Post 56: #Coronavirus and a global perspective.

Today we’re free-form writing!

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 56. 


RANT ALERT


Rest in Peace

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

To Ahmaud Maubry, I hope you rest in peace. You are not the first, and sadly, you will not be the last. But you are the one who made me break down.

To the other countless #African-American men and boys who were killed out of hatred last year, and the year before that, and for generations upon generations before that, I hope you rest in peace. Let’s hope that one day, the efforts of many millions of people who protest injustice and defend human rights will bear fruit and #justice will be served.

For the million+ #Syrians who were killed by Assad’s barrel bombs and chemicals, Iran’s starvation sieges, and Russia’s Air Force, I hope you rest in peace. Please know there are millions of other Syrians who are still fighting the good fight to ensure #freedom, #dignity, #equality, and #democracy for future generations.

To the millions of #Palestinians whose occupiers wiped them off the face of the earth, I hope you rest in peace. As with Syrians, millions of Palestinians continue to seek #freedom and their rightful homeland. May #justice be served.

To all victims of #genocide, I hope you rest in peace. Maybe one day the world will replace hate with #love. Or at least acceptance.

Millions of people have spent their lifetimes defending democracy and human rights, seeking justice, and searching for freedom. To no avail.

Rest in peace.

For now, I have no other words.


De plane…de plane

RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

In the opening scene of an old TV series, Fantasy Island, Tattoo rings the tower bell and yells “de plane, de plane” as an airplane begins its descent on the island.

Now that we are living on an island called #Lebanon (Syrian border is supposedly closed, southern border is not an option, that leaves us with the sea to the west, so we are essentially an island!), where the airport has been closed for over two months, seeing a plane makes me feel Tattoo’s excitement!

Planes arrive every other day – with repatriated Lebanese citizens from all over the world. With them, also, comes #COVID-19 cases. And with them, too, comes a lot of political favors. Nothing like the joy of Tattoo.

A week ago, a friend of mine and I saw a boat coming to dock full of containers and we got so excited! Did our imported food supplies finally arrive? Quaker Oats? Bob’s Red Mill?

Two days ago, a plane was descending on the old runway course and flew over our heads. It was a military plane. No questions asked, keep in mind that we don’t really have military planes or a real Air Force!

Yesterday, the notorious #London plane arrived. On it were passengers from London (who had to have had a PCR test done 3 days prior to boarding) and a contingent of students returning home from the US and Canada (who didn’t have PCR tests done). The plane was packed. The passengers went haywire not only because of the number of people on board, but also because they were made to pay exorbitant fares due to social distancing. There was no social distancing.

But pardon me for asking: how is that fair in the fight of COVID-19 in Lebanon (that has more or less contained the spread under very extenuating economic and political circumstances)?

And lastly but repetitively, who is responsible for this mess? Foreign ministry? Health ministry? The airline? As is the case in Lebanon, most likely it will be buried in the blaming game that everyone plays (government blaming banks and banks blaming politicians and politicians blaming one another…here we go ’round the Mulberry Bush).

Our Fantasy Island is sad but true.

Video taken anonymously on the London-Beirut flight yesterday

Ranting

Charlie, Metro #Washington, DC

I seem to be doing nothing but ranting these days. I can’t bear the lack of common sense or the unwillingness of people to do their jobs right. Especially at a time when there are lots of folks who do have more than two synapses in their brains together and are looking for work. Why do we have to endure the unbearable heaviness of people’s laziness?

First, I would like to see a new definition of the politically incorrect word “moron” in Oxford’s esteemed dictionary. It should read: MORON—someone God gave a hefty IQ to who refuses to use it, especially when it comes to acting with a modicum of common sense.

There are a lot of morons in charge of stuff during this pandemic, and their incompetence is furled in full display in the state where I live in Metro Washington, DC.

  1. Wearing of masks: A few goings on that seemed to have been missed by the morons in charge.
  2. In our esteemed state you must wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet from another person. Fair enough. Then explain to me why not a half a block from my home, construction workers are working a mere 3 inches apart and no one’s wearing a mask. And then, at the end of the workday, those folks run amongst the general population like potentially infected free-range chickens.
  3. Let’s move on to the state’s road construction crews. Same scenario as above. Can’t tell you how many of these state road workers, still in full construction regalia, are ambling through Costco after working all day with no mask on and snuggling up close and personal with their cohorts.
  4. Homemade, reusable masks: My state demanded ten cents to use a plastic bag for your groceries. They wanted everyone to use their soiled, never-washed reusable bags from home. I asked a local supermarket chain manager about the health risks involved with this. I believe my question went like this, “What are you guys gonna do when some pandemic rolls through our area and everyone’s trotting in their virus infected bags from home?” He, of course, accused me of rolling off my nut with that comment. Well, now my state’s banned these reusable bags from all stores. BUT HAVE THEY BANNED SOILED HOMEMADE RESUABLE MASKS? NO. So all those homemade masks and scarves people are sporting that they never likely wash are probably spreading more of the virus that preventing it.
  5. CARES/PUA: My state is flush with affluence., and we pay taxes out of every orifice in our bodies. As it happens, my little sole proprietor/LLC requires I meet with people face-to-face. No teleworking possible. So, I apply for the $600 CARES stipend I’m eligible for. My state has yet to able to figure out how to implement such payments to its eligible citizenry. Apparently, it has the worst record in the nation for getting these mandated payments to people. There are my tax dollars at work.

My first boss in television said to me on my first day, “If you make a mistake, don’t make me have to fire you. Gather up your things, leave the building, and I’ll have HR send you your final check.”

Guess what, I never screwed up. I think my old boss’s policy should be put into action in my state. The Secretary of Labor should gather up her things, leave the building, wait for her check (which she’d likely get before I ever get mine), and give her job someone who isn’t a moron.


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Post 39: #Coronavirus and a global perspective on…#freedom

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 39. 

Freedom and Birthdays

Norma B. Wallace, Bend, #Oregon

Freedom has different meanings for each of us at different times in our lives. 

An 18th birthday is marking entry into adulthood – a perceived feeling of being able to do whatever you want. Yet for my grandson, a young Wallace, he doesn’t get the simplest freedom of going out except for groceries till after the lockdown, due to the #Coronavirus. We will celebrate his birthday via Zoom. Freedom for William Wallace, the Liberator of Scotland [many, many generations before my grandson], meant Freedom for his country. 

I remember that my freedom as an 18-year-old was simply that I could do what I wanted. Yet I lived at home, and in 1962, that meant living by my dad’s rules. When I was asked out on a date, by my future husband, I was told “no” – not unless his aunt went with us. I wasn’t used to that type of reaction, but my father had a preconceived notion that I shouldn’t go out with Bill. We went out with Bill’s aunt, then proceeded to a pizza place on our own. I felt like I got my freedom despite the restriction. Bill and I were married for 54 years.

Freedom, no matter what the freedom, comes with responsibilities. I hope when the lockdown is over, everyone will take responsible precautions so that they are not infected, nor infect others, with this dangerous virus.  I feel that despite the restrictions, we can have freedom. We will need to maintain social distancing; perhaps wear masks until there is a vaccine, cure, or something that science says makes it safe. Your newfound freedom of movement will be precious as you have lost that freedom, through no fault of your own, don’t lose it again.

Be Safe.


Who can we trust?

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

The lack of real leadership in the USA is taking its toll on a country that has already been divided by outspoken, bi-partisan rhetoric.

Instinctively we humans either take on the role of shepherd or sheep. For centuries, we have had leaders and followers. Some forcing their way into power with might and others taking up arms against one other. Oppositions to those in power have come about when a group of people form a strong enough movement to rebel. We have seen it in every part of the world. We have seen it in this country when people protested the Vietnam war and demanded change. This is our constitutional right in the USA.

Here in the USA we are proud to be a country of the free. I like to think that after the War of Independence and the writing of the Constitution, we created a civilized country with civil rights and civil liberties. Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition; freedom to bear arms; and of course, freedom of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But freedoms need to have parameters. Laws have been implemented as far back as the 10 Commandments because people need direction. Left to our own devices, we would face mayhem, anarchy, and lawlessness.

We are currently experiencing unprecedented conditions. We have been told to shut down our businesses and shelter at home. Our children were sent home from schools to be home-schooled and we all complied.

Here we are months later, sitting and waiting. Placing all of our belief in an already fragile system.

Now Americans have begun to rebel in more than a dozen states. They believe their civil liberties and their personal freedoms have been violated. At first I thought I could see their point. People are losing so much during this economic shutdown. But here is where it all gets complicated. Who are these people? Are they frustrated workers who need their jobs back? Are they organized by conservative groups aiming to bring Trump mania back into the limelight? Why are the right-wing groups and militias taking to the streets with their guns? Do we still call them civil liberties “protesters” or White supremacists? Aren’t those the people who oppose our country’s civil rights?

We look to the president for guidance and we hear him mumble his sympathies to the protestors because he understand that “they were treated a little bit rough.” This raises the question again: Is this a campaign rally for Trump?

This country is the land of the free. We have witnessed governments around the world controlling their people through fear, undercover surveillance, and online monitoring. This is happening around the globe, not just in countries run by dictators. Yet right here in our own free backyard, we have succumbed to the fear and boarded ourselves up to stay protected from this unseen enemy.

The difference is that this is not a US problem. This is a global pandemic. This is a time where the true leaders can make a difference. But receiving mixed messages from our President and the constant barrage of media analysis does not reassure nor unify the American people.


Ayman…Jimena…Rahwa…Raj…

RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

Standing on a side street with his wooden cart, Ayman spends the day waiting for a car to stop by to purchase some of his jasmine plants.

My windows were half-closed. I hesitated to ask him if he had potting soil. Ayman was not wearing a mask, no gloves, and of course, no sanitizer in sight. He proceeded to walk straight to the car. He was happy to see a customer and, in his elation, totally disregarded social and physical distancing. For a minute, I thought if the window had been open, he would have leaned into the car…and my OCD went haywire!

Looking like an alien from outer space, adorned with my mask, shield, and gloves, I gently ask him to step back. He smiles. He smirks, actually.

So, we executed our soil transaction and then I decided to take the plunge. I asked him his name and where he was from. Ayman is Palestinian (I was parked outside the Bourj Al Barajneh camp, where many Palestinian refugees have lived here since the Nakba).

I playfully asked, “and why don’t you have a mask and gloves on, ya Ayman?” He again smirked at this mad alien, but with embarrassment this time. He said “Ya madam, I would rather spend the money feeding my children and they don’t do anything to protect you from the Corona.”

And right there and then, my heart was shattered into a thousand privileged pieces. Ayman would rather subject himself to the dangers of #Covid-19 to feed his children, than to protect himself.

I went further “But Ayman, if you get sick, who will feed your children then?” He lowered his head and said “If that’s God’s will, then be it.”

Poverty took Ayman’s freedom away. It also took away the freedom of over half the Lebanese population. Poverty dictates where you live, what you eat, and what water you drink. Poverty dictates that you would rather put your life in danger than to self-isolate. Poverty robs the Aymans of the world of having the choice to a better life.

Another great “advantage” of poverty is that it increases crime. When hungry, one will go to any lengths to feed their loved ones. And when a crime is committed and the perpetrator is caught, he loses more freedom by being sent off to jail. In many countries without a fair trial. And the cycle continues…

When we, in the first world, say that poverty is a violation of human rights and freedom, what are we really doing about it?

It was and is extremely necessary for the world to go into lockdown during a pandemic like this one. It is essential to protect all citizens. But is it viable for the (supposedly) 10%  of the world population who live below the poverty line, those who earn their bread from daily work, those who are forced to go to work while their bosses hunker down in luxury bunkers, not to have enough resources to adhere to the warnings and lockdowns? Is it possible that their poverty negates the advice to “wear a mask,” “shield your face,” “wear gloves,” and “wash your hands.” With what soap do they get to wash their hands?

This is what is beginning to happen here in Lebanon this week: the fabric of this lockdown is stretched to the seams. This week in Tripoli, people are protesting against hunger and poverty. No masks, no gloves, no social or physical distancing, and breaking the lockdown instructions about gatherings. They don’t care. Their freedom to provide food on the table at the end of the day was taken away from them by the government regulations and by a throned germ.

The price of the soil was $3. I gave Ayman LL20,000 (which used to be $13 and now is worth $6) and told him to keep the change. It is not much. But I also didn’t want him to feel like I was forcing charity on a working man. He smiled and thanked me. And I left reminding him to be safe. Knowing very well that what I just said means nothing to the Ayman or Jimena or Rahwa or Raj of the world.


Defining freedom

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

Where does your freedom begin and mine end? It’s a question I have been asking for years, and I haven’t found a definitive answer. I tried to answer it back in 2014, when I was working on the #Syrian Freedom Charter. Along with a team of activists, we tried to define “freedom” and what it could mean for Syrians after the regime collapsed. Freedom of expression, of religion, of political persuasion…these Syrians and their families were literally dying for freedom by defying authoritarian rule and meeting to discuss freedom in the first place.

If I fast-forward to today’s CoronaCrisis, I hear slogans like “give me liberty or give me death” coming out of the mouths of White supremacists and bored, middle-class fools in #Michigan. They had the gall to march to their state capitol building – some of them armed to the teeth – demanding that their governor lift all forms of quarantine, lockdown, or social distancing.

Why? Because they were asked to stay home for a couple weeks? No, Mr. repulsive White Supremacist, you’re not fighting for liberty. You’re merely trying to defy science and common sense. And you’re armed. You don’t get to cry dictatorship or authoritarianism just because your haircut has to wait. Ms. Middle Class, you’re not living under martial law because your nails miss the salon.

Give me liberty or give me death, indeed. Try waving your weapons around a government building while Black. Or Brown. Or Arab. Then you’d learn, very quickly, the “give me death” part. Then you’d learn where your freedom ends.

And yet, as much as I think the Michiganders (and protesters in other states) are idiots, I respect their right to engage in protest. But where does their freedom end; where does yours begin? If you lived in Michigan, would you be worried that those “free” people were spreading a deadly virus? If they infected you, and you were likely to die, would you say your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness had been denied? Where does your freedom begin?

Freedom is precious. Ask any Syrian (or many other nationalities; we don’t have a monopoly on suffering) who has survived torture, or whose relative(s) is still in prison, or whose entire family was blown up when a barrel bomb exploded over the house. Ask the millions of children who have been denied a future because of an authoritarian regime that refuses to step down. Try asking the people who died, and those who are still willing to do so 9 years later, for the cause of actual freedom. Give them liberty or give them death: that has been the reality of their existence.

“Give me liberty or give me death” needs to be the rallying call for people who are truly enslaved. People whose very existence is at the whim of dictators who think nothing of mowing down civilians. Freedom of expression is too precious to be wasted on frivolous chants like “Liberate Michigan!” when your governor spells out inconvenient truths.

But on the other hand….isn’t the beauty of freedom that you get to go out and protest? Isn’t that your fundamental right, whether your cause is just, racially motivated, or just plain ignorant?

I still love the question – where does your freedom begin and mine end – and it will continue to puzzle me. I’ll leave you with a quote from a young Syrian activist:

“I am already free; therefore, I have no need for you to free me. You can imprison me, torture me; you can even stuff me into this pack of cigarettes. I will still be free. Because I’ve freed my mind, and will no longer be enslaved by yours.”

A. in Gaziantep, Turkey

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We use photos from Internet searches. No copyright infringement intended.

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Post 20: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re a group of friends and family in various parts of the world, and we’re sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. Is it really already / only Day 20?

Your own oxygen mask first

RafifJ, Malaga, Spain

I am celebrating tonight. I just finished a massive client proposal, and this afternoon I taught an online class at my alma mater, American University. Tonight, I will not dwell on my guilt about everything – from Syrians who are basically hostages in their own country, or the millions of people around the world who are out of work and out of money. Tonight, I’m going to focus on the positive. I’m going to take care of me.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a powerful side effect of surviving crises: rampant guilt. We feel guilty because there are millions of refugees and we can’t help them. We feel guilty because we have work and others don’t. We feel guilty because we are healthy and others are dying of hunger, disease, or violence.

Guilt can be crippling, if you let it. During my Syria days, I felt paralyzed with guilt: I couldn’t stop the dictator, couldn’t stop the bombs, couldn’t stop all that death. Eventually, I learned to cope.

retrieved from womened.org
No copyright infringement intended.

Now with Corona, I hear from a lot of people who are feeling similar guilt. They don’t have the deadly virus; why are they allowed to be healthy, why didn’t they get the Corona lottery ticket? Why can’t they stop all the death?

My advice back to them is simple – and let’s agree up front that I am not in any way professionally qualified to dispense it. But I’ve lived a bit, and have experienced a lot of good and bad. I’ve had great successes and colossal failures, and I’ve learned with each.

So here are 5 basic things you can do to start to set yourself free. If you have other suggestions I’m all ears!

  1. Take care of yourself before you take care of others. Just like they tell you on the plane, make sure you can breathe before putting on someone else’s oxygen mask.
  2. A little guilt is good, if it motivates you to be grateful for what you have and if it spurs you to be helpful to others. You can get into a cycle of I-feel-guilty-therefore-I-do-something-good-for-others that in the end, is positive for everyone involved. Give back in small increments and celebrate each.
  3. Don’t bottle up your guilt or pretend it doesn’t exist. Talk about it. Hearing yourself say what’s on your mind may bring you back to the bigger picture.
  4. Recognize that no matter our circumstances, time brings change. Remembering that in the face of adversity can be reassuring.
  5. Reach out to someone and ask how they’re doing. This may sound stupid to you, but try it – you might realize that the simple act of asking – genuinely – how someone else is doing can help relieve your own stress.

And now that I’ve passed on this amazing wisdom, I’m off to celebrate a few successes and learn from (more) of my failures. I’m putting on my own oxygen mask.


Mending broken routines

RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

Yesterday, because it’s not a Monday, I rebelled against the kitchen. It is now a no-go-zone. Off-limits. My 3 meals a day with one snack (tea and one Digestive cookie in the afternoon). I am not on a diet, but I am going  to portion my intake and stay away from the off-limits zone. Lockdown in my own home! 

Today (again because it is not a Monday), I will start a new workout routine. Something I haven’t done since ummmm…forever (by EMC – Eastern Mediterranean Corona timing). So I am going to start with a light workout based on dance movements (everyone should always dance) and active yoga asanas. 

Tomorrow (not a Monday), I will add a new component to my routine and my baby steps will get me stronger, with better sleep and less anxiety. 

It’s the anxiety of the unknown, the worry about the future of the planet,
the fears we are living through each day that I need to shed.
Not ignore, but shed. 

Being an otherwise health-conscious being for most of my life, I took a long break that led to many aches and pains in my body. I feel lazy and depressed most of the time, and this has been a result of neglecting the one aspect that I usually preach about! So endorphins, I have decided to wage a war with you to get back to being me. 

This is Bambi

The first step is the hardest, and seeing so many challenges on social media, I decided my challenge is with myself. No, I will not be sharing daily posts, nor posting live workouts for you to join. Yes, I accept the challenge of achieving my own personal results. So here we go. Ask me next week how it’s going! 

Until then, I am preparing new routines to follow and get myself back to being me. My Sunday spa ritual will remain in my routine…and Bambi will continue on doing his Shavasana!!!! 


Thermometer monitoring

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

The other day I rummaged through my first-aid kit in search of my thermometer. I was desperate to have the thermometer in case one of us started feeling sick. Tucked into the corner of the box I finally found the digital thermometer I had bought over 6 years ago. At the time is was considered an innovative thermometer that you connect to the headphone jack of your smartphone and use with an app. 

I pulled it out just to realize that I would not be able to use it because I don’t have a headphone jack on my iPhone. Even if I could plug it in, I was sure that technology must have surpassed this innovation. 

I decided to attach it to another device with a headphone jack just to find out if it works. The app needed an update and then I followed the steps to calibrate my thermometer. The final step was to sign in. Wait! What?… why should I sign in? The app wanted to send me push notifications and notify me of updates.

Ummm, no thank you. 

I don’t know why I was surprised. I told my husband on our walk that the frickin’ phone has stored my thumb print, my voice, my face, and now my body temperature?

Last night as we watched the local news the was a segment on this thermometer. Jeez it was making the news! They claim to have over a million units in circulation and they are utilizing the data to track fevers around the country and their data indicates that they are seeing a drop in fevers since the lockdowns were implemented. The company is proud of the data and sees it as a good way to keep a check on the #coronavirus.

Personally I’m a conspiracy theorist. I believe that all these privacy infringements are a way for Big Brother to track his people. This company will sell our information to the government so they can track people with high temperatures for the Coronavirus. Other countries like China and Israel are openly using Social Tracking to monitor their citizens during this Pandemic. Perhaps it’s a good thing, but what about our privacy? 

Retrieved from medium.com.
No copyright infringement intended.

I know my life has been recorded for years, at the grocery store, my online purchases, the movies I watch, just to name a few. They even track which software I use because everything requires an online subscription. But just because it has become the norm doesn’t make it acceptable. Our fear of the #coronavirus might just be the platform Big Brother will use to manipulate us all into giving up more of our personal freedom. 


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