Friday, March 6, 2020

Book Ends

Two cities, one I am from, one I lived in for the past three years; I miss neither and hope to never return to either.

Today I read this editorial in The New York Times that made me retch and it only confirmed what I have thought about race and politics in the South.

Why Southern Democrats Saved Biden

For those who live in the shadow of segregation and racial terror, the election is not about policy or personality. It’s about something much darker.

By Mara Gay
Ms. Gay is a member of the editorial board.
The New York Times March 6, 2020,

At the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, things look much as they did a half-century ago.

The site is now home to the National Civil Rights Museum, a remarkable collection that includes a replica of a firebombed bus ridden by the Freedom Riders as they traveled through the South protesting segregation in 1961.

Inside the museum the other day, a woman sat down beside me and wiped away tears. “I’m sorry,” she said. “What gets me is, after all this time, look what’s happening right now.”

Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina explained this in visceral terms when he announced his support for Joe Biden late last month, an endorsement that began with Mr. Clyburn, 79, talking about the first time he was arrested protesting for civil rights decades ago. “When I sat in jail that day, I wondered whether we were doing the right thing, but I was never fearful for the future,” he said. “As I stand before you today I am fearful of the future of this country. I’m fearful for my daughters and their futures, and their children, and their children’s futures.”

Mr. Clyburn said he was sure Mr. Biden was the right choice. “I know Joe. We know Joe. But most importantly, Joe knows us,” he said. Three days later, Mr. Biden won a convincing victory in the South Carolina primary, launching him into his Super Tuesday triumph and the front-runner status he enjoys today.

My friends in New York, many of them Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders supporters who see Mr. Biden as deeply uninspiring, were mystified. But after traveling through the South this past week, I began to understand. Through Southern eyes, this election is not about policy or personality. It’s about something much darker.

Not long ago, these Americans lived under violent, anti-democratic governments. Now, many there say they see in President Trump and his supporters the same hostility and zeal for authoritarianism that marked life under Jim Crow.

For those who lived through the trauma of racial terrorism and segregation, or grew up in its long shadow, this history haunts the campaign trail. And Mr. Trump has summoned old ghosts.

“People are prideful of being racist again,” said Bobby Caradine, 47, who is black and has lived in Memphis all his life. “It’s right back out in the open.”

In Tennessee and Alabama, in Arkansas and Oklahoma and Mississippi, Democrats, black and white, told me they were united by a single, urgent goal: defeating Mr. Trump this November, with any candidate, and at any cost.

“There’s three things I want to happen,” Angela Watson, a 60-year-old black Democrat from Oklahoma City, told me at a campaign event there this week. “One, beat Trump. Two, beat Trump. And three, beat Trump.”

They were deeply skeptical that a democratic socialist like Mr. Sanders could unseat Mr. Trump. They liked Ms. Warren, but, burned by Hillary Clinton’s loss, were worried that too many of their fellow Americans wouldn’t vote for a woman.

Joe Biden is no Barack Obama. But he was somebody they knew. “He was with Obama for all those years,” Mr. Caradine said. “People are comfortable with him.” Faced with the prospect of their children losing the basic rights they won over many generations, these voters, as the old Chicago political saw goes, don’t want nobody that nobody sent.

Mr. Biden understands this. “If the Democrats want a nominee who’s a Democrat — a lifelong Democrat! a proud Democrat! an Obama-Biden Democrat! — then join us!” he told voters in South Carolina in his victory speech.

Despite enormous progress, poverty in this still largely rural region, for Southerners of every race, remains crushing.

Confederate flags proudly paid for by the Sons of Confederate Veterans dot the highways.

Michael Bloomberg’s campaign office in Montgomery, Alabama faced a town square where human beings sold other human beings into slavery.

In Memphis last week, steps from the campaign trail, hundreds gathered across town for the 68th annual Mid-South Farm & Gin Show. Inside a massive convention hall, white Southerners mingled amid the giant steel claws of farm equipment and cardboard cutouts of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. At one booth, vendors sold a shirt that read, “Make Cotton Great Again.”

“The past is never dead,” as the Mississippi novelist William Faulkner wrote in “Requiem for a Nun.” “It’s not even past.”

Faulkner was on my mind when I picked up the keys to a rental car in Memphis, for the long drive to Selma, Ala. Along the way, I stopped for breakfast in Olive Branch, Miss., where I met a man named Dave Wright. His grandfather, Leonard Wright, was William Faulkner’s physician. “Faulkner wrote about Granddaddy. Granddaddy didn’t like what he said, but it was all true,” Mr. Wright told me. He stopped there.

On Sunday, I marched across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge with thousands, an annual exercise in remembering that draws Americans from all walks of life. In 1965, police attacked civil rights protesters here in an event that came to be called Bloody Sunday.

This year, the Democratic presidential candidates joined. So did Bob Smith, an older black man, who stood at the edge of the crowds holding a sign. “I was here in 1965, pistol whipped and kicked by police,” it read.

When I asked him about it, Mr. Smith smiled. “Yeah, I was here all right. Got the crap kicked out of me, too!” he told me with an easy laugh.

The march began and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a dull block of concrete named for a Confederate brigadier, was suddenly flooded with life. Choirs sent the sounds of gospel high into the thick Alabama air. Drummers walked the route alongside school groups, and church groups, and black sorority women in their pink and green regalia. Parents carried young children on their shoulders, hoping to catch a glimpse of the presidential candidates. “This is better than Mardi Gras,” Sharon Holmes, of Pontiac, Mich., told me.

At the crest of the bridge, hundreds stood with their faces to the warm Southern sun, breathing it all in.

Together, they are determined to hold on to a country that was paid for 55 years ago in blood. In the South, as in the rest of America, that may be a hard thing to do.

I was ignorant until I lived in Tennessee and no I was not "woke" as I knew of racism, Police abuse, the issue of mass incarceration of Black males and other abuses inflicted upon those who are descended from African roots.  As a white Woman and a Teacher I was more than cognizant but I also grew up in a largely White city, by parents, one foreign born, who were well read and well informed despite their lack of formal education.  I in turn was highly educated and had a home with an open door policy that enabled me to meet many types of people from their sexuality to their color and ethnicity.  I was fortunate for a child of that era to have such a family and they enabled me to be open to what life brought to me. But I did not understand the depth and breadth of what racism and misogyny and of course now Xenophobia was until I moved to Tennessee. What a fuckhole and the relationships between those of color and those who are white cross race and class lines and they are marred by a type of codependency that masks itself in resentment and hostility as such do.    The reality is that despite it all we have come a whole lot of nowhere since the Civil War.  I met many faces of color who distrusted those who were others and in the South anyone not like you was an "other." Tribalism runs deep in the deep south.   Distrust, suspicion, rivalry was something that was almost insidious and toxic to the culture.  Then add to this the insane obsession with Religion you have a deeper inherent cultural component that enables this even further.  The lack of education, the crushing poverty and the deep seated hate and loathing of all things not Southern and white dominate the political landscape. Again it is a fuckhole

The tornado for one brief moment will drop defenses but I am sure it will not last long as the South will never ever recover from their loathing of the loss of wealth and status from a war over 100 years ago. It is engrained in the culture, in the blood and comes from the womb.  Hateful bullies all of them and yes even those of Color fall into that category. Subjugation does that to a person.

Then I read this editorial from a white Professor at the University of Washington about the crisis in Seattle with the "Coronation" Virus.  The irony is that there in this white suburban yet urban city (trust me Seattle is very provincial) has zero clue how to handle this other than data collection and of course the liberal pearl clutching and cat hearding to agree on what to do.  Which means pearl clutching, talking and dancing in circles while the shit hits the fan.  Funny in Tennessee they are more proactive but they have guns and saws and shit its what they do so natch they would be out fixing shit.  Seattle is not going to cure this but it will be fun to watch them circle jerk.

Life in Seattle, America’s Coronavirus Capital
The crisis is forcing a tech boomtown to hit pause.

By Margaret O’Mara
The New York Times
Contributing Opinion Writer
March 5, 2020

SEATTLE — There is a strange in-betweenness to life in the nation’s coronavirus capital. Classes continue on the University of Washington’s campus, some half-empty, others completely full. I have been teaching here 13 years, and faculty members have been getting detailed, palpably anxious instructions from administrators on how to teach online and on hand-washing and social distance, and reminders that no one on our 46,000-student campus has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. For now.

The local schools my children attend were deep-cleaned last weekend, and they were still open on Thursday. Rumors fly through middle-schoolers’ text strings, neighborhood message boards, conversations in the grocery line. We’re all at the store daily, stocking up on canned goods and paper towels, awaiting news of school closings and home quarantines. Costco is overrun. A friend told me about a beleaguered Costco employee who had to stand in a corner of the store yelling, “No toilet paper!” over and over, and redirecting shoppers from the empty pallets.

Of course, the dangers here are much greater than running out of toilet paper. Sixty-nine people have already been found to have the novel coronavirus in the Seattle area. Ten have died, most of them residents of one suburban nursing facility. The county government bought a motel to quarantine infected patients. It is likely to get worse: Analysis by scientists who studied the local cases indicates that the virus may well have been present in the area for up to six weeks. Like the seasonal flu, the coronavirus is most dangerous to the old and medically vulnerable, but the only way to halt its spread is to change nearly everyone’s behavior.

The tech companies that dominate this region’s economy have been the most aggressive in making changes. Microsoft and Amazon moved quickly to cancel nonessential travel. Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have recommended that employees in the area work from home if they can until the end of March. Yet the Emerald City Comic Con, which drew nearly 100,000 people last year to downtown, is still on. Flights continue at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Passengers are screened for the virus as they arrive from China, but Seattleites are not necessarily screened as we depart.

A region so dependent on tourism and international travel is reluctant to slow down. But we may have to, and not just in the near term. I wonder when the flight cancellations will begin. Maybe Comic Con won’t happen. Maybe my children will spend this summer making up the lost time in school. Maybe I will be teaching my spring classes remotely, one of thousands of telecommuters whose absence from the roads will at last make our region’s traffic jams go away.

Maybe, maybe.

It is humbling to be so uncertain about the future in this overeducated boomtown, this hub of technology, medical research and global health that usually spends its time eradicating epidemics, not succumbing to them. It is humbling to be at the mercy of such a seemingly unstoppable virus amid a rickety and inequitable American health care system.

The crisis is also forcing us to refocus our attention locally, hitting pause on the national news and global business and the perpetual crossing of time zones that is a feature of life for so many of us in the nation’s rainy upper left.

We citizens of this high-speed, 21st-century place are now getting a taste for what life was like in the American cities of the 19th century, which were regularly devastated by typhoid and cholera and tuberculosis. Then and now, being a global crossroads made Seattle vulnerable. More than 1,400 Seattleites died in the influenza pandemic of 1918, a mortality rate spiked by the movement of people through the region’s port and crowded military bases. These diseases also had no vaccine or cure at the time, but their dangers were far greater because so little was understood about how to prevent their spread.

Another humbling realization is that the steps Seattle took to confront that epidemic were much the same as those we take now: Avoid crowds, stay home, wash your hands. Our only modern twists are hand sanitizer and substituting elbow bumps for handshakes. Our skin may crack from all the hand-washing and sanitizing, but at least we understand how to best protect ourselves.

But we are a long way from the cataclysm of 1918.

For now, we gain a new appreciation for the people and institutions that keep a city running. We turn on the local news, scan the bulletins from the county public health department, listen to the news conferences held by the mayor and the county executive. There’s uncertainty there, too: Can the public health agencies denuded by budget cuts meet surging needs? Are there enough local news outlets to fully report the story? Shouldn’t we all stop going to work or school now? Local leaders don’t know what is going to happen either. But they calm us with their consistency and expertise, and we trust them.

It shouldn’t take a global pandemic to force us to slow down our routines, to appreciate the communities in which we live, to properly wash our hands. But it has.

So life in Seattle will go on, quieter and more local than before. I will keep reading the local news. I will plan my next lectures, grateful for the software that will let me deliver them virtually if necessary. I will look toward a spring with perhaps far less travel, fewer reasons to leave home. Or perhaps not. Who can tell? I will be grateful for what we have and get used to living with uncertainty.

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