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Ages ago, I had a golden ticket.

It opened gates that were closed, gave access to forbidden lands.

My trusty US Passport, respected throughout the world, allowed me to depart the country of my birth whenever I chose, but could not guarantee entry to all nations beyond our borders. It was, simply put, insufficient to get me into the places I wanted to go.

I needed a golden ticket.

I needed my vaccine passport.

Should I have balked at the requirement? Should I have, with hackles raised in righteous indignation, told these other, these lesser, these pipsqueak nations to go straight to hell because by god, I was an American, and no one was going to put restrictions on my absolute sovereignty? Is that what I should have done?

Was I weak? Was it a sign of a lax morality, a milquetoast nature, or a spineless lack of patriotism when I subjected myself to these jabs? Was I exposing my cowardice when I exposed my arm to these vaccines? Was the mild ache in my shoulder from the smallpox, yellow fever, diphtheria, and tetanus jabs some sort of reaction to this un-American act? Were the symptoms of cholera and typhus I experienced (due to the live vaccines administered), were they merely a sign of my own turpitude?

No. Such sentiments would have been as ludicrous back then as they are today.

And yet, here we are, arguing about this exact thing.

Public health and safety are the primary purposes of government. A pandemic, such as the one we experience today, is a threat to public health. Our best tool against it is an effective vaccine, distributed as widely as possible so that, as a nation, we can grab the brass ring of herd immunity.

But not everyone admits this reality. For some of our nation’s people—certain demographic groups, political parties, and even entire states—public health and safety are set aside while, with a misguided sense of outrage, these folks stand up and shout to the rafters their creed of individual freedom. These sections of our society feel that their personal privilege trumps any greater concern, for others, for neighbors, even for loved ones.

And so, we are stuck on this carousel, spinning ’round and ’round, suffering wave after wave of resurgent infection and death, and the brass ring remains tantalizingly out of reach.

Vaccine passports are going to be a reality. Just as when I was young, fresh-faced and dewy-eyed, wanting to visit lands unknown and experience cultures as alien to me then as the beliefs of these deniers are to me now, nations are going to require proof of vaccination before entry is permitted. You can rail and shout your fleck-spittle manifesto of faux patriotism and American exceptionalism all you want; without proof, you shall not pass.

More to the point, due solely to the calcified stupidity of this sizable proportion of our society, we cannot even trust one another and this vaccine passport may be required domestically as well. Want to see your home team compete against the visitors? Show you’ve been vaccinated. Want to experience that arena concert? Prove you’ve had the jab. Proof, or go home.

This is the future, and ironically, it is a future that these deniers are making manifest by their very actions. They are causing this reaction, just as that typhus vaccine caused my body to react with fever, chills, and sweats. The body politic is fighting off the viral infection these deniers represent.

Don’t want the jab? Fine. Don’t get it. It’s your choice. You have that freedom in this country. But Americans are not demigods walking amongst mere mortals, and actions have consequences.

So don’t act surprised when you get turned away from a nation, an airport, a venue, a concert, a restaurant because you chose to value your privilege above the health of others.

Get your jab.

Get your golden ticket.

k

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“Cancel culture” is scary. It can destroy reputations, bankrupt businesses, stifle dissent, and ruin lives. 

At least, that’s what conservatives tell me.

And they’re not wrong.

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I do not believe

. . . that all cops are bastards

. . . that all pharmacists want us sick

. . . that all lawyers are heartless

. . . that all Republicans are stupid

. . . that all Democrats are socialists

. . . that all conservatives are evil

. . . that all progressives are anarchists

. . . that all Blacks are criminals

. . . that all Whites are racists

. . . that all Arabs are terrorists

. . . that all Hispanics are gangsters

. . . that all men are pigs

. . . that all women are bitches

The world is greyer than this

Much, much greyer than this

On these points

And a million other ways

Thinking so

Denies

Everything

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As the last four years enter the realm of memory, one image is strong in my mind:

=================

Guardian of Forever : TIME HAS RESUMED ITS SHAPE. ALL IS AS IT WAS BEFORE. MANY SUCH JOURNEYS ARE POSSIBLE. LET ME BE YOUR GATEWAY.

Lt. Uhura : Captain, the Enterprise is up there. They’re asking if we want to beam up.

Capt. Kirk : [softly]  Let’s get the Hell out of here.

=================

Indeed, Captain.

k

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We’ve had a few tense weeks here, and not because of current events. Short version: My wife had a cancer scare, but thankfully it was only a scare.

The past eight weeks, and especially the last two weeks, were filled with appointments and waiting and procedures and more waiting and biopsies and even more waiting. As you can probably imagine, during that waiting, all that downtime when the “What if?” scenarios bounce around your head like a ping-pong ball at a championship match, we desperately needed something to occupy our brains.

My wife (the one in greatest need of distraction) found her solace in Blue Bloods. It’s a show we’ve never watched before, and she now had eleven seasons (!!) to binge on.

And binge, she did (with me at her side, for much of it).

For those unfamiliar with Blue Bloods, it follows a family of Irish Catholic police officers in New York City. Gramps (Len Cariou) is retired, Dad (Tom Selleck) is the police commissioner, and the boys (Donnie Wahlberg and Will Estes) are cops. My wife was there primarily for Tom Selleck as the gruff but gentle patriarch. For my part, I was there solely for Bridget Moynahan, who plays the daughter, an Assistant DA for the city.

The shows are simple. There’s an A plot and a B plot in each episode. The family always gets together for Sunday dinner. There is ongoing character development, but for the most part, it’s purely episodic. It’s a dependable show. Dependably good. Dependably homey. Dependably entertaining.

During one episode’s Sunday dinner scene, I turned to my wife and said, “One thing I like about this show: they’re all Republicans.”

She looked at me like I had suggested they were all rabid dogs, a look that said, “Are you crazy? That’s impossible. I like these people!”

Given recent events, this reaction can be forgiven, but I stand by my opinion. Law enforcement skews strongly toward the GOP. Catholics lean conservative. Taken with the characters’ commentary about political and social issues (e.g., stop and frisk, personal responsibility, etc.), it was clear that this family had a strong conservative viewpoint. Doing the math, it was clear to me that the characters would probably vote Republican.

This deduction, however, was not offered up as an insult. As I said, I liked that aspect of the show. As a staunch liberal, a guy whose father campaigned for Adlai Stevenson (twice!), you might think it odd that I like watching a show about a family of Republicans, but it’s not odd. Not odd at all.

Why? Because these characters are old-school GOP, like the Republicans of my youth. Conservative? Yes. Tough on crime? You bet. Fiscally tight-fisted? Damned straight. But they are also capable of compassion, of seeing the gradients between black and white, of taking into account mitigating circumstances, and (above all) the necessity to compromise. They care for people as people, seeing the world not just as cops and robbers, heroes and zeroes.

In short, they are not of the rabid Jim Jordan GOP, nor the morally relativistic Lindsey Graham GOP. The Blue Bloods family is more akin to the Eisenhower GOP.

And I miss that GOP.

I miss the GOP with whom you could actually debate, the GOP that wasn’t blind to the massive common ground between the extremes. I miss the GOP that understood that politics is ideology but governing is compromise. I miss the GOP that was willing to give something up, to negotiate in good faith, in order to advance what they saw as the greater good.

Yes, polarization exists on both sides, these days, but if there’s one party that owns the centrist, moderate ground, well, it ain’t today’s GOP. Today’s GOP has been moving off that part of the field for over a decade, and in the past four years, they ceded it completely. Today’s GOP is all about power and money and control and is nothing about governing. Today’s GOP is the party of the Big Lie, conspiracy theories, and slavering devotion to Dear Leader. And sadly, of sedition.

I know there are some exceptions to this new norm in the GOP, and I feel for them. They are grossly outnumbered by the wild-eyed cohort that has shifted the GOP so far to the right. These few, these moderate few, are trapped between the mob their party has built and the abyss that now exists between our parties’ ideologies.

I miss the GOP, and I suspect perhaps some of these politicians do, as well.

k

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It’s one thing for my rabid right-wing-nutter Uncle Earl to run about in his tin-foil hat and go on and on about stolen elections and massive fraud at the polls. It’s entirely another thing when elected officials do the same. Crazy Uncle Earl didn’t take an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. Elected officials did. 

If, at this point, they do not admit that Biden won the election, then they must believe that:

  • all the federal judges and Supreme Court justices (including Republican/Trump appointees) who have dismissed the fifty-odd (and counting) lawsuits filed, are lying to us
    • and
  • all the state elections boards, secretaries of state, and governors (including Republicans) who have certified Biden’s win in their elections, are lying to us
    • and
  • the complete lack of credible evidence is irrelevant to the process of determining fact from fiction
    • and
  • thousands upon thousands of people across fifty states, people who have worked for decades in jobs and processes that, in 2016, delivered Donald Trump the presidency, have all suddenly, secretly, and without evidence of collusion or conspiratorial intent, decided to cooperate in such a way as to deny that same Donald Trump a second term, and have done so without a single credible leak, whistle-blower, email, or text (all while delivering many down-ballot offices to the GOP).

In short, they are willing to believe the fabulists who concoct stories that support their fearful wishes, rather than accept the evidence that surrounds them, to wit:

  • a majority of voters who have decried this man’s performance for years simply voted against him,
    • and
  • the explanations as to how “day of” and “mail-in” ballots differ demographically are uncomplicated, unsurprising, and totally predictable,
    • and
  • multiple recounts and investigations and audits and canvasses have consistently shown the reported results are accurate.

The behavior we’re seeing from these elected officials:

  • is a disgrace to their oath, their office, and their country
  • is a blatant accession to the current administration’s worst autocratic impulses
  • is damaging to our institutions, our democracy, and our national security
  • is emboldening an indoctrinated and violence-prone faction within our populace, encouraging this faction to act out, terrorize, and even hurt people they see as “the enemy” 

This should hang around these politicians’ necks like a dead albatross.

But I’m sure we’ll forget all about it.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

k

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In my house there are four boxes.

Four special boxes.

First, there is the God Box, a small cardboard box covered with embossed white paper. It contains the prayers my step-mother wrote to her deity during the last years of her life. It’s a difficult box to visit.

Then there is the Poem Box. It’s flat, the size of a billfold, and it contains the poems my father wrote after my stepmother died. It, too, is a difficult box, filled with despair and dark thoughts written in days’ early hours as he precessed from a broken future toward his own demise.

Recently, I received an incongruous box. A wooden half-moon with a clasp, japanned and decorated with 19th century-style chrysanthemums, it fits easily in two hands. It is from the estate of my recently deceased brother, and while it is totally not like him in style, its contents—pipes, Malian artifacts, a bracelet of broken silver—most definitely are. But, like the other boxes, visiting this one is also a sad journey.

The fourth box, though, is different. (more…)

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