Is This Who We Are?

Often, a crisis such as a pandemic brings people together as they fight a common enemy, however the current pandemic has done the exact opposite in the U.S.  The reason it has driven us even further apart, of course, is that the ‘man’ in the Oval Office, the ‘leader’ of this nation, told people not to worry, that the coronavirus would be gone soon with minimal damage.  He then went even further, calling it a ‘democratic hoax’ and telling people not to bother with such things as wearing masks or social distancing.  Half the people in this country listened, instead, to the scientists and medical experts, but the other half listened to Trump and are now putting everyone’s lives at risk.

What follows is from a column in The Washington Post, written by Amber Elliott, a county health director in St. Francois County, Missouri, about the abuse she has taken for simply trying to save lives. It is lengthy, and I initially intended to use only a few excerpts, but as I re-read it, every word seemed important.  Please take a few minutes to read her words and consider her query:  Is this who we are?


‘This is how we treat each other? This is who we are?’

Amber-ElliottI don’t really know if I should be talking about all of this. It makes me worried for my safety. I’ve had strange cars driving back and forth past my house. I get threatening messages from people saying they’re watching me. They followed my family to the park and took pictures of my kids. How insane is that? I know it’s my job to be out front talking about the importance of public health — educating people, keeping them safe. Now it kind of scares me.

But people need to know what’s going on. It’s happening all over the country, and it’s not acceptable. I know we can do better. We have to do better.

I don’t base our whole response to this pandemic on my own opinion. That’s what makes the backlash so confusing. This job is nonpartisan. I’m not political in any way. I go off of facts and evidence-based science, and right now, all the data in Missouri is scary bad. We only have about 70,000 people in St. Francois County, but we’ve had more than 900 new cases in the last few weeks. Our positivity rate is 25 percent and rising. The hospital is already at capacity. They’ve basically run out of staff. We can’t keep up. It’s an uncontrolled spread. I have these moments when it feels like I’m a nurse at the bedside, and my patient is dying, and I’m trying every possible intervention to save them. More social distancing. More masks. More contact tracing. Warnings and more warnings. What else can we try? But in the end, it doesn’t matter how much you do. Nothing will work, because it almost seems like the patient is resisting your help.

I get the same comments all the time over Facebook or email. “Oh, she’s blowing it out of proportion.” “She’s a communist.” “She’s a bitch.” “She’s pushing her agenda.”

Okay, fine. I do have an agenda. I want disease transmission to go down. I want to keep this community safe. I want fewer people to die. Why is that controversial?

We weren’t set up well to deal with this virus in Missouri. We have the worst funding in the country for public health, and a lot of the things we’ve needed to fight the spread of covid are things we should have had in place 10 years ago. We don’t have an emergency manager. We don’t have anyone to handle HR, public information, or IT, so that’s all been me. We didn’t get extra funding for covid until last month. I’m young and I’m motivated, and I took this job in January because public health is my absolute love. It doesn’t pay well, but would I rather be treating people who already have a disease or helping to prevent it? That’s what we do. We help take care of people. At one point this summer, I worked 90 days straight trying to hold this virus at bay, and my whole staff was basically like that.

We hired 10 contact tracers to track the spread, starting in August, but the real problem we keep running into is community cooperation. We call everyone that’s had a positive test and say: “Hey, this is your local health department. We’re trying to interrupt disease transmission, and we’d love your help.” It’s nothing new. We do the same thing for measles, mumps, and tick-borne diseases, and I’d say 99 percent of the time before covid, people were receptive. They wanted to stop an outbreak, but now it’s all politicized. Every time you get on the phone, you’re hoping you don’t get cussed at. Probably half of the people we call are skeptical or combative. They refuse to talk. They deny their own positive test results. They hang up. They say they’re going to hire a lawyer. They give you fake people they’ve spent time with and fake numbers. They lie and tell you they’re quarantining alone at home, but then in the background you can hear the beeping of a scanner at Walmart.

I’ve stayed up a lot of nights trying to understand where this whole disconnect comes from. I love living in this county. I know in my heart these are good people, but it’s like we’re living on different planets. I have people in my own family who believe covid is a conspiracy and our doctors are getting paid off. I’ve done press conferences and dozens of Facebook Live videos to talk about the real science. Even with all the other failures happening, that’s the one thing we should be celebrating: better treatments, nurses and doctors on the front lines, promising news about vaccines. But the more I talk about the facts, the more it seems to put a target on my back.

“We’re tracking your movements.” “Don’t do something you’ll regret.” “We’ll protest at your house.”

The police here have been really great. The elementary school says they’re watching over my kids and they’re on high alert. I have a security system now at my house. I locked down my email and took all my family photos off of Facebook, but you start wondering: Is this worth it? Could anything possibly be worth it?

And then it got worse this fall around the whole masking issue. Our hospital was filling up, and they asked if we could do more in terms of prevention and masking. We put out a press release. We went to businesses and did trainings. We kept encouraging people to mask up, but it wasn’t working. Only about 40 percent were wearing masks, so the health board decided to push for a mask mandate. Of course I was for the idea. Of course it is the scientific, smart thing to do. But at the same time, I kept thinking: Is this going to blow up my life?

We held a public meeting in the auditorium. I knew it was going to be a circus. I gave my kids an extra hug that night and said the things you never want to have to think about. I asked the city: “Are you requiring masks in this building? Because this is a public health meeting, and that’s important.” They said yes. But, of course, the first person that walks in the door says: “I go to church here in this same building, and they don’t make me wear a mask.” So that ended up being an ordeal, and they decided to allow him in. I asked him: “Can you please, please, please social distance?” He told me no. It wasn’t: “I can’t.” It was: “Hell, no. I won’t.” It went downhill from there.

We had more than 100 people show up, and most of them spoke in opposition. We do get a lot of thank-you’s and support for our work, but those aren’t the loudest voices, so sometimes they get drowned out. Our medical providers were at the meeting in their white coats, and three of them stood up to speak on behalf of masks. These are doctors and nurses who risk their lives to treat this virus. They are shouldering the burden of this, but the crowd wouldn’t even let them talk. They booed. They yelled. Some of them had come in with guns. They were so disrespectful. I was trying to take notes for our board, and my hands started shaking. Why aren’t you listening? Why do you refuse to hear from the people who actually know about this disease and how it spreads?

The board decided to go ahead with the mandate anyway, but part of the community revolted. We did a survey a few weeks later, and mask-wearing had actually gone down by six percent. We required it, and people became more likely to do the opposite. How do you even make sense of that? We like to believe we take good care of each other here. This is rural Missouri. We pride ourselves on being a down-home community that sticks together, and now this is how we treat each other? This is who we are?

I don’t go out in public very much anymore. It’s work and then back home. I don’t want to be recognized. I don’t want my kids to see any of that hate. The one place where I had to draw the line was that my son plays baseball, and honestly, his games are the most normal I’ve felt all year. But then, a little while ago, somebody took a photo at a game of me with my daughter. We were outside and social-distanced, so we weren’t wearing masks. The photo got posted all over social media, and it was the usual comments. “Bitch.” “Communist.” “Hypocrite.” My daughter has had some anxiety. My son said to me: “Mom, why does everybody hate you?”

I went in to work the next day, and one of my nurses came to see me. She’d just had one of those nasty interactions on the phone, and she said: “I’m struggling right now. I need one of your little pep talks.” I told her: “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have it. I’m tired of this. I’m so exhausted.”

I’ve been living with that steady hum of tension and fear for almost a year, and I just can’t do it anymore. I keep saying my family is my number-one priority, so at some point I have to keep my kids safe. I decided to put in my notice earlier this month. My last day is this Friday.

I’ve already accepted another nursing job. I’m not abandoning the community. I’m going to keep fighting this pandemic, but I’d rather not say anything much more specific. I don’t want that target on my back. I’m ready to be anonymous.

Welcome to America, Where the Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Poorer

Yesterday, I wrote of my frustration with this nation’s apparent inability or unwillingness to unite — left vs right, Republican vs Democrat.  Today, Robert Reich’s column in The Guardian shows us that the divide is a calculated one, a manipulation by those with billions of dollars in their portfolio, aided and abetted by the GOP.  Reich proposes that the real division is the 1% vs 99% and that a middle ground no longer exists, nor can it.  Take a look …


Trump’s refusal to concede is just the latest gambit to please Republican donors

Robert Reich-4by Robert Reich

Millions who should be ranged against the American oligarchy are distracted and divided – just as their leaders want

Leave it to Trump and his Republican allies to spend more energy fighting non-existent voter fraud than containing a virus that has killed 244,000 Americans and counting.

The cost of this misplaced attention is incalculable. While Covid-19 surges to record levels, there’s still no national strategy for equipment, stay-at-home orders, mask mandates or disaster relief.

The other cost is found in the millions of Trump voters who are being led to believe the election was stolen and who will be a hostile force for years to come – making it harder to do much of anything the nation needs, including actions to contain the virus.

Trump is continuing this charade because it pulls money into his newly formed political action committee and allows him to assume the mantle of presumed presidential candidate for 2024, whether he intends to run or merely keep himself the center of attention.

Leading Republicans like the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, are going along with it because donors are refilling GOP coffers.

The biggest beneficiaries are the party’s biggest patrons – the billionaire class, including the heads of the nation’s largest corporations and financial institutions, private-equity partnerships and hedge funds – whom a deeply divided nation serves by giving them unfettered access to the economy’s gains.

Their heist started four decades ago. According to a recent Rand study, if America’s distribution of income had remained the same as it was in the three decades following the second world war, the bottom 90% would now be $47tn richer.

A low-income American earning $35,000 this year would be earning $61,000. A college-educated worker now earning $72,000 would be earning $120,000. Overall, the grotesque surge in inequality that began 40 years ago is costing the median American worker $42,000 per year.

The upward redistribution of $47tn wasn’t due to natural forces. It was contrived. As wealth accumulated at the top, so did political power to siphon off even more wealth and shaft everyone else.

Monopolies expanded because antitrust laws were neutered. Labor unions shriveled because corporations were allowed to bust unions. Wall Street was permitted to gamble with other people’s money and was bailed out when its bets soured even as millions lost their homes and savings. Taxes on the top were cut, tax loopholes widened.

When Covid-19 hit, big tech cornered the market, the rich traded on inside information and the Treasury and the Fed bailed out big corporations but let small businesses go under. Since March, billionaire wealth has soared while most of America has become poorer.

How could the oligarchy get away with this in a democracy where the bottom 90% have the votes? Because the bottom 90% are bitterly divided.

Long before Trump, the GOP suggested to white working-class voters that their real enemies were Black people, Latinos, immigrants, “coastal elites”, bureaucrats and “socialists”. Trump rode their anger and frustration into the White House with more explicit and incendiary messages. He’s still at it with his bonkers claim of a stolen election.

The oligarchy surely appreciates the Trump-GOP tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and the most business-friendly supreme court since the early 1930s. But the Trump-GOP’s biggest gift has been an electorate more fiercely split than ever.

Into this melee comes Joe Biden, who speaks of being “president of all Americans” and collaborating with the Republican party. But the GOP doesn’t want to collaborate. When Biden holds out an olive branch, McConnell and other Republican leaders will respond just as they did to Barack Obama – with more warfare, because that maintains their power and keeps the big money rolling in.

The president-elect aspires to find a moderate middle ground. This will be difficult because there’s no middle. The real divide is no longer left versus right but the bottom 90% versus the oligarchy.

Biden and the Democrats will better serve the nation by becoming the party of the bottom 90% – of the poor and the working middle class, of black and white and brown, and of all those who would be $47tn richer today had the oligarchy not taken over America.

This would require that Democrats abandon the fiction of political centrism and establish a countervailing force to the oligarchy – and, not incidentally, sever their own links to it.

They’d have to show white working-class voters how badly racism and xenophobia have hurt them as well as people of color. And change the Democratic narrative from kumbaya to economic and social justice.

Easy to say, hugely difficult to accomplish. But if today’s bizarre standoff in Washington is seen for what it really is, there’s no alternative.

Filosofa’s Mind Meanderings

I am in a pensive mood tonight, rather saddened and disgusted by what I see people doing.  Y’know … Donald Trump is to blame for a lot … I could spend this entire post pointing out the things for which he should be held to account, but he isn’t responsible for our own behaviour … only we can be held to account for what we say and do, for how we treat others.  It is true that Trump has encouraged much of what is happening, has praised white supremacists, denigrated democrats, Muslims, Jews, women and a whole laundry list of others.  But, at the end of the day, I am responsible for the things I have done … nobody else.

I read an article this evening in The Week

A municipal worker in Michigan required 13 stitches after moving a Trump lawn sign rigged with razor blades.  The sign was closer to the roadway than permitted by local ordinance, town Supervisor Dave Scott said, and when the worker put his hands on it, he initially “thought it was electrified,” and then “realized he was bleeding aggressively.”  The homeowner has denied doing the boobytrapping.

And this isn’t the first time.  The same thing happened in Texas in November 2016, just a few days before the election.  Who does such a thing?  What if a small child or animal had been the one to discover the treachery?  Does the person who did this even have a conscience?

I read John Pavolitz’ post from a few days ago titled Good People Aren’t Voting For Him A Second Time, and I found the following particularly relevant …

I often hear people say, “I’m a good person and I’m proudly voting for Donald Trump again.”

I now consider that an oxymoron.

I don’t believe any good people are voting for this president a second time—or they are in complete rebellion against goodness as they do.

I believe that act is fundamentally antithetical to anything good.

There are things good people simply don’t do:

Good people don’t ignore the assassinations of unarmed black men.

Good people don’t vilify and attack the peaceful protestors of those murders.

Good people don’t create phony ANTIFA conspiracies, just to avoid saying that Black Lives Matter.

Good people don’t incite armed crowds to “liberate” state capitols over protections designed to save lives.

Good people don’t make fun of mask wearers, when life is in the balance.

Good people don’t tear gas citizens for a transparent church door Bible photo op.

Good people don’t defend murderous white vigilantes.

Good people don’t discard people while protecting property.

Good people don’t justify kneeling on a black man’s neck for eight minutes until he expires.

Good people don’t demonize a black woman for being executed in her bedroom in the middle of the night.

Good people don’t repeatedly deny the severity of a murderous virus, knowing people will die while he does.

Good people don’t call veterans losers and suckers.

Good people don’t stammer and deflect when asked to denounce white supremacist organizations live in front of the nation.

Good people don’t take away healthcare from hundreds of millions in the throes of a pandemic.

Good people don’t pounce on the corpse of a Supreme Court Justice after an election has already begun, just to take away a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body and appease religious zealots.

Good people don’t hold unmasked rallies while cases flare wildly, after themselves having a virus they were saved from.

Good people don’t lie as easily as breathing, or make a mockery of a religion they have no interest in, or treat people of color and women as property, or disregard the systems and laws of this land because power and complicit enablers allow it.

And good people, regardless of how good they claim to be—don’t encourage or embrace or support or elevate such people.

They simply don’t.

And yet, pick up a newspaper or look at an online news source and you will find example after example of people who seem intent on putting down or harming others.  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE???

I have long said that Donald Trump is merely a symptom of a larger, underlying problem, and this is being proven on a daily basis.  When a town’s sheriff says it was okay for a group of people to plot the kidnapping of the state’s governor simply because she implemented safeguards to protect those very people, we’ve got a far bigger problem than we first thought.  And we all know, I think, that the problem will not simply disappear on January 20th when Joe Biden is inaugurated into office.

Every Wednesday, I write about good people who are doing things large and small to help others in some way.  I haven’t run out of those ‘good people’ yet, so we know they’re here, but they are overshadowed by those who commit heinous acts like putting razor blades on yard signs or applaud the killing of Black people or condone putting children in cages simply because they were not born in this country.

Today, I am not proud to be a citizen of this country, I am not proud of the people who, rather than make their voices heard in a peaceful manner, use violence to get their point across.  I am not proud that we have a government that condones what is happening in our society today.  I, like many of you, have tried to use my blog to make changes, to be the voice of reason (most of the time, anyway), to show people why certain things are wrong, even unacceptable in a civil society.  But it seems that the people who most need our message simply aren’t getting it.

We are becoming … or perhaps have become … a nation of selfish, greedy people who put their own interests ahead of the greater good without a thought, without a pang of conscience.  Those who engage in violence or acts of cruelty and  claim they are acting as their religion tells them to are the worst of the lot, for their religion is Hypocrisy.

I think we will have a new president in just over three months, and new leadership in the Senate, and all of that is good.  Joe Biden will do his level best to unite the people of this country.  But, if people continue to hate for little or no reason, he will not be successful.  We the People must look inside ourselves and ask some tough questions.  We the People are the only ones who can change what we have become, and if we don’t do it, then we cannot work together to make this a good place for our children and grandchildren.

I end with more words from John Pavlovitz’ post that reflect my own thoughts …

Goodness is not a matter how good you imagine you are.
It is not a matter of what you claim to believe.
It is not something you possess simply because you desire to possess it.

Goodness is determined by the way you move through this world: a world that is either more or less loving and compassionate and equitable and kind because of your presence and your decisions.

What kind of animals have we become?

Every day in this country we see examples in the news of people who seem to be without values, lacking integrity, and we ask ourselves, “What is wrong with the people of this country???” Today, Larry asks that question in response to two truly jaw-dropping events in the past week. Are we becoming a nation of fools who have no values whatsoever? Thank you, Larry, for expressing what I think the majority of people are thinking … SIGH.

President Trump’s First Year’s Reign Has Been Worse Than Expected

On the morning of November 9th, 2016, many of us predicted that Donald Trump would tarnish our image in the world, and make a shambles of our democracy, if left unchecked. My hopes at that time were that Congress would put the brakes on him. Unfortunately, Congress has failed miserably and our predictions not only held, but the reality of the Trump presidency has far exceeded our predictions, and not in any good way. Please take a few minutes to read Gronda’s post for a clear summary of the past year with the new disease, Trumpitis, spreading rapidly over the nation. Many thanks to Gronda for this post and her generous permission to share.

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of trump christmas at the white house

“We the People,” the coalition of the decent, the “Never Trumpers,” The Resistance participants including those of the “Women’s March, Indivisible and others, the democrats along with the majority of independents and a significant number of republicans, all knew that we were in for a rocky ride. It has been much worse than we could have imagined.

Here is the rest of the story…

On December 25, 2017, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post penned the following opinion piece, Trump’s first year was even worse than feared.”

Excerpts:

“Grit your teeth. Persevere. Just a few more days and this awful, rotten, no-good, ridiculous, rancorous, sordid, disgraceful year in the civic life of our nation will be over. Here’s hoping that we all — particularly special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — have a better 2018.”

“Many of us began 2017 with the consoling thought that the Donald Trump presidency…

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Trumpy Changes His Story …

I do not think we needed any further proof that Donald Trump is a liar, did we?  I was convinced of it more than two years ago, and since then, not a day has gone by that he has not done or said something that reinforced that notion.  But his latest takes the cake.  Remember that last week Trump was down in Alabama stumping for Luther Strange in the republican primary for the senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions?  I even wrote about it because it appeared that Strange’s opponent, former judge Roy Moore was winning in the polls, and many of Trump’s supporters, including Steve Bannon, were backing Moore.  Trump made multiple tweets announcing his support for Strange, and in a speech he gave, he said that Strange would be on board to help do away with the filibuster rule in the senate.

One of Trump’s more ridiculous statements was that in predicting congressional elections he was 5-0, and would be 6-0 with the election of Strange.  Well, he lost that bet.  Roy Moore won the primary and will run against democrat Doug Jones on December 12th. But once it became clear that Moore had won the runoff election, guess what Trump did?  He erased all his tweets supporting Strange, and switched his rhetoric to sound as if he had supported Moore all along.

deleted tweets.jpgThis seems rather like betting on a horse, the horse comes in last, and then claiming that you actually bet on the horse that came in first.  You still hold a losing ticket, no matter how many lies you tell.  Turns out, Trump was, according to CNN’s Jim Acosta, actually furious over Moore’s win and blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others for misleading him and encouraging him to back Strange. It is said that he is pointing the finger of blame at many, but never at himself.  One advisor explains, “Losing is bad for his brand.” 

Never one to be caught with his pants down, he tweeted …

“Spoke to Roy Moore of Alabama last night for the first time. Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to #MAGA!”

And ultimate boot-licker Kellyanne Conway put her usual head-scratching spin on it all, saying that Moore’s win was actually a validation of Trump’s agenda …

“I think that this is an extension of what we saw last year, which is that when some voters have a change [sic] to vote against Washington and the establishment, they will do exactly that, especially after we haven’t had a lot of legislative victories. It’s actually a vindication for Trumpism because it’s very much what happened last year to President Trump.”

Does anybody have a clue what she just said?

Sadly, with Moore on the ticket and likely to win the election in December, given that Alabama is a very red state indeed, it is We The People who stand to lose.  Moore is a disgrace and an abomination to human rights.  He is primed to take our nation back at least 100 years with his beliefs.  He is a homophobe, stating that homosexuality is a crime and should be punishable by law.  He is a racist, referring to people as “blacks and whites … reds and yellows”.  He believes, so he says, that “… there are some communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Well, there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana — up there.”

The list of idiotic things Moore has said and apparently believes is endless, and back in a much saner era, an era before Donald Trump, before the rise of the white supremacists, Moore would have stood zero chance of winning a senate seat.  But this is 2017, and frankly my fear is that we will see more republicans running on a platform of fear and phobia, of hate and divisiveness. It is up to us, to We The People, to stand up and speak, to let the nation know that the majority of us do not support the “values” espoused by the likes of Roy Moore. What we need is people in power who will bring the people … all people … of this nation together. What we do not need is those who, like Moore and Trump, have narrow little minds and will only create more chaos in an already divided nation.