America, America…

DISCLAIMER: Not a diary post. Entirely opinion-driven content which some call political but I refer to as WTF is going on? My questions are genuine and knowing the answers would go a long way toward reconciling the collective transmogrification of this era. It’s therapeutic simply to ask.

  1. Which character traits found in Donald J. Trump are the ones that inspire trust, confidence, and loyalty in his followers? What do they hear when he speaks, what do they see as he moves through his world?
  2. Why did safety precautions during a worldwide pandemic become politicized? Why this battle over that situation? Does somebody stand to benefit if more Americans die? Is that why the mounting death toll – now more than the sum of five U.S. wars – is refuted and ignored?
  3. We see fascism encroaching on our now-creaky system of democracy… we’ve been watching its advance for the past four years, and far longer underground. Why are Americans who are anti-fascist, as our parents were, now the enemy? And why is that way of life what Donald Trump’s voters want for America?
  4. Will people really buy into four more years of daily chaos because they care about only one issue? How fairly will fetuses-saved balance viable-lives-lost when the counting’s done? And one last time, why are the unborn the only Americans who qualify for the unassailed right to live?
  5. His rallies never took a break until stopped by the virus. Endless political rallies held by the incumbent, who does that and why?
  6. The rallies consistently attract people who seem primed for confrontation, avid for it. Is the primal desire to inflict damage on liberals a general thing in the GOP now? Is that the emotion that drives the narrative?
  7. Why has the angry, armed white man become an icon in this era? What’s the appeal? Is the typical Trump voter really that base?
  8. What are the tenets and characteristics of today’s GOP that motivate an average citizen to align with it? What is it about the interface, the interaction with the public, the perceptions attached, and their code of ethics that causes people to identify?
  9. A homogenous society, pretty same-same, nobody weird, nobody marching to their own drummer, all pigment and cultural backgrounds tame and non-threatening… that feels like the kind of world conservatives want. Will there ever be real communication on all that and more?
  10. Are Trump’s followers good with a country where everyone except white Republican males is a second-class citizen? Where Black citizens live life from cradle to grave dreading THE MOMENT? Where LGBTQ citizens are gradually, or quickly, re-stripped of the equal rights and protections they’ve won, older people are entirely expendable, and truth is something our grandparents valued?
  11. After standing against Russia’s brand of ethics for generations, why does Trump’s base now want to BE Russia? What changed?
  12. For the evangelical world, which helped put him where he is, are there no lines anymore, no principles that matter beyond their agenda? And does the end ever really justify the means?
  13. What about Donald John Trump says “Jesus the Savior” to evangelicals and others? What are the similarities, the places where their reputed characters align?
  14. How do loyal Trump voters see the world in the next four years? Serene, the opposition vanquished at last, society remade into the conservative mold? No visible differentiations, nothing that marks us as a diverse, free, happy, inventive, creative society with the maturity to give and take? Will every aberrant blip, especially in cities now designated Anarchy Jurisdictions, be dealt with swiftly and forcefully before somebody can incite a neighbor? Is our right of redress against what was representative government already dead?
  15. Will Trump’s people and Republicans in general be happy with the spoils if he wins? Satisfied? In a mood to play nice? Or is this forever now? That’s the answer I want most.

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Scaling HumpDay… page 60

Day 118 – 07/08/2020

This morning when I headed out for a walk my friend Shirley was in the parking lot so she did the rounds with me while we caught up. She lost her husband last year and is learning how to live alone, so we made two trips around the block and three around the building while we compared notes and shared encouragement. It was a much-needed serendipity to start the day, and a reminder that all of us are by ourselves in this experience called life since nobody can inhabit our thoughts with us.

This remote and solitary feeling grows daily as world events spiral out of control and human interaction becomes more and more of a minefield. There’s no safe topic anymore between one-time friends, no comment that doesn’t have to be weighed against a potential shitstorm. Every word carries the likelihood of being misinterpreted, misapplied, misquoted. If I knew who considers me an adversary on Facebook – where I post only to “friends” – I’d cut them all loose just to break the tension.

It’s July, hot summer, but other than the temps, there’s little to define the days, so I have to be intentional about mood in order not to get plowed under by ennui, a sense of suspended animation, and grief. The outdoors has a static vibe, the indoors is safe and cozy but also fairly changeless, food is a pain in the butt – what to eat when you do next to nothing and your throat feels like a pinhole…

Some days the cumulative losses of 2020 have their way with me. Tomorrow will be better.

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Mo-lasses City… page 59

Day 117 – 07/07/2020

Can’t get going today. Got up at 6:30, walked around the block, then around the building, came back inside and went into neutral. Seems like it should be about 3 o’clock, but it isn’t even noon yet, and the things I’ve accomplished aren’t visible to the naked eye, other than a passable job of making the bed.

It’s been mostly in the regions of heart and brain, the work I’ve done so far. Took care of a business detail… and spent time texting with John when he “made rounds” to check on us. My system was jammed with thoughts and emotions after we talked… a lot to process. A portion of what he said, shared with his permission:

I worked both the 4th and the 5th and they were pure hell. I worked the (once again bursting at the seams) Covid unit on Saturday, followed by my own unit on Sunday. We’ve hit our new peak, so far, as of yesterday, with no end in sight. Glancing at the system-wide update this morning, I see that uniformly across the system we are higher than what we thought was the peak (April 27th).

The difference this time is that no one is calling us heroes anymore, there’s no dropping off of food at the hospital, and, most importantly, we are severely understaffed because of the attrition that has occurred since the pandemic started.

I didn’t care for the free food and adulation; the sentiment was nice but it made me uncomfortable because I know there’ll always be a backlash, and we’re reaping that now. Nurses are “shit,” we’re “spreading this hoax ‘cold’ to make money” and everyone, including us, is just tired of it all.

There were a record number of call-outs over the weekend; so severe that the CNO and CEO showed up Saturday morning to try and calm and reassure everyone. A joke. I don’t envy them, they’ve got a real problem on their hands and it’s not going to get easier. They’re out of money and can’t use that to entice us to work more/longer anymore.

He’s called to what he does and he won’t be one of the walk-offs. Also, don’t mistake his words for “poor me.” His challenge comes from the people making this crisis worse day by day.

On the upside, only one other guy showed up for PickleBall this morning, so Kim spent his time biking on the Burroughs Trail instead. Rode from here to the trail, to Hiway 10, to South Iowa, to McD’s for a breakfast sammy, then took all the zig-zag shortcuts home. He brought me the photo above, looking off into infinity, which feels right.

The trail is named for William S. Burroughs, who moved to Lawrence in 1981 and died here in 1997 at the age of 93. Little bit of free history for you this morning.

William S. Burroughs and James Grauerholz in the alley behind the Jazzhaus in Lawrence, Kansas (1996)

By Gary Mark Smith – http://www.streetphoto.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10459496

Burroughs Trail photo credit: Kim Smith

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Saturday, the 4th… page 58

Day 114 – 07/04/2020

Drinking pomegranate tea while fragments of thought pop in and out of my headspace.

It’s a wonky 4th, but I’m two for two so far – the traditional breakfast and a spa soak. The rest of it is gravy.

Thinking of a story I heard a while back about someone who’s managed to alienate their cache of friends and family and now they’re old and not in good health, with few human resources – a pitiable spot to find oneself in, and one I hope to avoid. But I’m outspoken to the max on social media among like-minded friends, so I always hope people who are on another page entirely will either out themselves or find the door… preferably both. They’re not the hearts and minds I’m talking to, and they will inevitably be offended. Oh well… they weren’t gonna come change my sheets at the end anyway, so…

Ray of sunshine here, veritable 4th of July sparkler! It’s those damn morose German genes, and before I bring the house up a little, let me just say this is the most demoralizing Independence Day observance of my 70+ years. If we reach the next one with our democratic system of government intact, functioning, and regaining health, we will be a blessed nation indeed.

So, the good news. The sun’s breaking through the clouds and the humidity is only 74%. The neighborhood is quiet this morning – no mortar rounds going off since last night. The flowers are perking their heads up and taking advantage of the wet air and sunshine to do that thing they do… likely only to get slammed by another rainstorm. Makes ’em strong, right? The day feels lazy and free, so imma celebrate that.

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Sheltering from the storm… page 57

Day 112 – 07/02/2020

Running through my head for the past few days is the phrase “when the light goes.” The air is still and the sky has an odd yellow tinge suggestive of a planet other than Earth. As the weeks pass, any desire to mingle fades in the harsh light of day – Douglas County’s COVID cases took a jump over the weekend, in step with what’s happening everywhere in America. It’s best that I stay isolated – my anger and disappointment with people who care about no one but themselves are fairly toxic at this point. Here in town, people are generally being careful, but the virus finds opportunities. We’re under a mandatory state and county mask requirement as of yesterday, but it remains to be seen whether the holdouts comply in the same way they hook their seatbelts, buy the required car insurance, and wear shoes and shirts inside restaurants.

For the first three months inside, I sensed that I was growing old in not-good ways, but I’m on my way back. Walking, either with Rita or by myself, getting my food intake in order again, imposing a modicum of discipline on my unruly self. Life devolves quickly if not monitored and it becomes easy not to shower every single day, to eat whatever provides comfort, and to spend the hours spaced off in another world. It’s hard to stay completely tuned in to everything when so much of it is painful. So in view of current circumstances:

And I know it’s “do unto others,” but when you’ve warned them repeatedly and they continue to disregard your boundaries, shit happens. Besides…

We’ll weather this storm, as Americans do, minus the 200,000+ fellow citizens who won’t make it through, a staggering and totally unnecessary loss in a few months’ time, and we’ll go forward with what needs to be done. Because…

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Cocooning… page 54

Day 100 – 06/20/2020

The process of returning to the social realities of life will be one of jerks and starts… and there are all kinds of jerks out there. We had to take our car to the KC dealership for service this week so we made a lunch date with our friends Seth and Adam who live nearby. It couldn’t have been more wonderful to reconnect and catch up with them, but the lunch experience left much to be desired, primarily because in a metro area where COVID-19 numbers are still rising, none of the restaurant staff were wearing masks.

We chose the upper outdoor deck, but the tables weren’t thinned out so other parties were in close proximity… and it’s freaky to have a waitperson walk up to your high-top and repeatedly poke her face next to yours. The proper course of action would have been to pick another restaurant after we stepped inside and saw what the situation was, but Midwesterners are trained to be so damned polite it didn’t even occur to us – and quite possibly it’s the same over much of the city. At our car dealership, by contrast, everyone wears masks, and the person who handles the car adds gloves. Just good business these days.

It was comforting to see Lawrence again where there’s no prevailing cavalier attitude toward the various crises assailing us all – most people here, ESPECIALLY those with eating establishments, wear masks; embrace the presence and contribution of a diverse ethnic population; are liberal-minded when it comes to the care and feeding of other humans; and are aware and in favor of constitutional laws governing American society. I fear KCKS is a tad too close to the hee-haw over there.

My patience for fools is on hiatus – no fact, emotion, or consequence moves them off their chosen mark. Zero tolerance on social media if they step onto my timeline and unload their predictable weaponry on me – if I know you I might go 3 strikes, otherwise out the airlock you go. Today as we pass the hours before Tulsa kicks into gear, wondering how it’s all going to go down, fools loom large – they aren’t known for clear-headed decision making under pressure. Hoping for a non-conflagrational outcome.

Kim was out on his bike at 5:45 this morning, shooting at the fog, which strikes me as therapeutic and apropos.

Bridge across the Kaw – Lawrence to NoLaw
A skinny window on Mass Street

Photo credits: Kim Smith 06/20/2020

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Hanging on… page 50

Day 78 – 05/29/2020

Hello Diary, I’m still here. The weather was gray and rainy for most of the week, making it more challenging to ward off the sadz – sunshine removes the sting a little.

The ongoing loss of so many fellow Americans weighs heavy in the atmosphere but we can’t talk about it as a nation, deal with its implications now and for the future, or otherwise exorcise our disallowed grief. The deep sadness is always there.

The transformation of America from breadbasket and caring hand to the world, to a hate-filled isolationism that’s ME FIRST from the top down, is discouraging and worrisome, thus adding to the sad stack.

The willful ignorance by a third of the nation, leading to violent confrontation between proponents of science and those of bullshit, is sad-making.

The hateful determination to preserve a “separate but equal” status quo, equal being entirely arbitrary, leading to murder sanctioned by law, is unbearably sad and anger-generating.

The fact that I’m out of sync with people I love while we make our way through this supremely lonely piece of history is the ultimate sadness underlying all the rest, and I’m as powerless to fix that as I am any of the above.

***************

But where there’s sad… there’s happy. After waking up past midnight yesterday morning in anaphylactic distress, I took a little ambulance ride, did an overnight in the ER and survived to fight another day. I remember very little from when the paramedics put me on the gurney and wheeled me out of my bedroom until just before I was dismissed to come home, but I share this as a cautionary tale…

My hands, when I woke up, were swollen tight and itched so savagely I wanted to rip them off my arms, and the only thing different in my day on Wednesday had been spending about twenty minutes with needle and thread, reinforcing the ear-loop attachments on a mask that wasn’t MADE IN THE USA. The other symptoms were frightening, and I woke Kim up when my tongue started to swell – I know my limits.

Be wise, kids. And always try for the happy.

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Here… page 46

Day 66 – 05/17/2020

So many thoughts, so little to say.

It’s a profoundly lonely time, and we’re all just doing the best we can.

But in the midst of all the “no” and the upheaval of the culture war, last night’s celebration of America’s 2020 graduates was joyous and affirming. Thank you, Lebron James, for your loving gift to the nation. Thank you for knowing what we needed.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/16/2020

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In here… page 45

Day 62 – 05/13/2020

A vacation within a vacation was a good idea – I accomplished more on Tuesday than in the preceding 60 days put together and there’s a short-list ready for the next time motivation strikes, but it’s been chilly and gray this week so that could be a while. Far easier to sit in front of the TV with the sound off and play my games.

We’re in this for the long haul, all of us, those who realize it and those who don’t. Life has changed in basic ways and there’s no going back any time soon, if ever, to what we had. There’s no place I’m yearning to go unless we could see our guys, so it’s knowing how different things will have to be, and for how long, that’s weighing heavy, along with grief over so many lives lost – a quarter of them, needlessly, in America. And we’re facing all of these things as polar-opposite forces straining in a tug of war that portends bloodshed in the streets by August.

We’re sort of a melting pot here, but realistically we’re more like stew, with the bits & pieces staying definitive and people kicking the onions to the edge because they don’t like them. That attitude and the history that instilled it goes back to the beginning when white men first put a foot on this territory and began to declare themselves free from rules except those they instituted. We’re looking forward to the “Barkskins” saga, which traces that history, although I can’t imagine that it will be as sweeping as the book since the disclaimer says “Limited Series.” There are a lot of things to know about ourselves as Americans that brought us to this place – all events have origins.

It’s Wednesday. We’re here, we’re weird, and we have one rule besides the first one, which is BE NICE.

RULE #2: WE’RE ALL JUST DOING THE BEST WE CAN

And there’s this…

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Still in here… page 44

Day 60 – 05/11/2020

Dear Diary… I didn’t forget you, I just took a 4-day weekend to contemplate the error of my ways and re-visit my anger issues, which may or may not have required generous amounts of alcohol and endless games in the virtual worlds I haunt.

A thorn-in-the-side I am… I’ve never learned to dissemble and pretend matters of life-and-death aren’t real, which irritates the stuffing out of people. Everything’s SURreal – in the middle of a plague that requires social-guideline cooperation from the global community, Americans are now SOLDIERS, fighting a WAR, and we must buck up and march into the maw – who do you think makes billionaires their money, for goodness sake?

No allowances are made for grieving – its heavy pall across the nation has never been addressed by the general running this war – and his loyal troops shame us if we try to put a human face on any of it. “Chin up, keep marching, there’s no crying in war, slacker!” chant the Right-to-Life people as they again force us to ask, WHOSE right?

It’s a challenge to corral the cognitive dissonance and mash it all together in a livable form.

But we won’t grieve if we don’t care, so… NEW RULE:

Standing by for peace in our time …

Photo credits: Kim Smith – 5/10/2020 from our balcony – rainbow cloud

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Staying in… page 43

Day 55 – 05/06/2020

I wandered into a beat-down yesterday and I’m still processing the whole thing. I clicked a notification from a friend’s page and commented in the thread… my comment was repeated back to me in a version that was the direct opposite of what I said… I got a heavy-duty lecture on military moms and moms who care about oh-so-many things… and shamed for caring overly-much about John and his fellow nurses around the country, which wasn’t part of my comment… and then I was immediately unfriended by both her and her husband. These are people I’ve known for years, and I didn’t know we were on opposite sides of the war until I was drop-kicked like I was hot.

I realize I’m the Rachel Maddow of my timeline – I’ll render you insensate with the facts surrounding things I care desperately about. And I’m sure I need a reminder once in a while that there are other things to think about… but from someone who loves me, okay?

I wish someone had loved Donald John Trump enough in his lifetime, ever, from womb to tomb, to help him grow into a real human being. I wish someone loved him enough now to tell him the truth in ways he could process – it would be a mercy. In my first marriage I had two mothers-in-law, the backup being the aunt whose house we lived in, and the early years were made more difficult by her need to control her world. No one could please her and she was miserable – afraid of everything, turned in on herself, shriveled by what she perceived as lack of love in her life – and it made her a tyrant. I had Lumpy’s number from jump – I know him.

The universe feels like it’s icing over, some days… and then I come back here to blog world and Facebook and my friends on Twitter where some people have taken the time to know me, and it’s clear that they get me. We’re on the same page, for one thing, but it’s relationship that makes the difference. We care about each other and it changes us, even if we can’t really change the world we live in. It would be snazzy if the people who lurk on timelines waiting to pounce showed up in neon, but life’s never that simple, so we should just tell each other the truth at the outset and get on with it. What are we afraid of?

Welp, that’s how that was, moving on. The sun’s shining, it’s a beautiful morning, and we woke up alive, so what’s not to like? Don’t worry, I’m not gonna start singing…

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Staying in… page 38

Day 48 – 04/29/2020

Some mornings I feel almost lighthearted when I wake up, but today isn’t one of those. I finally broke down and had a long cry in the spa tub because it all stacks up after awhile… the sense of division most of all. The sides in our current civil war couldn’t be more clearly drawn, but I wanted to believe we still found common ground in the middle concerning life and death for the people we love. Guns in the streets, and large male types waving them in the faces of medical staff, yelling at them, breathing on them, threatening the general citizenry, and being praised for it because FREEDOM… it’s too heavy.

I’m a face-it-head-on person, but this I can’t deal with, so I turn into a little mouse during waking hours and lose myself in computer games with their fantasy worlds. If I could fill our spa tub with all my tears over a lifetime, they would overflow to the downstairs neighbors, and I’m just tired of crying. I’m tired of feeling… but if I could change that I wouldn’t be me anymore.

Got hit with an onslaught of ugliness first thing – my mistake for looking. Tomorrow will be better, right? I wish peace for you… don’t let your day look like this, ‘k? Never let the bastards get ya’ down.

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What the shelter? …page 34

Day 42 – 04/23/2020

Placido Domingo, from inside a chicken costume, “You know what is hard? Is hard to breathe.”

You know what is hard? Resolving the issues borne out of a disaster while it’s still coming at you.

Working on it. I’ve stopped mentioning certain people’s president on Facebook… that’ll hold ’til he makes the next life-or-death choice on our behalf. I’m avoiding online button-pushers… who needs the added angst? Social media is a trip, man – unsuspecting people step right up and tell you who they are, and some of the things they feel at liberty to say are lacerating.

The Zen has to be re-established every morning… and it’s worth doing.

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Shelter me… page 33

Day 41 – 04/22/2020

I’m starting to shelter from social media for great swatches of the day – in times of crisis and conflict it has a way of reaching out and grabbing me where I’m most vulnerable. Two distinct and disparate value systems are going headers against each other while everything else conspires to kill us, and the images are seared into my permanent record. This one has followed me around for a couple of days…

It isn’t photoshopped.

Eugenics, pure and simple, and we actually find ourselves at this point in history.

I’m the weak for all the reasons… Kim’s the weak because asthma and a heart attack/bypass… John’s the “weak” for potential lack of PPE while on shift. Most everyone I love falls into the category of THE WEAK for one reason or another – who decides who to treat… or not? Death panels, anyone?

A heavy attrition rate in nursing homes, prisons, poverty-stricken communities, minority populations, and among the aging would help the economy recover… that seems to be the mindset at this point. We have met the enemy and he is us. Gives the concept of shelter a whole new meaning – I’m picturing a cave in a remote location, the sooner the better. We old survivors are becoming prey.

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No shelter… page 31

Day 39 – 04/20/2020

Happy 420 Day, boys and girls… thought I’d start with the GOOD news.

No diary entry yesterday… feels like I’ve run out of words.

Here’s the thing… Moms are… moms. You really need to know only one thing about us – don’t fuck with our kids. Mine’s an RN in Atlanta, where they’re expecting the virus to peak sometime this week, and the venom being displayed toward the medical community has ended me.

I’m done. The cruelty of the MAGA movement has helped me to kill my darlings:

  • a naive belief that if people just hear the truth it will change them
  • Midwestern guilt that makes me leave the door open to people for too long
  • any remaining misconceptions about what Christians stand for
  • a deluded impression that when required to suck it up and deal, Americans knew how

As John (my kid) said to me this morning, “It’s hard to tell how or when a shift will occur in anyone that will turn them into the very creation they once abhorred” … but I’m watching it happen in real time.

“All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically.”–Physicist Steven Weinberg

This short column by John Pavlovitz says it perfectly. I hope you’ll read it…

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