support speaking out for justice and against the abuses of governmental power. I support not only the righteous anger but the compassion for others expressed by these demonstrations. Rev. Al Sharpton spoke about the collective pain in the African American community. There is too much pain in our nation right now and the only medicine for it is justice.

 

A man, an African American man named George Floyd, was murdered by police. His video-taped cry “I can’t breathe” eerily echoed the same words spoken by Eric Garner in NYC in 2014 before he, too, was killed by police. And in Tacoma Washington, the Medical Examiner just ruled that Manuel Ellis was killed on March 3 by police. He, too, called out “I can’t breathe” before dying.

 

George Floyd was murdered last week, just about two months after another African-American, Breonna Taylor, was shot by police in her own home, and three months after Ahmaud Arbery was shot. It took three months before the murderers of Mr. Arbery were arrested.

 

All across the country protests began against this latest murder, largely peaceful protests, calling for justice. But then reports and videos of violence followed the demonstrations. Curfews were instigated, national guard activated. Chaos seemed to ensue in several cities.

 

This was frightening. Then photos were taken and shared, and peaceful Black protestors called out white instigators of that violence. It seemed these disrupters were mostly either thieves taking advantage of the protests to rip off businesses or white nationalists trying to discredit the demonstrations or instigate further violence. And one white man, a supporter of DT, drove a tractor-trailer into a huge crowd of protestors, evoking the image of a deadly attack by a terrorist driving a truck into a crowd of people in Nice, France, in 2016.

 

I feel outrage not only against the murder but that peaceful demonstrations could be twisted to serve the purposes of white nationalists and others, who represent the very deep social forces in this nation that have perpetrated violence against African-Americans and others in this country for years, since the beginning of this nation.

 

And in the background, DT fuels the flames, incites violence by his MAGA supporters, calls the African-American protestors “thugs.” Threatens to send in the military. But the armed white nationalists, who protest against the orders of Democratic Governors to stay home to keep themselves and others safe⎼ they, of course, are “good people.”

 

He is using the protests to create a new crisis and distract us from the ongoing pandemic of racism and COVID-19, which is still killing thousands. But I think⎼ or hope⎼ he has made a mistake. In the past, DT has worked to instill, in his supporters, hate of African Americans, Latinos and other people of color, Muslims, Jews, Democrats, and others, and instill fear in anyone who opposes him. (He even re-tweeted a video of a supporter saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”) What he’s done this time is turn his opponent’s frustration over continuing injustice into a conviction that the only viable choice they or we have is taking action.

 

And while the demonstrations are continuing, people are dying due to the coronavirus. Over 106,000 people have died. This virus has been made more lethal by the malignant mismanagement of the crisis by the DT government. The GOP have exploited the pandemic instead of responsibly facing it. Some have profited financially, not just for themselves but their mega-rich donors. According to Common Dreams, 41 million people have lost jobs while American billionaires grew $500 billion richer. They have readily sacrificed people to suit their own purposes, and African-Americans have disproportionately been the victims.

 

This all must end.

 

The police officer who killed George Floyd was charged this Wednesday with second degree murder. The others who stood by and aided and abetted in that crime have also been arrested. These arrests and the prosecutions that will follow, as well as changes in the operation of the police in Minneapolis, will be a tremendous first step. They are largely the result of people speaking up and taking to the streets. It is one step at a time. Changing the nation as a whole ⎼ that will hopefully follow.

 

In Minneapolis, there is at least a Democratic Mayor who has shown understanding of the history of racism this murder has exposed (although the president of the police union has not). The nation has a very different leader. For any deeper changes, DT must go.

 

So, why hope? Because we need hope to act. Because more than half of the people of this nation are sick of these injustices and are saying so. People are sick of one murder after another⎼ and sick of coronavirus deaths. Of the stupidity, injustice, and malevolence. Of the racism institutionalized into a political, economic and social system that is at the center of the malignancy that is splitting open this nation. Justice for this murder might lead to justice for other murders and abuses of government power. And then the rule of law and the civil rights protected in the constitution will be protected in the streets, the courts, and the Congress.

 

And inside the anger there are tears. When everyone took a knee at a demonstration  yesterday protesting the death of George Floyd, the sadness over his death, over so many lives taken, suddenly hit me, hit everyone. But instead of crying I write this.

 

Only voices united in opposition can reveal and expel that malignancy and create the social and legal situation where a guilty verdict against police is possible. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the Lincoln Memorial about “the real promises of democracy.” He said, “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.” He spoke of his hope. His dream. It is illustrative of this moment that DT has stationed troops at the Lincoln Memorial to drive away the hope and the dream. He won’t succeed.

 

So, after the fear, anger, and outrage⎼ and the sadness⎼ the hope shyly follows.

 

*This post has been syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

*The photo is from Gary Bercow.

Slavery or Sacrifice? Risk Your Life at a Job Infected with the Virus or Lose your Income

This is the choice many workers are being forced to make: Risk getting sick or lose your income.

 

This is especially stark at meat processing plants, where the workers usual salary is just enough to get by week-to-week and many of the workers are relatively recent immigrants. Now DT is saying he will sign an executive order under the Defense Production Act to stop closures of meat processing plants by declaring them “critical infrastructure.” He will force the employees at these plants to go to work despite dangerous conditions. Is this action initiating a form of slavery? Is he sacrificing American workers to fit his own political purposes?

 

Workers at many of these plants have, for over a month, been scared to go to work, but they did so because they had little choice. And now, under DT’s executive order, if they choose not to work, they will neither get a paycheck nor be allowed to collect unemployment.

 

This is not just true of workers in meat processing plants. It is true in Iowa where the Governor wants to gradually open up all businesses, despite continued spread of the virus. If people refuse to go to work, due to fears of getting sick, they will lose their unemployment insurance. To make this even more blatant, Mitch McConnell said he has drawn a “red line” regarding the next coronavirus bill: no more relief from Congress for infected people, medical supplies, or businesses unless the businesses he forces to open are protected from liability claims. He knows he is putting lives at risk but he either doesn’t care or is willing to sacrifice them.

 

Rachel Maddow interviewed former OSHA policy advisor Debbie Berkowitz about the situation at the meat processing plants. Berkowitz said the administration is claiming we have only one choice: safety for workers or a break down in the US food supply. This, she says, is a false choice. The claim that we must either “feed America or keep Americans safe” is a false choice that exposes “government malfeasance.”

 

DT wants to force these plants to resume business in order to resurrect a crumbling economy, protect his power, and preserve profits for his supporters. Likewise, Rachel Maddow revealed that the situation was made worse than it had to be by the DT administration. When the CDC inspected the plants and found violations, instead of doing what it usually does, and issue required changes in the way the plants operated, they issued suggestions. Is this because DT’s Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia decided he would not make the health guidelines for meatpacking plants mandatory and would not enforce the changes in the plants the CDC laid out back in March, and again just recently? The result? 1700 people have died in different meat processing plants, and the virus is spreading through the local communities.

 

In Black Hawk County, Iowa, the Sheriff spoke of his fears ⎼ not only that the coronavirus will continue to spread through the Tyson meat processing plant, but spread throughout the population of his city. He said the “hole is blown in the front line of defense” against the virus.

 

In order to open the plants, significantly more testing will be required. Vice President Pence said that, after large outbreaks in plants in Greeley, Colorado, he would “flow” testing to those plants. It has not happened. Could there be even more positive cases at that plant? Nobody knows. The testing never happened and is not happening now, despite the plant being given a public health order telling them to test every employee.

 

Since the crisis began, it is not clear why DT has not pushed for more testing. Is it incompetence, malevolence, corruption, or maybe a fear of what the numbers might reveal? Is it racism, since a disproportionate number of the deaths are of people of color?  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said that the “lack of testing,” not just for meat packing plants but for the general population, is “probably the number one problem in America and has been from the beginning of this crisis.” He added that the White House’s happy talk “is just absolutely false.”

 

Some might imagine they are not affected by these actions. They might think this is just happening in red states or in Iowa, Colorado, or South Dakota, or just those with meat processing plants. These plants exist in many states, largely along the east coast and Midwest.

 

How about the air we breathe? That affects everyone. Since the DT EPA reduced air quality standards, air pollutants in places like Houston’s heavily industrialized areas have surged as much as 62%. Residents have said “we don’t even know what we’re breathing.” “They are basically killing us.” But this danger is affecting people of color disproportionately, who live closest to affected areas.

 

And this list of how DT threatens the great majority of Americans could go on almost indefinitely. DT has rolled back protections on our drinking water, undermined our ability to face this crisis, undermining our right to vote, our jobs, etc. We must not allow this to go on.

 

This post was partly inspired by a conversation on FB and partly by a Rachel Maddow program.  Maddow reported on the CDC not closing or enforcing its guidelines at any meatpacking plant but the one in Sioux City owned by Smithfield. This plant was closed because one female worker sued the plant, not to get money, but to compel the owners of the plant to adequately protect its workers. We can take action. When we do research, share information, and show compassion, we can energize ourselves and inspire others to act.

 

On Tuesday, 4/21, a bill to require OSHA safety standards be enforced was introduced in the U. S. House of Representatives and 34 Senators sent a letter to DT objecting to the lack of protections at the meat processing plants. We need to pressure Congress to get this passed. This is one action we can take this week. We need to do what we can to protect each other from this president.

 

Whether it be joining other people, with signs on cars, to protest on Friday, May Day, or on any other day, calling Congress, or writing letters. We must do what we can to stop DT from ending the stay-at-home orders too soon and sacrificing people to serve his power and profit.

Are We All in this Together? Sketches of A Future Drawn in the Present

I wish I had at least a vague idea of what the future could look like in a year, or even a month, but I don’t. When the world is threatened, the urge to know can become overwhelming. Usually, we at least know what the usual is. But now, for many of us, aside from what the inside of our homes looks like, we don’t even know that. Too many changes.

 

Every 10 days or so I drive into town. The roads and buildings are the same as before the pandemic, and I imagine once this crisis is over, we can simply return to our “normal” lives.

 

But then I notice all the restaurants and stores with closed signs. I hear on the radio that news outlets have been losing so many workers (except Fox) they can barely function. Accurate news reporting could be threatened. Or, on the positive side, NPR reported that pharmacy companies, previously known for putting CEO and shareholder profits above everything else, are joining together to find vaccines and treatments for the virus.

 

One prediction I can make is that more people in the future will want to become doctors, nurses and other first responders, the heroes of this time.

 

What I mainly have are questions. On the tv and radio, in advertisements and public service announcements, the meme “we are all in this together” keeps getting repeated. It is a sentiment I agree with and one that has become a powerful force for creating pressure to improve our overall health care system and for legislation to protect most Americans, not just the rich and corporations, from the harmful consequences of the pandemic.

 

It expresses a dynamic truth. With an illness that is so destructive, that can be deadly and spread so easily, with many people infected but showing no symptoms ⎼ anyone can get it, even the powerful, rich, and famous. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Britain, got the illness and wound up in the ICU. Many celebrities, athletes, politicians have been infected. Too many have died. Over 158,000 people worldwide have died so far from it.

 

So if anyone can get it, we are all in this together.

 

But some are more likely than others. The poor more than the rich. The people who work in the fields or production plants and can’t stop working, either because their job is too essential or they can’t afford to stop. For example, one of the Smithfield food processing plants was closed only after the mayor of Sioux Falls forced them to. 350 of its workers had tested positive for the virus. The pandemic is exposing social inequities that have existed for years and have been getting worse. The racism. The poverty. These have always threatened people’s lives and they are doing so now….

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

Even If We Don’t Get Sick, We Can Feel Sickened by the Crisis: Remembering A Better Future is Possible

Last night, I woke up at 4:50 am. It was dark, no moon was visible, and I felt very tired. All I wanted to do was go back to sleep. But images I had seen on tv of an overcrowded New York City hospital started to play in my mind and I felt a roughness in the back of my throat. I wondered if that roughness meant I was just getting a sore throat or was it the first sign of the coronavirus.

 

I began to think about the one day in the last week I had left home to pick up vitamins and groceries and to worry if my attention might have gone lax, or if I had done something stupid that exposed me to the virus. Even if we don’t get sick, the crisis can make us feel sick.

 

So I went downstairs to the kitchen, closed the door so my wife wouldn’t be disturbed, and gargled. That helped. Then to the living room, to turn on a reading lamp, and sit in our recliner. Reading a novel was an option, but my eyes wouldn’t stay open.  So I closed them, took two gentle breaths, and started to change my mental channels to focus on something more calming.

 

I pictured my own smile (you could also use the smile of someone you care about) and placed it in front of me. That felt good. I pictured it on my face ⎼ pictured me smiling. I turned it into a smile meditation. But it was too dark, and I was too tired to see it well. I tried to add some white, healing light, and move it to my throat, where I had felt the soreness. But the night was like a black hole and absorbed all the mental light I could create.

 

So then I decided to experiment, to see what would give me comfort and let me sleep. I thought of my blogs, and the comfort or beauty and sense of their own strength people said they found in them. The image of my students came to mind. If I got sick or died, they would have to find someone else to teach them. That revived me. Compassion for others replaced worrying over myself….

 

To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project.