Veterans, Soldiers and We the People

From a Google Image Search –

There are many important stories in the world. Today is Memorial Day for example and where would America be without our soldiers. I hate war but I admire the men and women who fight for our country. Even some of our soldiers may agree that saving our own Democracy from a Party that seems intent on destroying it is worth concentrating on, even on this sacred day. Our soldiers have always fought and even died for Democracy. Democracy needs them for a different kind of war now.

Michael Flynn, addressing a QAnon crowd, called for a Myanmar-style coup in America. Many Republicans are convinced that Democrats are an existential threat to our nation because of their progressive ideas. They don’t want to see America invest in America’s social structure along with other critical infrastructure. They don’t want to set a minimum wage that offers solvency for American families. They don’t want to see a government health insurance program that allows even the poorest Americans to have health care. 

They don’t like workers banding together in unions to keep employers from abusing our workers. They don’t like consumer protections. They don’t want to pay for young people to go to a community college, even given the gauntlet of poverty, violence and drugs young people must make it through to have successful lives. 

They don’t want to pay for child care so women can work. In fact, they think women should stay home with the children and have babies because our population is getting too old. They would get rid of contraception if they could. They don’t even want social security for those who have no other pension. They do want to tax people but only people who make less than $400,000 a year. No wonder they want ‘small government.’ The taxes of Americans who make less than that won’t pay for much. Since the party insists that only a big armed force and plenty of killer weapons can keep America safe from our enemies abroad that doesn’t leave much money for social matters. 

They say that forcing all Americans to pay for social programs is undemocratic. Well, in a sense, since each individual cannot choose whether to contribute to a federal program, or to not allow their tax dollars to go towards that priority, this does constitute a kind of mandate. 

Societies do not necessarily guarantee absolute individual freedom. In fact, some societies offer little individual freedom at all. This week the leader of Belarus pretended a plane had a bomb on board so they could get the pilot to land in Belarus so that a young journalist on the plane could be arrested for trying to speak freely. There is a certain authoritarian strain in American politics on the right that wants to use fascist means to insist that America do things their way. And we are back to Michael Flynn (and Donald Trump).

Societies do have social contracts with their members. Since FDR, social programs have been part of American governance and American life. Now Republicans tell us that this was a huge mistake and that they are absolutely certain that including social programs in federal governance will kill America. So they are trying to kill democracy because they are so certain that they are right.  They are trying to kill the Democratic Party because they insist that America only spend to encourage “makers” to come back and rescue the American economy. And that is clearly not what happens when you help corporations these day. Corporations plough the money back into their own operations and shower their stockholders with dividends because they own a lot of stock, and this increases their profits without expanding their operations or hiring more expensive workers. Our corporations, grown in America, could now care less if America continues to thrive. They are not actually Americans anymore; they are citizens of the world.

Republicans who still see themselves as Conservatives have decided that they and only they hold all the answers to how America can remain first among the nations of the world. They have made sure that Democrats are unable to help the middle classes and the poor through federal government programs. They have used creative voter strategies to keep power in Congress and they have used obstruction to have their way.

Republicans point to LBJ’s War on Poverty and argue that it was largely ineffective at solving stubborn poverty or prejudice. They deliberately undermined those programs and attached a stigma or set up tough requirements to make the programs unattractive. There is proof in the data, that although such programs did not end poverty, they were helping to make changes in the poorest neighborhoods and towns. That LBJ, and indeed, the Republicans did not foresee the ravages of opioids is a burden that rests on the pharmaceutical industry and, with the enormous profits they have made, they should tackle the addiction problem and end our sorrows at this waste of human lives. Even knowing the dangers of opioid addiction these meds are being used to treat our veterans today.

For one party to ‘take the wheel’ and decide that they know best how to steer the nation so that it will be successful in having the world’s best economy and be the dominant power on the globe is not the democracy/republic we all signed on for. 

There have always been factions in American politics. That is how political parties were formed. There has always been contention. We fought a Civil War because slave owners wanted to force America to accept slavery. That was a war, not a coup. 

But Republicans are apparently tired of contention. They want a government that doesn’t have to negotiate every issue. Of course, Democrats would like that too. But Republicans have used a set of strategies to change the dynamics of American politics and to prevent a two party system from operating as it should. They have interpreted constitutional powers in ways that allow them to use these powers against compromise and they have learned the power of fixing elections in seemingly legal ways, although, desperation seems to be driving them into more unseemly election practices such as the Big Lie, recounting settled votes, passing laws in red states that allow officials to overturn elections, along with what is happening in states like Florida, Texas, and Georgia right now. 

Republicans have learned how to hold onto the majority in Congress, or at least in the Senate, and they have learned the power of simply stubbornly saying no and not even allowing legislation to come to the floor. Even though Republicans have lost the majority in the Senate, the Democratic advantage is extremely slim. With the Republican Party so insistent that it knows what is best for America, and the filibuster still in place it may look like Democrats won in 2020, but the reality is that unless the Dems do some things they find unsavory, like passing bills with single party votes or getting rid of the filibuster, the Democrats are still being held at bay by a cult-like Republican party. 

Meanwhile America sinks further into a morass of poverty and violence, fueled by a belief that all will be well if we just bring manufacturing back home and build up an arsenal of ever more super weapons. When the factories come home all will turn around and America will be an engine of progress once more. But that is just another ‘big lie.’ You can’t recreate the past. 

You can move on into a future that deals with the economic realities we have now and builds on those strengths. Learning how to live in new and lighter ways on the planet offers the economic gains of the future and puts us on a path to sustainability rather than extinction. The Republican Party is wrong for these times. They made a deal with a devil but they had already sold their soul to hang on to imagined past glories. 

On this Memorial Day when Republicans offer themselves up as the true patriots who honor our soldiers far more than the ‘sorry’ Democrats, it is important to remember that warmongering is not a good future for our world’s continued existence and that promises to our soldiers have not been kept. We must remember which party is the one that is saying no to the needs of the people and that includes the needs of veterans. In the midterms please give the Democrats a chance to change the focus of the American government from the wealthy to ‘we the people’.

On Tuesday, June 1, 2021 Max Boot wrote this article in The Washington Post:

January Sixth Commission and Republicans

From a Google Image Search – CNN

The Republican Party is dead to me. If we want a conservative voice in America, which is not something I need, then conservatives who see how undemocratic the current Republican Party has become need to form that new party or join the Democrats. They need to do this now or we stand to lose our Republic and see our Constitution suspended.

One of the worst crimes of the current Republican Party is their constant attempts to use gaslighting and mind control to influence Americans. They have used their own media both on radio and tv, they have harnessed (just barely) an immoral charismatic old reprobate, and they believe that through the church they have friends in high places (God) who will preach from the pulpit telling parishioners who and what to vote for. 

Republicans use denial to drive rational Americans into fits of frustrated anger, and irrational Americans into mobs. It is the most egregious and dangerous use of power, something we would condemn in any other nation, but we cannot rid ourselves of these mind games used to hold onto power. Whenever sane people try to call these people out they are met with derision, or threats. 

It doesn’t matter how many times you have read George Orwell’s 1984 and wondered why people let somebody convince them that Big Brother was acting in their best interests, until they were under the total control of a dictator who invaded their lives right into their own living rooms. It doesn’t matter that we can see that technology now exists that works even better than spying through old tech like televisions. We find Siri and Alexis very helpful. I’m not saying these ladies are spying on us for any other purpose than ferreting out what we want or need to buy-for marketplace reasons. But a party that doesn’t mind brainwashing America is only one step away from spying on our daily lives for political reasons. Trump tried to do this several times when he asked for lists of everyone who opposed him on various issues, or in the census when he wanted to use the census to hunt down undocumented people living in America.

Brian Sicknick’s mother Gladys did something against her quiet and introverted nature; she went to Congress to try to talk the Republican members into voting for the January Sixth Commission. Evidence suggests that her son was not killed by those who attacked the Capitol, but the stress and length of the fight triggered biological weaknesses which killed him. He would most likely be alive and marrying his girlfriend, who also went along to talk to Congress, if not for the “battle” to install a president in the oval office who did not win. Republican members stood firm in their unwillingness to convene a commission even in the face of a personal plea from the mother of a Capital policeman who died defending their safety.

This feeling of hopeless anger I feel in my gut every time Republicans lie about actual events that we saw with our own eyes, the anger that makes me want to throw things at my tv, that makes me want to march and protest, that sends me to my keyboard to at least have my say, is a terrible sign that our democracy may not stand. Republicans like Rep. Andrew Craig, who tries to turn a Trump citizen army into normal tourists, mess with our minds. We carry the picture of the events of January 6 th in our brains and we know Republicans are lying. We carry the text of Trump’s speech to his peeps on that day in our heads and regardless of how the Republicans spin it, we have the evidence in our minds (just like we will carry the video of Derek Chauvin with his nonchalant murder of a man he was hired to serve, with his knee on George Floyd’s neck). 

So, when Sen. Ron Johnson gives Gladys Sicknick some bogus nonsense about his reasons for voting no on a commission to investigate the events of January 6 th, responsible for the death of her son, we see the depths of Republican willingness to deny reality, to change the headlines, to disrespect our senses, and to let us know that they believe they can lie to the American people with impunity, they can look the other way while unauthorized people recount our votes, they can devise ways to keep us from the polls, they can rule American forever if they just ignore every rule of common decency and sell their souls to a huckster because he seems to have sold his goods to almost half of our citizens. 

It’s embarrassing to be thought so little of that Republicans can twist the truth right in front of our very eyes and get away with it. What will we do, what will it take to convince these soulless men and women that we will not stand idly by and let our inaction be proof of our inertia or our willingness to let anything be done to us. One half of America has been turned into an instrument in the Republican war on reality, waged to maintain a power that will be anything but democratic. Just one little event, one plea from a mother that is refused with a lie; could that be that proverbial last straw. I doubt it, but the load is getting heavy. We all want to keep our government intact and defeat our foes through laws and reason. Whatever people want to say about Joe Biden he may be our last hope for a return to reason and civility and democracy. Trump and Newt Gingrich are teaming up. That can’t be good. While we still can, use the vote in 2022 to get rid of Republicans in Congress.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – Book

From a Google Image Search – collectSPACE

The only complaint I have about Andy Weir’s new book Project Hail Mary is that I finished too quickly. But I had a big smile on my face most of the time. Weir’s book has upset some physicists and astronomers because they say Andy Weir doesn’t always get the science right. I am not a physicist or an astronomer, although I like to read articles about both areas so, for me, this book offered enough math to make it seem authentic, without getting too esoteric. The main character, Ryland Grace, is, after all, just an eighth grade science teacher and the math seems just about right for that level. Acceleration in different gravities, temperature ranges that support life, an alien culture that uses base 6 rather than base 10, spectrographic analysis and control screens that can offer up any missing information or do the math—all of these elements are intended for readers who are not physicists or even biologists.

I don’t usually read reviews before I write about books but The Washington Post kept dangling one in front of me so I finally opened it but I tried to just lightly skim it. Another thing the reviewer found annoying was the use of coma amnesia by the author as a device to prevent information overload. We learn everything in flashback mode. If our reluctant astronaut only remembers info as needed we learn about technicalities as he relearns them or remembers them. He wakes from his coma alone and has lost the team of true experts that were supposed to keep the mission on track. This device did not bother me, it seemed useful, but it might bother some readers.

Earth has a pressing problem. For some reason the sun’s energy is being diminished and it looks like the culprit is Venus. With a probe scientists are able to collect samples from the place where the ‘Petrovian’ line heads from the sun and hits the atmosphere of Venus. We learn that the true culprit is a tiny organism called an ‘Astrophage’ and that it goes to Venus to breed because it needs carbon dioxide to reproduce, which cannot be found in the sun. It then returns to the sun to collect more energy for a return trip. Each trip increases the Astrophage population. So, as if climate change were not enough, now our own sun will get so dim that we will starve to death. 

When Grace (corny name or perfect?) finds himself alone in space he hears a Tap, Tap, Tap and finds he has a neighbor, an alien spaceship is nearby. He makes a leap of faith and allows his neighbor to connect the two ships with a tunnel. “Rocky” and Grace cannot share the same spaces or they will die. Rocky requires an atmosphere heavy on ammonia and he lives in extreme heat. Thank goodness for xenonite. Rocky’s planet is also being attacked by Astrophage, but Tau Ceti, the sun they are both visiting is infected with Astrophage and yet it is not losing energy. Why? Grace and Rocky find ingenious ways to figure it all out.

When my friend’s daughter was four she saw a movie over and over, as children love to do. The movie was called The Land Before Time. There was a character in the movie, Ducky, who would always say “yup, yup yup” or “nope, nope nope,” three times. It was so catchy and we all heard it so many times that summer that it has stayed with me all these years, although I never even watched the movie. Rocky and Grace also talk in threes after they learn enough of each other’s language. “Bad, bad, bad” they intone, or “good, good, good.” Rocky is a really lovable little alien engineer with a can-do attitude and a pretty even disposition. Does he make the book childish? I don’t know. That WaPo critic claims that the book is written like a movie script rather than a novel. Maybe. But Ducky prepared me well for a space engineer that looked like a turtle on top and a spider underneath, who had the lovable habit of saying things three times.

What is relevant about the book is not an imminent Astrophage attack on our sun, but the way humans come together to solve the problem quickly and efficiently. It is reminiscent of the way The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson tackles climate deniers by just finding ways to develop strategies that bypass them, right down to the leader of the Ministry, Mary Murphy, a strong woman who doesn’t take no for an answer. Dr. Eva Stratt is just such a strong woman and she leads the group of scientists from all of earth’s nations in getting a mission ready to travel to Tau Ceti as soon they see that earth will die if they don’t figure out why that other sun is not losing energy. 

Mary Murphy had a male counterpart who used the most aggressive and unethical approaches. Dr. Stratt plays both roles. She does not mind getting down and dirty. But this idea that humans, even humans and aliens, can let go of jealousy and animosity when the survival of their species is at risk is present in both books. It is cooperation, even enforced cooperation, that solves existential problems. We end up with the question of whether our problems are existential enough to get us to work together towards a common goal, which just so happens to also be  related to carbon dioxide. What do I have to say about Project Hail Mary? It was good, good, good!

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Book

From a Google Image Search –

The Sympathizer reads as if the author was there at the fall of Saigon, except that the author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, although born in South Vietnam, was born after those events. His parent were there, the authors of the source materials he read either were there or had used journalistic methodologies to research Vietnam history, the Vietnam War, the fall of Saigon and the aftermath. He may have learned about the war second hand, but he writes about it very much as a first hand observer/participant.

Others have written about those harried days when the U. S. admitted defeat and had to get out of town fast, but here is a new voice. And, although the book is fiction, it is immersive. Until I read the end notes I was convinced that V. T. Nguyen had been in Vietnam throughout the war. Our narrator remains unnamed and the use of first person is consistent throughout. This novel offers us an expert’s use of point of view. 

Our unnamed main character is both simple and complex. He is the “man with two faces,” “the man with two minds.” The child of a culturally unacceptable liaison between his Vietnamese mother and a French priest, he’s reviled by villagers–his mother shunned and very poor–he is labeled a bastard. He is also handsome and bright and is sent to a Californian college where his views become more global. He has made a blood pact with two other guys, Man and Bon, and they are the only two who command his loyalty. They are communists.

Back in Vietnam during the war years, our narrator is imbedded in the South Vietnamese Army, but he is a spy who sends off reports to Man in North Vietnam. He appears to be a shallow, somewhat cynical guy, his voice is irreverent and politically ambivalent. He works as an aid and driver to the Commandant of the Vietnamese troops in the South. His grasp of English makes him valuable to both the Vietnamese and the Americans. He doesn’t seem to have any real ideological attachment to communism and certainly, given his deceptions, doesn’t even think in revolutionary rhetoric. He tells us on the very first page that he can see both sides.

Our narrator escapes the fall of Saigon with a General and others, including his sworn brother Bon, whose wife and child are killed during the escape. Our narrator may not have many values that demand his absolute allegiance but he is determined to keep Bon from despair and suicide.

The book is masterful, so well-written, evocative of what we already understand as the senselessness of war, combined with the truth that we seem unable to end our apparent love affair with wars. 

“…our revolutions had gone from being the vanguard of political change to the rearguard of hoarding power. In this transformation we were not unusual. Hadn’t the French and the Americans done exactly the same? Once revolutionaries themselves, they had become imperialists, colonizing and occupying our defiant little land, taking away our freedom in the name of saving us…Having liberated ourselves in the name of independence and freedom—I was so tired of saying those words!—we then deprived our defeated brethren of the same.” (pg. 326)

Nguyen dazzles as he traces the occupations of Vietnam back to its origins, starting from the origins of his character.

“…if history’s ship had taken a different tack, if I had become an accountant, if I had fallen in love with the right woman, if I had been a more virtuous lover, if my mother had been less of a mother, if my father had gone to save souls in Algeria instead of here, if the commandant did not need to make me over, if my own people did not suspect me, if they saw me as one of them, if we forgot our resentment, if we forgot revenge, if we acknowledged that we are all puppets in some one else’s play, if we had not fought a war against each other, if some of us had not called ourselves nationalists or communists or capitalists or realists, if our bonzes had not incinerated themselves, if the Americans hadn’t come to save us from ourselves, if we had not bought what they sold, if the Soviets had never called us comrades, if Man had not sought to do the same, if the Japanese hadn’t taught us the superiority of the yellow race, if the French had never sought to civilize us, if Ho Chi Minh had not been dialectical and Karl Marx not analytical, if the invisible hand of the market did not hold us by the scruffs of our necks, if the British had defeated the rebels of the new world, if the natives had simply said, Hell no, on first seeing the white man, if our emperors and mandarins had not clashed among themselves, if the Chinese had never ruled us for a thousand years, if they had used gunpowder for more than fireworks, if the Buddha had never lived, if the Bible had never been written and Jesus Christ never sacrificed, if Adam and Even still frolicked in the Garden of Eden, if the dragon lord and the fairy queen had not given birth to us, if the two of them had not parted ways, if fifty of their children had not followed their fairy mother to the mountains, if fifty more had not followed their dragon father to the sea, if legend’s phoenix had truly soared from its own ashes rather than simply crashed and burned in our countryside, if there were no Light and no Word, if Heaven and earth had never parted, if history had never happened, neither as farce nor as tragedy, if the serpent of language had not bitten me,…” (pg. 307-8)

Nguyen leaves us, like Bon, in despair that we will ever find ways to suppress the flaws in our blighted human condition. It’s depressing but the narrator’s rather amoral and insouciant patter takes some of the sting out of some really dreadful things.bppl Viet Thanh Nguyen is an excellent new voice in both American and global fiction.

Impunity, No Consequences, No Repercussions

From a Google Image Search – Art Jewelry Forum

If there are no consequences for “bad” political behavior, “bad” economic behavior, or “bad” public health behavior, then “bad” actors will always be winners. Does that make the earnest compliers, the empathizers, the pragmatic problem solvers chumps?

Matt Gaetz said that bringing earmarks back is worse than child trafficking. Earmarks were brought back to grease the wheels of bipartisanship, most likely. They are a part of politics that we find distasteful and that people fought to end. Will they work to win votes from the adamantly inflexible and lockstep Republicans in Congress? I doubt it. If Republicans can find a way they will continue to withhold any participation in Democrats’ approaches (stall or kill bills) and still ‘take the money and run.’ 

I don’t think I even need to discuss the other half of Gaetz’ cynical analogy, an obvious attempt to belittle the serious anathema of child trafficking in order to minimize the consequences of his probably real lack of values. The question of whether a man who draws such a revealingly amoral analogy should participate in our national government should have only one answer, a resounding “no”. However, there will most likely be no consequences.

Trump’s approach to the pandemic was to constantly downplay the virility of the disease. He focused on his “beautiful economy,” even as the entire world was shutting down. Can America ignore the rest of the globe and conduct a good economy all by itself? The answer is “no.” Does America want a leader that values the economy more than American lives (well, he says, they were old people, they were poor people, they were people of color, they were disposable people)? There seem to be no consequences for a President and a Party with such questionable values.

Health guidelines told us that masking would help us avoid catching the virus and allow Americans to go back to work and yet, oddly, a president who cared only about economics made wearing a mask a political test. Half of Americans turned masking into an attack on their personal freedom and therefore, the US Constitution. They were willing to take away the personal freedom of other Americans to wear masks even up to and including using bullying and violence to attack the “mask nerds and traitors,” as if we were all on the playground at school, or at a Nazi rally. There were few if any repercussions for this behavior except possibly being asked to leave a Walmart. There were a number of governors who legitimized ignoring common sense health rules. Yet there is no data to show that these unmasked states suffered more deaths than masked states because the cause-effect threads are difficult to trace.

Did a defiant, or Trump-compliant governor like Ron DeSantis bring any calamity down on Florida? He refused most of the advice of health experts and Florida actually gained in population. Did he skate? It looks like he won by ignoring science and common sense. It has us wondering if there are any consequences at all for choosing economics over human lives. It’s difficult to tell how many deaths resulted from DeSantis’s disregard of health precautions because people traveled to the state to party and went back to homes all over America to spread COVID-19. DeSantis looks like a winner, right down to the arrogant grin on his tiny round face. Why is he winning? It makes bad behavior look good. Small wonder that half of America is shocked and mystified. Even if there are repercussions there is a media that puts a positive spin on every negative outcome.

Now half of America has decided to believe that the vaccine designed to end this pandemic will kill them, or have unknown future ramifications, and they are most likely the same Americans whose rights were offended by wearing masks. While accusing the left of anarchy, their behavior is far more likely to lead to the defiance of laws. But now the non-maskers and the non-vaccinators are stuck with each other. Still no repercussions? We’ll find out, but it may not bring anyone any happiness.

No consequences for inciting violence, no repercussions for sedition, for denying science, for betraying the integrity of free and fair elections, for trashing truth, and stealing tax dollars and so many “bad” behaviors carried out right out in the open and then denied by brash lies. Impunity was the word in the media today. Impunity is kissing the ring of the worst President America has ever had, a President we ought to shun. Half of America still wants this man who insists that evil is good back in the Oval Office. All we seem able to do is plead with the Universe to bring on the consequences please. The Universe, however, does not seem to intervene in human affairs.

If all the negative consequences of Trumpism are unknown until some future time, if we don’t want to play his game by fighting back and digging into the real present day repercussions of “bad” political behavior, if we have no stomach for the battles we obviously face, we will become a majority party with no power, pounded into dust by a fascist sensibility fostered by a media without a conscience, and America will exist in name only. Those who should have lost the “game” will win and the new game will be rigged against morality and against “we the people,” perhaps forever. Winning matters, but how you win also matters in the long run or it should. How reassuring is ‘the long run’ to short-lived humans anyway?

Shots or No Shots, That is the Question

From a Google Image Search – Forbes

When I was in my early 20’s I spent a year working for a grant program funded to the Psychology Department of a local university. This was one of a number of grants to study the effectiveness of Head Start in helping underprivileged preschoolers prepare for kindergarten. Head Start was fairly new, but had been around long enough to be able to see if there was value in continuing the program. We worked in teams that tested 4-year-olds at the beginning of a year and then again at the end of a year. We used the Preschool Inventory, a modified version of the Stanford Binet IQ test (modified to allow for nonverbal responses), and a sociometric test to look at socialization between children (who was popular, who was socially well adjusted, who was socially isolated). Everything was scored and coded and sent off to Washington. DC. Data proved that Head Start was quite effective at doing what it was designed to do. 

But, I want to talk about one little boy we met in Utica, NY when we gave that sociometric test. To give the test we had a Polaroid camera and we took a picture of each child in the Head Start class. We arrayed the photos on a table in front of the child and we asked them to pick out their best friend, their second best friend and their third best friend. We tabulated all of the answers and came up with a graphic showing the connections between the children in the classroom by posting the pictures on poster paper and drawing arrows to show the children’s choices. The child with the most arrows was obviously the most popular, the child with the least arrows or no arrows was the child with social difficulties, the loner or the shunned. Interesting stuff.

One little guy was afraid to have his picture taken with that Polaroid camera. The teacher told us that the children had been given shots the day before. She also told us that this child was abused at home and seemed to have few verbal skills, which suggests that he did not get much positive parental attention. In fact the child’s abuse had been documented and the child removed from parental care for a time. This little boy refused to have his photo taken so we pulled him aside. We had him watch each time we took a photo. We showed him each photo when it finished developing. Although he watched every child as his or her picture was taken and he saw each picture after it developed, he could not bring himself to let us take his picture. He was certain that despite the fact that every child got a photo, he would get a shot. We had to wait several days, until the fear of the shot wore off and the children’s pictures were displayed in the classroom and admired by all before he would let us take a picture and do the sociometric test properly. I have never forgotten how strong the distrust was already in such a young child.

So when grown people say they won’t have the COVID vaccine because of the wrongs done to black folks at the Tuskegee Institute I hear them. They seem to believe that white people will be given valid vaccines and that there will be some kind of switch up when a nonwhite person gets inoculated. Or they believe that the vaccines were somehow only tested on white folks. Some people say they are waiting to see if the shots work or if there is a bad reaction coming somewhere down the line. And why wouldn’t they. The Tuskegee experiments, if you could call them that, began during the Great Depression in the 1930’s and weren’t exposed or ended until 1972. Being in the study was basically a death sentence and resulted in the spread of syphilis as well. This is an all round disgusting bit of American History.

Now we need those who were once abused and are most at risk for serious outcomes from COVID to get inoculated and they, like that little four-year-old in Utica, NY, are reluctant. It is true that the vaccines were rushed into use without the kind of longitudinal study that would have been optimal. It is true that those of us who have been inoculated are guinea pigs, in a sense. It appears the shots won’t kill us and they do offer some protection from the virus, but we don’t know for sure how much protection or for how long. Perhaps we will see future side effects, although most likely they would have appeared by now. 

To get to normal, health officials would like everyone to get vaccinated. We have the example of the polio vaccine which ended polio around the world. This current virus has been so virile that our economy is suffering and could continue to suffer until we can feel safe working, shopping, schooling, and socializing as we did before COVID. With so many at-risk people worried that the shots involve some kind of bait and switch the economy is likely to be slowed for some time. Travel, events like concerts and weddings, races for charity, entertainment venues, restaurants and bars are all slowing their roll because vaccinations have not reached herd immunity levels. Infection rates are down, so it is possible that enough people have been vaccinated to make a reset possible but everyone worries that if we let down our guard their could be another surge in cases ahead.

Clearly we need to inoculate the world, which capitalism seems to make more difficult. Profits will be lost, patents will become worthless; what is a pharmaceutical company to do? But this dilemma of people who refuse the vaccine even when it is available is vexing. Despite understanding the distrust of some, it makes you just want to give people a shake, to say that this is different, to ask them to please, please, please get vaccinated. 

A reaction to former abuse does not explain the reluctance of all Americans either. We have Tucker Carlson saying on Fox that the number of vaccination deaths is higher than is being reported. He tells us that over 3000 people have died from the vaccine which is not what the data says.

He gins up fear on the right, in people who were already convinced by officials that the disease was always exaggerated and that masks violated their civil rights, so that now they join the ranks of anti-vaxxers who plan to refuse all vaccinations. Why would a man with a big megaphone twist data and offer bad health advice? What payoff does that have for the right? Why doesn’t someone this dangerous lose his job? 

The wall we have hit in this country; the wall stopping progress with getting people to get vaccinated is obviously a strong one. It’s built of complicated truths and falsehoods. I do hear some good ideas being discussed for reaching those who are not vaccinated, but it is looking like we will have to resume normal life under less than great conditions and hope that there is not another spike in COVID infections in the Fall. We also have to worry that the longer COVID rages elsewhere around the world the greater the danger that a variant will make us start all over with the search for an effective vaccine. This has been a serious pandemic, long lasting, a killer; and it interrupted every part of our lives. If a simple vaccine will help us put this disease behind us we can only beg those who are reluctant or who refuse to please get over yourselves or America’s bad history and get your shot/s.

As I publish this I am watching #VAXLIVE

Why America is Stuck: Part Three

Getty Images, NPR UNITED STATES – JANUARY 12: Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., make their way to the House floor for President Obama’s State of the Union address, January 12, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

What if this is the turning point? What if this is the moment when we decide if Mitch McConnell and the currently sidelined Trump represent the way we want to be governed, or if Biden and Harris represent the way we want to be governed? 

Maybe the moment will not happen right now. Perhaps that moment is still ahead of us. But Americans need to think about how they see their government. 

Is it the job of the federal government to simply collect taxes, fight wars, conduct relations with foreign nations and manage international trade period. Is oiling the wheels of those who seem to keep the economy moving (and the money flowing into their pockets), and stopping attacks on the homeland what government should be about? 

Or is our government also important as a kind of social referee preventing abuse of citizens by big corporations, big pharma, for profit medicine, tiny germs, employers, wealth hoarders, those who reject science because it hurts their bottom line. If we want to have some referees then it affects the kinds of people we elect. 

What do you imagine our lives will be like if workers have no support from the federal government and no unions so that they can band together in numbers similar to corporate lobbyists? 

Would you want to work 40 or more hours a week for the rest of your life with perhaps a two-week vacation, and just maybe a few paid sick days? And I do mean for the rest of your life. If you wanted to retire you would be on your own. You would have to have your own plan. You could dabble in the market through an app like Stash or you could check out Robinhood. 

If you did not make enough in your minimum wage job to feed your family or even just yourself, and pay rents that are too high without any subsidy from the government, it would be up to you to improve your lot in life, take night classes, find an apprenticeship if you could. You would have to work 40 hours a week, take care of your family and take some classes and do it all again the next day and the next. 

Even in the event that you could keep up this pace, or put off getting married or having a family, which would be difficult with no birth control, you would still have to find a new job and work at that job every day year after year. Abstinence would become an important word if you had ambitions.

You could go into business, work on a business plan, find an investor and make a good marketing plan, or start from scratch in your kitchen, or your basement, or your garage, and/or online. You might get wealthy. You might fall into debt.

I’m not predicting this life for Boomers. We’re already retired. This is what life would be like for Millennials and GenXers, etc. if Republicans had their way. America would be a society of workers and work would never end. Social Security checks would be a thing of the past. TAP and Pell grants to help with tuition would be up to the states, or just unavailable.

Republicans are Capitalists, corporatists who think if you do not work every day of your long life (or your short life) you are a deadbeat. They despise programs funded by the federal government to benefit workers. They want private businesses to offer whatever safety net programs people might be willing to pay for. And private businesses need to make a profit, a big profit, so whatever you decide to buy will be expensive. 

What will the government do with our tax dollars. That has not been made clear. Some citizens have hoarded millions and billions and they will not be pitching in, so the government will not be able to afford any of the things we have come to expect like public schools, and health care plans. Republicans describe passing laws that allow for a more equal distribution of wealth with a ‘dirty’ word, “redistribution’ (which actually doesn’t sound so bad) — until they tell us that it is ‘gasp’ socialism.

We sold the world on an empathetic society, a society that backs up its citizens with safety net programs. Many foreign countries have offerings that have come to surpass ours. Now we want to change the way we define society. We want to ditch the safety net because, hypothetically, it makes people want to stop working. 

We want the whole idea of society and government to operate under new parameters. All these big ideas about health care and a living wage, and unemployment insurance came about because unions accepted these things instead of pay raises, say the Republicans. Then the unions forced nonmembers to pay dues because they also benefited from these fringe benefits. 

So Republicans have been passing something they call ‘right to work’ laws to make charging dues to nonmembers illegal. Of course, all this actually does is take away bargaining power from unions so they can no longer lobby on behalf of workers effectively. That way businesses can set wages and offer few or no benefits, and workers have no recourse. Unions also back Democrats and that multiplied the power of the party. Shafting unions helps Republicans get elected. At the same time it helps reduce the size of the federal government if they put education, health and welfare programs up for bids from private businesses. If no one wants to provide the service, too bad.

Republicans argue that when our government offers benefits we lose freedom. They should know because they made sure accepting benefits would be onerous. Would we be freer without food stamps? Isn’t it possible some of us would just be hungrier. Perhaps we do need to carefully consider what programs would offer the most help to workers who don’t make enough money to live. Set some priorities with climate and environmental concerns among them.

So, voters, it’s up to us to decide. What is our idea of a society and government? If Millennials and GenXers, etc. let Boomers know what they prefer, then Boomers might help make it so.  Do we want a social contract that agrees we should take care of each other, and that cooperation and caring will make America a stronger nation. Or will business, profits, consumerism, and hard work with nothing to look forward to, no end to working, no such thing as retirement (unless you happen to have a plan for investing that works and nothing happens to ruin that plan), offer the most people the greatest amount of freedom and consistently comfortable lives. If we limit federal government will private companies and foundations fill the gaps? What disadvantages might such a system have?

Those who work in Artificial Intelligence seem to be working towards a time when there will be fewer jobs for humans. And yet Republicans are telling us that we need to work constantly from graduation to death. Retirees don’t always want to give up working, but what if you didn’t have a choice? What if your back went out, or your partner died and left you alone to raise the children, or any of the many disasters that fragile flesh is heir to came into your life and there was no backup? Would we go back to extended families if we had them?

I would think that everyone would rather fight now for paid day care, and senior care, better health care, cheaper drugs, free community college or training past high school as Biden’s plan proposes than choose that rather minimalist and hopeless nonplan backed by the Republicans. We are stuck because Republicans cannot imagine a better future for our nation and our people and because with Joe Manchin voting with the Republicans the Senate is tied, even with the vote of the VP, Kamala Harris. 

I am saying that you probably do not want to put Trump back in the White House in 2024 and you probably do want to give us more Democratic Senators in 2022 if you are not a fan of a minimalist government, a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, and an ‘illiberal democracy’ which is actually a dictatorship. Vote wisely because we are stuck with what the majority votes for.