Anger, a national disease

“Anything that gets in the way must be attacked as well.”

On May 17 at about 3 pm, I stopped by a liquor store at the corner of Quail Street and Elberon Place and bought a bottle of wine. This is almost exactly one mile from my home.

On May 30 at about 3 am near that very same intersection, Devin McGlothan, 29, was the ninth person murdered in the city of Albany, NY in 2021. It’s the sixth killing in the month of May, including two high school girls.

This is hardly just an Albany problem. It’s a national disease. In the Miami area on Memorial Day weekend, there were two mass causality events. One involved three men jumping out of a car, shooting two dozen people in six seconds, killing at least two, then driving off. See the mass shootings list for 2021. Workplaces, grocery stores – no place appears immune.

After spending 2020 worrying about getting COVID-19, I don’t want to spend 2021 worrying about violence. But living near a hotheaded neighbor who thinks we’re always calling the cops on her -I did once, because of the dog – unexplained noises at night are unsettling.

Rage

I wish I had some cogent solutions to offer the country, but I’m just nervous because it’s rooted in a fit of cultural anger that I don’t know how we fix. And they have lots of guns

Anger over COVID: its physical and economic effects, people “forced” to wear masks, people demanding others NOT to wear masks, the belief that the disease is a “fraud”, that the vaccine will empower Bill Gates.

And when they get out and about, they seem to have forgotten how to act like civil human beings. No wonder Southwest and American Airlines at least temporarily banned the sale of liquor on their planes. A female passenger punched a female flight attendant in the face. Unruly Passenger Reports have skyrocketed in 2021

Anger over race/religion/ethnicity: Japanese-Americans and Korean-Americans assaulted because their attackers discriminate but aren’t discriminating. Jewish-Americans and their places of worship threatened, as though they control the military policy of the Israeli government. Hispanics are harassed because they don’t “talk American.” Black Americans are still killed, because.

Anger fueled by social media. When I read my political feeds from all sides, they often use terms such as “destroys.” Such as, “Adam destroyed Bob with this tweet.” Zero-sum.

45, still

Anger stirred up over the Big Lie about the 2020 election. This begat the January 6 insurrection. And has brought forth laws in several states interfering with elections; in Georgia and Texas, it’s much easier to overturn the mandate of the populace. And some wuss members of Congress who have decided that 6 Jan was a tourist event.

Terry Moran on ABC News This Week for May 30 described it this way: “The Republican Party isn’t very Republican, and it’s not really a party, right? It’s a nationalist Trumpist movement right now.

“Parties are static. They operate within a received set of laws and traditions. They compete for voter support to enact policy preferences. Movements move.

“And nationalist movements move to attack the establishment in their own party first and then everywhere else. And anything that gets in the way must be attacked as well.”

Just Google “angry Americans.” Read how political rage helps campaigns but hurts democracy.

“So, when democratic laws and traditions and values get in the way and the basic arithmetic of democracy, if the other guy gets more votes, you lose, they attack that too. And that’s what’s happening.”

As I noted, I’m looking for suggestions, because I’m bereft of them.

Binghamton to Albany via Detroit?

Half a day.

I have the need to travel from Binghamton to Albany, both in New York State. It’ll be sometime later this year, via some sort of transit. This is a distance of 141 miles or 227 km, traveling northeast.

Back in the last century, and even the early part of this one, one could take the bus from Binghamton, through Oneonta to Schenectady and Albany, primarily Route 7 and later I-88.

The last time I needed to make the trip from my hometown to my current residence, perhaps in 2018, was on a work trip. I had to take the bus from Binghamton to Syracuse, due north, then take another bus east to the state capital. This involved leaving the Parlor City about 3:30 a.m. and then having a 2-hour layover.

But last I checked, to make the very same trip now, I would have to leave at 2:15 am and arrive in Syracuse at 3:30 am. Then I’d have to wait eight hours to take the only eastbound bus at 11:40 am, getting into Albany at 2:45 pm. Twelve hours on the road.

What about the plane?

BinghamtonThe cheapest flight was $397, and it involved spending 7 hours and 20 minutes in Detroit, MI. The shortest, and at $892, the most expensive, involved only three hours in Detroit. The other choices involved going through both Detroit and Chicago, IL. The trips would take as “little” as 7.5 hours and as much as twice that.

Unfortunately, there is no train service at all from Binghamton, which is a shame. Currently, no train service exists on Sunday from Syracuse to Albany. Now, the latter is likely to change – or so I hope – as more people are traveling. But I like to make plans ahead of time.

The great thing about some travel these days is that some carriers are much more willing to be flexible about ticketing. The Trailways bus folks, e.g. are willing to provide refunds in case of death of an immediate family member, illness, jury duty, or military service.

 

Protect civil rights or Mr. Potato Head?

Hippocratic oath, ignored

potato headThe Weekly Sift guy posits: If there’s a theme in recent political news, it’s that Republicans and Democrats seem to be living in different worlds.

“I live in the Democratic world, so the issues Democrats talk about — Covid; the economic effect of Covid on ordinary people; protecting the right to vote; repairing crumbling 20th-century infrastructure and building for the current century; climate change; racism, sexism, and various other forms of bigotry; mass shootings; and letting DREAMers stay in the country — look real to me.

“Meanwhile Republican priorities — making it harder to vote; keeping transgirls out of school sports; changing discrimination laws to increase conservative Christians’ opportunities to express their disapproval of other people’s lifestyles; encouraging more people to carry guns in more situations; more tightly regulating which bathrooms people use; not letting cities require masks; and protecting Mr. Potato Head from cancel culture — are all weirdly divorced from any problems I can see.”

He describes this in much greater detail. And it wasn’t always so, as he explains.

Anyway, while trying not to pay too much attention to a murder trial in Minnesota, some other things that caught my attention.

ITEM: A story about my home county:
Research reveals gaping racial disparities in suburban arrests
“A review of data by the Times Union provided by the Capital Region’s largest suburban police departments revealed Black people are arrested and ticketed at rates that far exceed their percentage of the population in the mostly white communities.

This should surprise no one around here. Of course, the black folks in Albany knew this. But some of the white people in my church have been telling me this for years, how they had received what they perceived to be preferential treatment.

The Talk, redux

ITEM: Asian Americans, many for the first time, are giving children and elderly parents ‘The Talk’ on how to protect themselves from hate
“Some parents have been putting off these uncomfortable discussions, but they’re now unavoidable after the targeted murders of six Asian American women in the Atlanta area.” The conversations with their children are about how to gird themselves against a wave of anti-Asian sentiment, violence, and bullying.

ITEM:  Arkansas Governor Signs Pro-Religious Discrimination Bill Allowing Doctors to Refuse to Treat LGBTQ Patients.
And here I thought doctors followed a Hippocratic oath to recognize their “special obligations to all my fellow human beings.” This is contemptible legislation.

ITEM: Lindsey Graham Accuses President Of ‘Playing Race Card’ On HR 1
There was a time, right after John McCain died, that I thought maybe this guy could become something better. Nope.

ITEM: From The Lancet, no less. Public policy and health in the Trump era
“Trump exploited low and middle-income white people’s anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilise racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people and corporations and threaten health.

“His signature legislative achievement, a trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations and high-income individuals, opened a budget hole that he used to justify cutting food subsidies and health care. His appeals to racism, nativism, and religious bigotry have emboldened white nationalists and vigilantes, and encouraged police violence and, at the end of his term in office, insurrection.” (49 pp, free with registration)

ITEM: SATIRE –  Georgia Governor Declares Water a Gateway Drug That Leads to Voting

On the other hand

ITEM:  Louisiana, Activists May Be Winning a Battle Against Environmental Racism
Analysts say the massive petrochemical complex proposed by Formosa Plastics is “financially unviable.”

ITEM: Brown University students vote to support reparations for descendants of enslaved people connected to the school
“Studying the issue doesn’t put money in Black folks’ pockets,” the student body president said. “It’s lovely and all, but how does that rectify what happened?”
Of course, the question is always, “How?”

In the year of the masks

do I want to know a secret?

Unity MaskIn some way, there was no date more 2020 for me than December 7. I received three packages. All contained masks.

One was a package of 50 disposable items I had ordered about a week earlier. The second was a mask featuring the mustache of John Green, which I had ordered about a month and a half earlier. It was a Pizzamas thing; don’t worry about understanding that, because I don’t either.

The third, though, I had ordered so long before that I had forgotten about it altogether. Ten black masks with the letters UNITY in white silhouette. Within each letter, a message. all in caps.

Healthcare for all. Back Lives Matter. Save the Planet. Protect Dreamers. Ensure voting rights. The image description from Democracy for America: “We believe there is more that unites us than divides us. These issues are not just for the few, they are for all of us.” I hope so.

In my Christmas stocking, Santa brought two more masks. One was a woodsy scene. The other was a black mask with Day-Glo musical notes. I like these.

One more

Finally, in the mail on New Year’s Eve, came a mask with a card, sent ostensibly from my church’s address. The lettering was intentionally designed to obscure the handwriting of the sender. The white mask had a pinkish rectangle that featured a white cross. In red letters:
FIRST PRES CHOIR
2020

For the last few years, an anonymous benefactor had left the choir t-shirts and pens, both emblazed with messages about the church, left near the choir loft. Since we haven’t sung since March 2020 – haven’t even been in the building – I was particularly surprised by this largesse. I have a theory about who it might be; my wife thinks it’s someone else. Thanks to the choir Secret Santa once again, whoever you are.

Football!

I went to the local grocery store on Tuesday, moving through as quickly as possible. The cashier wore a Pittsburgh Steelers mask. I asked her if her team was going to win this weekend. She said, “I hope so. They only lost by two last week, and they rested some of their players.” I added, “And the Cleveland Browns needed that game. But what about that three-game losing streak?” She sighed, “I don’t know WHAT that was about.”

I mention this because, too often, the mask is a sign of less sharing. You can’t see people’s facial expressions. But at that moment, the mask facilitated a human connection that I too often miss.

Here’s hoping that in 2022, I won’t need the masks anymore. But I keep seeing those newspaper headlines. LA Times, Jan 1.: Spiraling COVID-19 deaths leave morgues overflowing and funeral homes turning away grieving families. And even around here. Times Union, Jan. 1: In Albany County, the mark of 346 new infections in one day is 77 more than the prior record. So know I’ll still have those masks available in 2021. It’s good to have a variety…

At least I don’t have to deal with these folks.

Unbridled joy at church, as it were

readings, prayers, and conversation

First Presbyterian Church. windowMy church had been working toward resuming in-person worship beginning Sunday, November 29. However, based on the upswing of COVID 19 virus cases in the area, the Session (correctly, IMO) doesn’t feel it is safe to restart.

Since we’re talking about Presbyterians, naturally there is an ad hoc group known as the Reopening Coordinating Committee. The group voted to put in-person worship on hold at least until mid-January. I suspect it’ll be later than that.

Now, we have had worship live-streamed on Facebook every Sunday at 10 a.m. since way back on March 22, after the services were canceled on March 15. It is actually a quite decent production, thanks to the technological prowess of a number of folks. But of course, it’s not the same.

There is a team in the church to check-in and connect with every member via phone or email. I’m one of those team members. But it ain’t the same either.

We did a new thing

On November 22, we had an all-church meeting to discuss the nominations for the new Session members. So it was on the church’s ZOOM account. I had seen most of the people present, from meetings of the choir and adult Sunday school and the Bible guys.

But it occurred to me that some of the members had viewed few or none of the rest of us. What I saw were, in some cases, experiences of unbridled joy. It was very exciting.

Then on Thanksgiving at 11 am, we had a Zoom gathering time of readings, prayers, and conversation. ESPECIALLY conversation.

Now, our church is working on trying to do a carol sing close to Christmas. Of course, we’d all be muted save for the performers. It’d be cacophony otherwise. Still, we could at least SEE each other making a joyful noise.

As our pastors like to say, “We may not gather at the church, but we still gather as the church.”