"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Is It Safe? COVID Paranoia, Saint Fauci, And The Idiocy Of Lockdown

“It is now safe to move about the cabin”, said the flight attendant on a recent trip from San Francisco’ “but be sure to secure your mask over your nose and mouth and leave six feet between other passengers in the aisle”. 

No one on this SFO-IAD flight was paying much attention to the announcement.  Passengers, mindful of the federal agents who boarded the plane in Chicago to take off a passenger who refused to wear a mask, wore theirs – loosely but acceptably.  Most passengers dipped their masks down below face level when they were dozing, covered by hats or scarves, refusing to travel six hours masked like Hannibal Lecter when they were vaccinated, protected, and unafraid of ‘variants.’

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“Be sure to wear your mask at all times, except while eating” the message went on.  The most dutiful passengers obeyed, but most took liberties – who was to say how much pausing over a glass of wine was too much? It was First Class after all. In Economy, cabin staff enforced order and compliance.  They had been advised that back-of-the-cabin passengers on this particular flight were from Humboldt County traveling to Washington DC to claim indigenous rights of land management before Congress. 

They were expected to resist mask mandates and social distancing.  “Don’t tread on me” said R.P. Hendricks, leader of the group and chief presenter to the House Subcommittee on Land Management and Property on many occasions but to the surprise of all on United 427, his bearded, bandanaed, scruffy lot was more compliant than those in First Class.

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Those in the front of the plane, first to be vaccinated, always conservatively opposed to government mandate, authority, and interventionism, and restive after months of censure and endless hectoring, did whatever they pleased.  The meth-heads from Humboldt in the back of the plane had rarely if ever flown and despite their growly, feral life in the wet woods of Fieldbrook and Big Lagoon, were surprisingly intimidated  by bright lights, uniforms, and plastic.

The ‘boys in the back’ as the Humboldt contingent was called by flight staff, were reasonable, accommodating, and complaisant.  The stewardesses laughed as they watched them sip from their plastic glasses of beer, and quickly cover their faces but were surprised at their obedient mask compliance and social distancing.  They waited patiently, six feet apart from those before the toilets, despite full bladders. They wiggled and danced like three year olds, but never pushed, jostled, or shoved.

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Meanwhile up in First Class, masks were worn desultorily and without conviction.  Aisle conversations were common. 

Flight UA 427 was a microcosm of America in the time of COVID – the privileged, educated, risk-analytic, objective, confident few; and those adrift at sea. If the Boys from Humboldt were timorous and obedient, what did this say about Middle America?

Risk assessment, objectivity, rationality, and innate confidence are part of ‘privilege’.  Those from Russian Hill on the Left Coast and Spring Valley on the Right were rightfully and equally dismissive of the self-important claims of official Washington. One size does not fit all, they concluded. 

It was the poorly educated, dysfunctional, overweight, diabetic, drug addicted residents of poor neighborhoods who were driving COVID cases up and filling hospital beds.  Those with healthy and uncompromised immune systems, rational protective responses, and philosophical conclusions about mortality and morbidity were indeed the elite. First Class would not get COVID.

Florida was attacked by the radical Left for its openness and tolerance.  How could they? shouted New York liberals who had sequestered themselves for months while happy young people played on Ft Lauderdale beaches.  Irresponsible, antisocial, and wrong, they yelled; but youth who simply and rightfully said , “If you have a problem, don’t come” were at the vanguard of resistance to liberal government Puritanism.

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Despite the vaccines, the lower mortality and morbidity rates and mild reactions of those who exhibit symptoms, there are still those who continue to hammer people without masks, who protest ‘irresponsible’ gatherings, the South African variant, and the 5 percent hole in Moderna and Pfizer protection.  They are those who seemingly want the virus to infect and kill, who want justification for their end-of-time predictions and their wholehearted faith in government. 

The sight of people playing is unwarranted, and antisocial. Why are they not bunkered and quarantined? What gives them the right to enjoy themselves when Armageddon is around the corner?

There is and there will always be a Puritanical, fundamentalist ethos in America.  Brought up as they were were by the likes of Cotton Mather and John Davenport, how can they not see the Devil among us, the immediacy of Armageddon, and the dereliction of Christian ways?  It seems as though the legacy of 250 years can never be dissolved let alone forgotten.

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How is it that now, at the coda of COVID, at a  time of decreased mortality and morbidity, a time of universal vaccination, and a proximity to herd immunity, are there so many still afraid of their own shadow – still double-masking, still ordering in and spraying mail, still keeping distance from grandchildren, and still worried silly about dying?

The young Florida Spring Breakers had it right from the beginning. COVID is an old people’s disease.  The young, with health immune systems, will not get it; or if they do, will be asymptomatic.  If alte kockers are worried, they rightly say, then stay away. 

The country would have been better off in the first place if  we had isolated, quarantined, and locked down old people and let the rest of the country have fun, make money, and keep the economy humming. 

On the contrary, Fauci said. It was ‘everybody’s disease’, once again flaunting sound epidemiological history and wisdom. We must all ‘be in this together’ or better put, all suffer together when the more sensible, reasonable, rational, and evidence-based option was far less punitive.

The Armageddon crowd won’t be satisfied until everyone has been vaccinated and boostered, the variants isolated, and Pfizer and Moderna primed for unexpected threats. 

These Chicken Little worriers have not been welcome prophets but scardy-cat worriers, faux Cassandras.  

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We will be happy to see them go home and take their ‘Hate has no place here’ signs  with them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

I Want To Be Black!–Memoirs Of A White Girl In The Age Of Progressive Racism

Margot Fenwick, child of a Daughter of the American Revolution and a descendant of John Davenport, first settler of New Haven and dean of Yale College, was of the most privileged class in America. There were only one or two sidesteps that prevented her mother from being a First Family of Virginia – an errant grand, grand, grand uncle who had had a liaison with a half-Quebecois half Mohawk woman, but proximity to  true American nobility was there.

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She had been educated at Miss Porter’s, an exclusive finishing school in Farmington, CT, and then a post-graduate year at Fincher, an elite boarding school in the South. It was the best of both worlds, Southern and Northern, one which would prepare her for a life of privilege, wealth and social acclaim. 

The choice of university was debated in family chambers.  Should she go to the University of Virginia which for more than one hundred and fifty years had been the only place for proper Southern gentlemen and more recently ladies; or to one of the Seven Sisters schools, parallel institutions to Yale, Harvard, and Princeton?

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She opted for one of the Seven Sisters, a women’s college known for its academic excellence but also for its encouragement of sexual diversity.  Of course the admissions committee did not ask overt questions or expect overt answers, but summers in Provincetown or Bernal Heights were the looked-for codewords that facilitated admission.

Not only did New England's and the South's finest women students choose to go there as an entrĂ©e into New York, Richmond, and Boston society and as a chance to study with the likes of Leonard Herschel, renowned calligrapher and graphic artist, but saw it as an opportunity to have a series of bedroom affairs with attractive classmates and meet an appropriate husband from one’s own milieu.

Margot matriculated at a very interesting time.  Not only had the school become a go-to college for lesbian intellectuals with social ambitions but it was at the forefront of the progressive gender-race-ethnicity movement.  It  not only offered a congenial place for women not only to find meaningful, young, lesbian relationships, but to have them with women of color. As importantly, it was the seat of radical feminist and racial politics. 

The admissions committee encouraged the recruitment of black women – particularly those from poor, inner-city neighborhoods - and despite the objections of old alumnae who worried about the increasing political cast of the school and the likely lowering of academic standards through affirmative action, they were successful.  The admissions officers wanted the campus to offer the inimitable matrix of disadvantaged black women and desirous, hopeful white women from Beacon Hill and Rittenhouse Square.  The campus would be the center of progressive womanhood.  

This union of 'badass ghetto girls'  and white upper class women  would be the only real, relevant issue in the university universe, and the school would become a role model for progressive education.

Margot let her hair down, dismissed heritage, family propriety, and sexual conservatism, and had a series of affairs with women from Southeast Washington and San Francisco. She joined many of the activist organizations on campus, and was heralded by her black sisters for her rejection of white privilege and embrace of the African American experience.  

As happenstance would have it, the Fenwick family was interested in pinning down some loose genealogical ends, and had every family member DNA tested, vetted, and sorted.  While the matriarch of the family wanted to confirm once and for all her direct links to Sir Walter Raleigh and ‘King’ Carter, the developer of the Northern Neck and icon of Upper South plantation history, Margot was hoping for something more  - a black ancestor.

Most of the old white settlers of the Tidewater and Old Virginia – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson among them – had adulterous, inter-racial relations with the slaves on their plantations.  Maybe, just maybe, one of her white, patriarchal, grandee ancestors had produced mixed race offspring from which she was descended.  If so, she would be admitted even more into the radical racial circle of college, and be even more respected as a privileged white woman with slave genes.

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Now, most elite white families like the Fenwicks wanted nothing of the sort.  The slaves brought to America from Angola and the Gold Coast were of tribal origin, bartered, sold, and traded for their brawn and reproductive potential.  Their DNA would contribute absolutely nothing of value to their families in terms of genetic or social advantage, especially to a Southern social debutante like Margot.  

Yet the zeitgeist for the younger generation and the ethos of their times, gave African origin as ipso facto high value. Rather than look to storied European roots – genes traced back to Louis XIV, Charles I, and Bavarian princess; or even for that matter to shoguns, shahs, and mandarins – the highest order of ancestry was African  and tribal. Contrary to the beliefs of their parents, these younger Americans appreciated both the pagan totemism of tribal Africans and the social cachet of their oppression. 

Margot waited expectantly for the results. If only, she thought, if only…As often happens in the roulette of genetic testing a number of her family members were sadly disappointed by their results.  Black bits found in their DNA, far from the Holy Grail that she sought, were but a sullying contamination of a pure line.  

There was nothing racist in these families' disappointment.  First Virginians and North Carolinians had no ingrained animus against blacks and judged only on the basis of comparative history and valued Europe, its courts, princes, and kings, more than colonial sub-Saharan Africa. 

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When the results came in, she couldn’t have been more overjoyed.  There were indeed traces of Ibo in her makeup – not significant, but enough to validate her claim to African ancestry.  She was Black after all!

The early years of the 21st century have been obsessively focused on race.  The culture of victimhood has granted high social status to those who have fared badly at the hands of those in power.  The equation was simple.  Africans were enslaved, oppressed, and then freed.  Despite the urgings of Jefferson who knew that releasing them into the population would cause disarray, hostility, and dependency, they became part of the American Republic. 

For decades they were marginalized and dismissed subjects of white opprobrium and rejection.  They became caricatures of English gentlemen during Reconstruction era Republican-enforced elections to state legislatures.  It was an invidious attempt by Northerners to force black representation on a defeated, but resurgent Southern plantation aristocracy.  Jim Crow did the rest, and the eventual refugee migration on the Illinois Central to Chicago was the result.

Now the racial cudgel has been taken up by progressives, and blackness ipso facto has been iconized. Black descendants of Angolans, Nigerians, and Ghanaians are being lionized not because of their historical origins, but because they were enslaved. Progressive victimhood is not an ascribed value, but an inherent one.  

Margot, with her papers in order and ancestry confirmed, became black. I am of the ten percent, the underclass, the marginalized, and the oppressed, she said.  She in a moment of emotional solidarity gave up her storied ancestry – the Jamestown Colony, the Tidewater, and the Northern Neck.; and the nascent American New World colonies that her English, French, and Spanish ancestors made into her homeland – and raised her African tribal heritage and American slavery to the highest rank.

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The ten percent black population govern American discourse because of slavery, Reconstruction, and post-bellum federal mismanagement.  Without a doubt, the Radical Republicans of Reconstruction were the root cause of persistent segregation in the South and responsible in large part for the divisive racial hostilities of today. American Southern racial history is American history.  It cannot be ignored or dismissed.

Be that as it may, Margot Fenwick bought the progressive racial cant lock, stock, and barrel.  She gave up the influential, mythical history of her European ancestors for a political meme; and by so doing lent her hand to the pervasiveness of racial obsession.  Every time someone subscribes to political presumption rather than fact and sensibility, they contribute to further disunity, division, and hatred. 

She touted her blackness when it was her whiteness which had resonance and relevance to early American history.  She championed Angolan slaves without any understanding of African tribal complicity in the trade, the primitivism of their beliefs.  She had never read Faulkner, Styron, McCullers, or O’Connor and appreciated the complexity of post-Civil War racial society.  Amends must be made and reparations given, she shouted with her sisters, looking only at the surface – slavery alone and itself without context and history.

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It took some time and some doing, but Margot Fenwick eventually returned to her roots.  She became a member of the DAR, applied for membership in the much more exclusive Society of the Cincinnati, and retired to Groton-Long Point.  The weight of history, social responsibility, and family ancestry were preponderant.  She gave up her facile, progressive politics and never looked back.

There is more to social identity than survival.  History adds to being - it is the past which may not determine how we act but certainly describes who we are.  There is more than pride in acknowledging a historical past.  It is extended identity, a long unbroken line of cultural influence; and the longer the line and more influential the families along it, the more important it is to retain, preserve, and honor it. 

This European heritage is being eroded by the cancel culture of today, airbrushed out of American history and genealogy.  It is considered the origin of white supremacy and its consequent oppression of others, rather than the moving force behind the building of civilizations.  

Margot finally realized that by expunging her significant past, she was negating herself. Her return to the Fenwick fold was not so much a rejection of civil rights or ignoring the problems of race, but a more realistic, sanguine, and proud recognition of the principles and resonant achievements of her ancestors. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Frankly, I Don’t Give A Damn–Surviving COVID And Much, Much More

Bob Muller was a serious man – a man for whom everything mattered.  There was no such thing as insignificance.  Any and every act had consequences for the future of the planet and life on it.  Any demurral or denial of such responsibility was considered craven neglect.

Bob was an active member of the most important organizations fighting global warming, white supremacy, male patriarchy, Wall Street capitalism, and heterosexual exclusivity.  He was on the virtual barricades for all these causes, doing his fair share and then some to roll back conservatism – to defame and discredit the privileged autocracy of the Right which had come into ascendency during the Trump Administration; to promote progressive ideas of diversity, inclusivity, collaboration, and good will; and to deny legitimacy to any who opposed this path to a more perfect world.

Progressivism was not simply a political movement but a moral one.  There could be no opposition to its principles because they were inherently good, right, and universal ones.  To do so – to object or deny would be tantamount to apostasy, heretical opposition to an anointed purpose.

In many ways progressivism was like a religion, for it had a canon, congregations, ceremony, myth, commandments, and saints. It was an all-encompassing, complete secular religion which allowed no smorgasbord beliefs or compromise.  One could not deny the Trinity and still be a Christian, and so it was with progressivism.  

There was no way that anyone who believed in laissez-faire capitalism and free enterprise, even though they championed the rights of the disadvantaged or other-gendered, could be welcomed into the big tent.  Any item of disbelief or questioning of one canonical principle would automatically suggest a skepticism of them all, and doubters were not welcome.  The mission was so important that it could not afford dissenters, objectors, or even hesitators.  Only a full-throated choral voice of joy was right.

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Ironically, those who were most spiritually akin to progressives were fundamentalist Christians – the group that they distrusted most.  Evangelical Christians had the same Utopian beliefs, the same absolutism, the same exclusivity and insistence on doctrinal purity as progressives.  Both felt chosen, anointed, God-given, and prophetic; both felt sure that the rightness of their mission would guarantee its achievement; and both felt that missionary conversion would not only lessen the ranks of disbelievers but increase the ranks of the righteous.

Bob did not exactly go door-to-door, but preached the gospel of doom and forgiveness, righteousness and evil, right action and selfless investment on every virtual doorstep and in every public square and global amphitheater.  In the evenings, coming home from a day of evangelism, Bob liked to put his feet up, have a drink, and eat a simple meal.  Having done the needful, acquitted his conscience, made amends for the dereliction of the past, and recruited the emotionally needy and philosophically insecure and given them purpose and hope, it was time to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

His wife, however, was totally unconvinced, and she found Bob’s universal progressivism and evangelical mission silly and pretentious.  It was only the weight of decades of marriage, children, grandchildren, and inertia which kept her from leaving her pew in Bob’s church, stepping outside, and heading for the hills.  

There was not one ounce of humor in the man, not one iota of circumspection, not one moment of smiling disbelief.  He had become a thudding bore.  He was so full of himself and his appointed mission that he was clueless about himself, his wife, and his marriage; and she went from one lover to the next without fear of discovery or rebuke.  While Bob soldiered off to convention after convention, seminar after seminar, and strings of colloquia, gatherings, and church groups, Ellen was happily and inconsequentially independent, neither obliged nor owed, and sexually adventurous.  She had married Bob with due consideration, but had woefully underestimated his obsessive, compulsive irrationality and was finally happy to be rid of her albatross.

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There would be no better world, no Utopia, not even the slightest movement towards progressivism’s fanciful goals, she knew on departing. Life and human nature had not changed since the Pleistocene, and they were not about to change now.  Anyone who actually believed in positive change – or even the possibility of moving off the aggressive, territorial, self-interested, defensive mark was loony.  

The fact that her husband was the looniest of all was incidental.  Some susceptible, gullible people are simply born fools; and she – through fault of her own ignorance – married one; and that was not a matter for second thought.  It was only a green light for indulgent freedom.

Ellen had turned into a sexual meanderer thanks to an inherited intolerance for idiots, an unflappable self-confidence, and an existential weariness.  The missionary enthusiasm of people like her husband Bob, so dutiful, serious, and impossibly persistent was a cause in itself for  amoral emotional husbandry.  Yet, after years of marital desuetude and having a front row, center seat at Bob’s evangelical three ring circus, her indifference became an ethos.  It was Bob’s fruitless, aimless, and pointless ambitions which hardened her resolve – or more aptly put, loosed her tethers from purpose, results, and outcome.   Frankly, she said to Bob, I don’t give damn, and left for the Bahamas with Brad from Lisbon.

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So when the COVID pandemic hit, she was well prepared.  While Bob fussed and bothered with two-masks-and-a-shield, prison-worthy social distancing, industrial air purification, and doomsday lockdowns, Ellen went into ‘fuck it’ mode – an indifference to the presumed existential nature of the pandemic, a refusal to buckle under to the gulag-era incarcerations of government, and a dismissal of the ‘hate-does-not-belong-here, rainbow, BLM’ progressivism of her neighbors. 

How could you? asked Bob’s cohorts and compatriots.  How could she be so dismissive of an existential crisis?  And while they were at it, why had she not joined Bob on the hustings when it came to racial injustice, police brutality, and insult to her own sex?

Lunacy, she said.  Banal, trite, and empty. 

But what of your life, they asked, and that of your children? What about them? 

More treacly wicked witch fairy tales.

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The more she was hectored by Bob’s followers, the more she was pestered and admonished; and the more she was begged to kneel, repent, and pray for forgiveness, the more defiant she became.  It is hard to be a defiant advocate for nihilism, but irony is the meme of our times, and her fuck it meme went viral.  She had gone beyond conservatism, beyond fierce political individualism, and beyond philosophical colloquy.  Fuck it became the meme of the moment, the ultimate rejection of the settled status quo. It was way above it all.

Four score years of life is nothing, considering scope and context.  Why waste it?  La dolce vita is indeed superficial and frivolous, but such epicurean delights at least are measurable because they intend nothing more than the here and now.  Bob’s progressive fantasies had no substance and therefore no meaning.  An obvious metaphysical choice.

The pandemic ended, short-lived, overblown, and over-hyped; but there were many lessons learned and many lessons unlearned.  Ellen came out on top, not only a survivor but a victorious gladiator.  Hers was the way to go, the only sensible reaction to a purposeless, meaningless life.  Nietzsche was right all along.  The only validation of life is the expression of pure, individual will and fuck the rest.