We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 35. WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship.
On weekends it’s free-for-all writing.
Forty-Five Dead and Counting
Charlie, DC Metropolitan Area
The media abounds with spit and spittle flying out of the mouths of the media. I’m not going to say “press” because we don’t have journalists anymore. We have opinionists who wave the flag of the First Amendment, but they are hardly serving the public good. And they’re writing and spouting is hardly “free.” It’s costing the American public a lot in terms of prejudiced information that these opinionists are spreading to serve the ratings god and their personal narcissism. And just so I’m clear, I sling these arrows at the liberal AND conservative opinionists.
One of the costliest prices I’ve seen us pay is the death of 45 seniors at a nursing home in Richmond, VA. One national paper thought it had done its press duty by reporting these deaths – when the body count got so high they could tell the public it was the highest number of #Coronavirus deaths at any one nursing home. Job done. Had a headline grabber to get clicks.
Where was the “press” when these people were dying? Presumably, these seniors didn’t all die in one day. It’s been going on for weeks. The workers there had been trying to get help through the Virginia system to no avail, as best I can tell from the “reporting.” Why wasn’t this being covered in the local and national press well before the count got so high? This nursing home is in the commonwealth’s capital, where the governor lives. After the national story broke, why hasn’t the “press” been all over that governor like cheap suit about how that happened right under his and the state legislature’s noses? And how are they going to make sure the elderly in his state are better protected in the future?
Of all stories out of COVID-19, this is the one that will stick with me forever. Not the applauding of ourselves about how America’s “cowboyed up” to fight the virus. But how this country let down 45 elderly people who deserved better from us. Who suffered needlessly. And how many other stories are there like this that the opinionists have neither the skills nor the compassion to cover?
BTW…There are no pictures in my rant because there’s not a wall big enough to post all the faces of shame that belong on it for letting this happen in Virginia.
On paying taxes
Michael Purzycki, Arlington, Virginia
A group of people are waiting for a business transaction to begin. As they wait, they start talking about the difficult times they live in, and soon the conversation turns to taxes. Someone asks Abraham, one of the oldest people in the group, whether he thinks the taxes they have to pay are too high. Abraham replies that, while they are indeed high, the burden of paying them is nothing compared to the burdens of people’s own “idleness,” “pride,” and “folly.”
A scene like that would be remarkable in the United States in any era, merely for the fact of any American telling his fellow Americans to stop complaining about their taxes. But Benjamin Franklin wrote this scene in 1758, in The Way to Wealth. Years before American colonists, including Franklin, rebelled against a British government that taxed them without giving them a say in the process, the author of Poor Richard’s Almanac reminded his readers that taxes are not the worst of life’s burdens.
Normally, April 15 would have been Tax Day in the U.S. That dreaded day when, in the imagination of many Americans, the IRS robs us of money we deserve to keep and forces us to spend precious time looking for loopholes to keep more of what’s rightfully ours. This year, of course, the pandemic has forced the government to push back the filing deadline, and the IRS is giving most of us $1,200 checks to help us pay our bills. But #COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to think about how vital taxes are to the society we value and are trying to preserve.
The pandemic has laid bare may weaknesses in the U.S., including priorities underfunded by government – medical supplies, medical research, computer technology in government offices, preparedness for major disasters. These things don’t come cheap, and while some corporations may be ahead of the curve, we can’t be too reliant on organizations whose biggest motive is profit, not service. We have accepted major changes to our lives, from social distancing to greater use of teleconferencing. As things get closer to normal, higher taxes are another change for us to get serious about.
When the pandemic has passed, there will be other challenges to tackle – climate change, aging infrastructure, the high cost of housing and childcare, a shortage of skilled workers in many industries. Each of these is going to cost money. Yes, the 1% should pony up more than anyone else. In the short term, we need all the revenue we can get, and the best place to start is at the top. But if we rely too heavily on the rich to fund our government, does it really belong to us? Won’t we be better invested in a government we’re helping to fund more of ourselves?
Plus, some changes won’t happen if we rely too much on private virtue. We need a collective push in the right direction. For example, if we had a carbon tax, we would have a financial incentive to buy fewer things made of plastic, not just rely on restaurants to get rid of plastic straws. Carmakers would be motivated to make electric cars cheaper. And more electric companies would shift from coal to nuclear and renewables. Likewise, if we taxed financial transactions, we might rethink our reliance on borrowing and Wall Street for so much of our economy; we might save more money the next time the economy booms.
Yes, the tax code could be made a lot simpler. Yes, many government programs and bureaus could be made more efficient. Yes, it matters greatly which individuals are in which positions of power. But it also matters how willing we are to pay for what we use. It matters how strong our connection is to the government we rely on to keep us safe. Before the next disaster strikes, we should look for ways to strengthen that connection, including by investing more of our own funds, limited though they may be, in a government that helps us all.
What will be the outcome?
RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon
When this lockup/lockdown, whichever way you look at it, is over, when a cure to COVID-19 and a vaccination are available, what will the world be like?
Environment: After seeing clearer seas and rivers, animals walking about city streets, mountains visible after years of hiding behind a cloud of pollution, will we be more caring toward Mother Earth?
Life and stress: After having time to spend “talking” to ourselves and reflecting, will we choose to go back to being aggravated by daily life and its stresses?
Kindness: After the whole world united behind caregivers, emergency staff, nurses, doctors, and other essential workers, will we go back to bumping into someone on a busy street and caring less, not stopping for a second to say I am sorry?
Humanity: After seeing so much death take over so many lives and hurt so many people, will we go back to passing by the homeless man sitting with his dog and pretend he is not there?
War: After pillaging countries over oil and gas and other mineral resources, will we go back to waging wars on behalf of the military-industrial complex and think it is okay because it doesn’t touch our daily lives?
Poverty: After fearing the worst for those who don’t have medical benefits due to poverty and have no time to sign up because they are holding 3 jobs, trying to feed their children, will we accept anything short of universal health care for every inhabitant of this earth?
Human rights: After seeing the slums in India, the refugees in Gaza, Syria, Myanmar, and Yemen, are we going to keep ignoring basic human rights? Abused domestic workers? Abused women? Trafficked children?
Greed: After seeing that a throned spec of a germ doesn’t discriminate between a Prime Minister, an actor, a refugee, a doctor, a nurse, a retiree, everyone essentially, will we still be greedy about wealth and materialism?
If we come out of this lockup / lockdown with the same perspective as when we went in, then we, as humans, should be eradicated by a throned germ and leave this Earth to the better living species.
Yes, I am a bleeding heart, but we need more bleeding hearts to envision what the new normal outcome will be like.
And now, for a little levity…
This swamp is your swamp, this swamp is my swamp, from California…to Andalucia
RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain
Do you remember The Princess Bride, one of the greatest books / movies of all time? Remember when Dear Sweet Westley and Princess Buttercup made their perilous journey through the Fire Swamp? There, Westley (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts) fought lightning sand, flame spurts, and the infamous Rodents of Unusual Size, or R.O.U.Ses before reaching the other side.
I find that navigating today’s news in our new “normal” lockdown state is kind of like walking through the Fire Swamp. At every turn, mayhem and fire spurts await; lightening sand is lurking and ready to suffocate us. Just when we think we’ve gotten to safety, another damn R.O.U.S. shows up and sets us back. Tweets encouraging people to “LIBERATE” their state, and linking lockdowns to a loss of 2nd Amendment rights, have become the modern-day mating ritual for R.O.U.S.es. While there is similar madness elsewhere in the world, I think our R.O.U.S. is the biggest and most dangerous one out there.
Back to the Princess Bride for a second. After surviving the Fire Swamp, Westley is tortured in the Pit of Despair to the point that he’s mostly dead. He recovers, of course, and in the end, because it’s a fairytale, Buttercup and her Dear Sweet Westley are reunited. Twu Wuv triumphs.
In our real-time horror movie, I simply cannot see good triumphing over evil anytime soon. If you’ve ever seen Contagion, or read The Stand, you know that today’s scenario has been playing out in imaginations for decades. If you read the recent Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic and U.S. Response, you might conclude that today’s nightmare wasn’t just a figment of someone’s imagination; governments KNEW. GOVERNMENTS KNEW.
What does this all mean for the average person? Well, that is totally subjective. But I bet one universal truth is that we can no longer make our own decisions about our near-term futures. Today’s reality means that next week’s travel plans are just as realistic as “tomorrow, inshallah.” And not being able to make decisions about next week, or next month, fills me with the kind of anxiety Princess Buttercup must have felt upon entering the Fire Swamp. Side note: Where the hell is MY Dear Sweet Westley?
In the end, and because this is NOT a fairytale, our global Fire Swamp is getting more dangerous. The R.O.U.S.es are multiplying like…rats. The entire world has become the Pit of Despair, and the ROUSs are torturing us until we’re mostly dead. I can only remain hopeful that one day, we’ll be rid of the R.O.U.S.es.
May Twu Wuv triumph.
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