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.