There’s nothing I can say to make this any better, so I’ll let the speech speak for itself.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the U.S. since the mid-term elections. Well, if I’m honest since way before the elections. And if I’m honest, I’m having a hard time being optimistic. Of understanding what people are thinking and why. Why there is either rabid, angry, ugly discourse from some and complete apathy from others. How is it that people are so lacking in sympathy, let alone empathy, toward fellow human beings.
Why people will vote against their own self interests just so that they can be seen as better than those “others”. How science and education became dirty words, academia seen as nothing but “liberal” ideology. Conservative states like Texas actually changing history in textbooks to gloss over what they would rather have people not know, advocating NOT teaching critical thinking skills in their party platforms, to keep the populace stupid and uninformed. Politicians repeatedly stating, “I’m not a scientist, but I believe climate change is a hoax” to keep the oil, gas and coal industries happy and raking in the billions, while 97% of scientists are raising ever more strident alarms. Demonizing low income workers as lazy and uneducated (just the way they like them) and refusing to raise the minimum wage to something even remotely livable while working feverishly to cut food stamps for children, the elderly and veterans. Propagating “patriotism” and “love for country” and “supporting our troops” to make it seem ok to fight never ending wars that make the rich ever richer all while making more veterans they can refuse to do right by. Bailing out banksters and their banks to the tune of billions of dollars, refusing to prosecute even one of the rich SOB’s who tanked the global economy, causing millions of people to lose their retirement funds, their homes, their jobs, their hope, while those few get ever richer hoarding and sitting on trillions of dollars. How one family, the Walmart heirs (6 people) own more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans (120 million people) yet they claim they cannot afford to pay a living wage or give full time work to their employees and rely on the government to provide aid to 70% of their workers all while working towards taking that aid away. And the Waltons are just one example, the Koch brothers another, of the 0.01% who have more money than they could possibly ever spend who diligently work toward keeping the masses poor and hungry and uneducated, and fighting amongst each other so they won’t realize the real problem has nothing to do with they deserve it because they worked hard but that the playing field was so ridiculously slanted in their favor. Pay equality for women still a pipe dream, a “pro-life” agenda that is really only “pro-birth” that is only about regulating a woman’s choices, not allowing her to make her own decisions and because once you are born to that poor woman who was unable to access needed reproductive healthcare or able to afford birth control so she could plan her family and who works 2 or 3 jobs at minimum wage and who can barely pay the rent and put food on the table, too bad, so sad, you should have been born into a “better” family.
Colleges and universities operating for profit, graduating students with so much student debt they have to live at home with their parents, putting off marriage and home buying and families they can’t afford with a collective debt load in the trillions making the mortgage crisis look like a walk in the park, but hey the rich are getting richer.
A militarized police force that murders with impunity, especially those of color, that pepper sprays, tear gases and arrests peaceful protestors, criminalizing our constitutional right to peaceful assembly, legally confiscating anything they “claim” might come from “drug” activity without having to prove that, to the tune of billions of dollars stolen from law-abiding citizens. And the corporate media, bought and paid for by the wealthy, disseminating fear and mistrust and false outrage, keeping focus on what the oligarchy wants while ignoring what they don’t. I could go on and on and on. And while both political parties are complicit in many of the laws that have allowed such a massive and unprecedented gap in income inequality, conservatives, the Republican party are by far the drivers of most of the above. And they were voted back into control of both houses of congress because people either voted against their own interests, buying into the horse shit arguments that they are better than all those “others” and they have the right to decide how huge swaths of people live their lives and believing that “conservative” values and Republicans will make sure “they” are taken care of, or because they were too apathetic to go to the polls and let their voices be heard and so made sure they would stay stuck. It boggles my mind. But hey, as long as there’s American Idol and CSI and the Bachelor and the Kardashians and sports to watch on TV and new shoes and TV’s and cars to go into debt purchasing and church to go to so they can learn to judge who “deserves” what and why and when because they’re “good”, they put money in the collection basket and donate to charity during the holidays, smug in their white, middle-class, privilege not noticing as even that is slipping away.
But, I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep fighting for progressive reform because I believe with every thing I have that every person born, no matter their gender, their skin color, their place of birth deserves to live with dignity and that means making a living wage, no matter what they do for a living, having food to eat, a roof over their heads, having access to decent education, healthcare, income equality, rights over their own healthcare decisions and more. And yes that means the super wealthy, the regular wealthy, and the well-to-do will have to put in their fair share. Think about it like this. Say there was a 10% across the board, everyone pays it tax rate. If you make $20,000 a year you would pay $2,000 in taxes leaving $18,000 to live on. If you made $80,000 a year you would pay $8,000 in taxes leaving you $72,000 to live on. If you made $500,000 a year, you would pay $50,000 in taxes leaving you $450,000 to live on. If you made $2,000,000 a year you would pay $200,000 in taxes leaving you $1,800,000 to live on. Do you see where I’m going with this? The more money you make, the more you can provide to the social good and still have more than enough money. And don’t even get me started by saying that the poor don’t pay taxes. Of course they do. They pay sales taxes, and all those local taxes in the form of fees for services and those taxes as a percentage of their income are very regressive meaning it is much harder for the poor to pay those and still have enough to live on. I guess my hope is that the average person will wake up, quit allowing the wealthy and their bought and paid for media and politicians tell them what is right and what is wrong and instead start practicing compassion, understanding and kindness to their neighbors. Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “love thy neighbor as thyself”? Your neighbor is every other person born on this Earth. Believe it.
There is much good news about Ebola and Dallas. First, some four dozen people who were in quarantine after having contact with Thomas Eric Duncan while he was ill are now through the quarantine period and have been cleared as being Ebola free. This number includes the four family members who lived with him for three or four days before he was hospitalized and were in the contaminated apartment for a couple of days after. From what I’ve read, it is a small apartment and was pretty harrowing before they were moved. And yet not one of them got sick. This should calm a lot of fears about how easy it is to catch Ebola, which is not very. Or at least it should, but listening to some of the people around here, who I thought were intelligent, well educated adults, I have some doubts about that. Sigh. Seriously people. Chill. Out.
The two nurses who were treating Mr. Duncan while he was most contagious and contracted Ebola have been moved to other hospitals with the capabilities to handle Ebola without further infecting healthcare workers. So there are no active cases of Ebola in Dallas at this time. There are 120 others being monitored, mostly those who also treated Mr. Duncan and the two nurses who are being monitored. Quarantines for that group will go as long as to November 7. I have no idea if it is a good sign that no one else has become symptomatic, but I choose to believe it is. People are not dropping like flies, even after treating someone ill with Ebola while protocols were not being followed. Again, Ebola is not that easy to catch.
The people who have been cleared, including Mr. Duncan’s family members, have zero chance of carrying the Ebola virus and need the community’s support and compassion, not fear and mistreatment. It is my hope that the Dallas community will rise to the occasion and welcome them back with open arms. I would hope that the hysterical levels of fear being seen in other communities, such as the school in Maine who put a teacher on 21 days leave (it better be paid!) because she was in Dallas at a conference 10 miles from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, or a school in Ohio closing because a student was on an airplane with one of the nurses who later became ill will not be the norm for the people who have been cleared here in Dallas. I hope we can show the country and the world how to compassionately and humanely treat people who have been through such a harrowing experience and not treat them like lepers.
November 7th is eighteen days from now. If no one else becomes ill, Dallas will be completely Ebola free. If someone else does become ill, their contacts will have a 21 day period of quarantine. But, as is becoming increasingly clear, Dallas nor the United States has an outbreak or epidemic of Ebola. Stop watching and listening to the fear-mongering news shows trying to get ratings and the fear-mongering politicians trying to score political points. Below are two links to information about Ebola from the CDC and Dallas County Health and Human Services. Despite all of the idiots out there squalling that the government is lying to you about Ebola, these ARE good sources of information.
Today is an absolutely beautiful day here in Dallas. It is sunny and 80º. In fact we’ve had beautiful weather all month. That may have played into why The State Fair of Texas brought in $41 million in tickets sales, breaking the previous record of $33 million. Hmmm. Seems like most of the people of Dallas and it’s visitors have not been taken in by the fear-mongering after all. Good on you, Dallas!
A second nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola. I’ve been being stupid again and reading comments on various news forums and Facebook and the amount of panic, fear-mongering and outright stupidity is staggering. And the finger pointing in all the wrong directions is mind-boggling. I did find this meme which cracked me up:
So, who’s fault is it? Because as much as some people detest the man for their, of course, (snicker) non-racist beliefs of birtherism, socialism and any other -ism they throw at him and hope it sticks, this is not President Obama’s fault. And it wouldn’t matter if there were a Republican president right now, this is not one man’s fault. Whose fault it is cannot be pinned to one or even a couple of people. Believe me, there is lots and lots of fault to go around and there are a whole lot of people in this country who see part of the problem in the mirror every day but prefer to blame the President.
Let’s start with the state of Texas. How could a state be at fault? Well in case you hadn’t heard, Texas politics are deeply red (conservative). There are a whole lot of progressives in Texas working to change that and change will come, but not soon enough in this case. Texas is a “right to work” state. A conservative euphemism for union-busting, pro-corporation policies. What it means in the real world is take this job as is, or leave it. Speak out about problems or issues or low pay or hazardous working conditions and we can fire you with impunity. And you have absolutely no recourse to appeal. It breeds environments where all kinds of problems can occur. Remember that huge explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, TX that leveled half the town? Do you think the people that worked there didn’t know there were problems? Of course they did. But you’ve got to feed your family and keep a roof over their heads, so better to keep your mouth shut and keep your job. Hospitals are no different. This kind of policy breeds workplace cultures that punish whistleblowers and allows the companies behind them to make ever more profits. And hospitals in this country are for-profit ventures. More on that later. It is now coming to light that the nurses didn’t have the protective gear they needed, in fact they were told by hospital ADMINISTRATORS that face masks were unnecessary. Hospital ADMINISTRATORS, you know, the folks who balance the budget (I mean make sure there’s a tidy profit) told nurses they didn’t need protective masks to keep them safe from Ebola. Not to mention that there apparently was a shortage of needed gear in the first place. I mean, why keep a surplus of gear that would keep your staff safe in an emergency situation because, profits! [ETA: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital stated in a press conference this morning that all CDC protocols were followed and that all protective gear was available for nurse’s use.] And let’s discuss the fact that Mr. Duncan was sent home with antibiotics the first time he went to the hospital. The hospital has been hemming and hawing, at first blaming Mr. Duncan for not telling them he was from Africa, then admitting they knew he was from Africa but blaming a nurse for not telling the doctor, then admitting a doctor knew but their computer system messed up etc. The fact is he was an uninsured black man in a deeply conservative southern state. If you haven’t figured out what I mean by that, I’ll point it out for you. He was black. Racism is still rampant in this country despite what the very people who are the most racist want you to believe. You know, the ones who start a racist rant by stating, “I’m not racist, but…” And he was uninsured, meaning it was unlikely the for-profit hospital would get paid. So despite the fact that they all knew where he was from and that his symptoms were consistent with Ebola they sent him home. He just wasn’t good for the hospital’s bottom line. And now we’re learning that even after he came back the second time and in spite of a head nurse’s increasing outrage, hospital ADMINISTRATORS didn’t want to put him in isolation. Bad for the bottom line, because that stuff’s expensive. It is the very policies that this state endorses and embraces that allow that kind of outrageous practices in a hospital. And if you vote for the politicians who endorse these kinds of policies, you are part of the problem of Ebola spreading in Texas.
Now would be a good time to talk about the healthcare system in this country. You know, the one conservatives crow about being the best in world. Well, maybe it is for the wealthy and a bit better for those with insurance. But even with insurance, it is really easy to be bankrupted by a bad accident or illness. The Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare (or according to conservatives the single most horrific law ever enacted in the history of everything) has made insurance affordable and available to more people, keeps insurers from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, keeps insurers from dropping people from the insurance when they get sick, and prevents insurers from putting caps on the amount of insurance a sick person can get. All of those are good starts in the right direction. The other big part of the ACA is the expansion of Medicaid to a lot more people. All the states have to do is accept money from the federal government to expand Medicaid in their states. Of course Texas being red (conservative) threw a hissy fit about taking more money from that (insert insult of choice here) in the White House and turned down that money leaving many thousands of people here still without insurance that otherwise would have qualified. Would Medicaid have covered Mr. Duncan since he was a visitor from another country? No, but if hospitals here were getting Medicaid for the uninsured they by law have to at least make an attempt at treating in the ER it would cut down on their costs and make it less likely they’d turn away a foreign national without insurance. At least it should. But there’s that bottom line to consider, so maybe not. And here’s the thing, because our hospital system in this country is for-profit, not for doing the morally right thing of treating any person with any illness, even people with insurance are screwed on a regular basis by doctors and hospitals who exploit the system to line their own pockets. So when you have a system that puts profits ahead of patient care, that put administrators in charge of treatments and mix that with an uninsured, minority patient it’s a recipe for disaster. And if you are one of those people who believe if all those low-income people would just quit being so lazy and work harder at those minimum wage jobs they could all just magically get better paying jobs that don’t exist and get their own insurance then you are part of the problem of Ebola spreading in Texas.
Now, lets move on to the CDC (Center for Disease Control). The CDC has been a presence in the media since Mr. Duncan was diagnosed and have been doing their job of attempting to keep the populace calm. And that is an important job. Have you ever seen a herd of animals stampeding? Have you ever seen a large group of panicking humans? About the same. Of course, most people in the comments I’ve been reading think the CDC is just lying to them about how hard it is to spread Ebola and everyone is at risk!!!! But seriously people. Mr. Duncan’s family members, who spent days with him while he was sick with symptoms and who then spent more days in the contaminated apartment before they were moved have not gotten sick and are past the most likely timeframe for getting sick. They still have a few days of quarantine left, but each day that passes they have less likely a chance of getting it. The two people who have contracted it had daily extensive contact with Mr. Duncan when he was the most ill and contagious. They clearly did not have the resources or training to be safe and that is partially on the CDC and partially on the hospital, but to believe the CDC is lying about how easy it is to get Ebola is to not understand the science. Oh wait, conservatives and science don’t mix. The CDC has also sent personnel to help the hospital and city of Dallas with their response. Since the diagnoses of the 2nd nurse to have contracted Ebola, they have admitted they should have sent a much larger presence to Texas to help. Well, how in the world can we trust the CDC when they would screw up so badly? Well, lets talk funding. Remember the sequester? You know, when conservatives held the government hostage, shut it down unless it got draconian austerity measures passed? And President Obama relented thinking he could manage to work with Republicans and then sequestration went into effect because of course Republicans weren’t going to work with the (insert insult of choice here) in the White House. Well guess which budget got huge cuts? You guessed it, the CDC (along with everything else except the military). And we’re not just talking about the resources to send personnel to Texas. The CDC goes to other countries to help them with outbreaks that occur. To keep them from spreading. So that they don’t spread to this country. The best way to keep diseases like Ebola from spreading to this country is to keep them from spreading in other countries. But if the CDC doesn’t have the resources to help do that, it is inevitable that something will start to spiral out of control and it will hit here. Which is what has happened with Ebola. And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite armchair solution: ban all flights into this country from Africa. IT WILL NOT WORK FOLKS. You ban all flights from certain African countries, people who need to get here will just fly into another country and then fly here. The only way to would be to stop ALL flights into this country. Do you think the US economy not to mention world economy could handle that? The other thing I’ve heard from the panicked masses is to close the borders of the countries who have people infected by Ebola. OK. Whose going to close the borders of 3 or 4 large countries? Our military? If that were even possible, which it is not, that would put thousands and thousands of American servicemen in contact with Ebola. If President Obama ordered American troops into 4 countries to forcibly try and control their borders, then I might think he’s as awful as conservatives believe. And it wouldn’t work. There would be no way to completely stop people from coming or going across borders as we here in border states understand. You’d think all the panicked conservatives would get it too since they constantly whinge about our porous borders. The best way to stop the current outbreak is to make sure there are enough resources and personnel both in the countries with outbreaks and here at home and that will mean spending money. Congress should immediately reinstate previous budgets and add as much more as is needed. But they won’t. And they’ll blame Obama and so will all the other conservatives out there who refuse to understand how the real world works.
So, OH MY GOD, EBOLA!! WHAT SHOULD WE DO!! WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!! WE HAVE TO BLAME SOMEBODY!!! Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s what to do. First, calm the f*ck down. If you want to worry about something, worry about how 88 people A DAY die from gun violence in this country. I will repeat that. 88 people A DAY die from gun violence in this country. That is nearly 31,000 people a year. And the conservative wing nuts are just fine with that because “my right to own as many and every kind of gun there is with no restrictions trumps your right to be alive.” You want to be furious and up in arms about something? How about that? Next, how about the fact…no wait. Never mind. If you truly care about what is going on in the world and wish to stay informed you either already educate yourself or are capable of looking up and confirming everything I’ve stated in this piece. If you want to stay true to your ideology, your fear, your hatred of those who are different or “other”, if you want to believe that you are better than anyone else for whatever reason, then nothing I say here will change your mind. You won’t get that opinion is not equal to fact, that ideology is not equal to science, that your worldview is not the end all and be all. You’ll just stay fearful and angry and continue to vote for and support policies that seek to exclude and denigrate and keep downtrodden those “others”. The good news is that progressive ideals have ALWAYS won in the end. People who believe in the sanctity of ALL life, not just those of unborn fetuses, people who believe resources are there for ALL people no matter their circumstances, people who believe war-mongering is not the way to a peaceful world, people who believe science can advance our civilization and make life better for EVERYONE, those people and their ideals will prevail. So I will continue to stay optimistic that despite mistakes being made, despite a lack of resources, despite the greed and opportunism of so many in this country, this outbreak (if it can really be called that at this point) will be contained as will the real one in Africa. Lessons will be learned that will help doctors and scientists deal with the next one. And life will go on.
A predator stalks the city
unseen and unseeable
unheard and unhearable
only making itself felt
through the feverish heat
caused by viral attacks
of chuckling and muttering hyena pundits
and buzzing, circling vulture helicopters
a populace convinced they are next to die
behaving like meerkats popping up and down
imagining blood seeping, leaking, spraying
frantic to understand
yet hiding their heads in the ground
as the predator looms large
given free reign to roam
because rumor is easier than truth
paranoia more comforting than trust
hysteria more interesting than calm
the viral predator
takes more and more victims
and even more refuse to inoculate
against the rising threat
because there cannot be trust
in the lion that governs
and says all is safe
itself sure to chew on your bones
if you let it get close
so rumor, paranoia, hysteria
and the viral predator
FEAR burn through the city
I’ve been kicking around a few ideas for my first blog post. Not really clicking with any of them, writing some drafts and letting them sit. Thinking I may never get this blog rolling. And then yesterday, Ebola in Dallas. I live in Dallas. In fact I live a couple of blocks from the hospital handling this case. I’m so close I’m sometimes awakened at night by the sirens of ambulances heading to the ER. So I’ve been monitoring the news, mostly online because I rarely watch TV news. Twitter has been great for quick updates by local media. I watched the CDC press conference streaming online. There has been a news helicopter hovering over the hospital all yesterday afternoon and today as well. Not sure what they think they’re going to see other than rooftops and parking lots, but I guess when you have airtime to fill that’s better than nothing. Life is going on much as it always has here in Dallas, except I’m sure for the family of the man with Ebola. That is a good thing, but doesn’t make for a very interesting blog post. Then I made a mistake. I was on Facebook and there was a post in my feed from The White House. Very short and to the point. It basically said you can’t get Ebola from air or water or the food in the U.S. It is spread only through contact with blood or bodily fluids of a person or animal sick with Ebola or who has died from it. And the U.S. has the best doctors and health care infrastructure in the world (I might have a quibble or two with that last bit, but agree we are much better equipped to handle an outbreak than West Africa). So what was my mistake? Clicking on the comments section. Holy Panic Outbreak, Batman! It’s hard to describe that dark and paranoid space. But I’ll try with a replay of my thoughts as I read the thread:
Paranoid much dude?
Really? I think that would’ve made the news by now.
Maybe if I read it again.
Seriously dude, seek help.
No good will come of replying to any of this.
Eye roll HARD.
I wonder if you can actually get your eyes stuck doing that?
Did any of these people even read the post?
I hope someone is monitoring you dude, ’cause damn.
I don’t think that’s even English.
Well it’s English words, but someone seems to have put them through a scrambler.
Do NOT reply!
*head – wait.
Oh My God.
Oh. My. God.
No, don’t read it again.
If that’s the case we need to evacuate North America, ASAP.
DO NOT reply, there’s no reasoning with this level of… jeez I can’t even think of a word to describe it. Wow.
That’s gotta hurt.
Oh yeah, I’d MUCH rather have you in charge, dude.
Don’t skip working out today, just in case remember rule number 1 for the Zombie Apocalypse. Cardio.
I don’t think your guns will protect you from Ebola.
That many guns could be helpful if the virus mutates into, what would you call it? Zombola?
As for myself, I think I’d rather meet a zombie, dude.
I’ve gotta quit rolling my eyes, I’m getting a headache.
I think there might be material for a screenplay in here.
I could call it Day of the Zombola Dead.
Or Night of the Creeping Zombos.
Or My Arsenal vs. those Librul Government Zombies.
I have got to get out of here, they’re sucking me in.
I try to keep a sense of humor about everything. Just makes life easier. And a lot more fun. But it is just so frustrating sometimes the things that people are afraid of. There are very real issues with the health care system, the political system, and the educational system (as the level of literacy in the comments made glaringly clear) in this country. And they have zero to do with what most of these people are afraid of. But all of that is for other posts. Due to the nature of our global economy and the ease of world travel, it was inevitable that Ebola would make it to the United States. The fact that Dallas has the first case is not scary because I do believe the city, county, state and this country are still able to pull together to get what’s most important handled. Dallas is a vibrant, strong, international city with lots of resources and very smart and dedicated people who will do what it takes to keep a large outbreak from occurring. Of that I have no doubt. Although I may just go check out that Zombie Apocalypse survival kit I saw on Amazon. Just in case.