Monday, January 3, 2022

Another COVID Christmas

Happy New Year! Pretend that you are reading this right after Christmas, which technically you are, but you know, as if the calendar still read 2021...

December is always a crazy month for me. I tend to experience it in three distinct phases: (1) my birthday; (2) that weird space between the 10th when everything is still moving in slow motion until things suddenly accelerate to the 24th; and (3) then the countdown to January and the annual question of how long to leave up the decorations. (For the record, mine are still up.)

This year, as in the past three years, it has been one crazy ass month.

It began with so much hope and promise. I actually got to celebrate my birthday with brunch, a play, and dinner. I ordered our Christmas cards on time and got my Holiday Gift Guide up on IG and FB. I got most of our shopping done, including some gifts for my Dad, and all was proceeding steadily...then shit hit the fan on the 16th.

I got a phone call, and I almost didn't answer it because I didn't recognize the number. But there was a little green check mark beside it, kind of like those blue check marks on Twitter, so it registered as a verified number and not a spam call to get solar panels on my roof. It was the assistant vice principal at my daughter's school. The Kid had been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID.

As you might imagine that notification threw me into a panic spiral which was exacerbated by the fact that I was sitting in the car in front of the Target. The plan had been to go inside to pick up an order, then to head over to the mall for a little more shopping for all of the events that had been planned for the coming weekend. I called the Hub to inform him, and then after wandering in a circle around the Target for at least five rotations, I tried to contain the urge to scream.

We got ourselves tested the next day. We notified the appropriate persons with whom we had been in contact. Our results came back negative on Saturday, as did the two subsequent tests we took over the next few days. All of our extra-curricular activities were cancelled and where appropriate, everything went virtual and we stayed quarantined in the house (except to get tested). We got cleared the day before Christmas Eve and we were able to resume the rest of our holiday preparations. In a word, we were spared.

However, other members of our family were not. My brother, who is a teacher, tested positive for COVID the same day we got the call about my daughter's status. His wife and youngest daughter tested positive that weekend. Two of my nephews in New Jersey also tested positive, so we decided to cancel our travel plans to New York. I have heard from several other people that this Omarion variant of COVID got to them before they could get boosted. Just this past week, I have read emails from several parents that their children tested positive on or about Christmas Day.

I am still suppressing the urge to scream. It isn't enough to suggest that we got lucky, because I know it was more than a roll of the dice. The Hub got his booster in October. My parents got their in-home boosters in November. The Kid got vaccinated as soon as she was eligible, and I got my booster shot a few days after my birthday. Fortunate doesn't even begin to describe my relief, and exasperated isn't an adequate word to describe how it feels to be heading into season 3 of COVID.

Maybe to the folks who keep suggesting that this isn't that big of a deal, it is just an inconvenience to cancel travel plans at the last minute and have to provide all kinds of documentation so as not to forfeit a $500 deposit. Maybe I shouldn't have been anxious that on the same day I got word that my child was a close contact, she had just been in dance class around other kids and their parents, so out of respect for their health, they all had to be notified. Maybe it isn't all that difficult to keep an energetic six year old occupied when she wants to be in school with her friends and there really isn't a sufficient virtual learning option. Maybe all of the families that just celebrated their first or second holiday season without a cherished loved one should just...

In all of the other parts of the country where folks have been protesting mask mandates, misquoting MLK, and blocking access to mail-in voting, maybe it doesn't matter that we were just starting to get back to some version of normal pre-pandemic living. Now we have to reset. I've had to re-draw imaginary lines around my family again because I can't afford to slip up. Contrary to your jeers that I am living in fear, nah...I am living in the real world where a global pandemic compels me to take precautions the same way you "live in fear" over Critical Race Theory ruining your lives.

And that is the part that has me scanning the thesaurus for better words to describe my feelings. Vexed is a good word, but it is too close to vaxxed (which is now a word that doesn't trigger the Spell checker). I am vexed that people are so infantile and peevish about making minor adjustments to preventing the spread of an airborne virus that has killed more than 800,000 people in this country. Thankfully, I am also vaxxed and boosted. Another word that I like (one that my Mom used a lot when we were younger) is heedless. Because calling folks selfish is so 2020 (and deplorable is so 2016).

After her embarrassing interview with TFG wherein he contradicted her stance against the vaccine, I wanted to find a good word to describe the prattling college drop-out pundit who swears that she is smarter than folks with medical degrees. It was a toss-up between supercilious and delusional, but as I watched her cat fight on Twitter with her sorority girl rival, it seemed more appropriate to move along and just let them have at it. Mudwrestling isn't even a sport. As for the other young clout-chaser I saw attempt to take on the Oprah over her holiday dinner policy, she definitely earned all of the ridicule meted out for taking aim at our Patron Saint and missing. I almost felt a twinge of pity for her, having invited the wrath of a gang of blue checks on Twitter who probably should have left her to being dragged by the unwashed masses. But I won't waste any emotions on another opinionated Canadian (that's an inside joke, btw).

Nor am I going to waste any energy complaining about these new CDC guidelines since I am going to keep wearing my masks, washing my hands, and staying the heck away from people who want to live free and die. I admit to having advantages that allow me to ignore the shortened quarantine recommendations, and I realize that there are economic costs to COVID that someone must bear. Therefore, if that means I have to wait an extra day or so for an Amazon Prime Delivery, so be it. I can wait for that fire pit that I haven't yet ordered because it isn't a necessity. Save your trash talk about my alleged misunderstanding the global economy if that is what makes you feel better, but I have been ridiculed ALL of my Busy Black life for one thing or another, so calling me a sheep isn't the worst insult I've heard. Not even top ten.

And in spite of COVID being that houseguest that has way over-stayed and refuses to get the hint to GTFOH, I declare myself blessed this Christmas. First of all, my family walked away from a hit and run car accident. Second, my brother, his family, and my nephews are on the mend. Third, I already told you that my parents are vaxxed and boosted, and they are living one day at a time. In spite of daily attempts to steal my joy, I didn't even lean into my Grinch routine this year because as I reflected on the story of the birth of Christ, I had a revelation about real inconvenience. Try having to travel when you are nine months pregnant on the back of a donkey, giving birth in a barn without anesthesia, and then putting your newborn baby to sleep in a food trough for livestock. Add in a stream of uninvited visitors, including a child with a drum...

The Christmas story isn't about any of the superficial shit that we have emphasized all of these years. It isn't about disposable coffee cups or what the minimum wage-earning cashier says after bagging your purchases. It isn't that perfect Hallmark movie ending with a kiss in a gazebo. Nor is it about actually being in a church on the day in question (because I've done that, and nobody else comes but the most devout and childless). Christmas is the kindness that doesn't get staged for social media--the generosity, the selflessness, the humanity that transcends hashtags.

Therefore, if you think your holiday was ruined by COVID because Pete Buttigieg took paternity leave and your packages didn't arrive on time; the FOX News tree was intentionally set on fire; or because you didn't read the instructions and burnt your pumpkin pie...I've got a thimble-sized amount of empathy for you. Life happens. You are entitled to your feelings and I won't respond with the same kind of indifference and lack of compassion that has been the norm since the beginning of this pandemic. Better luck next year.

However, if your Christmas was impacted by COVID in a more extreme and tragic manner, you have my sincerest condolences and sympathies. If I could offer words of comfort, they would express my hope that you find some measure of reassurance that you are not alone in your suffering or grief. Others are in your midst ready to surround you with love and to see to your physical needs. In the event that all I can offer are thoughts and prayers, they are sincere in wishing for your ability to endure and power through this moment.

Finally, as it is now several days after both Christmas and the New Year, my personal public service announcement (because it is crazy out here in these COVID streets) is to take precaution and extra care. I have been reading some of the chatter on social media, so let me state at the outset, I am no scientist; I am a lawyer. And that part of me wonders how some of these folks get to go on television every day as if they are reading these recommendations for the first time on the air. As in, nobody considered that y'all were going to eff up sick leave, such as it is, for everybody? Therefore, let's all touch and agree that those CDC guidelines are aspirational in assuming that folks are going to be honest. And since that hasn't exactly been working out as we hoped, you can take care of you by masking up and getting vaxxed and boosted (or not); however, if you won't do either of those things, then stand six feet back! This isn't some gazebo scene out of a Hallmark movie.

Starting 2022 with a Ban

I really did not want to use ten to fifteen minutes of your valuable time on another angry rant about these Stunt Queens voters keep sending to Washington, nor did I intend to spend at least four hours writing one, but it needs to be said. Because some of these meaux faux y'all be sending here...

I thought that I could just rattle off a few paragraphs in disgust on the FB page and maybe reach the same six curious people that regularly see my posts. After all of these years I still can't outwit the algorithm, and I have accepted that. Which is one of my New Year Resolutions--to stop worrying about the internal sabotage and just set my sights on growing my base in other ways. And that is one of the main reasons why I am so vexed...

I don't use my little corner of cyberspace to say anything outrageous or misleading. I make carefully thought-out and intentional statements. My reasoning is usually sound. Even when I am fueled by emotion, I am neither mean-spirited nor a bully. I am also not a dumb bitch. But apparently that is what it takes to be heard. Or get elected to Congress these days.

Perhaps you might be reading this and thinking, well why are you complaining then? If you think you are so smart, why not run for Congress so that you can be heard? Hence, this rabbit hole lecture on why this country is doomed if y'all don't get serious about saving this democracy.

Earlier today it was announced that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) would be permanently banned from using her personal Twitter account to spread misinformation about COVID (and other assorted lies and conspiracies). I had typed out six extemporaneous paragraphs on my Facebook page to get to the point where it stopped making sense to argue that I don't care about her, because I do. Therefore, I decided to migrate that rant to this space where I can flesh out and explain exactly why it matters that elected officials like Greene deserve to get singled out and exposed as vivid examples why you just can't send every crazy loud mouth to Congress.

As a factual introduction, I need to debunk the arguments that Greene is being unfairly silenced or censored. She is not. She still has plenty of communication avenues to share her insanity, including access to her official Twitter account which is tied to her position as an elected Member of Congress. Presumably, she can continue to tweet all kinds of nonsense and foolishness because it serves the public interest and her constituents to know that she is batshit insane and stupid. My best guess is that Twitter will flag her comments with a disclaimer if they contain false or misleading information, which is what was done with the former DESPOTUS when he was accused of inciting violence after George Floyd was killed.

The issue is not whether she can say whatever she wants, but where she can say what she wants. The First Amendment offers this beautiful declaration that the people ought to be able to express themselves without fear of government sanction. There have been several cases argued over the years that have provided some guidelines for how that speech is regulated, so I won't delve into all of that here. Just know that the right to free speech is subject to certain reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, as well as considerations for content. The operative word contained in that amendment is Congress.

Twitter is not Congress. It is a communication platform.

When you signed up for any of these various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Tumblr, and even an old school platform like Blogger or MySpace), there was an agreement that most of us skipped reading. In essence, it said that we didn't own the space, but that we were being granted access to use the space. Therefore, it is a misconception to believe that we have the right to use these spaces in any manner we want.

Now for the most part, we know that the content police overlook a LOT of what goes on (so I won't digress into a side rant about how these same platforms are used for bullying and various criminal enterprises), but they are. Knowing that social media is internally regulated, it is problematic when someone in a high-profile position like Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG) or the DESPOTUS with millions of followers abuses the privilege of access. They have the ability to influence how people think or behave just by offering an opinion or sharing misinformation or promoting propaganda.

When we call social media a communication platform, we are literally saying that it is the online equivalent of a step ladder and a megaphone. It is a podium, a stage, or a pulpit with a microphone and giant loud speakers. I've addressed this previously, but it bears repeating and emphasis--be wary to whom you pass the mic.

For lack of a better pop cultural reference, MTG is that bully in the racoon hat from A Christmas Story. She lurks in the alley to jump out to terrorize people, whether it is a young activist with whom she disagrees on the appropriateness of guns in schools or her fellow lawmakers whom she taunts for wearing masks. Having been stripped of her committee assignments for her excessive trolling barely six weeks after being sworn into her term, she spends most of her time loitering in the hallways and tunnels, devising a workout alternative to CrossFit in the Members gym, and auditioning for right wing media outlets as insurance in case she doesn't get re-elected.

In other words, she is a waste. I cannot emphasize how utterly disgraceful it is for this woman to even have an official Twitter account, let alone an office and paid staff. The fact that she occupies a seat in Congress from which she accomplishes nothing other than to promote herself is beyond words. I don't care how or why she got elected. I just know that she didn't question the legitimacy of the votes that sent her here back in November 2020. Yet, she has been a vocal and visible proponent of the Big Lie that somehow there were illegitimate votes cast from her state that resulted in the ouster of MAGA Man, the hero to whom she has pledged her allegiance. Because it sure ain't to the same Constitution we both swore to uphold and defend.

To be clear, my disdain for her isn't just ideological. There are several Stunt Queens serving in Congress and I get increasingly frustrated with every single one of them, from both political parties. At the end of the day, the job is to represent the people who elected you, not to spend half the time engaging in silly Twitter fights or negotiating a primetime appearance on cable news or a Sunday morning talk show. The personal affront of their existence is why I have chosen violence as my opening salvo this New Year.

And because I don't have a congressional vote. The District of Columbia has a non-voting Congressional Delegate who can introduce legislation, vote in committee, but she must appeal to her Colleagues to vote on behalf of the citizens of this city. Therefore, I couldn't position myself to run for political office on behalf of my beloved hometown or its 700,000+ citizens even if I wanted to (and no thanks, I would rather fight from the outside). If I had the temperament, I guess I could run for City Council or Mayor thanks to Home Rule charter. But with powers limited to the purview granted by Congress, and the way I cuss...

A year ago, the world witnessed how partisan elected officials disregard the citizens of DC as expendable. While MTG and her co-conspirators in the Insurrection Caucus encouraged the rioters as they breached the Capitol, the DESPOTUS refused to engage the National Guard to quell the uprising. No concern for the lives of office staff, facilities and maintenance workers, or the Capitol Police and there was no effort to protect the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods if that mob had continued their rampage beyond the Capitol grounds. When the Mayor, the City Council, and various experts cited the limitations of Home Rule in invoking the mechanisms to protect the City in a historic hearing on Statehood, their pleas were dismissed along partisan lines

Thus, it incenses me that this woman and I, same age and with roots from the same state, are not treated equally as American citizens. I worked in that same Capitol building more than 20 years ago. I can't even enter the Longworth Building, where her office is located, to transact business at my credit union branch because of her seditious antics. If I participated in a peaceful protest to urge passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on the street, how long before I would get arrested? She lost use of her personal Twitter account, but she can still reserve time to take to the floor of the House of Representatives to spew conspiracy theories and racist rhetoric to all of America, thanks to the C-Span cameras. Yet, no matter how eloquent, rational, and right I am in my indignation, I would be lucky to reach 25 people with this rant. I might get a few RTs, but that rarely happens in the eleven years I've been blogging...

So, ban that broad because anything less than pulling the cord on her bullshit is to concede that what she allegedly has a right to say is more important than the impact of what she says. She can't shout FIRE in a crowded theater and then shrug when folks get trampled. She sought this attention and the exposure, so she must use it responsibly or lose the privilege. And face the consequences same as her MAGA Man who lost his account too. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

Finally, I hope not to spend this much time and energy on Marjorie Taylor Greene again in the foreseeable future. She will continue to piss me off, but the next time, I will take action instead of offense. She represents a district in Georgia that might be hard to flip given redistricting shenanigans and partisan election law changes, but there are four declared Democratic challengers and one Republican. Surely any one of them can do a better job of serving in Congress. Statewide, I must work to re-elect my Morehouse Brother Rev. Raphael Warnock to the Senate and to elect my Spelman Sister Stacy Abrams to be the first Black woman to serve as a Governor. We need to register voters and organize for other local elections. I need to save up a little bail money, in case I run into some good trouble (although my Daddy has pledged that won't happen if he can help it). Let's not get distracted by her nonsense because that was clearly the job she was sent to do.