4th of July

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I’ve been thinking a lot about July 4th lately, as in several years lately. I grew up with patriotic parents. I don’t remember displayed flags, but the way they lived their lives and taught their children was certainly patriotic. I remember two incidences specifically. One, we were at a professional sports game (could have been baseball or football) and the National Anthem played. I eas expected to stand, and stand still. The second was at a school assembly. I was young, elementary age probably, and we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. Kids are lazy, and they hop on one foot, and lean on the seat in front of them, and they kind of sit on the top of those seats that close when you stand up, and that was me. Not disrespectful in my mind, but bored. My father leaned down and very quietly, all the important stuff was spoken quietly, expressed to me, in no uncertain terms that I would be standing up, and stand up I did.

My father was a veteran. He didn’t choose to join the Army, but he went when called and through that we saw the power of duty and real allegiance.

I’ve always been interested in history and genealogy, My grandfather was from Canada. I loved that we were from Canada. I once said that we were part Canadian. Goodness, you’d’ve thought that I had spilled tomato sauce on a white couch. We. Are. American. Period. End of Discussion.

When I got my own house I decorated for July 4th. We even marched in a parade with our son’s day care center (although that might have been the Uncle Sam Parade), but still. Nothing extravagant, but a couple of flags, flag shirts for the kids.

When the former guy became President, we didn’t decorate. It wasn’t a conscious decision. With my depression in full force in the mid-2000s, I didn’t do much of any decorating even though I tried for some minimal effort. Even after I got into a recovery groove, I didn’t put up anything patriotic. I didn’t want to go for the fifty cent ice cream cones at the local shop for wearing red, white, and blue. I saw that 90% of the American flags I saw were accompanied by T**mp flags or co-opted into Q flags. It was dispiriting. After the November election I noticed that many of the houses that had T**mp flags had changed them to the Good Ole Stars and Stripes. They are not the same.

This year, though, as Memorial Day was approaching, I was reminded of sacrifice, of bravery. I listened to marginalized voices and remembered what many of us believe – that the potential for this country is vast, and it is still accessible.

I bought a set of bunting. It looked unbalanced, so I bought a second set. That made it better. I fastened them in place with American flags and I left my Black Lives Matter sign and added a Choose Love in June. In a couple of weeks, I will take it all down, perhaps leave one flag in place because I am a proud American. I want my kids to feel that pride, to listen to all the voices, to accept the past, much of which is only now coming to light. Being proud doesn’t mean being blind to our faults. We all have them.

It may seem as though I’ve only decorated because Joe Biden became President. I’d agree, partially. We bought our house in 2006, and for the following July 4th we put up some flags and two buntings. It looked spiffy – very patriotic. I mention this because in 2007, President Bush was president, so this isn’t about only decorating for a Democratic President. I will say that President Biden’s concern and care for this country and especially for its people was an unconscious impetus to want to show off my colors. I have a place to store these buntings and flags safely, and I’ll know where they are so they can go up again next summer, just in time for the next 4th of July. Maybe they’ll go up for Flag Day and Juneteenth next year.

Front View. (c)2021
Close up View. (c)2021

Juneteenth: A National Holiday

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Today is the first nationally recognized, federal holiday commemorating Juneteenth, the day two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War despite some branches of the Confederate Army did not officially surrender until June. Juneteenth (originally known in some areas as Jubilee Day) had been commemorated in Texas officially since 1980, although celebrations had occured since 1866. Today’s holiday signed into law by President Joe Biden is called the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

It is thought of by many as the Second Independence Day. According to Gladys L. Knight in the Juneteenth entry of the Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Juneteenth is the “longest-running African American holiday.”

As the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and the Fourteenth recognizes the enslaved population as United States citizens, Juneteenth is equally important to their descendants. I firmly believe that all of us should be celebrating and commemorating Juneteenth the way we celebrate the 4th of July. The 4th commemorates our independence from the British, and Juneteenth commemorates those not included at that time despite their long standing contributions to the country’s advancement.

I see some controversy online and in the week’s news that Juneteenth is meant to replace July 4th and we should be “offended” by its declaration. That is not the case at all, and we should not let pettiness and bigotry get in the way of knowing our own history.

It is not anymore reasonable than suggesting that September 11th replaced our commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day. Or that Memorial, Veterans’, and Armed Forces Days are interchangeable. Each one represents a different aspect of our country’s past and observes its tragedy and its renewed purpose.

There is plenty of room in our calendars and our communities to commemorate the day that all of those enslaved Africans were free and became American citizens by virtue of their birth.

Take some time today to think about what the holiday represents, how meaningful it is, not only to African Americans, but to all Americans who value freedom and liberty.

For those who think we have too many holidays, and wonder: who’s next? I have a suggestion for you. Perhaps we should find a way to commemorate the first Americans, the Native Americans, those who cared for the land and lived valuable lives before the Europeans came to their continent and disrupted them, to put it mildly.

We, as a country have a lot to think about, and those thoughts and future decisions shouldn’t feel threatening to anyone in this country.

When I was growing up, it was a world of embracing the melting pot and the encouragement of learning the cultures that surround us in our lives, that aren’t our own, learning about our differences and relishing in how much we are alike.

We should all be able to celebrate African American freedom and the abolition of slavery. We should all want to celebrate that. What is there for us to celebrate that is more important than that?

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.

Masks or No Masks…No, It’s Definitely Masks

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Earlier in the week, I was standing in the gathering space at church filling in my form attesting that I did not have covid, did not travel, etc, and another parishioner came in and began talking to the usher. After about a minute, she gasped.

“I don’t have my mask! Why didn’t you tell me I didn’t have it on?!”

I honestly hadn’t noticed which is weird because even if I don’t call it out, I ALWAYS notice the people not wearing masks. I guess not always though.

About an hour later, after mass, I went through the drive thru at Starbucks to get a frappuccino. I parked, took off my mask (yes, I wear a mask in the drive thru) and took a sip. Aah. Wait.

It was coffee. It was supposed to be creme based. I don’t drink coffee.

No problem. Starbucks will fix it.

I grabbed my drink and went inside to exchange it. The barista knew exactly what had happened and they were already making a replacement. I thanked them.

A boy and his mom came in and were being helped at the other end of the store, and there was something about the look on his face when he looked over at me. He looked at me, then at his mom.

Oh. My. G-d! I’m not wearing a mask!

I said it out loud. “Oh my G-d! I’m not wearing a mask!” And then added excitedly, “I am so sorry!” I pulled my shirt up over my mouth and nose and my drink was ready at that point so I apologized again, and left.

I was so embarrassed! I mean I wear two masks at church and grocery shopping and one going through the drive thru. How could I forget?

We all have those moments. Just like the woman in church that morning. Just like me later on. It’s been a long year, and we’re almost at the end of it. We can do it and we can gently remind the people around us. I just got my second covid shot, and in two weeks I will be fully immunized. I will still wear a mask in public and probably every flu and winter season from here on out.

No question about it: Definitely masks.

Definitely masks.
(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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The Other Side of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving today is fraught with its past and the reckoning that is still to come in many ways.

For those of us who grew up in non-Christian households, Thanksgiving was and is the great equalizer. We can all celebrate it without the religious baggage and without not fitting in. We gather as a family, we express our gratitude and our love, and it’s the one day of the year that nearly everyone has the day off, at least until a couple of years ago when retailers began to open on Thanksgiving Day.

There are of course exceptions, but it is a day for everyone.

Of course, that is also not the entire story. From the Native American prospective, settlers coming to the new world caused trauma beyond belief. We are only beginning to open up and discuss and educate ourselves to be inclusive, but also to move forward as a country.

While I believe the original Thanksgiving story despite knowing its clear embelllishments, I think it’s important to distinguish between the Columbus and future expeditions’ theft of land and genocide and that early settlers and Native Indians, as they were known at the time, did work together, and to celebrate the help that the Native Peoples gave to the Pilgrims should be recognized. The Pilgrims, and other Native-friendly settlers wouldn’t have survived the new world without the help of the indigenous people already living here.

Here are two ways to begin educating ourselves:

Native American Tribal Map

Thirty Everyday Phrases that Perpetuate the Oppression of Indigenous Peoples

The President Who Cried Wolf

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Before I write anything else, I’d like to first extend my honest warm wishes for a full recovery to President Trump and the First Lady. I’d also extend this to anyone else who is symptomatic or who tests positive for covid-19 who came in contact with them, their staff, and to any of the Senators, Judge Barrett and her family. With a virus so unpredictable once you contract it, it can add to the stress of being sick in the first place. The unknown is often a scary place.

That said, I was on Twitter until the wee hours of the morning, about 3AM, reading, getting updates, laughing at inappropriate jokes, although none were really too bad or personal. I was also not the only one who thought the report of the president and first lady testing positive was another one of his lies, another distraction from her horrifying comments about Christmas and migrant children in cages, a way to ignore the NY Times story of his tax and bank fraud, a way to move beyond his horrendous performance at Tuesday’s debate, or any of the other fifty or so things that hit the news wires yesterday before the news of his positivity became the only story of the night.

After spending six months calling the virus racist nicknames, and clouding his response in what he termed a Democratic hoax and scare tactics, I didn’t think he would claim the virus if he wasn’t actually sick and/or infected.

It also wasn’t a Friday night news dump.

He also skipped out on a phone call with NY’s Governor Andrew Cuomo this afternoon, which I take to mean that he wasn’t up to it.

Sadly, I don’t trust the news that Mike Pence is negative. He, of course, will have to be tested again.

Their constant lying for three and three-quarters years have made any statement they make suspect.

Mitch McConnell continuing his farce of the confirmation of the Supreme Court seat only exacerbates the idea that this is a distraction that they are using to their advantage.

Mitch McConnell is one of many GOP Senators who were at Judge Barrett’s roll out last Saturday, and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who was there, not wearing a mask, shaking hands, and hugging people tested positive today. The entire Senate needs to quarantine for fourteen days as does Judge Barrett and her family.

And all these people need to wear masks.

All the damn time.

Nancy Pelosi needs to be kept in isolation to keep safe the line of succession.

This is a national security emergency.

According to NBC News the President of Notre Dame, who was at the nominating ceremony at The White House has tested positive for covid-19 and Judge Amy Coney Barrett was diagnosed with covid-19 earlier in the summer, which puts her at greater risk for reinfection according to studies within the WHO.

I’m glad that the President and First Lady have made public their tests and having the coronavirus. We should also be hearing from the White House doctor which twice daily updates on the President’s condition. This is not a time for hiding things; it is a time for transparency. 209,000 Americans have died. Now, maybe the third of the country ignoring this pandemic and this very contagious and very dangerous virus will finally come to their senses and listen to the science – wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance.

Being tested does not prevent you from contracting the virus. The test is a moment in time. You could be negative this morning and the virus then sheds this afternoon and you’re positive and don’t know it. The GOP are being very irresponsible by forcing the Senate to convene, especially in small groups of committees and not requiring masks at all times at the Capitol and the White House is dangerous to the non-political staff including Secret Service, food service, journalists, and guests.
It’s irresponsible and reprehensible.

What is Treason and When Did It Stop Mattering? | Opinion

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“A republic, if you can keep it.”

As attributed to Benjamin Franklin when asked in Philadelphia if we have a republic or a monarchy.
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