The election of the century: steps for surviving, even thriving right now

Like many of you, I’m frustrated with so many things these days.  I want to help make life better for me and for the people I care about.  It’s hard to figure out how to do that when COVID is on the rampage and nefarious interests are seeking to whip up drama and intrigue.
 
One thing on many of our minds is the U.S. election and the likely tense weeks until the vote numbers are finalized.  I thought I’d share a few thoughts about how to survive the next few weeks until the results of the election are officially certified.
 
1. VOTE – this election (at ALL LEVELS) is the most important U.S. election in decades.  Vote absentee if possible (leaving a paper trail is a particularly good thing) and hand deliver it to an official drop location if you can . Vote before November 3 if possible in your state (avoid harassment or disruption at the polls). VOTE
 
2. GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA –  At least until November 10. Make sure Facebook is NOT your news source.  We have repeatedly been warned by the FBI and other Intelligence agencies that nefarious actors, foreign and domestic, are manipulating the messaging, emotional triggers, and advertising on FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms.  None of us need the drama and hype that FaceBook can feed.  Double check your security and privacy settings – and GET OFF. 
    • Times are hard.  I understand that for many of us, social media is our tie to the outside world.  I’m suggesting, though, that right now, the power of social media to manipulate us and ignite stress and drama outweighs its benefits for meaningful connection. GET OFF. 
    • Make REAL human contact.  While the presence of the pandemic means that many of us cannot be physically in the presence of those we love, technology has given us all kinds of tools for having a face to face visit over the Internet (FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google meetings, and MANY others).  Call  people you care about. Make time for REAL connection.   Learn something new.  Reach out to people you love.  Talk about things that give you life.
Which brings me to…
 
3. CHOOSE YOUR HUMAN CONTACTS WISELY.   Now is not the time to be generous with time to the spirit vampires and drama tornadoes in our lives.  Now is about togetherness, solidarity, and love.  Make time for people who bring out the best in you, who help you to focus on what matters most.  Spend time with people who help calm the drama rather than stir it up.  Choose to spend time (communicating, sharing, writing, talking) with people who give you joy, who inspire hope, and encourage your best self.  Reach out to people to whom you can bring joy and to those who bring joy to you. 
 
4. BE SELECTIVE ABOUT YOUR NEWS SOURCES.   One of the things that has disturbed me most about the last couple of years in the media is how easy it is for reporters of news to be easily distracted by the smoke screens and latest drama thrown in front of them.  As responsible citizens, we need our news sources to provide us with credible information and clear context so we can make wise decisions about things that matter.  We need our news sources to help us steer a steady course through the fireworks and smoke screens.
    • Stick to  trustworthy news sources that provide facts more than drama, science rather than intrigue, context rather than whiplash to the next shiny thing. 
    • Yes, do read and watch opinions from people you trust.  Just make sure you know when you’re getting opinions and when you’re getting verifiable facts and helpful context. There are a number of outlets and voices that make it more and more difficult to know what’s real news, what’s “entertainment” and what’s hoopla funded by entities more interested in profit and power than in people and peace.
    • A web site called Media Bias Fact Check  is an excellent resource for assessing the general factual framework and ideological bias of any source you’re interested in.  That way you know what you’re getting.  For informed citizen decision-making, I strongly suggest seeking out news sources that are high or very high on factual reporting and close-ish to center on ideological bias. (NOTE:  MBFC’s site search is really confusing.  The best way I’ve seen to access it is to do a web search on your chosen news source name followed by “Media Bias Fact Check” included in the search.  That’ll pop up the results page much more quickly and cleanly).
5. STAY VIGILANT:  These are going to be difficult weeks.  As a country, we are battling the resurgence of COVID and we know we are the target of international disinformation, fear-mongering, and division tactics. 
 
Make sure you know what you are taking into your mind and your heart.
 
6. BE LOVE, DO LOVE:  Take care of yourself.  Do what you can to make positive differences where you can.  Silence the NOISE of disinformation and smoke screen drama. Read a favorite book.  Feed the hungry.  Make something.  Cook something.  Make love to your partner (or to yourself!).  Do something kind. 
 
When it comes down to it, we’re in this together. 
 
Let’s remain indivisible.

Trump’s words in February, 2020. Perhaps he’s not so stupid after all.

Earlier this week, CNN released some of Bob Woodward’s tapes from his interviews with Trump.  People all over the web and airways are paying special attention to a conversation with Trump on February 7, 2020 in which Trump clearly states he is aware of the deadly nature of the COVID19 coronavirus.  He explains that danger to Woodward using clear, non-scientific terms.

Then, in March, 2020, Trump told Woodward that it’s not just old people who are vulnerable to the virus, but young people too “plenty of young people.” Donald J. Trump said this IN MARCH OF 2020. Think about that.

I confess that my assessment of Trump has been largely that he is self-interested and intellectually inept.  I’ve imagined that there are lots of people behind the scenes (in this country and in Russia) pulling his strings and that he is, first and foremost, a poster boy for and puppet of, moneyed interests.

What these recordings (and yes, I’ve listened to Trump’s own voice) indicate is something far more sinister.  

Trump has never hesitated to show his true colors to anyone who was watching.

Trump is indeed self-interested. Trump definitely lacks moral compass and compassion. HOWEVER, Trump is not as intellectually inept as I had previously thought.  He is able to hear scientific information and understand the gravity of it.  In this case, he clearly understood the dangers of COVID — AND HE CHOSE NOT TO LEAD (or even HELP) THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

What this shows me is that Trump’s “salesman” persona most definitely includes intentionally playing the buffoon, so he can escape responsibility or disguise his true intent. (This is even more obvious in his attempts to obfuscate the truth as he has been questioned about his statements).

More importantly it shows that his basic nature and way of being in the world moves beyond narcissistic self-interest to outright maliciousness and flagrant disregard for the people he has sworn to serve.

He has been (and still is) willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of American lives so he and his buddies can squeeze a bit more opportunistic cash out of the stock market before the inevitable belly-up happens.  It is perfectly clear that the panic he wishes to avoid is stock market panic – not the panic and worry of most people in the United States.

He has shown himself willing to delay mask orders and restrictions in public spaces to have yet another rally –damn the deaths, damn the hunger, damn the evictions. 

Trump has chosen: NOT to invoke the Defense Production Act in order to produce more PPE for domestic use. NOT to encourage strategic testing so we can understand where the virus is and make efforts to contain it. to actively DISCOURAGE mask use. to encourage school openings but NOT assure financial resources to protect teachers and students.

Trump has shown his true colors again and again.  These tapes from the Woodward interviews serve as a magnifying glass to clarify what we thought he was saying.

And knowing he’s less stupid makes it perfectly clear that he is more evil.

//
The best comparison I’ve found so far of what Trump knew and said privately with what he said publicly is here at FactCheck.org.

9 September 2020

Today dawned with visible sunshine, invisible air, and significantly cooler temperatures.  

WHEW!  I feel energized and eager — such a lovely change from the oppressiveness of the heat and smoke from the fires.  

I’ll take a few minutes to relish it this morning before moving on to chores and news. 

Snake! Snake! There’s a Snake in the garden!

Today, I ambled slowly around the yard with our geriatric dog as she picked out her favorite spot to take a pee.  Some days she is very choosy – despite the oppressive heat and smoky air of a late desert summer.
 
As she finally crouched near a little pile of lumber debris we have near the fence, I noticed something move in the woodpile.  The most gorgeous stretch of pink and cream stripes slid across a wide opening between scrap wood.  I did not see its head, but I did see its tail – no rattle, just a creamy pink finish as the tail tapered down..
 
The dog finished her business and we made our way back into the house where, thanks to the internet, I could quickly identify our visitor.
 
Masticophis flagellum piceus or Red Coachwhip is native to our area and usually eats small critters like lizards as well as nesting birds and bird eggs.  This snake is also sometimes identified as a Red Racer or Coluber flagellum piceus. It poses no threat to humans or most pets (of course I might be a bit cautious if we had a teacup chihuahua).
 
I found identification information here at A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California.
I had no camera with me, but this photo from the same site is precisely what I saw.
red coach whip snake
 

Delight: Drawing my way out

I finally gave myself permission to get back to the Lynda Barry cartooning book I started a couple of months ago.  [Making Comics].

[Imagine there is an image here of some of the stuff I’m drawing.]

I’m doing the exercises and drawing up a storm.  It is FUN.  I think this is the first time – in a long time – that I’ve allowed myself time to PLAY.

The current atmosphere in the U.S. is difficult.  It’s a stressful shit storm conflagration created by the virus, by a heightened awareness of (& calling out of) systemic inequities (race and economics being at the forefront right now), and by polarized politics – exacerbated by the moral melt down of the current presidential administration and lack of intestinal fortitude on the part of many party leaders.  These are scary, serious times.

And, these days have called out the most determined, serious parts of myself. I’ve been working with all pistons firing – emergency plans for earthquake scenarios in the midst of a pandemic; finding a notary for revision of the family trust; making masks — making better masks; housework, yard work, filing, and systems; cooking healthy food; LOTS of reading of the news so I’m aware and can plan and can be a conscious, responsible citizen in these times.

It’s exhausting – and depleting.

What my emergency planning did not take into consideration was how important it is to play a little — particularly in the midst of all the seriousness. Refueling the soul is important.

I’ve always wondered how, in stories of our past, people did so much dancing and laughing and music making in the midst of war time and even hostile occupation.  I realize now that it is a matter of survival.

Even in the midst of chaos and prolonged crisis, it’s important  to play — to give your heart and mind a little moment of reprieve.

I think that a key element, at least for me, is doing something for which there is no real expectation of ‘productivity.’ My mother has often said that I can make anything into ‘work’ (how to do it faster, more efficiently, ‘better’).  
Thanks to Barry’s open approach in Making Comics, my adventures completing these assignments defies my own perfectionist tendencies.  

My only goal with the drawing is to respond to the prompts and assignments. I am able to box myself in to the world of the book for a chunk of time. For the first time in ages, I’m able to lose myself in a small activity for an hour or two — and experience sheer delight. 

I look forward to it – every other day or so.  I’m going to stick with it. Playful delight is something I need right now.

What are you doing to play?

COVID has shown us that “normal” is pretty crappy

Every day lately the news is mostly bad.  Really bad. I hear a lot of people saying they just want to get back to normal. 
 
That sounds good – and I understand why we say it.  We want things to return to a state of being we know how to navigate. 
 
But what are the exact features of “normal?”
 
If you pause to really think about it “normal” is pretty crappy for lots of people.
 
“Normal” is made up of current systems of communications and publicity that aren’t designed to protect people living in these United States of America from misinformation about what is best for our health.  
 
“Normal” is a line of obligations and money funneling that builds the wealth of the wealthy and lacks safety nets to protect most of us from risk of eviction in an international crisis. 
 
“Normal” means the vast majority of Americans lose health care when we lose a job.  
 
And it’s very clear that “normal” means we have no shared plan to protect Americans from hunger in the midst of all of this chaos.
 
Normal, as it turns out, was truly pretty crappy for most of us.
 
Right now, things are turned upside down and a great many of our systemic shortcomings are exposed.  We are feeling raw and chaffed and angry and lost.  We are cross with one another. We are frustrated. Yes.  
 
But all of this makes it very clear what is NOT working.  All we have to do is look.
 
We, as the voters of these United States, and our elected officials, have a chance to FIX things and make sure that neither we, nor our children, have to fall so far or feel so afraid the next time something like this happens.  
 
Why would we want to go back to what we had when recent months have shown us so clearly what is wrong and needs to be fixed? 
 
I don’t want to go back to normal.  
 
I want BETTER. I’m willing to listen, learn, vote, and contribute in ways to make us more united – with liberty and justice for all.  
 
How about you?

Have we forgotten “…by the people, for the people?”

One of the things I’ve been thinking about, as I read the news and hunker down at home, is that it seems we, as Americans, have forgotten a great deal about who WE are.
 
We talk about “the government” as if it has nothing to do with us.  As if it is a “them” out there, that we can’t impact or influence unless we fall in step behind ideological lines that require we hate half of our fellow citizens.
 
I admit, from recent reading about how power has shifted in this country over the last 40 years, that there is a considerable distance between most of us and most of the elected officials who walk the halls of government.  That difference, though, seems to be more about people who have SUPER wealth and incorporate the wishes of other SUPER wealthy corporations, industries, and individuals into their votes, stances, and decisions.
 
And I’m wondering …
 
What would the next 3 months – and the next 4–8 years look like if we remembered that WE are the ones who are supposed to be in charge?  What if WE reclaim OUR responsibility for who WE elect and how they spend OUR tax dollars?  What would these United States look like?

We CAN ALL survive a year without in-person school

It won’t be comfortable.
It won’t be what we are used to.
It will NOT be perfect.
IT WILL BE CHALLENGING.

BIG FOUNDATIONS:  
We need to think creatively about how to quickly cobble together a  system that allows working parents (particularly essential workers) to care for their children and help them learn and progress during this time. 

In terms of ‘formal education,’ 2020 will likely be a “do-over” year for many.

WE CAN DO THIS. It won’t be perfect, but if we practice love for our neighbors and community responsibility, it will be perfectly survivable.  Anyone who tells you we can’t is up to something other than caring for our kids.

Trickle-up Power

Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, we’ve been struggling against the vacuum (meaning there is really NOTHING there) of trickle down economics.  

In the past 40 years, the rich have become super rich and more powerful.  Working people in lower and middle classes have become continually poorer and more disenfranchised. 

It’s time to flip the funnel.

NOW is the time to take control of our representative democracy and make it REPRESENTATIVE of REAL PEOPLE – not just the super rich and corporations.

WE MUST START NOW.

  • Build power locally.
  • Do the right thing locally.
  • Make elections fair and equal for ALL of us.
  • Let the power rise up from the people.

Only then will America be worthy of the label “great.”