Back To “Normal”

Featured

There has been a lot of talk lately about returning to normalcy. Before the pandemic hit America the nation was struggling with many issues. There were several fissures in the body politic. Never before this moment had the country been torn asunder by an invisible threat.

Our economy has been the engine that drove us through recessions and social upheaval. The wages of workers stopped rising after 1980. Remained stagnant through 2020.

If you grew up in America between 1955 and 1985 you were indoctrinated into a man’s world. Captains of industry were male. Physical strength dominated. Being smart was deemed weak or ‘gay’.

What men hide is the ability to empathize. To express emotion in a normative way is suppressed. We as a society are paying today in political divides and fringe pursuits of false ideas that support a nation in isolation.

When I was a kid boys always acted strong. Being physical was the primary motivator in boys.

America was so busy working and living mostly private lives decades before Facebook that boys’ real needs could be missed.

The politicians pass laws. Parents do their best. Why were our kids killing one another before this crisis?

The gendered kids of this time and place are wondering what happened to them. People who cannot conceive of anything outside their prescribed norms are angered or scared that gendering could be wrong.

Has anyone asked if closing the schools could end school shootings? Recently a lot of people have suggested this crazy notion. Actually, without schools kids lose crucial development of social skills. Those with limited resources miss meals that schools provide.

America has yet to really tackle the social pandemic of massacres, addiction, and lack of empathy.

A return to normal? What normal are people longing for?

Vaping was killing kids, socially isolated boys were killing classmates, and adults were being killed by opioids.

The rising tide of Anti-Semitism was killing innocent people too.

Police brutality has resulted in a renewal of civil unrest not seen in fifty years.

Leadership is absent.

Should we not imagine a society that is anything but normal?

Trans people, Women, and Racism must be addressed. Just to name a few issues.

During the recent Memorial Day holiday states were informed that if they met certain metrics they could begin re-opening.

I walked around my city. Central Park was full of people socially distancing. Picnics were few and far between on the lawns. Children played. But it was just New Yorkers this year. Anything but normal.

I read the paper every day to check in on the latest concerning the virus. The pandemic has hit the poor the hardest. And economies that have all their eggs in the hospitality basket are in serious trouble.

Has the pandemic stripped away people’s illusions surrounding capitalism? Now we have a clearer idea of just how fragile our social system has become in the last 50 years.

People throw around new wordage to describe our ‘new normal’ but this is a much more serious matter.

Re-opening is not a race. States are finding new outbreaks where there were none until people began to disregard safety measures.

The virus has managed to do what Russian interference could not: push Americans to the brink of a new Civil War.

People who have not fallen ill are voicing their anger toward officials for closing their states.

As New York attempts to re-open let us all hope new cases of Covid—19 do not return us to square one.

The Covid Age is just beginning…

Tao Of Bob

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

—–excerpted lyrics from Hard Times by Bob Dylan (1992)

Beyond Here Lies Nothing

Featured

Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Pandemic.

There will be a new world developing over the next 2 years. Some will get to work. Others will get to die. This sounds harsh. Reality is not without pain.

I experienced a lot of physical pain this week. My back went out. Then after recovering from back spasms I wrenched a muscle in my chest.

The pain was crippling. All I could do was sit in a firm chair. The Global Citizen special relieved my stress. I am still recovering. I had mild fevers too.

All injuries today are approached haltingly that it could be Covid—19. It will be years before a vaccine is made widely available. I did not have the virus.

I have learned for myself that this awful time in our shared lives is like all things just temporary.

Before this emergency most Americans were oblivious to the pain lived daily by people without means.

Now many of them know what it’s like to have less. Disease is a leveler of inequality; a forced end to armed conflicts. I am learning to love the pandemic.

Most of America is now a welfare state. Learning the hard way that a strong social safety net is not a bad thing to have in place if things go badly.

I refuse the pie-in-the-sky prediction of reopening the economy. There will not be the same culture anymore.

New York will lose $10 billion during this crisis. The Fed will literally allow us to drop dead.

Forget what you thought was good for you before this emergency hastened by globalization and policies devised by right wing zealots.

You are not better than anyone else. The massive base of working poor must be enabled to get out of poverty.

Progressive policy making will make this a better reality and recovery for all.

We must confront racism, voter repression, and cruel doses of capitalism meant only to make millionaires become billionaires.

Those who are happy looking down upon others have a long in waiting come uppance to experience for the next decade.

America’s folly of allowing right leaning demagogues to enrich themselves with wars of choice is at an end.

The entire world will suffer together. I have learned to love the pandemic since it has the potential to unlock dormant energy from people who deserve a healthy planet.

Our system cannot sustain our population. If you watch news provided by just 6 state supported companies you get their picture of what they want you to believe is a good outcome.

Restaurants and other small businesses were being thrown out of business by greedy landlords long before Covid.

The pie-in-the-sky I cling to is the hope that we can allow industries to die for the sake of human survival.

Let the cruise industry end. The billionaire class only believes in welfare for other billionaires. Let movie theaters end. These businesses are not worth our lives.

What worked for the 20th Century does not work for the 21st. The corporate state will use all of its resources to convince you that a world of endless sequels and violence is just entertainment.

Our streaming platforms have made theaters unnecessary. They want you to pay for their shoddy product. I say no.

Let us create together a spirit for a new era of capitalism tempered with a strong social safety net. And provide grants to cities that grow green renewable energy.

I dream of fast food becoming a thing of the past. Let them go out of business.

Move low wage workers into a federally funded training process to work for higher wages in green businesses.

I was living mostly like a partially quarantined citizen before Covid. Now the rest of society is equal with my reality.

I have empathy for those who thought being upwardly mobile was okay. People must know that no matter their circumstances it’s not okay to leave people behind because access was eliminated by a narrow greedy class.

Living large is not okay. Many places across the country are finding out the hard way we have a housing problem because too many were sold a bill of goods that huge homes were your right.

The American dream is a nightmare of 20th Century thinking. Mostly white male identity that enabled huge cavities of poverty in cities and suburbs alike.

Let this pandemic open your eyes. Let go of your apathy. Downsize soon. My husband and I just want a one bedroom apartment with a normal rent. No living space should cost over a thousand dollars.

If the census is accurate we will see New York City get less from the Fed. Allowing developers to build million dollar cell blocks was never a good idea.

I think people need to become aware of the big picture. NYC & Co. Times Square Alliance are the corporate takeover of public spaces. Their short-term view is a disaster now.

Tourist economies were for third world nations. Why did the richest country in history turn New York into a seamy tourist theme park? Wax museum, a Believe-It-Or-Not gallery, and a lot of junky movie theaters. Our politicians did nothing for actual residents of this city.

Now we are in free fall. Will social conditions devolve back to the 1970’s? More than likely a state of disrepair will prevail. A result of our political class applying short cuts instead of the hard work of creating sustainability.

I just read that the city of Tulsa, OK offers $10,000 to new renters if eligible. Apartments are $825 a month. Bye bye New York.

Tao of Bob

My newfound support of Bob Dylan applies strongly to our country. My blog will feature his lyrics when appropriate. Here’s this week’s debut installment:

Come writers and critics, who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win.

For the times they are a changin.

See you next week dear readers!

The City Sleeps

Featured

Another week is done. I have calendars in my apartment. Two in fact. One features puppies in silly outfits and poses to fit the month/season. The other is a New Yorker magazine cartoon-a-day.

The small things that went unnoticed are now prime pins in my mental machinery. They keep me safe. Taking an anti-depressant is the other component in this equation.

Here we are in New York without sitdown service in restaurants. One diner remains with delivery. It’s called Midnite Express after the drug trafficking movie from the 1970s.

Funny to think how the underbelly of society is operating now. Are they wearing masks too? Everyone is required to wear them now.

So with all this time on our hands we come up with projects. My latest was listening to the entire Bob Dylan catalog. I found out I could listen to 9 albums in one day. This infuriated my beloved husband but I was determined to finish in less than a week.

No theater. No baseball. No concerts. Summer will present a challenge. No day trips. May there be no heatwaves nor hurricanes. Oh, the city pools will not open. The last time that happened was the polio pandemic.

We should remind ourselves daily we must allow the health sector to do its best to curtail new illness. We should also keep in mind that all workers are valuable in any economy. Do not scapegoat.

At 7 each evening New Yorkers are banging pots and pans while cheering for nurses and doctors; food deliverers, store clerks; pharmacists, drugstore clerks. Hand in hand those with advanced educations and those with limited resources are working together to keep us all safe.

The city is quiet. You cannot help but feel how fragile society can become when faced with these unusual circumstances. New York pride was once about being open all the time. Things have changed.

Before the pandemic hit Manhattan the complaints to 311 (our city services number) over noise was hitting records. Subway ridership was bursting, and tourism was high.

Now those complaints are not happening and the subways are empty save essential workers. No tourists.

The past 2 administrations created a city for visitors. This has proved to be a shortsighted vision. Without their revenue now what do we do?

The city sleeps. Schools are closed. Life will not return to normal. Our lack of hindsight has proven to be our folly in 2020, funnily enough a year whose numbers literally mean healthy vision.

Last night at twelve Bob Dylan released another single, “I Contain Multitudes”, referencing Walt Whitman, Anne Frank, and the Rolling Stones! Mr. D is doing his part.

See you next week dear readers!

The Great Society

Change has been forced upon the population. Humanity faces another pandemic. This time it’s global!

The fault is not in the stars but in ourselves. We were sold a bill of goods.

For better or worse, the entire world became a small village. Air travel made it possible to be exposed to all kinds of new experiences.

Ultimately this includes our health. Now we face potential utter collapse.

Once upon a time there was the political idea of a ‘Great Society’. A social safety net in times of need.

Decades were tossed away to never ending corporate gain which has resulted in deep inequality.

Healthcare for profit has been a disaster. Why are we so short on medical supplies?

Why are we still occupying Afghanistan?

Last week I wrote about the consolidation of media power. This week just take a look at how this pandemic is being reported.

Social distance is one thing. Canceling an entire culture is quite another. I tend to see the big picture.

Closing theaters, postponing primaries, and telling a supposed free people to stay home is not a long-term solution.

Democracy means nothing if we do not live up to the ideals of land of the free, home of the brave.

Here in New York City no resident could stay home for a long period of time. The living spaces encourage outdoor activity.

Why are our leaders allowing the economy to drop so rapidly? This crisis can be the pathway to 100% employment.

By hiring and training people to convert malls, armories, and former retail spaces into medical facilities we could employ hundreds of thousands.

This conversion must happen now. Later will be increasing numbers of infected people with no beds in place; no quarantine spaces.

In just a few weeks the nation went from debates over socialism to wondering how they can cover daily expenses.

Our government is going to provide mortgage relief. A little bit of socialism can go a long way in this imperfect system.

We must put public pressure on our officials to sit down to do the hard work of forming a smarter agenda.

The idea of The Great Society was to provide healthcare as a right. Create new pathways to economic stability. And face the original sin of slavery.

Just think for a moment if you can see a brighter future for every citizen if we continue to feed deep inequality.

If we profit off the sick and infirm and ignore the treatment of prisoners as not human can we claim to be moral?

The environment is shared universally around the world. We the people need to step up to demand this issue be taken seriously. Our money means nothing if an entire population is drowned by rising sea levels.

I feel strongly the best we can do for ourselves is to reach out through Skype or Zoom to fellow citizens to debate these ideas. We must challenge our leaders.

I also think less TV news is a must for people. If you have to look at the headlines use factual outlets.

Cable news is probably the worst source for facts.

NPR and WNYC radio are solid outlets in the Big Apple. The New York Times provides updates, just don’t stare too long.

Grassroots organizing is still the best way to bring together the new ideas for galvanizing a culture that has been taught for generations how to be non-political and compliant with the worst possible agenda.

Take your daily walks/exercise, read a lot, and learn to think for yourself how we can better this now literally sick society.

L.B.J. introduced The Great Society during his presidency in response to poverty.

The Handmaid’s Tale/ Opinion

This week Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited novel, “The Testaments”, arrives in print. A continuation of her 1985 speculative fiction, “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

The new book takes place fifteen years after and serves as a conclusion to this story. The Handmaid’s Tale struck a nerve with millions of readers.

Ms. Atwood has published several novels, children’s books, and poetry. The narrative poses a reality that has happened in other social orders around this world.

This discussion is only my opinion; interested in the political science of this story; it can happen here.

The title is meant to evoke Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”. The total invisibility of women from the medieval record allowed us to reach this dangerous time.

A strong affirmation that men willingly blind themselves from the idea of women as human. Although America did not exist in Chaucer’s day, nobody even imagined a place like our USA.

In this tale women are solely vessels for reproduction. Nothing more. The terms used are fruitful or barren. A return to simpler days. Deceptively simple. A literal interpretation of The Bible.

The United States government is violently overthrown by a sect calling themselves the “Sons Of Jacob”. A new order based upon the books of Genesis in the Old Testament is imposed.

The University was a place of learning. Now the campus is confinement. The former Library is now the Headquarters of “The Eyes”—a secret police force. The dorms are still housing.

Strict caste groupings place women as servants to man. They are no longer able to vote, hold position, read nor write, and must procreate. Accept for brothels, drinking and smoking are off limits too.

The new Republic of Gilead is inspired by American Puritanism of the 19th century. Divorce has been outlawed. All women are considered adulteresses whom now must repent with their assigned “Commanders”.

All men no matter their rank wear some type of paramilitary uniform. They must serve in wars to expand Gilead as well as defend her from all enemies.

The women are Handmaids who take the names of their men. The central narrative follows Offred, “Of fred”, a pun on the word offered.

Their uniform is a red gown with white habit that restricts their peripheral view. They wear black boots and carry baskets.

Women can only travel in pairs. They are expected to police each other. Speaking of anything but the proscribed edicts may result in exile to the ‘colonies’ or death.

The outside colonies are toxic due to environmental disaster. Once in exile the life expectancy is three years.

The Aunts are akin to a religious order. They do not marry. Their position is considered a calling. They have limited reading privileges—the rules of Gilead; Handmaid etiquette.

The sequel novel pivots from the Handmaids to the Aunts’ power. We see Gilead from the outside.

The “Aunts” wear brown uniforms. They train the handmaids. Instilling in their charges how they can redeem their sinful ways. If a Handmaid breaks a rule an Aunt may beat them.

The new society is walled in by brick and barbed wire. Every Handmaid lives in utalitarian quarters. The image of the all seeing eye is inscribed in the ceiling of every room.

The “Eyes” are the secret police. Anyone who breaks the fundamental codes of Gilead are punished. The “Salvaging” is a communal ritual that features mass executions of law breakers.

Handmaid’s main function is to bear children for their Commander’s infertile “Wives”.

The “Marthas” are old infertile women of lower rank. They are domestic servants and wear green.

“Econowives” are non-elite maidens expected to be companions, child bearers and domestic servants. They wear all three colors to represent this status: green, blue, and red.

If women cannot bear children, are gay, dissident, nuns, and anything else deemed unworthy of the power structure of Gilead they are cast away into the polluted colonies. Forever known as “Unwomen”. Any child born unhealthy is an unbaby.

The chosen few, especially Wives of Commanders, can become “Jezebels” in the government sanctioned brothels.

Men who are not commanders are “Angels”, mostly young and old; mentally disabled. When they come of age they can become “Soldiers” to fight and die in battle.

The Jewish people are permitted to leave. Many board ships bound for Israel. Although the Mayday resistance reports many are thrown overboard.

People of color are sent away to their ‘homelands’.

In this new order everyone is a victim. Men die if they are unable to perform their roles, despite being in positions of power. The novel’s main focus, however, is on the loss of power women inherit.

Before the coup, women had been gaining power. This is no longer the case. The modern city state has been dissolved. Men describe the women as having a ‘witch odor’. Misogyny has enabled this fall.

Offred slowly becomes a dissident in the making. Serena Joy, a former television Evangelist cannot have children. She offers her driver, Nick, to Offred.

Her former husband is Luke, whereabouts unknown. Her best friend from college, Moira, is a lesbian who winds up serving in a brothel.

I felt like an outsider since the novel uses unreliable narrators to tell its tale. This reinforced for me how impenetrable Gilead was to those on the outside.

Walls are not just built to keep others out; it’s to keep its subjects in as defacto prisoners of a new order.

Oppressive regimes are real. All over the world we see the rise of Authoritarian leaders. The current U.S. is in the grips of a grinding crisis in its politics.

Speculating on the methods in which power preserves itself the book illustrates what can happen to those who deviate from their expected roles.

Offred on one of her walks with her required company sees bodies hanging from hooks on the wall. An example. You may not run.

The resistance is known as Mayday. Offred cannot be sure who is on the right side. Will she be found out? Scholars have placed this book next to Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ for its depiction of a dystopian social order.

The ‘Eyes’ certainly evoke Big Brother and the castes are similar to “Brave New World’s” vision. However, this is a woman’s unique point of view. I think centuries of ignorance has allowed us to lose a much needed female perspective.

The book concentrates on how this society operates. There are public gatherings. “The Ceremony” is a ritual in which Handmaidens and Wives copulate with their Commanders.

The two non-human female bodies act as one to redeem their Commander. This is one of the passages in the book that many groups in the U.S. object to reading.

For myself, this is a much warranted idea. Expressed in graphic terms, this ritual provides a terrible window into this awful new world. A caution to us all.

On her journey we see the allowance of shopping. Offred is taken to the Brothel. Dressed in clothes thought to have been burned.

The clothes of ‘showbiz’ with feathers and sparkle. Some of the women are dressed in the iconic Playboy Bunny uniform.

This objectification of the female form is now a function of government. A relief from her new reality only because vice is permitted. She knows only that escape must be possible; she hordes hope.

At the later portion of the story, Offred has been able to communicate furthur with resistance figures. Following this we get a glimpse into the systemic penalties inflicted upon men who fail to meet the new edicts of Gilead.

The ritual called ‘Particicution’ takes place inside of a yard at recess. The Handmaids are like school kids, waiting for the Aunt’s whistle.

The accused is a former Commander who has raped his maid. At the blow of the whistle the women are expected to tear him limb from limb. Offred does her part. Reluctant, she knows to not take part would lead to punishment.

T0 act or not to act; To Be or Not To Be. This becomes Offred’s existential dilemma. At the end of the story we do not know her future. It is left up to the reader.

The questions raised by this book I think are great political science topics. Groups that attempt to censor are missing the point.

We need ideas to be presented in the public square. If not the public square may disappear. And then we may find ourselves all living as victims inside the walls of our own Gilead.

  • “The Handmaid’s Tale”, originally published in 1985.
  • “The Testaments”, published September 10, 2019.
  • Author of both novels, Margaret Atwood.
  • A graphic novel treatment, adapted by Renee Nault, is also available.

In 2016, streaming service Hulu premiered a serial based upon the now classic novel. Starring Elisabeth Moss as June Osbourne (L); Samira Wiley as Moira Strand (Middle). (R) A scene from the series.

June 2019 the third season appeared on Hulu.

 In July 2019, the television series was renewed for a fourth season.

 In September 2019, it was announced that Hulu and MGM were developing a sequel series, to be based on Atwood’s 2019 novel The Testaments.