Quarantine Quarantune

Life was always unsafe

When you went camping and people got norovirus

When you went to a convention where the flu was spreading

When you ate burgers and fries every other day

You weren’t worried about dying then

What has changed?

Is it the news, that you can’t seem to get away from?
Is it the statistics and the word pandemic?

Is it the constant reminder when you see people in masks?

When we finally get the promised vaccine, the herd immunity,

When strangers can be together without fearing the others’ droplets of breath

When we no longer worry about the healthcare system collapsing

Will we ourselves be changed?

Anyone you meet could be contagious with anything

Including you

Life will always be unsafe, because

every life, some day,

Ends

In all my years of having opinions about abortion, I never knew about this

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I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book Birth Strike, but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized a big focus of the book is about how governments use population control as a lever for the economy. Women are expected to produce (or not produce) babies at the will of those who control the government, and as you know, the government in the USA is now partly controlled by corporate interests. It is to the advantage of corporations (aka employers of those future taxpayers that women give birth to), to keep the nation in a state of partial unemployment, in order to keep wages down, as people desperate for a job will take what they can get.

How does this relate to the current situation in the USA, where there is frequent talk of overturning the Roe v Wade ruling, which legalized abortion in 1973? Roe v Wade was possible in 1973 because in the wake of the baby boom, we had too many workers, according to the powers that be. In recent decades, however, millions of workers are not earning enough to support a family, and are delaying having children.

People of working/reproductive age in America today are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Many want to have children but can’t find a way to do so. The corporate backed governing powers want women to produce more future taxpayers, so that they can keep wages low, but are more often now refusing to own up to their own role in making it realistic for a woman to sustain a pregnancy and raise a child. Without things like universal early child care, flexible working hours, a living wage, health insurance benefits for all, and parental leave, many women are forced to remain childless. Trying to take away safe, legal abortion and birth control options in this situation is like pushing someone into the snow after taking away their clothes.

This is just my attempt to summarize what stuck with me most about this book, but I encourage you to read it, because the author, Jenny Brown, has a lot more to say. She presents good arguments for why universal programs are more effective than “means-tested” or “qualification-based” programs, discusses reproduction issues as they relate to race, as well as the use of immigration as a way to bring in more workers and how the notion of a big family goes along with the notion of small government. She also surveys abortion laws throughout history in a multitude of countries, talks about women feeling compelled to produce soldiers for war (aka “cannon fodder”), and presents interviews with a number of women, as well as consciousness-raising questions. Good reading!

What I learned from 8 weeks of medical leave

I am by nature a “get things done” kind of person and if I don’t watch out it breaks me. There is a balance I need to find between getting things done and pushing through pain till it’s a problem.

I can annoy people by asking them to do things I need done, and can be annoyed by people when they ignore my pleas and trigger my feelings of helplessness. Trying to figure out when and how to ask, when each person has a different communication preference/requirement, can feel like an impossible puzzle for someone like me, who doesn’t understand how a person could be standing right next to rotting food that has been sitting out for three days, complain about the smell, yet not make the connection that maybe they are the one who has the power to do something about it.

High deductible health care plans are a dumb choice for most people.

Just because I have a to-do list, doesn’t mean I have to complete it.

Given a choice between watching some sort of movie/TV/video vs reading a book I choose the book, 98% of the time.

The oven’s memoir

This year’s Christmas letter is written from the point of view of our new-ish GE profile gas oven and range.

I slid out of that cardboard box and was rolled into place in a crappy dacky kitchen, between an ancient fridge and a dishwasher that was on its last legs. The dishwasher barfed its last soon after my arrival, leaving a wet floor. The silly two-leggeds thought they could just buy a new dishwasher and slide it into place but soon realized the floor was totally warped and unlevel. This led to the discovery of stained flooring that extended in front of me, far and wide. The new boi dishwasher was put back in his box and hauled away to the laundry room. Thus began the summer of chaos.

After tearing up some of the flooring, the two-leggeds found a stinky cheese mold. A lab assessed the 1975 linoleum tile to contain asbestos. So day by day I watched the cabinets get torn out, the flooring, even the kitchen sink! The skanky old fridge was rolled into the living room. Soon, I was left by myself on an ugly linoleum floor. The asbestos abatement crew arrived one day, sealed up the room, and tore out the linoleum and hauled away a bunch of garbage. A couple of days later they painted the floor white. Then the ceiling got painted white, and the walls. So much activity around me! Even the skinniest of the two-leggeds got involved, using the power drill, painting, sealing up the wall. Heard them say it was “kitchen remodel summer camp.”

One day the kitchen was filled with boxes. There were so many boxes you could hardly move, even if you had legs. Two days later a man came and spent the entire day assembling cabinetry around me. I began to feel a crescent moon of hope. Next a new floor was put in place. Then the countertop arrived. Dishwasher came out of hiding and got installed along with a new sink. Then a new refrigerator showed up, intimidating me with its largesse. I thought we were done with all this nonsense, but a month later the counter was replaced with a different one. The two-leggeds now spend time looking at tiles for the backsplash.  I am already feeling pretty good as the royal centerpiece, the history keeper of this brand-new kitchen.


Dream October 24, 2020

I don’t often remember my dreams. But last night I had a memorable one.

I dreamt I was at some sort of healthcare center to get an abortion. (Which is odd because I have never had or sought an abortion in real life.)

The center was crowded, and I did not have an appointment, but I knew my name was on some kind of list, and I knew who I was supposed to meet with and what she looked like. I found a syringe full of someone else’s blood lying around, and had this idea that if I squirted it up my vagina, that the fetus would be aborted. I was caring the syringe of blood around with me, it was dripping all over the place, and I kept wiping it up with paper towels or whatever I could find.

So then I see the woman I’m supposed to meet with. She can’t seem to see or find me even though she is calling my name. I start following her around, with my drippy syringe, and follow her into a closed room where a bunch of people are sitting around a table.

A younger woman claims to be Me. The healthcare worker asks her to confirm her birthday. She gives a September birthday. Even though my birthday is not in September, I holler out that this is me, this is my birthday, and I’m the one she’s looking for. The younger woman says “fine,” and concedes.

The healthcare worker tells me that my plan with the syringe will not work to abort the baby, it will just give me a disease, potentially.

I wake up to the sound of my alarm at 6 AM, and my first thought is this is what healthcare will be like if Donald Trump gets elected for another term.

Life without Facebook

I thought about disabling my account to break my Facebook addiction but found that it helped a lot of just delete the app from my phone and iPad, stop posting directly, and forcing myself to think carefully when the urge to post something strikes.

–Who do I really want to see this. Perhaps I could text them or email them instead?

–If I need advice on something to buy or a place I want to visit, there are many other places to ask these questions: quora.com, tripadvisor.com, ravelry.com, nextdoor.com.

–If I want to spout off some opinion or pithy saying, I can do it here or on Twitter

–Photos can go on Instagram

Those were my thoughts in the first week of Facebook fast.

Now a couple of weeks in, I find that I am dumping news articles and political stuff on Twitter, as a kind of Scrapbook of angst and discontent. I still don’t blog here much because it hurts to type — the perils of a full time job where I type all day. And Instagram, which I really don’t like, is ok for photos and occasional thoughts.

Frankly, life is a little overwhelming right now, so I don’t have much to give. I am optimistic that at some point in the next year, my work will ease up somehow, I will finally have a kitchen and uncluttered living room and working fireplace again, and that we will have some kind of COVID-19 vaccine.

Sending virtual hugs to all.

Book Review: The Color of Law

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

by Richard Rothstein

This book came out in 2017 and I am surprised I’d only heard of it recently, especially considering my interest in the topic of how to remedy the injustices visited upon African Americans in the USA. I am really glad I read this one and am happy I managed to pull together some semblance of a review/synopsis, in the middle of the chaos that is my current life.

Segregation is unconstitutional. It goes against the 14th amendment because segregation leads to inequality. But for more than a century, US, state and local government policies and laws have directly and indirectly required segregation in housing.

Prior to the Depression many urban neighborhoods had integrated housing because both whites and blacks needed to live close to the factory jobs where they worked. Then along came the Public Works Administration (PWA), part of the “New Deal.” The government demolished integrated housing and put up new segregated housing projects for whites only. Blacks were hard pressed to find housing at all, and were often forced to double up with relatives, or commute long distances to work.

In 1933, the administration created the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), which loaned low interest rate mortgages. Before lending, they would want to assess the risk of the property investment and the likelihood that someone living there might not be able to pay back their loan. They hired real estate agents to appraise neighborhoods. Any neighborhood with African Americans living it was colored red (aka “red-lining”). Whites were steered away from living in these neighborhoods and blacks who bought property were given high interest rate loans, which increased the likelihood of defaulting on the loan.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) did its own appraising as well, which included a whites-only requirement. Basically, unless a neighborhood was whites-only it was deemed risky to loan. To spell it out more clearly, it was difficult to get a mortgage if you were black. Not only that, if you were a white person who dared to rent or sell your home to a black person or family, you could go to jail, and the black family’s home would get set upon by mobs of angry whites, pelting the property with bricks, or dynamiting it, while the police did nothing to stop it.

The 1949 Public Housing Act allowed public authorities to continue creating segregated housing projects, and eventually African Americans were crammed into high rise buildings with absent building management and maintenance, with no perks of the white projects like parks and community centers. Zoning laws ensured that African Americans were housed near industrial areas, near sources of pollution and close to liquor stores, night clubs and houses of prostitution. They deliberately built the interstate highway system through African American neighborhoods. Later on, the FHA would rule that one could not get an insured amortized mortgage if you were trying to buy property near industrial or commercial areas, thus ensuring that African Americans would be hard pressed to benefit from building wealth through home ownership. Nor could they benefit from the tax break millions of homeowners get when they deduct their mortgage interest on their taxes.

Those who wanted to build integrated housing were battered with obstacles. They were unable to benefit from FHA financing, because the FHA would only loan to builders making whites-only neighborhoods, so would have to secure private financing instead. One story about this was particularly mind-blowing.

When Ford wanted to relocate its plant to Milpitas, California from Richmond, and the union want to help both white and black workers to relocate as well, it was no trouble to have a whites-only community built, but where would the black workers live? The chair of the Ford Plant’s union housing committee, Ben Gross, got help from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker group, to find a builder and a financier to develop a plot of a land ten miles west of Milpitas for an integrated community. But the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors got wind of the plan, and rezoned the site from residential to industrial. A second plot of land was proposed, but Mountain View officials refused to grant approval. A plan for a third plot of land fell through when officials discovered the project would not be segregated, and rezoned the land to increase the minimum lot size, making it unfeasible for working class buyers. The builder gave up after the owner of a fourth site cancelled the sale after learning what the land would be used for. Ben Gross then found another builder, but banks would not lend to the project unless they paid a jacked up interest rate of 9% instead of 3.5%, which would have made the houses unaffordable. They went back to the original, Quaker-connected financier and secured financing. By this time more than a year has passed, and black workers are now making a 100-mile round trip to work each day. Next the Santa Clara board of supervisors raised the fee for sewer access to an unaffordable figure. Multiple tricks later, this project was finally built, between two highways, but the FHA would only guarantee mortgages with a decent rate if it were done as a cooperative, with the African American families owning shares of the property rather than the homes themselves.

“Zoning thus had two faces. One face, developed in part to evade a prohibition on racially explicit zoning, attempted to keep African Americans out of white neighborhoods by making it difficult for lower-income families, large numbers of whom were African Americans, to live in expensive white neighborhoods. The other attempted to protect white neighborhoods from deterioration by ensuring that few industrial or environmentally unsafe businesses could locate in them. Prohibited in this fashion, polluting industry had no option but to locate near African American residences. The first contributed to creation of exclusive white suburbs, the second to creation of urban African American slums.”

There’s a lot more in this book: 2008 housing crisis, “slum clearance,” various Supreme Court rulings such as Brown vs Board of Education, race restrictive covenants, “gentrification,” Levittown, “white flight,” state-sponsored violence and the governmental policies that have purposely kept black incomes low.

Please read this book, it is very eye opening. Any objections one might consider to his arguments have likely been covered in the FAQ at the end of the book. There are tons of footnotes. Rothstein even has a chapter devoted to possible fixes.

So next time you hear someone claim that African Americans just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps, work hard and get over it,” remember that the playing field is not any where near even, and the American government has played a large role in making that so.

###

 

 

NaPoWriMo, April 30

Bread rises on hope —

Start with necessity and hunger

Stir in extra time

and the yeast of life

bubbling with excitement

now smell

and anticipate the taste.

Bread rises on hope

in a warm place

covered with a tea towel.

Protect your dreams

with threads woven from

the desire to live

without fear.

###

 

Counterpoint:

“Free from hope and fear concerning the result” …one of the Four Freedoms

 

NaPoWriMo, April 28

Sitting here wondering

why I’m still sitting here

then remember

I’m supposed to be writing a poem.

It could be about anything

or nothing

or the understanding

that both are the same.

It could be long or short.

It doesn’t matter.

As long as I get it down

words on

screen.

Shapes

in light.