Greetings From Ground Zero!

Sirens of Annihilation | Massive Burn Studios

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I suppose I should have known better when the beaches remained crowded with breakers and the governor essentially stood still until they all went home. He was cut collective slack for this inaction by many of us.  Yet, it didn’t take long for keen observers like myself  to realize that something sinister was afoot. (Forgive me if I cannot recall dates or if certain events are out of order. The pandemic has shattered any concept of time.  March and April feel like a decade ago as opposed to four months.  Additionally, the nature of the lack of response has made my mind a bit of a muddle.)

The first quiver of manipulation and sly fibbery happened with our nursing homes when the governor refused to name the facilities where outbreaks occurred. Testing  capacity was limited and the National Guard was called in to help. Still, no one-not even the families of the residents- knew if their loved ones were among the affected. Then came that dark Friday when a nursing home right up the street from my house had to be evacuated. Lo and behold, on Saturday our sly guy in chief revealed all the names of facilities where outbreaks had occurred. Added to this early deception was the fact that our dear leader refused to shut down the state, caving in only on April 3rd. In the meantime, many of his citizens had already begun their own social distancing and quarantining.  We had been paying attention to news out of the West Coast and Northeast; it made sense for us to change our behavior so that we could flatten the curve. Somewhere along the way, our state’s dashboard was created by the fearless Rebekah Jones, who upon refusing to manipulate the data to make the numbers look better, was summarily fired from her job for insubordination (she has recently filed a whistle blower complaint). Not to be deterred, she set up her own Florida Community Dashboard with the claim that her data collection is more reliable and user friendly as well as accurate. As time marched on, our governor’s adolescent arrogance began to reveal itself with his now famous tantrum (with Pence nodding his head beside him) about how well our state was doing and the predictors of being the next New York were hogwash. Well, we are still awaiting your apology governor because here we are! Also, true to form, our Coronavirus  Reopening Task Force was made up of only the state’s powerful  big businesses and ABSOLUTELY ZERO public health professionals. Then, in an instant it seemed our state was reopened in a mishmash of phases that were hard to follow. What was not hard to follow was the rapid and steep climb in cases, because if you know anything about Florida, it couples its plethora of Conservative Christian schools and churches with an equal measure of bars and nightclubs that invite hedonistic and uninhibited behaviors. Oh, have I mentioned that during this short period of time ( I am still talking May here) that there was never once a state wide mandated order for masks? (Still none.) For those of us like myself who have only ventured forth to stores when necessary, the madness of no mask wearers was both frightening and appalling.  I observed this bizarre sort of uncomfortable defiance in no maskers body language, leaving me wondering if they were packing. Furthermore, as I am writing this, I am remembering what our governor considered “essential” businesses during our abbreviated “shutdown”. Basically, it was “GOD, GUNS, and the WWE.  As I have stated, we are surrounded by a powerful Christian Right lobby here who felt that their need to worship en masse and unmasked indoors intervened with their religious liberty. (I am not sure Jesus would agree.) And guns? Need I say more in this “Stand Your Ground” dystopia? As for the WWE, the McMahons are big Trump donors and our governor is the President’s #1 Water Boy. Enough said.

As we saw numbers rise along with our collective anxiety (mine is the highest it has been in 12 years), our so called leader threw around racist blame at our state’s farm workers ( you know that the people that feed us) as well as the Black Lives Matter protesters (you know the people that wear masks and are fed up with endless injustice).  He had nothing but big brother sympathy for the young bar trolls, chastising them gently and identifying with their need to party. The latter group was responsible for the upward trend in cases and has now been identified as the average age patient in ICU with worse conditions than previous patients. As a result, bars are now not open unless they serve food. Thank you, Governor.

So county and other local leaders have been left to fend for themselves.  I can imagine their frustration! Mandatory masks are now required in my county but I could go one county south and land on a maskless planet. The governor has been stubbornly and stupidly resistant to both masks and rolling back reopening. A recent meeting with Miami area mayors proved fruitless. In Florida, Big Money talks more than anything else regardless of the long term consequences to the health and welfare of its citizens and the economy.  Disney and other major theme parks are in their first week of reopening (with restrictions) and the scaled back Republican National  Convention is still on the calendar for August 27th.  As my oldest son would say, “Dollah, dollah bill y’all.” Schools are being forced to reopen in August at least 5 days a week  by command of our Education Commissioner. Here in Florida, they will issue executive edicts out of Tallahassee when it suits their agenda but will leave you swinging in the breeze when local conditions merit a larger action from them. To this day the state’s unemployment system continues to dysfunction. No help from Tallahassee for the nearly quarter million unemployed who continue to struggle to feed their families and pay their bills.

We are all suffering unnecessarily in Florida as well  our country because of the lack of strong leadership. I am beginning to think that those in power are willing to live with the collateral damage of dead bodies in order to further their authoritarian agenda.  One of my friends has even called it America’s Holocaust. Strong words for this feeling that we are all being led to our own demise.

The best choice for us is to continue to take care of ourselves and to speak truth to power nonstop.  I refuse to back down in the face of purposeful and malignant ineptitude and malfeasance. It may be hard to believe, but the pushback is strong and somehow we will prevail.

To my readers: thank you for taking the time to read this post.  It is a stream of consciousness  piece that needed to be written because my body could no longer hold onto my anger, anxiety and frustration.

When Men Have the Last Word

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As I write this, thousands of Evangelical Church leaders (at the urging of #45), are encouraging their members to get out and vote in November. This is part of a larger campaign that involves millions of dollars in spending through the use of social media, phone calls, mail, and e-mails, and the  so-called micro-targeting of voters: a planned total of 1.2 million people in all.

The spheres of religion and politics  are now fully merged in this country.  It has taken decades of organized planning-both overt and covert-that has brought us to this moment in America.  The movement began in the late 70’s as a reaction to racial integration and mid-twentieth century feminism. Let us not forget that Jerry Falwell  began his movement when he founded an all white Christian school -Lynchburg Christian Academy- as a response to forced racial integration. He touted racial segregation as biblically based. Since that time, we have at least two generations of evangelical citizens raised up and hard-wired for religion, most especially through the growth of private Christian schools and their related churches who are free to espouse and require an adherence to a particular doctrine and dogma of Christianity. As a result, the Religious Right has grown into a powerful political force intent on creating a Conservative Christian Fascist Theocracy under the thinly veiled disguises of religious freedom and a “pro-life” stance (which, by the way, is fairly new to Conservative Christians, who until Paul Weyrich had the idea, were decidedly pro-choice and quite uninterested in politics in general). To arrive at the present moment, the movement’s leaders have had  to strike a Faustian Bargain, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s election right up to the current occupant in the White House. Neither one of these men were and are particularly religious people. But they were and are willing to appease this particular constituency in order to secure their power. In fact, the current administration’s Cabinet is stacked with many Conservative Christians who are changing and implementing all sorts of policies designed to benefit and satisfy big corporations as well as their xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic base. In fact, I would argue that Evangelical leaders, their members and the current White House occupant are engaged in their own Devil’s Triangle, with the members serving at the behest and pleasure of both. The movement’s influence has had an effect on all levels of government; it is no coincidence that many state legislatures are now chock full of far right conservatives. Nor is serendipitous that much of our current Congress is caught in this same stranglehold. Their path to power has been paved by stoking the fears of false persecution and victimization, voter suppression,  and good old-fashioned gerrymandering.

So, here we are once again at another critical moment; we have had may weeks of them since January 20th, 2017! Right now, I believe that we have reached a breaking point where more than half of our citizens’ rights are at stake.  Like millions, I witnessed the Kavanaugh hearings last week. I watched as the usual big mouths from the Republican side used a woman to ask another woman questions out of false deference to Dr. Blasey-Ford’s terror about appearing in front of such a powerful body of white privileged men. Then I watch them shut the former down as soon as she got close enough to a possible crack in Kavanaugh’s calendar of events. Prior to that, I watched Kavanaugh unleash a vast amount of unchecked anger on unfounded conspiracies that he claimed were bent on derailing his nomination. As I watched, it became clear to me that this man has never had any of actions questioned. Up until this moment, he probably lived a life of elitist ease, working hard to climb higher on his social and career ladder but never suffering any real consequences for his escapades. Kavanaugh openly displayed what can only be described as adolescent aggression often attributed to teenage boys who are trying to squeeze their way out of a lie or a seriously damaging situation. He was unwilling to help himself or any of the committee members get to even a kernel of truth (which he also did at his previous hearings, evading questions about himself or policy or any precedents set by previous Supreme Court decisions). And this is why I found him to be so unbelievable. That, and the fact that he was aided and abetted by many of the 11 Republican’s ridiculous pontifications-as if he were the victim here.

By putting Kavanaugh after Dr. Blasey-Ford, he got the last and loudest word. Of course, if Dr. Blasey-Ford was as belligerent and petulant as he, we would have been having an entirely different conversation. And this brings me to another point. Imagine if all women spoke up at the time of their harassment, molestation or assault. Suppose they came at us with all the venom that Kavanaugh displayed? What would we do?

Women don’t speak up because we have been rendered powerless and because we are wrongly judged. We all remember Anita Hill and how she was treated. Some of us remember how we have been treated when we have come forward and then wish we hadn’t. When a graduate school friend of mine accused her landlord of rape, the first question the police asked her was “How many beers did you have that night?” The guy assaulted her in her own bed while she was sleeping after he gained entry into her apartment!

I cannot begin to tell you how many stories I have heard from friends and loved ones about their own sexual and physical abuse at the hands of someone they know. Not one of them came forward. Call it whatever you want. Fear. Shock. Shame. Self-Blame. Why? Because this is the culture in which we raise girls.  You are either Eve or Mary. Temptress or Perpetual Virgin. Which brings me back to the Evangelical Movement. In their culture, women are considered sexual threats to men. They are raised to be the gatekeepers of men’s sexual weaknesses and are also taught to keep themselves pure until they are married. This involves all forms of sexual expression, not just intercourse. Men are taught that their wives are there to serve at their pleasure and to procreate. (For more on this, I suggest reading Linda Kay Klein’s book, “Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.”)

And this is why the movement wants to outlaw abortion. They want women to serve as vessels for the next generation regardless of the circumstances or health risks to themselves. They want to limit access to birth control too (remember the Hobby Lobby decision?). When women cannot control their fertility, they have no autonomy. They are not free to pursue their own interests and desires. They are forced to control and suppress their sexual expression out of fear of pregnancy.  Thus, they are viewed as “virginal” except when someone wants them pregnant or to use them for their own pleasure. This unholy trinity of purity, pleasure and pregnancy is totally out of bounds when it comes to embracing the faith that was founded in Jesus’ name.  Perhaps for some Christians, it is only about his death on the cross and his sacrifice for our sins. From this, all doctrine springs forth and controls the behavior of the faithful from birth until death. I myself believe it is bigger than that. I worry less about being a sinner and more about being a giver and doing some good in the world. I believe that Jesus had a big tent. He was radically inclusive and spoke truth to power and he would be mortified at what some are doing in his name.

We forget that women had to “bust their butts” in order to get laws passed that allowed them to become more fuller citizens. We have had the right to vote for less than 100 years and it only came after many significant battles, including arrests, jail time and yes, rape! The Civil Rights Act allowed for more work place protections and opportunities. Title IX allowed for more equity in all areas of education and athletics (although Betsy Devos is attempting to undermine this in regards to sexual assault, of course!). Women can now apply for a credit card and loan without the consent of or co-signing by a man.  Wives can be victims of rape by their husbands. It is illegal to beat and batter your spouse.  Access to birth control has come as a result of a Supreme Court decision (Griswold v. Connecticut). All of this is at risk because of  the restrictive cultural and religious beliefs of a few.

When you want to rule all of your citizens in an authoritarian manner, you start with the women. During his reign, Hitler outlawed abortion (with the exception being if the father or mother was Jewish). One of the slogans during that era  was: “Kinder, Kuche,  Kirche” or Children, Kitchen, Church.  Sound familiar?

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