Flaming Hypocrites

Most of us know when something doesn’t feel right in our minds and souls. We know when something is off, when something challenges what we’ve been taught as being right and proper.

Or do we? It seems there is no standard, objective measure of propriety or moral uprightness. We bring to the table some of what we were taught by our elders—parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers both grade school and Sunday School. And peers, for better or worse, not to mention the influence of constant media exposure and bombardment. All of that is tempered, embraced or discarded, as we experience life for ourselves and form our own opinions.

What makes the current times so maddening and difficult is that I see and hear video and sound bites and messaging that run contrary to my understanding of what makes for moral integrity and virtue but which, at the same time, are embraced as those exact traits by others.

I watch the evening news, I tune in to my preferred “extra dose” news outlets for additional commentary and perspective. And I can’t—nor will I ever—understand how and why we can be at odds over such important things.

People who have a better command of the English language can weave a tapestry of lies and bullshit and convincingly pass it off as truth. Stephen Miller, Mitch McConnell, Josh Hawley and others are particularly adept at this. Donald Trump, on the other hand, knows just enough words to be considered literate. But they can all navigate any attack on a position and survive to fight another day. I’m sure there are Democrats who can do the same, but they’re not who I’m talking about at the moment.

The swirl of news that has come at us every day since before Trump was elected in 2016 has often landed as an assault on our ears and good judgment. Supposed “patriots” seem intent on defending the psyche of a nation that nurses old wounds, old prejudices, preserving and perpetuating them for new generations. It’s never been completely apparent to me why they’re holding on so tightly, why they can’t bring themselves to embrace progress and change.

I understand the desire to hold onto power. What I cannot grasp is their willingness to do so at the expense of their humanity and their honor. At its roots, how can this be fueled by anything other than racism and ignorance? Or cowardice? When one peels back the layers of empty rhetoric and idle chatter offered up by the wordsmiths, the ugliness is right there for all to see: a death grip on the past. A blindness that refuses to acknowledge the equality of us all in the eyes of a God they claim to know and love.

Jesus was a product of his times and he had his blind spots, especially early on. But point me to a passage that proclaims he was cool with someone being treated as three-fifths of a person.

I wonder if he would have had an opinion on “the purity of the ballot box.”

Sheep’s Clothing?

Ron DeSantis can’t be as smart as some apparently think he is. He strikes me as more a puppet, a needy child seeking someone’s approval.

There’s a difference between smart, and plodding calculation. He’s just another dull human with a certain political acumen, toeing the line, dependent on ignorance and the Fox News crowd to take him where he allegedly wants to go, perhaps harboring certain ambitions.

Or maybe he’s the one who various pundits are warning might come along next—the one who flies below the radar, who’s more patient and devious, and evil, than Trump.

Nah. Can’t be.

Nostalgia With Blinders

“Impacted colon of a country…” I like this description of America, as put forth by Bill Maher. Nobody dare prevail, nobody dare win the day with their ideas and proposals and hopes.

Well, “hopes” doesn’t exactly describe the Republican agenda, because that party is currently ruled by people who seem hellbent on returning us to the 1950s, which were the good old days for white people of a certain age– people like Mitch McConnell and the most recent former President.

Going Nowhere

The fact that Trump appears still to be the darling of the Republican Party should serve as an unsettling reminder that a sizeable number of Americans—including Congressional leadership—are living by a whole different set of facts and rules.

What has bothered me all along, especially during the pandemic, is that they really seem not to care about people or public health. They’re hellbent on keeping the economy going, and that’s about it. Well, that and their insistence on painting Dr. Fauci and others as the bad guys. And they are sore losers.

This gives me a bad feeling about our future as a nation. We shouldn’t still be seeing Trump everywhere we look. We shouldn’t be seeing him anywhere we look. His time has come and gone. His continued popularity signals more unrest and inertia to come, or maybe even the end of us.

Sight and Sound

Who do you believe?

MSNBC or Fox? Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson? They’re both loud and passionate and in your face.

The big difference I see is that Rachel is insightful and rational, and Carlson is a spoiled, privileged faux patriot and fear monger going off the deep end.

Other than that, not much difference.

Another Thing

Something else that gets under my skin is the incessant need by networks to get the scoop, specifically to know what the President is going to say before he has a chance to say it publicly. I guess I’m not clear on what purpose this serves. It doesn’t seem that far removed from bragging, from saying, “Look at us—we got our hands on the speech and here’s your exclusive look at the high points.”

I can wait until the actual speech, and the summation afterwards. I don’t need the reconnaissance mission, the one-upmanship. It seems childish, in a way.

Of course, if I know in advance the gist of the remarks, this frees me up to catch another episode of Antiques Roadshow or Triple D.

Going Nowhere

It doesn’t matter how passionate we are. It doesn’t matter if indeed one side is more right than the other (how can both camps be right?) Intractability has been the watchword for a while now. We all know what we know, with little expectation of a change of heart. We suspect the worst from those across the aisle, we question each other’s motives and intent.

How much of what one believes is true conviction, and not simply reading-the-room convenience, saying what people seem to want to hear?

More Bits ‘n’ Pieces

15,000 people, including Tom Brady and Tim Tebow, recently gathered indoors for an MMA bout in Florida. No social distancing and few masks, according to Fox News. Sounds about right for that shining city on the hill we can call DeSantis Land. The thing that sticks in my gut is the sharp contrast of philosophies and perspectives along the way throughout this pandemic. Misinformation, disinformation, irrational fears, insane “cures” and conspiracy theories, pig-headed stubbornness and just plain hubris, versus caution and a certain humility in the face of a deadly virus we’re still learning about. For all the people who think they’re bulletproof or that the virus doesn’t exist—you’ve been just plain lucky. Or maybe you’ve concealed the fact that you or members of your families have tested positive and you never told anyone, passed Covid infection off as a cold? Anyway, you’re not contributing to the solution, to getting “back to normal.” That normal is gone, anyway.

What the hell is going on in Arizona? Cyber Ninjas? With unfettered access to the 2020 ballots from Maricopa County? No press coverage except OAN? Ayfkm? How are they getting away with this? Of course Trump is praising their efforts, and it looks like Michigan is next.

Republicans are bent out of shape over something that is totally fabricated: Pres. Biden wants to ban meat. Apparently, the indignation and the beef are contrived. Biden never said such a thing. So why is this such a big deal? And why don’t Republicans have anything better to do?

Could, might, may, possibly… that’ll be as close as we ever get to a Trump conviction.

Let me utter the unutterable. America has to learn to share the stage. We are not the world’s last best hope, not anymore. Especially lately. Especially given the current condition we’re in. Where do we get off saying such a thing out loud? Or even just thinking it. Such hubris, such outsized pride, and insecurity. We’re the world’s perennial teenager, like a comic strip character who never grows up. I know when one takes a quick look, one will see that America has done some amazing things over the years- helped save the world from fascism and imperialism (but can it save itself?), landed a man on the moon, provided fertile ground for innovation of all sorts. But a closer look will uncover the cracks in the façade—the inequity, the still roiling racism, the scourge of individualism in all its manifestations, the materialism and rampant consumerism, and the aforementioned proclivity to talk trash and just brag on itself. The ideals have remained ideals, by and large. That packaging is pretty much intact.

The Truth Is Hard Sometimes

Watched the PBS special on Greta Thunberg the other night. She speaks truth to power and has her head and heart in the right place. She is a prophet of sorts, an unenviable/unpopular position in some respects, but also one of formidable influence.

She appears laser focused on the science, on that 1.5 degree C threshold, and echoes something I’ve been thinking all along as the big companies boast about being carbon neutral by 2050, or setting other dates that are 14 or 20 or 30 years from now and trying to sell this as wondrous and bold and taking the initiative. We don’t have 14 or 20 years, never mind 30! These are just words, attempts at appearing proactive. Ways to throw the critics a bone and keep kicking the can down the road.

No one speaks the hard words quite like Greta. Trump and Putin and their ilk are useless in this discussion if they’re only going to pat her on the head and try to dismiss her as just another wide-eyed, naïve child. She’s 18 now and only growing more formidable. She seems particularly suited for this role on the world stage. I hope she grows in her zeal and has the energy and courage to shoulder this mantel, take this as far as it can go.

It’s both amazing and not surprising that people doggedly defend and protect their livelihoods in the face of overwhelming evidence that these same livelihoods have birthed the mess we’re in. And of course the rest of us have contributed with our shallow, consumer-driven lives, and the accompanying voracious appetite and demand for material things that are supposed to fill the voids, and count as necessities. Surely we must have at least some awareness by now that such pursuits are unsustainable, not to mention monumentally selfish and short-sighted.

What Thunberg is advocating is a dramatic and inevitably painful change in diet- a curbing of appetites, a willingness to do with less or at least to do things differently, all in the name of sustainability and avoidance of total environmental disaster. Earth is not too big to fail us, if we want to think of it in those terms– that it’s the earth’s fault and certainly not ours.

The thing is… the planet will survive us. We would just be the latest species to come and go. As a function of being pathetic, the bitter irony would be that our disappearance would come with a glaring asterisk: we were sentient beings with a magnificent brain who could see the writing on the wall but chose not to do anything about it. There must be a fable that speaks to such blindness and hedonism.

We would do well to listen to Greta and others who are speaking her language.

Raise Your Gaze

How to convince people to get vaccinated… how about considering the odds of getting a break-through case after being vaccinated versus the odds of being exposed without vaccination?

The odds of a break-through case are currently something like .008 percent—8 thousandths of one percent!– compared with… who knows, but something more likely than .008 percent.

Ditch the politics on this, folks. If you’re afraid of the shot because it’s gonna hurt, or you think it was insufficiently tested or developed too quickly, that’s kind of silly and of marginal concern, respectively. But if you’re saying no because it’s something you just don’t want to be told to do or because Fox News has denigrated the science and the scientists, that’s a far more insidious and selfish thing.

You’re not doing this purely for you. You’re also doing it for the people around you. And yes, for people you don’t even know and may not even like.

And something else—no vaccine ever created has been 100% effective (though with a third dose of the polio vaccine, one gets very close to that). Think about the average seasonal flu shot—it’s around 60% effective. The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective after the second dose. Moderna is very close to that. But at the moment, we’re not even close to seeing the 5 or 6 percent breakthrough rate, based on the effectiveness of the two vaccines currently being administered. Instead of 5 or 6 percent, it is the aforementioned .008 percent!

Breakthrough cases have always been a given because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. It becomes a numbers game. The higher the number of people vaccinated, the more likely we’re going to see the breakthrough cases because the pool of recipients since the testing period has grown exponentially and represents a more real-world picture. Still, any betting or non-betting person should like these numbers.

For the vast majority of those who receive the covid-19 vaccine, it will work magnificently, and the only side effect is liable to be a sore arm.