ARE ANTI-MASKERS NARCISSISTS? — by ELLIN CURLEY

We all know by now that Trump is a malignant narcissist. He’s an anti-masker. He’s anti social-distancing. He downplays the danger and severity of Coronavirus even though he has had it himself. He makes fun of people who are responsible and follow “the guidelines” to protect themselves and others against the virus.

I never thought narcissism could predispose people to be risk death in a pandemic. To become “anti-maskers” and COVID-19 rule breakers too. Several recent studies concluded that narcissistic behavior has likely contributed to noncompliance with public health standards during this pandemic. You can see narcissistic tendencies in people who feel that they are special and believe sensible rules don’t apply to them. Narcissism underlies and heightens their lack of caring about others. These are people who focus on their “rights” or their “inconveniences” rather than recognizing that obeying these rules helps other folks as well as the community as a whole.

According to psychologists, narcissists characteristically lack empathy. They feel grandiose and entitled. They do what they want, so if what they want is contrary to what the rules allow, they ignore the rules. These antisocial traits predispose large swaths of the American citizens to refuse to adhere to safety health measures –like mask-wearing, social-distancing and avoiding large groups. All of which have been put in place to limit the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

Rhetoric from all of the COVID rule-breakers highlight stunning examples of lack of empathy along with feelings of entitlement. Statements like “I don’t have to” and “You have no right to tell me what to do,” even if it’s for the common good, are typical. The rage, oppositionality, and childlike petulance are characteristic of narcissists. Somehow, you’d think actual life-and-death danger might make even narcissists stop and think about the potential effects of their behavior, but apparently not.

The U.S. is known to have higher levels of narcissistic personalities than other western democracies and no one knows why. Maybe it’s the nature of the people who came here from other places? No one is surprised that these personality issues have kept America from effectively minimizing the spread of the Coronavirus. We have actually been among the worst countries in controlling the virus and have among the highest rates of both infections and deaths — and since England is right in there with us, maybe that’s the common factor?

Perhaps the take-away from our dismal handling of this worldwide crisis is if we want to accomplish anything nationally in our future, we need to address the narcissism of a substantial block of our population.

To move forward, we need cooperation from the majority of our citizens, To make meaningful inroads into some of the attitudinal and other social issues we face — such as racism, sexism and homophobia — we’ll never eliminate these problems when more than a third of the country are reluctant to address their prejudices and refuse to be told what to think or do.

Unless most people are willing to accept majority-held values based on science, statistics, research, and facts, we’ll continue to butt our heads against these self-built walls for generations to come. It’s not a pretty picture.

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT, BUT SOMETIMES, YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED

If you didn’t believe before, believe now. I was waiting. I knew. It had to be. I’m surprised it took this long, but finally, we’re here. Is this another media hoax? If 45 should die, would that be a SUPER media hoax? The ultimate media hoax? I know I’m should be praying for the welfare of the ill, but I don’t have it in me to get that “angelic” look you see on statues in the cemetery. I wish I could. I’m sure that would make me a better person, but I never claimed I was perfect.This definitely proves my imperfection. No matter how I look at it, this man deserves this disease. As does Melania. As do the remainder of his wretched crew. Those helpers in his horrific destruction of our environment, courts, political, and legal systems. He has stolen our money, allowed — ENCOURAGED — more than 200,000 people to die of COVID-19.

It didn’t have to be this bad. Whatever it is, however it goes, this man earned it.

Because of his last “rally,” all his big contributors are also in quarantine. You think these donors might possibly be reconsidering if they still feel like giving him a ton of their money? Or — any? The GOP doesn’t even have a “back-up” candidate — and I don’t think Ivanka or Jared are getting anyone’s nod. So who? Pence? Really? Would anyone vote for him even if he ran? The Big Orangeman’s cult followers are not Pence followers. Orangeman isn’t the GOP. It’s just this guy and he is sick. Even if he recovers, how long will he be sick? So far it’s mild, but it’s always mild at the beginning, often for a couple of weeks. Then it gets worse and sometimes, even worse than that. Which of his crazed followers is going to want to stand maskless by his bedside now? How far does their worship really go?

No one begged for this illness more than Trump. He has literally ranted to the heavens to “bring it on.” Somehow, when you beg the universe to “sock it to me,” you generally get socked. I don’t know who, what, or why the universe is how it is, but if I had anything to say about it, I would feel that those who beg for trouble should be allowed to experience it.

Now, we all wait and see how it develops. He’s old. He’s obese. Rumors of heart problems abound. He has the worse diet in the world. He has done much evil to many people and these folks are not rooting for his welfare. How could they? So perhaps the heavens are speaking. We are listening. We hope for the best and in this case, “the best” is what?

What is the best for me, for us, for those poor locked up immigrant children? For the earth and the seas and the water we drink and the air we breathe. And incidentally, for “the man who would be king.”

I’m not sure what “best” is giving all the individuals involved, from the poorest to the wealthiest. You don’t know either. His death could be best. His illness and recuperation might be best. The fear of the disease itself might in itself be best. I am so very, very glad I am not in charge of the “what’s best.” I bet you are equally glad. If there is a God, do your thing, whatever it may be. I’m just thrilled to not be the one making the decisions. No matter how much you believe in whatever you believe, it can be a hard to figure what a guy like “the man who would be king” deserves. As long as I am not in charge of dispensing this piece of karmic dogmatic justice, go Karma and all that this implies!

As “the man who would be king” said, keep your finger on the trigger. Stay locked and loaded. Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.

CLIMATE CHANGE IN SOUTH CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS

We don’t need scientists to explain climate change to us. We can see it all around us. The rivers are dry with their muddy bottoms showing. Fall came weeks early and blew away a week later. The winds which normally blow straight up the Atlantic shore are twisting eastward, so all the rain goes from the mid-Atlantic area straight out to sea, completely missing the northeast.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As a watershed area, the water that we store here is part of the water that keeps the entire state flowing wetly along. And some of the water normally flows down into Connecticut and parts of southern New Hampshire.

Muddy banks, short dock at Riverbend

I leave a bowl of water on the deck. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds  … they all come to drink. Usually there are little rivulets and patches of wet through the woods. But not this year. It’s bone dry which is scary for any number of reasons, including the danger of fire. So far, it has just been little brush fires, quickly squelched. But New England is 70% wooded. There’s a lot of forest and it’s dry. And contrary to presidential warnings, no one has been out there raking the woodlands to keep them neat. What a really stupid idea that is. There’s so much stupidity going around. It’s hard to keep track of all the dumbness. I wish some of the incredibly stupid ones would drop by. Check out our dry rivers. Maybe pick up a rake and start raking my woods. Maybe cut down a few ailing trees while he’s at it.

We aren’t waiting for climate change to come. It’s here. We’re living in it.

“HELLO IN THERE” AND THE SAD DEPARTURE OF JOHN PRINE – RICH PASCHALL

A John Prine Memory, by Rich Paschall

John Prine (Photo Credit: Ron Baker)

When John Prine was growing up in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb along the west side of Chicago, he helped a friend with a newspaper route. “…and I delivered to a Baptist old peoples home where we’d have to go room-to-room.”  That experience stayed with him and inspired him to write the song “Hello In There.”  It appeared on his debut album in 1971.

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”

John performed around Chicago at a number of clubs in the late 1960s. He was one of many singer-songwriters here in that era. His debut album was well received and he was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1972. “I don’t think I’ve done a show without singing ‘Hello in There’,” John stated in the liner notes to ‘Great Days”, an anthology album put out in 1993.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”

John Prine died on April 7th. He had been stricken with COVID-19. He was 73. He won two Grammy Awards in his career and was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. His song, “Hello In There” has been covered by numerous artists.

One of the artists to frequently sing John’s song was Joan Baez. If you have plenty of Kleenex handy, you may wish to see her tribute to John recorded from her kitchen when he was hospitalized. She had covered the song on her 1975 album, “Diamonds and Rust.”

“I like songs that are clean and don’t have much fat on them — every line is direct, and all people can relate to it. That’s what I try to do.” – John Prine

See Also: “The Music Of John Prine,” by Marilyn Armstrong, SERENDIPITY, April 8, 2020.
SOURCES: “Joan Baez Dedicates ‘Hello in There’ to John Prine,” by Angie Martoccio, rollingstone.com March 30, 2020.
John Prine Was The Master Of Lyrical Economy,” by Morgan Enos, Grammys, grammy.com April 8, 2020.
John Prine (album),” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org
John Prine,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org

TODAY’S NEWS AT SIX

Watching the news tonight was illuminating, in an Illuminati kind of way 

Welcome to the Trump Show

The first subject they covered was politics, including the postal crisis, a couple of local races, plus concerns about not getting ballots delivered or entered on time. It continued with national politics, tape on Trump family members horrified at their cousins or nephew’s total lack of principles or ethics and continued with rumors that a similar tape is coming featuring Melania calling him a complete liar. Then the announcement that Kellyanne Conway will shortly leave the White House to “take care of family matters.” Probably the news that her daughter — horrified that mom was planning to speak at the Republican Convention — is seeking legal emancipation. This was a pretty good hint to Kellyanne that things aren’t going well at home.

A forest burns as the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire advances, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The news rolled on to the double hurricane heading for the Texas-Louisiana coastline and how they are trying to get all the resident of Port Arthur to leave, preferably now because the second of the two hurricanes looks like it’s going to be a big and dangerous storm … and this coming immediately after Marco, the smaller dumps half a foot of water followed (nonstop) by Laura, who might very well be a category three or maybe more.

Not to be outdone, after a break, they returned with the news of California wildfires and the horrible destruction of human lives and property as well as the burning of thousand-year-old trees. I remember the beauty of those trees from our visits to California. Lots of pictures of a million burning acres. We’re in the middle of a serious drought ourselves, so I watch the fires with fear in my heart.

The storyline moved to the latest news of the plague. Heart-warming stories of a few who survived against all odds, depressing stories of veterans who just want to die, news of possible treatments, no news on a vaccine, news that apparently, you can get it twice (oh, swell) … and then they ran out of time, so we moved on to national news.

I stopped watching and listening. 2020 is an evil year in every possible way. Although we have always complained that the news is always bad, the news has never been this bad. I hope there is an end to this. Because my nerves are shot. And, just to top it all off? It’s the start of the Republican Convention, so we are going to get great gooey gobs of Trumps’ blathering … unless his convention gets hit by those two hurricanes. The idea makes me laugh. I can’t help it.

Something had to make me laugh, right?

NOTE: I forgot to mention that they are tracking an asteroid on it’s way towards Earth. There’s just a 1% chance it will hit us, but as the anchors said, in 2020, that’s almost like 100% in other years.

BOOK OF JOB, THE SEQUEL – BY TOM CURLEY

God and the Devil got together recently. They do that more often than you think. Usually at least once every millennia. They play cards, catch up on all the celestial gossip and have a few beers. More often than not, they get into an argument about something and end up resolving it with a bet. That’s exactly what happened at their last get together, after more than a few beers.

DEVIL: Hey God, remember that guy Job?

GOD: You mean the guy that invented those computers and iPhones?

DEVIL: No! That’s Steve Jobs. I’m talking about Job. That old guy we made a bet about, oh, a couple thousand years ago. He was a member of your cult.

GOD: (Thinking) Job, Job. Oh yeah! I remember him. Jewish guy. Really loved me. And just because people worship me doesn’t mean they’re in a cult. I mean, I’m God for Christ’s sake!

DEVIL:  Potato, patato. Whatever. Do you remember the bet?

GOD: Of course I do. I remember everything. I’m GOD!

DEVIL: Really? Where are your glasses?

GOD: They’re right here. No, wait. Damn it, there here somewhere. Don’t change the subject. What about the bet?

DEVIL: I bet you that I could get Job to denounce you and you said I could do any horrible thing to him to do it.

GOD: (chuckling) Yeah I remember. Man you really fucked that guy up.

DEVIL: I gave it my best shot.

GOD: But I still won the bet. He worshiped me, no matter what.

DEVIL: I think it was more he was scared shitless of you and was afraid to say anything bad. But that’s neither here nor there. Want to double down on the bet?

GOD: What? Let you torture Job again? How are you going to do that? He’s been dead for a few thousand years.

DEVIL: No, not Job. I want to flip the bet. I’ve got my own Job. Actually I’ve got about 50 million Jobs. They’re called “Trump supporters.” They worship the current president of the United States. They’ll do anything he tells them. No matter how much it may hurt them or anybody else. They call themselves MAGAts.

GOD: They worship him? They can’t do that! You’re only supposed to worship me!

DEVIL: You always have to make it about yourself.

GOD: Whatever. So, you want to torture them?

DEVIL: No. I want YOU to torture them. Specifically I want you to get them to renounce Trump. If you can get them  to do that, you win. You can do anything you want to them. You have carte blanche. So, you taking the bet?

GOD: Oh hell yes. This is a sucker bet.

DEVIL: We’ll see.

So, over the next few months, God did everything he could think of to make Trump’s “base” denounce him. He brought a great plague that engulfed the world, but was much worse in America.

He made sure that everything Trump did would make the plague worse. He made sure they would lose their jobs because of the plague. He made sure everything Trump did to bring the economy back would make it far worse. No matter what he did, the “base” would not forsake him.

God and Devil got back together again a few days ago.

DEVIL: It’s been a few months now. How’s the bet going?

GOD: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE??

DEVIL: Told ya.

GOD: I mean, I brought down a fucking plague on those assholes! They’re dropping like flies. I’ve make Trump say the most ridiculous crazy shit imaginable!  I got him to say that people should drink bleach and shove a light bulb up their ass for Christ’s sake!

DEVIL: That was one of my favorites.

GOD: I got him to retweet a batshit crazy doctor who says demons have sex with you in your sleep.

DEVIL: Uh, that’s one’s actually true. I try to keep it on the down low.

GOD: I’ve ruined their lives! Taken their jobs! They could prevent themselves from getting the plague by simply wearing a fucking mask!

Irony is either dead or on speed dial

DEVIL: That’s because the god they worship told them not to.

GOD: I think it’s time for another great flood!

DEVIL: Oh no you don’t!! Remember Noah and the covenant? The whole rainbow thing? You promised never to do that again.

GOD: Shit. I forgot about that.

DEVIL: You said you remember everything. Did you ever find your glasses?

GOD: Fuck you. You know, I never should have worked that sixth day. I should have taken the whole weekend off.

DEVIL: I tried to tell you. So, you give up? Do I win the bet?

GOD: (sighing) Yeah, you win. What was the bet for again?

DEVIL: Same as the last time. Loser buys the beer.

GOD: Fair enough.

At this point God waves his hand and hundreds of kegs of beer appear.

DEVIL: You’re such a fucking show off. Mmm, good beer though. So, same time next millennia?

GOD: You’re on. So, demons having sex in your sleep? Really? That’s fucked up.

💫💫💫

The end?

BACKFIRE: THE BIG MISCALCULATION

From the Battleground, by Rich Paschall


“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China,
and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
– Jan. 22


From the very beginning, DJT has not understood the gravity of the situation. Just like he has done with his many failed businesses (13 but who’s counting), and ones that sought bankruptcy protection (6 more), he has miscalculated and mismanaged the pandemic in ways that could only be considered epic, as in epic failure.


“China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts … on behalf of the American People, I want to thank PresidentXi!” – January 24


That’s right. He thanked China, but when things started going poorly in the US, he blamed China and began making racist statements against the Chinese.


“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” – Feb 10.


He told the American people what he wanted them to believe. The lies and misstatements were just campaign rhetoric. He did not research. He did not study what to do. He made campaign statements.


“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” – Feb 24


It was important to his reelection process for the economy to look good. So he told his followers that everything was fine. It wasn’t. Did he think that things were just miraculously going to fix themselves and his campaign statements were actually going to come true?


“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”  – Feb 27


That seems to be what he thought. The passage of time was just going to make things better. It didn’t. Things only got worse. Instead of taking charge, he blamed everyone he could think of.


“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its
semi-considerable power … to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.”  –
March 9


It is his style to lash out at others when things are not going his way, which is more and more often lately. The statement above was made as the stock market was falling, the virus was starting to spread and people were dying. The following day, the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the orange one had this to say:


“We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” – March 10


Basically, they weren’t doing any type of job unless you consider that blaming others was his job. Yes, politicians often do that, but denial and lies were not what was needed in a time of national crisis. It is what we got, however.


“This is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control over.” – March 15.


Contrary to the orange’s one assertions that everything was going well, things were clearly moving in the wrong direction. On March 16th the Orange one announced a guideline for “15 days to slow the spread.”


“We want to have very — as few deaths as possible. This is a horrible thing.” – March 17


One hundred and eight were dead and the numbers were trending the wrong way. Five days later he was getting tired of the whole mess.


“America will again, and soon, be open for business — very soon — a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” –  March 23


Now it was 557 dead. Trump wanted businesses to reopen. On March 31 Dr. Fauci warned in a task force briefing that 100,000 Americans could die from the disease. There were 3,874 dead. On April 3 the Center for Disease Control recommended Americans wear masks when going out in public. Trump responded:


“It’s going to be, really, a voluntary thing. You can do it. You don’t have to do it.
I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that’s OK.”
– April 3


There was no firm guidance, no leadership, no clear path to success. Trump’s briefings seemed to be an exercise in contradicting the guidance of medical professionals. When Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx were present, they had to walk a fine line between speaking the truth and not making the orange one look like an idiot. A strong contradiction would have gotten them fired.


“Today I am instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess [its] role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” – April 14


Cover-up? WHO declared a pandemic on March 9th. They certainly were not responsible for the Trump administration’s lack of response, but they became the latest scapegoat in the Trump blame game.  607,670 U.S. cases, 25,843 deaths

This was the beginning. A path to nowhere. A solution to nothing. A failure in the making. Donald J. Trump tried to lie the pandemic out of existence. That didn’t work. He tried to force states to open or re-open. That made things worse. He desperately wants a good economy to help his re-election. His push to put things back to the way they were at the beginning of the year has backfired in historic proportions.
With disease on the rise throughout the country, some businesses can not reopen. Others have been destroyed by the long lay-off. The amount of disease is crippling production. America is seen, to use a DJT phrase, as a “shithole country” in other places around the globe. He is directly responsible for that.
Americans are banned from 35 countries on earth. The number is likely to rise as the coronavirus pandemic is out of control in much of America. Since we can not go to their countries, there is no reason for foreign countries to fly here. There is no reason for US flag carriers to fly to many countries. This chokes the supply line on both sides. Companies were used to goods getting to foreign markets in 1 to 3 days, not one to three weeks, if at all. They were used to quickly receiving supplies from overseas, no more. This is all on Trump.
In a touch of irony, Mexico has closed the border to all Americans unless considered essential workers. So has Canada. Thinking of going to the Bahamas for vacation? You’re not going from a US airport with a US passport. I have gone to France for the last ten years. I can not get in this year with an American passport.
Forbes reported on June 30th that “new research from Goldman Sachs suggests a national mask mandate would slow the growth rate of new coronavirus infections and prevent a 5% GDP loss caused by additional lockdown measures.”  This would save the economy a trillion dollars. Do you think that will ever happen? As of this writing, there are over 4 million cases in this country and 146,000 deaths. Meanwhile, 45 is returning to daily briefings because his ratings were good. Heaven help us!

DOOMSDAY BOOK BY CONNIE WILLIS

I read this for the first time when it was first published in 2008. It wasn’t available as an audible book yet, though it would be soon. So my first reading was words on paper.

It’s the story of the plague, the Bubonic Plague in England. In addition to the many light-hearted stores Ms. Willis has written, she has written a four book series about Time Travel and this was the first of the series. She’s not very technical. Her idea of time travel is to take a modern person and move them in time back to a part of history when something unusual was happening and then watch this “modern” human interact with the real inhabitants of that period.

This is either the best or worst time in history to read about Bubonic Plague. On one level, it makes COVID-19 sound like a walk in the park. Bubonic Plague is a powerful disease, borne of a bacteria rather than a virus. Which means you can’t create a vaccine against it and in all these years while Plague has been coming and going around the world, there is no vaccine. These days, it usually can be beaten back with heavy doses of antibiotics, but not always. It still kills people and it pops up all over the world, including in the United States.

In 1348 when the plague hit England and killed at least half the entire population and in some areas, killed everybody leaving towns deserted, everyone knew what we know:


WEAR A MASK. DON’T GET CLOSE TO OTHER PEOPLE.
AVOID “THE HOT SPOTS.” 


The wealthy who had homes far out in the country went there and locked the gates. Those who had no recourse — peasants and merchants — did the best they could. Everyone wore masks until people started to get crazy and say “I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well have fun in the meantime.”

Just like now.

Basically, the Black Death rampaged through England, Europe, and Asia for a few hundred years The 14th century was the biggest hit, but not the only hit. It lurked, so when a new generation was growing up, it struck again. Which is why you see remnants of the plague hitting in the Gobi Desert in prehistoric times, the Justinian Plague in Roman times, then the big one that came in with infected rats to Italian ports and ultimately, everywhere in Europe and England..

This book deals exclusively with 1348 to 1349, the years that the Plague arrived and did its best to kill everyone. It did a pretty good job. No one really knows what proportion of the human population was killed during the plague years, but it was no less than 50% and might have been as high as 75% — and in some areas, as I said, It involved the complete elimination of the entire human population and entire towns and regions. Areas that are regarded as having not been hit by plague were indeed hit, but they only lost 15 to 20% of the population — not enough deaths to even put them on the map.

Ponder that.

Today, we have a problem with freight and moving goods in the world as the Pandemic wreaks havoc. They didn’t have freight or shipping. They barely had roads. Instead, they lost so many peasants there was no one left to grow crops. So in addition to dying of plague, many died of starvation.

I found it more relaxing to read than watching the numbers of new COVID cases on the news every night. This is history. It happened. It’s over. COVID is right now. We are not free from it and we do not know when or if we will be free of it. Although it isn’t as fast a killer as Bubonic Plague, it’s still killing a lot of people and beginning to take a toll on younger people who were supposedly “immune” to it.

Even though, way back in 1348, everyone knew there was no immunity unless you just got lucky, they were as stupid about caring for themselves and each other as we are today. Supposedly they were so much less knowledgeable … but in the end, the answer was exactly the same then as now.


Social distancing and masks.


People were stupid in 1348. They are equally stupid in 2020. Times change. People don’t.

THE FREEDOM TO BE SELFISH – BY ELLIN CURLEY

So what is the problem with the anti-maskers? I understand that many of them believe that the entire Coronavirus is a hoax or a greatly exaggerated hype to sully Trump’s sterling reputation and political fortunes. But why are they arguing that their “freedom” is being encroached upon merely because they are being told to wear masks to protect OTHERS as well as themselves?

They equate the discomfort and/or inconvenience of wearing a mask when they don’t want to with ‘oppression’. They’re like toddlers having a tantrum, screaming “I don’t wanna do it!” But freedom has never meant doing whatever you want whenever you want to. Every society, even a democratic, ‘free’ society places limits on individual freedom. They have to. To function, any group must have rules, mores and customs that shape the behavior of it members. We say please and thank you and wait patiently in lines for our turn to do things.

No one complains that their freedom to push to the front of the line to get served first is being violated by this custom. So everyone, on some level, agrees to accept some kinds of restrictions on their behavior to get along in society.

There’s a famous Supreme Court ruling that held that freedom of speech doesn’t extend to being able to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. That would be dangerous and potentially harmful to the group so it’s an acceptable limit on freedom of speech, one of our basic rights.

So why is being required to wear a mask to protect yourself AND others from a deadly virus, suddenly considered to be an unacceptable infringement on freedom? People don’t balk at wearing seat belts as a safety measure, though many did when the laws were first proposed and put into effect. Maybe the difference is that seat belts mainly protect YOU, while masks are to protect other people, not only you.

Do the anti-maskers feel that it’s their freedom to be selfish that’s being restricted? People have been caught on video screaming at employees who insist they wear masks in stores, refusing to put a mask on and even getting removed from stores by the security people or the police.

There’s another element in this situation, which is the Right’s obsession with people being allowed to refuse service to someone if doing so would violate their religious or personal beliefs. This exposes a deep hypocracy or inconsistency in the thinking on the right. If a baker doesn’t believe in gay marriage, he wants the right to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. But at the same time, they don’t accept the fact that many vendors believe that masks have an important health benefit and therefore require people in their facility to wear them.

Even Trump people accept the “No shoes, no shirt, no service” signs that are everywhere. And that’s based on personal preferences and aesthetics, not issues of public health. Yet they not only won’t abide by the no mask rule in privately owned facilities, they often harass owners and workers in stores that require masks.

Since wearing masks is about safety and health, it’s a better comparison to the laws against drunk driving. Even people who drive drunk, accept the fact that they’ll be arrested and punished for doing it if caught. So they accept the state’s authority to make the law in the first place, restricting what the state sees as potentially harmful behavior. It doesn’t matter if you believe that you can drive perfectly well after drinking. You can’t make that argument to a cop. The ‘state’ or the ‘society’ has deemed that a certain behavior is for the good of the group and most people go along with it. Why is this situation so different from a freedom perspective?

I guess it all boils down to the anti-science, conspiracy theory beliefs of Trump’s supporters, who think that they are the ‘real Americans.’ Somehow they feel that they have a right to defy the entities that believe different things than they do. Like the Confederacy that went to war to continue slavery, they are fighting a culture war to preserve the right to possibly infect others with COVID-19.

The same people who are anti-abortion and anti ‘choice’, are now proudly shouting, “My body, my choice!” I don’t know if irony is dead or is on speed dial!

 

A THANK YOU NOTE TO AMERICA FROM THE CORONA VIRUS – BY TOM CURLEY

Hi America. This is the coronavirus. I’m writing you this letter to say thank you for all you have done for me.  I know I’m just a microscopic organism, literally the simplest life form on Earth.

I’m just a single strand of RNA enclosed in a protein sheath. Whatever the hell that is. But even so, you all have seemed to have gone way out of your way to make sure I survive. I and my billions and billions of copies want you to know we really appreciate it.

You may not know it, but it’s not easy being a pathogen. We have a hard time doing what we have to do, which is to make more copies of ourselves. Sadly, the only way we can do this is by finding our way into a “host.” Usually it’s an animal, like a bat or a rat. We’re also popular with certain insects, like fleas and mosquitoes.

But every so often we get to live in you humans. When we get inside you we burrow into one of your cells that is particularly tasty and we replace that cell’s DNA with our own. Then we make the cell stop doing what it was supposed to do and instead start making hundreds and hundreds of copies of us!  Pretty cool, right?

Then those hundreds and hundreds of copies invade other cells and before you know it, there’s millions of us inside you!

The only problem is, we tend to kill all the cells we invade. After a while we run out of host cells.

That sucks.

On top of that, all you hosts have an “immune system.” It’s a bunch of asshole cells that attack us and kill us.

Fuck you T-cells!

Fortunately, a lot of you are old or sick and your immune cells either can’t do a very good job, or they are busy attacking other cells, like cancer cells.

Sadly, no matter how good or bad your immune systems are, you either force us out, or you die. That sucks for all of us.

So, in order for me and my billions of buds to survive,  we need to find new homes.  New “hosts.” And for us pathogens, that can be a problem. Most of us can only survive for short periods of time outside our “hosts.” Some of us can survive in water and you can drink us. Some of us can live in fleas and mosquitoes. If they bite you, we get a new home! Let’s go Team Fleas and Mosquitoes!

But the best way we get to find new homes is when you find “hosts , breathe us out and new “hosts” breathe us in. That’s the way we get around.

I don’t want to brag, but right now I’m the envy of all my fellow pathogens. Yeah, that’s right, we talk.  Ebola, Smallpox, the Bubonic Plague, the Spanish Flu, Pink Eye.  We’re all still around.

They all had great runs. But right now, it’s my time to shine.

And they’re all jealous.

I can’t blame them. I got it just right, for a pathogen. I don’t kill most people I infect. Like Ebola. I mean, yeah, Ebola is a serious badass.  But when you burn through all your “hosts” really fast, before you know it, you got no place to live. Bad ass, but stupid. I, on the other hand, only kill about 20% of the “hosts” that I live in.

The bad “side effects” of my living in you don’t even show up for at least two weeks. That means I get to live in more and more and more and more of you before you even realize I’m living in more and more and more of you!

The only thing that fucks up my traveling to newer and better “hosts” is when you all start doing things like wearing masks and staying far enough from each other that I can’t get into your nose or eyes. You do that, and one moment I’m spreading like crazy and the next moment I’m homeless.

Fuck that!

The other thing you do is “quarantine “hosts” who have me! Not fair!

And that brings me to why I’m writing you this thank you note. An amazing number of you are refusing to do anything to stop me from finding newer and newer homes! Around the world most of you are a bunch of dicks doing every thing to make me go away . But not in something called “America.” You guys are awesome! You started out as real dicks, but then you realized how much that was hurting me and you stopped.  You were wearing masks and staying away from each other. Until you weren’t!

Irony is on speed dial

All of a sudden you went back to going to weddings and funerals and churches and bars and clubs! You sit real close to each other and you sing and scream and shout and sneeze and cough! AWESOME!

That’s exactly what I need! I’ve heard that about 19,000 of you are all going to pack yourselves into an enclosed space to hear one of you tell the rest of you that I’m just a hoax and I’m just going to go away!

I love you guys!!

So, that’s basically it. Thank you America. It’s hard being a global pathogen but you have all really gone the extra mile to help me out.

USA!

USA!

PS: I know a lot of my “hosts” are wondering how I can be writing this blog. Or how I even know what a blog is. My answer is

How the hell should I know??!! I’m a fucking virus!

WHEN AND HOW THE PLAGUE FINALLY ENDED

I had a great conversation with my mortgage bank today. I’ve got a six month don’t have to pay my mortgage thing, but I can if I want to. I want to. Sometimes I have a hard time doing it especially since social security comes in on on days of the month and we don’t actually have all the money collected until nearly the end of the month.

She said: “This plan runs out in November, but if you call in November, we can give you another six months.”

“I’m betting,” I said, “that we are going to be having a big resurgence of COVID-19 by then.”

“I think so too,” she said. “People are such idiots. They are all running around and partying and now we are starting to see a lot of younger people dying. And even if they are okay, don’t they have families to protect? Grandparents? Aunts and uncles?”

Wearing masks during the 1918 Flu epidemic
More masks in the 1918 flu epidemic

It turns out that epidemics and pandemics all end the same way. People get weary of quarantine. Some of them go crazy and decide come what may, they don’t want the rest of their life to be spent hiding.  Having this attitude is helped if you aren’t part of the “if you get it, you’re dead” category of folks, although many people who were not supposed to be at risk die anyway. It turns out that a lot of people have physical issue they don’t know about … until they get sick and then very, very sick. And sometimes, dead.

Comparison of German killing North Carolinians and humans killing themselves in North Carolina

Bubonic or Pneumonic plague has no effective vaccine. These days, heavy doses of antibiotics will help, but it’s a powerful disease and even with antibiotics, it often kills. Its favorite targets are young, healthy people, not very young or very old folks. Why don’t we see Bubonic Plague these days?

We do. Since it showed up in Europe in 1348 and decimated the continent’s population, it has made its way around the world, killing many millions, including in the U.S. where the last cases were in 1900 and again in 2015 when the U.S. had 1,036 cases. In 2015, 16 people in the Western United States developed Plague, including 2 cases in Yosemite National Park.

It has not disappeared. It is lying low and could come back. Let’s hope not!

How did it end? The most popular theory of how all Plagues end is through the implementation of quarantines. The uninfected  — when they have the means — either stay at home or move to the country.  Eventually, the plague stops being dependent on fleas and becomes Pneumonic, which meant that coughed up droplets or sneezes spread the disease from person to person, no sick rats or fleas required.

Museum of London, Plague 1665-1666

While it seems like the Black Death was the only instance of the bubonic plague  there have been many other bouts with it through the centuries, both earlier (Justinian’s Plague during the Roman Empire days) and a pretty big one in the mid-17th century London and China and /india in the 1900s.

Three great world pandemics of plague recorded, in 541, 1347, and 1894, each time causing devastating mortality of people and animals across nations and continents. The 17th century was not a pandemic and was largely confined to London.

On more than one occasion plague irrevocably changed the social and economic fabric of society.It was also going around when Henry VIII was a young King in England. A pandemic of Plague started in Asia in the 19th century. The World Health Organization didn’t consider this pandemic officially over until 1959 when the annual deaths finally dropped to fewer than 200.

Mask as worn in  the 17th century. plague pandemic and included a waxed coverall which was supposed to protect the doctor — hazmat suit for 1657

In 1920 Galveston, that “oozy prairie,” as early settlers described it, was only 20 years removed from the devastating 1900 hurricane. Then came Plague. A 17-year-old feed store worker was the first to contract and die from the disease. The first case was diagnosed in early June 1920. Over the following months, eighteen people were diagnosed. Seven survived.

There was initial mishandling with Plague. In two cases the doctor’s notes that patient isolation “was not accomplished as rapidly as desired,” both because families were slow to call in a doctor and because the doctor didn’t consider bubonic plague to be a possibility.

Bubonic plague pandemic India 1894

Vaccines have not been found for Bubonic Plague. It’s a bacteria, not a virus. Vaccinations work on viruses and are successful for diseases that don’t mutate. Smallpox and polio are two major conquests in epidemiology. All Coronaviruses are rapid mutators, so whether or not they will find a long-term effective vaccine is questionable. They might find an annual vaccine or a cure, but a long-lasting vaccination is less likely.

The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, had lain dormant in China’s Gobi Desert for centuries. But in the 1300s, it emerged with a vengeance, fanning out via trade routes from Asia to Europe and killing millions of people along the way. The plague was transmitted by fleas harbored by rats, which flourished in the overcrowded, filthy cities of the Middle Ages. By the end of the 1500s, between a third and half of Europe’s population had died from the Black Death.

Even during the 1900s, the plague still killed millions of people, but since then, the advent of better hygiene in cities and swift treatment with antibiotics has reduced this killer.

Human reaction to pandemic outbreaks hasn’t changed at all. We blame others for it. We persecute others for it. We run away it if we can. The better-off survive while the poorest pay full price.

From the Boston Globe, announcing the arrival of the 1918 flu arriving in town.

People believe rumors especially when they like the rumors better than reality. In the end, life goes on, but not like before the plague. This “return to normal” is not a return to the world before. It’s a social return only. It doesn’t mean people stop dying. Viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They aren’t even alive.

Epidemics come and they go and the world doesn’t recover in a few weeks or months or sometimes, ever. Never in the history of the world has that happened. Nations fall, governments collapse, economies are decimated. Plagues change everything, not just human lives.

Global trajectories of the “spanish” flu — and this was before air travel for vacationers

We are in the crazy stage where people are crowding onto beaches, partying heartily, acting like they are the only people in the world and if they want to risk their lives and yours too, well, it’s their RIGHT. I probably missed that particular amendment to the constitution.

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

As kids, we can’t imagine getting old. I suppose that’s normal, especially in this society where young people have very few experiences with elders and are not taught to respect or admire their accomplishments. I didn’t have any living grandparents. All four of them died before I was five, so I really had zero experience with anyone older than my parents and teachers — mostly people in their thirties, forties, and maybe fifties.

That gap — growing up young with no insight into the life and experiences of older generations — is an dangerous gap. We lose our history. We lack understanding of what age brings, both good and bad. All we see are television or movie images of crotchety old people who are supposed to be my age, but look much older.

Our generation has not aged like our grandparents. Assuming we have had decent food to eat, have not gotten grossly obese, or have seriously damaged bones and muscle problems, we don’t wrinkle  up and can usually still walk. Those of us who have kept in shape may do even better.

I’ve had a lot of issues with bone and muscle, not to mention heart and other parts, so while my brain is (mostly) alive, the rest of me hurts. It’s worse at night. When I’m up and moving around, the pain diminishes. I often find myself getting up several times a night to walk around for a few minutes, hoping that the pain in my lower back will ease up.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The problem is, I also need sleep. On a day like today and yesterday, when I’ve been up and down all night, I’m cranky. I live from lidocaine patch to lidocaine patch. Now that it’s summer, I can wear long loose dresses that help keep the patches from falling off. For lidocaine patches, the issue is always glue.

To get back to the intended subject, I didn’t start to get a grip on what I could learn from the elders of my human tribe until I went to Israel. One of our neighbors was an Auschwitz survivor and she had three big fears: men with loud voices, big dogs, and open fires. You can take a guess why these were foremost in her group of terrors. Of course there was also fear of not having enough food to eat, confinement, and having a gun pointed at you.

We watched a show last night where someone was supposed to have been a camp survivor — an old Magnum episode. Anyway, Higgins told his two Dobermans to guard the lady and they promptly took up close guard positions.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Two guys fishing by the river

I looked at Garry and said, “She isn’t a camp survivor. She isn’t afraid of the dogs.” And, of course, she wasn’t. No survivor would have been able to be in close quarters with guard dogs. She taught me a lot about what happens when the country you thought was your own suddenly isn’t. The initial belief that “this can’t be happening here,” Followed by “They don’t mean … ME …?”

I had tried, before I left for Israel, to talk with my eldest aunt who had been a child when she came from the Old Country — which might have been Poland, Russia, or Austria — depending on the year. But she was in her late 80s and she pointed out that the stuff that had happened was more than 75 years earlier. She didn’t remember most of it, at least not clearly. She wasn’t demented. She was simply old. I wish i had  asked more questions sooner.

I got a lot of history from my mother. She would talk to me while she worked around the house. About being a Communist, but changing to Socialism because the guys were more attractive. I’m pretty sure McCarthy would not have accepted that as a reason for joining the group, but it was even true when I was in college. Protests are great places to meet people who agree with you.

She told me how the U.S. government had too much food during the Depression, so they threw it in dumps and poured poison on it so no one could eat it. And how our anti-Semitic  government made up of rich white guys were willing to let Hitler kill Jews. No problem. They only took up arms against him when he threatened American interests.She was always sure the Nazis would come back. I never believed her. But she was right and I was wrong. The haters never go away. They lay low when they must, but pop up like Whack-A-Moles when they have an opening.

There’s a lot to be learned from older people, the ones who were there, who lived a life and not an easy one. I learned a lot from books, but I learned more from my mother and the neighbors in Jerusalem.

Now we have grown old. Younger people somehow think we caused all their problems. Of course, we didn’t. We just rode the wave. Europeans and many Asians have been doing their best to destroy the earth for a long time. When our population expanded so between one city and another were more cities. Since they had trees, these places were called “suburbs.”

The damage was uncontainable. There is no giant hole into which trash can be tossed. You can’t mine or run oil pipelines through aquifers and expect the water to remain drinkable. When you burn or cut-down millions of trees, there is less air to breathe. Did WE do it? My generation?

We all did it. Individually and collectively. Corporations did a lot more and for us to earn money to live on, made us do more too. Even without a corporate push, we were lazy. We  tried to create recycling and Earth day and that stuff, but too few people were willing to be inconvenienced. It didn’t work.

We set up a country — the U.S. — based on minimalism. On the presumption that anyone and everyone from anywhere could build a life, even if they had nothing to work with and even when they were poor, hated, downtrodden, and oppressed.

Everyone wants to help make things better until it means they are personally inconvenienced. Everyone feels there’s plenty of time to deal with whatever personal, regional, or international problems exist. We have families at war within themselves and nations that do their best to destroy anyone who isn’t “just like them.”

By the time we are old too, we  no longer have the energy to fix all the stuff that’s been waiting for us. One day, the Nazis DO come back. Not the same Nazis. New ones. Same beliefs, just without the uniforms — at least so far.

A new disease sweeps the world and we’ve forgotten that exactly 100 years ago, it we had the worst pandemic ever. It happened many times before. Each time, everyone thinks it’s the first time because they never learned history and don’t read books.

So the world changes. Our future plans dissolve. We aren’t traveling. We aren’t going to repair broken relationships. The future has stopped for us. How did that happen? How did we let it happen?