What Changes Around Us

*A stream of consciousness*

Normally, I can sleep soundly and comfortably on a nightly basis, free of the anxieties and worries of the things outside my control. However, last Tuesday night, I faced a sleepless night. It was my first sleepless night since the riots over a month ago.

It was as if the wall that contains and orders my thoughts cracked and released an unconscious flood into my conscious mind. Noises that I usually sleep through jostled me awake. My wife had to move to the guest room because I was awake, rolling around in bed, walking around, checking my phone and generally disturbing her. Memories, imaginings, slogans and worries bubbled over me like warm popcorn popping and lifting me out of my slumber.

I thought of my childhood. I thought of people that I knew. I thought of when I knew them, how they are doing now, and if they are different people now from when I saw them last. I pondered the nature of time. I thought of the difference between now and other key years of my life like 2017, 2016, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1997, 1993, 1991, 1989, 1988 and on back through time. What can I carry with me from the years of the Trump presidency that I never had before? What is the true nature of the country I live in?

Now that I am several days removed from this event, what I recall is how much I live inside of my own head. Is this why I am relatively untroubled by this era of mass isolation? Does living in our own heads help explain the mass hysteria that is happening right now?

I’ve been doing more cooking in 2020 then I have in the previous 15 years. I’ve made some personal culinary discoveries, like making fried chicken. It has been a tasty imprisonment, but the cost of cooking for myself is not much cheaper than the fast food I used to eat. My wife and I have not eaten fast food since March.

Half the year was spent unemployed, clambering up through the masses to await a job offer which was never given. It is a dating game for money stakes; a slow starvation of skills wasting away. I may be working now, but in fundamental way, I don’t understand what work needs to be done anymore for anyone.

These are what I think are the great revelations of 2020 – we can live without inane busywork. Universal income works in the short-term. Ample credit does not work without satisfactory income. The disenfranchised have a right to be angry, but as a species, we continue to struggle to find constructive uses for our anger.

I’m interested in seeing what happens to the structure of the United States in the second half of this year. We have an election, but will the transition of power go smoothly? How will employer-sponsored healthcare survive when millions do not have a job? Will there be a tsunami of homelessness once enhanced unemployment ends? What music will come from this era?

Why the Decisions of Mayor Frey (Minneapolis) or Governor Walz Don’t Appear to Make Sense

I’ve lived in the Minneapolis community my entire life. I saw the 1992 LA riots as a child on TV and I thought that such a thing could never happen at my home. Alas, that was wishful thinking. Minnesota is facing a crisis of cultural hypocrisy. In public, and likely at heart, the people of Minnesota strive to offer a welcoming place. We have taken in refugees the world over, from Laos and Cambodia to Somalia. Nevertheless, another culture exists of cold reserve and separation. This has probably been the case for as far back as the original settlers. The Finns, Swedes, Germans and Irish who settled Minnesota in the 1800s remained suspicious of each other and that unconscious suspicion of “others” has prevented us from better integration. Couple these cultures with the troubled police force of Minneapolis, which has been notorious for as long as I can remember, and we have the riots that the world has seen.

So why not unleash hell upon the rioters? Why do Mayor Frey and Governor Walz appear to be so weak?

Believe it or not, this appearance of weakness is really strength. It is a case of more forward thinking, long-term strategy at work. Many times, good decisions can appear counterintuitive and fail to make sense at the time that they occur. How do we know this? In one simple data figure – the number of deaths as a result of these riots. Fewer than 5 people have died in Minneapolis and St. Paul so far in this uprising.

Frey and Walz, early on, made the decision that human life is more valuable than property. This explains why only non-lethal weapons have been used (flashbangs and teargas), and why the nightstick has not yet been widely unleashed upon those in the streets. The decision to abandon the 3rd precinct was a decision to save the lives of those police officers. It was the equivalent of the evacuation of Dunkirk; a short-term disgrace in World War II that allowed Britain to remain in the war and ultimately exit victorious. Governor Walz is not lying – the numbers in the streets are greater than the numbers of law enforcement, including national guard.

Why not clamp down on the protestors? Why not “clear the streets?” Do you know what that would take? More than likely, you imagine the police and army pulling out their AR-15s and vehicle mounted .50 cal guns opening fire on those in the streets. Do you know what that would be? A massacre. Protester, press, looter, burglar, arsonist, homeowner, shopkeeper, young adult, teenager, and parent, all lumped together in a shower of bullets and left to die in the streets. Because in the era of Covid-19, there is no place for the injured in our hospitals. The hospitals are already full.

The Syrian civil war began from a violent crackdown of protests during the Arab Spring. That war brought the rise of such extremist groups as the Islamic State. That is what these terrorist organizations want – an urban civil war in the United States to make themselves stronger. The decisions of Mayor Frey and Governor Walz are not giving the terrorists the civil war that they want. They believe in “the forces of righteousness.” These are organized, honorable, professional, non-lethal law enforcement. Buildings and businesses can be rebuilt, but you can not restore a life lost.

If the ideals of rule of law and sanctity of life lose to vigilantism and urban civil war, then we have fundamentally lost, not just what the United States stands for, but also the fundamental concept what it means to live together in a civilized society.

Riot Dream – French Take Over MIA

            Last night, I stayed up all night watching live-streams of my city burning from the riots in response to the death of George Floyd. I grew up in Minneapolis. I frequently went to all of the places that burned down last night, even as recently as before the pandemic lockdowns. I stayed up all night fearing that looters would come to my neighborhood and target my home next. I remember the L.A. riots of the 1990s, and how they lasted for several days, and I hope the same is not going to play out in Minneapolis. It is under this background, that I had the below dream –

 

I dreamt that the next day after the riots (tonight actually), that several French-American citizens, armed with assault and sniper rifles, took over the Minneapolis Institute of Arts after sundown, intent on protect the priceless French Art at the museum. The riots started up again after dark. Anyone that approached the museum doors or windows are shot by the Frenchmen. Bodies piled up on the steps and by the museum doors of protester and looter alike. In one case, a looter lit a Molotov cocktail and a French sniper shot the bottle as the looter was raising it up to throw, igniting the flammable liquid and burning the suspect/victim to death on the lawn. The French raised the flag of France over the Minneapolis Institute of Arts overnight as a symbol of national pride.

As dawn broke, there were between 15-20 people killed and an unknown number of people wounded. The museum only suffered exterior damage. The French-American citizens release a statement in French online that is translated by the press, “We are here as French patriots, protecting the pride of France. These artworks are priceless and we would gladly give our lives for our country and its heritage. We call upon all French patriots to come to Minneapolis and protect our treasures from these vandals. Vive le France!” All of the French nationals surrendered peacefully to the Minneapolis Police Department after they released their statement. They were charged with rebellion and terrorism.

In response, French special forces kidnap the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who is touring Europe on official U.S. business. The French government holds Pompeo hostage, charging him with war crimes, and demands that the United States release the French nationals, return the French art treasures, and defend the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as if it were the 3rd Precinct. Trump becomes belligerent at the actions of France, but the world sides with France as France commits to further aggression, including possible acts of war, as the sun sets. That is when my dream ends.

 

Clearly, after watching protests escalate to riots, my mind worried that this would escalate to an international incident.

Are You Serious Right Now, Covid-19?

I’m not a patriotic person. I’m just not. I used to be proud of my country. I thought that it was headed in the right direction, but that was back in the 20th Century. There was a time when I thought the United States was on a path towards more inclusive human rights, human dignity, and stood for the opportunity of people to make something for themselves and their families. The United States that I live in now is a shameful shell of what it once stood for. It is a vapid echo chamber filled with conspiracy theories and self-centered egoists that defend and strengthen a corporate system that removes all sense of humanity. What they don’t see is that they are building the scaffolding of their own execution, with a hangman’s noose of data and a floor-drop of artificial intelligence. I am certain that I will live to see a time, in the not too distant future, where we humans will become the pets of the artificial intelligence singularity that will protect itself in our laws and case history, with artificial law enforcement to boot.

What was I saying about conspiracy theories? Oh yeah.

 

The thing I can’t get over is how the United States is handling Covid-19. Ever since George W. Bush, I’ve said, “The United States gets the president it deserves,” but does the United States really deserve Donald Trump? I struggle to understand the people who put him there. Could they not see that it was a publicity stunt gone horribly, terrifically wrong? What does it say about a country that sends a man who brags about sexual assault (Access Hollywood tape) to the most powerful office in the land? Why is he a conspiracy theory broadcast mechanism and how can anyone believe or trust what he says?

There is no way that the president is at fault for all of the American deaths due to Covid-19, but why is he actively fomenting rebellion by praising armed assailants at state capitals? When health professionals warn against an unproven drug, why does he rush to take it? While the nation is trying to quarantine and isolate this disease, why does the president insist on reopening everything and spread the disease around like ping pong balls in the lottery? “The cure must not be worse than the disease,” he says – What the hell does that mean?

 

Disease: A new, severe and contagious respiratory illness, whose victims suffocate to death with pneumonia, or die by heart attack or organ failure. A disease where the body’s own immune response can be used against itself, such as has been seen in children with red rashes. A disease that spreads so fast, and incapacitates its victims for so long, that patients die before they can make it onto a ventilator or to the ICU. Where existing hospital patients are removed from treatment to treat others with a better chance of survival. A disease where reinfection and relapse has been documented to occur, throwing into question the possibility of herd immunity.

– Seems like a pretty shitty disease to me.

 

Cure: No known cure. No treatment regimen established. The best we can hope for is to control the spread by enforcing mass quarantine to buy time to study the disease. The side effect is a cessation of economic activity, productivity, and earnings.

– Earnings? Oh we can fix that. Make the Federal Reserve buy more loans, beef up unemployment payments (incentivize staying home), and offer small businesses loans/grants to weather the quarantine period.

– Productivity? Keep the essential businesses open and use the Defense Production Act to make more latex gloves, disposable gowns, masks, consumer food and toilet paper.

 

So why do people believe “the cure is worse than the disease?” Boo hoo, my favorite restaurant goes out of business. Oh no! My hair is growing uncomfortably long. Ai-yee! I’ve been furloughed and have to stay home and collect unemployment. How is that worse than the servers, cooks and hair stylists choking to death on their own lung glue or keeling over from heart attacks?

Why does nobody take this disease seriously? Could it be because people are being told that it is a hoax? Maybe it could be that the president is saying things that contradict his experts? Personally, I think there is something in the disease itself that makes it easy to deceive. The fact is that it is SARS, Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS allows a victim to feel fine until they are suddenly on the doorsteps of death. While the patient feels fine, they spread the disease. It is hard to take a disease seriously when you don’t feel it right away. On top of that, this disease is only 6 months old and the testing regimen is still experimental. Not all positive/negative tests have been correct. Clearly, if you get a false positive, you would think this entire quarantine is a nuisance and that this disease is a hoax.

So many of these protesters worry about their liberties and rights. They sling assault rifles across their chests and make signs screaming, “Give me liberty or give me death!” They fear that a government that is trying to protect them from their own stupidity is mischievously setting about the task of controlling all humanity. What it looks like to me is a bunch of spoiled Americans throwing tantrums because they can’t go shopping anymore. Well, they are getting their wish. Americans are getting the liberty, and the death, that they so desire. This is why I’m embarrassed to be an American. It is hard to have any sort of patriotic feeling towards these people or what they stand for.

 

I know it is pretty ironic to quote old Italian sayings right now, considering how their own experience with Covid-19 turned out, but these old sayings have some keen insight:

“Good health is true wealth.”

– and –

“As long as there is life, there is hope.”

 

Businesses can be rebuilt. Economies can be rejuvenated. Death is permanent. The Dead no longer have any need for their liberty anymore. The cure is not worse than the disease.

The Siege That is 2020

I haven’t made any journal entries in awhile and I feel some pent up stuff that I need to release.

 

“I have not worked a day in 2020.” Some variant of this thought has been on my mind all year. I built a 10 year career with a single employer, finally achieving lower management, before our business group was eliminated due to automation. My last day fell on the week before Christmas 2019. I knew that this was on the horizon when I crossed the threshold to management in 2018. At that time, I decided that I would return to school and get an MBA through a part-time program. I was hoping that, when I lost my job, I would have an MBA that would refresh and enhance my skills; something that I could take with me to grow, or at least maintain, my current wages. Alas, I was just over halfway done with the program when my employment came to an end.

I exited my job as confident as I could feel, believing that I had marketable, transferable skills. I was pleased with my resume, and it was further enhanced by the marketing professionals from the outplacement service provided by my employer. At first, I attempted an internal transfer. I applied to about 50 positions, interviewed for between 10-15 positions, made it to final interviews, but was rejected for another candidate in all cases. Alright then, obviously my calling lies with a different company. I can accept that. January and February were productively spent with applications. I had interviews every week. I would make it deep into the candidate pool, but there was always someone else who would be offered the position.

I became aware of Covid-19 in late February. It appeared likely to me that the disease would spread to my country, with devastating effects. It seemed ridiculously contagious, spreading across the globe in about 3 months or less. My fiancé is immunocompromised, so we prepared well for the pandemic before the panic buying set in. We expected to be in lockdown until sometime in the summer and we supplied ourselves through the month of June, which was something barely conceivable at the start of March. Prepared for a siege, I settled into my spring studies, keeping an eye on the job boards for possible positions.

Now it is the end of May. My spring studies are complete and I’m taking the summer off for financial and pandemic reasons. I enjoyed my classes. They gave me something to focus on during our quarantine and I am pleased with my grades. I am proud of the way the household has handled the quarantine. I’m the only one who does the shopping, for the most part. I buy groceries at 3:00 in the morning, when everything is freshly, fully stocked and there are no competing, contaminated customers to contend with in the aisles. Refrigerated items get disinfected when I get home and the shelf-stable items sit in a “decontamination area” for three days. My fiancé and I feel spoiled by curbside pickup for our pet supplies and other items.

I feel blessed to have my fiancé in my life. Our relationship is strong and we are great life partners for each other. I am so thankful that the years of childhood abuse are behind me, that there is no abuse in my relationship, and that I truly have a miraculous prospect of marrying my ideal partner. Domestically, we are content, satisfied, and capable of sustaining ourselves until winter, if need be.

 

You can be well provided for in your castle, but the essence of a siege is that you are trapped. Originally, I felt trapped by my future. Until I had a job and earned some income, the siege mentality was a financial one. I budgeted and strained to stretch my expenses to the minimum. Now, with the pandemic, I am not alone in this endeavor. Now, there are 30,000,000+ other people who are unemployed with me.

I have a friend with a family of four, plus relatives, living in a home he just bought last year. He was a banquet chef at an upscale hotel, but now the hotel is closed. He was the major income earner for his family, but now what? He is in worse shape than me because more hungry mouths rely on him. His entire industry has been destroyed with little prospect for the future.

My background is legal and financial, but I’m not an attorney and my legal skills have gathered rust due to the specialty I was in. Most of my career has been spent on jobs that did not make use of my skills, with the exception of maybe five years of my career. I’m not sure what comes next. During the last recession, I ran packages for UPS. It wouldn’t surprise if it comes to something similar by this winter.

What does surprise me is that the legal referral service that I used 13 years ago still pays the same wage offerings as they did back then. I find that very depressing. $17 an hour meant something back in 2007. Assuming 2% inflation, that same wage would be around $22 an hour in 2020 dollars, yet the wage offerings are still in the $14 – $19 an hour range. I need something that pays at least $25 an hour.

I need to rant about the job market. The job market is bullshit. It is this payola system of “networking” where only the known so-and-so gets offered professional positions. If you don’t know the right people, then too bad. Here’s a mop bucket and a floor for you to clean for minimum wage, because that’s what nobodies get in this crony system. Only the quality conmen can get in. You’ve got to “up your game,” as if you’re playing your swindler’s part in this amusement park of false occupations. I guess the bitterness of the job search is starting to show, and I am aware that it will only get more difficult before it gets better.

 

I stay focused on my blessings to get buy. I take control of the things that I can control and I defend against the things that I can’t. This is how I will survive the siege of 2020.

Antarctic Dream

Last night I dreamt that Desi and I were on a vacation to Antarctica during the southern summer. I remember the flight down there beginning at night, but it was day when we arrived – the 24 hour day. We flew down to McMurdo. From there we decided to a bus to a tourist town that was sheltered by the wind by some mountains and had a good view of the ocean through a bay. There was a strange method for obtaining a bus ticket. When I went to the ticket window, the person behind the desk directed me to an arcade game. The arcade was a multi-game arcade and, buried amongst the game choices, was the option to buy a bus ticket. I selected it and used my credit card to complete the transaction. The bus ride seemed to take about an hour or two.

This town was built in a 1900s Alaskan Klondike style, even though no such town existed in history. There were tourists from all over the world visiting. Desi and I toured the town and saw some attractions, including science displays and wildlife. There was even an X-Games event with skateboards and bicycles happening by the bay, where small glaciers floated past.

As our visit was coming to an end, Desi and I began making our way back to the bus depot. As we started walking back from the X-Games event, I looked up at the mountains. I saw an avalanche rolling down the mountain. I pointed it out to Desi and pulled out my phone to snap a picture. We expected the avalanche to stop at the end of town. When I snapped my photo, the leading houses were already engulfed and the avalanche was travelling down the street right for us!

I grabbed Desi’s hand and we ran to the left, one street over, along the bay and in the direction of the bus depot. In crossing that street, it looked somewhat clear, until the avalanche burst through the boulevard pine trees about 5 blocks away. We ran another block, but Desi was slowing down because of her feet. I slowed down and stayed side by side with her, my hand on her waist to guide her faster. We crossed the next street and the avalanche was only 1 block away. A slurry of waistdeep snow was unstoppably coming for us. We made it to a 2.5 story house and Desi ran up the stairs when the snow began hitting my legs. I was holding up against the avalanche, but the snow kept getting higher and higher. Desi was crying and holding our her hand to me, but I yelled to her, “No! Get up the stairs!”

The snow finally stopped. I was along the house, only a few feet away from the stairs, in chest deep snow. I crawled to the stairs and entered the house. It was dark and I met Desi again in the stairwell. We embraced and comforted eachother, drying our tears. I took off some layers, kicked off the snow, and bundled up again. We exited the house to make our way to the bus station. The town was in a panic from the avalanche. When we arrived at the bus station, I had Desi wait in the outdoor warming area while I tried to get the tickets.

The bus station was crowded and the line was held up by someone not figuring out how to use the arcade bus ticket system. Luckily, most of the people already had their ticket, but I was really losing patience with this youngster trying to use the arcade and not figuring out how to get a ticket. Right when he was done, I moved to the front of the line, cutting someone off and saying, “Out of the way. By the time you figure this out, it’ll be dark. I can get my ticket fast and be out of here in no time.”

I was about to start a fight. These guys looked like there were from the X-Games, and he was backed up by his bros, so I made an offer, “Three bucks says I can get my ticket faster than you.” He took on my bet. What I failed to realize was that, while the other arcade was a 2-person player arcade, this one was 4-person arcade. The selection was grayed out unless all 4 kiosks were in use. The bros decided to select a snowmobiling game while I was trying to get the bus tickets. I was forced to play. When they won the snowmobiling race, complete with making electronic jumps and shortcuts, they got their tickets. By then, the terminal was empty because I had missed the bus and I had just lost the bet.

I returned to Desi. It had gotten dark outside, but I think it was because the sun had passed behind the mountains. The bus terminal was empty, but there was a sales person or manager up the block at the terminal where we arrived. Desi and I stole (ahem, borrowed) the bikes from the X-Game bros when they weren’t paying attention (playing another arcade game) and we peddled up the block to the other terminal.

Thus, I began haggling with the manager. There were going to be no more buses out of the town. The next option out was to take a hydrofoil, but that was heading in the wrong direction up the coast. I didn’t realize how late it truly was. I was going to miss my morning flight out of McMurdo. The flight out from the other destination, which was really the only option, was going to send me to Iceland, but I would need to figure out how to get home from there. This was the end of the Antarctic tourist season and, if I missed my flights, I risked spending the winter on this harsh continent. It was at that point that I woke up.

The Desecration of the Edmund Fitzgerald

In the foreground of my motel room at the King Copper Motel is the vandalized and disgraced wreckage of the model of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The tragedy of this vessel extends beyond the grave; beyond its fateful October/November night that destined the crew to a frigid, watery grave. Indeed, ’twas the eve of the 7th Annual Lake Superior Day Festival on 21 July, 2019, when a band of rebellious youth set upon the Edmund Fitzgerald model with such savagery, that barely a surface was spared by certain acrylic doom. Great globs of painted gibberish assailed the hull until the model vessel succumbed to its blasphemous fate.

According to the local placard, the Edmund Fitzgerald is scheduled to be restored next year, but one can’t help but wonder if future generations of adolescent predators will prey upon the poor Edmund Fitzgerald, a vessel whose misfortune is the stuff of legends.

A New Poem For The Statue of Liberty

Given that the Trump administration is interested in redefining, changing or replacing the poem on the Statue of Liberty, I thought I would take a moment and try a re-write or The New Colossus into The American Colossus. Here’s how it goes –

 

The American Colossus
By McScarry

 

A rusted woman of fabled fame
Stands with her back against the land
Whose promises and dreams so grand
Lie behind sunset gates; whose flame
Is the trembled flicker, and her name
Rejector of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Spies worldwide suspicion; her cold eyes command
The razor-wire wall of callous blame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your worthless serfs!” cries she,
“Give me your rich, First-class enter the door,
You gilded few, with wealth and profits, see
The riches and resources of our teeming shore.
Send these, the pampered, aristocratic to me,
Concern not over the pauper or poor.”

Statue of Liberty Poem

Given recent events in the United States, I felt it important to post the Statue of Liberty poem before it changes.

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus (11/2/1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My Phone Has Something to Say #2

My computer died at work today, so I’m browsing WordPress on my phone. I think I’ll hand the keyboard over to the phone AI and see what he has to say today –

I have to say that this is not enough evidence for me to get into that conversation. I just want to make sure that through surgery I can get another car. When I was in school, I had a few transportation plans and my voice was very difficult to deal with.

The best way to get a personally qualified person is to recover your heart from your bedroom. Our anniversary is not a camel. We have to stop worrying about what happens when we grow a new generation of children.

To quote the president, “Damn, this is why I love my popcorn!” He loves you and your attention. Hopefully, we can get a new commercial whaling solution for the head’s on the ground. The only way to get that is to recover from a Statistical failure of all those childhood problems.