Wear your damn mask!

Wear a mask when you go out. Wash it when you get home.

I unfriended a couple of people on Facebook this morning because of their insistence that masks cause brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Each one had posted You Tube videos from crackpots claiming masks are a dangerous conspiracy because they’ll cause us all to become stupid from oxygen deprivation.

So, here’s a little test you can try at home if you have a pulse oximeter: Test your pulse-ox level, then put on a mask for 15 minutes or so. Now test again. What? You got the same result? Wow!

Of course, science deniers won’t own a pulse oximeter because they won’t acknowledge it’s a good idea to have one to test for diminished lung capacity from COVID-19, something that happens before serious lung damage occurs. This is a common complication, but if caught early, the chances of successful treatment are better. But these people don’t “believe” in COVID-19 as a threat because their science-denying leader told them it’s a hoax.

Doctors and other medical personnel have worn masks for long periods of time for years and years. My stepsister is a radiology tech who wears them all day, every day. She has never suffered from oxygen deprivation. Nor have any of my medical professional friends.

Wearing a mask can be difficult, especially for anyone who has PTSD. I had to suppress the urge to panic every time I put one on before this pandemic. So, I made a mask out of two layers of quilting fabric (the best fabric to use, by the way, because it’s tightly woven and light) and put it on for a couple minutes. The next day, I put it on for a minute more, and the same for the day after that. Within a week, I was able to put it on and keep it on for as long as I needed to.

Wearing a mask is not just for you. It protects others from your germs as well as protecting you from theirs.

Yes, the virus is smaller than the weave of the fabric, but it’s carried in droplets that are’t that small and the mask stops them. It is not 100 percent effective, but it is much, much more effective than wearing nothing.

While some quack on You Tube may tell you people are dropping dead from the tyranny of having to wear a mask, scientists are saying it’s a good practice, even if it’s not 100 percent effective.

I say if I have a 70 percent chance of catching COVID-19 when I encounter someone who’s carrying it and a mask lowers my chances to 10 percent, I’m going to go with whatever gives me that advantage. And what gives me that advantage is a mask.

If you’re going out, wear a mask. You don’t have to wear it while you’re alone in the car, but when you’re out and about, put it on. It show’s you’re both intelligent and considerate.

When you get home, wash the mask in hot, soapy water and dry it in the sun of you can.

And please know that if you tag me in one of these posts or post it to my timeline, I will unfriend you. If you do it again, you will be blocked. I’ve had my fill of ignorance.

To love each other, we must seek justice for everyone

Demonstrators in Minneapolis demand justice after the murder of George Floyd by four police officers who ignored his pleas for almost nine minutes.

I’ve seen a meme on Facebook this morning, posted by several friends, calling on us to love one another.

But as sweet as it seems, it just calls on us to agree to disagree, and that will never contribute a thing to the justice oppressed people are seeking.

“We’re one race—the human race. You want to support President Trump? You do you. It’s your choice. You want to support Biden? Fine… also your choice! You want to believe in God? Okay, believe in God. You want to believe in magical creatures that fly around & sprinkle fairy dust to make life better? Awesome… you do you.

“BUT stop thrusting your beliefs on others & not being able to deal with the fact that they don’t have the same exact mind-set as you. Having our own minds is what makes us all individual and beautiful.”

I have a problem with this — a big problem.

The entire thing (it has several more paragraphs) seems sweet, but it isn’t. It offers a pass to racists and bigots.

“Just do you …” means I’m not going to challenge your beliefs that people of color are stupid or lazy, that poor people don’t deserve more than slave wages or that they don’t need a decent place to live or healthy food and clean water, that immigrants belong in cages because they came here seeking safety and perhaps a better life for their children — the same thing every one of our ancestors came here seeking.

“Just do you …” means I’m OK with your bullying demonstrators and legislators by carrying a military-grade assault weapon around and demanding we reopen the economy in the midst of a deadly pandemic because you want a haircut.

“Just be you …” means you’re OK with cops killing unarmed black people and then looking to justify it by saying, “he had pot in his system,” or “he was arrested for breaking and entering six years ago …” None of these things is a capital crime, and everyone deserves a trial, not summary judgment and execution.

“Just be you …” means you’re OK with the 1 percent grabbing all the stimulus money and leaving small-business owners desperate enough to feel they have to open up or starve.

“Just be you …” means you’re privileged enough not to be experiencing these horrors.

We need to be talking about inequality.

We need to talk about how we love and support people who are forced to work low-wage jobs or starve in the middle of a pandemic.

We need to talk about those who are fine with children, stolen from their parents and held in filthy cages, are being lost in the system or dying from preventable causes.

We need to talk about the number of unarmed people of color shot and killed by cops, who then face few, if any, consequences.

We need to talk about people who are marching for their very lives are being doused with chemical weapons (tear gas is a chemical weapon that’s banned in war by multi-national treaties) and shot with rubber bullets.

We need to talk about poisoned water in Flint and other cities.

Yes, the meme is sweet and feel-good, and it’s privileged.

Those of us who have enough food and water, who can feel safe walking or jogging pretty much anywhere, can feel this way and feel good about calling to love everyone.

But to love everyone, we have to advocate for those who aren’t privileged. I don’t feel like pointing that out is “thrusting an opinion” on anyone. People are dying because of inequality. Love can only solve these problems if we who have privilege act to secure what we have for those who are oppressed.

My faith calls me to do that. What about yours?

Dear white people: Please listen to people of color

George Foster is just the latest in a very, very, very long line of people of color lynched by cops or former cops. As angry as I am about all this, I must listen to people who are directly impacted by racism before I start designing and demanding a solution. I can be an ally, but I can’t take the lead.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

Three more in a long, long, long list of casualties of systemic racism.

Today, I’ve seen a lot of white people lamenting that we need to do something about this, but then disagreeing with things people of color had to say.

This is not how we fight racism, white people. We are the problem here if we don’t listen to what people of color are saying.

An African-American friend posted that she won’t get in line to vote for Biden. She listed her reasons, and while I may not see things exactly as she did, I also never have experienced racism.

I’ve experienced sexism and misogyny, and I know how furious I get when a man tells me it’s not so bad. I can’t imagine telling someone who fears for her life every day that she can’t fight racism in the way she wants (short of violence).

Someone used the analogy of giving a demanding kid candy, even when you know he won’t do what he promised he’d do to earn it.

Neither party has been willing to stand up to racism the way it needs to be done. We need to see cops who shoot unarmed people convicted of murder and sent to prison.

The woman in Central Park who called police screaming because a black man wanted her to leash her dog was completely unaware of — and uncaring about — the likelihood that this man could be murdered because of her actions.

Can you just see the courtroom scene as the audio of the 911 call is played?

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, can’t you hear the utter fear in her voice?”

And the knights in blue armor rushing to defend this poor white delicate flower come off as heroes.

In Charlotte, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he feared for his life because he smelled pot — and the officer got away with murder.

In Cleveland, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child playing with a toy gun was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he thought it was a real gun. The child’s family got as $6 million settlement, but the officer walked free.

I’ve lost a son to injustice, although not like this, not so sudden and utterly shocking, and I can tell you, $6 million wouldn’t make it better.

So what do we, as white allies, as anti-racists, do?

Well, first we listen.

This is not within our realm of expertise.

We do not live in fear of being murdered by cops (or ex-cops) who detest our very existence.

Second, we listen some more.

We do this because trauma is best addressed by allowing people to speak about it.

Then, we ask what we can do to stand with and fight with oppressed people.

Finally, we do what we’re told we’re needed to do (short of violence).

Here are a few things I’ve learned we can do:

Speak out when you see racism and call it what it is.

Don’t call the police when you see a person of color in your way. In fact, unless it’s a matter of life and death, don’t call the police at all.

Be public about being anti-racist. Show up at demonstrations because the racism in our justice system will rear its head and hurt demonstrators more quickly if no white people are there.

Join and donate to organizations that fight racism. A year’s membership in the NAACP ( https://www.naacp.org/ ) is just $30. Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ, at https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/ ) is actively fighting injustice in cities across the country. The Poor People’s Campaign (http://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org) works on issues of social justice on a state and national level.

Donate to funds that raise bail money for poor people who are awaiting trial in jail because they can’t come up with $500 bond for a nonviolent crime. These people, too many of whom are innocent of any crime, and none of whom have been convicted of anything, lose their jobs, their homes and their children.

Finally, if you are white, understand your privilege. What that means is that even if you’re dirt poor, you still have more power than a person of color in your same situation.

It means that if your ancestors were in this country before or during slavery, they benefited from the economic conditions created by enslaving human beings of color — whether or not they enslaved anyone — and all of us here now benefit.

It really means you have to check that privilege before you open your mouth to criticize how a person of color reacts to racism and oppression.

If we want to end racism, we must confess that we live in a racist society, that racism is pervasive, and that when someone of color tells us something is racist, they probably know more about it than we do, so stop defending it.

They’re spreading terror and getting away with it

These armed white men acted like terrorists, bringing their guns into the Michigan State Capitol and harassing police. They should have been charged with a half dozen different crimes, but they weren’t. It seems right-wing nuts can get away with any terrible behavior they care to exhibit.

I have been arrested and hauled off in zip-ties five times in my life, all of them for trying to talk to legislators in Raleigh and Washington about the need for access to health care for every human being.

If you know me, you know why I have entered the NC General Assembly Building and the US Capitol to speak about health care. My son died on April 1, 2008, because he was denied the care he needed because he didn’t have insurance. And he couldn’t get insurance because his birth defect was a pre-existing condition. And doctors were able to deny him the care he needed to survive and not face any penalty for his death.

Legislators refused to speak to me, and I refused to leave until I had spoken to my representative/senator or a legislative leader. I was never threatening. I was not armed. I didn’t cuss at anyone. I never raised my voice until the door was closed in my face, and then I raised my voice to be heard through the door. I sang “Hold On Just a Little While Longer” as they hauled me away.

I was arrested three times in Raleigh for trespass in a public building, while it was open to the public. I was convicted once and had the conviction thrown out because you can’t actually be trespassing in a public building while it’s open to the public. You can be disturbing the peace, but not trespassing. The rules of the General Assembly Building were found to be unconstitutional.

I have been arrested twice in the US Capitol for wanting to speak to representatives and senators about people dying from lack of access to health care. Again, I never threatened anyone. I was armed only with a 5″x 7″ photo of my son — unframed because I didn’t want to appear threatening in any way. The photo fit nicely inside the brochure I was given to take into the Senate chamber with me. The officer called it a poster and claimed posters aren’t allowed in the Senate gallery.

Fast forward to yesterday, when a group of armed men entered the State Capitol in Michigan and were scary enough to drive several legislators to don bullet-proof vests. They screamed at police who were there to keep the peace and wandered around threateningly with semi-automatic weapons because they want their “personal freedoms” back. They want to be able to spread COVID-19. It’s their risk to take, they say, and they don’t care about anyone else’s freedom to survive this pandemic, and their lack of concern for anyone else was made evident in their failure to wear masks or social distance.

And they weren’t arrested.

They weren’t forced to leave.

Their weapons weren’t confiscated the way my son’s photo was.

They were allowed to act like terrorists and get away with it.

Imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t been white men.

Hell, unarmed black men can’t even jog through a white neighborhood unarmed without getting slaughtered, let alone enter a government building with a gun.

I can’t even enter a government building with my knitting and thread snippers.

But these fascist white men can roam around a state capitol armed to the teeth and get away with it, all because they don;t want to act like responsible adults in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

If you ever doubted we live in a racist, fascist state, you can stop doubting now.

We can be scared and still be kind to each other

Testing on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt showed high counts of people with the virus but with no symptoms. We don;t know why, but we do know it’s dangerous to re-open everything in light of this.

I’m having an increasingly hard time being on social media these days, what with people screeching to reopen the state and country in the midst of a pandemic that hasn’t peaked yet, people spreading the lies and half-truths of the current occupant of the Oval Office, the shrill demands that we all vote the way YOU want …

I know we’re all stressed right now, and for damn good reasons. But we can be stressed AND kind to one another.

If you don’t want to vote for Joe Biden, I get that and I will not scream at you because I, too, suffer from the loss of hope that we can fix the political mess and help 141 million poor people climb out of poverty with a living wage, safe and affordable housing, health care, safe food, a sensible plan to address climate disaster …

However, if you come onto my timeline with excuses about why we need to open everything up and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, you will find yourself with no access to my timeline, because you will be unfriended and ultimately blocked.

If you come onto my posts and act like a jerk, you will be unfriended and possibly blocked.

If you have information about Covid-19, please provide a credible source for that information. And the White House is not a credible source.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about this virus, including why some people test positive and show no symptoms. News reports today have stories about testing at a homeless shelter in Boston where 146 out of almost 400 people tested positive and not one showed symptoms (https://www.boston25news.com/news/cdc-reviewing-stunning-universal-testing-results-boston-homeless-shelter/Z253TFBO6RG4HCUAARBO4YWO64/), and testing on the aircraft carrier Roosevelt showed a large number of people testing positive with no symptoms (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-military-sympt/coronavirus-clue-most-cases-aboard-us-aircraft-carrier-are-symptom-free-idUSKCN21Y2GB). If we have so many people spreading the virus while showing no symptoms themselves, think about how bad things could get if we re-open everything and expose vulnerable people.

Yet beaches in Florida are re-opening. Churches in Texas never closed. People are demonstrating in Raleigh, NC, and Lansing, Mich., to have businesses re-open, and these people are violating social distancing rules, spreading the virus.

The thing is, we don’t know all that much about the virus and its spread, and we can’t know more unless we do widespread testing, which those who want to end social isolation insist we don’t need.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people judging the actions of others whom they know nothing about.

If we see someone taking a child into a grocery store, we probably think that parent is pretty terrible, but it might be somebody on the way home from the doctor who needs to pick medication for that child’s ear infection. It might be someone who has nobody to care for that child and who’s afraid to leave the child at home alone for a half hour. And if that parent does leave a child at home while he or she runs to the store and something happens, will you be one of those screaming for “consequences”?

Not everyone has your level of privilege. You might want to remind yourself of that.

A lot of poor people are being forced to work so you can have what you need, and they’re not getting protective equipment or hazardous-duty pay. In fact, they’re still working low-wage, part-time jobs with no benefits AND they’re having to take verbal abuse from customers angry at the lack of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and whatnot.

Meanwhile, those of us who have the luxury of isolating call them heroes and pat ourselves on the back for being so thoughtful.

You know what would be kinder? Paying a living wage and benefits to grocery store workers, restaurant workers and others who have to be at work in the midst of a pandemic.

The news is scary. We don’t have to make it worse by spreading disinformation. We don’t have to make it worse by being unkind to one another. We don’t have to make it worse by screaming at each other for decisions no one wants to have to make.

A month into isolation …

For the first time in many years, the Himalayan range is visible from India, as the shutdowns caused by quarantine clear pollution worldwide.

Isolation, Day 29: It’s hard to believe I’ve been home for four weeks.

I still have plenty to do every day, thanks to the water disaster in my garage, the fact that the big mower is broken and won’t be fixed for another two weeks (we’re using the reel mower, which is great exercise) and the beginning of gardening season. Plus, I still have about a quarter of my granddaughter’s wedding quilt to finish, if the cats will let me work on it.

Around the world, there are reports of pollution being reduced, the air and water clearing, because we’re not out driving, rushing around to buy more stuff, much of it utterly useless. I have hope that we’ll realize there are more important things in life than consuming just to consume.

I’m doing OK except for the moments of utter panic, when I realize how serious this is and how unprepared we are to face it.

Republican friends all think I’m just blaming the current occupant of the Oval Office, but it started way before he ever schlumped into office. We as a society believed we were so smart and knew so much science that a pandemic like the 1918-19 flu couldn’t happen again, even though scientists warned us it was not just likely, but absolutely certain to happen again

But our policymakers knew more than the scientists and, starting with Reagan, we cut funding to public health and the CDC. We denied millions access to care in the name of profit, and allowed tens of thousands of people to die unnecessarily. We cut spending on public health so rich people could get more tax breaks and amass more and more and more money.

Both Republicans and Democrats did it, and now we have a presumptive presidential nominee in the Democratic Party who vows he will not allow Medicare for all to happen, even while 70 percent of Americans want it, and we’re being told that if we don’t vote for this deeply flawed old white man — a man who refuses to apologize for the way he treated Anita Hill or his support of welfare reform and other policies that have proven destructive — that WE’RE the problem.

Since 1980, even the Democratic Party leadership hasn’t believed in Democratic Party ideals of strengthening labor, building up public infrastructure, of government funding of scientific research, of doing things for the common good instead of just for profit. Even the Democratic administrations attacked workers’ rights, refused to take profit out of essential services like health care and education — in fact, they helped the process of de-funding essential services, slashing the social safety net and cutting taxes on the rich.

And now you want to criticize me for saying this nominee is so deeply flawed it may be impossible for him to defeat the most corrupt, the most ignorant, the most despicable man ever to set foot in Washington.

You say I have to get in line to vote for someone who won’t even begin to work on climate catastrophe, which is unfolding before us in the form of global climate change and the unleashing of pathogens like the novel coronavirus because of the way we have encroached upon the habitats of animals we once rarely encountered but now eat.

This candidate is a man who went silent at the beginning of the pandemic, while Bernie Sanders had encouraging words for us and pushed for policies that would help more of us survive.

I’m not saying I won’t vote for him. I waver between saying, OK, I’ll hold my nose and do it, and saying I’m only going to vote down-ticket — although I’m not happy with many of my choices there, either.

I’m seeing people attack me because I think Biden won’t be able to win in November, and I do think he will lose, even if I do cast my vote for him.

The moment Sanders suspended his campaign, I started seeing threatening messages from moderates, demanding we all get in line and not complain about our only choice being this 1960s-era Republican.

I was a Democrat in the 1960s, when the party platform called for universal health care, before Reagan came alone and made “liberal” a dirty word and raised greed to the level of a religion.

I left the party several years ago, when my resolution to include an immediate wage hike to $15 so those making minimum wage could survive on a full-time job, was changed to a raise to $10 an hour over five years. I walked out and never looked back.

This month at home has given me a lot of time to think about where we need to go as a nation, and it isn’t in the direction of do-nothing moderation.

We need to be bold. We need to take the reins away from the fascists and moderates and build a society where everyone can thrive. I will support nothing less, and neither should you.

If we can move Biden to support Medicare for all, a living wage and free tuition for community college, I will be happy to vote for him. Otherwise, I will make no promises, even though I’m likely to be frightened enough by the prospect of President for Life Trump to cast my vote for the slightly-less-bad alternative.

Thing is, I’m not the problem here. The Democratic Party, the Republican Party and all their ultra-wealthy controllers are. Our corporate overlords have stacked the cards against us again.

Grieving one son and worried about the other

This is what I’d like my back yard to look like in a couple months. It’s one of the ways I find peace in the spring and summer since my son died 12 years ago.

Isolation, Day 6: Is everyone still wearing pants?

It feels very strange to be home and know I’m going to be here for awhile. It’s another example of what my grandmother used to tell me: “Be careful what you wish for.”

How many times did I sigh and wish I could just stay home and chill for a few days? It’s beginning to look like it could be a few months. My husband and I decided we probably could enjoy a beer with friends online via Skype or Zoom, so we’re looking into that today.

Meanwhile, I’m going to order some seeds and plants online for the garden. I have lots of work I could do out there, and if I get that all taken care of, I could order some stuff from Home Depot, get onto YouTube and learn how to do some home repair and remodeling.

What makes this hard is that I have little to distract me from this time of year, of reliving the death of one son and fearing the death of my only surviving son.

What makes this hard is that I have worked for a dozen years to try and convince legislators and policymakers how important it is to get access to health care for everyone, only to be called a commie, a radical and countless other names. I tried to speak to them, only to be arrested time and again rather than have anyone hear me.

And here we are, facing a genuine health care crisis with one of the most broken systems on the planet. We could lose 2.2 million Americans — twice as many as would die if we had done the right thing and fixed this.

Twelve years ago today, all hope of any serious time with my son was dashed, as we learned the chemo wasn’t working and there were no more options.

Mike had his third chemo appointment this morning. His doctor had told him at the previous appointment that he needed to gain two pounds before today. I had gone into the Duke Chapel to find a quiet corner and pray for those two pounds. It seemed like so little to ask. Two pounds. Two fucking pounds.

I slept on the couch at his apartment the night before so we could get an early start, and when we settled in with a cup of coffee, he sat in the easy chair across the room and sighed.

“I’m ready for this to be over,” he said.

Maybe he was, but I wasn’t. I would never be ready to lose him.

We went to Duke and he stepped on the scale.

He had lost a pound. I still remember the look on his face as he turned to me and said, “I tried. I really tried!”

This was it.

His doctor’s eyes began to tear up.

“I want you to know you’re a good person and you don’t deserve what’s happening to you,” he said. I wished his original doctor in Savannah had felt that way — it would have saved his life.

There would be no more chemo. There would be nothing but Hospice.

The physician assistant advised him to come home with me.

“Go today,” she said. “Let people take care of you now.”

As we headed back to the car, me pushing Mike in a wheelchair because he was too weak to walk, he turned to me and asked, “So, how much time do you think I have left, two weeks, maybe?”

“Oh, I hope we have more than that,” I said.

We did not.

His heart would stop, and mine would break, two weeks later, almost to the moment.

Self-isolation, Day 5

The perfect fit for a day of self-isolation. The only problem? No pockets.

Two words: Yoga pants. I’m surprised it took me five days to see this. I don’t have to wear uncomfortable clothes, although I’m not so far gone I won’t put on a bra.

I’ve been saying for months I need a week with no obligations. So far, I can’t complain. If I’m here for a month, I might actually get the inspiration to clean out the closets and the garage.

I always thought I was an extrovert, but I think I have become more of an introvert. I’m sitting here in my office, by myself, sipping coffee and thinking about what I’m going to need for the garden this year. Compost for sure. I need to order a load.

Trying not to think about what’s left of our life savings and how we’ll cope if the stock market doesn’t come back. The garden is part of that plan.

And of course, my mind goes back 12 years, to a day when I still had hope my son would be with me a little while longer.

On this day, I was driving to Cary, a four-hour trip, so I could take Mike to his third chemo infusion the next day. I had arranged for an interview in Raleigh for a story on the mental health system. I didn’t dare take a day off because my boss was charging me with vacation days, and I only had a few left. I couldn’t afford unpaid leave, so I was scheduling interviews at state agencies when I was in Raleigh and writing stories in the evening. I didn’t have the luxury of just concentrating on caring for my son.

I think about this now as many friends face weeks or months without a paycheck as they try to avoid getting sick without access to health care.

Norway has asked its college students to come home from the US because of our Medieval health care system.

Until now, the death rate from lack of access to health care has been one American every 8 minutes. It was one every 12 minutes when my son died, but a new Yale University found it to be higher now, and it’s about to really spike as we turn people away from hospitals that are unprepared for the influx of desperately ill people.

For the last 12 years I have worked relentlessly for a system that benefits people over profits, and I have been called communist or just plain crazy for suggesting that even unemployed people deserve health care. I have been driven from a job I loved by right-wing Tea Party fools, and arrested for trying to speak to fascist lawmakers who don’t care that people without access to care are dying.

We’ve made progress in public opinion over these last dozen years, but not in action. The Affordable Care Act left the system in the hands of the profit-mongers, who subverted it to meet their own needs. Nearly three-quarters of employer-sponsored plans are high-deductible ($1,500 or more) at a time when 40 percent of Americans say they can’t afford a surprise bill of $400.

Do you have any idea how much worse this pandemic will be here than it has to? Do you think about how many people will die who should have survived?

It’s about to get real, folks, partly because our public health systems are so broken after decades of pillaging by Republicans and the refusal of Democratic neo-liberals to reassemble it when they had the chance.

A lot of people are going to lose loved ones in this pandemic, and a lot of them will be people who would have been able to survive if we’d only had the leadership we needed to get our health care systems in order. This virus will not spare the wealthy, although they can afford to stay out of work a lot longer than poor folks. Still, they seem to be the ones least willing to isolate.

I’m not talking about people who were on vacation or visiting family when this started to get real — I’m talking about people like the owners of the Biltmore Estate who want to squeeze every dime they can before they’re forced to close (yes, the tourist attraction is partially open still), hoping to attract tourists when they should be closing down entirely. I’m talking about restaurants advertising how clean they are to try and attract diners.

People are not concerned enough, and plenty of people will die who shouldn’t because there is no leadership coming from the White House. Again, our government is falling down on the job and the upshot will be tragic.

I know how this kind of tragedy feels because on this day in 2008, I had just 15 days left with my precious son.

Yes, this is real, and yes, it’s political

The novel coronavirus is a threat. It is real. It is not being exaggerated to harm the current administration.

The novel coronavirus is a real thing.

COVID-19 can kill you and it’s likely to kill a million or more people in the United States.

These are facts, not some made-up fantasy to defeat the current occupant of the Oval Office.

It is not safe to gather in groups or to travel. If you’re in a high risk group, you need to be at home. If you’re not at home, you need to wash your hands with soap and hot water often and avoid touching your face. Hand sanitizer does not work as well as washing with soap and hot water, so quit hoarding it.

It didn’t have to be this serious here, but the current administration took no steps early on to mitigate the spread. The current administration, in fact, denied the seriousness of this pandemic and turned down testing kits that could have tracked the pandemic’s path and slowed the progress of the virus.

But, no. Instead, the current occupant of the Oval Office pretended nothing was wrong and kept claiming that everything was OK, assuming his followers would believe him.

I have seen denials of the seriousness of this as recently as yesterday, and I have answered each claim that it’s no worse than the flu with the fact that it is 10 to 20 times more lethal.

These claims are often followed by appeals to not make this political.

Well, here’s the thing: when politicians cut funding for public health for 40 years, shit happens.

Funding for public health (national, state and local health departments, research efforts and response personnel) has been cut by every Republican administration — especially this one — since Ronald Reagan because for some reason the science deniers tend to affiliate with the Republican party, and Democrats have lacked the spine to stand up and fight.

Politics could have prevented this, but Americans wanted to believe Reagan’s attacks on government. Remember when he said the most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”? I remember it clearly.

Government — politics — is there to mitigate disasters like this on behalf of the people it serves. Except Republicans have perpetuated the lie that government is bad in every instance. So, our infrastructure crumbled, and public health was part of that infrastructure.

Now we have a government that lies every day about what’s happening, and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who shouldn’t die, will.

If testing had begun in earnest two weeks or a month ago, we would know where we stand. But people who are showing up in the emergency room with symptoms of COVID-19 are being sent back home with no test, unless they have traveled to China.

If you think the virus isn’t in your community because there have been no confirmed cases, that’s because there are no test kits, so it’s not possible to confirm cases. That’s one way to make the total look lower than it actually is, which makes it easier for this administration to lie about the spread of the illness.

The illness is in your community. People are carrying the illness into public places and it’s spreading like wildfire because we insist on listening to the most dishonest administration ever to exist in Washington.

Let me repeat: The illness is in your community already.

If you’re going out into public places because you don’t think you’re at high risk, you’re risking infecting people who are at risk.

When you go into a restaurant, you’re asking wait staff that likely have no real access to health care and no paid sick time to take the risk that you’re not carrying the virus.

The reason that waiter has no access to care, no paid sick leave and a $2.35-an-hour wage is all about politics as well. Again and again, Republicans have refused to pass legislation that would fix any of this, and Democrats have yet to get enough spine to stand up and rebel against it.

This disaster could have been mitigated much more effectively than it has. Look at how South Korea has dealt with this. Testing is available everywhere and people are staying out of public places. In the end, their mortality rate will be a lot lower than ours. We’re going to look more like Italy, or even Iran, where the mass graves can be seen from space.

All of this is happening at a time in my city is struggling with its hospital having been taken over by a for-profit corporation. HCA has laid off large numbers of CNAs and other support staff — especially housekeeping, which is the department that cleans your room — and cut back on nursing staff as well. Nurse-to-patient ratios are dangerously high and getting worse as nurses quit in disgust. The nurses who remain are fighting to establish a union so they can demand improvements in patient safety.

And, yes, this is political, too. We have no laws mandating safe nurse-to-patient ratios. We have no regulations regarding how many cleaning supplies must be on hand to guarantee patient safety. There is no law mandating that patient safety has to come before profits because Richard Nixon signed that away in 1973.

We are in this mess because of the dishonesty and utter lack of leadership of the current administration, and because of decades of politically motivated cuts to public health to funnel ever more money into the pockets of the wealthiest and the military.

So, let’s be clear about this. We have to make changes — serious changes — to our system. We need to send the current crop of do-nothings home in November — well, those of us who survive that long, anyway — and elect people who will start to rebuild our public health systems.

The truth is that each one of us stands a small chance of dying from this, but we likely all know people who will die. The death rate is about 3.4 percent, but the infection rate could be as high as 70 percent. These are the real numbers.

So, yes, this is a real danger and yes, politics could have made it better. Instead, politics has made it far, far worse than it needed to be.

Stop pressuring people to vote your way. Your privilege is showing.

He makes a lot of us uncomfortable and you don’t have a right to demand we vote for him.

I have something important to say, and I need to be heard.

I don’t agree that Biden is the answer to any of our problems and I don’t want to be forced to vote for him.

I also don’t want to have you calling me names and telling me to fuck off because I don’t agree with you.

First of all, he is not yet the nominee, so trying to force me to pledge fealty to the failing candidate of a party that is fast becoming irrelevant before he’s the nominee is just cruel.

Let me tell you why. Twelve years ago today, I was trying to prepare for a life without my beloved son. I was facing every parent’s worst nightmare and I was terrified. And I am forced to re-live those final six weeks of his life every damn year.

Here we are, a dozen years after I promised my son I would fight like hell to prevent other people from dying the way he did and you’re calling me every name in the book for refusing to swear to vote for a man who won’t do a damn thing to fix a health care system that’s even more broken than it was 12 years ago.

When my son died, an American was dying every 12 minutes from lack of access to health care; today it’s once every eight minutes.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t working and Biden has said he won’t move toward a real fix for it. He has said things will stay the same.

So, here I am, grieving for my son with a pain that has not gotten any better since he breathed his last, and you’re screaming that I have to get in bed with the enemy.

So my choice is a man who doesn’t care that someone dies once every eight minutes or one who’s pretty close to gleeful about it.

Stop telling me to shut up and vote for someone who thinks things are fine, especially since the nominating process isn’t half over yet.

Stop telling me I have to vote for a man whose actions toward women are disrespectful of their personal space and dismissive of their concerns about dominion over their own bodies.

Stop demanding I vote for a pro-war, pro-Wall Street candidate when it violates everything I stand for.

Stop disrespecting who I am and what I stand for.

I have not said I won’t vote for this demented old creep; I have said I don’t want to.

I understand about the Supreme Court and all the rest.

But we don’t have time to waste on climate action and he will waste time. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I want them to inherit a planet they can inhabit.

We can’t keep putting off giving low-wage workers a chance at a decent life with a living wage, paid sick leave and access to quality health care.

Your insistence on everyone getting in your boat assumes that we all have ladders to climb, and too many of us don’t. As the saying goes, you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have boots.

Your intransigence proves your level of privilege. You can wait four years for things to get better. Too many of us can’t, but that doesn’t matter to you.

It isn’t enough to vote for Trump-lite. The status quo is not good enough, and if it is for you, then you need to open your eyes and check your privilege. You need to see how too many around you are suffering. Open your ears and listen to the stories of people who can’t provide for themselves even though they’re working two and three jobs.

Joe Biden is NOT good enough.

If forced to vote for him, I will, but he will not win. It will be a replay of 2016, and we will get four more years of the current mess. And then you’ll blame the people who just can’t bring themselves to vote for more of the same.

I refuse to get angry with people who can’t face a Biden presidency because the thought of it leaves me utterly without hope.

So before you yell at me to shut the fuck up, maybe you should try to understand that I don’t want your child to die the way mine did. Maybe you should look and listen to the 140 million Americans who live in or near poverty, who have no hope of a better life if they have to live — and all too often, die — without the changes we need.

We talk a lot about getting in line, but nowhere near enough about where that line is headed.

Yes, I am pissed off. You bet I am.

This is my country, too, and I’m just trying to make it a better, more moral place for the people I care about. And I care about everyone.

It’s my vote, not yours

We can’t afford to do this anymore. It’s time for Medicare for all.

I’ve taken a lot of criticism lately for saying I won’t vote for anyone who doesn’t support a single-payer health care system.

Here’s the thing: You don’t get to decide who gets my vote, not in the primary and not in the general election.

I have good reason for my position. I call it the Dead Kid Card (only because that’s what my son called it before he died from lack of access to health care). I suffered a loss most parents only have nightmares about. I sat beside my precious child as he breathed his last, and his cause of death was neglect for profit.

My son should not have died, nor should any of the half million people who have been murdered by our profit-driven “system” since his heart stopped beating.

Universal access to care was proposed by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago, and we’re still waiting. The rest of the world has found ways to do it, but we still prostrate ourselves before the altar of profit. We spend twice as much per person as any other system in any advanced nation, and our outcomes are always the worst among the industrialized nations. Hell, Cuba has better outcomes than we do, and that’s because everyone has access to the care they need.

I’m not willing to wait any longer. I believe enough people have died, and it’s time to stop the unnecessary deaths so some insurance executive can take home another few million dollars and stash it in an overseas tax-sheltered account.

Health insurance companies are parasites. They add nothing of value to our system, but they suck billions of dollars out of our economy, and they deny lifesaving care that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of people every year.

OK, so now you’ll argue that some people love their plans. Well, I have a couple of problems with that. First of all, Medicare for all will get care to everyone, not just the few well-to-do people who have their access to care but don’t even think about people who have little or no access. That’s called selfishness, or greed. Remember, Jesus never said, “I got mine, get your own.”

Secondly, we know that 70 percent of employer-sponsored plans are high-deductible — meaning you have to spend $1,000 or more before you see a penny in coverage — The average deductible is $3,000. This is in a society where nearly half of the people say they can’t pay a surprise bill of $400 without borrowing money.

No one can make me believe that most Americans love their health insurance in light of those statistics.

And it’s getting worse.

According to a study by The Commonwealth Fund, (https://www.commonwealthfund.org/ ), median household income in the United States between 2008 and 2018 grew 1.9% per year on average, rising from $53,000 to $64,202. But health care costs rose 6 percent per year in the same time, and the Affordable Care Act has been in effect for about half of that time.

“The most cost-burdened families live in southern states,” said Sara Collins, lead author of the report and vice president for health care coverage, access and tracking at The Commonwealth Fund.

In general, those states tend to have lower median incomes, so even if the sticker price for premiums and deductibles is lower than in higher-income regions, health insurance costs take up a greater share of Southerners’ income.

The next argument I get is that people who work for insurance companies need their jobs. Well, jobs administering Medicare will be plentiful. Even managers will be needed, although the CEOs who have been skimming billions in our national treasure can go and live on their blood money because they won’t be stealing any more from us.

The longer we wait to do this, the worse things are getting, as for-profit companies take over health care systems, especially in rural areas.

Rural hospitals are cutting services or closing altogether, especially in states that refuse to take the federal Medicaid expansion money that their citizens are already paying for. Here in Western North Carolina, women in labor have to travel up to two hours to get to a labor and delivery facility. Ambulance rides can cost up to a whopping $40,000. People are dying because they have to call an Uber because they can’t pay for an ambulance.

Under the current administration, the Affordable Care Act’s protections have been weakened. Premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed. Since the mandate that everyone buy insurance has been lifted, people of moderate means have dropped their coverage so they can afford to pay for food and shelter.

Meanwhile, plans have become more and more restrictive, putting drugs and care on tiers so that if a doctor comes to see you while you’re in the hospital and they are not on Tier 1 in your plan, you could be faced with thousands of dollars in uncovered care. That lifesaving antibiotic could wind up costing you $300 per pill.

So, when I hear a candidate say we can wait for Medicare for all, my response is, “Nope.”

Our corporate overlords may not care if you die from lack of access to care, but I do.

I will not vote for someone who thinks people can wait for health care, and you have no right to tell me I have to. People are dying NOW, and we have to fix this NOW. I really don’t care if the rich don’t like it. They’re not the ones I’m worried about.

My vote will ONLY go to someone who’s ready to fix this.

Forgiveness is a tricky thing

The killer of Botham Jean is embraced by her victim’s brother, who tearfully told her he forgives her. Photo by Slate

Christians believe we are redeemed — forgiven for all our sins — if we believe Jesus died for us.

Some Christians seem to interpret that as license to commit sins, knowing God’ll forgive because, well, Jesus.

I’m not so sure. On the one hand forgiveness is more about me than you. I never sensed any remorse from my grandfather for molesting me throughout my childhood, but I had to forgive him. I had to let it go so I could cease allowing his abuse to define me. But I also kept my distance from him because I knew he wasn’t safe.

I would love to see the doctors who refused to treat my son, knowing he would die, suffer some consequences, but that’s not going to happen. I can’t allow them to live, rent-free, in my head, so I have let go of my anger and outrage. If any of them approached me and said they wanted to work with me toward Medicare for All, I would stand with them as brothers and sisters in the fight.

But, as my mother’s pastor once described it, sin leaves a scar. He pierced a piece of paper with a pencil (the sin), then removed the pencil to show a hole — a scar. The sin is gone, but the damage is still there.

Watching an African-American man hug the woman who murdered his brother in cold blood sent a chill up my spine. I didn’t feel comfortable thinking, “Awwww, that’s so Christian of him.”

And my mind went back to the young man who murdered nine African-American people in an act of racial hatred in Charleston, SC. The survivors of the massacre, family members and others stood in front of microphones and offered forgiveness to the unrepentant racist.

That made me uncomfortable, too.

It seems people of color keep forgiving the people who murder them, but the other side of the coin — the remorse on the part of the killers — is blank. A blog post by Rev. Karyn Carlo that I read yesterday called it “cheap grace.”

Cheap grace is a scenario where someone is called to forgive again and again and again, but the object of forgiveness keeps committing the same sin. The phrase keeps spinning in my head.

We keep allowing black people to forgive white people for killing them, and all too often the white people walk free. Systemic racism continues while black people are still called to forgive. Jail sentences are more common and more lengthy for people of color. Schools are poorer and still segregated. Access to health care is worse. Access to the vote is far less and getting worse.

If Botham Jean had walked into her apartment “by mistake” and shot her, he would be on Death Row. But we assuage our collective guilt by saying “Awwww …” when we see his brother embrace and forgive the woman who murdered him.

I can’t quite force myself to say, “Awwww…” anymore. I want to see issues of racism dealt with. I want to see real justice.

As a white woman, it’s not my place to forgive the killer of Botham Jean or the racist who slaughtered nine people in Charleston. It is my place to listen and follow. It also is my place to work toward racial economic and social justice.

Why do I feel so angry all the time? Why doesn’t everyone?

With my vacation half over (I spent a week on Cape Cod camping with my sisters and leave tomorrow to spend a few days with friends before my granddaughter and her husband and daughter come to visit next week), I feel rested and restless at the same time.

I had an argument with my sister over whether we should shoot for an immediate move to Medicare for all, or whether it should be done gradually.

“I’m done with gradualism, ” I told her.

During the 12 minutes we’d been talking about this, another person died the way Mike did. I’ve heard every argument, and in the time it will take you to recite them to me, another person will have died the way Mike did. When you add them all up, it’s about a half million human beings, just in the 11 years since Mike died.

And now you want me to wait some more. Are we waiting until my other son dies? Maybe one of his kids or grandkids? How long are we supposed to wait?

I didn’t get all this out before she yelled at me to let her finish her argument. In that time, another person died. and since that time, another 100-plus people have died. I turned my head and started reading something on my phone because I didn’t want an ugly scene, but I knew I couldn’t convince her I’m right. She pays through the nose, but she has access to care. She had surgery in the last year for a condition that would have killed her had she been uninsured.

I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for that.

I tried to tell her all this, but I just started crying instead because even after 11 years, the pain of my son’s death is as fresh and raw as ever, and in the time I took to try and explain that, another American died from lack of access to health care and his or her family is plunged into the same endless grief I experience every day.

Meanwhile, children languish in filthy cages with no sanitary supplies and no beds, separated from their parents in a strange land where they don;t know what people are even saying to them.

Meanwhile, the Earth continues to burn, hurtling us toward extinction in a few short generations.

Meanwhile, we contemplate war on Iran.

Meanwhile, the water in Flint and dozens of other American cities is still poisoned.

Meanwhile, the election districts are still gerrymandered and the elections are controlled by two utterly corrupt parties.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest of us continue to steal and hoard our wealth while half of our families live near or below the poverty level because those with the most money won’t pay a living wage for a week’s work and then they get to call poor people lazy because they don’t have enough money to meet their basic needs.

Meanwhile, we all go about our business, taking care of ourselves but not noticing how much trouble we’re in as a nation, as a species.

Meanwhile, a third of our nation continues to defend the hatred and ignorance spewing from the Oval Office, and we have yet to rise up in sufficient numbers to prod our so-called leaders into action to remove this criminal from office.

All the while, complacent people scream at me to “VOTE BLUE, NO MATTER WHO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

No. No to all of it.

I will not shut up. I will not wait. I will not be patient. And I will not vote for another Wall Street-sponsored candidate.

I’m done with all of it. This is more than a national emergency, it’s a planetary one. It’s about our continued existence as a species, and you’re asking me to wait patiently?

Every day we wait, dozens more people die.

Every day we wait, children in Flint and other cities face irreversible brain damage from lead in their water.

Every day we wait, people languish in jail, losing their jobs and homes and children because they don’t have $500 bail money. So they wait in jail for months to be tried for a crime they may not even have committed.

Every day we wait, we edge closer to extinction.

Wake up. Stop waiting for somebody else to save us. We have to save ourselves, and we can’t do that by being patient.

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