adventures from the homefront, COVID-19 edition, episode 11: it all sucks

I’ve done a lot of hard work in the past year trying to push past grumpy, find compassion and universal truths, build empathy with people who think differently than me, discover shared human values. I’ve been practically floating on the upbeat.

The 21st century GOP is just killing my vibe.

Wisconsin voted yesterday (April 7), and boy was it a poopy show. Follow me through this run-on sentence, and please read it in a shriek:  State republicans who have gerrymandered and vote-suppressed their way to power (and this is not a debatable accusation, it’s what they are doing transparently and with purpose and glee)… used their minority power to force an election forward in a time when they know full well (and actually intend) that the impact will be to effectively deny the vote to many citizens, or force citizens to endanger their lives in order to vote… and thereby suppress even more votes… and then the conservative majority on the state supreme court smashed down the governor’s last-ditch effort to protect human life by delaying the election date or making it mail-in only… and then the conservative bare-majority on the US Supreme Court (which exists because McConnell refused to honor democracy by allowing the US senate to consider the sitting president’s Supreme Court nominee) thumbs-upped the Wisconsin GOP’s move to put people in harm’s way in the interest of politics and power.

It’s perfectly designed to dump me off my there’s-hope-for-humanity cloud.

Oh sure, you can make plenty of technical arguments about the rule of law and blah blah blah.  And plenty of conservative jurists will do that. They will need to, in order to sleep well at night. But it’s all sophistry.  The same ilk who now say “we can’t stand in the way of local state election decisions!” handed Dubya the election against Gore by… overturning a state court’s ruling.  So I call BS, and no fancy-dancing argument will get me past that.  If it takes more than a few sentences to convince me that you’re right on this, then you’re jumping through hoops and I’m not impressed.

Our state assembly speaker, GOP huckster Robin Vos, insisted that elections were safe to go forward yesterday.  He proved his point about how safe it was by showing up to work at a polling site looking like this:


Full PPE. What an ass-hat. There are nurses and doctors who can’t doll themselves up like this while treating patients with COVID-19. Where did he get this from? Why don’t the other poll workers around him have that outfit? Wouldn’t it have been nice if that equipment could have gone to a medical provider for actual use in treating patients, instead of being wasted on a stunted man engaging in a political stunt?

I’ll tell you what this montage tells me. Robin Vos knows full well that there was a massive risk in going forward with the vote yesterday. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been dressed like that. Robin Vos knows full well that people will get sick because of gathering to vote. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been dressed like that. Robin Vos doesn’t care about other people’s lives, least of all Democratic voters lives. He wouldn’t mind if they all die.  He cares about power, and that is all.

As for my own very local assembly representative, Dan Knodl (R)… He also made a statement by working the polls. Except he went somewhere called Richfield, which is a half hour north of here and in a different county. Maybe the lower COVID-19 infection rate there (so far) and the higher concentration of Republican (white) voters had something to do with that…? No! How rude of me to suggest such a thing! How rude of me to suggest that if he really cared about his own constituents, he would have volunteered at a polling location in Milwaukee County, which had real poll-worker shortages and where he was actually elected as an assemblyman, instead of going… somewhere else.

I no longer believe that I live in a democracy, or even a democratic republic (as many blithe neo-cons like to natter about, as if this somehow makes it okay for a minority to own power through machinations). Our elected leadership in America doesn’t reflect voter preference.  The numbers don’t lie. President Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. The US Senate has a bare Republican majority, even though in each of the last two elections Democratic candidates nationwide received millions more votes than Republican candidates. Here in Wisconsin, the gerrymandering is so bad that it looks like this from the last election: democratic candidates for our assembly got 53% (a majority, for math-weak readers) of votes overall, but walked away with only 36% (extreme minority) of assembly seats.

The staff of my state representatives — Dan Knodl and Alberta Darling, both republicans — don’t return my calls when I ask. When I do manage to reach a human, they’ve taken to lecturing me as if I work for them, instead of the other way around.  They firmly believe they answer to their political party, not the voters in their districts, and they treat me with contempt when I call with a view they don’t agree with.

In my view, anyone who thinks this is okay – and apparently a lot of people do – doesn’t believe in democracy or representative government.  It makes me all crazy inside.

What I think is, democracy in America is being strangled to death by the GOP’s increasingly authoritarian platform.  The GOP wants people to not vote, just like authoritarian governments all over the world. The GOP doesn’t care what the majority of citizens want.

The news that gives me pause in the face of this, and that may allow me to exit Grumpy Space before too long, is that people still showed up to vote, despite the threat to their health.  Having been denied absentee ballots, having been denied a period of grace to allow a later election in safer times, having been denied the opportunity to vote safely, people still came out and stood in line for hours and flexed their voter muscles. Despite the knowledge that their votes are meaningless because of gerrymandering, people still voted.

They had a choice to stay home, and they didn’t. They haven’t given up. Heroes all. I hope we all turn out in November and claw back democracy, one vote at a time.

adventures from the homefront, COVID-19 edition, episode 10: touch everything

I have been doing a fantastic job of sheltering in place and avoiding humanity. It comes easy to me if course, since I hate people. At this point, unless I picked it up at the grocery store a few days ago, I should be COVID-19-free or asymptomatic-COVID-19-recovered.

But this morning I had three errands to run, and I didn’t bring any wipes or sanitizer or gloves with me. Oops. It was a good object lesson. Here’s a run-through of my journey, and the things I touched and hypothetically smeared with disease along the way:

As I head out the door, I grab keys and my phone, which lives in a wallet-like case that contains my important cards. I also have Everest by the leash, and Anthony follows carrying Madeline. The dogs are going to daycare for some much-needed peer play and grooming. I open the car doors and get the dogs and me in. Put on the seatbelt, grab the wheel, open the windows, move the stick shift into gear. Touch touch touch touch.

I drive over to doggy day care. I follow their COVID-19 plan and call from the car so Michelle can come out for the dogs. She takes the leashes from me (touch). The groomer also meets us outside and we fuss over the dogs as we chat, but we keep our distance. I ask Michelle how things are going. Business is slower so they’ve cut back hours, but she’s grateful to have a job at all. She is really going to need her stimulus check, she says.

I get back in the car – touch door handle, touch seatbelt, touch stick shift, touch window controls, touch keys – and drive down the street to the gas station. I need to fill up because we’re going to Horicon Marsh on this beautiful day to take a long walk. I pull up to the pump and get out.

Now is when I realize that o regret not planning ahead with sanitizer. An Orwellian female voice blares over the loudspeakers: we are committed to your health! Please come inside to wash your hands or use sanitizer after you pump!

Oh sure, come through your doors and into the place where all of the people are gathering in your convenience shop? I don’t think so.

I pull out my debit card and glare at the pump. How many people have used it today? Touch touch touch. I breathe and shove in my card, punch the buttons to pay. Touch touch. I pull out the nozzle, touch and get the gas going.

Now is when it all starts to go soggy in my mind, as I stand there waiting. I’ve touched equipment that has no doubt been touched by hundreds of hands since the last time it was cleaned in any way. This is always hard for me anyway, but right now I’m acutely aware of how gross it is. I try not to make keening noises.

Instead, I pull my debit card out of the pay slot, open the passenger side door, touch touch, and reach for my phone wallet. Something stops my hand. Instead of putting the card away, I drop it in the Stuff Slot in the car’s center console. (What am I supposed to call that space? I really don’t know.) I close the passenger door and wait. When the tank is full, I grit my teeth… pull out the nozzle and get it back on its pump slot, touch touch, look around forlornly for sanitizer, and get back in the car. Touch door handle, touch seatbelt, touch keys, touch wheel, touch stick shift.

I continue on to my last stop, the drive-through ATM at my local bank branch. I’m regretting the stacked errands the whole way. Maybe just one stop on an outing is the way to go. I pull up to the ATM and take a deep breath. I need to get cash now because I probably won’t have another chance before I pick up the dogs later today. I need to give the doggy day care ladies an enormous tip. I’m saving so much money with everything closed. I need to inject funds into our micro-local economy, help out my village when I can.

I roll down the car window, touch, and stick my card into the ATM box. Enter my pin, grab the bills. Retrieve my card, roll up the window. Touch touch touch. Touch wheel, touch stick shift, touch money, touch debit card.

I drive home. All I can think about is how incredibly toxic my car might be now, and also where is the closest box of Clorox wipes? I think it’s in the bathroom right next to the kitchen door. I pull into the driveway. Touch car door handles, touch phone and debit car and keys as I shove them in my coat pocket, touch storm door knob, touch kitchen door knob, touch Clorox box. Yes!

I pull out 4 million wipes and go to town. Wipe phone, wipe keys. Wipe debit card and put it back in phone case. Wipe door knobs as I head back to the car. Wipe door handle as I open the door, wipe seatbelt, wipe wheel, wipe stick shift, wipe window open-close buttons. Wipe passenger door handle – good remembering, Carla! Stare at the car for a moment to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.

I head back in and wipe the counter where I placed by keys and phone when I came in. I start wiping random surfaces. I eventually stop and get myself a cup of coffee.

Next time, just one errand, and wipes in the car. Check.