February 14, 2022

Andy and Steve – happy times

It’s February 14th. The day before half price on chocolate and adorable stuffed animal day at your local Walgreens. I actually received a valentine’s surprise on my doorstep this morning, courtesy of a good friend. It was not roses or chocolates or a teddy bear, it was a jigsaw puzzle which is much more appropriate for me as a gesture of affection. It’s also what would have been mine and Steve’s 33rd anniversary. There’s a lot of water under the bridge since we first met on a dreary February day in Sacramento and had dinner together at Carrow’s restaurant just off Alhambra. (Carrow’s is like Denny’s only with wooden rather than plastic furniture). Steve’s been gone for more than twenty years now, which is just as well as I doubt he would have enjoyed being a septuagenarian and I’m staring down the shotgun barrel of a milestone birthday coming up in a couple of months myself.

Today also marks the 77th anniversary of the Dresden fire bombing. When I first came to Birmingham, where there is a sizeable German emigre community courtesy of the rocket industry in Huntsville, I took care of several survivors of that horrific event. They didn’t particularly care to talk about if but it was clear that although they lived full and productive lives after the war, that particular experience was a defining moment in creating who they were and what they became in later years. They were kind, charming people who spent their lives outside of their careers working for various antiwar causes, having seen the sort of destruction war can wreak on the innocent at first hand.

It makes me wonder what the pandemic will do to Generation Z, our current young people, and it will inform their lives and their choices going forward. Will it push them towards greater cooperation and harmony in society as they learn the lesson that great problems are only solvable by working together or will they pick up on the backlash of ‘freedom’ that’s permeating the air and become more separated from each other and less caring about those not of their own tribe. I guess we’ll find out over the next ten to twenty years. This will also coincide with the aging and the beginning of the passing of the boom generation and how those two societal forces will rub up against each other is anyone’s guess.

Omicron continues to recede. At UAB, we’re back under 100 in the hospital for the first time in several months. Case numbers in the community are also falling precipitously. I figure at least, in part. that omicron pretty much felled anyone at major risk of contracting it already and can’t find new populations in which to spread. The only number that hasn’t particularly declined nationally is the mortality rate which is still sitting around two and a half thousand deaths a day. (Think five or six fully loaded Boeing 747s crashing a day or just a few hundred less than 9/11). This number should start to come down in a few weeks as the seriously ill move through the system and don’t recover.

I’ve been reading a lot about the truck convoy nonsense in Ottawa and elsewhere over the last few weeks. As always, when something idiotic is going on (and a group that’s busy pissing all over the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier really deserves a much unkinder word than idiotic but I’ll let you choose the one you prefer) I ask myself cui bono – who benefits? It’s certainly not the Canadian trucking industry (90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and all official spokes organizations for truckers such as the Teamsters union on both sides of the border have denounced what’s going on). It certainly isn’t benefiting truckers or transportation. It’s not benefiting the American or the Canadian governments. It’s playing havoc with the supply chain. There seem to be two beneficiaries, the conservative Republican forces who gleefully gin up trouble to keep systems for working so they can blame the Democrats in power for problems and foreign actors (whose troll farms seem to be behind a lot of the ‘grass roots support’) who benefit from general disarray in the West. Then there seems to be a huge grift in terms of accepting ‘donations’ to assist the demonstrations. I doubt most of that money gets anywhere near Ottawa.

I would be more willing to listen to political opinions different from my own if they contained anything constructive in terms of policy that was designed to move the country or society forward in some way. Most of the rhetoric, however, is about being destructive and tearing things down. I’ve never found that a way to success. The only constructive idea seems to be reducing taxes again on the wealthy and corporations to free up capital for private ownership. We now have forty years of data on ‘trickle down economics’ – it doesn’t work. The tearing down of things keeps spilling over into new areas. The recent local one is the education system of the wealthiest of the local suburbs. Conservative parents are now going after state mandated standards on social emotional learning which teaches students to be empathetic and listen to each other as some secret way to teach their precious children critical race theory. This in the same district where a Jewish child was reprimanded for reporting that a lesson in which a teacher was getting the class to do a Nazi salute made him feel uncomfortable.

‘What About The Children?’ is going to play into suburban angst and is going to help the Republican party pick up Suburban votes they may not otherwise get and help them regain control of congress. The other side of the aisle is ignoring this issue and not reframing it as the coded racism and classism that it is and that’s a problem. Playing ostrich never made a political problem go away. These sorts of divide and conquer tactics may be a win in the short term but they’re going to be a huge problem in the long term as every win is going to energize the Dominionists and other ultra conservative forces into pushing just a little further and a little further, moving the Overton window until any outsider community is firmly put in their place as those individuals see it. I can’t fix it. I can just identify the trends. And wash my hands. And stay vaccinated. And still wear my mask at Costco.

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