Monday, January 18, 2021

Covid Diary Dec '20-Jan '21

 Jan 18 2021 

It’s like futuristic here. 2021. I’ve been addictively watching Star Trek Discovery. Sometimes the storylines don’t make sense, the writers trying to get from one plot point to another. But I’ve become obsessed, nonetheless. Or it’s a combination of staying up too late in response to and as distraction from the relentlessness of Trump and Covid  news, a kind of denial depression, like if I keep staying up then I won’t have to go to bed and start again tomorrow… and the addictive nature of any good show with strong characters and that always ends with a cliffhanger. And I always can’t help thinking about how the show was made during Trump’s presidency. Especially during the season where the ship and crew slip into a parallel universe where the same people exist but it’s like the evil version of everyone and everything, where individual competition and winning are the highest goals and there’s a lot of killing to get or remain on top, where everyone is their own worst self all of the time. Of course one might argue how American this idea is even before Trump, but still it feels like a sci-fi manifestation of the exacerbated long term consequences of Trump culture in which everything turns rotten, and hate, lies, violence, and distrust consume everything.

In real-life-time, Trump supporting white supremacists have been planning to arrest politicians and take over the government, or at least the US capital. The protest that never was a protest but always maybe intended to be a riot shut everything down on Jan. 6, Trump instigated and encouraged it, and now we’re all wondering how Biden’s inauguration will go in two days. They won’t go away when Trump leaves but kind of like a nice surprise many of them have been shut down across social media platforms and denounced by corporate and other entities (and most importantly some entities have taken money away from Trump, from his ability to fundraise, and from Trump politicians and other supporters). They won’t go away but there are ways to fight against their having free reign to organize, spew hate, and encourage violence with the help of technology and no regulations on anything, if only those means continue to be utilized. 

And today is MLK Day. Falling between the Jan 6 white supremacist insurrection at the capital and the inauguration of Biden and Harris. Trump has been one of the most hateful and vile racists in office. And his actions have called attention to the perpetuation of white power in this country since before it was declared a country. White power in the most literal and general sense. White men built this country with slaves and via genocide of indigenous people. And MLK's words are as resonant today as ever:

I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. (MLK "Letter from Birmingham Jail")

And although January so far has been mostly cloudy and dark, damp and heavy and sad, there have been moments when the clouds break and the sun comes through. I’m speaking literally. Call it a metaphor if you like. I haven’t been able to write things in months. Not really. Haven’t had any creative thoughts. Have mostly lost the ability to consider how one might be creative in writing or making art of some other kind. But right now, at this moment, a bit of sun is coming through the window. I’m sitting here with words and I wiped some of the dust off from the top of my desk. This desk I, in fact, use a lot, for teaching work, for union work, for zoom. But not in some time for writing. Today, though, I’ll start with a list. Focus on one project at a time. Write down some reflections as Covid lingers aggressively and 400k people have died. An uncounted number live with the suffering of Covid, or with its long term and sometimes mysterious effects. It seems impossible to think about going forward or know what comes next. So at the moment a ray of sun as they say, a poem, start there, just one poem at a time.

Dec ‘20-Jan ‘21

It seems like I lost the whole month of Nov. Maybe not surprising considering the elections and post-election rest and recovery. Post election sigh, joy, and fatigue. A setting down and letting go of four years, in a way. A small break from the unrelenting tightening of stress and fear. But the Covid, heavy and still getting worse, takes no timeouts. Whitmer shut stuff back down just before Thanksgiving, told everyone to stay home, don’t gather in large groups, stay safe. There was backlash. And our numbers went down. We turned from red back to yellow on the Covid map. While other places looked set on fire from Thanksgiving into early Jan. By mid January, the rise is slowing in most places. So much trial and error and more error by places run by people who refuse to keep each other safe. So much safety in a mask. And so many selfish and hateful people.  

It feels so long ago already, spending time by the lake, our last camper-trip in mid-Oct--in mid-east-Michigan--was lovely and cold, and harder to spend time just sitting outside. In winter now, from home, there’s not much of a view, but it’s quiet. There are dog walkers and joggers and less traffic than ever. Sometimes I remember to turn on music while I’m working, when the quiet becomes too loud in my head. 

I never watch daytime TV or TV news but it feels good to have Trump’s voice mostly gone from the scene for a brief time in December. He’s been stewing about the election, but right now there’s less coverage of it. I know it won’t last. He’s not finished. In January he’ll roar his ugly head like never before, impossible to imagine, but true. Every time the worst thing happens we wonder what more worse could still be on the way. Somehow we’ve endured this outrageous presidency and administration for four years. Somehow the worst pandemic we’ve seen in our lifetimes happened at exactly this moment, during this Trump reign. And we wake up every day wondering what will be next. When it happens it will again feel impossible to deal with, and we will deal with it and we won’t in retrospect (or even immediately) be surprised. 

Still at this moment in December, I relish the calm (which in January will seem like the calm before yet another fucking storm). And I wait to be able to write again. 

I did some writing in the winter, last winter, while Covid was just starting to infiltrate and before we really knew what was happening—except for a cruise ship, an outbreak in WA state, and China. In February I went to Georgia for three weeks to write and spend time with other writers and artists at Hambidge. Driving home right after MI started shutting down for the first time, just before St. Patrick’s Day, was scary and surreal, in a way that felt literal vs how sometimes people throw around the phrase “it felt surreal.” 

But it’s also true that I’ve watched a lot of zombie and apocalyptic TV shows and movies. I mean, I guess I recognized that Covid was not the same as zombies. Still, in Georgia I had just finished reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, a literary dystopic story about securing and restarting society in the US after the zombie apocalypse, beginning with NYC. The main character is on a small team, one of many, charged with going building by building to take out random leftover zombies. There is a government of sorts, maybe in DC or somewhere, giving orders to the military-style operation in NY. There are refugee camps of survivors off in the distance. The whole book basically takes place post-catastrophe and while clean-up is in process, so it often feels hopeful in a way. Though a savvy reader, and one who’s read Whitehead before, will be anxious the whole way through about how it will end, or at least how the book will finish, and in which direction the story will go. And of course there are glimpses of the end that poke through the hope along the way. 

In Georgia, I read Zone One at night in my little cabin with no internet, and then every afternoon head to the main building for wifi to get the news and find out what’s happening with the election primaries in early March and to see the virus begin to spread and eventually to see places start to shut down. It was like a kind of sudden slow motion. I never believed the colleges could close up and go totally online so quickly, or that they would stay like that for two weeks, let along for so many long months. I couldn’t comprehend what was just starting to happen in NYC in real-time vs in dystopian fiction. But in fact it was all a bit too slow. Experts in viruses and disease were probably trying to tell us how bad it was in China and how fast it would spread once it got here. And they could have told us how, in other countries, in some Asian countries in particular, where they have had real--or threats of--viral scares before, they immediately turned to wearing masks, for everyone across the board. Instead, here, there was denial about how bad it was even though many people saw what was happening, and it took a long time to get anyone to recognize the importance of masks. And now we’re still arguing about it. Thousands of people are dying, right now, and we’re still arguing about masks, even while it’s so clear that it saves lives. But time and again we find we are a country that prefers to let each other die, or in which the white people with money and power don’t mind whatever happens to the rest of us.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Covid diary Oct 14-16

 Oct 14

At the campground, it’s down to us and another camper that’s just like ours but with a color scheme and inside curtains that makes it look “vintage.” It may also have a checkered tile floor inside, but I can’t remember since I once looked at the pictures of those for sale online. It’s a new version of our camper but it’s made to look old. Ours we bought used in the spring, after things started to open up after the shutdown. Strange timing, to get a covid camper, even though we were already in process with that plan well before. Now everyone is doing it. In any case, it’s colder here now and the fall colors are deep yellows and browns and starting to fade. The small inland lake is quiet and calm except for occasional fishing boats going out from the launch just down the hill, and the shots of duck hunters in the early morning and evening. There’s also traffic noise from the main road just beyond the campground, but the lake and colors are so lovely it’s hard to complain. In the news the covid numbers are still going up around the country, especially in WI and the Dakotas. It’s still going up in MI some too and the republicans want to take away all covid safety mandates and let the herd reign. They are back to the herd thing. Just let people get sick and die and eventually the covid will fade away or something. Just let it run its course and eventually things will even out. That other places have tried that and it was catastrophic. And in any case, the choice between doing things that everyone knows make us safer, that are little trouble really, and the other choice to just let people get sick and die because a few are too selfish and troubled by caring about anyone else. It’s the same story. But if they are going to keep going on about being oppressed, then the rest of us should keep going on about how they don’t care if everyone around them dies. Or has long-term consequences from the virus, much of which we don’t know a lot about yet, though a lot of which we do. In the other news it’s the Barrett thing and the continuing Trump things and Gary Peters is almost getting beat by a pc-looking-on-the-surface Republican bought and packaged by Devos and the Kochs and other big money Trumpers. They hate that Whitmer got elected and they lost Snyder from the payroll. And they’ve been trying to get rid of the Dem senators for a while. Michigan: Pure corporate greed, white militia supremacy, kickbacks to self-serving legislators who wield their power for no other reasons than their bank accounts and to destroy the lives of others because they can.

In the woods, many of the birds have gone. There are some blue jays and others I can’t recognize. But the loud birdsong of summer is over. The warm early morning sun holding out until mid-afternoon. Dinnertime like midnight dark, though one can see a sky full of stars without actually having to stay up to late.

Oct 16

We’ve moved to another campground. Our little trailer that’s comfy and keeps the heat, to a degree. Down to 30ish outside last night and I got cold in the early morning hours and couldn’t warm up. At least the sun’s out again today, after clouds and rain since we got here two days ago. Another deserted campground in mid-October. Another big camper in the other loop, so we have this loop and the lake view all to ourselves. Though at the house right next to the campground, the owner is running his leaf blower, keeping his fancy cabin in the woods lawn clean of stray leaves.

This lake is part of a series of small lakes, inland just west of Lake Huron, scenic and beautiful, surrounded all around by trees even though there are a lot of houses, some large big money houses, with Trump signs, the small houses away from the water also replete with flags and more cult décor. These lakes though, only a few of them so far and maybe more to come, are now listed as contaminated with PFAS. The thick soapy foam lining the edges of the beach and blowing up onto the land in places. The chemical levels exponentially higher than the small safe limit. These and other small inland lakes with expensive houses literally dangerous to use except to view from afar. They say it’s safe to swim, just don’t touch the foam. And don’t let your kids or dogs touch the foam. Maybe don’t let your dog even drink the water, or just don’t drink it when there’s foam nearby. I don’t know. I don’t want to swim in water from which appears foam that can kill me. The UP always looks like a better option when you come to think about most things, except it is certainly even colder up there right now, compared to this which is really already past the limit for outdoor enjoyment, except for walking, layered up and moving at a good pace with the dog.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Covid diary Oct 5


Trump has the covid. Some of his staff, some Republican senators, his press secretary, have the covid. Spin that Kayleigh, you terrible example of, and for, blond women everywhere. Yes many white women are ridiculous. But that also means that some are not. And even some blond women are not so terrible and ridiculous as T’s current press secretary might make us seem. But her act may not be working as planned… T is down in the polls with white suburban women voters, likely Kayleigh’s main audience, her ivy-education used to perfect lies and manipulation, her barbie outfits and smooth subtle curls making sure she doesn’t look threatening in any way. 

The other night I watched The Artist is Present, a documentary about Marina Abramović, the performance artist. This is a strange transition from Kayleigh McEnany, or maybe not, though T-world performance is of an entirely different sort. And watching the film felt like a way of responding to, or processing, this world dominated by T., who is a culmination of so much that has come before. 

I only learned of Abramović recently, a few months ago, at an arts residency, from another performance artist who follows her work closely. So closely she (the person I met) became part of Abramović’s piece at MOMA in 2010. I hadn’t known what to make of the art. Only having glimpses of some of her work before watching the film. Her work has often been intensely physical, subjecting her naked body to violence or other physically demanding challenges. When I started watching the film, I still didn’t know what to think. But by the end, like so many of her real fans, Abramović has pulled me in, I become captivated. I know lots of art experts and critics have written and commented on her work, and I’m sure there’s all kinds of interpretations and explanations, reflections on motives and political messaging… I haven’t read any of that. I don’t know if I will. But as a writer, I’m fascinated by the total physical bodily experiences that so much of her work focuses on. The Artist is Present. To me it’s about the physical body/bodies in physical space. And mental and emotional presence. The main work during the MOMA exhibition was Abramović sitting for eight hours a day (6 days/week for three months) at a small table, and where visitors could sit in the chair opposite her and be with her at the table, in that space. She sat still, closing her eyes between visitors, so that when a person sat down, she opened her eyes solely upon them, and when they got up to leave, she closed her eyes again and lowered her head, creating an entirely new space for each successive person. She held them in her physical and emotional presence. Toward the end of the film, the camera gave more focused time to the up-close faces of some of those who sat across from her. Some cried. Some put their hands over their hearts. Some expressed deep and intense feeling from their eyes, faces, as if no one had ever actually looked at them before, hadn’t before sat in quiet presence with them in such a way. Abramović slowed down time to imperceptible movements during those visits. She gave her visitors the entire space of her attention and care. Her facial expression sometimes changed subtly, and sometimes more discernibly, as she connected with others. A few times, tears also fell from her eyes. 

Some of the other pieces in the exhibition were also about physical presence in space. A number of her earlier pieces were re-created by other artists or actors hired to perform them in other parts of the museum. Two naked bodies, a man and a woman, faced each other with a small amount of space for visitors to squeeze through, so that the nude and clothed bodies pressed against each other for a few seconds at a time. Another nude body lay under a (probably real) human skeleton, a commentary on our own mortality maybe, or a look to the insides of ourselves that we don’t otherwise see. Videos projected on the walls showed Abramović’s past performances, including whipping her own naked back repeatedly, and two naked bodies slamming into walls or into each other. I think about how these represent the literal and figurative body in physical and other kinds of space. As our bodies exist in and move through the world. Navigate, survive, circle through physical, emotional, psychic spaces. We slam into walls, beat ourselves up. Some of us  are subject to literal and metaphorical beatings, many kinds of violence and violation. Sometimes we move in the world without thinking, unaware of our physical selves. The videos were mostly in black and white. The other artists’ live performances were mainly naked white and black and brown bodies. The main element of color in the whole exhibition was the blue or red dress or white dresses that Abramović wore at the table, across from visitors. These kinds of physical/emotional resonances have always been true, but isn’t it all even more incisive now? 

In the final month, the table was removed, so that the connection between her and her visitors became even more closely connected. I don’t know if she offered an artist’s statement about this exhibition, or reflected on the relation between the video works, the re-created works by young performance artists, and her presence at the table. I don’t know if she spoke to the intended disconnection and thereby connection between the violence done to bodies in the world and the undoing of emotional violence in relation, in human connection, in two people holding each other in their gaze and in their hearts. At first glance, one unfamiliar might see the naked bodies as sexual, sexualized, or calling attention (sex sells) in some way as an attention-getter or distraction. But the bodies are instead vulnerable in ways beyond sexual activity. Though sex can make one entirely vulnerable and subject to various kind of emotional or physical violence. But the performers in the nude, stripped of the false protection of clothing and accessories, make the audience vulnerable too, as maybe we see ourselves as fragile individuals in the world and subject to how the world treats us, or how we pass by others often in close contact but don’t connect. How sometimes we are put on display and held there, through no intent or motivation of our own.


By the end of the film, I am held in that space. I look into the eyes of the visitors across from Marina who connect with her in that space, and I think about art and the power it can have in the world. I think about how the idea of the power of art is often, for me, so hard to hold on to, to really know and trust in, when so much news and politics and literal actions and events are happening at breakneck speed every day. So hard to remember when scrolling through social media or working on random tasks that take up hours every day. And instead of imagining what it would have felt like to sit across from her, to look into her eyes and let her into mine, a thought that only now crosses my mind two days after watching the film, instead of that I thought about art. It’s power. It’s necessity. Marina was able to stop time in that space. She invited people in, and held them, for as long as they wanted to sit there. Recognizing how we are often alone in the world, battling and surviving and moving, often not allowed the vulnerability of our own feelings and emotions and need for human contact and love, she made a space of quiet presence, like a gift, for everyone who entered. 

Even if, as is said clearly in the film, she needs the audience, needs to feel seen and acknowledged and loved, maybe as much as or more than the audience needs her, the power of that performance, and the clarity, is striking. The exhibition was in 2010. I don’t know what she is doing now. Or if her art has changed. Many artists have talked in these past few years about figuring out how to be artists and political activists. I wake up every day wondering how to be both, though in many ways I’ve abandoned my artist/writer self to be more active, more political, more focused on literal news and events and responses to those. I spend more time working, for my job, for volunteer causes, and less time writing or engaging in other kinds of creative practices. And I don’t know how to trust more in art, in it’s potential to affect and maybe even create change. Or to feel allowed to spend more physical and emotional time there. But I don’t want to have to choose. There are many kinds of art, many kinds of action, many things that make our lives whole, and that make us care and think and relate to one another, that make us question, and trust, and critique, and be human.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Covid diary Sept 23

In the eastern UP and the tourist season is mostly over. Unless you go to the state park where fall color voyeurs crowd the waterfall trails. The leaves are changing, from summer to fall, from awake and eternally optimistic to quiet, not yet resigned. Though there are still some last moments of quiet nature harnessed like hope just waiting for us all to act in its and our best interests. 

RBG died on Friday. Today is Wednesday. If we don’t act fast and in large numbers as people who want to save the earth and save ourselves, so much of what she worked for will be lost. I don’t know how many decisions RBG made that specifically related to environmental issues, but the environmental and the social are related. If we let capitalism run unfettered, we destroy ourselves. When white men rule everything, everyone else suffers economically, politically, in terms of social justice, and in other ways. RBG dissented against rulings that allowed more and more money to go toward political campaigns—money that often favors conservative corporations and super-wealthy individuals—and she was against dismantling the voting rights act—the new version making it harder for Black Americans, Latinos, and other communities of color to have fair access to voting across the country. If she’s replaced by a Trump appointee they may get rid of Roe v. Wade—if you don’t like abortion, don’t get one, but you don’t have the right to control others peoples’ healthcare needs; healthcare as we have come to know it under Obamacare—a system that needs to be improved or replaced with something better in order to get healthcare to more people, not discarded leaving millions uncovered; and if Trump loses the election he may even get the court to say he won, giving him more time to destroy everything. 

I remember in early March, when talk first started, that colleges might go 100% online and we might have to isolate ourselves in our homes for two weeks… I remember thinking that was totally crazy and would never happen. How could colleges just suddenly stop and move everything online? Well they could because teachers picked up all of the slack. And staff people. Doing the labor of making it happen for students. Yes, higher admins have a lot of meetings and make a lot of decisions. But then they send emails that say thanks for doing such great work, when you aren’t doing it wrong and hurting students, and keep doing the great work indefinitely but with no extra pay and little extra support etc. etc… And I thought, how is it possible that we will have to stay home, and everything except grocery stories will be closed, what will we do? Like everyone, I couldn’t conceptualize or envision any of this. So many months later, in some ways things are a bit better because we can go to stores and other places wearing masks. I have finally felt comfortable eating or drinking on patios at a limited few restaurants. There is now more info from doctors and researchers about how the virus spreads and how to be safe. But I remember feeling sick to my stomach every time I went to the grocery store for the first months of all this. And feeling deep relief when the governor finally, too late, but finally, made masks mandatory at any business indoors—gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores—and as other stores opened back up, masks have been required everywhere.

We’ve been traveling around northern Michigan a lot, and sometimes I’m surprised to see little stores in the middle of nowhere—where the Trump flags fly loud and aggressive—enforcing the mask rule. Ironically, one guy in a tiny UP grocery was wearing his Trump 2020 mask; not ironic, hypocritical maybe. But never mind that guy, life is somewhat easier now when everyone wears masks and we can all just walk into the gas station or grocery and just do what we need to do and get out and feel less terrified. But MI Republicans are trying to take that away. That little bit of care and safety for each other. Again making us less safe and more scared and eternally more divided. 

By Friday of this same week, only a week after RGB died, Trump has said we just shouldn’t have ballots. Or some nonsense. And that he won’t go quietly. And in not exact words, basically the election will only be fair if he wins. T. voters will vote in person and then continue to discredit voting by mail or early voting. RBG’s funeral is today. And he’s going to name a replacement tomorrow. And that person will probably get voted in. While the Covid numbers are going up in places they have not gone up before. WI Republicans took away their Gov’s emergency powers and they are bursting with Covid there. And higher ed is no better than the state Rs, knowing better and not doing enough to prevent spread among students back to campus. Bringing it home to their communities and families. It will go on like this until there is a vaccine because people are people or something and can’t be trusted to do better, not enough of them/us can be convinced to care about others. Or maybe the rest of us who do care shouldn’t have such high expectations. Maybe we want too much. Maybe humans as a species can’t evolve enough for all people to care about others. Maybe there would be other kinds of consequences to that that we can’t foresee. Maybe the uncaring people are like the one loud kid in class who gets all the attention and disrupts everything, while everyone else just wants to get on with things. Maybe we need to learn how to turn away and amplify our own more human messages, advocate for justice on the loudspeakers, silence anyone who harms others with their words and ideas. Not fake harm, real harm. If you are a white person brainwashed to be afraid of people of color, that results in real harm. If you are afraid for your health or your safety, but the state or the feds refuse to take public health seriously, that is real harm. If you hurt others in exercising what you believe to be your individual freedom, that is real harm. If the earth becomes uninhabitable because we’ve destroyed it by letting capitalism kill us all, that is real harm; or maybe some of us still live, while many others don’t, and we don’t have clean water, air, or options. But there are also always responses to harm. More protests. More voting. More fighting for real news, real stories. Maybe we can work harder on getting our messages out ahead of the bully, and ahead of the bullies that will continue to follow in his footsteps. Maybe we can change the lies into hope. Imagine compassion. Etc.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Covid diary Sept 18

  The west is burning. For a few days earlier this week the sky here, all these states and miles away, was a weird haze. I think I was coughing. But I’ve had sinus allergy stuff since March. Hard to say if the smoke in the sky from the other side of the country has made things worse. Hard to say it hasn’t. Consumed with this pandemic and constantly battling the lies of T., climate catastrophe has fallen from the headlines. Regulations and policies to combat the crisis have been reversed, deleted, destroyed. Recognition of how the changing climate is hurting the world’s most vulnerable the fastest. Like covid, inequity is an accelerant, fuel on the fire already burning, has been burning. T. is an accelerant, but not the cause. And when he’s gone—hopefully right out of office and directly into jail—the root causes of climate catastrophe and the unnecessary extent of the death and damage caused by covid won’t go away. We (American history, contemporary society, post WWII Republicans, unchecked capitalism etc. etc.) created T. and the racist culture that exalts him. 

Ibrim Kendi says education isn’t necessarily the solution (or lack of education necessarily the problem): 

“We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course … the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.” Self-interest drives racist policies that benefit that self-interest. When the policies are challenged because they produce inequalities, racist ideas spring up to justify those policies. Hate flows freely from there. 


“We can understand this very simply with slavery. I’m enslaving people because I want to make money. Abolitionists are resisting me, so I’m going to convince Americans that these people should be enslaved because they’re black, and then people will start believing those ideas: that these people are so barbaric, that they need to be enslaved, or that they are so childlike that they need to be enslaved.” 

But the failings in our educational systems have contributed. People who haven’t learned better—through formal education or through personal relationships and first-hand experiential learning—are especially susceptible to being convinced of the stories that perpetuate racial inferiority, the stories manufactured to justify the behavior/policies/practices of racial oppression and inequality. T. is doing this right now in the stories he tells—amplified by the world of right- wing media—about law and order and the largely peaceful BLM protests, in his new patriotic education plan, etc. His followers are ignorant and hateful but they also want to hold on to their own white power, socially at least, even if they don’t have any economic power. The owners of big oil and non-renewable everything corporations convinced us all for years to worship the causes of our own destruction. Powerful messaging indeed, profiting billions for a few while we all have helped the burning right along. Turns out even recycling has mostly been a lie, created by the plastic-makers, to keep us all in line. And we fell for it even when we should have known better. 

Though, like Frederick Douglass personally knowing and feeling the violent effects of slavery and his learning to read and write the historical, structural, economic racism that fueled the system—and armed with this knowledge working to dismantle that system—we need better history taught in schools, more critical literacies. People of all races and colors and backgrounds can learn how to dismantle ignorance and policies, and many have and continue to learn and act, even if some forever Trumpers are just a newly labeled group of the same old leaders and followers violently holding on to their white privilege and power—those who have the money convincing those who don’t to pretend they have power even if their only power is hate.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Covid diary Sept 15

 Two years ago today we went to a large pet adoption event in the parking lot at the Detroit zoo and adopted Marci. We walked around the whole place checking out all of the shelter dogs, and she was among the last who caught our attention, at the end of our first circle around, sitting quietly in her cage. After meeting a few other dogs, we got her story, got her out of the cage, and then adopted her and brought her home. And now it’s like she’s never not been here.


Right now she’s laying on the chair by the open front window of my office. I don’t know why she only discovered this chair a few days ago, but lately she regularly settles in there while I’m at the computer. She’s grown used to us being home and around all day long, or taking her in the car on short and long trips, and tends to stay close and pay attention whenever I’m moving around the house or somehow slip outside without her. If we’re going to spend any considerable time away, I think, we’re going to have to work up to it so she doesn’t have a serious panic attack and totally freak out.


Also today the grad students are on strike. It's now into the second week. Some Ann Arbor lecturers and TT faculty are striking with them too and even some from Dearborn and Flint. Many RAs have also walked out of the dorms, demanding more testing and safer conditions. And now dining workers and other groups on campus are joining in and ramping up the pressure. It’s true, we’re in a global pandemic that no one has ever had to navigate before. And so maybe leaders don’t entirely know the best ways to proceed. But the U. is the wealthiest public U. and has top-world experts in every field. There have been many conversations and information from all kinds of public health and other experts. There is no reason for the U. to be doing as poor a job as it is doing in terms of subjecting students, faculty, staff, and the community to the spread of this virus. And it hardly included any of them in reopening plans and conversations. The administration, in fact, tried to hide a report from its own committee that warned that it was dangerous to reopen to the extent planned, and that it was unethical to do so and put people in danger. Add to all that the racial justice demands and problematic history of policing on campus. Grad students are demanding police reform in funding and practice. And if all of this ever ends, those graduating grad students will enter a world radically changed and with likely fewer job opportunities, students in the dorms will go out into the local community and go back to their families and many will bring the virus, since their age group is known to silently spread if not actually contract the virus, and the world will not return exactly to how it was.


The clouds have filled in the sky like a haze. It was beautiful and clear sun earlier in the day. These good-weather September days are hard to come by and won’t last long. A bit of evening sun though glows through onto the neighbor’s bright orange and pink wildflowers which seem nostalgic for a summer they’ve barely known. The neighbor told me they pulled out old, mostly weeds, from those only somewhat contained beds in the front yard, and then threw in some wildflower mix bags of seeds. Our own fall flowers have also filled in in the front yard, but I can’t see them from here outside and under my front window. After to much dryness, the daisies are blooming again. A huge spread of deep red mums is just starting to turn into flowers from the buds. And large sedums dominate the front beds and mix with assertively spread black-eyed Susans along the driveway. Lots of other continuing summer and early fall colors, including goldenrods and other spindly spreaders have popped out all over the neighborhood.


Flowers are like taking a break. Sometimes I try to focus on them hard. To see a yard full all at once. Take in the patches and layers. The way textures and shapes fill in the outside spaces. Earlier in the summer, walking with my aunt, she told me her neighborhood didn’t have a lot of peonies, maybe because they grow a bit large and wild, that in that Ann Arbor neighborhood the yards are more neat more tidy. Our Ypsi yards, some of them, are kind of wild. Less delineation between species and types. More openness to falling out of boundaries or expectations. I think Ann Arbor used to be more like this, maybe parts of it still are. Maybe yard art can be a creative lesson, in paying attention, in cultivating beauty.

Friday, April 10, 2020

It's Still April

... and although we are ordered to stay at home, spring breaks through occasionally... there was snow on the ground this morning, but the sun is trying to warm things up a little. We'll move beyond 40 degrees in the next days like we did a few days earlier. The flowers are starting to fill in, here and there. And because we're shut in, and the weather's turning, so many people are out walking, running, riding... so many dogs and kids. It's nice to see. Sometimes I wonder what all of those so many more people than I usually see do when there's not a stay-at-home order. Parents with kids probably have other activities and things that keep them busy. Dog owners have jobs and more tightly knit schedules. So in a way it's a nice break, for some. If for a moment it's possible to forget the terrible. If only for a quick moment to rest away from knowing what others who don't have this break, who have the virus, who are caring for others who have the virus, who are staffing the auto repair shops and grocery stores so some of us can be at home... what they are dealing with now, and the fear that we all have about how long this will last, how many we will lose, what life will look like on the other side.

April is also poetry month. And here, I offer some pieces that are not exactly poetry but that are born of poetry in a way, from a project-in-process about another simultaneous and related kind of continuing catastrophe...

Geology is a mode of accumulation, on the one hand, and of dispossession, on the other, depending on which side of the color line you end up on … [we must] resist framing this epoch [Anthropocene]  as a “new” condition that forgets its histories of oppression and dispossession...

--Yusoff Black Anthropocene (3)


If I looked different and was still myself I would want to do things in the world, go places, experience the quiet and calm that being away from traffic noise in particular can offer. As the climate apocalypse heats up literally and figuratively, we will all eventually have to fight for spaces out of the way in the woods, near the water, fighting off everyone from everywhere else coming here, to the great lakes state, great lakes great times, because it will be the best place to live out the climate disaster years in peace, and by then we might be out of the resources needed to perpetuate the noise anyhow, won’t be able to drive cars, run machines, industry will slow to a halt. And it might get crowded, the rural spaces diversify, conversations turn to everyday survival, movement slackened. I think about how it might get real quiet, without the blast of progress barreling forward, a turn back to simple humanity, something to look forward to, the quiet of the apocalypse.


In campaign season advertisements roar, shout, clamor. TV, radio, internet cacophony. Billboards, mail flyers, my computer with the sound on mute shouts images, headlines, memes, ads purporting, contradicting, claiming, promising, fear-mongering. Millions and millions spent on accumulating environmental and cultural catastrophe instead of just spending the money to fix anything except military, border walls, and corporate tax breaks. Maybe one of them will fix something. If we could have a moment of true silence to get us there.


Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant, once said: “There’s a simple rule. You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.” Luntz has been active on many (dis)information campaigns and is the author of the book, Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say It’s What People Hear.


Koch headquarters is in Wichita, Kansas. The state of Kansas held hearings on evolution. Whether to teach evolution in school or teach something else. The other side. Is there another side to evolution? Like is there another side to climate change? get opposing views to be fair. But the opposing views are totally made up. Or Leave stuff out. Or are only about religion, which isn’t part of public school curriculum. Or whatever. How did we get here? It’s like a Talking Heads song. Played on Kansas News. In reverse. Satanic messages. Like evolution. A backward big bang. Kochs love Kansas. Probably suicidal over the newest Kansas NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) that focus on fact-based, scientific processes and practices, and hands-on doing. The more people know the harder it is to control them.