Election Connection – Voter Reform NOW

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Visit these websites and keep the vote free and fair for EVERYONE.

Stop Jim Crow 2

Brennan Center – Voter Reform

Fair Fight

Vote Save America

Democracy Docket

Mental Health Monday – Bhangra

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On this last day of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to reiterate that we can use everyday to be aware of our mental health and changes that happen in our lives.

Think about and use the tools that help you on those bad or not-great days. We each have so much to offer to ourselves and to each other. I went back over the /mentalhealthmonday tag and rediscovered tools I hadn’t thought about in months.

One positive thing that I’ve been doing for several weeks is watching the one minute videos of Gurdeep Pandher on Twitter dancing the Bhangra.

Bhangra is an energetic folk dance originating in the Punjab region of the subcontinent of India and Pakistan. Its beginnings are with farmers during the harvest. There is kicking, leaping, and hand movements that all combine to create something that I can’t look away from.

Although I don’t watch everyday I find that when I scroll past his posts, I always stop to watch the dance and listen to the music. I can always find the time to pause for one minute and these videos cause a deep welling of joy from inside. They are truly uplifting. When I do watch them, which is often, they make my day better; they inspire me, they bring my thoughts to contemplation rather than the dispiriting noise that usually finds me online.

In addition to the joy the videos bring, I have watched the seasons of the Yukon, where Gurdeep lives, change from deep frozen winter to spring and grass and blue skies. In the video below, the Takhini River and mountains behind him took my breath away, and was one of the reasons that I decided to share this one with you today.



The following may be triggering to some people so please continue through to the link below with caution.

To read more about the tragedy he mentions in his prayer of the children discovered in Kamloops this week, follow the link.

Mask Confusion

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Less than a week ago, the CDC came out with new guidelines for the vaccinated, including that those of us who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks or socially distance. This is great news.

Except…

There seems to be a little confusion on this guideline (including from the CDC itself), and I have some concerns.

My first concern is that unfortunately we are allowing the people who spread the misinformation quickly and without remorse since the beginning of this pandemic to continue with their campaign of dishonesty and deception. They are already at it in regards to mask wearing and who is allowed to remove their masks in public settings. Some have stated that mask wearing is over, leading the CDC to clarify its position that ONLY FULLY VACCINATED people should remove masks in SOME settings. One example, people think that the CDC said that masks are no longer needed (THEY ARE) and even more unfortunately, retail outlets are beginning to change their masking policy in a groupspeak mentality which will put many in danger of being exposed to covid.

Second, less than one third of Americans have received the vaccine. Some of this is the result of vaccine hesitancy, children under twelve who can’t receive the vaccine, many who are immuno-compromised who either can’t receive the vaccine or are still at risk even after receiving their doses. We are nowhere near herd immunity which should have been the criteria for unmasking as a policy.

Third, the entire premise of stating that vaccinated people can take off their masks in all settings relies on everyone who is not wearing a mask to be vaccinated, but are they? We’re relying on an honor system that’s been missing in this country for more than a year now. We’ve watched hundreds of viral videos of mask-less people shirking responsibility, ignoring mask mandates, spitting and coughing on people, and now we’re expecting these same people to voluntarily wear a mask until they are vaccinated? When they wouldn’t voluntarily wear a mask before?! Or follow LAWS about masks?

Fourth, the lack of guidance and specificity leads to the kind of confusion that we really don’t need right now. As I listened to the CDC Director discussing this subject with Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolis, I wondered: if this person was with the Trump Administration, what would I say about their comments? And so I’m speaking out on the lack of direction on the masks. I think this is giving non-mask wearers and non-vaxxers an out instead of doing the right thing and regrettably, the retailers are jumping right into new policies without a thought to the possible concerns of their employees and loyal customers.

There also doesn’t seem to be an significant changes to travel policy regarding mask wearing.

I don’t expect much from Walmart, but from more progressive retailers like Target, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s, I’m extremely disappointed in their new stated policies that if you are vaccinated you can enter their stores and shop mask-less.

How are we to know who is vaccinated?

We can’t presume that everyone without a mask is fully vaccinated (two weeks post the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna or two weeks post the single dose of Johnson & Johnson) when this last year (often traumatically) showed us that our fellow citizens don’t care about the rest of us.

They didn’t wear masks before.

What makes the CDC think they will wear masks now?

And what will the enforcement be like? It seems to be put back on the lowest paid retail and fast food workers, some of whom have already been assaulted by non-mask-wearers.

Will there be consequences for being unmasked?

According to Pien Huang of NPR, the CDC has expressed that “they’re going to be making more updates to mask guidance in the next few weeks,” but how does that affect businesses that have already announced a new mask mandate? Is it feasible for a company like Walmart or Target or your local mall to say if you’re vaccinated you don’t need masks, and then change that policy for public places in another couple of weeks? It’s confusing and will lead to more confusion as well as a lot of anger from people with compromised family members and also from anti-maskers as they’re continually asked if they’re vaccinated.

I suppose that if you refuse to answer, then you need to wear a mask to keep everyone safe, but that’s going to go over like a lead balloon, and please for the love of everything, do NOT cite HIPAA – it is not applicable, do some research.

Two of the retailers changing their mask policies – Costco and Trader Joe’s — will not require proof of vaccination to go mask-free. The others have not said anything about verification.

I feel like for some of us, instead of being relieved by the positives of the vaccine and lower covid infections and deaths (I’m thrilled by this), we’re going to revert to staying in our homes and only going out when necessary. For our family, wearing masks didn’t make us invulnerable, but we did feel comfortable eating out most of the last few months and allowed us to go on vacation. We were very lucky, and I feel (somewhat melodramatically) that we’re being punished for having done the right thing all along.

I’m personally concerned about church as our Bishop has talked about cancelling the dispensation for attending masses and holy days. Regardless I will put my health and safety first, and so far, no changes have been made at my local parish. Will we have vaccinated and unvaccinated sections for worship? Or eating in a restaurant like they had smoking/non-smoking?

I don’t know.

I do know that this could have been, and should have been, thought out more fully and implemented in stages, just as the shutdown was implemented in stages.

I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I’m interested to know your opinions on this. Let me know how you feel in the comments.

World Press Freedom Day

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On this World Press Freedom Day, I’d like to share with you three links:

UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day Commemoration and Activities

The Committee to Protect Journalists Website

ACLU: Freedom of the Press

I’d also encourage you to familarize yourself with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which holds the freedom of the press as one of the most important tenets of our democratic beliefs.

Black History Month – American Hero, John Lewis

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You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.

– Congressman John Lewis, 1940-2020

A few years ago, I bought the book, The Children by David Halberstam, but I only read it recently. As an aside, David Halberstam was the commencement speaker when I graduated from college, so I always took a second look at his books.

I looked at this one often in my kindle library, but was never quite ready to sit down for such a serious book. In the last four years, I’ve been engulfed with politics, including racial justice, but I wasn’t ready for a history lesson.

I finally started it last summer, soon after George Floyd’s murder, and with all of Halberstam’s work, it did not disappoint.

I had misinterpreted the title to mean the literal children of the civil rights movement, the young people growing up in that time and after. What I discovered is that Halberstam’s implication that the civil rights movement was left to “the children” – the young adults who risked everything, including their lives to march, to sit at lunch counters, to register to vote, to do many of the things we take for granted, even today.

One of the very surprising things that stood out to me was the level of participation of John Lewis. John Lewis was a hero of mine, but more in an abstract way listening to his modern, inspirational speeches rather than his history, and I wondered why I hadn’t learned his name as readily as I learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. In school. I didn’t realize they were contemporaries, and met and worked together to build what they called the “beloved community.” As I thought about this missing piece in my childhood education, I realized that growing up in the seventies during busing, and my really formative years of middle and high school in the eighties, John Lewis wasn’t part of “history” as we think of it; for that matter, neither was MLK. Lewis’ beating on the Edmund Pettus Bridge was in 1965, one year before I was born, and King was assassinated in 1968 when I was a toddler. These events, and the bulk of the civil rights movement occurred a mere twenty years before I graduated high school; nineteen years to be more precise. In the time between Lewis and King’s assault and assassination, I hadn’t even reached adulthood. This book really brought that home to me. John Lewis would live in my kids’ history books, but for me, he was in my now.

I hadn’t even made it halfway through the book when John Lewis died, and I thought for several days of putting the book down and reading something else, but I didn’t. I finished the story, cringing and welling with tears, and sometimes gasping for air at the horror of it all and the idea that while we’ve come far, we have so much farther to go. When I finished The Children, I immediately read Jon Meacham‘s new book, His Truth is Marching On, and that bridged the short gap between Lewis’ civil rights activism and his congressional career all on that path to the beloved community.

Learn more about John Lewis and his role in the civil rights movement by reading John Lewis in hhis own words in his memoirs, Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement and Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change as well as his graphic novel trilogy beginning with March: Book One.

One of the things that I found somewhat amazing, miraculous even, was the number of long-lasting activists all being in the same town at the same time. They didn’t travel to Nashville; they were already there from around the country attending school. John Lewis, Diane Nash, James Bevel, CT Vivian, James Lafayette, Kelly Miller Smith, Rev. James Lawson, who learned the non-violent method he taught them from his trip to India and learning from Gandhi, and of course as witness, David Halberstam, a local journalist with The Tenesseean in Nashville. Reverand Lawson described it as providential during his eulogy for John Lewis in 2020, and that just gave me chills.

If you do one thing, watch the Reverand James Lawson at the funeral of John Lewis in Atlanta, Georgia:

(c)2021
Wearing a Mask is Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble.
(c)2021

Double Your Mask, Double Your Fun

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Link in tweet provided below.
Chart provided by Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding on his Twitter feed.
(c)2021

Masks have been recommended as a reliable barrier to the spread of COVID-19 for some time. As we’ve experimented with different types of masks, avoiding the ones that medical personnel and health care workers need, including orderlies and maintenance workers in health care settings, the idea of what is the safest has changed over time and have adjusted for the continuing updating of scientific information.

Masks work.

With the new strains that spread more easily and appear to be more deadly showing up all across the United States, it is now being recommended that wearing a KN95 mask is the best way to avoid the spread of covid-19.

They work on their own, keeping out 95% of particles, but as you’ve seen around the news, beginning with the Inauguration, double masking is considered a better way to protect yourself and those around you, especially if you’re going to be with people you don’t live with for longer than fifteen minutes.

In our house, we recently purchased two bags of KN95 masks to be used with a cloth mask over it during times when we’d spend significant time out of our house. They were quite reasonable on Amazon: 20 masks for $39.99 and they were delivered in two days. They are disposable and can’t be washed, but since they’re covered (with the second mask), we expect to use them for at least a week at a time. This may vary depending on how often you are outside of your house.

My son, who is in the hybrid program at school is expected to wear double masks or the KN95. Please note that this is our family rule; not a school rule. The school has already required actual masks and no bandanas or gaiters as masks have been proven to be more effective.

We wear these new masks when we’re grocery shopping, which tends to take a bit longer. We don’t need to wear them at the drive-thru, although we do mask up for those limited engagements.

If you’re out walking your dog (or yourself for exercise) and you don’t usually run into people, I’d recommend a single mask. At a dog park or public park? Double mask.

Links and Additional Photos:

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Election Connection: Welcome to the Biden Administration

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The Election Connection series will be a bit more sporadic, posted on a need-to-know basis now that we have an Administration that cares about its citizens in all the important and even in the most mundane ways. I still feel waves of PTSD at moments and then I see Press Secretary Jen Psaki swatting stupid questions, not arguing with White House correspondents, and offering experts to give briefings and answer questions, and I remember that it’s all going to be okay. It’s like the last four years were a dream, and I’m Pamela Ewing.

Unfortunately, the last four years weren’t a dream, and as nightmarish as it was to live through, it wasn’t a nightmare either. It was very real.

We need to take that same energy from the last years, the same energy brought to the Georgia Senate race, the same energy brought by the summer protests, and we need to focus it unrelentingly on the next two years, and then the two after that, and then the two after. We can never get complacent again.

Complacent = Complicit

We came very close to losing our republic. As it was, we witnessed a coup attempt, an insurrection that struck at the heart of our democracy. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer, but hundreds of others were injured. Two members of law enforcement have committed suicide. And still, there are Republicans who refuse to comply with law enforcement requirements to go through a magnetometer before entering the House floor. I mean, let’s be realistic and honest here, they’re also refusing to wear masks despite common sense and Executive Order, putting their colleagues and staff at risk (four members of Congress plus one spouse became covid infected because of Republican negligence on January 6th, and that was without their obvious complicity in the attack on the Capitol).

So, it’s time for a Civics lesson, and I will go extra slow as if I were speaking to the newly elected Senator from Alabama (this one) who doesn’t know the three branches of government (see below*) or a Supreme Court justice (this one) who doesn’t know the five rights guaranteed in the First Amendment (see below*).

Some things are etched in stone – the Constitution including the Bill of Rights is one of those things. The Constitution may be amended, and there are procedures in place to do that. In fact, we have amended the Constitution twenty-seven times, most recently in 1992.

Some things are not – Number of Supreme Court justices, the use of the filibuster. Supreme Court justices were based on the number of circuit courts, which have increased to thirteen. This is why many experts feel that the Supreme Court should be expanded to cover each circuit court with its own justice (as established in 1869 with what is known as the Circuit Judges Act).

The filibuster is not part of the Constitution, which makes it easier to change than amending the Constitution would be.

A couple of points:

Unity does not mean to continue to allow ourselves be abused or gaslit.

Unity does not mean giving in to bullies.

Unity does not mean power sharing when Democrats have a clear mandate.

Below the cut are Twitter follows of the Biden Administration, the House Managers of the Impeachment Trial, a selection of podcasts, and other accounts that I follow regularly and find are very informative and honest. Add your own in the comments and I can include them in the next Election Connection.

*Branches of Government
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Legislative Executive Judicial

*5 Rights Enumerated in the First Amendment:
1. Freedom of Speech
2. Freedom of Religion
3. Freedom of the Press
4. Freedom to Assemble
5. Freedom to Protest the Government

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Black History Month – W.E.B. Du Bois and Nikole Hannah-Jones

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Today is February 1st, the traditional start of Black History Month. It would be good to remember, as Congressional Representative Hakeem Jeffries of NY’s 8th District tweeted this morning: “We’ve been here since 1619. Every month is Black History Month.”

I grew up in NYC in the 70s, at what seemed to be the height of bussing as well as a prominent Back to Africa movement. I didn’t understand why my Black friends didn’t live near me. One of them, Robert, moved with his family to Africa, although I don’t know if that was related to his father’s job or if they decided to “return” (I don’t know the proper term and I apologize for that).

In school, we learned about Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and of course Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr, but not nearly enough. No Medgar Evers, no Emmett Till; at least not that I remember. Thurgood Marshall, of course; he was currently on the Supreme Court at that time. As historic as their lives were, many were left out.

Malcolm X, for example was deemed too militant. It wasn’t until last year when I read his autobiography that I saw how little difference there was between him and the mainstream civil rights movement. Of course, no one agrees with anyone one hundred percent of the time, but students in school should be given all the information and use critical thinking skills to form their own opinions.

I can’t possibly make up for the lack of Black history within American history. As a country we can absolutely begin to try, and I do try in my small space of the internet. Since I am not part of the Black community, I try to draw on Black voices and offer links and some information to get you started.

What I had planned for today was postponed by another tweet I saw this morning; that of March for Our Lives activist, David Hogg who asked if anyone had the link to W.E.B. Du Bois PhD thesis on the history of slavery and abolition in the US, and so with the assistance of David Hogg and Carl Fonticella (who provided the link), I am sharing that to get us started.

W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870, originally published March, 1896.

Relatedly, the 1619 Project would be important reading as well. The pdf is provided through this link from The Pulitzer Center and begins with an introduction from New York Times journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who provided the idea for the project.