“Knock it off or I’ll knock you off!”

“Why are people avoiding us?” asked Buddy, my standard French poodle the other day. He speaks English, French and Bark!, but I only speak English, so he humors me.

“And why are we avoiding them?”

We were on one of our walks – not the short ones, during which we focus on his immediate needs: watering fire hydrants and the like – but a long walk, which focuses on my needs too, like getting out of the house!

During these Coronavirus times, we walk past a closed up park and into town, past still mostly shuttered shops, and then back home via neighborhoods that are usually quiet, but now are really, really quiet.

I love the peace and quiet, not getting honked at or, for that matter, almost run over by speeding commuters, and having a chance to muse. 

Occasionally we will pass someone else walking a dog, or maybe a couple. There are awkward “Good Mornings!” or something appropriate, usually muffled by our masks. As protocol now requires, we veer away from each other, leaving not just the required 6 feet, but maybe double that. We humans follow directions when we have to.

Buddy stops and looks at me. “It’s got to be something about you. I’m just as handsome and cuddly as ever.”

I patiently explain the Coronavirus, and the fact that keeping distance is the only protection we have until they find a cure or a vaccine. 

“Bien sur”, he says. “Is that why you yell and rant at the TV so much now?”

Did I mention I’m really tired of walking my dog? 

This whole “stay at home” thing is getting boring. It’s been going so long even the boredom is getting boring.

That’s one reason all those less congested states are opening up, or trying to. When Georgia and others opened up their economies, not too many people came. At least that’s what the news said…until the other news denied it.


I don’t know what’s worse, news about the Coronavirus, which I can do nothing about, or news about our President’s latest tantrum, which I can do nothing about. This whole thing is like a bad TV movie with two villains and no hero.

What I need is a commercial break. Commercials are great breaks from bad movies. 

Like the best history book I’ve been reading, These Truths, by Jill Lepore. It’s very dense and so full of cool facts you can’t just breeze through it, which is great, because it takes me away from the news.

And brings perspective.  For example, you know who was a really bad President? Andrew Jackson. He warred on Native Americans ruthlessly and cruelly, because they weren’t white. He was also notoriously rude and crude.

Woodrow Wilson was also racist, very arrogant, and so disliked he couldn’t get the Congress to approve something all of Europe wanted after WWI: the League of Nations. We helped win one world war, but didn’t have the leadership to prevent another.

Anyone else connect the dots here?

Here’s a really cool fact: Before Watt invented the steam engine, before oil and coal produced that steam and started the Industrial Revolution, most people didn’t think of work and home as two separate places; they worked out of their homes. Store owners lived in the back of their stores. Farmers simply went out the front door to work in the fields. Doctors lived at home and made house calls.   

A hundred plus years later, it’s starting to look like deja vu all over again. We’re working from home. Doctors are tele-doctoring. Stores are delivering. We’re zooming instead of commuting. 

And it’s not been all bad. It’s actually had some positives.

In two months the earth’s carbon footprint has dropped by 17%. You can see across the English Channel on a good day again. The canals of Venice have fish again.  

I stop and stare at the blue sky for a minute.  In a hundred or so years, we humans have gummed up the air, poisoned the water, killed off hundreds of species, and filled the oceans with our garbage. Talk about leaving a campground worse the we found it.

I wonder if the Coronavirus is Mother Nature’s way of saying, “knock it off or I’ll knock you off”?

I start walking again.

“Bark!” says Buddy, stopping suddenly, jerking me backward as well as breaking my thoughts. He has left a small token of our walk on the sidewalk. 

“Excuse moi…” I say, as I clean it up. 

As we head for home, I wonder if human race will, too.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

T-Rump and The Social Contract

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic, it’s that human beings are pack animals. It’s been that way since the first caveman saw the first T-Rex and realized there was safety in togetherness.

Through the ages the idea of sticking together, of helping each other, sometimes before helping ourselves, became part of our DNA. The idea traveled up through the ages, from cavemen to Greeks to modern times. 

That’s why “isolation” is a prison punishment. It’s why psychologists equate loneliness with anxiety and fear. 

In the 1762 Swiss-born Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who had been alone from his early years, gave the idea a name, “The Social Contract”, and added a key element, the notion of community, in which benefitting the community was more important than benefitting the individual. 

“All for one and one for all” became the official motto of the fictional Three Musketeers, and the unofficial motto of real Switzerland.

The idea traveled across the Atlantic and embedded itself in the British colonies where it inspired rebellion from monarchy and a brilliant new form of government, democracy – although aspects of it involves a round peg in a square hole. “All men are created equal” was written by a guy who owned slaves (Oops!) and ignored women (Double Oops!).

One recurring problem with the Social Contract has been balancing the rights of one individual against the rights of another. Which gets even more complicated when the rights of the entire community are added. So, Rousseau (and like thinkers) thought that individuals could gather together and structure a government to decide issues that involved the entire community. 

The country has held to that Social Contract ever since (with the exception of the Civil War, when all balance was lost). Thus the shared sacrifice of WWI, the Depression, WWII, and so on. People followed rules set by their government and adhered to a common set of ethics: no lying, stealing, or killing. In other words, “thee before me”- Bible stuff.

The Social Contract was supported by an economic system based on an entirely different concept: capitalism. Capitalism thrives on competition, but when unregulated, becomes the law of the jungle. When that has happened in the past, when capitalists like John D Rockefeller created monopolies, Social Contract supporters like Theodore Roosevelt created laws to stop them.  

But in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the country began to change. Greed, once considered anti-ethical, became an acceptable part of capitalism. Like a parasite, it has been eating away at the Social Contract ever since.

Leonardo DeCaprio’s fictional Wolf of Wall Street character personified a new paradigm:  “me before thee.”

About the same time a real-life greedy one bought his first Manhattan hotel. He didn’t invent the new paradigm; he just rode it all the way to the White House.

How did he and the others get away with it? If you’re convinced the other guy is following “all for one and one for all”, you believe anything he says, until it’s too late.

It’s Grandma until it’s the Wolf.

Today, other countries are successfully fighting a pandemic by adhering to their Social Contract, while the Wolf of Washington is crippling this country’s fight by adhering to “me before thee”.

The only defense against the Coronavirus is putting an economy on hold, supporting people with government money, and having them isolate in place until a cure or a vaccine is found – probably within two years. 

All we individuals have to do is follow the Social Contract. 

But no. Today, for so many, there is no sacrifice too small not to make.  We want what we want, whether it’s going to the beach or a crowded bar, even if doing so will kill us.  

We are encouraged by a leader who never has been a pack animal, who has never met a contract he wouldn’t break for his own benefit.

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”, says this Liar-In-Chief, who will lose the election if the Coronavirus doesn’t disappear.

“If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases,” says our Idiot-in-Chief, who will lose the election if the economy doesn’t recover.

”What have you got to lose?” says our Narcissist-in-Chief, who will lose the election if the Coronavirus and the economy don’t bend to his will.

Without the Social Contract, Coronavirus won’t disappear, the economy won’t rebound and, yes, we’ll lose lives.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

“Your Money or Your Life”

Remember that line? It came from old western movies, where the white-hatted hero is planting a kiss on the blonde heroine with big…eyes.  Right then a bunch of guys in black hats burst around the corner, sunlight glinting off of their six shooters. One barks, “Your money or your life!” Whereupon the hero jumps in front of the blonde, his six-shooter blazing. 

All ten or twenty of the bad guys croak. The girl swoons in appreciation.

The ruggedly self-sufficient cowboy hero was the work of early 1900’s western genre writers like Zane Grey and Owen Wister. Ever since, we have loved to think of ourselves as a nation of rugged, self-sufficient individuals. 

It’s a myth, a nice myth, but a myth. The wagon trains of the old west were, in fact, rolling dictatorships. If you crossed the wagon master or didn’t do your job, you were tossed out and dead within a few days. The western forts were studies in socialism; if you didn’t contribute to the group, you were tossed out and dead within a few days.

The myth was solidified through decades more of genre books, as well as movies and TV shows. Sure we had heroes in WWI and WWII, but it was the sheer volume of our soldiers that tipped WWI and the sheer volume of our industry that won WWII, as much as rugged individualism. Korea was a draw; Viet Nam a loss. The wars since have been mixed.

But the myth lives on. And it is doing some damage today. 

To wit: A bearded, big bellied father/son team of good ol’ boys in Georgia decide to grab their guns and chase down a young black man out for an afternoon run. “I heard there was a break-in nearby!…that ^#-ger ain’t messin’ up my neighborhood!” (there were no police reports of a break-in.) 

They kill him.  

To wit: The people who stormed various capitals in the last few weeks, partly at the instigation of their big bellied President, waving assault rifles and other weapons, demanding governors open the economies because shutting them down was “unconstitutional!”

I don’t know about you, but the only real heroes I’ve ever met don’t swagger, bully, or feel threatened by black teenagers out on a run.

On the other hand, they, like all sane people, do feel threatened by the coronavirus. 

In an attempt not to fight it, but just prevent it from overwhelming hospitals, they and the rest of us are using the only option available: staying away from each other. 

Which also involves shutting down the economy, our only source of food and shelter.

The choice is pretty tough: If you can’t work at home, you can’t work; you lose home, not to mention food.

The times are tough, too. We are borrowing bushels of money for food and shelter. Sooner or later, our borrowing power will run out. 

Which brings us to the notion of risk and reward, of choosing between “your money or your life”.

The same choice is being made by governments, businesses, and individuals across the world, as well as you and me. It’s not easy. And it varies from person to person, depending on the circumstances.

If you are Korea, Denmark, Germany or other countries that have beaten back the coronavirus, is the risk of a resurgence of the disease worth the reward of re-opening your economy?

If you’re the Governor of Georgia, with coronavirus cases increasing, is the risk of keeping people safe at home greater than offending your revered leader?

If you’re an isolating Iowa meat worker, is the risk of following Trump’s order to return to a workplace rampant with coronavirus greater than the risk of losing your unemployment money?

If you’re isolating or working from home, is the reward of going to a restaurant greater than the risk of getting sick?

How about a nail salon? A bar? A church service?

If your coworker gets the coronavirus, do you readily go from a no-mask organization to a mask-only organization?

Most people make the decision based on their own and other people’s safety. But not all.

If you’re Donald Trump and coronavirus enters the White House, you order everyone to wear masks, except you. The risk of looking goofy or being lampooned in TV ads is greater than the reward of being that much safer from the coronavirus. 

Besides, you have to be ready for your close-up. 

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

A Tale Of Two Generations

Protesters stormed Lansing, Michigan and other capitals last week, brandishing pistols and assault rifles. How dare those governors restrict their personal freedom!

There is plenty of evidence (for those of you who don’t genuflect to Fox News) that these demonstrations were triggered and fomented by far right Trump supporters. In Michigan, it was the Michigan Freedom Fund and Michigan Conservative Coalition, both backed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ family.

Trump’s well-coordinated “Liberate Michigan!” tweet ginned them up too, of course.

Who were these macho protesters prepared to shoot? The police? Healthcare workers? How about the “main stream media”? Or seniors, the sweet-spot for the disease. Or Covid-19 patients?

Maybe Covid-19, itself?  Hey! Let’s shoot the disease! 

Yeah! Anybody who follows the guidance of healthcare professionals is a gutless, ass-kissing, non-smoking, minority-loving, big-city, wine-drinking liberal!!

What triggered this fury? The governors’ directives for people to isolate at home and stay six feet away from other people.

There are 4 ways to combat Covid-19: 1) develop and distribute a vaccine; 2) develop and distribute a cure; 3) develop and distribute a test to identify those with the virus, and use it to 4) trace others it might have infected.

The problem: 1) no vaccine; 2) no cure (although Remdesivir can reduce the length of the disease from 15 to 11 days); 3) not enough tests and therefore; 4) no way of tracing the disease.

The only solution, at least for now, is self-isolation. And that will only slow the spread of Covid-19 enough to accommodate the healthcare system and allow time to develop a vaccine. It will not stop it.  

So we’re all being asked to make a temporary shared sacrifice: stay home. 

Most Americans have cooperated. But to these protesters, staying at home is gutless. Only they have the courage to stand up to Covid-19 and those lefty, mealy-mouthed, yellow-belly scientists, Democrat loving scientists!

The last time this nation was asked to collectively sacrifice was WWII, which followed on the heels of a worldwide Depression where people didn’t just miss their beach parties; they starved.

Franklin Roosevelt was President for both calamities, a man who lost the use of his legs to Polio in his 20’s – in the 1920’s – and despite that, exuded positivity, confidence, and integrity. That was courage.

He led a government that brought novel and successful solutions to the Depression, then readied the country for a war it didn’t want, and led it to victory. 

Compare Roosevelt to Trump, if it won’t make you sick. Compare those Americans to Americans today, if it won’t make you ashamed.

Do the 30 million who have lost their jobs – so far – have reason to complain? Darn right. But, at least the current government has the wherewithall to replace much of that lost income. Compare that people dying in the streets during the Depression.

Yes, Trump decimated the government of good leaders. Yes, his administration shut down pandemic planning. Yes, they refused to buy plenty of good tests from Europe. Yes, he lied to the country about it. Yes, he waited too long. Yes, he bucked responsibility to the states. 

But, at this point, what else can the governors do to keep people safe, except isolate them? 

As I write this, grocery stores – not the government – have just announced rationing of three pieces of meat per customer per visit, because meat workers are getting sick from Covid-19. 

Compare that to WWII rationing of meats, butter, fat, oils, and most cheeses, of canned, bottled, frozen fruits and vegetables, of juices and dry beans, soups, baby food and ketchup, of clothing, shoes, coffee, gasoline, tires, and fuel oil. 

You know what? Like their leader, those Americans didn’t complain. They knew their sacrifices would help those on the front lines who fought the war.  

The front lines of today are manned by EMT, firefighters, police, doctors, nurses, and others caring for Covid-19 patients – and dying in the process.

Compare their bravery and sacrifice to the Trump-slingers who crowd beaches and capitals today, risking the health of themselves and everyone around them.

Their chest-beating is just a cover for a “survival of the fittest – screw the rest of you” approach to the disease.  

If that’s your approach, tough guys, which of your friends, family, grandparents, children, and others will you infect? Which will die?

You know what takes real courage? Staying at home, with all the boredom, frustration, and fear that entails – and protecting yourself and others – instead of behaving like spoiled, self-centered, entitled children.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)