It’s been a while since I posted anything here. I’ve been pretty active on social media still, but haven’t found the motivation to write anything more extensive like I usually write for this place. But my recent sadness has moved me to jot these thoughts down and put them here. My sadness is because of the turn that the culture war has taken. We used to argue about taxes and about whether companies should be regulated and if we should allow kids to pray in schools. The last argument I remember having with one side of my family (a side that has pretty much banned political discussions since Obama was elected) was about private vs public control of health insurance. It’s memorable to me as one of those conversations that runs in my mind because it should have gone so differently. I had made the case that the private sector couldn’t operate in the business of insuring the elderly because there’s simply no way to do it and turn a profit. The guy I was talking to pointed to Medicare advantage programs that are administered by private companies as evidence that they could. I don’t remember what happened next, or what I said, but I want to rewind and make the point that none of those programs work if the public sector isn’t paying the bill, or at least a big part of the bill. But I digress. My point here is that these are the things we used to argue about, sometimes getting hot about them. We talked about things and had strong opinions, but it all just felt different. Continue reading “The never ending culture war”
The COVID pandemic is causing pain all over. There’s no question about that. The United States and many other countries have been responding with orders to shut down non-essential businesses, and this has put many people out of work. But the efforts to flatten the curve seem to be working, and the projections for the total number of people expected to die are looking much better than before. They’re still projecting a tragic number of deaths, but not nearly as many as we could have. That’s good. At least I think it’s good. In several states, however, there are protests springing up about efforts to keep us safe.
The United States is in the early stages of the pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus. As of this moment, there are 597,304 confirmed cases worldwide and 104,661 confirmed cases in the United States alone. Today, the number of cases in the United States grew to the point that there are now more cases in the United States than in any other country. Of course, we do not know if this is accurate, and suspect that it isn’t, because there are very likely many people, in many countries, who are infected but have not been tested. There is a growing movement, especially among republicans, to weigh the potential harm caused by the virus and the harm caused by slowing the economy (because of people sheltering in place, closed restaurants and other businesses). A friend brought this up to me recently, calling attention to a quote in the movie The Big Short: every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die. It got me thinking…as most things do.
I have fond memories of emerging technology from my childhood. I remember listening, in awe, as my father put a pair of headphones on me and played a track from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma with wonderful sounds clearly coming from the left and right, and a bee buzzing in one ear and not the other. I remember my father getting a car phone. Not a mobile phone, not a cell phone, but a car phone. Hard-wired into the car, with a pigtail antenna fixed to the back window and wired through the car to the phone in the center console. We watched the Jetsons and longed for the days when a robot would cook for us, clean for us, and make our lives easier. We had this vision of a world in which automation and technology let us sit by the pool and sip margaritas that a robot would make and bring to us with a tiny umbrella. What we never imagined is that the robots would take away the pool also.
I’m watching with a bit of awe as members of the GOP engage in amazing contortion to continue to support the president in the ongoing impeachment inquiry by the House. I felt the need to create a running list of some of the things I’m hearing. Some are paraphrased, but I’ll throw in some quoted stuff as needed. If I use this like I want, I’ll keep editing this post to add new an interesting twists and turns in the logic (or lack thereof) I keep hearing.
People talk about vivid memories on days like these. I can’t say that my memories are like that. I don’t remember what I was wearing, or what I ate that day, but there are some things that stick, and the historical timelines that go around this day every year help put some missing pieces together.
Equality is often on my mind, but it’s particularly salient today. I just left an event with Ruth Bader Ginsberg and it’s Women’s Equality Day. Ginsberg was at my university, receiving an honorary degree, just days after announcing that she completed another round of treatment for cancer. It was a moving presentation, and I was honored to be in the same room with her (it was a big room, an arena, so it wasn’t like I was even close enough to shake her hand, but it was still great). If the audience were allowed to ask questions, and I had more courage than I have, there’s something that’s been gnawing at me lately. It would have been nice to know what she thought. Instead, I’ll just ruminate and use this thing like I have so many times, as a hybrid diary sounding board that doesn’t talk back to me.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. It’s been a combination of a few things, including work-related travel, being busier at work, and being really disheartened by the state of the world. This blog has helped me handle that feeling in the past, but over the last couple of months, trying to put fingers to keyboard seemed to make it worse. The state of things is so upsetting to me that I’ve even moved away from my morning routine. This routine includes sticking my iPad into a resealable plastic bag and setting it on a ledge in the shower so I can get my morning dose of news, flipping between CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews. I still have most of this morning routine, and still put my iPad in plastic and bring it into the shower with me, but instead of news, I turn on a West Wing rerun to start my day. The policies from the White House bother me, and the shootings hurt my heart, but I think more than any of it, the division is what pains me the most.
Notre Dame burned yesterday. It’s a beautiful place, that I’ve only seen from the outside, but even if you’ve only seen pictures its beauty is impressive. The President of the United States responded with a tweet. A mind-numbingly dumb tweet.
In contrast, Pete Buttigieg (the democrat running for president) issued a statement in French (one of EIGHT languages he speaks: English, Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Dari, and French).
It’s clear to anybody who knows me, or who reads anything I write, that I don’t like President Trump. I don’t like the person I see him as, I don’t like things he’s done, I don’t like his style, I don’t like his approach to issues, and I disagree with his worldview. Even more than that, I am saddened by how many people like him not in spite of these things, but because of them. All that said, I dislike the fight over the wall even more, and I simply can’t find myself getting riled up over it. I’m not a politician, and my interests are different from many politicians (who have jobs to do), but in many ways, as I wrote earlier, I think the democrats should have given him the wall earlier, reopened the government sooner, and let him run on that being his crown achievement. He wants the fight, and his supporters seem to like him more when he’s fighting. So don’t give him the fight. All that said, I think the current outcome might be a little more interesting to watch…