Winners and Losers

There are winners and losers in an election. That’s just the way it works, the way it has always worked. The person with the most votes wins. Sometimes that person is the one you wanted and sometimes it’s not. But wishing won’t change the reality.

I’ve lost races before. We all have. We didn’t get elected to the student council or officer in an association – or elected to Congress or president. It’s just not possible for everyone to win. And I grew up in an America where, if you didn’t win, you conceded defeat gracefully (if not happily) and stepped aside for the winner to take the spot you wanted for yourself. You looked at what worked and what didn’t and decided whether or not to try again. You let go and moved on.

But the idea of simply saying you won’t accept the result of an election unless you win is an alien concept. Everyone can’t win. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. Sometimes you just lose because more people vote for the other person, even if you don’t understand or like that they did.

In this midterm election we find candidate after candidate already anouncing that they would not admit defeat, that losing a race automatically means there is fraud or irregularity because of COURSE they would win.

Losing is a bitter pill, and the higher the office, the harder that pill is to swallow for both the candidate and their followers. There have been many elections where the person I supported lost and I had to simply accept it even while seething at the jubilation of the winning side. But those losing candidates understood that two people can’t win the same race for a single spot. One of them wins, the other loses.

I’m afraid for our country. I’m afraid of the hatred and vitriol that I see spilling out of political ads and news broadcasts. And I’m afraid of the same words hurled by neighbor against neighbor when they hold different positions. More people are so full of anger and pent up violence, and more of them have guns and the freedom to carry and use them. That doesn’t make me feel more secure; it makes me more afraid that innocents will be shot because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We live in a climate of violence all the time now and it’s going to erupt in dangerous ways. I’m afraid of what’s coming.

Where Were You?

When Kennedy was assassinated, I was sitting in the auditorium of the high school in Westfield, New Jersey, watching a play with a bunch of other elementary school kids. I don’t remember the play, but I remember the teacher coming out, white faced and shaking, to tell us that the president had been shot and we were being sent home. I was eight.

When the planes hit the towers on 9/11, I was in the gym in Boston, watching “Top Gun” on a big screen next to a screen showing news. I thought my movie was an Air Force scramble to respond to the destruction and terror on the other screen, as bodies fell from the sky and smoke billowed and the towers finally crumbled. I later learned that someone I knew slightly was on one of the planes that hit the towers. It was a searing image, a searing day. I never thought I would see its like again in my lifetime.

When the Capitol riot happened on January 6th, I was home watching cable news, waiting to see what the senators would say to challenge a fair and just election. Suddenly people swarmed around Mike Pence and wisked him away, and crowds started to scramble. All the news broadcasters were talking over each other – and then we saw shots of outside the Senate chamber. OMG. It was a dangerous, terrifying afternoon with armed thugs scaling walls, pipe bombs and tear gas, assaults of police, chants of “Hang Mike Pence” and “Trump is My President” and Confederate battle flags – and members of Congress and their staff scrambling to get to safety amid broken glass and angry, focused rioters.

They were unmasked white faces. I mean, how stupid can you get? Of course they were white – they were revved up Trump supporters who believed the falsehoods that Trump has been spreading for over a YEAR that the only way he could lose was in a rigged election. And of course they were unmasked, because wearing a mask is something that Democrats do because they don’t believe in individual liberty and the right to spread Covid as broadly as possible.

I knew what was coming would be bad but hadn’t expected this. The Capitol is a symbol of our democracy, of our form of government, and it was overrun by people with evil intent – who looked like me. If the rioters had been Black, they would have been shot. Instead, they took over the place and went peacefully home, only to be tracked down by digital detectives because, hello, they were unmasked and took selfies as they rampaged. Granted, not everyone at the Trump rally before the riot followed the crowd to the Capitol. But enough of them did that all of them are tarnished.

I am proud that the Congress went back into session and stayed late into the night to finish their work of confirming Joe Biden’s win in the Electoral College. I am angry with all of the senators and representatives who took it upon themselves to challenge elections in other states even after almost 90 court cases and recounts found no fraud. My Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Louie Gohmert need to resign or be expelled for their positions which helped convince people that the crazy fraud theory was true when it patently was not.

And I am very afraid of what is coming next. The inauguration is in 8 days and in the meantime, credible sources tell authorities that armed insurrections are planned for all 50 state capitals this weekend. I will be sticking even closer to home than usual, and sending up more than the usual prayers.

Life during a pandemic

It started fairly quietly in China and has now swept the globe. A pandemic that spreads like wildfire and is particularly dangerous for older patients with medical complications like COPD, cancer, or other immune-related conditions. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. There aren’t enough masks or ventilators or hospital beds for the people who need them, because of course OTHER patients also need them for non-virus problems like heart attacks. And it’s just beginning here.

Italy has been particularly hard-hit and has been in lockdown, something that’s spread to other cities in other countries. Streets are eerily empty in Rome, in Paris, in London. And now, of course, it’s come to the United States. Why would we be exempt? New York City is an epicenter, but states from California to Kansas to New York are now in shut down mode. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed, with people working from home, or just at home not sure what to do. And the hospitals are filling up, and people are making masks at home for the hospitals. Yes, it’s that bad.

People are dying, and a lot more will die before this is over. We didn’t take it seriously enough and made fun of other countries as they started to deal with the reality of this new flu-like disease that has no cure yet. Texans tend to think they are invincible and really haven’t paid attention to things we were supposed to be doing. Washing hands, yes. Not being in groups, no. People were going out to eat, out to play cards or shop. Groceries are one thing, but that’s not what was happening.

I was part of it, I admit. Last Saturday I whipped around to about 5 different stores looking for clothes. I was there early, saw almost no one, and used hand sanitizer. But I shouldn’t have been doing it at all.

What I did right was to start about a month ago, when other countries were reporting illnesses and death, to stock the house. Not actually stockpiling (I don’t think) but making sure I had everything and a little more of it. I bought cat food and litter, extra gallons of distilled water for the CPAP, and large packages of toilet paper, paper towels, and Puffs from Sam’s. I usually buy them there but not usually together. There wasn’t a run on them at the time; now you can’t find TP anywhere. It’s weird, because the virus doesn’t make you have diarrhea.

I also bought frozen fruit and veggies, ground beef and chicken, pork roasts and salmon, and oatmeal packets. All things I eat often. And canned tomatoes, corn, and beans to use to make things I eat a lot. Then I cooked. The freezer now is stocked with portion controlled containers of soup, meat sauce, chili, and chicken teriyaki. Unlike some of my neighbors, I didn’t stock up with chips and cookies and popcorn (yayyy Noom, for teaching me to eat better). I was concerned about having enough prescription medicines, but I have at least one month’s worth of the ones that matter the most.

Last Sunday I decided I didn’t want to go to church. The CDC had announced new guidelines the night before, advising us to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people. Church has a lot more than that and it felt wrong. The next day, the church board executive committee and pastor met and decided to cancel church services for an indefinite period of time, and to suspend all scheduled church activities. There will be no choir rehearsals, no Good Friday service. Maybe no Easter, unless we can figure out a way to do it in golf carts and still get the sound to project. But of course there IS Easter, even if we’re not in church with lots of lilies and big organ and wonderful music.

Now is limbo time. My colleague and I decided this morning that, at the rate things are changing, we may be under lock-down mode come Monday, with orders to stay home. We used our work time to do things that could only be done on-site such as updating paper files and processing payroll. And then we packed up work to bring home and set the computers so we can log in remotely. I can do much of my job from anywhere (as long as Ellie doesn’t sleep on the laptop while I’m working), so I will be fine.

It’s time we all pay attention to what is happening. We are going to know people who get sick, maybe even people who die. We might be those people ourselves. We need to take care of each other as best we can, maybe just with words online or in phone calls to neighbors to keep them from being isolated. I’m glad that Daddy is gone so there are no worries about how he would cope, and I’m not afraid for myself, though I’m generally anxious, irritable, and tired.

But I am afraid for my country, for how we will cope with the reality of what is coming. We haven’t seen anything like this, really, since the Spanish Flu in 1918. World Wars took place in other places, not on our own soil. We will have significant disruptions in our lives for a long time, that will require serious attitude, behavior, and cultural adjustments for years.

Take care of yourselves, my friends.

I Impeached the President

Okay, so not THE President as in POTUS. But still. I know a lot about the process.

My High School government teacher divided the class into members of the House and of the Senate as we studied the Constitution back in 1971 so we could propose and vote on bills appropriately. He took the role of Speaker of the House, then President Pro-Tem of the Senate, then Vice-President, then President as we worked our way through.

We hated him and were more than a little afraid of him, especially those who also played basketball or baseball with him, since he was the Coach. But what could we do? We were just kids. Wait, maybe not.

We talked amongst ourselves and found Article II, Section 4, the Impeachment Clause, and decided that that gave us a way to respond if we were smart about it. Because by taking on all those roles in our imaginary government, he was in violation of the Constitution. Maybe not high crimes, but it worked for us.

So a core group of us, including moi, since I always was an instigator and I loved research, took ourselves to the Bar Association Library in nearby Cincinnati. We knew nothing except that President Andrew Johnson had been impeached (the only one at that point) and we wanted to know how it worked.

The nice librarians sat us down at a table and brought us everything since we had no idea what legal research was about. But we learned a LOT that afternoon and came home armed with our approach. We also went to the school principal and enlisted his help to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a role that our teacher had not yet assumed. He was in.

First, the members of the House from our class assembled under the clock in the main hallway (coincidentally at a time when I was working in the office and put out a call on the intercom) to Vote to Impeach President Afterkirk. He came, too, but we told him he wasn’t a member of the class and had to Go Away. He knew something was up but not what.

The next day in class he was served with impeachment papers, drafted against the originals used against Johnson. He was surprised, to say the least, but recovered and called for a legal representative from the class to defend him at the trial.

Oh yeah, did I mention one of the things we learned was that impeachment isn’t a single thing the way it sounds now on the news when they talk about it? The House of Representatives votes to impeach, but then it goes to the Senate for a trial and vote whether or not to convict based on the charges brought.

Word of the impeachment ran wild around the school and the history classes wanted to be there for the trial, so we had a change of venue from the classroom to the auditorium to allow everyone to attend. Yes, we used correct legal language.

The Senate half of our class served as the jury for the trial. We’d learned that the oaths sworn by witnesses were different that those used in an ordinary court, and the order of witnesses was also different – the prosecution came last rather than defense. Every time the teacher challenged us, we had citations (though not in BlueBook format) for why we did what we did.

He was convicted of his crime but that wasn’t the point. We learned so much by taking on this project, far more than we ever would have had it been assigned. We learned to work together, about government and the law, and were empowered to stand up for ourselves when we knew we were right. I think he was proud of us. And we were never afraid of him again; it became my favorite class and a good foundation for college.

When Nixon and Watergate happened, and then when Clinton was impeached, I felt secretly smug that I understood the impeachment process far better than those around me. With all the talk right now about possible impeachment of Trump, I think it might be time to write to my teacher and thank him.

My Head is Too Full of Words

Were you shocked by the Tucson shootings last Saturday?  I wasn’t.  I’ve been expecting some kind of violent eruption since the last election and to be honest, I thought it would be Obama who was shot first.  He’s gotten more than the usual share of death threats because he is Black, because the economy tanked and jobs lost – and because so many people are angry at the world and he is the president and epitomizes The Powers That Be.

The Tucson shootings captured and emotionally entangled me. I was obsessive in looking at more information, more analysis, more ideas to explain what I saw and heard.  It actually reminded me of my reactions to 9/11, and not in a healthy way.

All of the articles, stories, reports, videos, analysis, and prostrations didn’t help.  One article quotes another until they go in a single giant chain of links connecting one to the other.  And they didn’t change the innocent people who were dead, and the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords.   The left blamed the right, the right blamed the left, and talk show hosts decried any responsibility for anything.  Sarah Palin – well, don’t get me started there.

The problem is way bigger than why that particular mentally disturbed armed man managed to kill so many people at the grocery store – and there is plenty going on with THAT that will be dissected as we move on from here, hopefully not just with one party blaming the other.

Politicians and journalists analyzed and told us every single word, phrase, action, reaction, turn of the head, tone of voice, things done and things left undone until my head was full of words swimming in a big stew.  Our country is deeply angry at just about everything and looking for people to punish, and I’m afraid there will be a lot more violence and destruction before we get to a different place.

I don’t know how to change it and find that I isolate and just take care of myself (food, exercise, sleep).  More seems too much to deal with.  It’s not depression; I know what that feels like.  It’s more like chaos that’s too big to break down into pieces small enough to grab.  Though if my congresswoman has a meet and greet event in my area, I’ll definitely be there.

And in the meantime, I shovel.  We got over 2 feet of snow today.


Obama spoke at the memorial service in Tucson not long after I wrote this, and I listened with tears in my eyes and a sense of peace and calm.  His words were Big and not Inflammatory or Partisan.  That’s what needed to be said, and what I needed to hear.  Thank you, Mr. President.