THE POLITICS OF EBOLA: GOD’S PLAN, AND I TOLD YOU SO

ebola

Last week I was stunned by the unkind comment of the stranger next to me as we filled a container with donated cans of soup at the local food bank. The comment came after a polite discussion that almost lulled me into dangerous camaraderie with this woman whose conversation segued from motherly pride in her daughter’s nursing career to her idea that Ebola is God’s punishment. “Whoa!” I put up my hand and responded with the usual; where was God when….(insert any historical scourge here). I pointed out Nazi Germany’s contribution to earthly scourges but, after a few days of contemplation, I know there is not much I could say to this woman and others like her who make their stabs at somatic immunity by volunteering in local food banks and presuming to know what God has in mind for believers and non-believers. And maybe my discomfort comes from my own questioning about a belief system that asks me to suspend belief in reality; a reality in which I live. The reality here is that Ebola is not new and as long as it stayed in some faraway land punishing others for being… well, the “other,” Ebola remained that terrible disease plaguing those sad people in that faraway land. Ebola is here, in our face, live and in living color (cue the hysteria).

We first-world (as opposed to third-world) inhabitants are quite predictable in our approach to life; we live our comfortable lives (some more comfortable than others) consumed with the daily familial and material concerns of the species. Oh, we read the headlines as we pass from one engagement to the next but no headline gets our attention like the local headline giving us the exact location and identity of the killer who has been knocking at our door for decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1994 Richard Preston introduced a generation of readers to The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story, a non-fiction thriller that frightened even Steven King who, according to Wikipedia said the first chapter of The Hot Zone was “one of the most horrifying things I’ve read in my whole life. ” Preston’s book paints indelible images of people in the throes of hemorrhagic fevers and bursting vomit-bags of black bile on transatlantic flights. (After reading the Preston’s book in ’95 I have seriously changed my original position on monkeys as sweet and adorable pets). But Preston’s bestseller did not act as wake up call for the “free world”; shaking our collective shoulders and encouraging us to answer the door. No, it was not until the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, according to Slate.com, that serious research spending occurred at the behest of Dick Cheney whose fear of America’s vulnerability to attack by enemies using bioweapons (as if airplanes were not enough) prompted the Project Bioshield Act. And here is just another story from the file of tragic irony; were it not for the vicarious warriors – those men who fight wars with other people’s children – and their projection of retribution, we would be living with an even worse prognosis for survival.

It is Monday morning, our favorite team has lost the game leaving fans with nothing but hindsight to tell us that America has, once again, been caught deaf to the knocking of humanity. Had we listened to those doctors on the front lines fighting diseases (diseases that know no politics or religion) we wouldn’t be in this heightened state of terror. Had we studied the past, listened to our hearts, and reached out with all the atomic weight our country can muster (especially in times of war) to assist a world far less fortunate, we would not be at this intersection of moral chaos and panic. We allow the scourge of Ebola to continue by proclaiming it a part of “God’s” plan – a passive aggressive approach that did not work with the aids virus. As a country we need to read, reason, and understand. After reading the story of the Ebola virus in The Hot Zone we should have understood Preston’s terrifying conclusion: EBOV will be back. And so it has.

EVERY TEACHER PRAYS

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Every teacher prays

The Catholic, Protestant, non-Christian, Atheist …

Everyday, walking the classroom’s threshold  

We pray to be delivered from

The menace of caprice

In a land governed by misery

The only evidence of our existence

With nothing but a chalk

backbone for the onslaught

The gunfight

The fire

The explosion

The educational cataclysm

That will leave the classroom

Scattered in doom

Books, bodies and minds with

Words and dreams

Obliterated beyond recognition

 

   …pray for us teachers now

   and at the hour of our test,

 Ah women

GONE MAIL: DECIDING WHAT’S WORTH A READ

Keys are clean - not so for the tray that holds them - alas

Another morning and I am in deep conversation with my computer – my e-mail to be specific.  Before I finish my coffee I have invented new swear words to fling at those who’ve invaded my e-space with demands traveling under guise of information. And maybe I am just a crank leftover from the ‘70s – I am told crankiness is a condition to be expected after so many years of watching the world retreat from its ’70’s promise of peace, love and happiness. Below I present a small sample of the items that litter my e-mail inbox along with my running commentary on the barrage of cultural spam. (I’ll try to limit expletives for the sensitive but please know there are times when no other word will suffice).  gdf

 

FROM: LinkedIn Updates : 

 I retired almost 7 years ago and now I get tons of info regarding up and coming linked-in professionals (friends and former students) — my message to them:   save your money and retire early. If you can’t – then never, ever work at a job that saps your soul of all compassion. Better yet, never work at a job that you absolutely can not flip-off when they ask you to do the unthinkable. Fight devolution and ignorance — everyday!

FROM: info@twitter.com subject: “Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola,New Zealand win U.N. Council seats; Apple Pay Will Launch October 20″

 Good for Angola, New Zealand and Malaysia; Apple pay? — riiiight  – apple pays for nothing not even taxes. If you don’t believe me follow the link -> How to make $30 billion and pay no corporate income tax, the …  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/ 2013/05/20/how…

FROM: campaigns@dailykos.com subject: ” DEMOCRATIC DOOM 

Democrats are doomed because democrats don’t vote (Not enough anyway).

FROM: Republican catastrophe : Campaigns@dailykos.com

We can only hope

FROM:  messages-noreply@linkedin.com subject: “Congratulate Deborah S.  

           Another Compton alumnus done good… congrats Deborah

FROM:  info@dscc.org subject: “NOT asking for money: (sign this!)”

Don’t believe it! There’s a request in there somewhere – this is politics after all. And how about the dscc paying ME for my signature!?

FROM: battleground-update@dscc.org

A battleground? Tell me something I don’t know

FROMNOT asking for money: (sign this!)

You again!

FROMe-activist@aft.org subject: “Fighting Ebola” 

I find this frightening – (I read The Hot Zone twice) as our “congressional leaders” will turn this catastrophe into the old “blame game” blaming the president for everything – obfuscating the truth of lock-step disapproval of anything the African-American president suggests e.g. surgeon general candidates. Our president is not perfect but I cannot lay this at his doorstep. Texas – yeah! let’s blame Texas.

FROM: Candice Owley, AFT e-activist@aft.org

American Federation of Teachers? I’m a retired activist but I won’t open this because I know what you’ll tell me – vote. I will.

FROM: Fighting Ebola

Shopping in Ithaca, NY and the hand sanitizer dispenser is empty – I fight the urge to clean the shopping cart handle with my spit. Thought the lady in front of me was going to faint when I spoke my intentions out loud. Hey, if you can’t trust your own spit – what can you trust? (I did find sanitizer though – get a grip).

FROM:  mail@faithfulamerica.org subject: “Right-wing bishops attack Pope Francis “betrayal”

Ah – the faithful — as a very fallen-away Catholic I should not be surprised (but I am) that God has been politicized like everything else.

 FROM: Michael Sherrard, Faithful America

Not a week goes by that I don’t feel some sense of gratitude that my beloved, devout Catholic grandmother is not alive to witness the deterioration of her faith – in the unseen, nature, karma, cosmos, and above all the decency in the human spirit. Sorry Gram.

FROM: Rite Aid Online Store riteaid@email.riteaid.com

I’m sure I need meds but crankiness pills are labeled a schedule 2 – drug not to be purchased on-line – Damn!

FROMinfo@barackobama.com subject: “A tipping point” 

My dear Mr. President I danced at your election – both of them – and I think you want to do the right thing but I do believe the office of the president is controlled by the plutocrats and the military industrial complex – and they are bigger and stronger than you. I am so sad to have to say this. You are not a man to receive his machismo at the end of a weapon and yet you continue in the business of war. You are far too smart not to know the outcome. I wonder if there are times you regret the office. Is this job sapping you (by way of ugly concessions) of all compassion for the victims of war, poverty, and big business? I have reached my tipping point. I’ve been tipped so far into anger at the politics that force the hand of decency to pound the weak. Sign me: Disappointed Democrat

 FROM: WordPress.com News comment-reply@wordpress.com

I have a blog at wordpress and lately I’ve been getting a lot of spam – people telling me they can help me with my writing and enlarge my media influence – Riiiight. If one wants to feel like a fly on the cultural windshield just try blogging. And I pay for this too!

FROM: nomorerack.com

nomorerack.com – who are you and what makes you think I want to buy anything from you? I am retired – I can stay in P.J.s all day if I wish.

FROM:a new message from dccc@dccc.org subject: “Gwen we’re BEGGING” 

Right – you want me to chip in $25 dollars. I like the term “chip in” as if I can just open my wallet and pull out a couple of unwanted tens and a five. But, I won’t. Consider my actions just a by-product of being an educated & reasonable member of the electorate who compares facts before allowing the knee to jerk upwards causing brain damage due to constant concussion.   

FROM: members@dccc.oGwen we’re BEGGING

Still? Beg all you want but when you can provide more jobs for people with no money – maybe I’ll consider donating again. Not now.

FROM:  @coursera.org subject: ” – The Fiction of Relationship” 

I’ve signed up for this lit course just for the title “The Fiction of Relationship” — says so much on so many levels

 FROM: Revolt! 5 Biographies of American Upstarts, R…

R-e-v-o-l-t – six letters guaranteed to warm the necrotic edges of a 70’s cranky old heart

FROM: info@dscc.org subject: “Michelle Obama video: (add your name)” 

I add my name because I adore you Michelle – a real first-lady – Obama. I truly hope you are not too bitter once your family leaves the white house. But then again, you wouldn’t be bitter – real women don’t indulge in bitterness.

 FROM: Guy Cecil, DSCC info@dscc.org

Go away

FROM: dccc@dccc.org subject: “FW: All Hope is Lost”

Yes it is – more than you’ll ever know

 FROM: Daily Kos “Unreal: Rick Scott refuses to debate Charlie Crist 

It used to be just the cream rose to the top but lately every manner of excrement can rise to the level of “newsworthy” – shame.

 FROM: info@wendydavistexas.com subject: “Why you should give $5” 

Wendy, I love your spirit and your last name but the DSCC needs to put up, shut-up and fully fund you. My $5 is nothing compared to the BIG BUCKS your future colleagues in congress have – hit them up for money.

 FROM: Jo-Ann Fabrics “20% off Your Total Purchase In-Store & Online!”

You have the wrong woman here – it was my mother who was the family seamstress. I’ll forward this e-mail to her. “But Gwen, your mother is dead.”   Oh.  I’ll forward it anyway – Google can find her 

 FROM:policymic.com subject: “The Student Protests Barely Anyone Is Talking About”

Protests!?  About damn time!

 FROM: Walmart newsletters@walmart.com subject: Friendly prices.”

Oh don’t get me started! I have not stepped across the threshold of this store in 20 + years. I consider them ground-zero in our capitalism run amok. “friendly prices” indeed! You are the largest employer in the country TRY PAYING YOUR EMPLOYEES A LIVING WAGE – like you do with WM workers in Germany.

FROM: dccc@dccc.org subject: “STUNNING Comeback” 

Yeah! And all without my $25

 FROM:campaigns@dailykos.com  “Woo-hoo!! Supreme Court in state with key Senate race kills voter ID law”

Does this mean I can go down to the courthouse and find justice rather than “Just Us”?

FROM: RealAge by Sharecare health@realage-mail.com

Know my real age? I fell down a flight of stairs a month ago – quite frightening to know just how old I am. I’ve walked 50 miles since.

FROMHow much sleep is too much?

No such thing as too much sleep…

FROM:members@dccc.org  PLEADING

Stop – you’re embarrassing yourself

FROM:  dccc@dccc.org subject: “we. fell. short. (14820)”

In more ways than you’ll ever know. I am one of the three democrats living in this zip code —  P.S. the other two are related to me

FROM:message from moveon.org “VOTE: Corruption in 30 Seconds”

I’m not surprised. This is the wealthiest congress in the history of the republic. Candidates who don’t get rich UNTIL after they are elected – makes one wonder (not really) just how much a congressperson’s soul is worth.

FROM: Republican catastrophe  campaigns@dailykos.com

Like I said – we can only hope

FROM:e-activist@aft.org subject: “Fighting Ebola”, AFT

As if teachers don’t have enough to fight! Hmm…let’s see – administrators, ebola, administrators, ebola… – so many viruses so little time

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN…

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Go home,” the mighty Christians say

from their soapbox of indignities

our taxes too high we need to slay

those who’d deny our vanities

~

Embarrassing ignorance

happily displayed

hatred in torrents

intelligence delayed

~

Maybe it’s the distance

from Emma’s creed

begetting an entranced

and ugly breed

~

“Your tired, your hungry” sentenced to crawl

back to Central America; “Mexico”

while goodness & ignorance resort to brawl

to kindergarten a few will go

~

They will go to your schools

learn your lessons well

they’ll know all  enemy’s rules

that armies were  sent to quell

~

And lo many, many years hence

you’ll stare from old window blind

having forgotten hate’s energy spent

begging beautiful leaders, “please be kind”

~

 Meanwhile:

 The New York Times’

headlines scream

Armies of children

Armed only with dreams

 

gdf 7/17/14

 

 

 

AN OUNCE OF KINDNESS – PLEASE?

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Today is October 2, 2013. This country is in its second day of a government shutdown because a group of grown individuals, elected to represent the people and uphold the laws of this country, are unable to get beyond the “kindergarten sandbox” politics that adheres to the time-honored tradition  of, if I don’t get my way, I’m going to hold my breath. Well, these people are actually holding the financial breath of us all – they are still getting paid as opposed to the more than a million citizens who are not.

But I am writing to make another point – even as the above has acted as the catalyst for this point.  I have been astounded at the vitriol and mean-spirited attacks by young adults on others less fortunate. A former student set off a FaceBook barrage of meanness when she called individuals on welfare cheats and lazy. There were other choice adjectives thrown in this tirade but one gets the point – even without the expletives. First I have to say this former student is a long-standing hero of mine. She was and remains (for me) the only high school girl to try out for the football team. She fought hard, very hard at the heavily padded sports wall set up between genders. I was privy to some of her thoughts on afternoons when she would stop by my classroom before practice flushed with excitement even as she showed me her bruises up and down her back and rib cage. Initially, like most competitive individuals, she was proud of the black and blue proof of her rugged spirit; this was a test and she was, if not succeeding magnificently, going the distance.  My heart burst with pride for her. She was the daughter I wanted – standing toe-to-toe with the sport-dominant gender and holding her own.  Then one day she came to my room saddened, believing her desire to quit the unnatural abuse that was heaped upon her (I am sure to teach her that her place was on the sidelines and not on the field) meant she had, somehow, betrayed her gender. My heart broke even as we sat and discussed where she might best put her future energies. Girls’ lacrosse became her next goal as she put together a winning team of young women as beautiful and rugged as she. Needless to say, I was surprised to read a post of such insensitivity from her. I made my comments and also responded to another poster who happily spouted astoundingly ugly comments about people forced to live in poverty. I guess my mistake was suggesting this person not call herself a Christian. I was bombarded with her anger and her telling me, “You don’t know me.” She was right; I didn’t know her life – any more than she knew the lives of the majority of people on public assistance – the ones she so blithely castigated.  I sat back and wondered how such meanness could have taken space in the hearts of my s/hero and her friend. Surely it was not learned in any of the literature I selected for students – literature that pointed to the beauty of diversity by showing no one group is ALL anything. Stereotyping is discrimination plain and simple.

Later, I came to realize that what is going on in our nation’s capitol has spread like jelly from a sloppily made sandwich. These young people have bought into the idea that all of their problems begin and end with those whom they accuse of ‘gaming ’ the system.  Oh their qualm is not with those who game the system on the high-end; they are, in fact, the perpetrators of the myth. More money is lobbied and directed into programs that benefit only a few. The one per-cent of this country has never, ever in the history of the republic been richer.  Money makes a formidable opponent. I see evidence of this every day in the front page of the Times. On the other hand, weakness is easier to denigrate and exploit and believing one’s problems lie with those who live in poverty is easier than fighting congress. Poverty makes a sweet target, like hungry children and education.

It seems I have been on a quest the last few years to find the root-source of hatred. No, we are not born hateful, warring, abusive people. These lessons – most under the guise of human Intel – happen by passing on messages that should inform future generations.  From my Brief History of Mankind course I’ve learned that it was man’s ability to hold independent ideas or symbols in his head and discuss things or concepts that could not be touched or seen that moved us to the upper ranks of the food chain. Before this we were running down our food as we needed, feeding, housing, and caring for our clan – ensuring posterity. We had no heft, claws, teeth or venom to protect ourselves.  Initially I assumed opposable thumbs were the reason for human success but today’s caged apes tell a different story.  And the story is the key. The idea of gossip – yes, according to professor Hahrari, it is gossip that saved our bacon. The ability to discuss and create stories of potential allies or enemies along with early man’s propensity for caring for the group, the community – each other – is what helped us mount the ladder of dominance.  Without the kindness of caring – we would not be having this discussion.  I came away from that lesson believing the person who governs the ‘story’ is the one who can, for good or ill, dominate the culture. 

Today, we are living in a culture dominated by meanness. We vicariously root for the anti-hero in our stories because he is given something to hate, avenge and destroy. Meanness is good as long as it’s directed at _____________ (fill in the blank).  Today’s politicians have masterfully promoted the story of meanness – a story even they would have to admit, on their kindest day, (in church maybe?) has no validity. And while the heads of those young adults who buy into the ‘story’ are turned away in a manufactured self-righteousness, they are being robbed of something so very dear and yet so simple as to be overlooked. They are being robbed of opportunity to witness caring for others and their future.  Our future.

My young friend messaged me this morning (this second day of this government shutdown) apologizing for the storm caused by her post. I had to remind her that I too was once young and rigid. I told my friend of the time I was complaining about poor people on the streets of Los Angeles and how they “smell.”  My gentle, southern-born grandmother held up a preemptive hand – cutting me off with an unusual sternness, saying, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”    

STUTTERING JUSTICE

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My dream disturbing:

Grand black pianos dropping from the sky

Missing bodies frolicking in an otherwise calm, moonlit ocean

Black men still being killed with impunity

I awake Channeling E.B. White:

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

It is hard to plan a day when civility is aligned along

A white fence facing down the barrels

Of hatred, ignorance and a blind lady justice

Hard to enjoy a world when one does not believe

In an organized God

Armed with the biggest guns

Millions of magazines spitting volleys of pain and grief

Days of drought, drones, and death

If I believed

I could commit the supreme act of

Cowardice by putting it all in

His (not Hers?) hands

Walk away ‘enjoy the world’ in a

Disney fog of happiness

I would have around my neck

That talisman

That password

That should admit me to the club of believers

If I believed

If I believed I wouldn’t be naked

But (just the same) I would have no clothes

I know the difference – now

If I believed I would not have to scramble

In my silver rage through the

Glove of darkness

This faux life wearing the liar’s smile

Fingering the cross

Idiot grinning

At other Xanaxed smilers who wonder

Why I am so nakedly angry

And I wonder what my last words will be?

Pleas for help?

Declarations of love?

Regret?

Will it matter?

Who will be the last to hear my voice?

FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN

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You,

who have taken God from her forest

taken her and clothed

her in items of your choosing

Jewels and houses she would eschew.

Put a gun in her hand put her sons

in foreign lands – all

In the name of her father.

You, who have twisted her words

to create the leviathan called

modern culture.

You, who walk the street undercover of pinstripes and attaché and

a business card for proof, and privilege.

You, who cannot judge the passing smell oozing

(a fragrance?) from the carcass of your dying civilization

Yet you judge.

 Fear.

Please do.

 For someone has sallied the rope

Spanning  the crevasse between man and the super man.

Someone knows that side of the swampy abyss and

It’s folly:

You, making it yours with every sweep of arm and voice.

You, who  strive to be occupied with life’s banquet

As you jockey for position and invent

for convenience

determining closeness to your God.

Surprise! When the female of the species,

(Fear this)

with her patterned wings, rises from the swamp and

with nothing more than her sense organs

 drives you back to the craggy edges of your success.

It is she (not you) who will enact the inevitable:

extinction through natural selection.

She worries not.

Moving from host to host she will

ensure that you and your super-kindred,

in attending this banquet,

will surely

sit and starve.

Love for the Forecaster

clouds behind the trees

Of weather searching for the signature

correcting for the miasma

of the crooked wind season

folding in on time

The supreme seer

picking apart the covenant

between nature and that

hallowed sometimes

hollow heart of hope

Warmth is king

the predictor wears the crown

to the end of the world

of cold

Today,

like a preacher

taking God

From the forests

setting her up

in a house of his own

The diviner daring

audacity to

recapture imagination

with warm words

Scattering tepid halos

upon the heads of

Farmers

Flowers

Lovers  and

The remianing

Unanointed: