Valentine’s Day

The usual greeting for today would be “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Not this year.

I’m having a difficult time using “happy” as an adjective after the last week.

My family has been struggling with caretaking issues for Paco, complicated by the pandemic. I’ve spent this weekend feeling as though I want to cry, but not quite being able to let myself do it.

It’s the opposite of “happy.”

The United States is also dealing with the first day after the second impeachment trial of our former president. The trial was sobering, as it drove home the extent of death, injury, and damage done during the insurrection and how very close the vice president and members of Congress came to being injured or killed. Somehow, even though more than 67 senators said that DT was responsible for inciting insurrection, only 57 voted to convict falling short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. There are likely to be legal repercussions for the former president coming through the judicial system, possibly both federal and state. Meanwhile, he is likely to seek revenge against those Republican members of Congress who voted for impeachment or conviction by advocating that their state parties censure them, by advertising against them, and by funding primary opponents.

Let me be clear that even if DT had been found guilty in the Senate trial, it would not have been an occasion of happiness. It is impossible to feel happy in the face of so much suffering, pain, and fear.

I am trying to find comfort in the message of Valentine’s Day that love is strong, enduring, and the most important aspect of our lives.

May it be so.

May it overcome our present situation.


I don’t think surrealer is an accepted English word, but it’s all that comes to mind right now.

When I was away for a week, I didn’t follow news as closely as I usually do, but after a few days back at home, it seems that the levels of contradiction and absurdity and fear-mongering and conspiracy-theorizing have reached new highs in the United States.

Serious journalists have to try to try to explain QAnon. The Republican convention played up fear of anarchy and violence as being part of “Joe Biden’s America” – despite the fact that Donald Trump has been president for over three and a half years – while neglecting to confront the very real fear of the spread of coronavirus. The official case count in the US is now over six million and the actual case number is probably much higher. That’s terrifying.

If the consequences weren’t so disturbing, I’d laugh. Instead, I’m stuck with the bewilderment of surreal-er.

I realize that people who are in a media bubble or conspiracy mindset are not generally inclined to factcheck, but I implore people to seek out credible sources of information. Go to Joe Biden’s campaign website for his positions on issues and his public statements. Go to the Johns Hopkins website for US and world COVID statistics. I was hoping to provide a link for Donald Trump’s plans for a second term, but his official website doesn’t have an issues and plans page; I haven’t heard him give a clear answer about plans in interviews, either. It’s a major problem, especially with so many challenges facing the country right now and so little effective action from the administration.

What will next month bring?

And the month after?

When will life not seem surreal?

JC’s Confessions #14

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.


After all the safer-at-home pandemic protocols, I’m afraid that it will be difficult for me to resume going back out to church, meetings, events, etc.

The truth is that I am both introverted and shy. It takes a lot of energy for me to be in a group setting and even more for me to actively participate. I much prefer one-on-one interaction, the exception being among family.

I wrote yesterday about the explosion of Zoom and other virtual meetings. I’m finding that these are also very draining and even more difficult to navigate than in-person meetings, because it is harder to gauge how/when to break into the conversation when we are each in our own little box.

I wonder if some of the group activities I used to do will even exist after a vaccine makes social interaction relatively safe again. While I had been mourning my lack of a chorus with whom to sing, now no one has a chorus available and may not for a long time, given that singing in a group is an especially dangerous virus-spreader. The spirituality group that I have facilitated for years at church is almost entirely people in high-risk groups and we don’t have the option to go virtual due to technical limitations.

Some organizations, like the Binghamton Poetry Project, will eventually have to decide if they go back to in-person meetings or stay in Zoom, which allows people who don’t have transportation or who live outside the area to participate.

It’s possible that there won’t be many groups expecting my physical presence when we get to the post-pandemic world, but there will no doubt be some. Will I be able to muster the energy to venture back out on a regular basis or will I just stay home?

I don’t know.

One-Liner Wednesday: fear

“Fear is the greatest incapacitator.”
~~~ Jenny Holzer

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One-Liner Wednesday: danger

“It’s hard to know if you’re crazy if you feel you’re in danger all the time now.”
~~~ Jenny Holzer

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One-Liner Wednesday: fear and understanding

“Nothing in life is to be feared, only understood.  Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”
~~~ Marie Curie
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One-Liner Wednesday: danger

“It’s hard to know if you’re crazy if you feel you’re in danger all the time now.”
~~~Jenny Holzer
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learning about consent

One of the purposes of the choice of “Be Heard” as the theme of the Binghamton Women’s March was to listen to perspectives that have often been silenced. One of the most powerful speeches was about sexual assault.

With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in the news, I have also been having some discussions about consent and assault/harassment with my daughters, who are in their late twenties and early thirties.

The Women’s March speaker who was a survivor of sexual assault said something that really articulated the issue of consent for me, something along the lines of she is not sure if she said no, but she was very sure she did not say yes. She did not give consent.

Her words crystallized something for me so that I understood better what my daughters and other younger women have been saying. As a woman in her later fifties, I wasn’t really brought up with discussion about consent. We were trained to be vigilant about making sure no one drugged our drinks at a party and about staying away from dark or isolated places, but not about what to do if a date or acquaintance pressured or overpowered or coerced us into unwanted sexual behavior.

I understood over time that it was never about what women wore or if they had been drinking or if they knew their attacker. Women who are assaulted are not at fault for their assault. No means no.

What I hadn’t understood until now was the extent to which no means no is not enough. Women may freeze or shut down in fear when faced with sexual aggression and may not be able to say no. They may not be able to leave the situation without the threat of violence against them. Asking “why didn’t she just leave?” is akin to asking “why was she wearing that?”

The questions are placing blame on the victim rather than on the perpetrator.

All forms of abuse and harassment are abuses of power. Sexual abuse and harassment are no different.

Consent needs to mutual, ongoing, and enthusiastic from all participants. Anything less makes what should be a caring and loving encounter into an abuse of power.
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Fear (not)

I have been writing for months about how scared I am of DT.

Over the weekend, though, I have been getting lots of messages to not be afraid.

At the Women’s March in Binghamton and from speakers that I saw on video from other locations, the message was repeated over and over. “Don’t be afraid. Grab a clipboard and get signatures to run for office.”

At church on Sunday, we heard in readings and the in the homily to not be afraid. We sang a psalm response, “Of whom should I be afraid?”

I wish I could say that I am suddenly not afraid. I’m at least less afraid, because I feel that there are so many others who are going to be working to limit the damage that DT plans/executes. There is strength in numbers, especially when we are working together for the common good.

I doubt, though, that I will ever be brave enough to run for office. Years ago, when I was doing extensive volunteering in our local school district, numerous people tried to convince me to run for school board. I knew that I had the intellectual skills needed, but did not think I could muster the stamina needed for long, contentious meetings.

That still holds true.

I will just have to show my (developing) fearlessness in other ways.
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election aftermath

I have been giving myself some processing time before writing about the outcome of the US presidential election. I also delayed writing because I have been busy with family/household issues, but I am awake at an obscure hour so I may as well start in on this post.

I had written before about by afraid of Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign; I also had written about being a supporter of Bernie Sanders, whose policy ideas most resemble mine, who went on to support Hillary Clinton when she won the nomination and supported most of those policies.

I had also expressed hopes that the country would come together after the election.

Things don’t seem to be going that way.

I admit to be being puzzled by Speaker Ryan thinking the Republicans have a mandate to privatize Social Security, block grant funding to the states, cut business taxes, and other long-time Republican establishment goals when a) Trump campaigned against the Republican establishment b) Trump lost the popular vote c) the Republicans lost seats in both houses of Congress d) 47% of registered voters didn’t vote in the election and e) he thinks that somehow President Obama, who did win a majority of the votes in his two elections did not have a mandate.

I had hoped that Trump would gather a team around him who had experience and background in various aspects of government which, as a businessperson who has never held elective office, he lacks, but, so far, many of his picks have been problematic, especially in regards to preserving civil liberties.

I am still afraid.

I am most afraid for the American people.

I’m afraid for those who believed Trump’s promises to bring back their jobs in manufacturing, mining, and the oil and gas industries. A president does not have the power to do this because these businesses are part of global markets. The price of oil is influenced by supply and demand worldwide. Appalachian coal can’t compete with Wyoming coal because it has different properties. Most manufacturing is highly robotized and doesn’t employ as many workers as assembly lines used to.

I grew up in an area that lost a lot of jobs and population when mills closed down and have lived for the past 34 years in an area that lost a lot of population and jobs in tech and manufacturing. I know what it is like to have the younger generation need to move out of the area to find work and to find different kinds of work than their parents and grandparents had. I’m sorry, but no president can restore towns and cities to what they were ten or twenty or thirty or forty years ago. Our country was built on change and ingenuity. We have to adapt to present realities and educate and innovate and create new opportunities for the future. I’m afraid for those people who have been left behind and afraid that they are going to be disappointed again.

I’m afraid for all those who belong to groups that have been blamed, vilified, or characterized as suspect during the campaign by someone or other. Muslims, Jews, Christians. Latinos. Immigrants. Syrian refugees. LGBTQ folks. Women. Black voters. Those who are in the lower socioeconomic strata. Reporters. The less educated. Experts. (I admit that I have a lot of trouble understanding how people can vilify those who have devoted years of education, research, and experience to become experts in their fields, yet this happened frequently during the campaign. Not that I understand other parts of the blame game any better.)

I’m afraid for anyone who has ever suffered bullying or abuse and who has experienced renewed pain due to words and behavior brought out in the campaign.

I’m afraid for the US-born children and spouses of undocumented people who fear the deportation of their loved ones, and even their own deportation if the administration tries to overturn birthright citizenship.

I’m afraid for those in the military who might be deployed in unwise ways.

I’m afraid for public health if the ACA is repealed rather than being amended.

I’m afraid for public health and the environment if industry is allowed to increase pollutants and if greenhouse gas emissions go up. Many areas of the country and the world are already being impacted by climate change and the US cannot afford to pull back from our participation in international agreements. I think that most states and companies will continue to pursue greenhouse gas decreases and renewable energy increases no matter what the federal government says, but it would be much better to have the federal government leading the way instead of fighting it.

The last time I was afraid about the qualifications of the incoming president and administration was the election of George W. Bush, another candidate who was elected despite having lost the popular vote. I thought at the time “How bad could it be?” and it wound up being ten times worse than I had feared.

I am much more apprehensive about the upcoming Trump presidency. Given his volatility and lack of experience, I am very, very afraid of what may happen over the next four years.

I’m not alone.

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