Tag Archives: Covid -19

China, The Good Shepherd and America

This is a Sunday in Easter Season. while Christianity is part of the patrimony of the United States and of the West and a fading and failing patrimony of the Middle East. While it expands in Africa but is challenged  there it is also a force  and institution that is undeniably about all people and is oriented that way at every level since its founding. That at least makes it one of the great religions and also a challenge that cannot be merely overlooked by other forces without a largely Christian influence which have their own agenda  in the world.  American Christianity struggles both with its relationship with larger American society and with the relationship of Christianity and Christians in America to the non-Christian world.  One of the big questions in all of this process of dealing with the pandemic and its accompanying phenomena is understanding what China’s role and responsibility might be. I am a long way from answering any of those questions meaningfully. Today I am just posting about my time in China and what it makes me think of most at this time. In this post I want to discuss what I as an American Christian saw of China and in a minimal way begin to address the larger issues of relations between America and China. I will do that through a somewhat Christian lens.

Today’s readings at Mass were all from the New Testament except the psalm. The psalm was Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd, is the first line and title of the Psalm in English. The Gospel was from St. John’s Gospel the tenth chapter where Jesus Christ describes himself as the Good Shepherd. The first reading was from Acts that Where the Apostles proclaim the crucified and risen Christ s Lord of  Glory. There was a reading from the letters of St. Peter to all Christians describing the sacrifice and Judicial element of the death of  Son of God.  As I mentioned all the major readings were from the New Testament.     I think that happens more often during the Sundays of the Easter Season than at any other time.

The truth is that the essence of the Gospel as proclaimed at Easter is not always easy to hear. Not every Christian is int he place where he or she is spiritually focused and  able to pay attention to the Good News in the Gospel. For many of us more than once in a while there is a sense of the stumbling block in a crucified  Christ. He who was to reign should not have suffered so as to be made to bear our sins it seems if we truly relate to him, if he is truly the Firstborn of all Creation..

China has a variety of burdens in the society which are not related to evaluating that scandal of the cross but are related to a path which has never fallen much under the influence of Christ. I have spent a lot of time studying China and Chines culture and would have spent more if I had it to spend, Although at this time in my life I study less of most things than I would ever have believed that I would.But my vision of China comes mostly from the time I lived and taught there. Some of it seems rather like here and some of it did not.

But the differences were real enough. finding something in common across those differences was the wonder and the struggle of being there. Being there meant being open to China and being a Christian, an American,  and an Anglo-Acadian from Louisiana.  I was serious about trying to be authentic there and trying to be authentically present to the place I was living and the people I was with Some times the two kinds of authenticity worked well together and sometimes they blended less easily.

This Sunday I did not got to mass. I was too busy and otherwise disadvantaged to watch a full mass on TV.  I did stream part of EWTN’s mass on my laptop.  But in an effort to conserve data ( a desire made more intense by the lack of tech support in recent weeks) I did not watch the whole mass. I just skipped around hitting the entrance,the three reading the sermon and part of the Eucharistic prayer. When I taught in China I got up early every Sunday and climbed over the wall f the locked compound at the University and either alone or with a few others I made my way to the Catholic Concession Church across town and went to Mass. Like giving Christmas gifts to every student I had and displaying the American flag on my wall, this was a small way of staying true to who I was.  China was a challenging place in many ways.      I lived in China as it was preparing to host the Olympics and the openness to foreign influence like mine was a at one of the highest points   it has ever been in the country’s history.  I liked China and felt a special connection to the little congregation in the church I attended. Although, I gave some rosaries and a few other things to the underground church I tried to be a strong member of the legal congregation. I felt that within the context of the largely discouraging history of Christianity in China my involvement was both fairly blessed and fairly effective. But there was evangelism and much more there was the kind of dialog that I once viewed with some suspicion when it came to religious matters.

So what I have not done yet is discuss anything about the current crisis and what my background tells me about those people and that country, China was a place where I felt I was giving my best effort to make a difference. It was not the difference of trying to erase all that they are in favor of something else. I tried to serve American interests and I tried to serve the Gospel in a more direct way than I usually do now but as I have tried to most of my life. In some ways my time in China was one of the great crises that has marked my life. I tried to follow up on my life there with years of correspondence sending and receiving gifts and other activities. I also tried to report to my Congressman, law enforcement and other American institutions about some of my concerns that arose there. BUT I NEVER EMBRACED THE LINE THAT TRUMP AND HIS PEOPLE HAVE EMBRACED THAT THEY WERE MAKING TOO MUCH MONEY IN WORLD TRADE. I have not objected strenuously to that policy or to the building of a wall across the Southern border which is very different in every way from the buffer zone I proposed. I have not objected strenuously to Trump’s rhetoric about immigration because I think controlling immigration is vital to national survival although our views diverge on countless points. President Trump just wants “more for me and to hell with you” to be a respectable policy. Well if it is then one can yell but not make a reasonable argument if in fact the persons or countries one is consigning to hell are able to visit hell upon you. The limit to how dark that view is comes from the fact that the profit system is a system of mutual benefit. But we all know it does not always work out that way and in international trade it can get even more dangerous and toxic. Their has to be a constant reference to the rubrics of the trade system or it can be devastating to everyone.

The truth is China takes very little for what it does and is underfunded and that is what is somehow unfair. The Chinese people and interests make mistakes and do bad things and the two together have consequences but they sacrifice more for the national good and the collective good and what remains of their family goo in so many cases. When I was there I took some comfort in the advancement of women compared to the historic Chinese norm, in good quality housing and transport for many and in the planting of trees and the preservation of parks. Working with American companies to make products for the world was a very powerful engine of good cultural exchange in many ways. I have long advocated for supports for American industry but China was not the enemy in my analysis. China was a complicated player in an extremely complicated game and sometimes American and Chinese interests would blend well and sometimes not so much. There were also many protesters sacrificing in a search for the elements of liberty. But there was a tapestry woven through the land of hunger, legal executions, surveillance of the people, cannibalism, the persecution of Christianity, forcible efforts to control by contract behavior not allowed in most civilizations under law, dueling, protests with ritualized martyrdom, and a different kind of struggle between foreign and domestic organized crime and the police. This would fill a book or two that I will never write. But there was a lot I could see while working hard as an English teacher. But this was a world that was not directly involved in the world of work whether creating products or educating students. It was a dark world that for all its darkness and terror was clearly visible lurking at the edges of the open society and sometimes boldly bursting in upon it. Even after all these years it is hard to know what to do in terms of naming specifics.

I had mixed feelings about Trump’s hard line with China because there were dark forces there that I know will never forget me and Trump’s lack of caution kind of made me feel a little safer even though I am not sure that is rational. I felt less good because of the good people of China who would suffer, because American farmers were losing markets and because various people were left out of the planning process. But Trump lives in a world where if one wants something he does not need to examine what would be fair most of the time. It is simply a matter of negotiation. The two players acting on each other without a referee, The art of the deal is not about making a context that works for both, but rather simply both parties seeking their own interest. The people in power in China today are also less responsive to some sense of larger ideal than those in power when I was there. The suffering caused in China by the trade war was massive, the disruption horrific. China is not a monolith, Could the government,organized crime, an agent of North Korea or a technician whose family starved to death because of the trade struggle have released a lab bug on the world to shake things up? Maybe that happened.

My situation at the moment is personally that I am grateful for the relief aid the United States government has provided to me. I am not sending any of the that money to friends in China because I have let all those relationships lapse. But the world goes on, I am grateful to Trump for the part he played in the relief effort. I am suspicious of China as a basis for forces which are dangerous and not always Chinese. I stay busy with matters of my own life and family and even where these are concerned I feel that I only have a limited amount to offer.

But I do not relate to the vision of America as mostly the target of a vicious selfish and corrupt China. Chinese business is mostly pretty ethical, honest and even humble. There may be half a million Chinese businessmen who are willing to murder, steal and lie to cheat Americans out of an honest dollar. But a vastly larger majority of Chinese in commerce or very ethical whether they are committed to the same moral view as I hold or not. I may return to this subject or not. I am not going to like how this works out but life is not usually kind in my experience.

I did tell my friends in China that I cared about them and liked China and loved some of them even but that it was possible that America and China could end up in conflict and even war and we might be on opposite sides of that conflict. That was just part of the overall reality. However, I hoped for positive paths forward. We will see what comes out of the current crisis. I am no longer in touch with what happens here but I know it is not the country the China-haters describe and neither is the America they describe the one I know.

Whatever the future holds, I will be an American all my life. But I will have a part of me which is always in the memories and hopes of my time in China.

The Covid -19 Pandemic: The Crisis that Comes Late in Life

Today Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards meets Washington with President Donald Trump to discuss Louisiana’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a time to remember that the crisis affecting my life is a crisis affecting the whole country and the whole world. But I am not a public official and do not exercise much leadership these days. So for me the struggle of this era is a personal struggle.

It would be nice to say that this current crisis makes me feel how little my own suffering is compared to other suffering. It would make me more likable to say that normal times seem much better compared to this crisis. However, none of that is true.  My general state of alienation has not changed for the better. I still long for a different vision of the future than is available. The struggles of many people and myself going back over a period however many years one chooses to look at and going on into the present has been marked at least by as many defeats as setbacks and victories. I think had more of the battles fought been won then the world would be in better shape right now.

This pandemic is something that comes after a long series of crises that I have known in my life and that life has gotten me to a certain place that is not any other place. I am where I am and am doing what I am doing.  What stage of life one is in depends on what life has brought the individual in question in previous decades or years. Over all this is the stage of life of trying to make a settlement with the past. Setting records straight and putting things in order. This is a period for setting up the exit. I know that for most world leaders my age is in their past but they have had very different lives.  Much of my life is a nightmare beyond my ability to ever transcend  in the remaining years of a lifespan.

While the Confederate heritage has gone from being very controversial to being more or less  universally maligned across the country. General Alfred Mouton’s death in the last major confederate battlefield victory. The Battle of Sabine Crossroads or the Battle of Mansfield was long after the high water mark of Gettysburg but although doom hung all about it was in victory that the old veteran of many  struggles who was not yet an old man gave his life. As fates go in the real and troubled world it is not such a bad fate.

 

 

This may well be the beginning of the end for me even if I get through the economic crisis and the infection crisis  more or less unscathed. But I can say that while it has been a battle so far it has not been an all out defeat. I was able to send a second donation through Family Missions  Company and my family there to a friend in the Philippines who is not only trying to help feed her village but trying to keep spirits up during the crisis.   The pictures below are just some of those that she sent me.  Giving children treats may not appeal to most agencies but I know such things can make a positive difference  in morale.The truth is that there are different ways in which each of us fight the battles of life. For me this struggle with the Coronavirus Pandemic is just another struggle and conflict on the road of life.

To simply remain engaged in the struggle is a kind of victory. Whether one is fighting for a truly lost cause or as part of a revolution not to be victorious until much later after very great cost there will be times on the route when the only thing to be said in favor of the campaign is that one gave battle to one’s enemy. Simply keeping an army in the field has to be enough.

The struggle of life is going on and has gone on for a good while but I am engaged both in my own personal struggle and in the larger struggle as well. Battle is of course a metaphor. But the metaphor is a compelling one in this case for me. I have hit some setbacks. My effort to publish one of my books has hit a big snag and that may be yet another obstacle I cannot overcome. I have had some health issues. My extensive repairs on the very old car I drive may still not be enough to have it in truly good shape when the time comes to press forward again.

I have managed to consolidate my finances but not enough feel secure in these trying times. I am grateful to have a good home where I can rest up and recharge my batteries. But I am also feeling the cost of being a late middle aged guy living alone in a crisis. I try to be really careful but I am not laboratory careful. I have tried to help my Parish (like a County) to achieve its good record with the virus so far. But I know that in the long run things are likely to get worse here before they get better and in the end I am likely to catch the virus. My mind, soul and body are taking their licks and even if I win this battle I am still facing the outcome of many years of coming up short. But to be in the struggle is a kind of victory.

 

Image

Health, Longevity and Community in the Pandemic

I have been eating better than usual and sleeping at least as well and as much during most of the quarantine associated with this pandemic. The truth is that this overall period of rest and sufficiency was interrupted by a couple of opposite realities. I had an injury or source of chronic pain that tormented me for a while. I seem to be mostly pulling out of that. I am feeling like the stresses of the quarantine itself or not really getting to me all that badly. I have remained connected to a lot of people and a few people a little more. If I do not get Covid-19 then it seems likely that I will come out of this crisis at least as healthy as I went into the crisis. Of course, that is a big if. I am a very long way from getting out of the woods. I will be out of the woods when I get a vaccine for the coronavirus afflicting the world, I have plans to get better healthcare but if the past is any guide then I will never get the vaccine. The other option is that I get the Covid-19 and maybe its next strain mutation and then build up enough immunity to be out of the woods. So far now this event means living with an added personal risk of death for an indefinite period of time.  . 

There is a great deal to try to understand as we deal with this pandemic and live our lives. Scarcely a business plan, a family tradition or leisure activity is left unaffected. So we have to try to redefine many things under the new conditions of the coronavirus pandemic. What will life mean in any of a thousand specific contexts with the Covid-19  pandemic factored in? That is the constantly and endlessly visible aspect of life. These days we are all beset by the same pandemic,

Someone who received a gift from someone to whom I gave a gift. We all experience the pandemic and the quarantine.

 

 

The pandemic is having a powerful impact on the world and on the United States of America where I live. What is going to be the outcome of this vast interruption. For me, the biggest question has been what is the place of this episode in my life story. I wonder often enough, is it the tragic episode where I survive the loss of those near and dear? Is it the final episode in my life — the very end of this mortal journey. Whatever readers believe or have experienced intimations of from beyond the curtain of death it is not the play that I have been performing since birth. The pandemic makes me aware of the fact that death may well have come for me just now may be waiting just outside for the proper time to introduce himself and he may wait without tiring or discouragement for quite a while to make my acquaintance.

But I do not want to forget that most people survive Covid-19 with little apparent short -term injury and even if kidney and heart damage occurs it does not seem likely to be a huge factor in the case of those with few symptoms during infection. So along with the efforts of many people to save lives that in theory include my life — there is also a good chance that I will survive this pandemic. In addition it takes more planning for me to prepare to keep living than it does to prepare for dying when even funerals are virtually impossible. Therefore, I am looking at the future as though I will live.

 

So what is the pandemic really? What does it seem like? For all of us it seems to some degree like we must constantly be dealing with the risk of any contact with those people we would like to contact and those with whom we come into contact because it is easier and more sane to come into contact. Thus is an era of separation as a primary objective when we think of other people. 

The layer of another reason to avoid getting together with other people is a matter that has greater or lesser significance for different people considering their state in life and other factors. For me there has been a long trend to isolation and a growing aversion to almost everybody as a close companion that predates any effects of the pandemic. One of the realities of this time is that I have invested what is a significant amount of money on top of what is an unspeakably huge amount of time to try to publish a book I call one of my novels . But this book is actually a mixture of meta-fiction and fiction. In the book there are connections between myself and other people that are discussed to some degree. But it is true that long before the virus rampaged across the world those connections had diminished in more than a few cases. So the pandemic is just another isolating factor. It isolates me from some family members, from some work colleagues and from some students. It makes my interaction in shopping and other contexts more strained. But it does not really turn a fully socially immersed person into a hermit in my case. Like a lot of people, I am trying to survive and get by in these trying times. I am not committed to a hardship of isolation that is entirely new to me.

 

Image from Josh Hild on Pexels

I watched a good bit of the NFL Draft on ABC. I was excited for LSU Quarterback Joe Burrows to continue his tour de force as NO 1 pick overall. I was happy as well for Justin Jefferson to continue the Jefferson family tradition of excellence at LSU and continue the Purple and Gold tradition at Minnesota. But for me he NFL has lost a good bit of its magic. So have a lot of other things — but I was aware of the sense of people reaching out for community. It is a limited kind of community in the first place but now it is somehow more tenuous.  I was glad to see the Draft-a-thon charity. I was happy to see the Head Coach Sean Peyton say that he feels well recovered.  I have been a football loving person and a good deal of what I did in my days involved football. But I never played anything close to a full and organized season.  But when I think of building community and of a legacy of engagement — I have to include football in those thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Football is one form of community that has not yet felt the full force of the pandemic. There is nothing determined yet about how great the overall impact of this pandemic will be. I think football is a kind of bridge on the landscape of my mind and life.  I never will be a football player in the sense that makes me comfortable saying I played football. But I have a lot of memories of playing football.

So there is the fact of isolation creeping into so many areas. But there is more than that going on here. We are aware as sport fans that sports are really not happening. We are aware of the role that sports have played in our lives and culture and yet we know that this huge absence is far more than we have experienced before but is only a relatively small part of all that is not happening. Churches, theaters, schools, synagogues, cafes, barbershops, hair salons, civic clubs, social clubs, casinos and family reunions are shuttered. Movies are not getting made. We are exposed to what life has to offer when all those forms of sharing are abolished. Although postponed and abolished are very different things the shock of so many postponements at once has the fell of some vast social revolution sweeping across our lives.

It seems like there is a good chance that my novel will not get self-published. But that is not so strange. I am used to being frustrated, However, if it is published it will bring a lot of factors to light and there will be plenty of distraction within its limited readership. Part of this coincides with events shaping the life of one real person deeply included in the meta-fiction portion of the book. I can live with how that will all play out and I think that other people can live with it as well. But the main thing to me is to get this book finally into the form of a decent book. Then I can decide how to pursue or abandon all my other literary projects. It is more like a chance to set a floor on these things than it is a chance to make things open up for a new career.

Poetry and The Path to A New Normal

The word Poetry sometimes embraces all the major genre  such as fiction, drama, literary history and literary biography.  This is a grave and extreme time which call for many artistic responses including responses which use words as the medium. Besides being the Earth Day of the Covid-19 Pandemic this was also an anniversary of the horrifying Earth Day of the  BP Oil Leak.  The two days are a strange contrast and there will be no place here to really discuss how different the two crises are. But both crises will be remembered here in this post about my own inner journey. But the Acadiana region and the world have always been important to me as has the great American natural heritage. I have responded to the crises and beauties of the natural order in words many times. Right now I am not writing so very much. Nor am I taking pictures during this challenging time.

I let  Earth Day pass without having commented upon it and uncelebrated on the screens of this blog or even noted in this blog this year.  I have left many things out in recent years — virtually everything . But here and here and here are links to the connections on the Earth Day theme in this blog in previous years. I did not post about Earth Day on Facebook either and there was also plenty to discuss. The world has responded to lessened pollution during the global slowdown.  Amazing observations of this phenomena have emerged from around the world.  I have watched a pair of owls killing and sharing their prey over several nights, a humming bird working a border of flowers around the oak tree  in front of the house I rent. The successes in my plantings and transplantings earlier this year. I may be making a mistake but I have been using this time as a time for giving, perhaps more than I can afford.

I am sharing some of those gifts here. But here is the relevant gift receipt for this particular crisis of the natural world and whatever opportunities may present themselves in this pandemic crisis. There are many worthy causes and I have given to many of them in small ways at various times. But we must do what we can to be people who address the needs of the planet we all share. A different type of person would look at my budget and say it was not responsible to for me to give anything. It might well be better citizenship to try and secure my wobbling financial survival. But I have lived on a different trajectory than merely securing myself for all of my life. So I gave a little to a cause that can afford to think large thoughts about the Earth’s problems.

The Nature Conservancy Logo
You Can Trust the Conservancy!
BBB Accredited Charity
Thank you, Frank!
Your gift of $25.75 ensures that the lands and waters you love get the protection they need.

I  am along way from putting together a coherent environmental program in this post. I have spelled out something closer in the model constitutions that were written to inspire a debate and dialog that never really ensued. The images below are more decoration than anything else but they illustrate a few connections to the Earth that have been highlighted in this blog.  I am leaving out many other things.

I was not in the mood to celebrate the rest the Earth is getting because the way it has come about depresses me in a number of ways.  Yet it is not possible for me to fail to celebrate this chance to see what a time of Natural Sabbath can do. It is one of the signs of hope in a troubled and troubling view of the future.

There is not a lot that is lighthearted in my experience of the pandemic and quarantine at this point. I hope that this is the worst my  experience gets — that I am not all that cheerful. I have plenty of time to reflect on the choices, actions and experiences that have gotten me to the place where I am in life. I really do not need  that because I have had so much time alone and have spent so much time focusing on what my own choices have and have not meant. I am aware, as I often have been; that I am not getting close to where I have felt the need to be in my life. because of the human crisis I also donated to a local cause helping to confront the coronavirus crisis head-on. Here is one of my receipts for that kind of thing. I replaced a few digits of the transaction ID with asterisks to protect myself and used a plain text facsimile of that receipt.

Donation Details
Date: April 23, 2020
Transaction ID: ****-9658-****-6886
Purpose: Acadian Museum
Reference: Sewing with Savoie
Donation to: Acadian Museum
Donation from: frank64summers3@gmail.com
Donation amount: $10.00 USD

There have been plenty of times when $36.00 would make a crucial difference in my own life. There will be plenty more times like that if I survive this current crisis and whatever crises are coming next. So why remain engaged. I am barely a blip on the economic screen — why try to live at all as a part of the solution?

As I often do, I am raising questions here that transcend anything I can address in this post. Only in reading a great deal of this blog can one answer the question of what I think are the reasons for myself or other individuals to connect with larger goals or issues when their lives are themselves not all that balanced and secure.

This is a time when among other things, I have begun an effort to self publish a novel. The fact that I am going that route is a pretty good indication that my life as a whole and my efforts with the novel have not been very successful. If one sells a novel and then later buys it back for self-publishing that can be a sign of success. If one writes a book for one’s business or nonprofit organization then self-publishing can be a sign of success. But to write a big challenging novel about big things and self-publish it is a sign that one is trying to wrap up one’s life’s work in a way that can make some sense and give humane dimensions to the misery of the hellish life one has lived. It is a rational effort to preserve some possibility of good and still be engaged in the present with the work that has consumed much of one’s past. But the company has a lot of appealing qualities and I am hopeful that we can hammer out the details and the novel can get a chance to sell at least a few legitimate copies.  It is not a prospect that excites euphoria and I am aware of more and more work on this endless project which does speak to many of my views about larger issues in the world,

But if in the end I am able to self-publish the novel along the lines that I have thus far negotiated then I will be happy to try to promote it within reason for the rest of my life and perhaps for the remainder of the life of this blog if it comes out while I still have a blog. For me the biggest  connection  of poetry with this crisis has been my spoof of Lying Eyes by the Eagles.

City girls just seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile
Wrap her hand and she won’t have to worry
She’ll dress up her face in the new style
Late at night a big old house gets lonely
I guess every form of refuge has its price
And it breaks her heart to think that there are only
A couple of items left for her to sanitize
So she tells her cat she must go out for the evening
To get supplies she knows are running down
The cat doesn’t know where she’s going as she’s leaving
She’s headed for the price-gouging side of town
You can’t hide your desperate eyes
And your smile behind a thin disguise.
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your desperate eyes.

On the other side of town a boy is waiting
With clorox wipes and bleach that he could steal
She drives on through the night anticipating
‘Cause he’ll make her house feel the way it used to feel
She rushes to his truck, they’re close together
She whispers that it’s only for a while
She swears that soon she’ll stay apart forever
She pulls away and leaves him with a smile
She gets home and pours herself a strong one
And stares out at the stars up in the sky
Another night it’s gonna be a long one
She draws the shade and hangs her head to cry
She wonders how it ever got this crazy
She thinks about the job she had at school
Did she get tired or did she just get lazy?
That job’s so far gone she feels just like a fool
My oh my, you sure know how to arrange things
You set it up so well, so carefully
Ain’t it funny how your new life sure did change things?
You try to be the girl you used to be
You can’t hide your cryin’ eyes
Your stock of tp is in demise.
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your cryin’ eyes
There ain’t no way to hide your cryin’ eyes

 

But even as i am struggling to reach the clam places where I do my best reading, I remain a person who has read a great deal. My life is a lot about reading and writing — but is not only about that.  I have spent a great deal of time on this blog. It is not entirely clear why I have done so but it is clear that I have pursued some causes and hobbies. I have also neglected some of these few areas that I am interested in beyond my own obligations day by day and year by year. There may never be a novel published which addresses my visions of what a responsible citizen of the the human race and Earth must deal with  — but I am working on it and I have spent real money as well as a vast amount of time on this project. The novel is much more complex than the current taste will support and there is no reason to believe that it will turn a huge profit as I have planned to release it but it is very important to me.

The Pandemic has felt like the best time so far to push to get this novel out in some form of publication before I die. But I am no going to discuss the details of the novel here. I am going discuss other literary works in this post and merely alert people that I hope to have a novel coming out soon.  It is a time to explore new aspects of the blog as we evolve into new manifestations of society, social distancing is something poets have dealt with.

Poets like Neruda have discussed why there is something special and worth noting about a man’s desire for and fondness for the woman too far away for him to touch. Many things good and bad can be said about love from afar. But Neruda simply attempts and honest contrast between love that is hot intense sex close at hand and the kind that brings a distant woman closer into his heart. It is a poem worth thinking about these days.

This blog is mostly in English but here is a Spanish Poem.

On the other hand we see the horrors that lurk in the pulling apart of people suggested in one of the most studied and analyzed poems in English. Do we allow this time to drive up ancient horrors suppressed by Christian civilization even more than recent decades have allowed such things? Do we allow the response to lose contact with the wiser minds that set the response in motion — like a falcon leaving its master and not returning? Do we hope mindlessly for some great fulfillment of prophetic potential like the second coming of Christ — when we ought to be seeking to avoid the cheap and tawdry catastrophes that may well beset us.

The Second Coming
BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

n/a
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

So what will the new world order that is emerging look like? How can new art in words help a better order to emerge? As always I leave more question to answer and resolve few questions at the end of thispost.

The Strains of Isolation: Quarantine Status Quo

This is a difficult thing, to be quarantined due to an epidemic, There have been many comparisons to the Spanish Flu of the latter part of the decade of the  1910s. We have a lot of things that are the same in this epidemic as they were in the early 20th century and there  are also things that are different. Overall the differences in the two eras are well illustrated in my room and life from which this post comes. I was married to someone of a compatible background and we lived together for eight years. Had that happened  the odds that I would have been divorced back then would be much lower. The chance that I would be childless in that era had I loved as I have would have been much, much smaller (though one cannot say nonexistent). So I am much more alone. I am a skilled gardener but amid my own personal brand of chaos related to the pandemic I have not been like the larger trend and gardened more — rather I have gardened less in every way {but still a good bit this spring) and I have not put in a vegetable garden which I had planned to this year but have not done in a long time.   The only food crops I planted in the last decade were a half done fruit trees and they were very young and not all survived to give fruit and so we had a very few and small harvests before the trees and the house and land around them were sold. So, no garden is another likely difference with the 1918 era.

The there is the wired world in which it is possible for me to put this post together on my laptop and distribute through my website located in the wonderful world of the internet. There is nothing that would be part of our lives that would have been harder for my ancestors in 1918 to understand,

Also I live in America, I work I have enough money for basic necessities most of the time and give to other causes but I have dealt with pain to the point of limited sleep and some disability for a week and have not tried to get medical help or prescription drugs. That is because I  almost never do get any medical care. I am much shaped in my life by my repeated failure to get health insurance . Like much of my life the story is long miserable and to people with very different lives hard to believe. But I have had it for years at a time and I have mostly not had it. This year I had four realistic plans to end up with health insurance right now, I invested time, money and energy into those plans and I ended up here with no health insurance. In America today that means no medical care more than in almost any society in the history of the world at any time — at least for certain kinds of people.  I am the product of a long time of the lack of diagnoses and the wear and tear of not getting more help for chronic injury than my over the counter pain killers and dietary supplements, using my over the counter  sling and a homemade ice pack along with aspirin and Naproxin.  But on the other hand, others somewhat like me have become opioid dependent and sometime because of the kind of chronic pains I suffer from without an acute injury, I have had acute injuries but all of them were a long time ago. But the aches and pains I have now can be severe enough.

My own life is much shaped by living in a world where a vast amount is spent on healthcare and in general i know that if I cannot sleep, can barely function and generally am sick and weary there is probably no health care for me. That is not really the way it was in 1910. The was wide access to very inferior healthcare of varied types for many people. People paid doctors and nurses with chickens, eggs, a painted shed, car repairs or a mowed lawn if they could not come up with the money. Doctors often got discounts at local shops for years based on performing medical services. People also had gardens, belonged to functional extended families and had religious institutions and fraternal life insurance organizations that buried the dead and cared for the bereaved. The nuclear family was a costly and often troublesome institution that often performed better under extreme stress than it did with all of its foibles and iniquities in the daily run of things. That nuclear family has much declined.

In dealing with this Covid-19 crisis the responses will have to deal with what is the same about pandemics and what is different in the two pandemics. In America ans much of the world the pandemic of the late teens was followed by the roaring twenties and not a Great Depression. But has the world changed?

Some people think that the world has changed a lot. You can read the article here that the following charts come from  which represents a conservative American critique of some aspects of social development in recent years.There is a lot which goes into making conclusions about this debate over social policy. But what few can debate is that some things have changed.

 

The world is not America, But to some degree, the disappearance of the society America aspired to be most in the 1950s marks a change in the aspirations if much of the world. America has changed the way it has and has done so without national universal socialized medicine and while that may have had benefits in technological innovation, diverse treatment options and resources available for emergencies — it has certainly led to the suffering misery and death of millions of Americans. Those people fall into identifiable blocks. One of the most identifiable blocks is composed of rural white men like me,  People of color who cling to small businesses in  dying neighborhoods,illegal aliens who work hard, usually pay taxes  and increasingly are hated and mistreated, single mothers who have one child student loans and a very good paying part-time job —these are all part of the mosaic of people who cannot get health care often enough. There are hosts of people who have their bankcards declined when the transactions never reached their bank, whose wifi crashes and who are just not liked much by most bureaucrats and when all this web . Decades of this kind of inability to operate on the mandated playing field in the game of American life is more than a set of frequent inconveniences. It become a way of assuring a shortened, more painful and less happy life.The Covid-19 effects will play into that world. One impact is that every time I donate plasma I have to certify that I feel well  and healthy that day, So that is the main reason that I have not been able to donate in over a week. That is my longest break in a good while. I worry about those needing the supply. I also miss the screening of various health parameters. Those are useful health data points but not healthcare if you are ill you quit getting the screenings.

It is virtually impossible  for people who are never excluded from the  world of those with access to healthcare and health insurance to know what that is like. The  weeks and days in which  older white men in rural America like me rotate ice packs, over the counter braces and  a sling and spend time alternating losing sleep to pain and passing out exhausted when they get enough homemade self care to blot out the pain — This is the America I know. I know well the world of those  too young for Medicare and who will be too beat up to live long once they get to Medicare. The life expectancy of white men in America has long been in decline. You can read some of these facts end view related clips here. So many of us struggle and nobody outside of these groups I mentioned are able to see the impossibility of enrolling in Obamacare or medicaid or making ends meet. White men with health insurance are dying as well but I believe a detailed study would show folks in my category leading the race to the grave by a mile. Many of us try to find ways to make our society make sense even when it cannot. One thing we can do when we cannot negotiate a payment plan for our very rare emergency care when we know all the pain, suffering and shortening of life we are asked to endure. One thing is we can find nonprofits who will take the little money we have to spare. Before Obamacare there were more charity community clinics that accepted donations many shut down because “everybody has care now”. Life on the outside when from very bad to horrible in ways nobody should have to know. But we can give to non profits like RIP Medical Debt.  I have and the process is gratifying. The text below is what their website gives you to look at when you make a donation.

Thank you for your donation!


Your donation to RIP Medical Debt will abolish 100 times its value in unpaid medical debt — which contributes to more than 60 percent of the bankruptcies in our country. Your fellow citizens, your community, perhaps even your next-door neighbor, all of us thank you for your care and generosity.

Please check your various inboxes for an email acknowledgment and tax receipt.

To stay up to date, join us on Twitter and Facebook. We look forward to keeping in touch.

Sincerely,

Executive Director

Men in America and white men in rural areas most of all are dying of varied forms of isolation, irrelevance and disaffection. That is really manifest at all sorts of levels. The larger idea of a declining white percentage of the population is just one factor. A general study that mentions that for someone who has not read about it is found here.  But I am not including the most relevant studies in any way in this post. One definite reality is that we have not had as many native born white children born in America as  there were native born American white children turning eighteen in a very long time, That is in a country with rapid population growth by many standards. So a lot of rural white men feel discarded and isolated and badly treated, The Me Too movement has a secondary effect of showing that society has tolerated all kinds of abuse against women but is just not as tolerant of the foibles of husbands. Single men are cut off from family as single women are not.  Mr. Mom is a rarity and the title answers many questions. In many ways women struggle in this new order  more than men. However that is very debatable, but for many men isolation  from marriageable women means poverty, depression and early death. Maybe things can change in this crisis  — I have some ideas as to how but we shall see. I am getting to the point of trying to remind people of things to think about without much argument beyond that.

It is not easy to be alone. There are several meanings of the word easy. Sometimes being alone is the less difficult option. But while it may give comfort and sometimes it may offer convenience.   It rarely offers both convenience and real peaceful flow of life’s restorative forces. I wonder what the pandemic will do to those who have become isolated in various ways. I have more tolerance for the idea of isolation than most people struggling with this new reality.  I have been alone in a variety of ways for a fairly long time. The sense of isolation has to do with the various ways in which men and women interact and how women are integrated into society. Only after all of this does it directly relate to how men are regarded by society when considered as a particular class of citizens.

But isolated people are still citizens, human beings, relatives and play other roles in society. I try to do what I can. Even in charity there are more internet and transaction failures in my life that in the life of most committed donors in the country. Here is a recognition of another donation:

Thank You For Your Gift!

Your incredible act of generosity will have a profound effect on someone’s life. In fact, your gift today will help us provide 150 meals to families in need. That’s truly phenomenal – and something we hope you take great pride in!

And it’s not just food you’re giving with your donation today, it’s also hope. When a bag of food or groceries is placed in the hands of someone struggling with hunger you can actually see their spirit lift as this one realization takes hold: someone cares.

And today, that someone is you.

See below for a confirmation of your gift. You’ll also receive this same information in your inbox.


I had a connection or two in the world and my family ties to Family Missions Company which have enabled me to help a few people in this worldwide crisis whom I do not personally know. I have the capacity to do what I can do without infrastructure of a more integrated life. These last  photos show people holding the bags of rice created in the pictures in the last post. So some things can be done.  She also sent me a bio f each family represented by the woman receiving the rice and why her family had not gotten government food aid. Some connection networks endure. I have also been able to advertise the various feeding programs provided by employer to the families of their students in my Facebook posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Struggle to Deal with the Small Stuff in the Big Mess

There is a joy in doing good things and keeping them to yourself. However, there is not as much room in my life for the secret and sacred joys as there used to be. So I am going to tell the story of some good I was able to do in the midst of dealing with this corona virus pandemic. Maybe it will inspire other people to do good as well.

I am blessed to be able to work on this blog. The fact that I am blogging here indicates that a great number of aspects of my life and environment are still working. It is a time to have a perspective on the things that we are dealing with that transcends our sense of the urgent. I have had a lot of little challenges to deal with and I am a worrier by nature. I can abandon myself to an adventure if it is the right kind of adventure and I can bear up under suffering of certain kinds. But sitting at home alone this much makes me prone to think quite a bit about my aches, pains and frustrations. I do not lack for aches, pains and frustrations right now,

I recently was able to send some money to a friend in the Philippines who is suddenly quarantined with her extended family in their compound and only one has a real un-quarantined job. She explained all the reasons she was food insecure and with the help of my family in Family Missions Company and a little giving on my part we were able to get her some supplies and she in turn is adding the fruit of her garden and some of these staples in a smaller but really needed gift to the needy compounds on either side. That is about all   I myself can really do for the worldwide crisis.

When one considers the vast tragedy moving forward across the world these tiny efforts do not seem like much. I have also tried to bring attention to the bigger efforts of parties with greater resources. But the party involved not only acted responsibly for her own extended family but reached out to help  food insecure neighbors.  For me lately that is more success than I have been able to hope  for as a normal result — many of my efforts have been lost in various forms of chaos. So I was happy about that.

Now most readers will surmise that I do not have the gold standard of accountability and transparency in this  little bit of charity but I feel pretty good about it. In my last post I mentioned the gratitude that I sincerely feel to the federal governnment of the United States and its leaders for the help I have gotten. I am also grateful to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and the people at Louisiana Workforce  for the way they have expedited unemployment benefits so far. But I worry about whether I will get the benefits for as long into the program as I would like and think I should. I have a friend in a non profit who is worried about whether his CPA and lawyer will convince the governmemt that his organization is a federation of chapters each with less than 500 people and therefore eligible for payroll protection. If they are classed as a single monolithic organization then they will get nothing under the program he hopes will keep them afloat while they figure out what to do. Another friend is worried about whether he can qualify for his loan to be used for the most pressing needs his business has if does get a special SBA disaster loan. We all have anxieties about the wording and function of programs meant ot help in these tough times.

The media has done a pretty good job of showing how Americans are facing this crisis.  This morning CBS This Morning  featured someone doing good whom I had featured on my Facebook Profile earlier. You should be able to read that article from a local paper associated with Gannet  a major US newspaper publisher right here by clicking on the highlighted word. The CBS link showing Christine  and a few others doing their part should appear here. The story is the more meaningful because Christine Savoie is linked to the Acadian Museum to which I have been connected for quite some time.

But these activities and donations have involved very little of my time. Mostly, I have been involved in my own affairs. It has not been a time when I have been particularly distinguished by altruism.  There has been a good bit of anxiety, some depression and some physical pain. I seem quite able to fill most of my thoughts with my own needs and problems,

So the truth is that a lot of my mental energy is focused on myself. I am pretty involved in dealing with my own concerns. This blog has always been a kind of hybrid for documenting my own concerns and also discussing the various larger events that have caught my attention. Many of those unusual events have been crises of one kind or another. But this is a crisis of a different type.

The  truth is that we each came to this crisis with a set of problems and worries that already commanded our time and attention. I have projects I have invested enormous effort in that simply refuse to prosper and still are not prospering, I am lonely, I have missed windows of protocols and bureaucratic regulation on areas that affect my life and where I honestly do not think I could have done better. I am tired and lonely. But, as I try to deal with all the little stuff I try to be grateful for how little I have been hurt by the big crisis so far.

Riding Off Into the Sunset

This is a troubling time for the people and institutions who will endure but for many parts of society and many people it is farewell to the world of the living. Farewell to continuing existence in this reality. Musicians like Ellis Marsalis, Bill Withers, John Prine, Joe Diffie and the others we have been losing cannot be replaced. In American popular culture we have the concept  and film trope of heroes and cowboys riding off into the sunset. Many icons here and in other countries will be doing that here and now. There is too much of this kind of loss going on in the USA for me to even attempt to keep track of the same kinds of losses elsewhere.

Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

I am sitting on my couch typing on this Easter Tuesday morning my arm is in a sling from hurting myself in me sleep. That happens about once a year and that is why I own a sling. Despite all the physical work I  do in a typical year it is usually a sleeping injury that puts me in this condition. I hope that you all are doing alright who are reading this. I am starting to show some signs of wear and tear. I am also aware of all of those who are leaving us in this pandemic. The losses of important influences seem to pile up more each day. But we also know that some of our world will stay the same and all of us have some ties to traditions and institutions forged in tough times.

 

This is a time for dealing with the fact that life is not ever likely to be quite the same after the pandemic.  My life has been about moving beyond  various phases for a long time. It has not been a wasted life but it has not been a life that has led to much solid success. But it does seem that familiar virtues lie the heroic dedication of health care workers facing disease and the generosity of people to charities are on view, I personally am grateful for the largess of the government of my country to the millions including me whose lives have been upended. I am grateful to President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for finding the way to work together. Today, I hurt my shoulder and have all the stress of the pandemic accentuated by my physical injury but I am not facing financial crisis yet because of Unemployment Insurance benefit expansion and the Economic Impact Payment. I am grateful to have this relief. There are many other people getting other benefits as employers, spouses and employers for which I am not eligible. But I am getting old and tired and am grateful to get my piece of the pie. Maybe I can survive this crisis with a semblance of having my life intact.

Earlier in this blog I spent a lot of pages on grandiose plans and proposals for reform and radical change. I am too tired and run down to think much about those failures. I just think mostly about my life as a series of moments, days and experiences that might make up a life’s work and journey that I am not ashamed to have traveled.

The images in mt mind may be a review of life just before it ends…

or a pause before the journey and the work resume,

Tonight I am noting but not yet reacting to the fact that the United States has stopped funding the WHO. I am noting but not yet reacting to the fact there are real breaks in the supply chain. I am noting but not yet reacting to the fact that I am struggling to deal with the prospect of extended isolation. I am noting but not yet reacting to the cost some errors a few people in my set of connections made just before the crisis that are now amplified by these events, I have not gotten around to thinking about what all these disparate thoughts mean when they are called into the same context.

I do have to say goodbye to the resumption of my school schedule, The Governor of Louisiana has indicated that the school year will not open in the normal sense again for this academic year. I am trying to figure out all the ins and outs of the pandemic for myself. Substitute teaching for the Vermilion Parish School Board has been part of my life and income for 8 of the last 20 years.

The journey of a person through the years of life is not ever all that simple. I have been remembering the low lights and  highlights of my life. In my own case, the world today is very interesting but also not much my concern. I am not so much looking to change anything as I a looking to set my house in order on the way off the stage. I am not even at all confident that I can do that effectively.

 

I still find the need to comment on the great events of the day, I still believe what I believe and surmise what I surmise.  I have never  been so incredibly sure that my time for the shaping of larger events has come largely to an end, For me the focus must be on my personal final chapter or two for the remainder of my time on this earth.

This sense of how a crisis could come suddenly was in my lecture at the LHA  annual meeting when I spoke about the Cajun response to 1930. A sense of sudden sweeping crisis  was present in  what I wrote in this blog  just before the election of Donald Trump. I wrote this as part of one of my last posts before I started letting this blog go without  even trying to keep it going.

Back in 1860 few if any Americans expected the cataclysm which was about to engulf the nation. Even once they conceded that war was a formal likely hood on paper and maybe probable on the field most Americans believed that if started it would end quickly with their side victorious. James Chestnut, South Carolina’s senator and the famous Confederate diarist Mary’s husband, offered to personally drink all the blood shed in the struggle. What happened was an all out clash of millions and an ordeal of years. William J. Cooper Jr.’s book, We Have the War Upon Us does a good job of capturing the sense of that precipice on which America stood. Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from the last year or so before the actual shooting started is how unexpected it seemed to so many.

There is no way to reach any really clear assessment of the Obama Presidency just yet. He may have saved us from a Great Depression, maybe not. He may have done much better in the War on Terror than his predecessor who allowed the attacks on 9/11 which changed us so much. Or he may be responsible for disasters which have engulfed Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, Israel, Libya and Tunisia and other countries in a struggle which will endure for generations. He may have solved the fundamental problems of our healthcare crisis or he may have plunged us deeper into a new healthcare crisis. Certainly there will be no answers that satisfy those who are the most demanding observers and analysts right now. But the election is not in fifty or a hundred years. The election of the next President of the United States is Tuesday. There were fewer prominent Democrats on my ballot than I ever remember seeing in so many races and I usually vote for at least a few Democrats but this time I voted almost entirely for Republicans. However, I did vote for Chris Keniston for President of the United States. His Veterans Party will not take the White House however. So who will take it? Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will almost certainly take the Presidency. I am not happy with who we leave behind nor either option to which we now proceed. But I do hope that we will have a peaceful transition to a new administration.

Tonight, I am responsive to who I always was but I want arrange record and prepare for my relatively near exit. I do not want to jump much into the fray that matters, I am tired and the sky shows many signs of sunset.

Easter Sunday and New Starts

Maybe this is the most globally relevant Easter of my life. There are few times in history when more of the world has been hoping for a deliverance, a triumph over death and a coming forth from a sealed place of inactivity. But it is a time when I am not going to church and millions of others with whom I am connected are not going to church.

Christ is risen. I watched mass from New York, cooked nice food but not to share. Had a chocolate bunny my Mom managed to get to me in the restrictions of  the pandemic semi-quarantine. Exchanged Easter greetings with many. It was not a bad day, a little sad. But the big news of the day is how much the celebration of Easter has been interrupted. The image of the church below was taken by me but not today. I have not left the house  and yard where I live today.

Donors Dinner 2014 -- cameraphone 058

The St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church Where I was baptized, made my First Communion and was wed.

 

Here we are at a place to remember Easter differently. Links to my home Parish mass are available on their website and a link to one of the hymns from the streamed social distancing Easter Liturgy is available   here . I am also aware that my family members in some numbers went to Easter Praise in the Pasture on our family farm where families were kept at least five to six yards apart. I was not invited and really have done less and less religious stuff each year — I do not know if I would have gone. Probably not. I would have been my own cluster. Really the holidays can be a sad time every  year and this year is sad in a more universal way. So I must say that as we all struggle with this great pandemic we have to know that this is a struggle for a new life. Just as the Resurrected Christ was always known by all Christians to be different than a continuation of the historical Jesus of Nazareth  who shared our human condition, in the same way what is born after surviving a crisis like this is always somehow new. We must try to make the reality that comes out of this better in some way. Right now I deal fully engaged in just trying to survive the current crisis and be in a position to continue what I already found to be a life that was often more bitter than sweet and more troubled and frustrating than peaceful and hopeful.

Christ Rises to a New Life

I am aware of all the suffering and know that I too may fall to this virus before all is over. But I am aware that I have to think most about coming out of this able to meet the demands of the new normal whatever they are. In this passage there is the Easter holiday and that is today. Let us praise as best we each can. Let us find the Alleluia we can sing. Easter on Earth was never about perfection for us but about rejoicing in a promise of which we had a great mysterious sign.

So may this spring be a season of new life and hope for us.

Quarantine and Coping in the Life of Outlier

On this Good Friday, the world is in a very different place. We are in the midst of a terrible crisis that cannot be ignored even for a major holiday. The future is not entirely certain but it is certain that the present is greatly influenced by a single fact of the Covid -19 Pandemic. How much has this affected those who may still read this blog.

But no matter what the current situation of the readers of this little blog  we all know that many others have been affected. I am certainly one of those who has been affected. Everyone I talk to has been affected. It is in this context that we face this holiday. I tried to think a bit about it out loud on Facebook today. 

I believe that there will be a great deal of time to think about this Good Friday if I continue to exist in time. There is not much chance that it will blend in. The connection of this trauma to the trauma of Christ seems real enough.

art cathedral christ christian

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think that I am operating in the overly casual and isolated style of a lot of people during this time. I hope that I am relating properly to the whole experience and that the future will show that some of the Paschal mystery has had some effect on me.

It has been a challenge to process all the things on my mind this year. It is also typical of my posts that I try to take in a lot more than one topic.  Here is one of them. The blog itself.

This is Good Friday. It is part of the Easter Triduum. That is the  Holiest part of the traditional Christian calendar. It is not the only form of ritual, gathering and community that we will miss during these days of quarantine. Until recently, I have been away from this blog for a while. But the blog is not about sitting at home alone. I was created in large part by sitting home alone but it is not about that.  Today I will not make the way of the cross I will not go to the drive through memorial service for Dr. Ray Authement who has died. He was the President who dressed me in the symbolic regalia when I was honored as Outstanding Graduate in the USL 1989 Commencement Exercises.

I am trying to honor the Death memorial of Jesus Christ in my own way but it is not what I wish it was as far as keeping Good Friday goes.  My cousin Bill Massey is now a priest and Saint Anne’s church and on his website for that church he has many video links but he also has this religious service which he led posted on SoundCloud. It is the best use of my day perhaps to point to other observations of the occasion. Last year as I presented a lecture at the Louisiana Historical Association annual meeting with two others on a panel I spoke of a year of Global crisis in 1930 and I used the writing s of a priest  from Mamou as one of my sources. That has been on my mind throughout this crisis. Good Friday makes it more real.

 

 

The Catholic celebrations which are so much a part of my heritage. Have passed more into the lives of others in my family and less into my own life. But this year I feel akin to all those who feel a bit outside the center of things and connected as well.

Return to Acadie

I am still trying to find my way through all of the suffering and death surrounding me. I am blessed that it has not yet affected me more than it has. before it is over I may feel more connected to the suffering and death of this day’s tradition. But since I left this blog my world has narrowed in many ways and I am mostly concerned with small matters around me.  However any of you are dealing with this  I truly wish you well.

 

Now and Then: A view of the Covid-19 Pandemic

I put a picture of the Pope celebrating Palm Sunday mass in a mostly empty St. Peter’s Basilica at the top of the first version of this note. I watched his mass on Telemundo broadcast out of Lafayette , Louisiana early on Sunday morning. I do not go to church as much as I used to but I was moved by his timeless celebration of the mystery and history of Palm Sunday and dealing with the current crisis of the Covid-19 Pandemic. For me the Mass was an example of Now and Then views of this crisis and this moment. For me the now was mostly about how empty the church was. It got me thinking about the Then and Now of my own response to the Virus and its effects. For Americans we want to know if we will get our stimulus checks sooner or later. We also might want to know if there will be an effect from monetizing the debt to pay for the stimulus of trillions of dollars. We want to know if our loved ones being tested or in a hospital today for something other than Covid-19 are going to be doing OK today and tomorrow. We also wonder about whether this plague will run its full course and pass out of our lives in a time frame of months, years or decades.
Today, there are now responsibilities that each of us have in the NOW. Anything written about this pandemic that does not remind people to do what they can with hygiene, social distancing and supporting community efforts at survival is probably a dangerous distraction. The basic focus our response to this crisis has to be the personal aspects of life such as hand washing, social distancing, caring for those we can very carefully but still sufficiently to meet there basic needs. However, not all of us can realistically limit our response to such things. Beyond that need for exhortation most of us have a need for news and reporting current events in this ongoing crisis. On my Facebook profile I have been posting news as well. But people are doing other things besides following basic health guidelines and keeping informed about the events of the day. So for that group of purposeful readers who have time to read a piece that has a perspective that looks at this experience a bit more in depth and close up as a view of things, then this note may be for you.
I have been as engaged with the now of this crisis as I have been able to be. The truth is that it has been pretty small stuff overall. I have, for example, taken three texts that I have gotten from the school board for which I work and spliced them together in a Facebook post.
In an effort to continue to provide meals and maintain the safety and health of the staff, students, parents/guardians and community, we are announcing a new program that will deliver meals to your doorstep for free. This program is called Meals-to-You, and it is a partnership between our district, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Baylor University. Your student(s) enrolled with the Vermilion Parish School Board are eligible to participate in the program. Households are urged to complete an application by Wednesday, April 8, 2020 by 11:59 pm to receive the meals.
WHO QUALIFIES? -All VPSB students enrolled at a CEP school site -Siblings, 0-18 yrs, living in the home of a student enrolled at a CEP school site -All VPSB students enrolled at a non-CEP school site that are currently receiving free or reduced meals -Siblings, 0-18 yrs, living in the home of a student enrolled at non-CEP school site receiving free/reduced meals
HOW DO YOU SIGN-UP All you have to do is fill out the form online by the due date of April 8, 2020. The application can be accessed using the following link: https://mealstoyou.org/emergency-meals-to-you-application/ If Vermilion Parish School Board is not offered as an option on the online application, please try again the next day. There may be some delays in the application processing due to the overwhelming response by the community to the Meals-to-You program.
The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty is excited to work with school districts and state agencies across the U.S. to ensure students have the nutritious meals they need, even when school is closed.
I am happy to act locally when I can. But I am thinking globally as many people are, in this case. This crisis is very much shared by a huge portion of the world’s population at the same time. We all are affected by the crisis but we are not all affected in the same way. There is a smorgasbord of suffering in this crisis. It is not a simple soup kitchen of pain serving an equal modest portion to a vast number of people. We all will pay a different price perhaps and in that way it is different from the typical buffet or smorgasbord.
This pandemic comes at a particular time and in a particular set of circumstances for each of us. Stress is there for everyone and for some people it is coming at a moment of leadership and celebrity and that brings a set of challenges as each action is subject to public scrutiny. That sense of being looked to doe answers is the burden some will remember as specific to this pandemic. That is one flavor of burden, while for 0thers the burden is that this pandemic comes in the midst of the milestone events and seasons of human life such as a senior year, an engagement or a moment of dealing with a new pregnancy or having a baby. We all have to deal with the pandemic according to the place we find ourselves in life. The truth is that we do need to analyze past behavior and its consequences. But we do not discuss such things only for rational reasons. To be in leadership or in a position of influence is to be part of the blame game to some degree. We know that around the world the effort to deal with all of this danger, death and destruction of wealth in ways specific to their location and situation.
At some risk of copyright violations I am including this long excerpt from the online edition of the Washington Post.
Here are some significant developments:
U.S. hospitals are facing “severe” and widespread shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators, testing supplies and staff, according to a newly released watchdog report from the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
With the outbreak accelerating in Japan’s largest cities, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will declare a state of emergency in seven prefectures this week. People will be asked to stay indoors, but no legal penalties will be imposed for noncompliance. “Even though we will declare a state of emergency, we will not lock cities down as has been done overseas,” Abe said.
Spain has been ravaged by the virus, but the rate of new infections is slowing. And while officials said Monday that 637 people had died in the previous 24 hours, it was Spain’s lowest number of deaths in two weeks. “These figures confirm the downward trend and stabilization,” Health Minister Santiago Illa said.
U.S. and global stock markets soared Monday as investors took in overseas progress against the coronavirus. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped more than 900 points, or 4 percent, at the opening bell Monday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq composite also moved steeply higher.
India is converting passenger train cars into isolation facilities with the capacity to hold 80,000 people as coronavirus infections increase in the world’s second-most populous country. India is in the midst of a three-week shutdown of its most-used mode of transportation, and the cars can be routed to wherever the need is severe.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stayed overnight in the hospital as a “precautionary” measure after his coronavirus symptoms persisted for 10 days.
President Donald Trump gets a lot of attention as a leader in the media that I access and so does Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. Criticisms are plentiful as are praises and defenses of the leadership exercised by each of these two men. But we all know that one who is actually in charge of making decisions in the crisis has some degree of responsibility for the outcome that others do not. Each country, person and region faces its own version of this global crisis. I mentioned in my last note that I have been and continue to be a plasma donor and try to see how that plays out as my response. But we all know that many of us will never be content merely to respond — we are committed by a lifetime of habit to finding some answers to why, how, when, what and Who questions that relate to this larger crisis. The larger and riskier part of this query is related to causes and culpability. We believe that there is fault and we have not any real chance that we will agree as to how that blame is apportioned. The fact that his is occurring in the world of domestic political competition and geopolitical tensions means that blame will be and important part of the resolution. Many of us who are involved in the blaming game do not have enough influence to see our actions and words subject to much scrutiny. But some of us believe that we should have had more influence and for whatever reason were unable get access to that influence.
I was looking at a story online about a novel that discussed the impact of a fictional coronavirus. The person writing the news article was saying that the novel was rejected by publishers because of its bleak portrayal of the pandemic or epidemic and then arguing that it was very much on point. While I have been published many times , I have never published a book. I have written a novel in which the society of the future has been reshaped in many ways by a history of pandemics and viruses which occur between the time the reader would have been reading the novel if it had sold early. The prescience of that novel is one of the way back then questions for me. What would my role be in this crisis if the novel had been published back then? Would that voice have made any difference in preparedness and would it have made any difference for my own situation in riding out this crisis. There are many then observations of that kind in my past. I wrote in a number of places about viruses.
Of course Now is never really now for a long enough period of time to matter in any writing, But in the category of nearly now I have been trying to pass information to friends who may need it and not have as much time as I do to sort through all the sources of information from the various layers of government… Here is an example of some of that kind of data. It is a snippet from The White House: {Help for America’s Small Businesses and Their Workers
“We want workers to have work, not to become dependent on the unemployment system,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza write for Fox Business.
“Small businesses often lack the reserves and access to liquidity that large companies can call upon in hard times. The Paycheck Protection Program”—signed by President Trump on March 27—“addresses this by offering small business loans of up to $10 million . . . Critically, the loans are forgivable if the business retains and continues paying its workers for eight weeks.” }
It seems to me to be a fairly good use of what time I have channel information around as best I can. When I am involved in this process then I am also engaged in asking questions about the right now course of things. I ask if the curve is flattening, if the stock market is really rallying and if some countries are really getting back to normal . But as I face what is a situation of our country and my region racing towards the apex of this crisis I am aware of other things I wrote and observed in the past and I am wondering what I can do now and could have done then given what I new and proclaimed about my own situation. My health is part of that situation. Here is another “then” observation:
“Frank Wynerth Summers III
March 27, 2014 ·
I had severe croup and asthma as a child and I have never had what some athlete’s call great wind. My pulmonary capacity has been a challenge on several occasions although for a few years it was pretty good. I have smoked socially and lived in places plagued with dust, allergens and smog in very serious degrees. I do not expect to reach a hale old age. but the other day I made a recording of my voice and heard myself more or less gasping for air as I have not in very many years heard it. I suppose that this is another thing to watch for in what remains of my lifespan. I function pretty well. But I may have some symptoms of hypoxia as well.
I was probably never the picture of health but we all remember the best days we’ve known as pretty good. There have been times when I remember feeling pretty well most of the day on most days.”
Better days have come and gone in my life and I am in part hoping that they will come again. I am addressing this moment from the situation in which I find myself. Most of us are aware of who is wielding the influence in our society. We know that in the Now we have to do whatever we do with an awareness of who is actually making the more weighty choices. While most of us accept the basic realities, some of us believe that we should have had more influence and for whatever reason were unable get access to that influence. I have written about ways I would have liked to change things and I think that there is some chance that this pandemic will be my last chapter in this life and if it is I will be thinking about what might have been different if I had been more successful when I am dying. There are many things I still would like to do and one of those things is to try to help people with their insurance and annuity needs. But maybe I won’ t get to do that. I have a lot to do right now and also a sense of forced idleness — it is hard to keep a perspective that makes sense. But looking back at the past and hoping for the future I hope to keep things on course and come out of all this with a life I can accept.
On this Monday of Holy Week 2020, I and many others face the challenge of trying to understand the suffering and destiny of this year regardless of what we may lack as regards our memories of other Holy Weeks. This is just a different year. I am aware of the weaknesses of my own country, the world and many other people. I see the shortcomings and I know how little attention my own writing gets and how I could probably find many ways to better spend my time than by writing these essays and thoughts. But I do write and I do think that somehow it matters that I write. But it does not matter as much as the struggle for ventilators, vaccines and treatments that is going on around the world. China was under a lot of stress from the American trade war when this epidemic got out of control in Wuhan. Many in leadership in America and elsewhere dismissed the threat while China also punished the doctor from Wuhan who sounded the alarm on this virus and later died of its ravages. Bill gates had proclaimed the threat of viruses to the modern world and was working with Chinese institutions to deal with the threat. He is still working on the crisis. China sent out the DNA sequences of the virus right way and Americans led in rapid designs of a vaccine. China continues to provide emergency supplies to other countries and the United States. The USA has been developing technologies likely to hep other countries get through this scourge. Each country has stories of someone who has led an important effort on a world stage or their own country’s battlefield against this plague. But the truth is that we will be judging all these responses for a long time. I am only just able to do what I must do now. But I am also very aware that I will be thinking about these issues for a long time. I lived in China, I have been a substitute teacher in Louisiana. I would like to hep families prepare for the hard times with my new insurance license, These and any other things form my own lens on this crisis.
Among other things I am sure that this will be the subject of discussion for a long time. I am aware that this is an historic moment in time. It is a time that brings all remembered times and the hopes of the future into focus.