Friday 21 August 2020

Sirens On, Buckle Up

Well, last night I did not hear Joe Biden's speech because my Dad needed another ambulance ride. TBH, a pretty rough night.

Tonight, James and I were talking about what it takes to get Americans to vote in their self-interest. I'm savvy enough to negotiate down a copay, but who needs that at 3am after a mad dash to keep a parent alive? 

Y'all, the personal is political. Keeping an old man alive is uphill battle enough at the best of times, and I don't wish for anyone else to have to do it in the midst of this plague. Regardless, countless of us will have to do so, with more mortal peril and less money than usual. 

Life goes on, and it's the stuff that's happening while we have other plans. I'm cruising along on too little sleep and the occasional adrenaline burst of a loved one's near-death experiences, just trying to keep everyone's airway clear so we can breathe through to a more stable moment. I vaguely recall the possibility of life being different than this. 

Honestly, triage should be a temporary state. We pay taxes to alleviate some of this uncertainty, not to ensure its perpetuation. People are sick, homes are on fire, and we all deserve coherent responses to those known unknowns that are the reality of human life. We are social creatures for a reason. We deserve better than pernicious ignorance and denial of our lived experiences. 

Please, get your shit together to vote. Check your registration, and consider being a poll worker. Talk to your loved ones about what's going on, and try to save them from bubbles of misinformation. Make sure they can vote, too. 

This autumn is going to be a ride, and we need to buckle up and dig our heels in. 

I love you all. Keep fighting the good fight.

Saturday 15 August 2020

Blessed are the Nurses

 Being in the rural Midwest during these COVIDeous times to care for an elderly man who is medically vulnerable is really wild. 

Having weathered the initial lockdown in San Francisco--a city which easily could have been hit as hard as New York but rather opted to take early, impactful action--I have some very clear ideas about what works to mitigate the spread of this damned plague. It feels normal, considerate, even comfortable to wear a mask. I wash my hands a lot, I keep hand sanitizer in easy reach, and I stay home as much as possible. If I'm sick, I do not go anywhere. 

Around me here in mid-Missouri, however, the picture is like a fever dream of a virus-free world. Bars and restaurants are open, and full. The radio advertises local happy hours and tryouts for the beach volleyball leagues, while the DJs discuss how live music events are back and the worst has passed. It's surreal. 

For the most part, medical professionals seem to be acknowledging reality, but it's very uneven. The first time I took my Dad to his primary care clinic, no one but my Dad and I had masks on. When I took him to the podiatrist at the hospital, the doctor and his aged receptionist also skipped masks, even as the doctor inhaled my father's toenail dust during the most industrial pedicure I have ever witnessed. 

The people that do seem to understand the severity of this are the nurses, social workers, and administrators who serve the elderly. These women--and they are all women--have taken it as their solemn duty to maintain a science-informed bubble around themselves, even as the society around them pretends nothing is happening. 

They amaze me, in the best way. I can speak from experience when I say that it is much, much easier to maintain rigorous protocols when your friends and neighbors are doing the same. Having moved from one context to another, I can testify to the temptation to engage with the rest of the world normally when that option is freely available (if very ill-advised). 

These women go to and from work, masked and aware of their surroundings, passing by the happy hour crowds and the invitations to socialize with friends. They have been doing it since March, and they are committed to serving vulnerable people who need them now more than ever. They do it in isolation and with great resolve. 

They are mothers, worrying about how their kids can go to school safely. They have their own elderly parents to care for. They are desperately needed, every hour of the day. When we talk, they lift my spirits, and we relate to each other as people fighting an uphill battle together against this pandemic. 

The local ballots are full-up with conservative men pushing for bars to open before schools have coherent plans, but I can see where the brains are. These women are pragmatic and tough, truly essential workers who stand as the last defense between life and death. If their hands were a little less full, they might be able to run against the anti-science crowd that keeps them busier than ever before. 

Today, one of them told me that she encouraged a young biracial couple to register to vote. She saw the inequalities they face, and urged them to take their concerns to the ballot box. We decried the lack of national leadership that prolongs the suffering of our country. For a little while, we held each other up in conversation, and the exchange made me feel hopeful. 

It is trite to call our healthcare workers heroes, but so many of them truly are. Blessed are the nurses, resolute on the front lines. They deserve for their work to be valued, uplifted, and made safer.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Vice President Harris

 My thoughts on Kamala Harris as Biden’s vice president:

I like Kamala Harris. I have voted for her many times, and it’s been a pleasure to watch her eviscerate craven, powerful men with her expertise and without mercy. 

She was not my first pick for veep. Nor was she my choice in the presidential primary; I still believe that Elizabeth Warren is the leader made for this moment, and there’s no one I’d rather have in the presidency or within one heartbeat of it. Even as I type this, my nails are freshly painted in Liberty Green.

However, I am heartened that my Senator and my hero work well together. It pleases me greatly that they have consulted with one another on bank-busting legislation and other policies. I will take the table with at least two brilliant women already seated there any day of the week. I deeply believe in the power, strength and magic of black women and girls; indeed, this country would not exist without them—and we have much atonement ahead for how that occurred. This moment is historic and vital, and it occurred in response to widespread calls to elevate a Black woman to our second highest office.

Contrast this with Agolf Twitler and his creepy Made-in-Gilead fundamentalist automaton sidekick. As a woman who values my own bodily autonomy as well as democracy, I see considerable improvement in fortunes ahead when the orange oaf is trounced and the Democratic party can once again engage in repair work following disastrous Republican white supremacist kakistocracy. 

I like a future with a whip-smart, ambitious woman like Harris at the helm, with Warren free to take on the Treasury or Commerce or whatever cabinet post she pleases. I am already seeing a Democratic platform shaped by Warren’s policy initiatives, as Biden has had his ear bent by her intellect and energy. This shows up in things like discussions of universal child care and pre-k, and the basic understanding of how economic justice is imperative to our nation’s wellbeing. I believe that Harris will fight hard for those things; the plans are all there, and Harris contributed to many of them.

I have not voted for a white man (nor even a conditionally white man) in a presidential primary or election since Kerry in 2004. I go for smart women with plans, because policy is my love language and I deserve to be represented by people who understand that women’s rights are human rights. 

I found hope in Obama’s America, and I’d like to see that hope restored to whatever degree is possible, so I’ll break my streak to affirm his vice president who demonstrated that he could abstain from centering himself in the presence of our first Black president.

Biden has the glorious luxury of deep bench of talent in a diverse Democratic party; this is where unity can occur, in restoring government by legitimately valuing expertise and promoting it. The center can hold, and lots of voices can be at the table, as indeed they already are. We can subvert the paranoid rightwing narratives and roll forth with progressive policies that in fact poll well amongst Americans generally, but that are also life-changing and equitable.

Trump’s hideous swamp party has crushed us economically, emotionally, and internationally. It is depressing. The last four years of rampant corruption have left a New Deal-sized opening for Biden and his administration. Biden has moved with the Democratic party over his many decades in office; on this count alone, he could head the most progressive administration we’ve ever seen, simply because that is where the conversations and pressure are in this moment.

Look to the words of FDR, and see how essential it is to link notions of dignity to our national recovery. Look at how economic justice, environmental justice, and reproductive justice are joined. It is time for those conversations to retake our highest office, even as we acknowledge that maintaining those discussions will require vigorous agitation.

I’m voting for Biden for the sake of all of that possibility. I’m going to do what I can to get out the vote, and to see that it happens safely. After Election Day, I hope to have the opportunity to demand better from a man who is actually capable of meeting that challenge. I hope you will, too. 

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Angioplasty and Endless Days

A quick snippet from my new pastime/hobby/full-time job navigating the USA's totally fucked-up excuse for healthcare:

It is midnight, and I am perusing eBay for used medical equipment. The problem isn't that I am poor and injured, nor is it that anyone is without insurance.

It's simply the reality that the bureaucratic hoops one must jump through to obtain certain things are convoluted and drawn-out, so even if you have a whip-smart detail-oriented impresario such as myself onside, it remains a tedious circus to just get what is needed when needs are complex.

So, here I am. Playing social worker, attempting to stitch together a patchwork of care that can leave the door open for increased mobility and decreased mortality.

Ask me if I am a doctor, and I affirm that I am not. I am an amateur nurse, an ad hoc advocate, a coordinator of care whose own physical needs fall to the wayside. I am not a professional.

I am thankful for all of the help I get, and yet I spend each day enraged that the entire system (if it can even be called that) remains dependent on the uncompensated labor of women such as myself, overstretched and under-resourced. It is a slow slog to pull together support in the best of times, and I don't dare anyone to withstand COVID in addition.

I need to go to sleep. I am tired, and tomorrow is another day of slowly mucking through, trying to push the picture on to a better scene.

We all deserve better than this. Needs go unmet, muddling through, and so much is lost trying to string together the basics in this hellscape of partial knowledge, burnout and disregard.

America, it doesn't have to be this way.

Dreaming of that mantra: May all beings be happy and free. Trying to contribute, and trying to keep my head up along the path, fumbling forward as I try to hold it all together.