The squirrels and birds will soon have to work for their living. No longer will their food be provided inside of a porch swing feeder handcrafted by my late brother, or suspended inside of a suet feeder. The seasons have changed, and spring obviates the need to provide supplemental food.
Oh, we will be bringing out the hummingbird feeders shortly, and giving away mealworms, but that’s not the same as the buffet we have provided during the winter months. The squirrels in particular, are enjoyable to watch. We have two who have claimed the feeder. No bird dares to swoop in for a bite while a squirrel perches in or on the feeder. But the second squirrel eventually becomes impatient, and jumps in itself, prompting the first squirrel to abandon the feeder and perhaps chew and swallow what it had placed in its mouth before it scampers off.
The suet feeder was where we saw some of the best birding action. The rarest of visitors is the pileated woodpecker, who visits so seldom we’ve been only able one time to capture a picture of this king of woodpeckers.
What has replaced the feeders of winter? The flowers of spring. Our yard is at its peak bloom right now with daffodils, hellebores (Lenten rose), and flowering trees. In the almost 30 years we’ve lived at this house, we have transformed our spring landscape by cultivating and spreading daffodils. We have literally thousands of them blooming right now, and when they fade, the jonquils will take their place in providing spring beauty. But we are most excited this year to see the blossoms burst out of our cherry tree. We’ve been babying this tree, trying to keep it safe from our ravenous deer, and whereas last year we had five lonely blossoms, this year it has burst forth gloriously.
The self-propagating hellebores are something that takes little care. They loves shade, which we have in abundance. Deer don’t like it, which makes it in high demand as a source of greenery that stands up to the deer’s predations. And pollinators of all types love its pollen-rich flowers. The only problem we have with it is that last year’s leaves flop over onto the ground when the tender strands arise with the delicate flowers. You have to cut them off and gather them up, trying not to get abraded from the raspy leaves, or else you just have a mass of greenery where the bottom leaves rot in place.
We like it when both of the Lenten rose and daffodils share the same slope. The Lenten roses are prolific in spreading their seed, and eventually you do have to ride herd on their spread, but this is their time of year.
It takes patience to transform a landscape. We’ve had nearly 30 years. Now the only thing we do beside cutting back the Lenten rose, is to look late in the summer and see where the daffodils are crowding the surface. When they do, I dig them up and spread the bulbs to share with others. Our bulbs are now found in 3 states, and in many places around Charleston. But the rewards come to those who have the patience to wait year after year and enjoy spring when it finally does come. Patience is a virtue we all need more of. Seems like the world now puts a premium on instant gratification, which does not usually work well.
Long, long time ago. Back when cave men and women huddled for warmth in rock overhangs, and I was a baby, I used to wonder about why things were the way they were. Like, why was it that black people in southern states had fire hoses and police dogs turned on them in order to keep them from showing support for voting. I wondered how this country could have the cognitive dissonance (I didn’t know what that meant at the time) to express such high, lofty sentiments about freedom, and justice, and human rights, while at the same time denying so many people a basic right like the right to vote.
Later in my youth, I encountered a book by Mike Royko, a newspaper columnist in the city of Chicago. His book “Boss” chronicled the reign of Mayor Daley in Chicago. More than anything else, that book explained how the system was used to keep minority populations in their place, and that was the way those in charge wanted it to be. I was from a small city in the Midwest. At the time, I went to the high school in town with the most minorities. I think our class was about 5% Black and outside of a few schools in Omaha, we had the most Blacks in the state of Nebraska. Since I grew up, the city of Lincoln has become a mecca for immigrants, particularly Asian. The Vietnamese refugees were perhaps the first to come there, but they have been followed by many other immigrants from many different nationalities.
I don’t live in Lincoln anymore. But what I do know is that the population of the city has grown steadily since I left, and when I visit, it seems as it is a much more vibrant place than when I spent my youth there. I can compare it to my current home in South Charleston, WV. At the time when I moved here in the 1980’s, the metropolitan populations of both areas was about the same. Since then, the West Virginia population has shrunk, while Lincoln keeps growing.
Why has West Virginia struggled to keep the population from shrinking, while a portion of Nebraska keeps on growing? Perhaps the current legislature in West Virginia can provide some clues. The West Virginia legislature seems hell-bent on maintaining cultural purity at the expense of being a welcoming state. The highest priorities are to prohibit the teaching of any sexual nature within the public schools, prohibit cities and towns from implementing any regulations that are considered as more liberal than the state requirements, and enable all parents to withdraw their children from public school, while the state aid that would have accompanied their children is allowed to be sent to other entities for tuition or class supplies. Each year we hear about the reductions in school enrollment in our county. When this bill comes into effect, not only will you have population decline reflected in enrollment decreases, but an exodus of students into private schools, virtual private schools, and home schooling will exacerbate the decline of public school enrollment.
But I’m sure coal will come back any day now, and allow for new generations to raise their children in prosperity. A new pickup in every driveway, and an ATV to boot. That’s the WV dream!
We as a nation are now facing what we have become. Instead of integrating people fully into our culture, we seem to be freshly reinvigorating the racist memes I remember from my youth. All in pursuit of some idealized memory where whites ruled everything, and the odd minority we have to encounter all know their place. After all, according to Senator Ron Johnson, those who marched on the Capitol were decent, law-abiding citizens of the correct race, who would never consider breaking the law. Not like those Black Lives Matter and antifa marchers who spread anarchy. You would be scared of the latter, but not the former. All of the chaos and vitriol shown by those who broke into the Capitol building? A few plants helped to turn the crowd violent. They’d never have done the things they did if they weren’t instigated to do them.
Those who feign ignorance of history will be sentenced to relive it. In many ways, we have never left the Good Ole Boys territory in much of this nation. We are now in this state facing a new bill that will certainly pass which prohibits any removal of civic monuments (read civil war statues), or rename any public facility without the express approval of a State entity. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, our billionaire governor’s main priority is to replace a somewhat progressive income tax with a hodge-podge of sales and sin tax increases, aimed at reducing his personal tax rate at the expense of those who will pick up the tab in consumption taxes. That is on top of all of the cultural battles that the Legislature has chosen to take on in this session. I think we are making real progress in our state (cheek hernia intended).
Our two sons have joined the youth exodus out of this state. They reside in Maryland and Virginia, and have added to the vitality of those states. Somehow I don’t think they would be influenced to come back here if the income tax rates were lowered. I think there’s a whole lot of other considerations before they ever would decide to move back to this state. But then, you’d never know there’s a problem if you rely upon the signals coming from our legislature. We’ll reap the long term benefits of this philosophy after the release of the census results, when we move from 3 representatives down to 2. Back when the Kennedy-Humphrey primary battle was a thing, we had 6 representatives in the House. Looks like the trend we are trying to reverse goes back at least into the 1950’s. I don’t expect it to change any time soon, especially since this state seems to be willingly stuck in the same miasma it has wallowed in as this legislative session grinds down to its inglorious conclusion.
A premise of white supremacy is that the culture created by whites is superior to that of any other ethnic group. I for one do not believe that, and to prove my point, I only have to refer to what seems to be the cultural beacons for much of the nation. Reality TV. Really. This genre is aimed at the lowest common denominator among TV viewers, as it allows people to vicariously share in the lives of those who are viewed as superior. And how are they superior? Well, many on the airwaves prove their merits by being the chosen one, that is, the one among the rest of the beautiful people who end up winning the affection of the ideal mate. How do they do that? Besides the natural advantage of beauty, they are able to manipulate the emotions and actions of their competitors, and ultimately the emotions and actions of the supposed ideal mate. Stabbing in the back is not only desirable, it adds to the drama for all those who turn in week after week to see the soap opera play out. Ah, yes. The superiority of white culture.
When I was in college, wrestling was big. There were many local television stations that broadcast the regional wrestling circuit. I even had my favorites, a father/son team that used real wrestling moves to subdue their opponents. Sad (and easy) to say, they didn’t have enough pizazz to be fan favorites. I moved after college to Memphis, and there I encountered Jerry Lawler as the local king of wrestling. Very appropriate for the hometown of the King to also serve as the site where the King of Wrestling held sway. But since I first moved to Memphis, the sport has morphed and ended up as a bloated corpse, floating in the flotsam of popular culture. What’s more, the world of boxing has devolved into the world of MMA, where both men and women can aspire to be the peaks of their species by knocking the crap out of their opponents. We know so much more about head trauma than we did when I was a child, it literally hurts to watch any of this, yet so much of what we as a nation desire is more and more mayhem. If this is the epitome of culture that whites can generate, then let me be the first to say it ain’t worth crap.
The US has survived its episode with a reality TV star in charge. This was the fulfillment of H. L. Mencken’s prophecy from a century ago, where he said: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” A moron who reached back into some poorly remembered recesses of his mind to a time when America was great. I am so grateful that he is no longer in charge, and my hope is he becomes fully discredited as he wades through his morass of legal issues. But just remember, he is still the embodiment of the superiority of white culture.
What it seems to me is that America has lost its ability to self-motivate. We’ve lost the drive to succeed on our own, and because of that we do not have civic energy we need to embody greatness. Part of that is systemic, since big box stores replacing smaller establishments has reduced the opportunity to better yourself by running a small business. It becomes systemic when even the jobs offered at these establishments do not pay enough to sustain a minimal lifestyle. It is only the immigrants who still see the opportunity to better themselves by running a small business. How impoverished would our cuisine be if we had not been exposed to restaurants where local cuisines from across the world were available, thanks to the energy of our immigrant community. But we must maintain the purity of our race!
Our financial system has assumed greater and greater power over our lives. Basically, for any publicly traded company, Wall Street tries to ensure that the only consideration for that company is maximizing shareholder return. Lately this doesn’t even include profit, because so many companies borrow to enable stock buybacks enriching no one other than shareholders. I’ve seen the machinations a company will go through rather than face these individuals who try to impose their will on companies to “maximize shareholder return”. My old company ended up merging with its biggest domestic competitor, then forming three corporations out of the wreckage of the merger. Along the way it was necessary to divest many of the growth products due to anti-trust considerations. All of this was because an activist investor had targeted the company since he thought their costs were too high, and they spent too much money on research. I shudder to think of all of the wasted costs undertaken to make this misguided merger/demerger happen, costs that did nothing to improve customer service, or create new products, or reduce manufacturing waste and pollution.
This over-financialization of the business world is yet another example of what white culture has done, since the world of finance is still mainly a white bastion. Yet another case where whites are causing great harm as they run roughshod over the employees of their enterprises.
All of these are examples of why I find the arguments of those who invoke white supremacy to be faulty at best, and evil at worst. It seems that those who believe in white supremacy are willing to demean any other race and culture, all in the misguided belief that only they can solve the problems. Yeah, we saw just exactly how well that went over the past four years. Unfortunately, that attitude is not shared with many who supported the last presidency. Their only complaint was that he didn’t go far enough, just like his supporters on the January 6 picnic at the Capitol who wore attire that indicated Hitler did not go far enough. But since it was white demonstrators, at least Senator Ron Johnson wasn’t worried.
Despair creeps in when hope is exhausted. For so many during this long pandemic season, despair has been a constant companion after the shock of the first few weeks passed. But now, along with the seasonal change, hope is returning. For some, the financial boost coming from the COVID relief package will enable them to hang on until the economy fully recovers, and they can go back to a service economy job that pays just enough to squeak by. For many others, the opportunity to abandon the prison of their home with the onslaught of vaccination, will bring back essential socialization and family interactions. Still, it is hope that is omnipresent in this time of rebirth in nature.
As a nation, we begin to crawl out of our foxholes and survey the landscape around us. Some things should come into focus, even if they were visible prior to the pandemic. Though visible, they did not register as urgent problems in the before times. Will we have the collective will to address these problems now? We will see. The COVID relief bill has taken a first step towards solving some of these problems. But it is time-limited relief, and its provisions are for only one or two years. The problems, like child poverty, have existed for far longer. It was only during the nadir of the pandemic that we realized how interconnected we all are, and how we need to solve the problems of our brothers and sisters in need, or we will be swept under the tide of humanity crying out for aid.
We had a foretaste of what can happen when we ignore these problems for too long. Demonstrations aimed at protesting excessive use of force by law enforcement, were coopted at night by those who favored direct action and anarchy. It is important to recognize that the demonstrations were instigated by acts of violence, but the economy was also a significant factor. When people do not see hope in their lives, despair can overwhelm them and it is a small step to violence. Of course, those who saw only the violence in the streets were convinced that the source of that violence was organized, and financed by an evil cabal. Then we saw what could happen when those who decried violence, decided to perpetrate violence themselves on January 6. Certainly we all were living in a state of despair at that time.
Will we learn our lessons? Will we let the siren song of substance abuse wrap its embrace of slithering tentacles around us? Will we continue to insist upon punitive actions only as the sole treatment method available to those who succumb to its fatal attraction? Will we realize that the costs of maintaining our prison complex are vastly greater than the costs of providing real treatment? That’s just one of the problems that existed long before the pandemic, yet shows up now in greater relief.
Will we be willing to invest in improved facilities for schools? In some states, the disparity between school facilities and achievement is immoral. The zip code you live in should not be the primary determinant of your educational outcome. Yet it is in far too many states. But of course it is the greedy teachers’ unions that are seen as the source of poor student performance.
Will we continue to accept that in the service economy we now have, it is not moral to allow those who look after the most vulnerable in our population to work full time for wages that do not provide enough money to live in dignity? We’ve lost many of the jobs we had in small towns, where a manufacturer could take those who did not pursue advanced education and provide them jobs where they could support a family. We may decry the global shift of labor and capital, but it will not reverse and provide those jobs in the future. Any manufacturing that returns, will use smaller amounts of labor, and require advanced education in order to control and maintain the machines that actually perform the manufacturing. We can wail and moan about this change, or we can accept it and try to fashion our real world into one where we’d like to live.
We’ve just gone through a period where we tried to squeeze out testosterone as a grease for our economy. Witness the frantic push to grab the last bit of fossil fuels out of the public lands. Because, you see, drilling for oil is manly. And we need that image of the roughneck out there in his domestic pickup, living his life out in the frontier towns of the Dakota’s, or among the tumbleweeds of Texas, showing the best of what America has to offer. Yes, doesn’t require much education to be a roughneck. Just what we need to Make America Great Again. But the investment required to keep the oil and gas flowing through the fracking fields won’t just keep coming, since it is nigh unto impossible to make money when the output from the wells declines so precipitously. So will we turn from the allure of fossil fuel towards a cleaner future?
The Texas freeze has shown us just how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is. Will we have the will to require investment in upgrading facilities and making it possible to integrate periodic sources of energy generation (i.e., renewables) into our delivery systems? The next failure may not just be in Texas, but can be global in nature, especially if we get smacked by a coronal mass ejection from the sun. Are we willing to spend money now to protect against something that may not happen for 100 years?
All of these problems (and many more) have existed for decades if not longer. The virus has shown us that we are all living on borrowed time if we expect life to continue blissfully ignorant of the risks we run. Somehow we need to change our mindset from a heedless rush for maximum profits by corporations, to a model where some of the excess profits are recycled into system improvements that ensure continuity of service. Can such a change in mindset happen without government mandates? Texas may be our canary in that a completely deregulated environment did not ensure continuity of service to cover a once in a hundred-year weather event.
Since the 1980’s in the US, we have seen government put down as being the worst enemy of true Americans. It is past time to put that phrase into our history books, as we see what that philosophy does to a society after over 40 years of implementation. You end up with massive inequality in the economy, a bulging underclass that does not share in the overall prosperity of the nation, and facilities that all depend upon that have grown increasingly frail. It is time to change our perspective and look at what can be, and work to create that future for all of us.
The crocus have bloomed in our lawn and garden slopes. The first signs of spring, these most hopeful of flowers often will bloom through the snow as they let us know that warmer temperatures are coming. We look for the first signs of spring and cherish them.
I just received my first dose of the coronavirus vaccine today. Like the crocus, the increased spread of the vaccines offers hope that the world may emerge from the doldrums of winter into the bright sunlight of summer. Perhaps we can look forward to those things we once took for granted, like enjoying a meal at a restaurant, or singing in our various choirs without fear of contagion.
Being the science nerd that I am, I am glad that I received a dose of the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. There is no better example of technology to demonstrate how far we have come to understanding the genome and how to influence the biology of life. To think that we can now introduce fat particles in a vaccine that are designed to penetrate cell walls. There they will deliver their dosage of mRNA that causes the immune system to recognize, and attack, invaders that have the distinctive type of latching mechanism of COVID. No longer do we need to rely upon killed versions of the whole virus (although the Johnson and Johnson vaccine does rely upon a killed virus other than the COVID to produce immunity). Most of the arguments against vaccines, like they rely upon cells from aborted fetuses, or contain aluminum or mercury, are rendered moot by the nature of the mRNA vaccines. They contain no items that were ever alive, and thus avoid most of the qualms that the anti-vaccination crowd should have.
But never doubt the ability of those who do not understand the underlying science to sow doubt even with this brand-new mode of vaccine delivery. No, since the scary boogeyman of DNA is invoked, those who must protest medical advances to justify their own superiority have declared that these new vaccines will hijack your DNA, and cause unspeakable mutations that will show up in later years to enable the goal of population reduction to be achieved. Whose goal? Why, Bill Gates of course. It is he who has taken the place of George Soros in many regards as the face of evil for those who refuse any scientific advance. Bill has mandated the insertion of microchips into the vaccine, so that the vaccination status of all may be determined by a simple scan, and your access to travel, recreation, and money can be held hostage to your vaccination status. I’ve even seen discussion about ingesting a horse de-wormer (Ivermectin) as a treatment regimen rather than subject people to the vaccine.
Since I was trained as a chemical engineer, and have studied biochemistry and other related fields, I have much less fear of products developed through adherence to the scientific method. I wish there were a way I could convey the knowledge I have gained to those who are insistent upon believing the pure BS that is spread through on-line media. But I should not be surprised. Those who believed in the past president as being a great businessman have proven to be remarkably recalcitrant in abandoning their adherence to worshiping the great one. You need look no further than to see the adulation given to the golden statue of their chosen leader this past weekend at CPAC. Those who have been taken in by a scam artist, are loathe to admit their own folly. It has been said the mankind goes mad in herds, but come to their senses one by one. We who believe we are the rational ones, will never go and win an argument with those who are still in the throes of their delusions.
Anyway, I’ve now had the first dose of the vaccine. I anticipate that when I receive the second dose in about four weeks, that my immune system will already recognize the new dose as an interloper that must be attacked, and I expect to feel like crap for a day or so. That is one small price to pay compared to the price that can be exacted from full-fledged infection with the virus. I’ve been following the progress of a friend who was severely infected, with pneumonia from the virus. Just the stories of his near brush with death, and the tenacity he’s had to use to battle back, let me know that I don’t wish to share his experience.
In some ways this pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the world. Imagine if this airborne virus had the lethality of Ebola? I think that’s what some deniers are maintaining, that if people aren’t dropping dead on the streets, then this is not a disease worth fearing. I really am hoping that those in charge of political power decide it is worthwhile to pay for insurance policies for the future. What does that look like? It looks like scientists from multiple nations working at facilities across the globe, ready to sound the warning when they detect a disease of concern. It looks like adequate stocks of protective equipment kept on hand. It looks like an analysis of supply chains, and investment to harden those supply chains, so that we are not subject to interruption of those supply chains for vital supplies when the world shuts down for the next pandemic. Because one thing we know. As long as mankind keeps impinging upon virgin territory, we will come into contact with new and more deadly diseases in the future. May we have the wisdom to actually learn from this episode, instead of adopting amnesia as a coping mechanism.