No Vaccine For Me, Please

So now we wait for the unintended consequences. Now that the US CDC has removed the requirement for masking in most situations for those who are fully vaccinated (or vacciminatedified as my elder son says), what can we expect to see going forward? First off, those governors including our own in West Virginia will be under extreme pressure to remove any masking mandates. This has already taken place in West Virginia as of May 15. Second, we can expect non-governmental groups like my church bureaucracy to relinquish their limits on in-person services (and perhaps on singing in church as well).

But the primary consequence is that there will be a low level of severe coronavirus continuing to circulate through the population since the virus will still have plenty of unvaccinated people to attack as we go through the months and years to come. If you look at the Venn diagram of those who will not get vaccinated, and those who have resisted masking, you will see a very good overlap. So those who have not been vaccinated will not follow any guidelines from the government. As those of us who have taken the jabs celebrate our freedom from the limitations imposed by the response to the virus, we must be aware that there is no visible sign to mark the vaccinated from those who are not. Since the vaccine was supposed to be the mark of the beast, I figured there would be some visible means to distinguish those who are protected from those who are not. Alas, that is not the case.

We must all be aware that even though we in the US are fortunate enough to see falling case rates, our health system will continue to see a large number of virus patients filling our hospitals. The stressed health professionals will not be able to totally abandon pandemic status, but the reduced levels we will see will likely mean our health care system won’t be overwhelmed.

That is obviously not the case across the globe. One needs only to look at the severe effects of the virus surge in India in order to understand this is a global fight, and no one is really safe until all people have the chance for immunization. Eventually the uncontrolled spread in many countries will result in a viral mutation that will evade the existing immune response from vaccination. So we have a selfish interest in preventing the scenes of suffering we see as images from India are seen on our media.

But I fear it will be nigh unto impossible to disabuse those who insist that this vaccine is evil, and a part of the New World Order mission to depopulate the earth, and we are only waiting until the 5G signal comes that activates the self-destruct mechanism we’ve had injected into ourselves. As has been said, you can’t fix stupid. And what’s worse is that so many folks are willingly adopting these ludicrous beliefs because they’ve been persuaded by the constant drumbeat of the media of the right.

Look, the right loves to bewail the perceived intolerance of the left. Well, this partisan of the left is open, and has gone so far as to read an extensive link about gain of function research conducted at the Wuhan virology lab and sponsored by that paragon of evil, Anthony Fauci. This was a link provided by my younger son, who has been vaccinated but is also deeply suspicious of China.

I will say we do need to find the animal reservoir for this virus, else the description in the link will be more likely to describe the actual origin of the virus. Regardless of the actual source of the virus, it is apparent that the initial tendency of the Chinese government was to minimize the severity of the initial outbreak. That does not justify the ethnic sniggering conducted by US government officials who were only too willing to blame an entire ethnic group for this viral dissemination. It is the words of these government officials which emboldened so many US citizens to attack their brethren for appearing Asian. What those on the right do not want to admit is that their followers take their words literally and view actions they take in support of ill-advised words as justified both legally and morally. Cancel culture from the left can result in the loss of a job, and that loss is sometimes not justified. Cancel culture from the right can result in the loss of a limb, or a life. After all, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And when one side defines what liberty is, extremism is often the result.

So we will emerge from the pandemic haphazardly. Some countries will see greatly decreased frequency and severity of infections. Others who may have escaped the ravages of the disease to date will find themselves overrun by later surges induced by more infectious variants. Meanwhile, the host country for the Olympics is questioning the worth of holding this event in the midst of an ongoing surge in cases. Given the expenses involved in hosting an Olympic game, it seems that there will be great reluctance for future cities to vie for the right to spend themselves into oblivion. Especially if this year’s games are canceled. Maybe that’s symbolic of how the world, which once was unified by athletic competition, is now unraveling due to the overwhelming trend towards provincialism sweeping over the nations of the earth. Much like the virus has swept over the earth, totally ignorant of the imaginary lines dividing the countries on the ground. Some realities just cannot be ignored.

Time Is Tight!

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There is an illness stalking the inhabitants of this nation. No, it is not the illness caused by the corona virus, although that is still running rampant among our population. Instead, it is the illness of selfishness and ignorance that is causing so many who consider themselves Republicans to refuse to distance themselves from this President. Indeed, there is a hard-core constituency who still refuses to believe in the recent election, and cling to their fever dream of having Donald Trump remain in power as President.

The illness has taken hold over decades. It goes back to the belief that Senator McCarthy was correct, and members of the deep state (he never enunciated that phrase) were undermining the US by covertly inserting communistic beliefs into this nation’s consciousness. The stereotype was so engrained that a character in a 1964 movie, Dr. Strangelove, was a parody of the supporters of McCarthy and the John Birch society. General Jack D. Ripper spoke the beliefs that we were being undermined by fluoridation (amongst other things). So the belief system resulting in this illness began before 1960. It has taken this long for it to gain power in the nation.

I sincerely hope that the brazen display of those infected with this disease that took place on January 6, 2021, shows the rest of the nation the folly they would inflict upon us all. We needed something to burst the bubble of infection, and allow the pus of this disease to be excised from the body politic. Seeing the so-called patriots who believed they were defending the virtues of this nation, seeing them swinging the US flag and its attached pole against the skulls of those outmanned officers should disabuse anyone who is not fully infected with this disease from ever believing in the purity of their cause.

Now there is a great hue and cry among the fevered victims of this disease about having their constitutional rights violated by the banning of their chief from social media. They claim a tyranny of the left is being waged against those who espouse “conservative” views. If only they stuck to true conservative values. No, those who are missing their on-line forums were the ones that would institute true tyranny, and their leader was showing them how it is done. January 6, 2021 serves as an exemplary case study in how their leader used his voice to inflame a crowd already dripping with sweat from induced fever, into taking action on his behalf. And of course, he would be with them. Except, of course, he wasn’t. He was acting as his own executive producer, and watched the reality show he produced unfold on TV. His only regret was that the forces he unleashed did not achieve their objectives of capturing and executing those he had decried as enemies.

Now we are cleaning up the aftermath of the Capitol invasion of January 6. Chief among these aisle clean-ups is the action to impeach and remove this President. Know that this effort will never result in the removal of this President, because the majority leader of the Senate will not allow it to happen while he retains his powers. It still is a worthy action to take, although I am myself of the opinion that impeachment in the House should take place before the end of the presidential term, but the trial in the Senate would be better if we allow a couple of months for passions to die down before it proceeds. Then the full results of the invasion will be known, and some of those who were infected victims of the cult disease might have broken their fever, and realized the folly of their ways. The facts won’t change.

Indeed, one of the most severe symptoms of the disease afflicting so many in this nation is the inability to discern fact from fiction. They insist their fictional accounts of events is real. They believe that the doctored videos offered as conclusive proof by the President’s Keystone Cop lawyers showed a vast conspiracy aimed at silencing their views forever. It will take a long time for these fevered victims of the cult to realize the error of their ways. If we are fortunate, the cult victims will regain their senses by ones and twos, and realize how close they came to unraveling the fabric of this nation. If we are not fortunate, then we will have future fever outbreaks across this country, and the death toll of these outbreaks may exceed the toll of January 6 by orders of magnitude.

Be prepared for the fever to not subside with the change in administrations. The disease is deeply entrenched in the soul of this nation, and will resist control as violently as the corona virus is resisting our so-far futile efforts to contain it.

We Keep Facing The Wrong Enemy

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Once upon a time, there was an inhabited planet where the inhabitants had divided themselves up into little enclaves, and pretended the divisions were there by divine right. They looked out into the heavens, and even gained enough knowledge to perceive thousands of planets in our little corner of our galaxy, but so far had not received confirmation that we were not alone in having life.

The inhabitants focused on differences in skin pigment, on the languages spoken, and even on the differences in how the inhabitants dealt with their beliefs about divinity, and were convinced they were the only true representatives of a civilized species. All others were part of the “other” and were dismissed as unworthy. Nowhere was there a recognition that the elements of commonality were much, much greater than the tiny amounts of differences.

The inhabitants worked themselves up into frenzies, and when they did not have other differences to fight over, they invented them. When faced with a need to battle a viral vector by wearing a face covering, they created yet another division, where covering your face (or not) became a declaration of what political camp you lived in. Nowhere was there a recognition that the true enemy was a novel virus, one that happened to find refuge in the respiratory system of the inhabitants. Nowhere was there a desire expressed to unite in opposition to the littlest invader, one like others we had battled over millennia.

The inhabitants grew their number explosively over the decades. There was no recognition that the planet of the inhabitants had any limitations whatsoever. So the contents of the seas were vacuumed up, for use as direct sustenance for the inhabitants, or for feeding the domestic companions of the inhabitants, or for addressing a dietary / medical need for the inhabitants. Since the surface of the seas were translucent, the changes in the population of the denizens of the deep were concealed from the gaze of the inhabitants. Likewise, many of the inhabitants believed they could not influence the chemistry of the atmosphere. Surely the spirit of he who created this planet would not allow for his creations to violate its limitations. So in the interest of not disrupting the economy, no plans were made to establish a world where providing heat or cooling, or enabling transportation, would not cause damage to the planet.

Certainly there were those who decried these trends. Some of those who spoke for the deity cried out in the wilderness for a critical need to actually become stewards of their little ball floating in the true wilderness of space. But many other voices drowned them out as they called for a continuation of their divine right to consume and possess everything within reach.

At some point, there will be a reckoning. That reckoning will come when a tipping point is reached, and there can be no mistaking what is happening. It may be that the seafood catch plummets catastrophically, and the skeletons of sea birds and seals and whales bear mute testimony to the lack of sustenance below the surface. It may come when ice shelves collapse at both poles, and for a few years, immense icebergs pose an ongoing hazard to shipping. It may come when the number of tropical storms within a year require use not only of the western alphabet, and Greek letters, but also some other nomenclature system in order to keep track of the increased number of cyclones. Once those tipping points are reached, will it be possible to ratchet back our influence and change the set point for our planet? Or will there still be those in positions of power who continue to deny the evidence staring them in their face, and exclaim a moral right to continue their pathway of greed and ignorance.

When will we recognize how unique and precious this life we share is? How few places in this galaxy are habitable, and how important it is for us to band together as a species, instead of battling unwinnable fights to keep the “others” from affecting our comfort? How long will it be before we learn how to share the bounty we’ve been given rather than covet what others have?

Given the unfortunate diversion over the last four years I’ve witnessed in my own nation, I am not optimistic. That it took a massive display of incompetence during this pandemic to even convince a small majority of this nation to vote against the current inhabitant of our Maison Blanche, it seems like it will be a slow battle to realize we do have common enemies – just not those that one party declares as the enemy. The true enemy is the emptiness of space. If we do not recognize that, and work to make our lifestyles sustainable, then the emptiness of space will win. Eventually, in billions of years, that will happen anyway. But we as a species, having been given reason and knowledge, must use those faculties to prevent our ultimate fate from overtaking us well before our time.

When Will This Election End?

Narcissist In Chief

So the drama keeps on keeping on. The narcissist-in-chief refuses to give up that title as he vainly attempts to influence state legislatures to do something totally outside of their powers – mainly, to overcome the will of their state’s electorates and declare the narcissist as the winner in the Presidential election. Many of the narcissist’s followers have latched onto this quixotic quest and have begun a new pasttime of harassing state electoral officials. Doesn’t matter whether they are democrats or republicans, these officials have run afoul of the narcissist’s need for official affirmation.

I had hoped by this time in the election cycle, we could diverge from the path of the last five years, and begin to discuss the issues we face as a nation. Unfortunately, the most recent election will not recede into the past. We are given the images of the narcissist’s lawyer conducting press conferences in a gritty north Philadelphia neighborhood, accompanied by images of a porn shop and a crematorium adjacent to the Vivaldi concerto (The Four Seasons). We were treated to the unforgettable image of the narcissistian bimbo addressing the Michigan state senators with a performance seldom seen before this year. For once Saturday Night Live didn’t have to exaggerate their impersonation in order to lay bare the total ludicrousity of the testimony of this woman.

Still, this monstrosity of an administration is ending the only way it could – dissolving into an utterly chaotic pool of recriminations flavored with the virus de jour. Now let me say that I don’t know absolutely that a different approach could have engendered less death and misery upon this country. What I do know is that due to the propensity of the narcissist-in-chief to minimize the impact of the virus upon this nation and its economy, we squandered the time we had available to mobilize an effective plan to produce and distribute protective equipment and testing supplies. By relegating all responsibility for virus response to the states, we were treated to the spectacle of states bidding against each other for scarce resources. And of course, the price for these supplies escalated significantly, causing wasteful spending to fall upon the states. We had the image of a republican governor essentially negotiating an international trade deal with Korea, and bringing in testing supplies on a charter flight that was unloaded within the sovereign territory of his state, rather than risk it being seized by Federal forces if it were to fly to the normal international airport of Dulles.

It is seldom that you can see evolution happening in real time, but if the behavior of republicans and democrats were to be perpetuated over several generations, it seems that the human population within the US would tend to be more educated and more likely to support science. Because the population that pooh-pooed science and its response to the virus will be more likely to diminish, since so many of them will die. But their freedom will be maintained.

Once more we see how the US Constitution that we have relied upon for over 200 years as the model for our behavior, is incapable of guiding appropriate responses in our modern world. The need to maintain the common welfare comes into direct conflict with the desires to maintain the freedom to conduct all manner of activities, whether it be to crowd the stage at a narcissist’s rally, or get sloshed at a neighborhood bar, or sing to the Lord a new song in an unmasked sanctuary. At the same time, long-festering wounds within the social structure had their scabs ripped off, and the nation had to address the reality that life has never been equal for those who are in the minority within our states. For many of the narcissist’s followers, since they do not live in cities where the grievances are strongest, those grievances are by definition not real. Any voice raised in support of those who expressed outrage was castigated as being un-American, and traitorous.

If this nation is to remain whole, and not splinter into irreconcilable geographic factions, we must come up with a new social contract. This social contract must define our responsibilities towards each other, recognizing that the shrinking of the globe that has happened over the past few decades must be taken into account. The existing Constitution served us well during the time when there was always a frontier that we could move to if life got too constrained within the cities. Well, now it is the cities that are constrained by the stultification they find outside of their borders. We no longer have the ability to declare unconstrained freedom to pursue our own desires, if in by so doing, we cause damage to the well being of many others. The unfettered ability to use one’s own property as you desire, or pursue unrestrained commercial activity, or exercise religious freedom, has now run up against the limitations that flow from having a much larger population. How do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory human needs?

I’m not sure, but I don’t believe that armed mob intimidation attempts, at state capitols, or at the residences of state officials, is a useful way to resolve these issues. Shouting past each other does not, and will not ever work. What will work? My hope is that efforts like the Problem Solver’s Caucus will turn out to be more successful than such entities as the Freedom Caucus, who seem intent on fanning the flames already turning this nation into a firestorm of hatred and vitriol.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

WVSO

I have been fortunate so far during this pandemic. My family has not contracted the disease, my income has been steady since I am retired, and both of my sons in neighboring states are still employed. In fact, my older son quit his job due to concerns about the morality of keeping his bookstore open to walk-in traffic, and ended up getting a better job in a management training position. So it seems like the height of arrogance to mention what this pandemic is taking from me.

I am a singer. I have always been either in church choirs, choral groups, or even belting out songs on stage. For over 50 years, singing has been an integral part of who I am. But. With the corona virus, that has come to an abrupt halt. For how long, I don’t know. See, when you sing, you also spray. I see little drops on the music sheet as we go through the pages of scores. You accept the fact that you will spray others, and others will spray you. Before the advent of this virus, that was of little consequence. You accepted it, just like you accepted the shoulder-to-shoulder experience, especially when you have the opportunity to sing a major choral work with an orchestra accompanying you.

Now, it is apparent that choral singing is a breeding ground for exposure to the virus. Many have seen this report  from the CDC that showed 87% of singers in a community chorus were infected after two weekly rehearsals in the Seattle area after community transmission began. As a result, both my wife and I have had to reconsider our involvement in our singing groups. When our church goes back to live services, it will likely be without choral singing. Quite simply, there is no way you can provide adequate spacing in space-limited choir lofts to ensure a lack of viral transmission. Since I have always considered my singing to be a significant part of my service to our church, and a reason why I continue to be a church member. Now? What will take its place in my soul? As the hymn says, “How can I keep from singing?”

Similarly, to be a member of the local symphony chorus will also come into question this year. We already lost a performance of Carmina Burana this spring when the symphony cancelled its remaining concerts. The chorus will likely come back in September, and during a normal year, we would begin work on the major piece (Mozart Requiem) scheduled for next spring, while preparing our own music for a chorus concert around the holidays, along with the music to share with the holiday pops concert with the West Virginia Symphony. We’ve already decided that we will likely miss the fall season, with the hope that conditions have changed enough by this winter that we will be able to participate in the spring. Since we’ve sung the Requiem several times, it is not a matter of learning the notes, but bringing the parts back into active memory so that the singing becomes natural and nuanced. We can do that just with rehearsals after the first of the year. But the decision to forego the fall semester comes with a deep sense of regret. We are in the target demographic for this virus, and although we’ve been spared the crisis of larger cities, the virus is opportunistic, and loves to spread through exactly the type of gathering we participate in. So even if we avoid catching the virus, it still is exacting its price from us.