I’ve looked forward to this essay for a long time. Summer 2020. How’s it going? Been a lot of hopes and dreams and expectations since June. All the more exciting to get jittery for the rest of the year.
I looked forward to this one because it’s past high summer and I want to impart hope into a narrative that started out depressing and seemed to get sadder after that. When I left off, the smoke cleared, the ashes settled and swept away from the riots. An awakening of racial awareness across America in response to the killing of George Floyd ignited fervor for civil rights not seen so intense since the 1960s. And that coronavirus, so novel last winter has overstayed its unwelcome, and let President Trump down, did not disappear as he promised but sickened over five million, about sixty thousand a day, and killed 160,000 so far at a rate of over a thousand a day, and cost millions of jobs not likely to come back soon. In America.
Take heart, you all.
This is a time of historic opportunity. It’s lemonade time. It’s a time when humanity can seize a chance to take advantage of this chaos and set a course for not only averting its demise but purveying the planet’s prosperity.
At no time has the human race been more self aware. All eyes are focused on survival of this pandemic that has laid bare the vulnerabilities of humans and human institutions. Those who pretend it’s a hoax, it doesn’t really exist, in fact stand in the way of contending with it. Even if one takes the position that one may as well take no precautions because everyone must get it in the end, so be free, these people at least admit the disease exists and accept the consequences. Realistically the economics will follow the paths of the disease, so state efforts to control customers on premises do less to hamper business openings than covid-19 will eventually do to the clientele.
This is a crossroads of freedom, choice, liberty and human behavior. Personal responsibility is the main highway. So much relies on chance and is beyond our control, but there are simple things we can choose to do that are more than mere etiquette in this human world of microbe exchanges. To wear a mask is a start. Aerosol parasol.
A day will come when we will feel somewhat comfortable face to face seeking each other’s smile. It’s good to keep practicing within the mask. Those with fangs might feel the need otherwise to show their snarl. I get it, it’s emasculating, but I’ll go with the science and follow social filtration protocol.
Important research is going on in architectural engineering that will design buildings, classrooms and work spaces with more healthful ventilation. The workplace and classrooms of the future are right now being determined by the adapted behavior of the pandemic. No matter how effectively sterilized the schools can be made to be to facilitate in-person learning, and as necessary as on-campus schooling might be for the development of the students year by year with peers, the students of the future who will benefit the most academically will mostly engage school through remote online programs long after the pandemic dictates congregate gathering. Likewise the corporate culture of the office working labor force has discovered out-of-office productivity allowing a whole skilled sector of the economy to forego daily physical commutes to central office buildings.
The gig economy, boldly born of the last recession’s entrepreneurs, has the poise to resurge with greater business savvy and widespread technology to make good livings in the post-pandemic economy, especially with advances and gains in civil rights contributing to equity. What will need to be overcome is union labor’s fears of a kind of gentrification of labor professions. This the gigsters themselves will decide. Musicians and food makers and servers are already leading the way.
Speaking of gentrification, the restoration of burned down commercial buildings will alter our cityscape forever. Corporate retailers like Target, Cub Foods and Walgreens have already begun to rebuild in situ to serve their neighborhood clientele. The smaller shops, storefront businesses and bistros who rely on landlord developers to determine what form reconstruction will take are undercapitalized and under-insured, so their pathways to regain viability will require creative financing at the grass roots level. Sadly, a lot of these small businesses were owned and run by ethnic or minority entrepreneurs. This calls into question the identities and motives of the looters and arsonists. Much is being debated about the role of white supremacist agitators framing Black Lives Matter for the riots (my daughter-in-law prefers the word insurrection) to incite race war. It defies logic why an angry mob would burn down its own livelihood. There must be nihilists at work here.
The goal is to build back better than ever with a far reaching vision of the community. Gentrification has taken on an evil connotation. Neighbors rightfully distrust flippers who displace low-rent residents by redevelopers who jack up rents to deliberately force in higher class tenants. Yet without upkeep and refurbishing, neighborhoods rot from within. Livability suffers. Gentrification properly defined means a flow of infusion of populism in the form of middle class manners and folkways. This offends people as elitist ethics but in truth a flow of upward mobility characterizes a desired outcome. The idea is to rebuild a human habitat more sustainable than before, more attractive and thriving for those who live and work here, not worse. Means have to be built into the plans for the local entrepreneurs to reopen and future ones to invest. This may sound like bourgeois BS to some, but I cannot think of one poor person who would not like to be middle class.
It’s all possible. Read a recent blog by Paul Schmelzer at the ostracon.net where he profiles restaurateur Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal and his philosophy of uplifting people with peace garden food. He plans to rebuild. Reopen. We need him. His food is delicious.
Take the Minneapolis City Council voting to deconstruct the police department. My first reaction was, Are you out of your fucken minds! Looked like a grandstand play to me. The city saw some dark days and blazing nights after George Floyd got tortured to death by a cop with a knee on his neck, two more cops who held him down and another stood over the scene to keep onlookers away. We know all this because an onlooker who kept a polite distance recorded the event on unedited video, exercising her First Amendment right to bear witness. She’s an ordinary girl from the neighborhood, goes to Roosevelt High (when it’s in session) and is named Darnella Frazier. She is the Abraham Zapruder of our time. She has been likened to Rosa Parks. She is Black. She’s just a kid. For almost nine minutes she was the bravest journalist in the world.
Her video launched a juggernaut of outcries against police brutality that can best be described as insurrection, here and in cities and towns across the land, riots if you prefer, protesting with outrage police conduct especially towards Blacks.
The insurrection raged out of control. What we witnessed next was not only a police failure at peaceful crowd control but worse yet a citizen problem unable to police itself or practice restraint or tolerate criminal behavior. On one hand you have three ex-cops charged as accessories for not stopping the one alpha cop from killing George Floyd with his knee. On the other hand you have a mass of protesters unable or unwilling to stop nihilists from looting and burning.
In retrospect it must have come as a great shock to city leaders, the governor and public safety and health officials the destructive public outcry. The police were overwhelmed at worst and evenly matched at best in the tit for tat confrontations on the streets. Fireworks sold as commodities on highways through Wisconsin and South Dakota (but illegal in Minnesota) against rubber bullets, tear gas, flash grenades, shields and batons. We do not know what carnage would have occurred if the full force of the Minneapolis police would have been unleashed against the crowds pillaging and setting fire to the city, blocking firefighters from navigating the streets and besieging the 3rd precinct police station. The leaders must have just about freaked out at their miscalculation that Minneapolis people and nice Minnesotans would act out so violently. And at the crux of the matter a bald-faced red-handed occurrence of police misconduct, sheer brutality. Choice: unleash the police to engage rioters to protect not only the police station but all property, or pull back, surrender the property including the police station the most incendiary vandals wanted so much they might have killed some cops to take it over. Yes, the cops would have turned back the insurrectionists with deadly force, killing more than a few peaceful protesters caught up in the cross-clash and possibly driving the arsonists and looters into the residential neighborhoods in hot pursuits. And yet, the buildings would have been looted and burned anyway, maybe worse as the police defensive assaults spurred armed resistance and pinned cops down away from new hot spots. As it was, after the mayhem calmed down there were caches and stashes of incendiary materiel found in residential alleys near commercial strips to be recovered and used the next night, indicating the seriousness of the arsonists.
The leaders got off lucky, only two lives lost, both connected to two different pawn shops. One was shot by the proprietor for attempting to break in and loot. The other wasn’t discovered until about a month after the riot, in the ashes of the cleanup, a man presumed to have been a looter who didn’t get out in time.
The governor eventually sent in the National Guard and called a curfew. Apologizing for his faith in citizens to act responsibly he marched the Guard in columns down Lake Street as soon as they could be mustered. He implored citizens again to be peaceful in their demonstrations and conclude their rallies by sundown, get off the streets and not to allow looters and rioters to hide behind them. Order is restored. Opportunity awaits.
Politicians woke up and arose to posit the outcome of history. Given the institution at fault for creating the rancid racist mess, the Minneapolis City Council voted in favor of amending the City Charter, its city constitution, to disband the police department. The resolution by law is referred to the City Charter Commission which evaluates the proposal and decides whether to put the amendment on a city referendum ballot. The commission could have put it on the ballot this fall. None of the city council stand for election on this fall’s ballot, not until next year. The charter commission decided not to refer the resolution to the voters this year but rather to offer time to study the proposal, its consequences and put together a public safety proposal. The city council members who voted the resolution can go back to their oft radical electorate and say in all truth, I voted to get rid of the police but my mommy won’t let me.
Either way, on the ballot this November or next November, a sincere discussion is due about what a city owes its citizens for professional law enforcement, peacekeeping, public health and safety and what requirements must be met and respected. This is our city’s golden opportunity to go past banning chokeholds and no-knocks and setting up a database of bad cops. We can collaborate to create a police system the jewel of the world. A system so just and humane the recruits to join will compete to get in the door. To design such a new human justice and public safety system will not please everybody. There will remain a force with power of coercion to protect the public, but citizen oversight like a kind of charter commission would keep things real.
Since the dark days and riotous nights there have been about a hundred or so of the 800 some police officers in Minneapolis who have filed disability claims for contracting PTSD on the job those fretful days and nights. It must have been hell being taunted and ridiculed and assaulted for something they did not actually do but somebody in their uniform actually did. Undeniably. Caught on camera. The street is full of folklore of abusive cops cruising roughshod through the neighborhoods disrespecting citizens, making mischief where there was none and instigating shenanigans hostile to the neighbors. Just as there is abundant folklore backed up by facts and statistics that account for lawless behavior involving shootings among citizens who won’t answer to the cops on the politest of terms.
I for one will argue against disarming the constabulary and allowing neighborhood militias. Encouraging the arming of more citizens with registered firearms as an alternative to a well regulated militia in the form of peace officers delegated by taxpayers to defend our rights and empowered by the city of elected officers seems the right way to go in this community. It’s time the Second Amendment cut both ways.
Currently certain individual and group elements of our society have gone on sprees of carjackings, shootings and armed robberies in brazen headlining escapades taking advantage of the perception the cops are weak and afraid to patrol the streets. They shoot at each other mostly but occasionally hit a bystander who might be a kid or somebody’s mom or just somebody who got in the way who might have looked too ugly. One ponders whether their is an algorithm predicting a sequence where gangsters keep shooting each other until none are left. That would solve the police problem. Meantime the citizens of the neighborhoods affected by crime driven violence do not want to disband what they already see as too little police protection.
The city council has to sort these things out and create a full-breathing just replacement of law and order before the message and intents to defrock the police get amplified by critics of defunding the police who stroke fear of anarchy and gangster rule, leading to more riots. Look at Beirut, they say already.
Stop and look around. As we rebuild our economy and reinvent the police under best practices of justice, we are still barely past midsummer amid a pandemic that has caused an un-Presidented (sic) national emergency this year. Look around and you’ll see more and more evidence of intelligence figuring out this pandemic and working through it than Donald J Trump’s reckless leadership. He and his economic advisor Peter Navarro sound like pill pushers with too much inventory of hydroxychloroquine to get rid of — another of what John Bolton referred to as a White House drug deal. Trump reiterates his wish the virus would just disappear, if only from the headlines. His strategy of not paying attention to it might distract the world’s attention away from it only backfired, so now he wants to get back in the game. The benchmark is when he said, “It is what it is.”
He told us, after all, he is the Snake.
Everything he does from here on will be directed to his re-election. He laments he cannot deliver his renomination speech to a roaring arena of free will partisans. He could cop an idea from Major League Baseball. He could stage his speech in a vast arena where all the seats are filled with cardboard cutouts of his true supporters (critics will scan the videos for duplicates and triplicates) and provide frenzied applause from pre-recorded crowd noise. If that scenario sounds like preaching to the album cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, maybe the Republicans with their deep pockets can pony up to make the crowd all holograms. His is governance by illusion and delusion all the same.
We are fortunate to vote him out this year and begin the healing and rebuilding in earnest. Another thing I looked forward to in this late summer essay was to urge Americans to un-elect Donald J Trump president by the vote. The scientific evidence is in. He is who he is. He’s so obsessed with the Chinese origin of the virus I’m surprised he hasn’t blamed Mulan.
A Springsteen song goes, “At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe.” (Live ’75-85, Reason to Believe.)
Roxanne and I spend most of our life in a kind of lockdown mode at our hermitage sanctuary urban cabin love nest. Apart from our amorous romantic disposition we amuse and look after each other the nicest we can the other five or six days a week.
We have taken brief sojourns to northern Minnesota to get out of the city. It’s nice to rely that we will find everything safe and secure when we return. Our neighbors around the block look out for us as that nice old couple on the corner. We count on our pitchfork, rake, snow shovel and garden hose platoons. We know our neighbors better than ever now we are retired, even though these days we have to wear masks if we aren’t hollering across the street or a lawn away.
We have put effort into yard and garden projects. Roxanne has maintained some stunningly colorful hanging baskets. The zinneas are blooming. The phlox has gone rampant. The cosmos is yet to bloom but entangles itself with leaves of green filigree. Rosalita the rose bush is flowering bouquets. The tiger lilies attack. We used to have a gnome named Gerome made of cast cement. He disintegrated into chunks in July. We have an 18 inch statue of St Francis of Assisi but he’s obscured within the jungle along with ceramic sculpture and the pink flamingo saturated with phlox and ornamental grass.
On the north side of our house we laid a cobblestone border on our side of the property line next to our next door neighbor’s car park. It required about 175 granite cobble stones which we obtained from our daughter and her husband Sid, who pulled them up from their property to revanp their own home landscape. Each stone weighed about 13 pounds (sterling, ha ha) and we transported them by car in loads of about twenty. Off and on, allowing for weather and mood of commitment it took a month. Sanded and brushed it looks amateurish enough to be ancient. It looks like the winding route home from the pub. It reminds me of Prague.
Roxanne most readily concedes boredom. She orders books for pickup from the public library and bums them off her sister and scouts the little free lending libraries. She’s an expert on Jack Reacher and Mitch Rapp, which is no shock, in the 1970s she was an expert on the works of John D MacDonald. She watches Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney +. She knits. Sews face masks (currently fatigued). Mows the lawn. Has hatched a plan to plant Shenandoah switch grass, an ornamental that produces fluffy purplish inflorescence, in the four patches on our yard where we removed mature maple trees almost two years ago because they were diseased and dying. They were about 70 or 80 years old and left sizeable plots after the stumps were removed. She thinks purple prairie grass will fill the void. She tries to keep busy. She does all our grocery shopping. It’s the season of fresh sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon. Farm to table. She misses social contact more than I do. Being the grandma everybody wishes was their grandma, she has bent distancing to thin margins to get a fix from her kids and grandkids.
This year we also planted two trees, an Autumn Maple and a Prairie Elm, spaced apart to eventually shade the yard with the existing trees without overlapping in ten years.
I am content to shelter in place, staying home and putzing and ruminating, though I give in with Roxanne to see our son and daughter, the two quaranteenagers Clara and Tess, and the almost two year old Neko because I miss them, my quality of life would diminish without them.
Roxanne and I have been tested for covid-19, both negative. We are asymptomatic. We are lucky.
With so much summertime remaining and so much angst over the coronavirus I got to thinking about the late Eddie Cochrane, an edgy rock and roller who was born in Minnesota and died in a car accident in England at the height of his fame. He wrote the angst classic anthem”Summertime Blues” which was a big radio hit when I was a little kid. Later when I was a teenager it got heroically revived by the Who (Live at Woodstock).
The song goes: “I’m gonna take two weeks, gonna have a fine vacation. I’m gonna take my problem to the United Nations. I called my congressman and he said quote: ‘I’d like to help you son but you’re too young to vote.’ Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do. But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”
Even at the age of seven I caught the irony of a privileged teenager whining about trying to get a date and can’t use the car because he didn’t work late. The song’s been covered by Springsteen, Alan Jackson and Joan Jett, each with their own smug sense of entitlement. The original version still cracks me up when Eddie delivers the punch line about too young to vote, just the way he says, “son”.
If there ain’t no cure then at least let there be palliative treatments.
I am cheered by the Washington NFL football team to change the nickname of the franchise. Thus far they haven’t picked a mascot. I suggest they call themselves the Washington Pigskins. Not long ago their offensive line was known as the Hogs. And fans can still endearingly call them their ‘Skins. Their logo can be a simple profile of an NFL football, laces up.
Not that I expect to see them play any time soon. I do look forward to Le Tour de France late this month. I need something to sustain my cheerful optimism that we will all get through this together. The sport of cycling is based on team sustenance. Team members serve one another as domestiques to advance each others’ goals. And I love to watch the lavish video of the rich landscapes of France.
As dire as the pandemic looked from the outset in the spring, I never foresaw being shut out of the rest of the world, unwelcome to travel. As it turns out even the pandemic is more dire in the USA than foreseen, mostly due to a president in denial of its infectious potency, and until further notice based on scientific testing Americans are confined to America.
It hurts to be cut off from Mexico, not to say we would have liked to have been able to visit Portugal this September but c’est la vie. We can’t even get into Canada. That’s sad. About Mexico I am reminded of the invasion of the conquistadores of Hernando Cortez, how they introduced diseases to the natives. A Mexican friend tells me it is not worth getting sick to make money serving tourists. I have read that Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo were shut down like ghost towns. I tried to contact sources to describe to me what such a lockdown was like, how people were getting along.
I turned to the hipster blogger ZihuaRob but his bare threads aren’t gazette quality updates and overlook the general population to favor the view of the Canadian and American ex-pats. I’m sad to be banned from our favorite winter destination for their own and our own good and not to know how people are doing day to day. I don’t know how to interpret a blog with a logo like this.