The Only Change Is Constant

Editor’s note:  More info from the 2020 U.S. census was released this pat week.  While it shows a profound impact on our future, it did hot seem to get the scurrility it it definitely has severe political consequences as to how diversity will play out.

The New York Times has a brief, but well-done, article that deserves you attention.


A Message From Mobile

Editor’s note:  From time to time I share info about my son, Kevin in Mobile. Unfortunately he has an inherited medical condition that greatly impairs his respiratory system.  Consequently he has spent “high alert” for the last year regarding Covid-19.  He went to great lengths to obtain a vaccination..

Now he is very perplexed at the attitude of his fellow citizens as to the need to be vaccinated.  Not only do so few have concern about their own health, they don’t value the lives of others much either..

Certainly his perspective is unique, but is worthy of consideration.  So I share an article of his in The Daily Beast..

“I expected COVID-19 to bring fever, loss of taste, pneumonia, maybe a tube down my gullet. My anger, though, was unanticipated.

No, I haven’t contracted the disease, but it is consuming the world around me, faster than most places in the United States. Here in Mobile, Alabama, the virus’ more transmissible Delta variant has ravenously fed on the 69 percent of adults who have so far ducked vaccinations. On July 26, the county of just over 400,000 residents added another 499 cases to its tally, most with the Delta strain, most all unvaccinated. The next day was another 553 cases, then 472 the day after that. The seven-day average was the highest it has been, surpassing last winter’s peak.

The metro area surrounding Mobile Bay is Alabama’s COVID-19 hotbed. We’re also below the state’s vaccination average—the nation’s lowest—while leading in COVID-19 positivity at nearly 20 percent. Hospital beds are filling across the county.

If you’re stuck in this mess with lung disease, like me, there are added levels of concern and caution. Once vaccinated, most others weather breakthrough COVID-19 like a standard cold. My colds or flu often turn to bronchitis, then pneumonia and hospitalization.

That’s why I’m exasperated. It isn’t just a few recalcitrant misanthropes endangering me. Two out of every three adults here rebuke practicality and their responsibility as community members. They’re keeping COVID’s influence alive.

I assume they don’t know about smallpox, a disease that killed 30 percent of its victims. The first vaccine came in 1798 and once we made a concerted effort at wide-scale inoculation—mid-20th century kids lined up in school hallways to get hyper-jet injections—it was eradicated by 1980.

I guess the vax refusers don’t know about polio, either. It disabled 35,000 a year through the first half of the 20th century. Vaccines chased the debilitating and deadly illness out of the Americas by 1994. It disappeared in Europe in 2002. Polio survivors are among us—like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—but their sway seems absent in the current pandemic.

It’s more charitable to assign ignorance to anti-vaxxers. Otherwise, it means they don’t care how they imperil everyone else, including supposed loved ones, and that kind of pathology is worse than sheer oblivion.

I got a glimpse of promise during late spring’s pre-Delta window, that sweet spot after many of us got our vaccinations and before the more aggressive strain arrived. No more endless hours in confinement. Friends would be available for dinner, to laugh, and embrace. I could rejoin my active roles in organizations that inform, entertain, and magnify marginalized cultural components of our community. I could feel valuable again.

That window slammed shut in July, the latch locked by bitter socio-political division and ungrounded paranoia. Instead of feeling valuable, I simply feel spurned now.

Alienation comes easily in this place. My values and perspectives on society and politics seem mostly at odds with the extreme attitudes around me. I already endure widespread derision of the social safety net that supplies my medical coverage and hear calls for its eradication. Now, it feels like another target is drawn on my back as some of those same critics volunteer to incubate more lethal COVID-19 variants.

Those around me generally eschew masks, even in crowded rooms. They demand everything continue in a pre-pandemic manner with no mask or vaccination mandates. Open schools. Flout caution. March everyone into epidemiological machine-gun fire. Politicians catered to the insanity by prohibiting private businesses from enforcing their own measures.

My wife’s boss chose this surge as the time to end her remote work option and return to the office. For the last 15 months, she isolated at home to guard against infection and my exposure. Today, she is sweating out her first day back where she claimed to be the only masked person in the office. She’s vaccinated, but the Delta variant can hitch a ride in her anyway.

Right now, too many anti-vaxxers are counting on us maskers and vaxxers to get rid of the disease for them. That’s freeloading while putting me and my loved ones at risk. How do I not grow angry at that?

This will accelerate when the region’s holiest season arrives next month as football players snap chinstraps and shoulder pads. Anti-vaxxers will crowd into high school and college stadiums. Come October, last winter’s deadly surge could seem paltry.

When it’s all done, many anti-vaxxers who survive will suffer far longer. COVID-19’s documented “long haul” effects—cardiomyopathy, lung scarring, brain fog—will add them to Alabama’s already sizable share of disabled residents.

People here pride themselves on stereotypes of hospitality, grace, and conscientiousness. I guess COVID-19 will kill that myth, too, since those who genuinely care about others don’t spread death through inaction.”



How Did A Health Pandemic Become A Political Pandemic?

In the spring of 2020, when Americans realized the severity of Coronavirus, we did what we have always done.  We went into action.  Overworked health care workers were genuinely saluted as heroes. ladies all over the country pulled out sewing machines and began hand-crafting face masks, ordinary citizens lined up to volunteer any way they could.

As we watched numbers of infections and deaths soar, we stayed at home, wore our masks and prayed.

It was the country at its finest.  When one is in danger, we are all in danger and we rallied to the cause, in whatever small way we could.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER in my wildest notion did I think that those more interested in making political points and boosting their own egos would soon convolute this tragedy into some very warped political statement.

Almost overnight we had political opportunists show their true colors.  To hell with this country, let’s twist facts, attack scientists and put quacks with far-fetched treatments on TV to spread their propaganda.  So some people might die, who cared?

We went from a country that deeply cares about ALL its citizens to one that thrives on mis-information, dissent and deceit.. To one where a speaker in Dallas last weekend was roundly cheered when he bragged about how many American HAVE NOT been vaccinated.

Sadly these people love to boast about how American they are.  How every drop of their blood is devoted to being a true patriot.

It is all a myth.  These people are not patriots, they are simply sick.  Too bad we don’t have a vaccine for that..

My retired teacher friend Bea Ishler writes from Mobile.  Like me, she can not understand today’s foolishness about vaccines

“As someone who had friends with polio and who remembers being in a dark room when I had measles, I too know about the efficacy of vaccines.  I don’t understand why people are now putting them down.

As to public health workers going door to door, when I was a child in the 50s some neighborhood children came down with whooping cough.  Health workers were in our neighborhood going door to door checking who had been vaccinated for whooping cough.  Mother had a yellow vaccine book which had our small pox vaccine, and any other vaccines he had. noted.
Guess that was our vaccine passport.  Anybody who hadn’t been vaccinated was either vaccinated then or quarantined for two weeks.”

Like me, Bea also remembers when we were truly neighbors, not just members of blue and red tribes.

Fox News Has No Shame, No Soul, No Scruples

Lord have mercy on those misguided souls who honestly believe there is value in watching Fox News.  There is none since the truth is the farthest thing from their mind.

The Fox business mantra is obviously, “there is a suckier born every minute”  who will believe anything we tell them–the more outlandish, the better.  So they fill the screen with a collection of air-heads, some of whom may actually think they are journalists and act offended when another network calls their bluff..

A year ago the country was making great progress on containing coronavirus through the development of vaccines.  President Trump was busy patting himself on the back for his Warp Speed vaccine program.  All we had to do was get as many people vaccinated as quickly s possible.

Not an easy task at best, but doable.

Then the “naysayers” showed up.  Many of them seeking their own 15 seconds of fame by telling us why vaccines won’t work.  And since these are the kind of folks Fox like to put front and center, the stage was set.

This burst into the open a few days ago when “personalities” Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade squared off on the air.  Doocy reminded the audience that 99 percent of covid infections right now are occurring in people who have not been vaccinated.  Unbelievably, Kilmeade replied that not getting a vaccine is a personal choice and that the government has no role in protecting the population

How can you be this stupid?  For goodness sakes would someone immediately pull his driver’s license because he doesn’t think someone in a car should obey a speed limit and it’s OK for him to go 70 miles per hour in a school zone.

What about the hundreds of first responders who rushed to the crushed condo in Florida the other day?  By Kilmeade’s logic they should have been walking on the beach and not looking for survivors.

Fox has been the most vocal of the “anti-vaxers” on the air waves.  This is especially true of Tucker Carlson.  But magically, earlier this week other Fox voices, such as Sean Hannity, begin telling viewers to get the vaccine.  And we now know that Fox News has a strict covid-19 protocol that requires employees to show proof of vaccination.

No Shame.  No Soul.  No Scruples.

That sums up Fox News.



Tucker Carlson Has Never Been To Bushfield Cemetery

While Bushfield Cemetery is in Covington County, it lies hard against the Butler County line about three miles southeast of McKenzie. It’s been the final resting place for settlers for more than 150 years,. All four of my grandparents are there.  Grandpa Lee’s daddy, Janes Kenyard Lee is there. His daddy, James Madison Lee is not there because he marched off to Vicksburg in the Civil War and never made it home.

I’ve been there many times, some times to attend a grave side service, often just to wander and look.  As long as I can remember, I have always marveled at the scores of infant graves I see.  One being daddy’s only sister.

They are a sober reminder that childhood was once a treacherous time for children, especially during the Great Depression when poverty, lack of sanitation and lack of medical care was a fertile ground for yellow fever, malaria, hookworm and pellagra  Then thanks in large measure to programs begun by the federal government during the New Deal, childhood became safer.  In fact, the four diseases just mentioned were largely under control by 1950.

With this point of reference, it is STUNNING to me that there are now people working tirelessly to belittle efforts in this country of public health workers to encourage citizens to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

I place Fox News media darling Tucker Carson at the top of this list.

Who tries to make a name for themselves by casting stones at scientists and touting misinformation that could have life or death implications for our citizens?

Of course there have been mistakes made by scientists in their work to slow the pandemic.  That is simply the nature of dealing frantically with unknowns.  But that in no way can be construed with being inept, or purposefully giving out erroneous information on purpose.

But to hear Tucker Carlson spew and spray his nightly attacks on the value of a covid vaccine is sickening.

No, he has never been to Bushfield cemetery–not does he have empathy for families whose circumstances once put them in this neighborhood..

We know that vaccines work.  Of all the new cases of covid being found today, 99 percent of them are in patients who were never vaccinated.  And where are the largest percent of such people?  Alabama, unfortunately, leads the entire nation.  Only 22 percent of our 67 counties have reached the 30 percent vaccination threshold.

Which clearly says that Carlson could care less about the good folks of Alabama.  We need vaccinations more than any other state.  But Carlson and his fellow travelers at Fox News have concluded that we are not worthy of getting help.  What a despicable human being.

Editor’s note: Several years ago Carlson made an appearance on Dancing with the Stars.  He was horrible and was soon sent packing.  He could not walk and chew gum at the same time.  Now we know that he knows as much about epidemiology as he does about dancing.

Don’t Look Now, But Here Comes Critical Race Theory.

Since I try to maintain a certain sense of civility on this blog (a standard I sometimes don’t meet) I will not tell your my exact reaction when I saw the article about the state school board’s discussion about something called Critical Race Theory..

I know little abut CRT other than it’s been around for about 40 years and taught at a graduate level by some universities.  But it appears to be an ideal candidate for a topic that certain political types can quickly escalate into a culture issue largely driven by fear of the unknown.  (Can you say Common Core?)

For instance, House member Chris Pringle of Mobile pre-filed a bill about CRT weeks ago to be introduced in 2022.  However, when a reporter for AL/com asked him what CRT involves, he had no answer.

Joe Windle recently retired as superintendent of the Tallapoosa County school system.  Here was his answer to the above article about the school. board discussion.

“Not aware of any school systems teaching CRT.  Damn.  Let’s teach kids in public education to read, communicate verbally and in writing and math.  Leave this theory stuff to the colleges and universities.”

All of which circles me back to a recent column by longtime friend and former editorial page editor of The Mobile Press-Register, Frances Coleman.

“I remember when I realized I did not want to be a schoolteacher. It was the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. I had signed up to be a teacher’s aide in our small-town public school system.

When I arrived bright and early on the first Monday of the system’s new Head Start program, which would last three hours a day, five days a week, for six weeks — two teachers met me with concerned looks on their faces. There were three sections of 5-year-old pupils, they explained, but only two teachers. The third one had resigned over the weekend.

Which meant that I, an earnest and bright but inexperienced 16-year-old girl, would have to teach the third section. “Don’t worry; we’ll help you,” the two teachers assured me.

And they did help me, and I survived, but still, it was the longest six weeks of my life, in which I learned that: I did not have a knack for controlling large groups of small children, lovable though they might be; I did not have the imagination to keep preschoolers engaged and engrossed for more than two or three minutes at a time; I had zero arts-and-crafts skills; and teaching is a lot harder than it looks.

As best I can tell from the outside looking in, teaching is even harder now than it was many decades ago. One of the reasons, if not the reason, is that politicians won’t let teachers do their jobs without incessantly trying to micromanage their classrooms. Whether it’s pitting evolution against creationism, forbidding the teaching of yoga and sex education, politicizing the federal “Goals 2000” and “Common Core” initiatives or, now, demonizing the so-called Critical Race Theory, state legislatures won’t keep their hands off of our schools.

Their job is to fund public education and to create the appropriate laws to govern it. But too many politicians cannot resist the temptation to embroil schools in the “culture wars” that they love to foment as a way to enrage certain groups of their constituents.

Thus, some legislatures are attempting to tightly control how the history of slavery and race relations in America is taught, and especially how the after-effects of slavery affect our nation to this day. Lest the honest teaching of America’s racial struggles unduly traumatize white children, lawmakers in Florida, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma have banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

There are many definitions and explanations of CRT. Florida’s legislation defines it as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”

Maybe you agree that racism is embedded in American society. Maybe you believe it’s not. But why on earth would we tell teachers that they can’t even promote the discussion of that fundamental question in their classrooms? Isn’t that what education is for — to teach young people to be critical thinkers, to research and read about and debate important questions and issues, and to formulate thoughtful opinions based on the facts they’ve gleaned? And, especially, to be unafraid of the truth?

I say yes, that is what education is for. And I have a modest proposal: that we allow teachers to teach, unburdened — to the extent that’s possible — by bureaucracy, by politics, by culture wars, by fanatics, and by people who have personal agendas that have little to do with ensuring the success of our public schools.

I learned a lot in that Head Start classroom many years ago, including how to recognize when a little kid needs to go to the bathroom, even though he or she may not realize it; and how it’s possible for a little boy to smuggle his new puppy into the classroom so he can surprise his teenage teacher. (And yes, hilarious pandemonium ensued for several minutes, until his mother could be summoned to retrieve the little pup.)

Most of all, although I did not fully appreciate or understand what I was seeing at the time, I got a closeup look at a couple of dedicated teachers who, in addition to managing their own classrooms, made sure their young aide did not fail herself or her pupils.

God bless the thousands upon thousands of teachers like them, who do their best to nurture and educate America’s children. And for God’s sake, let’s let them do their jobs.”

She hit this nail on the head.