Category Archives: Cassandra

Hire a Clown, Expect a Circus

I have been reading a lot of really stupid stuff in the ether, and not because I deliberately sought it out. Now you have to, too.

Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced. I thought something was up when I saw this on John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight:

That was just a weird interaction, so I wasn’t surprised when they said they were getting divorced. I should not have been surprised by this hot take from The Washington Post since they are trying to out-New-York-Times The New York Times, but I was:

Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia (who, by the way, is an idiot), has been such a failure as a vaccine leader that he couldn’t convince the members of the girls basketball team he coaches to get vaccinated. You can guess what happened:  a bunch of them got infected with Covid and they had to forfeit their place in the state tournament. You hate to see it.

Oh, and the Justice nonsense didn’t stop there. Big Jim’s Big Idea to encourage younger people to get vaccinated? He wanted to give them savings bonds. And when that wasn’t feasible (bonds are entirely electronic now) his Second Big Idea was to give out silver dollars. Perhaps pocket watches will be next on the list.

I know a lot of people have stepped up to get vaccinated, but a lot of people haven’t, and the ratio of vaccinated people to unvaccinated people isn’t uniform across the country. In addition, those places where vaccinated people are sparser also tend to feature fewer people wearing masks. So while parts of the country can really make a big jump back to how things were in The Before Time, lots of us are stuck in places where we need to continue to be careful. Here’s The Atlantic’s take on it:

(There’s a more serious piece that could be written about the very real trauma millions of us have been through, HOW THE PANDEMIC ISN’T OVER YET, and how lots of us live among people who don’t care if they spread a deadly disease to us because they are members of a twisted death cult. This obviously isn’t that place.)

This is one of the U.S. Senators from Kansas:

 

I had no forking idea who he was at first, either.

One of the big obstacles facing the Democrats right now is Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat. What’s the solution proposed by some liberals?

 

Just a reminder that the governor of West Virginia–who would name Manchin’s replacement–is a Republican, and a trumper. (And an idiot).

To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcom, he was so preoccupied with whether he could, he didn’t stop to think if he should:

 

Today I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

Why Is Miss Universe Always From Earth?

A lot of us are feeling a lot of anticipation right now—for those who have not yet been jabbed it’s the anticipation of that jab and how your body will react to it (my first Moderna shot elicited a slight headache and the second some pretty bad fatigue and muscle aches for about 10 hours, but so worth it), the semi-jabbed anticipate the next jab, and the fully-jabbed anticipate returning to the larger world.

I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, and resuming the things that bring me joy:  volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, singing with my choir, doing Church Lady things with the St. Mary’s Guild at church, wandering Costco, seeing a movie in a theater, eating a hot meal I didn’t cook and having all the plates taken away for someone else to wash.

I am anticipating these things in the context of the awfulness of our current society:  the continued fallout of a violent insurrection, almost daily mass shootings, police officers STILL FORKING KILLING Black people. I’m an anxious person to begin with, and none of those things are balm for a worrywart like me.

But the thing I am anticipating the most right now is a fairly rare and quite delightful experience:  the return of Brood X, the largest and most populous periodic cicada emergence. I have been part of a Mid-Atlantic weather community for 15+ years and in addition to tracking spring storms, we are also tracking the emergence of these amazing insects. That’s the magnitude of this event.

I grew up in New England so I didn’t experience this surreal phenomenon until I moved to DC. In 2004 I lived in a prime neighborhood for cicadas with established tree-lined streets and a large wilderness park just a few blocks away. And even better, the small building I lived in had a giant Japanese maple tree right in front of my windows. As the nymphs came out of the ground to shed their skins, grow wings, and fly away I could see them on my window screens. The noise in my neighborhood was deafening and that tree was absolutely covered with cicadas.

Here’s the thing:  I am not a fan of bugs. I like pollinators, praying mantises, katydids, and I catch inside spiders and take them outside (or at least I did before we got our cat Rey because she is always at war with spiders and she always wins), but the rest of the insect world can go pound sand. I was excited to experience Brood X but I was also quietly terrified. All those bugs! In the air! On the ground! Would they hurt me (no)?

As it turns out, cicadas are harmless and bumbling. I would even say they are charming. You’ll see the newly emerged ones rocking upside down on the street. (I used to turn them right side up as I headed to my bus stop. I couldn’t help myself.) They are flying doofuses with no capability to hurt you. Our cats are absolutely obsessed with bugs, to the point that last summer the aforementioned Rey got stung by a potter’s wasp she was annoying and she continues to annoy them still, so I imagine they are going to go nuts in a few weeks.

One of the best things about Brood X is that there are different cicadas that emerge, each with its own song and each with specific mating calls. So while it is loud, it’s also a whole boatload of loud.  One of the cool songs is the “pharaoh” song:

Another group sings a frying pan/lawn sprinkler sound (I think this is a mating call) :

And my favorite sound, and the one that inspired the title of this post, is a high-pitched alien spaceship song—you’ll have to listen for it in the background, but once you hear it, you’ll know it:

It seems unusually early, as the cicadas didn’t emerge en masse in 2004 until May, but there are already reports of some early birds up and singing in the trees in the DC metro area. They will pay for their temporal mistake as they will be gobbled up by eager prey. In the meantime I watch for emergence holes in the yard and listen for first song of the swarm. I really can’t wait for it to begin.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

(That’s my vaccination card.  Yes, it’s hot pink. I’m not sure why, although I will say it’s a great prompt to keep me from inadvertently throwing it away.)

When the pandemic began I was struck by the singularity of the moment. I studied history, after all, so while the United States was already in the middle of a historic catastrophe of a presidency, that event wasn’t immediately apparent to everyone.

The pandemic declaration wasn’t as easy to discount and it made its mark on our national consciousness. Early on my family was on a group call that was part of our effort to keep my 80something parents in good spirits when my middle sister started talking about how incredible it was to be living through something we had all learned about in history class.

I thought that since most of us were so keenly aware of being in a pandemic that as a nation we’d have a shared experience, and because we were all having more or less that same experience our conversations about that experience would reflect a common struggle. Boy, was I wrong, huh?

Now I did understand that people whose jobs were essential—medical personnel, police/fire/emergency services, grocery store workers, home improvement store workers, etc.—were not going to be able to shut themselves up at home. But what I failed to imagine was how many of the rest of us weren’t so keenly aware of being in a pandemic, and that national shared conversation never emerged.

But a national conversation has now emerged, and instead of being about the struggle of isolation, it’s about the promise of hope. We’re now finally talking about the same thing:  being vaccinated. Social media is full of vaccine selfies, vaccination cards, and everyone sharing information about where to get that elusive and lifesaving jab.

(Now I know that there are a lot of people–too many people–who won’t get vaccinated. I know I’m supposed to say that people believe different things and we just need to let them be and to respect their choices. Well, I don’t respect their choice because I don’t respect things rooted in pure ignorance. These same people are going to be complaining when they are barred from movie theaters and other indoor spaces because they couldn’t make the smallest possible effort to fight Covid. That’s going to be my last mention of them because as the Polish proverb goes, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”.)

Beyond the hope, relief, and joy of being able to safely move in the world again, we are also united over a dominant question:  “What side effects did you have?” Getting the vaccine is a balancing act between the fear of a new kind of vaccine that is an incredible medical accomplishment but which can also make you feel awful, and a deadly disease.  OK, when I put it that way, I guess it’s not really a balancing act. But I do think that despite how safe and incredible all of the vaccines are, especially the exotic-sounding mRNA vaccines, in our small way we’re pretty brave for stepping up and doing our part to end this nightmare. Then again, I hate needles, so that could just be me talking.

And although all our stories of hope, relief, and joy are part of this uplifting national conversation, for me it’s the stories from the people who have been as locked down as much as I have been that resonate the most. My spouse has special risks and so I have been the front line person in our family. We will get our second shots Saturday. I have had to be extremely cautious since last February and so haven’t been anywhere except pressing medical appointments. He has had to completely shut himself away in the same way, and as he’s an extrovert this has been so much worse for him than it has for me (the rare female INTJ). I love him so much—being together for a year has brought us closer—and all our joint sacrifice has weirdly been an unexpected joy as well.

But I’m also going to look forward to other joys in the upcoming weeks:  my first haircut (and color!!) in 14 months, being able to do my own grocery shopping, eating a hot meal in a restaurant (well, outside dining only for the next few months), and eventually being able to see my 80something parents whom I haven’t seen in person in 2 years.

And while I write all of this I am accutely aware of all of the suffering caused by Covid here in the US–the deaths I mourn every day, the injustice that is our healthcare system (I was uninsured for too many years for my comfort), the risks so many people have had to take to keep businesses open because their jobs could not be done remotely, the toll on healthcare workers, and so many other sorrows. I am really hoping these important issues will be addressed both right now and in future pandemic planning.

I close with a song that I like for its Sondheim-borrowing, from a show I absolutely loathed all the way through when I saw it live. Joy be with you all.

My Only Man of the Hour

I’m surprised that I’m so upset over a pretty minor thing, but it’s bugging me, so I’m going to write about it. I’m really upset about how the media is covering the Biden dogs, and especially Major and his ongoing issues.

Here’s the thing:  rescue animals have problems. Even the most well-adjusted rescue pet has had to deal with the trauma of being taken from where they were and placed in the shelter or rescue facility. When you disrupt their daily lives, those issues are going to come back into play.

A few years ago, in the span of 6 weeks, we lost our pair of tabby cat brothers, Connor and Liam, to old age. Liam was a few months shy of his 19th birthday, and Connor was only 10 days from his 19th birthday. They were rescues only in the sense that they came from the vet once they were weaned (their mother cat died giving birth to the litter) and then raised by my husband. They were 6 years old when I first met them, and I grew really attached to them and was devastated when we lost them both so close to each other.

In time I returned as a volunteer to the shelter I like to support and resumed socializing young cats and adult cats with behavioral issues. When I went into “the kitten room” the first kitten I met was Finn, then known as Iggy. He was so large that at first I thought he was a momma cat that needed to be kept near her delicate kittens. I also met his sister Rey, then known as Sissy, because she parked herself next to me on the bench and kept poking me whenever I stopped petting her.

We don’t really know what happened to them before they came to the shelter as they were left in a carrier tied to the fence around the facility. That road hosts a lot of tractor trailer traffic, so you can draw your own conclusions as to how they react to noise now.  From the note in their carrier we know they were abandoned by a breeder and it’s easy to see why they were abandoned—Finn has a white spot on his belly and Rey was clearly the runt of the litter:  very small, little coordination, and definitely behind in her progress. Finn is a Russian Blue and Rey is a Russian Black. His white spot and her slow progress meant no one would breed or pay an exorbitant price for either of them–which is why you should adopt, not shop.

In addition, Finn was easily overstimulated, which was characterized as his having a bad temper. He was just a super-loving kitty who loves to be petted, but back then could not actually handle a lot of petting. In the shelter setting this meant he swiped at people who gave him the attention he craved. I had been a volunteer there long enough to know that he’d never get adopted with that behavior, and if he never left the shelter, his shy and struggling sister wouldn’t either. So I brought my husband in to meet them. Rey immediately jumped in his lap. We brought them home a few days later.

Rey has since filled out, gained confidence and strength, and is a lively, loving kitty who will nip you if you make too much noise. Finn is now a cat you can pay a ton of attention to without fear of getting scratched. It took a good bit of time to redirect his energy from being focused on you and what he wanted from you to do for him right now, to being focused on a toy, and then on toys he could entertain himself with. He’s learned to use his tail to signal to us that he’s growing agitated with how we’re petting him, and if we forget he doesn’t like it if you put your arm across him while he’s lying on his side, he gently pushes your arm away with his back feet instead of scratching you. He’s so sweet now that he climbs under the covers and sleeps with me on cold nights, only occasionally poking me with a claw if I roll over too far.

I think about Finn when I read about Major Biden. Major is a good dog. He doesn’t have a temper—he has a problem with being overstimulated. And there are too many unfamiliar people around him and he doesn’t have his own Person to look after him during the day. When Finn was a crazy kitten, I made a point to cuddle up with him every day—to pet him and handle him to make up for the months of socialization he didn’t have during his long shelter transition—so he knew he had me to come to when he was scared or thinking about acting out.

Instead of using Major’s issues as a teaching moment for people who don’t understand dogs, the press is using them to bash the Bidens. On Wednesday the big news was that one of the dogs pooped on a floor in the White House. (Remember the furor when President Obama’s dogs did the same thing? You don’t? I wonder why that is.)

On Tuesday, Lester Holt accepted the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award and said this:

“I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated,” he said. “Before you run with or tweet that headline, let me explain a bit. The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.”

I really don’t know if our media wants to do the work to drop the “both sides” nonsense. The same media that spent years trying to normalize the previous president* is both-sidesing the increasingly-popular Biden by trying to paint him as a bad pet parent with dire implications for the future of this nation. I can train a problem cat. I have no idea how to fix our broken news media.

I’ll let Norah Jones take it from here.

 

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Talking Filibuster

Back in January I wrote about my love of politics and how I had high hopes that the Biden administration would make them great again. Over the last few weeks Senate Democrats have been hinting that the filibuster game is afoot. The Senator You Love to Hate, Joe Manchin, allowed that he would support a “talking” filibuster, where the minority would have to keep talking to delay the vote. Over the last few weeks, more and more of the Senate’s Democratic filibuster defenders have expressed their interest in either eliminating or reforming the current filibuster. Tonight Amy Klobuchar, the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, said that the talking filibuster was coming in time for the voting rights bill.

Extremely Online Democratic Twitter is apoplectic over this change. “But it will still require 60 votes!!!” Yes, but only to break the filibuster. If the minority party stops talking (or goes off-topic if the filibuster is changed to specify only germane debate is allowed), the vote is called and a simple majority wins. Somehow this is a fatal blow to the…Senate Democrats.

The current composition of Senate Democrats is a recipe for Democratic success using the talking filibuster. While in the majority Senate Democrats are more disciplined than I had anticipated they would be, and they are able to work in tandem and to a scripted timetable (the current one being the growing support for a talking filibuster presented as minimal change to the process—and don’t underestimate this framing). Also, Senate Democrats are chockablock with nerds–glorious nerds who can hold forth with months of on-topic debate:  well-sourced, eloquent, affecting, persuasive debate–which will serve them well as a minority party.

Senate Republicans are supremely uninterested in governing, and even less interested in anything that can’t be repackaged into a FOX sound bite.  Remember, Senate Republicans got beat twice last month when they could not just sit in their seats while the Senate was in session (that’s how Merrick Garland’s filibustered nomination moved to confirmation).

Mitch McConnell knows this too, and he’s now regularly threatening to filibuster everything if the Democrats eliminate the filibuster. While using the status quo as a future threat is a bold move on his part, his panic is fueled by what is becoming apparent:  his beloved filibuster is staying, but it’s now going to require discipline and unity from his caucus. Maybe he should have been more specific in January when he asked for assurances that the filibuster would stay.

But my real enthusiasm to submit Senate Republicans to the talking filibuster is to laugh at them. One of the little things I like about the Harry Potter series is that the spell to banish the things that terrorize you is called “Riddikulus”. Laughing at things reduces them to a human size and form. And the current Republican Party is full of people to laugh at.

Here’s Louisiana’s John Neely Kennedy and his attempted slam dunk at a gun control hearing:

Here he is, again, mansplaining how the IMF works to Janet Yellen:

Rand Paul gonna Rand Paul:

Because I am merciful, I’ll spare you the video of Ted Cruz. Here’s what he tried to sell during the hearing on the voting rights bill:

This bill is the single most dangerous bill this committee has ever considered. This bill is designed to corrupt the election process permanently, and it is a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats. That the number-one priority is not COVID or getting people back to work or getting kids back in school. It’s keeping Democrats in power for 100 years. And how do they do this? They do this by instituting a bill that will promote widespread fraud and illegal voting. Under this bill, there’s automatic registration of anybody if you get a driver’s license, if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment. If you attend a public university. Now, everyone knows there are millions of illegal aliens who have driver’s licenses, getting welfare benefits to attend public universities. This bill is designed to register every one of those illegal aliens. What would the impact be in state elections of automatically registered millions of illegal aliens to vote?

Like the videos above, it is full of lies and magical thinking. Imagine televising dumb arguments like this to millions of Americans to justify denying us our vote.

 

The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia

Tuesday night a man whose name I will not use murdered 8 people; 6 of them were Asian Americans. Seven of the dead were women. Earlier that evening Donald Trump, while on live television, used a slur to refer to COVID-19. What did the media fixate on? That he had told everyone to get vaccinated. Somehow the year long rise in violence against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, that began because the same racist former president consistently used racist language to describe a virus, wasn’t worthy of conversation.

Wednesday morning the Cherokee County, GA’s Captain Jay Baker told us that these murders did not constitute a racially-motivated hate crime. You see, the murderer was upset about sin and his “sex addiction”. And also? He’d had a bad day. And then we we found out that this same sheriff trafficked in anti-Asian memes. At that point I just couldn’t anymore with the hot takes that it wasn’t a hate crime, but someone mad at sex workers, with the undercurrent that while this was—you know—bad, it was pretty understandable. UGH UGH UGH.

And then Wednesday evening we learned more about 4 of the victims. It took us so long to find out about them because it required people who spoke Korean. These 4 women were in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. The narrative completely changed. The murderer wasn’t a young Christian struggling with sin and lashing out at the women he felt had led him astray. He was just a racist loser who lashed out at people he hated. He had a social media presence that was anti-Asian. He literally said on Tuesday night, as he was killing people, that he wanted to kill Asian Americans.

I thought I knew what I wanted to write about this tragedy:  a loser murders 7 young women because he has sexual hang-ups and had been indoctrinated into a pseudo-religious ideology that holds that sexually active women need to be strictly controlled. But the first 4 women we learn about are…like me. They are middle-aged to elderly. They most likely weren’t sex workers. This wasn’t about sin or sex addiction. This was about straight up racism and misogyny.

It’s the same behavior that happens on Native American reservations, where angry white men go to rape Native American women because they know they won’t be held accountable for their terrible deeds. This murderer was taken into custody alive and unharmed. The sheriff, himself a despicable racist, as we found out today, offered up excuses for the person he identified with. As it turns out, so did a lot of America.

Also on Wednesday the House of Representatives reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, and even after these terrible murders 172 House Republicans voted against it. Now we wait to see if it can pass the Senate. It is beyond infuriating that the passage of this bill in doubt, but abusers protect their fellow abusers, and they see no reason to break that cycle.

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

When I returned home earlier this week after my weekly super-exciting grocery trip (aka, what is missing from my order this week?) I was startled to hear a bird call I’d never heard before. This bird meant business with his ear-splitting song. I bustled inside singing the song over and over so I could immediately google possible suspects. I couldn’t find it and I have since forgotten it. But because he was so aggressively marking his territory with sound, I bet I’ll hear him again (and this time I’ll make sure I have my binoculars with me).

I got my first Covid vaccine shot yesterday, a year after the World Health Organization declared the Covid outbreak to be a pandemic. I freaked out a little the night before because I didn’t know how the vaccination site was structured, and I said so on social media. Reassurance was immediately forthcoming:  2 friends who had been vaccinated there reached out. One let me know that the site was very well-organized and efficient, and the other let me know it was staffed with people who understood we are all freaking out. (Well, she actually said, “The true welcoming, friendly, helpful, down home spirit of West Virginians really shines here,” but those are the same things, right?) And when I got there, I found I had worried for nothing as there were volunteers everywhere so you didn’t have to worry about where to go next.

There was a buzz in the building (grandly known as the town’s civic center, but just a gigantic metal building), and there was also something I haven’t see a lot of over the last year—a lot of smiling. Even the people like me, who are always anxious, were smiling. One of the volunteers was telling us she was now fully-vaccinated and that she just could not believe it yet.  She said she’d been living in so much fear and now she wasn’t. “We’re not just giving people vaccines here,” she said. “We’re also giving hope.”

Last night Joe Biden went on TV and once again delivered a pitch perfect address to the American people—to us. He reassured people that there would be enough vaccine, that there was a plan to make sure everyone who wanted a vaccine could have one in the tangible future, and told us that if we just held on a little longer, we could have our summer back with a real Independence Day (hey, I’m from New England—it’s not warm enough to swim in any natural body of water until then, so that’s when summer begins). He was giving hope, too.

I watched the address with my life-long Republican, anti-trump spouse. He had been on the Biden bandwagon from the very beginning (me? Warren all the way). And once again I had to say that even though Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice (or second, or third), he was the right person for the job.  Good job, America. Now let’s start planning that birthday party.

 

 

Impossible Things Are Happening Every Day

(That’s our cat Rey. She has just–and finally–figured out how to get into the empty bookcase space her (bigger and stronger) brother Finn has been obsessed with getting into for months.)

I had planned to write about the filibuster, but I had a rough couple of days. Nothing bad actually happened; I just had the Covid blues. I would say that I don’t have any right to have the Covid blues since our disruption has been minimal—I had already mostly been using my preferred grocery store’s pickup option for several months prior to Covid’s arrival, my husband transitioned after a week in the office at his new job to a 100% virtual setting where he was able to work seamlessly with his European counterparts despite never have being onsite (so there is one Covid casualty in our family:  the trip to France to visit that facility will never happen as it’s not needed now), and I was able to complete a big project despite social distancing. But the reality is that Covid disruptions are about a lot more than your bank account and how you get the goods and services you need. We’ve all been cut off from so many people we love. I haven’t seen my parents since May 2019. I miss them. I miss a lot of people and I really miss singing in my choir, but it’s not being able to be with my parents that has been bringing me down. They’re both in their 80s, easily living on their own, and completely with it mentally. They’re fun and funny, and they’re precious to me. We all have people we miss. All of our hearts have holes in them and that affects how we see the things happening around us. So yeah, I had a few rough days.

But the thing is, as Dr. Ian Malcom said, “life, uh… finds a way.” Here in far eastern West Virginia, my daffodils have buds, and my summer daylilies have peeked up to remind me they’ll soon be on the job. I haven’t heard my beloved peepers yet, but I think I will this week. Our political life is showing those same signs of life. Late Friday night, after the poor clerks had finished reading the text of the Covid relief bill, Senate Democrats, taking advantage of the complete lack of Republicans in the chamber, reduced the debate on the bill from 20 hours to 3. Then on Saturday they took advantage of Joe Manchin’s need to explore all of his options once the Democrats offered an amendment that differed from what the moderates had worked out with President Biden. To be honest, this completely mystified me. Why did the Democrats offer a different amendment? Why did Manchin agree to support 2 competing bills? Why did it take 11 hours to resolve this? The answer only became clear later:  because Senate Democrats had made the Republicans hang around all day and then started the Vote-A-Rama late in the evening, the Republicans gave up earlier and left the chamber before the Senate had been adjourned. And Senate Democrats remained so Schumer had his 3/5ths majority vote to invoke cloture and move Merrick Garland’s nomination to be Attorney General to a vote this week.

Then, on Sunday morning, after making all the liberals angry the day before, Joe Manchin let it be known that while he wouldn’t get rid of the filibuster, he wasn’t opposed to making it painful for Senate Republicans to use it, tossing out the idea that the minority party would have to stay in the chamber the entire time they were filibustering. The same Senate Republicans, who got outplayed twice over the weekend because they didn’t have the simple discipline to sit in their seats, were blind-sided. And he did it on FOX News!  All of those Republican senators crowing about how Joe Manchin was a bad Democrat pushing his colleagues into disarray got to feast on the sight of Joe oh-so-casually noting that he wouldn’t mind if obstructing the majority required discipline and creativity. There is crucial legislation in the congressional pipeline; legislation that will be our best, and maybe only, chance to keep our democracy. Maybe fundamental rights and justice find a way, too. I’m feeling more hopeful today that our foes will be defeated by the boring combination of hard work and perseverance.

Oh and my husband and I just got word that we are going to be vaccinated this week. Impossible things are happening every day.

She Didn’t Believe in Transcendence

This is a piece about sexual harassment. Reading it may be difficult or upsetting for survivors of sexual violence. If you need to talk, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available for help and support 24/7 at 800.656.HOPE (4673) & online.rainn.org.

When I heard the news that Andrew Cuomo is a sexual predator, I just felt…really, really tired. I have no emotional investment in him, and frankly I don’t care for any of the Cuomos. Now I care even less. But after 4 years of the trump assault, no one needed this, least of all his victims. There are now 3 women on the record, but we all know there are a lot more. There always are. No one should be surprised either at how freely he treated women in this disgusting manner. No one should be surprised because when they are in a position of power where there is no one to push back, abusive men talk to women like this—degrading comments, intrusive questions meant to humiliate, the literal and figurative breakdown of our personal space—ALL THE TIME.

I was sexually harassed on the job. I had finished my first round of graduate school and was at home for a few months before I moved to Boston with my best friend. I found a long-term temp job that would carry me until we moved and I actually liked it. It was a family-run company that made some kind of light industrial goods that I don’t remember. The secretary was going out for surgery, but as she told me as she trained me my first day, she was never coming back. I could handle the bookkeeping and accounting so I was happy to have the steady income.

The day-to-day management had passed from the father to his son, who was in his 40s and a big flashy spender. He had a fancy car and an airplane and was desperate to impress me.  As it was summer and all of my siblings were working, I got dropped off and picked up as part of the roving family carpool so I’d bring my lunch and eat in the little anteroom to the women’s bathroom. It was clean and private, and I was the only woman working there so it was fine. I always had a book and it was a quiet hour alone. Or it was when my boss didn’t come in to chat with me about whether I had a boyfriend or what I liked to do for fun (sound familiar?). I began to dread my lunch hour.

Luckily the shop foreman saw him go in one noontime and came and called him out to the shop floor. Later the foreman came to see me, apologized profusely for not knowing, told me he’d told my boss never to do that ever again, and gave me the keys to the company pickup truck ostensibly so I could go the bank and make the daily deposits but really so I could get out at lunch time.  I’ve never forgotten his kindness. And naturally that didn’t stop my boss, it just redirected his efforts into trying to let him fly me up to Boston for my job interviews, you know, to save time that we could then spend together sightseeing. Ugh. That bothered me less because it was nowhere as menacing as being shut up in a small room with him, but it was still unwanted, unwelcome, and pathetic.

And that’s the thing the I see so clearly in Cuomo’s behavior:  its pitifulness. It’s the behavior of insecure, socially deficient men, the kind of men that women immediately know to avoid at gatherings. I’ve been online a long time and one of the communities where I hang out is, and has always been, overwhelmingly male. The women who hang out there tend to either be pleasers or tough, intelligent women who stand up for themselves. Over the years, the pleasers have disappeared and the women who stayed insist on being treated respectfully. This sets up a lot of confrontations with a segment of the male membership. There is the obvious group, the ones who call women disgusting names to their virtual faces. And then there are Cuomos, the ones who are obviously forked up when it comes to women but who don’t immediately call you the c word.

Years ago, in a smaller private subgroup of the community, one of the women shared some intimate details. Years later, and in a less private community subgroup, a guy who had once told us that while he was in his truck he threatened to run over a woman he had catcalled and who flipped him off in return (he later told us that he was “joking” and that it never actually happened—he just thought it would be a funny story to tell (of course it really happened)) started a thread to demand she tell him all of the details again. When she got upset, he essentially pulled a Cuomo. It was supposed to be funny! It was just a light-hearted request! OK, well if you were offended then I apologize! Geez! I was only joking! You’re so uptight! Lather, rinse, repeat.

I hope all the women Cuomo demeaned and harassed and assaulted come forward and sink his political career. It’s time for a few small repairs.

Good-Talking Candles

I thought I wanted to write something about the budget reconciliation process, but I’ve been feeling sad these last few days:  sad because a dear friend lost her mom on Friday, sad because that dear friend and her youngest son and her husband have COVID-19 and it involved a hospital stay, sad that 500,000 people have died from this disease, and sad that we have no organized communal mourning with its permission to just exist in the ever-present grief.

Every year I drag my feet when it comes to taking down our Christmas decorations. I don’t really do a lot of decorating, but I do fill the house with lights. This year I lit some new areas and turned down the regular lighting. The ambient light was both comfortable and cheering, like having “good talking candles” all around a la Richard Brautigan:

I had a good-talking candle last night in my bedroom.

I was very tired but I wanted somebody to be with me,

so I lit a candle

and listened to its comfortable voice of light until I was asleep.

I dreaded having to put everything away so to motivate myself I began to explore options for adding soft light to the rooms and I found a set of origami boxes attached to string lights and they are now haphazardly on the fireplace mantel. They need to be more artistically arranged, but the soft warm light is providing badly-needed comfort.

The Biden/Harris inaugural COVID-19 remembrance at the Lincoln Memorial was a stunning use of soft-talking candles (albeit ersatz). The darkness invited you to be contemplative, the lights provided comfort, and the Reflecting Pool doubled the light and made it move. It was inviting and beautiful, but most of all it was quiet.

The last 4 years have not been quiet. They were not designed for contemplation or healing. They were meant to assault your ears, your eyes, your mind, and your feelings. They targeted your reserves. They were a grinding torture of constant apprehension and anxiety. They were psychological warfare, and noise is an effective tool in that arsenal.

I happened to turn on the TV yesterday afternoon while President Biden was speaking. He spoke softly, but with great emotion. He invited us to remember what our losses, COVID-19-related or not, felt like. He allowed us to stop for a moment and to just be. And then he was silent, too, and the South Portico, previously a center of noise and anger and hate and bombast, was revealed as a place of silence, of reverence, of love, and of grief.

I’m a practicing Episcopalian and we have a wonderful guide for our worship, the Book of Common Prayer. The funeral service includes some of its most beautiful passages. I’ll close with one of them after our night of shared mourning:

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant(s) with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return.  For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

I wish you all light and healing.

You Lose! Good Day, Sir!

As expected, the Sedition Party acquitted their 2024 candidate despite a mighty effort by the Democrats which yielded the most bipartisan impeachment and trial verdicts in history. Naturally the Democratic response was to assume full fetal position, rail against their leadership, and concede all power to Mitch McConnell. Naturally. I will never understand how Democrats are so eternally willing to consume and internalize Republican propaganda designed to dampen their enthusiasm for their own party.

For everyone who thought witnesses would sway Senate Republicans the reality is that the Democrats were never going to win this vote. There was no way that the Republican Party was going to abandon the goose that lays their orange eggs. Donald Trump is the GOP’s only path to the White House in 2024.  But that path is a solitary one.  If you poke around the smelly parts of the Internet you will see that Trumpers have no king but Donald. They have no use for senators or representatives or cabinet secretaries. There is a reason that the insurrection mob was searching for bipartisan victims. They were even hunting down Trump’s own kicked dog, Mike Pence. If there were any logic to Trumpism, Pence would be a revered figure, but since he’s not family to Donald Trump, he was expendable too. I communicated that bipartisan bloodlust, along with Trump’s supreme disinterest in keeping Republican legislators alive, to my Republican senator, who voted to acquit Trump anyway. It astounds me that so few Republicans in leadership can see the writing on the wall:  Trump will not require a legislature in a second term. He won’t require a Supreme Court either, especially after they rebuffed his last chance election appeals. (There’s another way that the GOP could be gambling wrongly—that Trump could be behind bars in 2023-2024 and thus unable to run for president, but that’s another conversation.)

The House managers never expected to call witnesses, nor, I suspect, did they want to based on the stories that the people they approached refused to testify because they faced death threats from trumpers. Coupled with the roadblocks McConnell would throw into the path, the Senate would have ground to a halt, with nothing happening in the trial, and no regular business moving forward either (remember, one senator can stop the smooth operation of the chamber by refusing to provide unanimous consent and this time the senator was named Mitch McConnell). And this time Mitch overplayed his hand. The Democrats didn’t need witnesses to make their case, and somehow Mitch didn’t recognize that. The Democrats easily traded calling witnesses for putting Representative Herrera Buetler’s statement into the record, and Mitch ended up with nothing. To be sure, he did make sure that the House man agers didn’t introduce evidence that further damned Trump, but that investigation rightly belongs to the Department of Justice and state attorneys general. (And those trials are coming and Bill Barr can’t throttle the flow of facts anymore.)

In the end the smartest thing the Democrats did was the thing that sent liberals into a tizzy:  they rejected the witness bait. Because the Republicans lack political deftness, Lindsey Graham showed their hand with his post-vote switch signalling his intention to completely disrupt the process. We already know that the GOP’s most important goals are (1) to damage the Biden administration and (2) to ensure Merrick Garland never takes over the Department of Justice. Saturday morning showed us that the Democrats are never going to give them that satisfaction. Mitch walked away empty-handed.

And, more importantly for congressional Democrats, the American people are not represented by Extremely Online Liberal Twitter. Saturday morning’s events were a background blip for them—they are more interested in COVID-19 relief, and now the Democrats can turn their efforts to something with a potentially huge payoff for them.

 

(Addendum:  As I finished this, Jake Sherman reported that the House Democrats have brought back earmarks. Rank and file Democrats should welcome this news. The Democrats are about to play politics and the Republicans are going to get skunked.)

The More You Know, Take 2

It’s a big day for political scientists, constitutional scholars, and historians:  the historic second impeachment trial of the same president*, and it’s the first time a president* has been tried after they have left office begins today.  It’s like a second Super Bowl for political nerds. I admit that I’m pretty excited to see what happens over the next few days.

But before all of that unfolds, Harry Enten had a piece on CNN.com recently about Joe Manchin. It’s pretty good, with some more detailed information about Manchin’s electoral margins in his pro-Trump state, but it misses 2 salient points.

First, Enten correctly notes this point:

Progressives should realize that Manchin is an electoral miracle of sorts. He’s somehow still in Congress when other Democrats who come from districts and states with similar electoral leans either retired or were beaten. Moreover, Manchin votes about as often with the party as you’d expect given the state he is from.
Except it’s more than just as often as you would expect:  it’s every time the Democrats need his vote. That’s a distinction with a difference. One outcome describes the careless efforts of someone who puts himself over his party. The other describes someone who helps his party help Americans when victory is in its grasp.
Enten also highlights this:
The only real difference between 2017 and now is that Manchin is the only thing standing between a Democratic minority and a Democratic majority.
I’d argue that the real difference is that Manchin sacrificed his own political ambitions at the state level in 2017 to make sure the Democrats could have a real chance to take the Senate in 2020.
That’s it for now.

Time Enough For Counting When The Dealing’s Done

While I appreciate the time and study people put into chess (and no, I have not yet seen “The Queen’s Gambit”), I much prefer things I am naturally good at, like Setback, the card game I grew up playing in New England. (The rest of you play Pitch, but in Connecticut we have our own variant.) My extended family played it all the time, and the rite of passage for the kids/cousins/grandkids was to be asked to sit in for a hand or 2 when one of the adults needed to step away from the picnic table. My favorite aunt patiently taught all of us to play, and you sat in on a hand when she deemed your play satisfactory. Setback is precise and calculating, but it also requires spontaneity and creativity.

Setback is politics, and I love politics, and I don’t mean the endless, grinding living history we have been through since that awful escalator ride of 2015. I mean actual politics, the art of compromise and the precise weighing of advantages, the impulsive offer, and the workaround based in rules no one else remembered. We’ve seen very little politics in the last few years because, like Setback, politics needs adversaries and partners, and the Republican Party gave up all of its policy-making expertise to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), first at the state level, and then at the national level (which is itself a conversation for another time, along with how woefully under-prepared most state legislators are for their second jobs).

Of course, that deficiency wasn’t a problem for Republicans—they had no intention of writing legislation themselves, preferring to hand that off to lobbyists and special interests. And since the GOP was going to rig every election for the next 50 years, it wouldn’t matter because they weren’t ever really going to be accountable to the people. That’s what allowed Mitch McConnell to wield so much power because he only had to stop everything he didn’t like. There were no politics. And it was dull.

But now politics are back with a former senator in the White House. I’m loving the sudden interest congressional Republicans have in bipartisanship and regular order. And what about those 10 Republican senators who met with Joe Biden? Bless their hearts. Didn’t they look sweet and earnest, putting forth their ideas about what the country really needs? I have no idea how they didn’t think this was going to entirely backfire on them. A list of demands from one political party isn’t a bipartisan effort. And, more to the point at hand, not 1 of those senators holds any power in the Republican caucus. They drafted a bunch of “no soup for you” points and then went to see the most powerful politician in the country and expected him to capitulate. Have these people never played cards?

They weren’t the only senators who got a political education in the last few weeks. McConnell was fobbed off with a non-binding statement from 2 Democratic senators who owe him nothing (but payback). I wonder how long it took for him to realize he’d been rooked? And Republican senators weren’t the only ones who got drawn into a hand. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema had to hastily play partners when Vice President Harris etherily showed up in their states to talk directly to voters about the things the COVID-19 relief bill would do for them. All Manchin could do afterwards was complain about the points he’d lost with his careless play. Oh, and Kevin McCarthy played a hand too this week, and he chose to protect his leadership position instead of the GOP with the vote on Marjorie Greene.  Given what we’re going to find out as investigations uncover the ties between Republicans in Congress and the insurrection’s leaders, this seems a bit short-sighted, no?

I have no idea how all of this is going to play out, but I’m glad that Joe Biden has made American politics great again.

The More You Know

This isn’t a full-blown post–although one is coming–I just wanted to loop back to something I wrote last month, because I have since received information that supports my assertion, and as a historian, that’s always a good thing.

I wrote this about Joe Manchin:

–He’s not going to become a Republican, not now and not ever. For one thing, he’s consistently opposed the vast majority of GOP policy initiatives. For another, why would he hitch his wagon to a party that is about to be severely damaged by the pent-up fallout of the Trump administration?

Yesterday, for some reason, Jim Justice, the governor of West By God Virginia, did a slew of interviews and this exchange happened:

MR. DUFFY: Thank you for that. You’ve answered about the next three of my questions there. Since you have been both a Democrat and a Republican–briefly a Democrat–I have to ask you this. There’s a lot of talk that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin might be either thinking about or in some way be considering a possible change in party. On the other hand, now that he’s a Democrat, he retains a very influential role in a 50-50 Senate. If he came to you and asked you for your advice about what he should do, what would you tell him?

GOV. JUSTICE: Well, I’ll tell you this. There’s not a God’s chance on the planet that Joe Manchin is going to switch to being a Republican. You can forget that. And the next thing is, is really, you know, I would–I would say that Joe plays an incredibly influential role, and I welcome that from the standpoint of West Virginia. Wish him the very, very best in every way. I think Joe will use good judgement–at least I hope and pray that he will, and everything. But at the end of the day, you know, it is absolutely just frivolous talk to think that Joe Manchin is going to switch parties.

That’s it for now.

Cassandra: Just A Soul Whose Intentions Are Good

The Manchins Go Gaga.

Cassandra is back with a piece about her Senator, Joe Manchin. As a red state/Gret Stet Democrat, I miss our former Blue Dog Senators John Breaux and Mary Landrieu. They were always convincible unlike GOPers Double Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy.

Enough from me. Here’s Cassandra’s take on the Other Joe.

-Adrastos

Just A Soul Whose Intentions Are Good by Cassandra

Every president’s agenda lives or dies in Congress, and Joe Manchin has set himself as the gatekeeper for everything Joe Biden wants to do. Manchin doesn’t want additional stimulus checks to go out, he won’t vote to expand the Supreme Court, he won’t kill the filibuster, he’s against DC statehood, he voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, and on and on and on and on. Naturally, we all hate him, right?

I don’t. Here’s a quick primer on the senior senator from West By God Virginia:

–He’s not going to become a Republican, not now and not ever. For one thing, he’s consistently opposed the vast majority of GOP policy initiatives. For another, why would he hitch his wagon to a party that is about to be severely damaged by the pent-up fallout of the Trump administration?

–He has never voted against the Democrats when his vote was needed. Let me say that again, because people don’t seem to be able to grasp this fact:  he has never voted against the Democrats when his vote was needed.

–“He’s not a real Democrat.”  I hear this all the time–from blue state Democrats who have lived in blue states their entire lives. Well, Democrats from red states get elected too, and they have constituents who are moderates or even center-right. My response?  Blue state purity tests lose red state Democratic seats.

–Manchin had decided to retire in 2018 so he could run for governor again. He really doesn’t like being a senator in the hyper-partisan Senate that McConnell created, and being governor of West Virginia is more immediately rewarding (plus you have your own private helicopter). Chuck Schumer convinced him to run again to hold that blue seat and so he did. His own sacrifice has given the Democrats their new majority because he is the only Democrat in the state who would have won that seat.

I think the most interesting question regarding Manchin is what he will do now that, in a fit of pique, McConnell has brought the business of the Senate to a grinding halt. Manchin, like the late John McCain, is a big believer in “regular order”. He is concerned with the entire institution of the Senate:  its procedures, customs, and courtesies. Manchin is the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Georgia Senate election has been certified, the 2 new Democratic senators have been seated, yet Lisa Murkowski still holds the gavel. This can’t sit well with Manchin.

For what it’s worth, I don’t take any of Manchin’s pronouncements at face value. For example, I think there are scenarios where he votes to expand SCOTUS (e.g., the Biden commission returns solid constitutional reasons to do so). Obviously, he is well aware of the need for stimulus checks for many West Virginians. But in the rush to condemn him, people didn’t read the rest of the interview where he supported $4 trillion in infrastructure spending.

Along those lines, I also believe that there is a scenario where Manchin votes to eliminate the filibuster. He said that he would not be the deciding vote on that issue, but given his emphasis on regular order, he clearly meant that he would not be the deciding vote if the filibuster were preventing passage of an actual bill. That is, implicit in his opposition to nuking the filibuster is the real-world existence of a fully functioning, “regular order”, Democratic-controlled Senate.

Manchin could also say that he supports eliminating the filibuster just for the vote on the organizing resolution, thus keeping the rest of his powder dry for future fights. The latter option would also severely limit what obstruction McConnell could concoct going forward, and Manchin would still be able to make deals for his vote on key pieces of legislation. Let’s see what happens this week.

UPDATE:  Naturally, as I finish this, the news breaks that the Senate organizing resolution impasse has broken, and Joe Manchin had a key role in it. Twitter and the message board where I post are full of hot takes about the first 3 items of my Manchin primer (please feel free to link them to this post for edification).

I am surprised that so many Democrats don’t know that currently there are not enough votes to nuke the filibuster (and, honestly, there are reasons to keep it, albeit structured differently, but that’s a conversation for another time) among the Democratic caucus. Manchin is being vilified across the ether for reasons I don’t understand. McConnell wanted a written statement from the Democrats that they would preserve the filibuster, or at least a Schumer speech on the Senate floor, and he got neither. He did get 2 non-binding promises to keep the filibuster from 2 non-leadership Democrats over whom he wields no political power. I’m sure we’ll learn soon enough what Manchin and Sinema got from the Democratic leadership. Oh, and the first Black Secretary of Defense was sworn in today, and the first female Secretary of the Treasury was confirmed. Joy be with you all, indeed.

(Yes, that’s Lady Gaga with the senator and his wife. Her mother’s side of the family is from Wheeling.)

Cassandra: For There is Always Light

Cassandra is back with her reactions to the Biden-Harris inaugural.

-Adrastos

For There is Always Light by Cassandra

Sometime yesterday afternoon I realized could breathe again. I had actually started breathing again before that, during the inauguration ceremony as I watched Michelle Obama greet Kamala Harris, and when the Biden grandgirls made their neopolitian and sneakered entrances. I was breathing again when I cried as amazing women shared their talents with us, even though I hadn’t quite realized it yet.

I consciously started breathing again when the Biden clan clambered out of fortified vehicles and made their way up Pennsylvania Avenue. I know that piece of pavement well, because I had a part-time job when I was in grad school in DC, and my bus stop was right there, in front of the Treasury Department (this was back in the days when there was unfettered access to the area in front of the White House.), with the grandchildren bickering about whether they should hold hands as they walked and then deciding it was too corny. I breathed again as I watched President and Dr. Biden stand at the front door of the White House and hug each other in amazement and relief and joy.

And I bawled through fireworks. FIREWORKS! I love fireworks and for 20 years watched them on Independence Day, either from The Mall or up at the bell tower at National Cathedral (I was part of the change ringing group there and we had an excellent vantage point to watch them, plus I only lived a few blocks away), but I have never cried during a display. Somehow the exuberance of that display shook the last bits of fear and dread out of me (and it was really loud because my friends in DC who never hear the Independence Day fireworks immediately started tweeting and posting on social media how it scared the crap out of them at first).

Wasn’t it wonderful to wake up this morning without that burden of dread about what the president had done? I know there are a lot of very serious problems that remain unsolved, but we’re no longer helpless and at the whims of severely damaged men.  I worried at the start of the pandemic that we might lose our collective ability to recognize joy. Yesterday proved I was wrong to worry. Joy be with you all.

Guest Post: Take Me Home, Dunning-Kruger Effect

Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan.

Cassandra is back. This time we learn that she’s also a Watergate obsessive, which is always a good thing in my book or on our blog.

The featured image is Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan. She was an English painter who was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement early in her career. That’s a fact, not a prophecy.

-Adrastos

Take Me Home, Dunning-Kruger Effect by Cassandra

I have been interested in politics since I was 12 years old and fascinated with the Nixon administration. My fascination with Nixon and the Viet Nam war puzzled my parents because they did their best to limit my exposure (and that of my 2 sisters) to coverage of the war. Still, I managed to cobble together pieces of news and had an understanding that the US was losing and losing badly and that the troops needed to come home. I was a weird kid and I give my parents a lot of credit for letting me be me.

It should come as no surprise then to learn I was similarly obsessed with the Watergate scandal. I already had an affinity for law-based arguments, but the biggest single factor in my obsession was that the nuns in my tiny Catholic grammar school brought their portable TVs from their convent to our classrooms to watch the May 1973 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. It was a revelatory moment:  the convent was a source of never-ending curiosity and I had no idea nuns owned televisions. And the fact that schoolwork was set aside for watching television left an indelible mark on my love for politics.

Naturally, I studied political science (as a “government” major, which appealed to my humanities-based approach to life) with an emphasis on political philosophy in college, along with history. (I tell you this for a reason, and not for self-aggrandizement…at least for today.) I loved talking to people about ideas, thinking critically about the past and the present, and always challenging people on their views, pushing them to provide the factual basis for their assertions, and debunking all the lies and half-truths I came across. And when I got online, I sought out those online idea exchange spaces, whether they were about my favorite bands or about current events. This was the pre-social media age, where you participated mostly via email, and where people took the time to fully explain their views or to critique yours.

At the same time, I knew enough not to critique stuff I didn’t know anything about and if I were a novice to do my research so I could be sure I wasn’t writing nonsense. It seemed clear to me that if you wanted people to take you seriously, you should be a purveyor of factual information.

Obviously, I’m a dinosaur when I roam about social media. I see people post compete garbage, with their actual names attached to it (!!!), and I am astonished every time. The other day one of my friends tagged me to ask me a few specific questions about the second Trump impeachment. Before I could compose a sensible response, one of her friends popped in with nonsense about Dominion voting machines, Nancy Pelosi having a hissy fit, and a prediction he would not be impeached (mind you, this was after he had already been impeached(squared), so clearly, he was no Cassandra).  I made my response, fact-based, with well-supported speculation as to what was going to happen next week, and he took that as his invitation to present more of his conspiracy nonsense. I pushed him to keep to facts, and he then told me that I was uninformed and should go read The Constitution.

It’s not enough to present facts to these folks—we have to convince them they don’t know as much as they think they do, to think critically, and to question everything (extra points for now seeing Spalding Gray drawing a box in the air).  But I have no idea what to do. I see these folks everywhere, and I think their world is about to come crashing down around them, and I don’t know how to help them sift through the rubble.

But I know we have bigger fish to fry these next few days. Joy be to you all.

Guest Post: Gently Rise and Softly Fall

You can’t shake a tree around here without a guest writer falling out. This time it’s a friend of mine from the internet music mailing list scene. It’s a scene that barely exists now because of social media but it was once lively.

In the great tradition of First Draft pen names, she is writing as Cassandra. Here’s hoping that her prophecies are not scorned by our readers.

-Adrastos

Gently Rise and Softly Fall by Cassandra

I woke up this morning in a really crappy mood, which is pretty normal given what is going on right now. When I sat down with my laptop, my first reminder was “write piece about joy”. OK, here goes nothing.

Last March, my husband and I were watching our cat Rey play with her favorite toy:  a spring coated in vinyl. Cats play when all their needs have been met and so they can expend precious energy for fun things. Rey stands up on her back legs when she plays with a spring, passing it from paw to paw, and dancing herself. She goes to the legs of the bar stools and climbs over and around the legs, with the spring turning round. It’s infectiously joyful to watch. I clearly remember saying that we needed to memorize that image because we were going to need to remember what joy looked like as the months went on.

Last January I started reading Wanderers by Chuck Wending, a book about a mysterious pandemic which also included the scenario of an authoritarian US president and a national election. I also stopped reading it in January as things got to be way too close to real life here in the US. (Don’t spoil it for me—I fully intend to pick it back in a week or so.) Even though I couldn’t read the novel, I came across some of his stuff on Twitter and found his blog. A week after I had that conversation with my husband, Wendig wrote this:

Also accept any joy you feel and do so without guilt. Joy is hard-won, and if you manage that victory, there’s no shame in that. Take the victory lap. We will have to hunt joy like an elusive beast across the wasteland.

If you capture it, celebrate.

I thought of both of those things that glorious Saturday when the national election was called for Joe and Kamala (the weirdness of a TV network calling an election is a conversation for another day).  I live in West Virginia, so there was no parade of cars through the streets, honking and beeping for joy. (I made do with yelling “BEEEEEEEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEP” all day around the house (my poor husband)). I don’t know that there was much uncertainty around the final outcome earlier that morning, but the joy was certainly real and comforting—because we could recognize what joy looked like.

I studied US history for a long time, and I have a lot of things to say about politics. I think last week was the worst week in US history, and this week has already said “Hold my beer,” so politics can wait another day. Find some joy today and hold it fast.