The American Ideal

America is bigger than its leaders, bigger than its political parties, and even bigger than its people. It is a timeless ideal, that ALL PEOPLE – EVERYWHERE (not just within our borders) are created equal. Not equal in talents, looks, or inheritance, but of equal worth and equal value. And that we are all, every one of us – young or old, male or female, gay or straight, of any color, any heritage, any ethnicity, any creed, any religion, – EVERY ONE OF US is entitled to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which allows us to think our own thoughts, speak our own minds, and choose how we wish to live as long as that does not limit others in those same inalienable rights. America, the country, the leaders, the political parties, and the people will never live up to this ideal because we are all human, filled with flaws, biases, and self-righteousness. But the ideal remains untarnished, undiminished, and as pure a beacon of freedom and compassion as the day it was born. It shines brighter for every man, woman, or child that holds that ideal in our hearts above our individual beliefs and desires. For in this way, we are all drawn together in a common unity that transcends petty differences and fans the eternal flame of freedom until it shall banish darkness from the earth.

–Came to me while listening to Home Free singing “God Bless The USA”

Write Down Your Stories…

Write down your stories.  Each of us has life experiences no other human being will ever have.  If we sift through those to find the nugget moments, we can share unique and wonderful perspectives in our stories.

Some may become the heart of a theme, or bring life and to the actions of a character, and make their reactions more believable.  Others might illuminate a way of looking at the world, or a lesson learned, that could help a reader find peace, closure, or motivation.

But even if one of your personal experiences or stories never make it into your works of fiction directly, reviewing them from time to time can inform and enrich the well from which you draw your inspiration.

And beyond this, in the age of social media, sharing the moments of your life with an authors practiced hand to put the reader in your shoes, focus on the core wisdom discovered, and to draw the framework of a narrative template they can overlay on their own lives, can create positive ripples in the cultural reservoir of our society.

Maybe each contribution to the flow is just a drop in the ocean (like this note itself), but I like to believe that the right insight will find the right person at the right time: a message in a bottle.

If you discover something of personal value and choose not to share, perhaps that message that was meant for that person at just that point in their lives won’t be there when they get there, leaving a vacuum that nothing else will ever fill.

So don’t hold back. You may never see the result of your contribution but, as an artist, that is neither necessary nor does it diminish the power of your work.

Holding the Line Against Tyranny

Both parties want to stack the deck in their favor. But neither party want to create a country in which there is no deck to stack.

Note that today Mark Esper, secretary of defense, said that active duty military forces should not be used to put down protests and should only be used as a last resort in a law enforcement role to restore order.

Neither party wants a dictatorship. Neither party wants power at the expense of democracy. Each wants to control power in a free country, not to have absolute power in a different country because we changed what we have now into something else.

Since the president apparently has no such compunctions, thank God we have true American patriots willing to draw the line, declare “a bridge to far” and to stand against the gradual creep of authoritarianism and fascism.

Issues of racism, inequality, economic deprivation, and disenfranchisement must be addressed and improved toward the ultimate, though perhaps Utopian ideal of someday – someday soon – resolving them.

As a people, we have always forged an imperfect union – not a union of states, but a union of hearts and minds – a joining of cultures and points of view that, though disparate, come together as we all look toward that shining beacon of perfection that serves to guide us forward, ever forward toward increasing equality, expanding inclusion, and growing tolerance of diversity to the point of celebrating together that which makes each of us unique.

But this journey cannot continue and may end completely if we do not draw the line between democracy and absolute power, and to hold the line between freedom and tyranny.

Covid-19 – Logic vs. Passion

What is best for the economy is not what is most morally comfortable. But which way should we lean? To find out, let’s analyze the following chart side by side with what makes most sense vs. what is most compassionate.

First, the conclusion of each approach, followed by the thinking that supports it:

Logic – We should save the economy and open completely immediately.

Passion – We should save lives and remain locked down until the threat has passed.

By Logic Alone:

The workforce is largely comprised of folks under 65, and for them, the risk of death is at an acceptable level.

Risk is everywhere – car accidents, military actions, other diseases.

Quality of life is essential to happiness, and remaining locked down will lead to great suffering for many years to come.

Older folks have far fewer years left.

Older folks contribute less to the economy and are, in fact a drain in terms of medical needs and social security.

Conclusion: Write off the old folks, open the economy and rebuild a good life for ourselves and our families.

By Passion Alone:

More spreading of disease increases the chances older people get infected, who have a much higher risk of death.

Covid is in addition to all those other risks, and is a higher risk than any of them.

Having a life is necessary for happiness, and depriving others of life for your own happiness is unethical.

All life is precious.

Older folks worked for decades for their retirement and payed into health care in exchange for future health care.

Conclusion: Write off the young folks and make these years better at the expense of years we won’t live to see.

BALANCE SHEET

This is where logic and passion come together in compromise to chart the best possible course forward in which neither point of view is fully satisfied, yet neither is inordinately damaged.

  1. The purpose of the lock down was never to save the lives of those infected, but to save the additional lives that would be lost if the health care system was overwhelmed, which would have doubled or even tripled the number of deaths. Mission Accomplished on that original goal.
  2. Opening up should never allow hospitalizations to exceed capacity or we would fail our original goal after having achieved it.
  3. Easing the lockdown should allow for as many deaths as our health care system can accommodate, since losing the economy is a real and immediate threat.
  4. Care must be taken in reopening the economy so as not to be surprised by a sudden surge that overwhelms the system.
  5. Extensive testing is needed to monitor increasing cases, isolate those infected, and trace their contacts so as to limit spread wherever possible, thereby allowing the economy to reopening without having to backtrack into more lock downs in order to save the health care system.

BOTTOM LINE

We cannot allow ourselves to save as many as we might because the toll on the economy would be too great. But we cannot recklessly reopen as we would overwhelm the health care system leading to a MUCH higher mortality rate, due to lack of medical capacity.

CONCLUSION

We are taking proper actions in gradually reopening so we can avoid an unexpected surge. We must accept that increasing numbers of people will die as we reopen. We must ramp up our testing to far higher levels to minimize those increases. We must be patient – assertive yet conservative as we get back to life, and we must remain patient until we have an effective treatment and/or a vaccine before our lives can return to something near our pre-pandemic normal.

Mommy

Many years ago, when I was five, or thereabouts, my mother was taking me on a road trip. She and my father had divorced when I was one, and since then, she had devoted herself to creating a world for me filled with love, wonder, and new experiences.

I don’t recall where we were headed in her little gray coup, but it was a long enough trip that she had made us a lunch for the road, all neatly wrapped in wax paper and packed in a bag.

My memory begins when we pulled over to eat after some time on the highway. Mom opened the bag and handed a sandwich to me. Money was tight when I was young, and mom was ever-inventive, so for this trip she used what was available and made tomato sandwiches – white bread with mayo, sliced tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.

Unfortunately, by the time we had stopped, the juice from the tomatoes had sopped into the bread, and when I opened my sandwich, parts of it were literally dripping off as the two slices dissolved.

I could see my mom’s expression shift from the joy of taking her child on a fun trip to one of sadness and disappointment. She told me she was sorry but that was all the food we had brought, but I didn’t have to eat it.

I know now, having had my own children, how emotionally devastating something that minor (in other contexts) can become, when you feel you have failed your child. But at that time, all I knew was that not having a good lunch to give me was making my mom sad.

So I recall telling her, “That’s okay, mommy. I’ll eat it.” And I took a bite and eventually ate it all. And I remember my mother telling me how good I was for making the best of the situation. I also recall seeing her expression become a strange mix I now recognize as sadness and joy, along with a sense of failure and pride. She felt so bad because she thought she had let me down, but she was so happy that her child showed that kind of love.

And so, in that moment, one of many thousands of bonds was forged between my mother and me. Each of us a participant in a unique human connection that defines the essence of the ideal we craft and call motherhood.

That merging of the souls, mother and child is so primal, so strong, that it forms one of the foundations of who we are and unconsciously guides us into who we become, from cradle to grave.

And even in those last moments, for many of us, our thoughts turn to our mothers for comfort, not from our adult selves, but from our child selves that still reside deep within us.

I recall a movie in which a young soldier, perhaps only eighteen, has been fatally wounded from an explosion to the intestines. He is laying on the ground, and as he is dying, and he calls out one word, over and over again, “Mommy….”

One might see this as a horrible downer or evidence presented in making a case against the cruelty and futility of love and life. But for me, it is the most wonderful thing – that even in a time of the greatest fear and trauma we may face, the love of mother is so strong as to dispel the horror and comfort the heart.

I suppose one might think of mother even at the end of a long life, as the most powerful embrace, well beyond the extent of the physical presence of the woman. And perhaps it is the hope of an afterlife in which one might return to the arms of that special person who protected and soothed you might allow for a reunion.

My mind, being a logical creature, does not allow for an afterlife. The concept flies in the face of all that I know, and all that I can reason. Yet my heart, the emotional counterpart, could not bear the losses I have experienced in life without the belief that somehow, in some way, we will meet again.

Mind, though logical, becomes dismayed when Heart is saddened or despondent and seeks to find a remedy for that condition. And so, it reasons thus:

I [Mind], have no evidence of an afterlife, no data to support such a belief, and nothing but anecdotal information to support it. And yet, to be unbiased, I must also admit I have no evidence against it and can think of no way to gather data to prove it one way or the other. Therefore, admitting that an afterlife is a possibility, let me identify the functional problems with such a belief and then, for the sake of Heart, see if I can counter them to at least allow the possibility.

So my mind settles on this issue to examine: If there is an afterlife, and if I were reunited with my mother, what age would we each be? Would I see her as I did as a young child, or when I was a teenager, a young adult with my own family or later in life, just before she died? And would she see me as her baby, or all grown up, or as the parent trying to fashion a career?

And then, the show stopper… What if my desire is to be in her thirties again, but my desire is to see her younger, when I was very small? And what if my desire is to be eighteen, but her desire is to see me as a fully grown adult? These forms of existence are incompatible with one another. And even tricks whereby she sees me as an adult and I see myself as eighteen are not possible to rational thought, for my mannerisms and the things I would say and do would be completely different at those two ages and they cannot be that divergent and still be one thing.

But Heart is distraught. And Mind won’t have it. So, I consider the world of the Graphic novel, movie, and series, Watchmen. This seems so far from yearning to be one more in my mother’s arms. And yet, there is a key of sorts within this fiction to allow for the possibility of multiple simultaneous realities, that might allow Mind to support Heart’s desire.

The most unusual character is Watchmen is Dr. Manhattan who lives every moment of his life simultaneously, being fully present and engaged in each, though they be in different times and disparate places.

As another example, in StarTrek: Deep Space Nine, Captain Sisko encounters a species that does not live linearly through time, but observes the whole experience of it at once – similar, though not identical to the existence of Dr. Manhattan.

Taking the next step then, if one could be fully involved in every moment of life simultaneously, then it would be no more than an organizational challenge to match up the selves of two people so that all combinations are fulfilled.

Unless, of course, one does not wish to be the age the other party would have you be, and so on, leading to all kinds of conflict in such a heaven, and perhaps spiraling into dissension and even rebellion against the creator himself for actualizing such a mess in the first place!

But that is another story and separate line of reasoning. Heart has not heard a word of this part, for heart is truly happy – Mind has given it the possibility that reconnecting in a hereafter cannot be summarily dismissed. And where there is hope, there is comfort.

Still my thoughts, born of compassion, are drawn to those who do not know their mother, or lost her at an early age. Perhaps their mom was not the protective teacher, but a drunken, hateful, abusive woman a child might desperately wish to forget.

And yet, as a mammal, as a primate, do not even such children year for the gentle voice and kind hand that we are so programmed to imprint upon and to cling to, outwardly in our early years, then inwardly as the days go by.

The biologic necessity of “mother” is reflected in her ideal in our culture, but for those lacking a real connection, the combination of the yearning of the flesh and the expectation of that image in their experience must bring horrible pain, instead of comfort, and a sense of isolation and alienation.

And so, on this day, all the pathways being explored and considered, I celebrate my mother, gone now so many decades ago, with love, gratitude, and admiration. I hold her in my heart, to be with me always to my dying breath.

But I also offer that motherly love is not just a biologic or imprinted condition that, if missed, does not come around again. Rather, it can be fulfilled at any time, and in many ways.

Last night we saw the movie, Fly Away Home, about a young girl who saved the eggs of a deceased goose and raised them. They imprinted on her, but needed to fly south for the winter and had no mother to lead them. So, in this true story, the girl’s father built her a one-person powered glider and the geese followed her when she took off of a several hundred mile journey that followed the species migration. Over several days, stopping each night at the end of one leg, they finally arrived at the lake of their destination, and the geese remained until it was time to migrate again. And then the flew north once more, right to the farm where the girl lived, and stayed there every season.

In a real life example, I sometimes sense my cat, Oak, needs a mother’s love as he was a rescue cat taken too soon from his own mother. So, when he is laying down, I put my face down to touch his fur. My hair falls around him, enclosing him in a safe space. I speak to him in gentle tones and rub my nose along his ears, and the top of his head, and down over his closed eyes like a mother cat would do when cleaning a kitten. And he responds by closing his eyes, becoming fully relaxed, and gently purring in complete bliss.

If we can do this across species, we can do it outside of the biologic. And each and every one of us can find that experience for which every fiber of our beings yearns. We can find mothers in our lovers, our dear friends, and even the the fictions and fantasies of our narratives in movies, song, and art.

In an idea world, we would all find that fulfillment naturally from mother to child. Yet though this world is far from ideal, we may all still fill that need. And beyond, we may find the hole within ourselves is best filled by providing motherly (or fatherly) love to others. For in saving them, we may discover we have also saved ourselves.

Happy Mothers Day to one and all.

Covid Conversations

Op-Ed at the top of my weekly newsletter on Creative Writing:

My step dad, who raised me from age 7, has Covid. He’s 82 and didn’t sound right on the phone last night so I called the nursing staff there. They had the supervisor check him and she called the doctor, who had him brought to the hospital where he tested positive. He has no trouble breathing at this time, but they still have him on 2 liters oxygen – as a precaution I assume. He is resting comfortably, has no fever, and I had not heard him cough in our phone conversations, so hopefully he has a mild case and can recover.

I try to stick to the topic of creative writing in this newsletter, but this time, I have something to say. America has 4% of the world’s population yet more than 25% of all the Covid cases and more than 25% of all the deaths in the world. Clearly we have handled this very poorly to the point of criminal incompetence and neglect.

I’ll neither assign blame nor speak as an apologist. But I would urge you to consider the tens of thousands of dads, moms, grandfathers, and grandmothers we’ve lost and will continue to lose who didn’t have to suffer and didn’t have to die.
Keep that in your mind as you make choices for the future.

That’s all.

Melanie Anne Phillips

First update:

I sent this out to my newsletter and unexpectedly received many well-wishes for my dad from all over the world. But I also received a note from someone who had taken offense at my blaming the USA for mishandling things when the virus was let loose by the Chinese.

Here’s my response to him:

Well, my friend.  You seem to have some buttons that got pushed.  Good!  That means you are thinking about the issue, which is the point.

So let me give you the courtesy of responding to each of your points, and please give me the courtesy of reading my responses.

I’ll quote each of your points and then respond to each in turn:

1) We have tested more people than any other country on Earth. We test per day what many countries test per month.

The real issue is what percentage of the population have we tested, not how many have we tested.  Here’s a link that shows the percentage of the population tested in 13 of the hardest hit countries. 

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104645/covid19-testing-rate-select-countries-worldwide/

We come in at #8 in covering our population.  So that’s a failure right there.  Fact is, we have 4% of the world population and 25% of the cases.  If we tested as much as these other countries, we’d have even a higher percentage of cases in the world.  We simply have far more cases than our “share” based on our population.

2) Do u believe that China is being honest about its numbers?

No.  No, I don’t.  I don’t trust anything that comes out of China and also buy American whenever the option exists, even if it costs more.

3) Apparently, the way you think that a country shows that is competent in dealing w a disease is to not test & lie.

No.  No, I don’t think that.  I think a country is competent when they limit a disease and prevent deaths.  And quite honestly, I don’t care if they test or not or lie or not.  But in THIS country I want tests, I want the truth, and I don’t want to have a higher infection and death rate than our world share by 5 times too much.  Besides, your point number three was not only wrong about what I believe, but very accusatory and demeaning, so you might want to reconsider verbally assaulting people that way.

4) Daily the number of asymptomatic cases skyrocket. Unlike other diseases, SarsCov2 is transmissible while asymptomatic. Such a vector means that 100% of the global population WILL get this.

Epidemiologists pretty much agree that 50% to 70% of the population will get it, not 100%.  Not even the Spanish Flu or the Black Plague did that.  Also, social distancing can help.  That’s why we wear masks – not to protect ourselves (the masks don’t help us there) but to protect others should we cough and not have symptoms but be infected.  Recent tests show that infectious particles from a cough hang in the air about 3 minutes and travel between 9 and 12 feet without a mask.  Tests have also shown that’s enough to get to the next aisle in a supermarket.  So even six feet apart isn’t enough.  But if you wear a mask to protect others (if you are infected and don’t know it) the infected particles only reach about three feet.  If we all do our part, we can get that 50% to 70% figure even lower.

5) Why are u accusing US of handling it poorly when China let it loose?

Just because they let it loose, doesn’t mean we didn’t screw it up.  Both can (and probably are) true.

“If your dog came onto my property and killed my cat, who’s to blame? By your logic, more deaths occurred on my yard and thus I am an irresponsible pet owner.”

Nope.  The person with the dog is definitely responsible.  But – what if the dog is in the midst of my many cats and I just stand there and watch the dog tear them apart, one by one.  Well you know, I’d have to say I’m responsible for that.  I saw the dog coming, I saw it kill the first cat, then several cats, and I just watched and ignored it until folks started complaining about all the screams.  And then I moseyed on over and tried to push the dog away with a stick, all the while it is ripping into more cats.  That’s they way our country has handled it.  So what might have been a bad thing that we kept under control became a horrible thing we let run loose in our own back yard – no matter whose dog it was.  My dad is one of those cats, and I think we should have done far better for him and all the others.

“Even if I stab your dog to death, I would still disagree w u.”

Well aren’t we just full of sunshine.

Thanks for your comments.  I paid a lot of attention to them, out of respect.

Melanie

Second update:

Still no more news on my dad. Unless there’s a change, I won’t learn more until I call again tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m still getting some emails from folks around the world. Most are wonderful notes of love and support, but a few are so cockeyed, I feel compelled to respond to them in detail.

Here’s one:

Melanie:

I understand completely how you feel. My mom 82, just got over the Wuhan flu recently (she is a smoker too) and it was a battle, but fortunately the hospital where she lives had plenty of ventilators, PPE, and talented folks.

Unfortunately, the this flu, like all flus, is very unfair to the old, and immunocompromised; 95% of those who have died were already health compromised in some serious fashion; many like my mom, liked to smoke. The healthy and young people are not dying, and the recovery rate is currently at 97.3%; those are very good odds for surviving anything I would think. So while anyone dying is terrible, given this data, this is well within expectations of a normal fly season, let alone a worldwide epidemic.

Fortunately for us, our President acted quickly, and we saved millions of lives, although he was blamed for acting too soon, and doing too much. We as a country, need to look at where this happened, how it happened, and the bigger question, why it happened. China has now released the fourth major pandemic in just over ten years (SARS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and now Wuhan Flu), and yet they are not held accountable. There will be only more of these flus coming from China should we take no action.

While I agree with you that we should not place blame, nor be an apologist, we need to assign responsibility to those who continue to violate human rights, imprison and persecute those of Faith, and use prisoners to harvest organs. That would be China. Or else we face something much greater in the future than an influenza virus.

On a final note, every year the United States alone murders over 620,000 babies via abortion each year. We also provide doctor assisted euthanasia to adults wishing to end their lives. 

It is hard to seriously talk about saving life, when our country is okay with ending it all so easily.

My response:

Hi, and thanks for the well wishes.

Sorry to hear  your mom had to go through that.  Alas, Covid-19 goes after the old and the weakened (mostly) though many people in their 30s are having fatal strokes from clotting, and permanent lung scarring if they do get sick.

By Wuhan flu, I assume you mean Covid, which of course is not a flu at all, but a “novel” coronavirus that is more than 5 times as deadly and five times as contagious as the normal seasonal flu we get every year.  I find calling  it a flu confuses people as to its veracity and danger.

But that’s just semantics.  The disease is terrible, ultra contagious, and seriously deadly to the vulnerable population.  In fact, in the United States, it is killing 5.9 % of all who have tested positive so far, and in Italy where it over-stressed the medical system, the mortality rate currently stands at 14.9% of all those diagnosed.  Fortunately, it didn’t hit every state at once, though poor New York was nearly overwhelmed and barely squeaked through as they were the first major hotspot due to being an international town.

Yes 97.3 for Covid is the survival rate for the young and healthy.  Of course the survival rate for flu is 99.97 for the young and healthy.  So, for that group the mortality rate is MUCH higher.  For those over 65, the flu mortality rate is .83 for those over 65.  For Covid it is 4.3 and 10.4 for those over 85.  So, folks would do well to remember just how much more dangerous Covid is, so they protect themselves properly, and make sound decisions.

I’ve gotten so many positive notes from all over the world – Paris, Australia, and many more, so I don’t know which country you are writing from.  But I can say that you are very lucky your president moved quickly.  Alas, here in the sates ours didn’t.  At first, he said it was all a hoax to make him look bad.  Then his party said is was being blown out of proportion by the opposing party to make him look bad.  We only had 15 cases here, though it was already raging internationally and he told us all that soon it would be down to zero.  It wasn’t.  He then said it would just go away some day “like a miracle” and we shouldn’t worry.  Almost two months were lost when we might have taken preparations, such as social distancing before he even declared a national emergency.  And then, throughout the whole tragedy, he has proclaimed it is the responsibility of the states to get PPE and test kits, causing the states to have to bid against each other for limited supplies and pay far higher costs than if the federal government had purchased on behalf of the country and distributed where supplies were most needed.  Totally mishandled.

But in my note on the newsletter, I did not want to be politic, which is why I only said our country had mishandled things, and did not name any individual or party as being responsible.  Here, we all pretty much know that tens of thousands of additional lives are being lost because of the ineptitude of the government and its refusal to acknowledge and face the issues.

I note that you say China “released” this virus, but that is misleading and poor choice of words.  They are guilty of allowing the wet market to continue because Wuhan is so close to the bat caves where these viruses some from that there is a huge chance of cross contamination.  We know the Chinese have a virus lab built there to try and find and work out defenses against these viruses.  Both the U.S. and Canada financially supported these effort to prevent future pandemics.  Alas, a virus escaped again, and the rest is the life we’re all struggling through.  For a time, it was thought that perhaps one of the technicians at the Wuhan lab was accidentally contaminated while working with the virus, and unknowingly spread it to the town.  That no longer seems to be the case.  Attention is back on the wet market now, and that is China’s big mistake.  They really need to shut that down, not just in Wuhan but throughout the country – tough job since so many rural traditional people only know that way to make a living and buy their meat, but they need to get it done.  And as for their reporting, that was sorely lacking.  Double whammied us since we might have had more warning, but our government didn’t even heed the warning it had.

You are right about being hard to talk about saving lives when the USA has abortions, capital punishment, and has rolled back safety regulations for cars and for the workplace leading to increased death and injury.  We used to have compassion in this country, but now we turn away refuges, separate families at the border, and make it more difficult for minorities to vote.  And now this.  Now we hid our heads in the sand then stood back and let the virus take its course – no respect, no protection, no love for the American people.

You are very lucky your president was on the ball, moved quickly and protected your people.

Thank you again for your concern, and best wishes for you and yours.

Melanie

Another responder:

I am unable to untag my name from your facebook page.  Remove Susan Marie tag immediately.  .  

I went to your page expecting writing info but got a scientific smack down on how to keep my own body healthy. WOW!

I said I would pray for your dad and I did.  However, Remove my tag or I will report you to facebook.

My reply:

Hi, Susan

This was the first post in 2 years that was about something other than writing.  Sorry my correction of  your inaccurate information offended you.  I appreciate your well-wishes for my dad, but I can’t let people think that vitamins and exercise will protect them from Covid.  Folks could get injured or even killed that way. 

Now perhaps you just meant that Covid is very dangerous and only social distancing can protect you at this time, but if  you keep yourself healthy, that might help you pull through.  But your post was in response to someone who said they went to Walmart and was scared by all the people without masks spreading germs in close quarters.  And in replying to that, your context was that one shouldn’t be afraid of such things.  Just boldly go out there, take vitamins and exercise. 

Now, if that is not what you meant, as a writer,  you might have been better aware of the impact your words might have, and how they might be taken.  In  your note to me now,  you have used words like “scientific smack down” which creates the impression that you hold science in low esteem, and if science conflicts with your beliefs, you are not being informed, you are being smacked down.  Again, as a writer, you should be aware of this because if that is not what you meant,  you are communicating  quite a different message than you thought.  That’s some free advice, writer to write, the same as I have given over twenty five years to my clients when I help them improve their stories and their communication skills. 

If you read my words, I never told you what to do to keep your own body healthy.  I pointed out that, scientifically, what you suggest is not enough to protect oneself, but I never said what YOU should do.  I simply corrected a misconception created by the words you wrote. 

Your tag automatically removed itself when  you deleted your post.  Facebook removed the link to your name.  But they didn’t remove your name, just the tag, so I assume that is their policy. 

Honestly, threatening me now by saying your will  report me to Facebook is not only un-Christian, but absurd and hollow.  I’ll remove your name, but not because of your hot-headed reactionary threats, but because I honestly don’t want your name on my page – not with the attitude you have exhibited. So consider it gone. 

But I will keep my post there because it appears there are still folks like you who deal in misinformation, no matter how well-intentioned, and put others at risk.  So, stop it before you hurt somebody.

Conservative Covid Narratives

Here’s a response I sent in reply to someone who contacted me with a more conservative view of lock downs, China, death statistics, and fear.

The Conservative:

Your failure is in perspective. You’re so lasered in on the x,000 people who died one way; you’re ignoring the x,000,000 people who are dying in other ways. While the lockdowns continue, suicides (the #1 global cause of death) rise. Families are starving w no food or money to buy it. Inconvenient meat shortages here produces famine there. The core problem w globalization is when it fails, like now.

Me:

Hello again.

I’m actually quite glad you wish to carry on our discussion. That is the only way to potentially find a truth we can both embrace.

I might, however, suggest you don’t begin your notes with “Your failure is…” which is both condescending and arrogant, not to mention provocative. An honest discussion of the facts should not begin with a claim of the other parties shortcomings, for that usually just leads to the same being said back as in, “Well actually, YOUR failure is…” and this gets us nowhere (as in, “I’m not the puppet, YOU’RE the puppet!”)

So let’s just move beyond that and let me address the substance of your assertions.

First of all, your statement is filled with factual errors and hyperbole. First, I do not ignore the other kinds of death. For example, in Los Angeles Country, Covid became the #1 cause of death last week, according to country health statistics, and remains so to this day. Even suicide is not as great a number of Covid deaths, and suicide before Covid was only #10 nationally as a cause of death, with only 1.7% of all deaths. Very sad, but not statistically significant compared to Covid at number 1.

Also, in this country, I’ve not been able to find a single case of anyone actually starving because they had no food or money to buy it. Certainly no deaths from starvation, especially since food banks are busting at the seams with all the produce and goods the farmers would otherwise have to throw away or destroy since the restaurants are closed and can’t buy it. Sure, folks have to wait in long lines to get the free food, but nobody starves. So again, this doesn’t have any effect at all as a completing cause of death that undermines my focus on Covid. Perhaps in the future, should we fall into a Depression, maybe. But you know, it is an interesting fact that there is not one verified case of starvation during the Great Depression because of soup kitchens, churches and charities, and the assistance of family, friends, and other members of the community. I know this because I researched it as part of a project I was working on. So – were folks hungry in the Depression? Certainly. And were they malnourished. Also a certainty. But they equally certainly were not dying of starvation, nor are they now.

So let’s just put aside your bad data and suppositions and move on to your next point:

Conservative:

Unfortunately, you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. The only way u hear that US has x cases & x death is because they were tested and reported (sometimes falsely) that way. What if we stopped testing or reporting it like China is doing or many other countries have done? What if we just lie about it? Then the numbers look really good. California had many cases before it became front page news. Did they sound the alarm? No, it’s just another flu season; it’s just another flu strain.

Me:

Gosh darn it. All these factual errors again. You can’t just make stuff up to support your point of view like the president does. Maybe that’s good for TV, but it is not good enough for me. I insist on truth and facts and data where available.

So let’s look at this… You say I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, but never explain how. That’s just name calling, so stop it! Get a grip and have a discussion based on facts. Next you say the only way I hear about the US cases and death is because they were tested and reported. Well, I agree with you there: if they didn’t test and report, I wouldn’t have heard about them. See, you can win a point with facts. But then you put in parens “sometimes falsely,” which is a baseless claim. In other words, you provide no evidence of this. You just say it as if it is a fact, knowing full well I probably don’t agree with you. Well you know, you can convince me of this. Show me actual proof that a significant number of the reported deaths are being registered falsely – true proof that enough of this is going on to significantly alter the tallies. One thing I wonder though, I why professional medical people who are risking their lives to try and save others would do that, much less have the time. But, I’m open to it. Show me your proof (and I don’t mean a video clip of Hannity saying it, also without proof). Let’s get real data here, and you can convince me, because I always believe the data and will change my mind in a flash if I can see I was wrong.

What if we stopped testing? Heck, then we’d be as bad as China. And what good would that do? And why would we want the numbers to look really good? I’d think we’d want them to look however they looked as long as they were correct. Because unless they are accurate, how can we plan how to respond? But what you are proposing, by extension, is that every other country in the world (except us) is doctoring the data to make themselves look good, and we don’t do that, so it makes us look bad. I wonder if you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds? Don’t waste my time with such silly assertions. Give me proof that other countries are doing this – not just China, because if at least most other countries are NOT doing it, then you have no point. And I suspect that’s the case.

Now about California (where I live), literally everything you said is wrong. We were the first state to go into lock down. San Francisco was the first city to go into lock down, even before the state. The moment that ship showed up off the Pacific Coast with those 15 cases (that Trump said would soon go down to zero), our news media here were on high alert. We’d been following the epidemic in China and when it showed up on our shores, we took immediate decisive action. Nobody here was saying it was just the flu. That was only on Fox News, but not here in California. We all were talking about this and wondering if it could become a pandemic, and how hard it would hit us. And while DC was still trying to decide if this was a national emergency or not, we shut things down, lopped the top right off the curve, and prevented our medical system from being overwhelmed like poor New York. We are the national success story here, and if only DC has followed our lead, thousands of Americans might have been saved. So, basically, you have your facts all wrong about California too. At least you are consistent.

Conservative:

It’s amazing how out of our minds w fear we drive ourselves when we only see the negative.

Me:

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not fearful. I’m cautious. Not panicking, just preparing. So tell me about all the positive things Covid brings us. Maybe you could share the benefits of Covid so others don’t focus on the negative, and then they won’t be afraid?

Conservative:

1st World countries are so soft and relaxed. It’s amazing how little it takes to knock us off our kilter. We’re like that kid who enjoys balancing his chair on 2 legs. So easy to lose attention and fall on our own. Even easier to be pushed & blame ourselves.

Me:

Nicely metaphoric, but the fact is that if we hadn’t locked down, millions of Americans would have died. Simple to understand this – if people get infected by close contact with other people, then if you just go about business as usual, lots of people get it. But if you keep people apart, then not so many get it, and the deaths go down to something over 100,000, rather than several million. There’s no chair pushing involved. So simple.

Conservative:

In every population, a certain percentage (10-20%) are naturally immune to whatever is killing everything else around them. This is true in pests giving rise to superbugs immune to common pesticides, and it was true of Black Plague where certain blessed people were either partially or fully immune. (Oddly, European history of Black Plague means that some people are genetically immune to AIDS.) Even in this situation, certain people (O+ blood types?) are more resistant and less susceptible than others. The antibody tests are unable to differentiate those who were born w the antibody vs those who developed it this year.

Me:

Well, that would be true except it isn’t. This is a “novel” coronavirus, which – by definition – means nobody has ever had it before. So there is no built in immunity. Period. Now, it is possible some rare lucky SOB is immune? Of course. But not 10% to 20% of the population. People, as a species had suffered the plague before. This gave a percentage of the population immunity. No one has suffered Covid-19 before, so no immunity. Again, pretty simple.

Conservative:

If u actually look at the numbers in past pandemics which most movies try to depict for the “Great Future Pandemic”, survivability is VERY slim. 80% contract the disease. 80% of them die. This isn’t that, not by a long shot. Instead of 3 million cases w a 0.3% chance of dying, where are the 3 million dead?

Me:

The 3 million dead were saved by the quick lock down in California and other states, but we can still reach that 3 million mark if we stop the lock downs right now, all at once, and go back to life as it was with no social distancing. That 3 million goal is not out of range yet. But, if we slowly life the lock down and respect social distancing until there is a proven treatment and/or a vaccine, well then, I guess we won’t make your 3 million goal. Sorry.

Conservative:

Every disease on this planet has either a sanitation or dietary cause. Cholera was a sanitation issue. Black plague in Middle Ages Europe and the homeless of California is a sanitation issue. Scurvy & rickets were dietary issues.

Me:

You can drive ( or used to be able to) for hours all around Southern California without seeing anything unsanitary. It really is a beautiful state. That’s why more than one out of every ten Americans chooses to live here. 1/10th of all Americans are Californians, and for many reasons. I don’t know what media you’ve been following that focuses only on a few blocks of poor conditions at the heart of our largest cities, but that’s not the state as a whole. And you’ll find that same kind of issue at the core of virtually every major city in America. This is a national problem and we really out to get off our asses in DC and try to fix it.

Conservative:

Are you hoping for a vaccine? That isn’t going to happen.

Me:

Yes it is. Or maybe not. But we can try. There’s still no vaccine for HIV, but at least we now have treatments that have kept almost all who get HIV in good health for a normal life span. So, yes, I do hope for a vaccine. Sounds like you think we shouldn’t even try for one, or a vaccine for polio, or a vaccine for smallpox. You know, sometimes you can make a vaccine and our science is better than ever, so let’s all hope. But if not, let’s hope for a damn good treatment, right?

Conservative:

Rapid mutation makes vaccines impossible ala common cold.

Me:

Yep – you can’t catch the same cold twice, to be zen about it. We totally agree here. Wow.

Conservative:

We still have the 1918 Spanish Flu today. It still kills 60k people per year in the US. The vaccine isn’t really stopping anything. Were u this terrified of the flu last year?

Me:

Uh, no. What we have today is not the Spanish flu. It is a mutated strain of influenza that emerges each season, different than the last. But we are able to guess pretty good about what the strain is going to be, and then we make vaccines, and many, many lives are saved. If we didn’t have vaccines each year – wow, we’d have so many more deaths, even for a mild variety.

Conservative:

Every time they try to talk about “lockdown until the vaccine”, they reveal another unnoticed data point: asymptomatic spreaders, rapid mutation, rapid spread, etc.

Me:

I’ve never heard anyone say we should lock down until there’s a vaccine. Is that one of yours? Did you make that up? Most doctors feel a vaccine is 12 to 18 months away at the earliest, even if it is possible. I don’t know a single person, nor have I heard anyone on the news on CNN, FOX or any of the other sources suggest we should lock down for 12 to 18 months. Everyone knows that would ruin the country beyond repair. So let’s just pretend you didn’t say that and move on.

Conservative:

Get over your fear.

Me:

I have no fear. Lost it when I was 18. We were on vacation in our station wagon and the valve blew off a liquid oxygen tanker truck next to us. We all ran out and away about 50 feet, leaving the doors open. And then we noticed the family dog was still inside. And she wouldn’t come no matter how much we called. I looked around at the family and nobody was taking any action. And I thought to myself, this is probably going to explode any second, but if there’s a chance I can save Flop (my dog) I have to take it. So I ran out to the car, stopped long enough to calm her down, then picked her up and ran back. Well, the tanker didn’t explode, and eventually we got back in our car and drove off. From that moment I realized I don’t get afraid. I take action. Been that way every since. No fear.

Conservative:

You’re going to get it.

Me:

I don’t think so. I’m retired and live with two other retired people. We’re fortunate. We can have our groceries delivered and stay in our house until there’s a solid treatment. Just because I am not afraid doesn’t mean I stupidly run into danger for no reason when I have another option. But I do worry about those who don’t have those options, which is most everybody, and I worry about the fear they have to overcome – the fear of leaving their family without a parent, or of leaving older folks with no one to care for them, or worse, the fear of bringing home to those loved ones and being the cause of their deaths. And then – they overcome that fear and have the courage to do what they must to protect those they love. I respect that core of the human spirit more than I can convey in words. But I wouldn’t respect anyone who says, oh the hell with grandma and grandpa and the kids – I’m just going to charge out there and who cares if I get it. Fear is good. Overcoming it as and when you need to is even better.

Conservative:

It’ll be in the air u walked through from someone u never saw.

Me:

Aw, you’re just trying to scare me. Check back on Halloween.

Conservative:

If u feel safer w a mask, wear it.

Me:

A mask doesn’t help you. I helps the guy you are next to if you are sick without symptoms. They have found that you are most contagious just BEFORE you have any symptoms. A cough goes 6 to 9 feet without a mask, but only about 3 fee with one. So every joker out there without a mask is saying, “I don’t care about your life or the lives of your loved ones. I don’t wanna wear a mask, so maybe you’ll die. So what.” If we all wore masks, we could cut down the spread by at least 50%. Damned self-centered malignant jokers.

Conservative:

I’d rather die without fear than live w it.

Me:

Well, I’d rather live without fear. You go ahead and die if you want to.

Conservative:

(BTW, we’re ALL going to die eventually.)

Me:

So you are saying life is meaningless and we ought to just lay down and croak? Sheesh. Get a grip.

Conservative:

PS: Fear doesn’t help u write.

Me:

I believe that!

More from the same fellow:

Ya know, I had written a lengthy link filled response dealing w your own double talk and factual errors. But the problem is the double think.

  1. You say that you don’t believe the statistics as reported.

No, I say I do believe the statistics as reported.

  1. You use the statistics reported to counter the statistics that I DON’T report & thus ignore the substance of my arguments.

So start reporting statistics when you say something is one way or another.  Your arguments have no substance without data to back them up.  Without data, you’re just flapping your gums about they way you want things to be.

  1. We’re now talking past each other.

Only because of your preconceptions, closed mind, and refusal to supply data to support your arguments.

  1. This is pointless.

Hey – we agree again on something!

Sit there, fat & happy in California & ignore the suffering going on elsewhere. Everyone is just like you.

Ah, it is you who ignore the suffering – go back to work too soon – infect others leading to sickness and death – it’s no worse that the flu – the Chinese did it on purpose so be a true American and throw your lives down for the economy – Let’s ignore the data and do what feels right.  You are heartless and just reciting the sound bytes you’ve heard without supplying any proof to support your position and ignoring any actual facts contrary to your beliefs.  How do you live in that head?  Oh, you are right – I am a bit fat.  Happy though…

No one has empty freezers.

What – is this sarcasm?  Of course folks have empty freezers.  They just aren’t starving to death which is what you said.  I replied there were no cases of folks starving to death because of Covid and  you are trying to turn that around to make it sound like I said food was readily available – EVEN after I pointed out that there are long food lines – BUT there is food.  So don’t manufacture positions for other people that they never said, and never tried to purport.  You are either a liar or a twister, but either way, you don’t care about the facts and are just pushing your agenda.

No one has broken appliance or living in disaster relief w toronado damaged homes.

More sarcasm?  Is that the best course of action in the middle of a disaster.  Of COURSE folks have broken appliances, and of COURSE people are living in disaster relief because of tornado damaged homes.  I have said nothing about appliances or tornadoes in any of our conversations.  You had said suicide was a leading cause of death because of coronavirus and that people were starving because of the lockdown and I called a bullshit alert and provided facts.  And now  you are trying to say that because suicide is not WAY up and because nobody has died of starvation, somehow what I really meant was that no one had a broken appliance or that no one suffered from tornado damage.  Man, you really are a piece of work.  How to you find your way around in that head?

No food bank is short on food.

Seriously?  Of course they are.  Many are busting at the seams and many don’t have a lot.  But they all have enough.  And I never said otherwise.  I just debunked your people-are-starving-in-the-streets gambit that you employed to try and massage your contention that the lockdown is actually causing deaths.

No bank account is depleted.

Nope lots of folks are scraping by or worse.  That’s one reason for extended unemployment and the stimulus checks.  Staying home is terrible financial cost.  Opening up is a terrible human cost.  You are saying one outweighs the other.  I’m saying it’s a dilemma and we shouldn’t be trying to choose the lesser of two evils but to chart a course between the rock and the hard place.

Everything is just fine because Melanie is fine.

Where the hell did you get that one?  I never said everything is fine.  I have repeated said it is awful, and again,  you are just trying to  put words into my mouth and manufacture attitudes I don’t have so you can push  your baseless agendas and fact-less conclusions.  Get a grip.  Get a life.  And well you are at it, get a mind.

Your friendly correspondent,

Melanie

Next Covid Conversation: An exercise in mental narratives:

Here’s a good way to find out if you are rationalizing your beliefs about Covid-19 and don’t realize it.

Rationalization isn’t about being right or wrong. It is about believing / disbelieving something without evidence, failing to look for evidence, or rejecting evidence or undeniable facts that run contrary to what you believe or what you fervently want to be true.

And the most insidious part is that we usually don’t know we are doing it because our minds like to hold on to their comfort zone beliefs, and put filters in front of our rational minds that hide or reject evidence to the contrary. So, to us, we are thinking rationally because we simply don’t see the bias of our own point of view.

To find out if you are rationalizing, write down your views on the virus today and check back one year from now to see if you were on the mark or way off base in your beliefs.

You can do this either online or offline just for you, but be sure to put a reminder in your calendar to check your list in one year, since rationalization works to make us forget to check our beliefs.

Questions you might answer are:

Is the death rate of Covid higher, lower, or the same as the flu?

Is the infection rate higher, lower, or the same as the flu?

Does the lock down have any effect on slowing the spread of the virus?

Is the effect of the lock down on the economy (and personal economics) worse than any impact it may have on the spread of the virus?

Is it better to from today forward to keep the lock down going, gradually open it up over several weeks, several months, or lift the stay at home orders completely right now?

Did China create the virus in a lab?

Did China accidentally or intentionally release the virus?

Does the U.S. and Canadian support of the Wuhan lab indicate a conspiracy for profit that includes the WHO and Dr. Fauci?

Did the WHO act as a rubber stamp for Chinese propaganda about the virus?

I intentionally did not ask any question about Democrats or Republicans or the administration or the governors and whatever reasons they may have, so as not to overburden this rationalization test with a political spin, but you should feel free to delve into those areas if you feel strongly about them, such as who is responsible, whether they did a good job, or what is their hidden agenda. The more strongly you feel about something, the more likely you are rationalizing about it without knowing it.

Make your own list of questions by just asking yourself what you think people are most stupid for believing about the virus and about our response and then ask the question as to what you believe, so a year from now you can see if you were rationalizing because you strongly believed something without real evidence or data.

If you are brave (or reckless) you might list your questions and answers here on Facebook so they show up in your memories automatically next year, so you mind doesn’t “forget” to check it.

I’ll post mine later, so I don’t bias this note, which is intended to work equally well no matter which side of the political spectrum you favor.

Good luck, and I hope next year you discover you are thinking rationally, not with rationalization.

***

One of my followers on another page where I posted the article above offered the following video as a response. It is hysterically funny and also a sterling example of extremely sophisticated propaganda.

Here is my response to his video, which provided the perfect opportunity to explain the workings of narrative propaganda without taking sides, so as not to bias the informational value of showing how propaganda works

First the video, followed by my response:


Absolutely hysterically funny! A great place for everyone to start who is planning on making the list of their current belief about the coronavirus and then checking how things turned out to actually be a year later – so you can see if you are thinking rationally, or with rationalizations.

What’s nice about this, it that is is a classic form of propaganda. Here’s a link to our chapter on Propaganda in our book, Dramatica: A New Theory of Story: http://dramaticapedia.com/dramatica/dramatica-theory-book/dramatica-theory-book-chapter-37/

In a nutshell, propaganda makes you focus on one thing while another idea is slipped in along with it. That way, you never know you have taken in the second idea under the radar, because you are busy looking at the first. For example, and this is completely made up, you are told, “5% of all medical students have a criminal record.” Well that sounds really bad doesn’t it? And it makes you want to clean those guys out of the system.

But you never realize that 7% or the American population has a criminal record. But if you did, you’d see that the medical students are 2% more law-abiding than the general population. Which, of course, is the exact opposite of what your initial reaction to the propaganda would lead you to believe, all the time thinking you have got the facts. Well, the facts they gave are true, but they didn’t give you the whole picture.

And that’s why this video clip is such an excellent example of propaganda. The character portrayed is a total dunce. So you are naturally inclined to believe that whatever he says is wrong. But then the propaganda twist comes in. Part way through he begins to provide actual data. Such as about asymptomatic cases of infection and its effect on the death rate.

Because the character is pretending not to believe in the data, you find yourself believing in it, because your rational mind says,”this is an actor doing this for a reason, so this is where he is being serious and giving us real data under the guise of his character not believing in it.” And so you buy into the data.

But just like the supposed criminal records of the hypothetical medical students, you only get half the picture.In this case, you see how more asymptomatic cases affect the death rate in one direction, but you aren’t told how that same data affects the infection rate in the opposite direction. So, overall, depending whether you believe the example given or research and believe the other side of the picture you weren’t told, you’ll either see things with the virus as more or less dangerous.

You’ll note I don’t say which view leads to which conclusion because I’ve been very careful not to take sides. I’m not arguing for or against the message of this video because that would ruin this wonderful opportunity to point out how propaganda works and leads one into rationalizations without you even knowing it, which is the whole purpose of my original post.

So in conclusion, there is very little you can do to prevent yourself from succumbing to propaganda and moving into rationalizations to support what you have now, unintentionally, come to believe. BUT you can question your own beliefs once you’ve got them. Don’t believe something because it feels right or because other people you respect believe it, or because the group you identify with believes it, or even because you’ve believed it for a long time and you can prove it was true in the past when you formed that belief. Things change, What was once true may no longer be.

And, even if you are a member of a group with a minority opinion in contradiction to the mainstream point of view, and even if the mainstream point of view is provably wrong, that doesn’t make you right. Perhaps you are both seeing only part of the actual big picture of truth, and like the parable of the three blind men and the elephant, the real truth is bigger than you could ever imagine (or rationalize).

The only way to see it, is to look for all the data that pertains to it, to try and see as many of the sides of it as you can, not just two, and to find all the data you can, even accepting data that speaks against what you want to be true, and even accepting data that supports other points of view you don’t want to be true. Question your own beliefs constantly, Because no matter which side of the issues you are on, you are almost certainly wrong about some of them. We are, after all, only human.

Health Care in China vs. the United States

A friend posted an article she had found to my page on Facebook describing how terrible health care is in China, as experienced during a recent vacation the author had taken there with his family.

His central points were that if the government controls the whole system, there’s no motivation to provide more than minimal care. And, he proposed that if we subsidize insurance in this country with a “single payer” system, it will lead to the same outcome where the needs of the individual are subverted to the needs of the economy of the state.

Here’s the response I wrote to my friend’s post:

Thanks, Donna – fascinating article. And the central point of the article is a good one: that if a culture/society/form of government is more concerned with the efficiency of the state than of the individual, then health care suffers because it is all about costs vs. individual medical needs. So, in China, better to lose people than to undermine the economy, essentially.

Right now in this country, poor people can’t afford insurance so, like the Chinese, they get no care. And this is a big indicator our current form of medical care is much like the Chinese – poor people don’t matter. We have lots of them and can afford to lose a bunch of them. As Scrooge said, “They had better [die] and decrease the surplus population.

Now in China, everyone gets the same care, rich or poor (theoretically) though I am sure those in power and the wealthy get much better care in practice. But there’s no hope for the poor nor for the middle class, since they are expendable for the good of the efficiency of the state as a whole.

In our country, the middle class fare much better. Good insurance at an expensive but attainable rate is available, often with the help of the businesses folks work for. But, again, we’ve decided the poor are the expendable ones here, for the good of the efficiency of the state.

The challenge ahead of us as a nation that wishes to be unlike the Chinese and to truly care for every individual regardless of their income level is to provide at the very least basic medical care for all, even for those who can’t pay for it. That, I believe, is at the center of our compassionate hearts as a nation.

But then, in terms of practical implementation, how do you do that, and who pays for it? In answer to the first part of that question, there are many ideas floating around. For one, we might require doctors and hospitals to provide services for free or on a sliding scale for those who can’t afford insurance. But the problem is that it puts the financial burden on the medical professionals and leads to the same kind of lack of interest in helping people that the article noted in China.

Another way is to require insurance companies to provide free and low cost sliding scale insurance to those who can’t afford it. But, the problem here is that the insurance companies are for-profit organizations, so they will have to offset those costs by raising rate for those who already buy insurance. That won’t be a problem for the rich, but the middle class will get slammed, and that will really hurt the standard of living and perhaps even cause folks to fall out of the middle class because they are in a donut hole where they make too much to get help with insurance payments, but with the hike in rates have to cut back on food, vacations, new cars, new clothes, and even college and retirement funds. And this then hurts the overall economy and potentially fuels a recession.

So what do we do to not be like China and make sure everyone gets quality heath care? Well, I don’t know if there’s a good answer to that yet. Or maybe a good answer doesn’t even exist. But for my money, literally, I think the best answer is for the government to cover the cost of insurance for medical care for the poor and to provide a sliding scale of financial support to pay for insurance for those who can only afford part of the payment on their own. As I understand it, that’s what Obamacare tried to do. But it was flawed, costs went up for the middle class and in the end it didn’t work very well.

That really leaves only one solution – put a tax on the personal income of the ultra-rich to provide health insurance for the ultra-poor. Now I’m not talking about taxing those who make one million a year or even 10 million a year, but how about a sliding scale tax on those who personally make 50 million or 100 million or 1 billion? I’ve hear that Bloomberg makes as much money every year as the poorest 100 million Americans. Now that may be bogus, but I’m sure it is some godawful number that tells us that the uber-riche can certainly afford to cover insurance payments for those who truly can’t afford them, and to subsidize lower payments for those who can’t cover it all themselves.

Now, we all pay taxes, and we recognize the need for some level of taxation. But the level currently charged against the middle class is a weight they can barely carry. So, as a nation we have two choices.

Like China, we don’t care for the poor and let them go without any medical care at all, or we demand that those who have so much pay a bit of it to provide for those who have nothing. That isn’t socialism since everybody can choose their own insurance company and plan. And if insurance is paid for by higher taxes on the very rich, it isn’t socialism because we aren’t all being taxed for it – just those who have that kind of money falling out of their pockets. That’s the capitalist way to do it.

Socialism would be a flat tax where everyone pays the same rate and gets the same services provided by the government. But we’re not talking about the government running health care here – not like China. We’re talking about the government taxing the very rich to pay for health insurance for the poor. And that’s about as capitalist as you can get.

Now, there may be lots of arguments against this idea, and I’m not claiming it is without its faults. But the whole point here is to make sure that everyone in this country can get medical care when they need it, regardless of how we achieve that. And if not by taxing the rich, then how to we do it? My head tells me we can do this, and my heart tells me we must.

Corona Virus and the Presidential Election

Due to the Corona virus, we are on the cusp of powerful potential narratives, few of them favorable. Though there is not yet enough information to project any as being more likely than another, it is worth considering them all.

Here is the worst case scenario:

The Conronavirus quickly becomes a pandemic. The United States remains largely unaffected due to our geographic isolation and strong disease prevention infrastructure. Reports of mass death, shortages, and unstable governments come in from around the world. In times of instability, populations tend to prefer the known to the unknown. And so, since Trump is at the helm and the disease has not hugely disrupted the United States (we are seen as a safe zone – an island in the middle of a flood) his numbers rise as the election nears. Sanders, running on a ticket of radical change,drops in popularity as the electorate shifts toward a desire to not rock the boat. Trump wins the election. The virus strikes hard domestically after the election, hitting us in Winter. Production slows, shortages appear,and state governments are unable to effectively respond to national supply chain disruptions. The United States congress declares martial law. Trump takes control, and due to the extreme situation, checks and balances are bypassed in favor of immediate chain-of-command decisions and policies. Slowly, eventually, the pandemic runs its course. International economies are ruined. The United States was hard hit but stands well above any other nation or alliance in both economy and capability. As a result of shutting our borders in our attempts to stop/slow the infection, and with Trump in charge of a direct command network with his hand-picked loyal supporters in all positions of power, congress overturns term limits for the presidency, reverting to the days of Franklin Roosevelt who was elected to four terms. Having put political cronies in charge of election systems, Trump is reelected until his demise, and then power is passed to his son.

Now, this sounds pretty far out, and requires a lot of elements to break in the worst possible direction.

Here are a few key narrative points to watch:

  1. The stock market continues to drop, losing the economic edge Trump has enjoyed.
  2. The virus reaches the United States in a big way much sooner, and Trump is seen as ineffectual and asleep at the wheel.
  3. Sanders modifies his campaign rhetoric to focus on the need for socialized services to provide national support where corporations have failed to work together to the peril of the population.
  4. Threatened by his draining support, Trump makes erratic moves and repeatedly violates his oath of office to the point that he is seen by the electorate as working to profit from the virus, even when doing so puts the nation in harm’s way.

Of course, the virus may wash up against our shores and recede. The rest of the world may gain control more quickly and minimize its effect, and it all might be behind us by the presidential election, returning to a level playing field for the contest between Sanders (and his philosophy) and Trump (and his).

Bottom line:

  1. Keep your eyes open
  2. Watch for key narrative points
  3. Be prepared