What Must Be Done

Moving forward toward a more egalitarian compassionate society is the American tradition. We’ve been a world leader for this specific reason and we cannot step back from our evolving moral challenges. This moment cries out for a clear vision of what we must do to continue that tradition. I’ve jotted down a few of my ideas but welcome feedback both pro and con.

1. Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, terminated under Ronald Reagan.  

“It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.”[1]

2. Significantly increase federal funding for schools to bring teacher salaries closer to professional standards. Add to Common Core educational standards for K-12 to include more vigorous education in civics, history, and science. Add debate and classes on world’s major religions to required courses.[2]

3. Expand curricula standards to home school and religious school requirements. High school diploma should not be granted to anyone who has not satisfactorily completed Common Core benchmarks.

4. Tax any church or organization that advocates Dominionism, a form of political advocacy that would in essence overturn the U. S. Constitution. This advocacy violates tax-exempt status.

“An example of dominionism in reformed theology is Christian reconstructionism, which originated with the teachings of R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s and 1970s. Rushdoony’s theology focuses on theonomy (the rule of the Law of God), a belief that all of society should be ordered according to the laws that governed the Israelites in the Old Testament. His system is strongly Calvinistic, emphasizing the sovereignty of God over human freedom and action…”[3]

5. Enact mandatory two-year government service for every eighteen year old. This would serve in most cases as a type of apprenticeship. Military, Peace Corps, AmeriCorpsVISTA are forms of diplomacy and peace keeping. New services that could include Sciencecorps (to work with forestry, marine, agriculture, medical agencies), Vocational Services (similar to WPA, to work on nation’s infrastructure in jobs including engineering, carpentry, welding, concrete work, etc.), Art Services working alongside accomplished artists, musicians, writers to provide useable materials/performances for various venues. Etc.

6. Require each American adult who has not served in a program outlined in #5 above to volunteer one day of work each year within their local government, either city, county, or state. Refusal to participate would result in withholding driver’s license renewal or other penalty. Handicapped and persons over 65 would be exempt. Alternative could include attending one local political party meeting per year (established parties only).

7. Form bipartisan committee to study pros and cons of terminating the Electoral College. The presidency must represent the will of the people NOT the states.

8. Congress must take action to end gerrymandering and other forms of voter manipulation/suppression.

9. Congress must re-enact the ban on assault weapons and streamline regulations governing background checks to include gun shows and online sales.

10. Congress must streamline immigration procedures and services, provide adequate funding to expand staff sufficient to process all asylum applicants in a timely manner, and – most importantly – focus U.S. aid in Latin American nations from which most asylum seekers are fleeing in order to stop violence and economic problems that lead to emigration.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_fairness_doctrine

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Core_State_Standards_Initiative

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion_theology

More Republican Failure

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9120709/MAGA-rioters-destroy-television-cameras-chase-news-crews-Capitol.html

“He did it first!”

This childish whine, in so many words, emerged Thursday from the lips of right wingers from Mitch McConnell down to FOX pundits on The Five. Democrats, according to them, were no better than Wednesday’s rioters, when fires and looting occurred last summer in various cities around the nation. Or when the elections of 2000, 2004, and 2016 fell under public scrutiny and led to questions regarding the legitimacy of the subsequent presidency.

That’s their excuse, their pathetic effort to somehow escape censure for their failed president and his ‘leadership’ in fomenting an attempted coup.

This gloss does not withstand even cursory scrutiny.

First, the violent street demonstrations.

Rioter destruction to buildings in Minneapolis

Protests over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police erupted in the streets of Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, and over 2,000 cities and towns in over 60 countries in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Between 15 million and 26 million people participated in these protests, the largest outpouring of public rage in the nation’s history. Investigations concluded that about 93% of the protests were peaceful, but in a few locations, violence including arson, looting, and assault resulted in an estimated $1-2 billion in damages nationally.

Under President Trump’s not-so-subtle encouragement, racism flared into full bloom during his term, a seeming grant of carte blanche to white extremists which in turn ignited protests. Multiple other black lives lost to excessive police violence (Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and more) and the two protesters killed in Kenosha by a 19-year-old white militant Kyle Rittenhouse became part of these events where protesters demanded changes to police practices as well as the removal of local statuary honoring Confederate heroes and slave traders.

These protests involved citizens of communities massing in their town centers to demand change in local policies and civic entities (police, lawmakers) that heretofore had led to disproportionate deaths of people of color. For the sake of brevity, we will not delve into clear evidence that in at least some instances, alt-right actors penetrated peaceful protests to instigate violence and property damage.

There is no comparison between these protests and the invasion of the nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021. For over nine weeks since his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, Trump had refused to accept election results, claiming the election was rigged. He agitated and advocated for his followers to take action, promising that on January 6, it “will be wild.” On the morning of the 6th, he held a rally at which he aggrandized his accomplishments, denigrated his opponents including some Republicans, and elaborated at length on convoluted conspiracy theories meant to explain why he had been the legitimate winner of the presidential election.

Trump’s speech, which rambled on for over an hour, concluded with:

“So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give… The Democrats are hopeless. They’re never voting for anything, not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” [Italics mine.]

Rabid followers expressed no doubt as to what their leader expected of them. What followed has been burned into the brains of virtually every American as we watched masses of Trump true-believers storm the Capitol, overrun security guards, vandalize, steal, and invade the inner sanctums of the people’s house, the center of our nation’s government. One demonstrator occupied the speaker’s chair to proclaim Trump the president. Others roamed, strewing papers and files, no doubt searching for the elector ballots in an effort destroy official election results.

This was no local protest about policies and public services that need reform. This was a directed effort to overturn a presidential election. An attempted coup. This is not equivalent to anti-racism street protests by any stretch of the imagination.

But oh, they want to make it so. Even as they voice outrage at the violence and destruction, they scramble for excuses of why it’s no worse than the summer protests. They want, more than anything, to shift the blame from themselves for aiding and abetting Trump’s lunacy over the last four years and somehow make it about Democrats.

Democrats alongside Republicans and all the rest did not endorse or in any way approve of protesters setting buildings on fire or the looting of private property. We can ALL agree that violence and property destruction is not the right path. That is not the way to solve problems in our society, whether we’re talking about racism, police brutality, or anything else.

BUT – that is not what happened January 6. Trump conceived of, directed, and initiated the invasion of our capitol building because he lost his bid for re-election. Spinning off into la-la-land amid a thick stew of conspiracy theories, he incited his hapless followers to these acts of contempt and dishonor against the very center of our national government.

There is no equivalency.

For the record, whether or not McConnell is, at this point, capable of admitting the facts, in each of the 2000, 2004, and 2016 elections, there were legitimate problems with the election results. There were not disgruntled Democrats trying to overturn an election nor did the defeated candidates lead an attempted insurrection.

In 2000 in Florida, the election was so close that Gore was initially declared the winner. Further complicating the Florida results was the infamous hanging chad issue where election officials debated whether the incomplete removal of a tab on a punch card ballot signified a vote or not. A preliminary recount decided in favor of Bush by 537 votes.[1] The state supreme court ordered a more thorough recount but that ruling was overturned on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The result, without a legitimate recount, came out with George Bush: 50,546,002, Al Gore: 50,999.897 votes with an electoral count of 271 vs 266.

It’s not clear what McConnell might refer to in his mention of Democratic complaints about the 2004 election. There were legitimate concerns about voter suppression and purges of voter lists in largely minority districts but there wasn’t much public protest about the results, and certainly nothing remotely similar to the January 6, 2021, disgrace.[2]

As for 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes. Whether future examinations (without Trump stonewalling) will reveal Russian manipulations behind the electoral vote count, U.S. intelligence agencies had warned for months that Russia had become involved in the presidential campaign. McConnell led the Senate in its refusal to consider the articles of impeachment brought by the House of Representatives as a result of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference and obstruction of justice. Trump’s refusal to release information in the Mueller investigation or allow testimony by members of his staff became part of the obstruction of justice charge. Trump has continued to dismiss the investigation as a hoax, bringing along his sycophants including McConnell. Both matters will be more fully revealed to the public once Trump is out of office.

If anyone could feel justified in leading a public protest about election outcomes, it would have been Hillary Clinton with nearly three million more votes than Trump. But like the professional she is, she conceded graciously to the electoral college results.

At this point for McConnell to allege that this and other Democratic concerns about Trump’s rogue presidency somehow equals rightwing invasion of the Capitol is an absurdity. Nevertheless, this is all they’ve got, this whiny ‘he did it first’ allegation that in itself does not hold water. Since Election Day, there has been no resounding civic outcry about injustice as there was in the street demonstrations protesting overzealous police and systemic racism. There was no massive support across the nation in support of Trump’ claim. What happened January 6 was about one man’s pathetic inability to accept defeat.

The response by McConnell and others in an attempt to deflect blame for this outrage does not speak well for the future of the Republican Party. Either they acknowledge the depths of their culpability and immediately set out to correct the screed of lies inculcated on their voters or face the very real likelihood that the party will not survive Donald Trump, just as Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted in the 2016 primaries: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it.”[3]


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_United_States_presidential_election#Florida_recount

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_United_States_election_voting_controversies

[3] Twitter May 6, 2016

Regarding Netflix’s Bridgertons

I’ll get to the elephant in the room in a minute. Right now, I just need to say, what the hell are these guys thinking?

Newsflash to series creator Chris Van Dusen and Netflix producer Shondaland (Shonda Rhimes) and Netflix execs who signed off on this house of cards: people who enjoy Regency romance are not going to like this conglomeration of ridiculous sex and error. Whoever made decisions about how to bring Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels to the screen clearly has no knowledge of the time period (1813) or appreciation of the aspects of that history which nourish the storyline.

Did I say nourish? Let me rephrase that. Historical accuracy is ESSENTIAL to the storyline.

First of all, the casting. Dear God, why is 31-year-old Claudia Jessie playing the part of a 17-year-old? The face, the body, and most of all a voice worthy of an aging jazz singer immediately create painful cognitive dissonance every time this actress appears on screen. In the part of the second oldest Bridgerton daughter Eloise, Ms. Jessie sticks out like a sore thumb. No matter how tightly laced the corset or uneven affections of voice are meant to disguise her age, it just doesn’t work.

By the way, poor quality control on audio means some entire narratives are incomprehensible no matter how high the volume.

Same casting problem with one of the Bridgerton sons. Luke Thompson plays the part of second-oldest son Benedict, written as a 27-year-old blade exploring the ways of haut ton social situations. Luke Thompson is a well-aged 32 years old. His age is obvious even when he’s supposed to appear boyish and naïve. Please.

But let me move on to glaring corruptions of historical accuracy thick on the ground in this Netflix series. Early on we’re treated to a scene where Eloise is hiding out in the back yard to smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes did not jump from Mexico to France until the 1830s and didn’t make it to England until the 1840s. Even then, these tobacco conveyances were not the long slender white-wrapped items spotted in Eloise’s delicate hand. Cigarettes weren’t widely available until mass production in the 1880s. In 1813 London, a protected young lady like Eloise would have had no access to any such thing. She would have been very lucky to find a servant or stable hand she could bribe to obtain raw tobacco for her.

I get why Dusen wanted to show Eloise smoking. She’s a rebel, not eager to follow the tradition of marriage and children. Her use of cigarettes shows that rebellion. Except – it doesn’t. Because it’s completely ridiculous!

This type of ignorance undermines virtually every scene. Regency men were considered undressed if they appeared outside their bedchambers in anything less than complete formal attire – pants, shirt, waistcoat, jacket, and cravat, and yes those de rigueur Hessians. Yet we see aristocrats parading around in their shirt sleeves, often with the sleeves rolled past the elbow. Also often missing from male attire is the cravat, an essential element of proper male body covering. In reality, serious scandal would ensue from such flagrant exposure of forearms and necks.

Male-female touching likewise was simply not done except in very specific circumstances. A gentleman might touch a lady’s hand if he is helping her into or out of a carriage, for example, but they would both be gloved. In greeting, he would bow over her gloved hand and air-kiss above her knuckles. He might also welcome her to rest her gloved hand on his lower (fully clothed) arm when walking or escorting her up or down steps. But the touching rampant in these scenes is often ungloved and conspicuously caressing, like a dance scene where some genius decided that dance partners could lavish their hands on each other’s bodies – neck, shoulders, waist – in ways that would never occur among proper ladies and gentlemen of those times.

In fact, touching at all during dances was so scandalous in this time period that the waltz (another import from the outrageous French) had barely gained entry to the ton’s social gatherings. A debutante was required to pass muster at Almack’s by a panel of older society grande dames in order to gain the right to dance a waltz. Hostesses of society dances were careful to allow only two waltzes at any of their events, well-spaced between country dances and quadrilles in which participants move similarly to those in modern square dancing with touching limited to fleeting passage of gloved hands and no close body contact.

Restrictions on the waltz reflected its close body positioning and the clasp of both hands with the dance partner’s. Even at that, intense scrutiny by other dancers and society matrons watching proceedings with an eagle eye enforced the rules of engagement, most importantly the appropriate distance tolerated between the bodies of dance partners. Yet in this Netflix series, we see couples hugging up to each other, standing body to body to whisper sweet nothings and emote.   

The music is yet another problem, adding to the flaws in dance scenes. The producers/writers took the lazy way with this, using soundtrack music as the dance music so that dance music doesn’t start or stop with the dance. Dancers simply cavort around the floor to whatever part of the soundtrack happens to occur at that point. This eliminates the real tension experienced between dances by young women desperate to be claimed for a dance. It also smears over specific types of music used for specific types of dances. There’s no good reason for this except lazy production

Equally cheesy are bits and pieces such as a scene where the courting couple walk across a bridge and the male lead pulls a rose from a bush to hand to his lovely lady. Our hero plucks this rose without tugging or breaking it from its bush and presents a long straight stem that would never exist in those circumstances. But then, once one questions the reality of that moment, one is quick to survey the rest of the ‘rose bushes’ lining that particular bridge and reach the firm conclusion that all of these are arranged bouquets, probably not even real flowers.

Social etiquette involved lessons on how to bow and curtsey, yet here we see men bowing slightly without their arms in proper position, plus short head bobs and virtually zero curtseying even when standing before the Queen! No.

Hyde Park on Sunday from Modern London by R Phillips (1807)

Unlike many scenes in the Netflix Bridgerton series, females of the upper class never ventured outside alone. A maid and sometimes also at least one footman accompanied them as protection not only of their reputation but also their personal safety against a desperate underclass of thieves and opportunists.

Successful Regency authors pay attention to this wretched dichotomy between rich and poor for the depth it adds to these stories. In the one Bridgerton scene of the impoverished parts of London, which by any estimation consumed the majority of that real estate with dilapidated side-by-side buildings and manure-littered streets teeming with vendors hawking wares, grimy orphans looking for pockets to pick, whores, and scoundrels of every ilk, we get a brief scene in a bricked alleyway where a handful of actors strive to convey reality – and fail.

Apparently, what the writers/producers of the series do not grasp – and perhaps did not even try to understand – is that these subtleties are what fans of Regency romance adore. We look for quirks of language, the rigid rules, the details of dress and social interactions that define that time period. We expect characters to obey the norms extant in the early 19th century, not just because we’re some kind of historical purists but because those norms are inextricably linked to the behavior that drives the plot.

This falls flat most of all in the sex scenes. We see actors feverishly ripping off their clothes to pursue their desire without slowing down to appreciate the shocking touch of ungloved hands or the explosive eroticism of a man’s exposed neck, sans cravat. By the time the two main characters get around to kissing in the garden (oh, my!), an unbelievable melee of groping and whole body molestation takes place. In reality, for 1813, just the touching of lips was enough to ruin a young lady whether or not the guy ever touched her body. Jeez, Louise, who signed off on this absurdity?

In the moment when Simon Bassett, Duke of Hastings [played by Regé-Jean Page] finally satisfies his raging desire for his heartthrob Daphne Bridgerton [played by Phoebe Dynevor], the wedding night scene proceeds through the ripping off of clothes, kissing, a bit of body contact and a nice buttocks shot to a few seconds of active intercourse during which the virgin’s face portrays her loss of virginity (oh, that hurts) to pleasure (really?) and satiety (no bliss?). And we’re supposed to be satisfied with that terse culmination of a long and tortured courtship?

As for this and subsequent sex scenes, I’ll just quote a bit of a Salon critique [https://www.salon.com/2021/01/03/bridgerton-sex-is-not-good-sex/]:

“He maneuvers her hand down there. She looks pleasantly shocked. Then he stands up and takes off his pants so she can get an eyeful of what she’s working with. Apparently that is sufficient, because then he mounts her, informs her that “this may hurt a moment” … then badda bing, badda boom, he starts pumping away like a bunny hopped up on cold brew coffee. Afterward he rolls off of her and finishes in the sheets – more on that later – as the tender music fades out.”

Producer Shonda Rimes claims in interviews about this series that she is a great fan of Julia Quinn’s books. She should read more. It’s obvious from her work with Bridgerton that her understanding of the Regency period is painfully limited. Otherwise it’s difficult to believe a woman of her professional experience would sign off on this travesty.

Likewise, for a man who claims to have studied and adapted this story over a three-year period, Chris Van Dusen gets a “D-” for his utter failure to portray the very details that serve as the lifeblood of a Regency romance. And whoever decided that a guy was the right person for this job, anyway?!

Van Dusen claimed in one interview that he wanted to show the contrast between modern social norms and the stifling conservativism of the Regency period. But by shortcutting the details and failing to authentically portray the realities of the Regency period, an uninformed viewer would mistakenly assume there weren’t that many differences. Yes, women were property and that comes through fairly clearly. But how their lives – and the lives of men – were guided moment by moment in that mindset is diluted and in many scenes fully bastardized in this cavalier adaptation.  

Which brings us to the elephant.

Van Dusen grabs onto an old unproven allegation that King George’s wife Charlotte was of African descent and through this broken door welcomes a large contingent of Black actors into key roles of this series. We don’t know to what extent this decision reflected the influence of Ms. Rhimes, herself a successful Black producer, screenwriter, and author. Maybe they thought this would give the series some kind of outré appeal.

But the more I watched and witnessed scenes where Black actors comprised such a large percentage of the ton and at points expounded on how Queen Charlotte opened the door for ‘their kind’ to participate more fully in society, the more I realized that this outright misrepresentation of London’s Regency period serves as an outrageous disservice to Black history.

[It’s relevant to note that contemporaneous images of Queen Charlotte fail to bear out these allegations.]

In reality, the British Empire played fast and loose with issues of race.

“Owing chiefly to the parliamentary campaign of William Wilberforce, the ‘Slave Trade Act’ had been passed by Parliament in 1807, but this act prohibited only the trading in slaves in the British Empire, and crucially not slavery itself. Within Britain, slavery had been found unconstitutional in 1772; but, so long as they did not bring any of their slaves into Britain, slave owners such as Sir Thomas Bertram remained free to profit from the exploitation of slave labour in the colonies. Slavery itself was not abolished in the British Empire until 1833.”[1]

As noted by many scholars of the time period,

“Overt racism was rampant. Servants of the rich were beautifully dressed, but treated like possessions (much like a brood stallion or a rare antique vase.) Portraits would show noble women and a Black servant, be it a child or adult, sitting at the edge of the painting, which served to increase the contrast of the female’s creamy white skin to the ebony complexion of the other sitter.”[2]

Despite Van Dusen’s assertion that he wanted to show how society has changed over the last 200 years, neither he nor Rhimes seem to understand that without an accurate portrayal of Britain’s high society during the Regency period, viewers can never appreciate how times have changed. One of the tensions for fans of Regency romance is the nerve-bending restrictions on women compared to the freedoms we take for granted today. Authors of Regency (or any historical) romance go to great lengths to research their work to ensure authenticity in this regard.

During that long struggle, women have fought like tigers to gain the right to govern their own lives as well the right to own property and vote. Likewise, Black people have battled to gain their rights and freedoms and still suffer from prejudice and outright violence so long entrenched in white society. To smear all of that into a fantasy where a Black man could ever be a British duke who publicly courts a virginal white girl in 1813 London is to, well, whitewash the true struggle.

Okay, I understand the primary energy behind this series is to put Regency eroticism on screen in hopes of cashing in. They’ll probably succeed in this since Regency fans like myself are watching the series, even if we’re yelling at the television. But even in the sex, these producers/writers fall short of their goal.

After all the producers’ and writers’ efforts to create this simulacrum of Quinn’s novels on screen in order to capitalize on the sex of it, viewers get to the sex and find it flaccid.

~~~

P.S. One irreconcilable problem in casting this series is the apparent widespread use of breast implants among actresses. These do not play well in the extremes of Regency dress in which corsets pair with extremely low cut gowns. Corsets push the breasts up high, which in many instances during this series, reveals the hard edge of implants. Distracting, to say the least.

And while I’m at it, I’ll point out that among the most titillating bits many Regency readers enjoy are scenes in which the male is so aroused by the object of his affection that his erection is prominently displayed in the front of his tight breeches. Despite his embarrassment and desperate thoughts of icy water and old toothless men, the surging organ persists, thus requiring the fevered hero to modestly place a book or hat over his lap or hide behind a chair. At the pinnacle of this particular cliché, the female in question notices the anomaly and is intrigued even if she, in many cases, has no idea how that peculiar bit of male anatomy might come to play in her deflowering. Alas, we see no such deliciously provocative sights in this production.


[1] http://www.janeaustendetectives.com/blog/c-jane-austen-news/slavery-during-the-regency-period

[2] https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/blacks-in-regency-england/

Beating the Train

This photo reminds me of my dad Floyd Pitts who would sometimes reminisce about his younger days when he was still in high school at Morrow, Arkansas. He’d tell part of this tale then slap his leg and start laughing.

During that period of his life – early 1930s – his parents and younger sister had to move to West Memphis where his dad found work. Floyd stayed at Morrow to finish high school. He slept on a cot at the Morrow Mercantile with duties to keep the fires going at night so the stock didn’t freeze. Alongside his work duties and high school classes, he and three friends performed around the Northwest Arkansas region as a quartet.

“By 1933, I was the leader of the Morrow Quartet (I played fiddle and sang bass) and we were the best in the whole area. We sang at anything. We’d put on a show at places like the Savoy Community Building, we sang on the radio all the time, KUOA, Voice of the Ozarks [then located in the Washington Hotel on the southwest corner of the Fayetteville square, Mountain and Block], any old breakdown tunes.

Floyd Pitts circa late 1930s

“It was a novelty for a boy to play the piano. People would take us home for dinner if we’d perform.  Jim Latta was the father of one of the singers—the lead, Vernon Latta. He’d help us out buying gas. Vernon played guitar and mandolin. Or the Morrow Mercantile would help us because of Dennis Carmack, the tenor of our group. There were four main guys who owned the Mercantile: Ernest Ball, Lowrey Carmack, __ Reed, and [can’t remember].  Ty Reed sang alto (high tenor). I played fiddle and Dennis Carmack played guitar.

“Dennis had an old Chevrolet and that’s how we got to Fayetteville for our weekly radio show. One time we were running late. There was a railroad crossing at the turn off from the Cane Hill Road to the main highway just east of Lincoln. We heard the whistle and as we roared up to the crossing, we could see the train coming. Trains were long in those days, usually pulling an endless string of freight cars. We knew we’d miss our broadcast time if we waited for the train.

“The train was barreling down, close, too close, to the crossing. There wasn’t time to discuss it. Dennis floored that old Chevy. The engineer laid on his whistle as we hurtled ahead throwing up a huge dust cloud behind us. We could see the engineer’s mouth moving as we approached. He was shaking his fist at us.

“We flew over those tracks without a second to spare. The force of that train as it passed behind us shook the car. As we made the sharp turn just after crossing the tracks, that old car went up on two wheels. We all leaned to the right, laughing at our near miss as the car slammed back onto all four tires. We made it to the Fayetteville Square in time for our show.”

Floyd Pitts went on to gain his bachelor’s degree in music at Northeastern State University at Tahlequah, Oklahoma, then taught music at Rogers AR public schools until his service as an officer in the U. S. Navy in World War II. After the war, he gained a master’s degree in music at Iowa before returning to Rogers to teach. He took over the band man post for the Grizzly band at Fort Smith’s high school in 1953. During his time at Fort Smith, he moonlighted in vocals and piano with a dance band that played local venues like the Elks Club. In January 1957, he proudly led his band in the Washington D.C. parade for Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration.

In 1958 in search of better income, he moved his family to Miami, Oklahoma to lead the music programs for the public schools and direct the junior high and high school bands. During those years, he pursued after-hours income by tuning and repairing pianos, something he’d done since his high school days when he’d teach shape note singing at schools and church houses around the area and inevitably encountered out-of-tune pianos. His father, a sometimes blacksmith, forged Floyd’s first tuning hammer from an old Model A tie-rod.

Floyd remained the Wardog band director at Miami until 1967, when the family once again relocated to Fayetteville, Arkansas. (His wife, Carmyn Morrow Pitts, was relieved to be back in “God’s country.”) From there, Floyd taught band a couple of years at Westville, OK and for many more years at Lincoln AR, more or less a return to his roots at the end of his long career in teaching music to multiple generations. He retired in 1979 but continued his new career as a full time piano tuner/technician alongside his daughter Denele until a couple of years before his death in 2004. Even in his last days, a good old fiddle tune would bring on a flurry of foot tapping.

~~~

Floyd’s first tuning hammer from Model T tie-rod, late 1920s

Side note: KUOA began as a project of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, using these call letters starting in 1926. With the deepening of the Great Depression, in 1931 the University decided to lease operations to out of town interests. “Members of the Fulbright family then formed KUOA, Incorporated, to purchase the station, and on April 1, 1933, they took control, with Roberta Waugh Fulbright as president, John Clark as secretary-treasurer, and daughters Roberta Fulbright as station manager and Helen Fulbright as vice president.”[1] Ownership of the station shifted to John Brown University in 1936.


[1] https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/kuoa-radio-station-3678/

I Coulda Been a Singer

“You missed your calling,” a friend recently commented.

I had shared a video of “It’s All About That Bass” for her to see.[1] I thought it was fun. I was especially tickled by the clarinet part. I’m weird that way. But I think her point of reference was the lead singer whose gyrating performance in her leopard skin dress apparently made my friend think this was what I wanted her to see.

The truth is, I could have been a singer. My dad, forever the music teacher, started me on piano in second grade and on clarinet in fifth. By seventh grade, he set me down for grueling hours of learning how to sing harmony. I taught myself guitar in tenth grade and began teaching guitar lessons the next year, a pursuit that involved strumming chords while singing.

Other Side of Apathy 1965 Left to right Trula Roberson, LuJean Howard, Denele Pitts

That was the popular music genre of the times. 1964, 1965. Folk music. I joined with two other classmates to perform popular songs of the time – “Blowing in Wind,” “The Water is Wide,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” “Turn Around,” and others including “Hang on the Bell, Nellie,” which always brought down the house. We called ourselves “The Other Side of Apathy.” We were in high school, performing largely for local civic group luncheons and banquets.

My vocal talents won me a slot in All-State Choir both junior and senior years, and of course I performed in the high school chorale. My dad signed me up for private lessons with a voice teacher at the local junior college. Those lessons nearly ruined me. As far as the instructor was concerned, the only legitimate vocal performance was in opera. I loathed that bellowing warble I was supposed to produce from my diaphragm. I quit the lessons.

Despite the off again, on again nature of my fraught relationship with Bill, my high school sweetheart, we maintained our strongest bond in music. In my dad’s high school band room, Bill played drums and I, by ninth grade, played oboe. But in marching band, I set the oboe aside and picked up cymbals. At halftime shows and marching band contests, Bill and I were only a couple of positions apart on the field. We marched to “Semper Fidelis,”[2] “National Emblem,”[3] “Washington Post”[4] and other popular marches, one hundred strong, our formations geometric. My dad the Navy man would have none of that wimpy popular music of the day with majorettes prancing out front while the band stood still.

But I digress.

Bill and I were voted the most talented of our class. So we felt especially obligated to sparkle at the senior program. That tradition of our school included skits, speeches, and performances of all kinds to cap off our public school years. There was no question that Bill and I would do something musical, although Bill had also continued to pursue his talents in dance. We didn’t rule out some combination.

By this time my daily guitar teaching lessons at the local music store had brought me in contact with the front lines of popular music. I had embraced Beatle mania, enjoyed Streisand’s songs, and knew some of the forbidden rock and roll like “House of the Rising Sun.”[5] But it was “Girl From Ipanema” that had won my heart.

Bill and I worked out a performance that put me standing at a microphone at the front left corner of the stage. Bill’s part was to dance along the footlights in an improv jazz style. Behind us against the back curtain, a tall stepladder held three guys playing claves, maracas, and guiro.

I did my best to transcribe the music so we could recruit appropriate accompaniment, but the record I had of Astrid Gilberto and Stan Getz didn’t offer an easy transcription.[6] I couldn’t find any sheet music, so I winged it a capella with just the rhythm section. We had maybe three rehearsals in between senior prom, drunken escapades on the lake where I managed to get strep throat, and performing my solo in part of Hayden’s Mass in G (choir concert) – with strep throat.

In preparation for our performance of “Girl From Ipanema,” I rewrote the lyrics to “Boy From Ipanema.” I would sing about Bill. Always without much money, I pawed through our household collection of patterns and fabrics and settled on thin pale blue cotton for a dress with a bloused sleeveless top and long straight skirt split up the side. I wore my hair straight and long. For his part, Bill wore black tights, leotard, and fedora.

When the curtain opened, a blue spotlight found me. Bill danced in blue footlights. The packed house went utterly silent as I breathed the song into the microphone. The song told the story. Bill performed perfectly. I sang it without a hitch. When the last note faded and Bill’s proud dance had melted to a close, there was dead silence. And then they shouted the house down. (Sadly, there are no photos of this event.)

This was the high point of my career as a chanteuse. Bill went on to a notable career on Broadway. I thought of a profession singing in smoky lounges out front of a jazz combo. I perfected my Greta Garbo poses, practiced exhaling cigarette smoke through my nostrils. Alas, I had no clue how to break in to that world from my mid-South innocence.

Bill in “A Chorus Line” (third from front), one of his many Broadway dance roles. Today he teaches dance and mentors upcoming devotees in New York City.

College for me depended on a scholarship and the ratio of singers to oboe players is probably at least 100 to 1. With an oboe scholarship, there was no time for choir. Besides, the only formal training for vocalists at the time – and largely still today – was o p e r a.

My father discouraged any idea of a career as a professional singer. He described the touring circuit of rundown lounges and loud drunken audiences, often with minimal pay. He didn’t fully describe the sexual harassment that comes with the scene, or the need to maintain a coherent group of musicians willing to forego intoxication and other hazards of touring. He thought I wanted a husband and children, and I did.

But I also wanted to be a chanteuse. Later, as my kids grew up, I’d pound out my own piano accompaniment to give full throat attention to song collections by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and other favorites, but the ones that thrilled me the most were the torch songs like “Scotch and Soda.”[7] I also sang with regional community choirs in the 1980s and ‘90s but by the mid ‘90s, I noticed my voice wasn’t exactly as controlled or clear as I wanted. I felt embarrassed and stopped participating in the choir.

Then a couple of surgeries involved tubes down my throat and I discovered my singing broke in critical places around Middle C. And I had long since lost my guitar. By the time I retired from what had become a 30-year career tuning pianos, I was so burned out I never wanted to see another piano and moved mine to a back bedroom.

The piano sits, untuned and untouched by me for over decade. On occasion when I am unable to resist the urge, I’ll drag out the stool for the old pump organ my dad restored and plod along with a few pieces trying to ignore the deplorable condition of my voice. Sadly, the voice is not a lifelong instrument for most of us, although at times I think I might buy another guitar and start practicing in the belief that I just need to start exercising those vocal cords. I still long to sing, and nothing brings that to mind more strongly than to hear a voice slamming through a song like the lady in “All About That Bass.”

This is one of those ‘paths not taken’ stories.

All About That Bass – Postmodern Jukebox
European Tour Version

~~~


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLnZ1NQm2uk

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PcBNWd2tTI&list=RDo3gHhCpkiWU&index=11

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U40OIESDwlU (Catch the heart of this piece at 1:46.)

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mxrh1CrMmTY

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-43lLKaqBQ

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nim7Xs41UJo

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoWfDw-v4DM

Obsessed with the Fetus

This week, my 97-year-old mother received a packet of mail from Republican senator Rand Paul. The cover letter begins: “For 47 years, nine unelected men and women on the Supreme Court have played God with innocent human life. They have invented laws that condemned to painful deaths without trial more than 62 million babies for the crime of being ‘inconvenient…’”

The propaganda continues over four pages. Along with the inflammatory letter, Sen. Paul included pre-printed petitions to both Arkansas senators and all four representatives as well as Sen. Mitch McConnell, calling for the passage of the Life at Conception Act. All my mom needed to do was sign on the bottom line and send them off in the enclosed envelope addressed to Sen. Paul in care of the National Pro-Life Alliance.

I was relieved that my mom said I should take the mail. It was a “bunch of crap,” she said. I agreed.

She’d beyond the point of arguing the finer points of politics or political issues. But it’s easy to see how this mail-out and its provocative rhetoric is meant to stir up Trump’s base right here before Election Day.

Americans should never lose sight of the fact that Trump and Pence were elected because of fetuses. Other supporter ‘causes’ are secondary, among them rabid racism and fundamental ignorance. But the driving force and the majority of their 32%-43% approval rating is based in their core support of evangelicals who are obsessed with fetuses.

No matter how many sexual assaults, adulteries, or episodes of blatant bullying, no matter how many lies and incidents of gaslighting, no matter the total incompetence of Trump’s service as president, his abuse of power, his disrespect for tradition and honor, no matter how many young immigrant children have been kidnapped from their families, no matter how many tens of thousands of our neighbors and countrymen die from a virus Trump failed to properly manage, no matter how much we as a nation plummet in the eyes of the world as we abdicate any possible claim of leadership, we can rest easy because fetuses will be saved.

Since Roe v Wade, Republicans have honed their primary strategy for political ascendance – not balancing the budget, not maintaining and improving the nation’s infrastructure, not caring for the average citizen – by fomenting outrage about abortion. Never mind that in heralding the ‘murder’ of embryos, evangelical conservatives have obfuscated and ignored the many legitimate medical reasons women terminate pregnancies. Never mind that women have always aborted unwanted pregnancies for countless legitimate reasons to which no one else is – or can be – privy. Never mind that Roe v Wade simply allowed women to access proper medical care for such procedures. Only the fetus matters.

Remove the fetus issue and evangelicals no longer have a clear-cut reason to slavishly follow the Republican Party. There may be seasons of drummed-up hate for the sexually-different or same sex couples who dare to fall in love. There may be outrage against government-funded programs that seek to improve opportunities for low-income children through programs like Head Start and school lunches. There may be simmering prejudices against non-whites for whatever derogatory stereotypes can be successfully slapped on them by insecure racists. But the one sure-fire button Republicans can count on to get evangelicals to the polls on Election Day is fetuses.

Odd that in all their crusade on behalf of God’s will in His miracle of fertilized eggs, none of these well-intentioned voters find issue with defying God’s will by artificially fertilizing eggs for those who can’t conceive. Does God really want them to have a child?

Odd that other ‘acts of God’ are defied as we rush onward with medical science to cure cancer and invent vaccines to protect ourselves against God’s will. If it is God’s will that we suffer those ailments, why are we curing them?

You can see where this rabbit hole leads. Either we have an innate right to intervene in our biological processes or we don’t. Pregnancy is a biological process. The egg donor (and usually the sperm donor) possess the innate right to intervene. Not a religious group. Not the government.

It’s not like we need more people. The world’s population has shot up from one billion to 7.8 billion in just the past 200 years. That’s despite virus and influenza epidemics, two world wars, and multiple other small wars around the globe. We have invented vaccines and antibiotics and pesticides in order to attack disease and increase the food supply. We’ve succeeded in doubling life expectancy since 1900. Global population is projected at 8 billion in 2023 and from there will double again by the end of this century.

But let’s cheer on the evangelicals and their great moral sacrifice in electing Trump to save the fetuses. Let’s put government in control of reproduction with laws regulating women’s bodies in order to save more fetuses. Because the fetus is the most important consideration.

Without question, children are our future. They should have the best we can give them both in the womb and after they’re born. But most importantly, each child should be wanted by its parents, not forced to a life of possible abuse, neglect, or a miserable existence shuttled from one foster home to another.

This is the insidious threat religious extremism poses to any nation. Religion inspires single-minded fanaticism that ignores personal rights, common sense, and the freedoms enshrined within a democracy. This is exactly the problem our Founding Fathers sought to avoid when they wrote the First Amendment to our Constitution prohibiting the government from establishing any religious doctrine.

Can we please honor our Founder’s vision and keep religion OUT of government? And keep government control out of human reproduction.

What Is Real?

Existence is a slippery construct, it seems to me. I tend to embrace the rational, the concrete, which makes it difficult for me to drift off into theorizing about other dimensions or other possible spheres of existence aside from our three-dimensional sensory world. But all that is countered by my own very bizarre personal experiences.

So far, I have refrained from talking about this because, well, people tend to look at you oddly when you bring up stuff like this. But hey, I’m not getting any younger and I want to put these experiences on the record. For what it’s worth.

In the mid-1970s, I was living in a rural area in a small cabin while my new husband and I tried to get a house built. The cabin sat on a ridge of pasture land surrounded by oak-hickory forest. To the north, the land fell away sharply into steep wooded hillsides. To the south, the pasture land dropped slowly for about a quarter mile before it too veered down forested hillsides. Ozark land verging into the Boston Mountains.

From the window of the cabin, looking west, the view spread across maybe forty acres of pasture and pond with woods all around. Midway in that field, I saw them one day, a man and woman standing side by side in the grass, facing me from about fifty yards away. Far enough that I couldn’t see facial detail, close enough that I could observe their clothing and posture.

They appeared in the corner of my eye. When I turned to stare, they vanished.

The man wore a brown suit and a brown hat, a vest and white shirt, the style dating to the mid-19th century. The woman’s dress was long and slightly full, what I assume would have been a modest garb with petticoat for someone who needed to walk across rough land. She too wore a hat, a straw hat held by a tie under her chin.

I saw them a few more times after I learned not to look directly. Each time they stood together, the man in his brown suit of clothes, not fancy, and the woman in a gray cotton dress with long sleeves and long skirt, the bodice fitted in the style of the times. I wondered at their presence, whether they had died there while their spirits remained, whether they had lived in that spot and attached themselves emotionally so that wherever they went afterwards, their energy remained there.

I’m a writer so I can think up stuff like that, their story, why I saw them. So I really can’t say whether those ideas explaining their presence were from them or from me.

A few years later, after moving into the new house, I had another sighting. Not the same place, but across the road and onto a wooded hill. From my office window, I can still point out the exact spot, a small clearing at the highest elevation of this entire ridge. At some previous time, a massive old tree had fallen and left the spot open to sunlight. I’ve walked out there over the years since, careful to take such jaunts in winter when the ticks aren’t out. There are large flat rocks like paving stones alongside the fallen tree, creating a defined space about twenty feet square.

I had not discovered that spot until the day of the sighting. I was staring into the distance from what then was a child’s bedroom, taking a time out from marriage, motherhood, and the demands of my profession. Two individuals appeared, again at the edge of my peripheral vision so I could only see them indirectly. These were Natives, two men dressed in deerskins and carrying the weapons of their culture. They were looking east while I observed them to my south.

Rendering of Osage First People by George Catlin. The Osage claimed this area for hunting grounds, moved off involuntarily when the U. S. government forced the Cherokee to relocate. Soon after, the Cherokee were also forced west into Indian Territory (Oklahoma). I think what I saw were Osage.

They were waiting for someone, or so the thought struck me. I saw a Native woman there once, alone, her long deerskin dress finely made as she, too, waited for someone. I saw them a few more times over the coming years, but as my life picked up speed and my time for staring out windows diminished to nearly nothing, I saw no more people hovering at the brink of this dimension.

And that’s what I’ve come to believe has occurred. Perhaps elevation has something to do with this portal, because the elevation is about the same for both spots. I reached that conclusion after a third and more disturbing incident that occurred twenty years later.

A friend had come to stay with me while she searched for a place to live. She had lived in Europe for several years, and on her journey back to the States had stayed for a time in London with an old friend. He was ailing and subsequently died. She told me about her mysterious experience with his ghost visiting her after his death.

After returning to the States, she lived at my house maybe two or three months before finding a rental she liked. After she moved out, a month or so later, I was sitting in the living room watching television like I did every night when I suddenly became aware of another presence in the house. The hair went up on my neck.

At first I tried to convince myself it was my imagination, because that’s what we all do at moments like that, right? Then I reasoned that if someone had come in at the back end of the house through that seldom-used door, I would have heard it. It didn’t open without a creak. I heard no creak.

But after several minutes of very eerie energy wafting through the house, I forced myself to go back there. I slowly walked the thirty feet down the hallway to that back door, gooseflesh on my arms. I even stopped to pick up a large bamboo rod to use on an intruder. I flipped on lights, calling out ‘Who’s there?’

When I got to the room with the door, it was empty. So was the rest of that part of the house, including closets and under the beds. Yes, I checked. And the door was locked. But Something was there, an energy that was so strong and so haunting that I could feel it all around me.

I realized it was the ghost of my friend’s friend. I thought it must have followed her, since she was the person who had seen him through his last days. I remembered her remarks that she had visited with the ghost more than once.

Well, thanks a lot! I didn’t need that ghost and I didn’t appreciate her leaving it here with me.

It was hostile, maybe because she had left it behind. I didn’t trust it. Didn’t want it. But, I reasoned, it was likely just lost.

So I addressed it. I stood there in the rooms she had stayed in and told it this wasn’t where it needed to be. I tried to change my energy from fear and resistance to a more loving and sympathetic frame. I said it would rest better if it joined the other spirits in the places they lived. I told it to go to the light.

I thought it had listened, because the presence seemed to leave. Later, though, when I went back there after a few days, my eye caught on a work of art one of my kids had done in grade school. Taking pride of place near the end of the hallway, it was well done rendering of a clown with a tear drop on its cheek that had always made it a sad image.

Well, now the image was not sad. It was demonic.

The ghost had taken up residence.

Disturbed by what was either a supernatural presence existing within my house or, alternatively, the fact that I was losing my mind, I ended up asking my daughter to take the art to her dad. Where it remains. I have not been bothered by that ghost again.

There have been other transient ellipses of space and time at that end of the house, which isn’t space inhabited unless one of my adult children come to stay. One or the other of them has experienced unexplained sounds or an energy presence, enough that I’m fairly convinced—at least on that matter – that I’m not losing my mind.

But it occurs to me, in retrospect, that this was at the same elevation and in almost a straight line along this ridge with the other two occurrences. And in contemplating this, I have concluded that there might be a wrinkle in time here, a portal of sorts that cracks along this ridge and allows transitory visitations by one or another realm of existence.

I’m wondering if I’ll come back to visit, too.

One day they appeared, walking across my land. Then they were gone.

 

Fearing Other

What if we all had the same color of skin?

Who would you hate then?

What if we all had the same religion?

What if we all had the same warmth in winter, cool in summer?

Who would we fight then?

What if we eliminated the industries of war, destroyed all guns and other weapons?

Would we kill each other with rocks and clubs?

What if our jobs all paid the same and my stainless steel appliances were no newer than yours? What if our furniture was exactly the same, our lawns just as nicely tended, our cars the same year and model?

Would you still resent me then?

What if we were all born with the same color of hair, the same color of eyes, grew to the same height, the same musculature?

Would you still be jealous because my nose was slightly longer? Or my lips slightly fuller? Would you still pay for surgery to make your nose and lips more like mine?

What if we sat side by side through all twelve grades and received the same education and yet somehow I went to college and became a lawyer while you went to trade school and became a plumber? Would you call me a libtard and resent my career? Would I look down on you as you installed my new toilet?

Will we always find something to resent, something to be jealous of, something to fight about?

Will it always be our nature to fear the Other, even if their Otherness is only birthmark, a broken tooth, a different hairstyle?

How does the skin color, the religion, the material wealth of Others make us fearful?

How do we make all Other into Ours?

Raging Over Masks

For a segment of the American population, the idea of being required to wear a mask triggers outrage. Some of the outrage results in physical violence. Over a mask.

On the surface, such a reaction defies reason. But behind the curtain, there are insidious reasons, all of which are egged on by rightwing and foreign interests determined to sow chaos in this nation.

There’s the ‘freedom’ element, resistance to being ‘required’ to do anything. But why? Similar outrage is not apparent in instances of ‘required’ seat belts, or shoes and shirts in stores, or – for that matter – driving in the right lane.

There are news reports of people who claim they can’t breathe if they wear a mask, but that dog won’t hunt. Doctors, nurses, scientists, and hazmat teams wear masks every day for hours. None of them have dropped dead from oxygen starvation or carbon dioxide buildup. Yes, there may be a few with mental health issues or respiratory problems that a mask can complicate. But that’s a handful of people in the overall situation.

If we pull back the curtain further, we find massive evidence of Denial. It’s not just excuses for why a mask requirement allegedly violates someone’s freedom or that one can’t properly breathe in a mask. The denial is far more fundamental than that, and largely hidden.

Remember, for the contingent of Americans who believe in Trump, the virus started out as a Democratic hoax. It was nothing more than the flu and would disappear by April. News coverage of New York’s crisis with bodies stored in refrigerated tractor-trailer trucks or ICU beds lining hospital hallways wasn’t real, simply more of that Democratic hoax meant to scare people and mess up Trump’s chance at re-election.

Now five months in and as the infection rate soars and hospitals in several states are nearing 100% capacity, the hoax lunacy has expanded to include screaming mobs of anti-vaxxers whose sole mission is to protect all of us from a mandatory vaccine that carries microchips which will … well, that detail is rather elusive. Some claim the chips will be the ‘mark of the beast’ that prevents its carrier from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Others claim the chips will control our behavior and force us to accept the ‘New World Order’. Or most egregiously, it’s a Bill Gates plan to track everyone – because… ?

In a poll conducted May 20 and 21 by Yahoo/YouGov, 44% of Republicans said they believed the microchip conspiracy theory with Democrats checking in at 19%.[1]

A Christian Right broadcaster, Brannon Howse of “Worldview Watch,” warned that Gates and the “medical globalist deep state” were using the crisis to regulate people’s fertility depending on their worldview, through “procreation tickets” and microchips.[2]

So we have the ‘don’t tell me what to do’ mindset enhanced by the Democrats’ evil hoax and the microchip from Satan Gates himself. Some folks have even made the whole thing more concise by blaming Bill Gates for creating the virus so he could implant chips in the vaccine.

Elaborate thinking, perhaps – except it’s the result of not thinking at all.

Sadly, these conspiracy theories and rejections of facts have become fodder for political interests whose goal is to disrupt and divide the people of the United States. This has been the stated purpose of Russian disinformation campaigns for decades, but that too has become a conspiracy theory even when our best intelligence agencies confirm proof of such actions. The intelligence community is then swept into yet another conspiracy theory.

The more the far right learns (and can’t understand), the more it crafts yet another conspiracy theory. And experiences more rage.

Anger is often the result of fear, part of the adrenaline-stoked fight or flight response. Fear of the unknown, i.e. a virus or scientific process that is too hard to understand. Fear of being on the losing ‘side.’ Fear of being wrong for folks who need to feel ‘right’ in order to maintain mental stability.

With an invisible virus spreading through the population, anxiety sweeps in triggering fear. Those who are willing and able seek scientific information to help understand how the virus works, how it travels, what can prevent infection, and how he/she personally can best avoid the bug. These folks wear masks in public, stay home as much as possible, and social distance when they can’t.

But not everyone is equipped to seek out or understand scientific information and these people are more likely to be triggered into rage about wearing a mask. If these folks were capable or willing to investigate the virus instead of feeding on falsehoods promoted by Trump, they probably weren’t Trump voters to start with.

Trump voters are a strange amalgam of several sorts of people. At the core are those evangelicals who refuse to think beyond the boundaries of their religious beliefs, and those beliefs dictate saving the fetus above all else. That means a Republican vote no matter who the candidate, a constituency carefully cultivated and routinely fed hot-button rhetoric like the “Democrats want to kill babies after they’re born!”

There is no room in these minds for the rights of a woman to control her body, or the reality that abortions occurred millennia before Roe v Wade and will occur after it’s overturned, if it is. There is also no room in that lockstep for consideration of the horrific abuses perpetrated upon unwanted children, or immigrant children in cages, or children and pregnant women in places where our corporate war machines spread death and destruction on an industrial scale. Apparently ‘My Body, My Choice” slogans only apply to those who refuse to wear a mask.

Then there are those who hate government and rally behind the idea that Trump will dismantle the ‘deep state’ which describes, in their minds, a mysterious evil machinery behind all our nation’s ills. There is no room in these minds to understand how government works, no respect for people who devote entire careers to studying how chemicals in water or food affect our endocrine systems, or for people who spend every working day looking at data about our schools and whether students are learning, or the processes by which agencies can make choices about interest rates or surplus crops or weather forecasting – all of it in service to the people of our nation.

The mentalities involved in this willful ignorance and diminished reasoning capacity know somewhere deep inside they might be wrong. An internal crisis of anxiety and fear grows proportionately to the growing evidence of the possible error. When it reaches the point where their local supermarket won’t allow them through the doors without a mask, the evidence of their wrong blows up in their face.

Does that mean they suddenly realize that they were wrong? No. In defense of all the ignorance they hold dear, they rage.

Denial explains and justifies the rage. Denial that Trump is an idiot. Denial that the nation is not now nor ever was meant to be a ‘Christian’ nation, that the Republican mantra about fetuses and freedom of religion is nothing more than a political con meant to garner votes from people who are incapable of thinking for themselves. See, for example, the evangelical prediction that the world will literally end if Trump isn’t re-elected. (Footnote [3])

Other mask-ragers are people who fear losing the historical supremacy of white identity. People who still can’t admit the South justly lost the Civil War. People too lazy to pay attention to the facts, too busy or disconnected to read/watch the news from enough different sources to truly understand what is going on. These are people incapable of gathering relevant information regarding an issue, reasoning through that information, and reaching logical conclusions.

If we as a nation are going to survive the current chaos and move toward a more united, egalitarian future, each of these conditions among segments of the American population requires a focused examination of the cause and a concerted national effort to remediate the cause. These causes mean we are not equal. Without a long term determination to ‘cure’ these inequalities, they will destroy us. It’s not enough to have scientists discovering vaccines and advanced computing systems that can park cars for us. People have to understand how to apply rational processes and appreciate the logic of the scientific method.

Masks are a symbol of the truth of the virus, but they are also a symbol of the truth about Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Those who have embraced Trump deny they’ve been manipulated, misled, and used to further a political agenda that has – in reality – nothing to do with what they believe it to be. The agenda, in reality, is to further consolidate power and wealth in the hands of a few.

These folks have been played. Wearing a mask would require them to admit it.

 

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-video-microchip-coronavirus/false-claim-a-microchip-implant-will-come-with-coronavirus-vaccines-idUSKBN22R2GS

[2] https://www.typeinvestigations.org/investigation/2020/05/12/the-long-strange-history-of-bill-gates-population-control-conspiracy-theories/

[3] https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2020/07/evangelical-leaders-made-film-warn-world-will-literally-end-trump-isnt-reelected/