View From the Cheap Seats – The Toll is Starting to Add Up

As I write this on an early Sunday morning, much earlier than I typically would want, I am struck by the fact that I have finally succumbed to 2020. If I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind sometimes cannot get our current predicament out my head. There is peace and horror in this. I have been telling myself since early March that this was going to be ok. My family and I will make the adaptions and move forward. My kids are grown and starting their own lives in the world. I am genuinely proud of them. The grind that is 2020 is beginning to take it’s a toll, though. Work-wise, I have been able to take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves during the pandemic. My wife and I have practiced common sense disease spreading guidelines and precautions, and so far, we have been lucky not to get sick. I have a friend who contracted Covid-19, and he has lingering issues, from which he is not sure if he will ever fully recover. It’s the grind, though, that is starting to get to me.

The next few sentences may tell you more about me than I wish to convey, but I have to get this off my chest, the pandemic, as horrific as it is not the worst part of this year for me. It might become that if I am impacted more personally. I am genuinely horrified by my fellow citizens’ loss and suffering every day. However, what keeps me up at night is the loss of our country. I am not sure we ever recover from what we have become. Two events in the last week have weighed heavily on my mind. The first was a post by an acquaintance of mine on Facebook that made me sick. I had worked with this person for years as a customer. We shared recipes and spoke of our families. I would call us friends that were associated with work. Politics rarely came up, and I assume that he felt that we were on the same page. One rule of sales is you do not discuss politics. You listen and nod your head. In this case, it never came up. He sent me a friend request on Facebook, and I accepted. It was nice to see his kid’s accomplishments and pictures of the big meals he liked to prepare. Then, a few short years ago, the posts he shared became darker. Clearly, racist and hateful. It sickened me, and I unfollowed him. I checked in on Facebook over this weekend and, for some reason, saw one of his posts. It had to do with John McCain and how he is not a hero. The comments were hate filed falsehoods about McCain’s history. The rewriting of his past by the Trumpkin haters just made me sick. How we got here is an entirely different story.

The second incident happened in my doctor’s office. I don’t want to share too much about my medical history, but I have to go in once a quarter to get my bloodwork done to keep my thyroid in check. First, I have to go in and have my vitals done, and then they draw blood. After that, the nurse practitioner comes in and does an examination. As usual, she chatted me up and asked if I kept up with the news and the election. I said yes and did not want to get too deep into the discussion about politics with her. However, she mentioned that she thought the coverage was unfair to the President on the coronavirus. I said that it was not unfair to pin the highest death toll among wealthy nations on his administration. She informed me that COVID death certificates were being manipulated to up the death toll to hurt the President, and it was not nearly as high as the press said it was. Then my doctor came in and asked me how I was doing. I have been seeing him for over 12 years. He is a family practitioner, and I always thought highly of him. His diagnoses have been accurate, and he had seen me quickly when I needed it. He was a man of deep faith, and I thought I liked that. Then he asked me if I was keeping up with the election. I said yes with trepidation, and he started in the same direction. He told me that he could not vote for Biden because he will have the public schools teaching Islam. I told him I didn’t think he could do that, and he insisted that this is what Biden would do. I felt that a man of science and a thorough education would not fall for the internet crap that was going around. I was about to ask him where he stood on Demon Seed and nightmares but stopped short.

As I said, the grind of 2020 continues. I am so disappointed by my fellow citizens and their refusal to put facts before drivel and choose to believe what validates their worldview. We used to be able to agree on the facts and work out compromises based on those facts. That is no longer the case and is very dangerous. It is freeing because I can put these people in the rearview mirror. It is just so incredibly sad.

Does anyone know a good Internist in Northwest Houston?

18 Comments

  1. A few thoughts.

    The people who have and will continue to support Trump are right-wing authoritarians. I’ve probably linked this book here before, but I’ll do so again. It’s free to read online, only takes a couple of hours, and goes into who are right-wing authoritarians, and why they are and you and I aren’t (as much).

    Bob Altemeyer. The Authoritarians.
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxxylK6fR81rckQxWi1hVFFRUDg/view

    It’s an easy read, and is quite funny, given the subject matter. Please, read it, or at least skim it. Who Republicans are, why they act the way they act, etc., is all in this book.

    The percentage of people who will support Trump even after Trump says, on live television, that he gets blood transfusion from unborn babies (fetuses) in order to stay healthy, would not drop below 27% of Republicans/right-wing authoritarians. This is the “crazification factor” (Google that phrase – its an old one) of the US population, and very likely, all populations. That is, 27% of the population are crazy as fuck and just do a good job of hiding it on a day-to-day basis.

    Having “conversations” with the Death Cult Members is usually counter-productive. If they ever gain control of their own minds, it has to be on their own terms, not ones we set up. So, typically, the best political argument to make with a zealot is not to make one. That said, you can pick off the people who vote (R) because their families have told them to do it and they don’t actually know better. These are the people who are not immediately defensive about being a Republican voter. And you pick them off by pointing out how their Republican posture on issue X isn’t what they’ve been told it is, while asking them questions about what it is they really believe. It is never instant, but if they trust you, they are reachable.

    Assuming their isn’t another Hot Civil War, this problem isn’t going away even if Biden wins and the Democrats take the Senate by a seat or two. As Chris posted what seems like a millennia ago, it’s the 2022 election that is probably the most important election. We have to outlive the fascists, so eat healthy, don’t abuse alcohol, and exercise. And every time the fascists pop their heads out of the holes, we have to be there to thump them back down.

  2. I have read this post and various comments, and have been agog. I will skip with dealing with all this denial and avoidance and just say this:

    Saddam Hussein ran Iraq with an iron fist for 24 years. (Actually more if you look into the history of it.) His Ba’athist Party and their followers were the minority in Iraq for that duration. You can ask Mr. Ladd, the historian, for a better number, but it was less than 35%, This tyrant has at least 40%.

    The tyrant says daily that he is ignoring the results of the election. Why don’t you ask Mr. Ladd what percentage of tyrannical regimes, throughout history, are removed without mass violence, or at least, a “targeted attack”.

    1. Just to clear up a detail.

      “Membership” in a leadership party in a totalitarian regime is not a metric of support, it measures the size of the ruling elite. You’re comparing apples to space ships.

      The longer that party rules and the more secure their control, the smaller and more elite that membership becomes. Fewer than 10% of Germans were ever Nazi Party members. By the 80’s, only about 20% of Soviets were party members. In China the number is barely over 6%. That’s not how you measure support. The comparable figure for the GOP would be absolutely tiny, maybe around 1% (measuring active, participating party membership, not merely voting allegiance), and the figure for Democrats would be about three or four times that number, but that’s because there’s no direct comparison. We don’t govern through our political parties in the manner common in 20th century dictatorships.

      Also, there’s no single way that tyrannical regimes collapse. A large percentage of them fall under peaceful protest, like Chile, Spain, South Africa, Portugal, Soviet Union, most of the Warsaw Pact (except Romania), Philippines, Indonesia, Argentina, Tunisia, Greece and Brazil and on and on.

      1. Fair enough on “membership”. Muddy writing on my part. Let me rephrase. What percentage of the Iraqi populace supported Hussein?

        Chile: All kinds of violence, among the paramilitary groups aligned against the regime, MIR, trained by Castro. The military essentially pulled the plug on Pinochet.

        Spain: Franco finally exited due to ill health.

        Portugal: Salazar was a dictator, but an odd one, given he was one of the original signatories to NATO.

        South Africa: There never had a single dictator, but I will say, yes, de Klerk did end apartheid, but only after massive political and economic sanctions.

        Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact nations: I remember well the late 80’s with Lech Walesa, the Wall coming down, etc. The Soviet control fell because of economic sanctions and a terrible economic system that collapsed from within, and also survived the deaths of not one, not two, but 5 leaders. If the U.S. and other nations had not pressured the Soviets externally, as well as drain them economically with the Cold War, it would have not fallen. BTW, how is that working out in Russia today?

        Philippines: The People Power Revolution was hardly non-violent, and was about to become a full-blown civil war when Marcos was advised to bail.

        Indonesia: Suharto left because of a number of factors, including failing health, and massive violent protests. One of the essentially non-violent protests was the mid-May occupation of their main parliament building by university students. Imagine this tyrant allowing Congress to be occupied by students.

        Argentina: Videla stepped down in 1981, but the military junta continued until they lost the Falkland War.

        Tunisia: Probably the least violent of the revolutions, but Ben Ali did kill many of the protestors, and once again, it was triggered because of huge internal economic issues.

        and on and on…..I am not even going to get into how many of these dictators were backed by, or created, by the u.s. That is another story.

        Bottom line, we are already in the midst of this tyrant’s regime. He will not leave willingly, and will indeed bring his gestapo to bear, as well as who knows how many militias will spontaneously trigger.

      2. I forgot to mention the Belarus situation. They have had demonstrations of up to 250,000 people, out of the national population of 9.4 million. Let’s pretend for a moment that half of that percentage of americans were willing to risk it all. Call it 1%. Imagine 3 million americans marching on Congress and the White House, simultaneously, and then attempting to occupy it.

        That is what it will take to oust the tyrant, and only after thousands of deaths. Oh, and the dictator in Belarus, he is still in power.

  3. As others have mentioned, doctors are actually great targets for scams. They have a lot of money and an uncritical view of their own intelligence.

    I had two thoughts reading this post. One was actually, I wonder what completely out there belief I hold that is fractally wrong but reinforced by my community and my chosen media such that I take it without even hazarding a doubt to its authenticity. What scares me about stories like this isn’t that people are so stupid, but that people CAN be. If they can be, I can be. And to be perfectly honest, I am historically a very gullible person. I tend to believe most people about most things.

    (A good example is that I assume this post accurately reflects the experiences of the author, without knowing him or the people he speaks about, or having met people like them.)

    The second thought I had is that I wish I had the confidence to ask questions of people like that. The idea that Biden wants to convert school students to Islam is FRACTALLY wrong — a lie based on a nonsensical premise that comes to an incorrect conclusion using fallacious logic built on false assumptions. There’s no single point of debate with it because it’s so far out there it’s unclear where to start:

    > What do you mean turn children Muslim?

    > How would he turn children Muslim?

    > Why would he turn them Muslim? What would that achieve?

    > Why Islam versus any other religious or ideological belief?

    > How would he even manage to do that successfully?

    > Where has Biden ever indicated interest in doing this?

    > Who told you that he intends to do this? How does that person know?

    > What’s bad about Islam? What’s so bad about Islam that the person who told you about this is concerned about it? Why is this the bad influence Biden chose rather than others?

    > Is Islam really the most effective way to do the bad things Biden intends?

    And so on in an increasingly sizable spiral with no root, fundamental episteme to land on. It would take literally hours to ask these questions, and I would expect the answers wouldn’t actually evaluate the question asked but rather springboard to other equally fractally wrong claims or at least bring in other bizarre and confusing notions.

    But a weird part of me wonders about how much it might be helpful even to have the influence of a confident doubt to help break that down. Like if the response to

    “Biden wants to turn all of our schoolchildren Muslim!”

    was, “No he isn’t. Don’t be daft.” Not angry, not stressed, not even a hint of condescension, just straight up, “That’s not even a thing.” Continual engagement of the, “No really, he is because…” just met with, “That’s ridiculous, don’t even worry about that stuff.”

    It wouldn’t change the good doctor’s mind, but it might seed enough doubt to ask questions later.

    If, of course, your goal was to continue to meet in an arena of mutual respect.

    My problem is I don’t even have that goal. I am focused exclusively on the survival and care of my own communities. I can’t save everyone, especially people from themselves.

    1. I did not push the conversation as I was in a physician’s office and did not want to get off of the subject of my health. I was not exactly in the right place mentally to get into a political discussion. I was still trying to process the situation I was in. I researched this when I got home. His statement referred to a twisted quote in which Joe Biden said that he felt that all U.S. students should learn about the four major confessional faiths. It has been twisted by a Facebook Meme that turned it into “Biden wants to teach Islam in our schools.” I would prefer to have a physician that does not use FB as their source of news. Maybe I am too sensitive to this issue because of the current social environment. I don’t think so.

      1. I completely understand your situation, Paul. Those questions I have come from morbid curiosity, and I do not think they would do anything helpful in terms of changing minds or finding common ground.

        I do wonder if flippant, confident doubt applied consistently from various sources over time would start chipping away the edges. “Nah that’s not even a thing.” “That won’t happen.” “Whoever told you to that is foolish, don’t get too worked up about it.” As long as the person you’re talking to us never condescended to or judged, just the information itself.

  4. I live in SW Houston and have a few friends that are pro-Trump. All are outwardly warm and caring people. They do not seem to be racist, bigoted or religious nuts but they still support Trump.

    I am thinking about telling them I no longer wish to have any interaction with them due to their beliefs. I will probably wait until after the election to see if they “wake up” and change their views assuming Trump loses.

    I read there are around 250 million US citizens that are of voting age. If one third of them support Trump, that is a scary number of our friends and neighbors that share his values.

  5. Hello Paul. I have found that intelligence and wisdom doesn’t necessarily go together. Often we let personal bias interfere with logic and facts.

    Most of the posters on this blog I agree pretty much with. But I try to find good opinion elsewhere by people who do not think like me in other blogs, pundits and news sources. It is so easy to get trapped in a bubble.

    Without having your preconceived views challenge you never improve and evolve. Part of wisdom is realizing this. I am more of a libertarian politically than anything else. But also believe we are our brother’s keeper. That with my live and let live opinion is what gets me labeled by ignorant louts as a libertard.

    Regardless assuming Joe wins and the Democrats win control of government we still have the Trump cultists among us. A good question is how do we deprogram that significant piece of the population. And how to make sure they are kept from the levers of power so this never happens again.

    1. I’m not sure if we can reprogram them. I absolutely despise Fox “News”, but not enough to destroy 1A. I think all we realistically can do is make sure that they benefit from things like expanded health coverage, green jobs, financial reform, etc. Only they can choose to stop hating people outside their tribe, but if they see that an American Dream is possible, that takes fuel away from the rage fires.

  6. We had the discussion about MDs and science a while back. The sad fact is that you can reject things like the theory of evolution and still manage to do competent repairs on the human body, in the same way an auto mechanic could be good at repairing cars and not learn formal physics. The MDs who I have worked with on the research end of things have a different mindset of course.

    I’m one of the lucky ones with this pandemic. I landed an NIH grant back in June, and my job is secure for the medium term future. I will also have a chance to help with some COVID related research, which is a boost to me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The prospect of meaningful work is especially important because I cannot see life getting back close to anything approaching normal earlier than summer 2021, and that’s my most optimistic scenario. I have more financial reserves than the average American:; not wealthy enough to have zero worries, but yes I can handle that $400 emergency easily. So I will very likely survive.

    But I share your dismay Paul at how many people have chugged the orange koolaide. At best we have 35% who are all in on Trump, and they we still be here even if we are fortunate enough to create a Blue Tsunami. The hard fact that I have had to grapple with is that this rot was always there, it’s just that I was privileged enough to live in a space where I didn’t have to see it. It’s sobering to see it laid so bare now, but that’s the first step in fixing a problem. You must accept that it exists. I agree with Chris that there is opportunity to fix things in this chaos. It is not guaranteed, but it is possible.

    1. I remember going back to G. W. Bush’s approval rating in 2008. In October 2008 bush’s approval rating was 25%! And that was when , if you turned on the business news, credible people were discussing a possible world wide depression. Hard to believe that 1/4 quarter of the voting public could be so stupid as to think things were hunky dory!

      Those same people are probably now QANON followers! Republicans all!!

  7. I have a cousin who actually told me she switched drs because her doctor, who she liked, she thought would try to convert her to Islam. Stupid me, I asked her “Did he?”
    “Well no, but I know he will!” was her reply!
    Two guesses who she is voting for, the first doesn’t count!
    One common trait of all these people, racists, is they all watch Fox News and nothing else! And they are all Republicans!

  8. Firstly, after attending medical school, it doesn’t surprise me that a doctor is a nitwit. They suffer from Dunning-Kruger syndrome as a profession because they are constantly deferred to by their staff and patients and think their expertise in one area extends to everything.

    I’ve dropped out of 2020 as much as possible because of things like this. I’m pretty allergic to any attempt to bring up politics – I was buying some firewood from an old guy in Fort Bragg last month and was chatting to him. He had lived in the area his whole life so I asked him what the biggest change he had seen – he immediately said “government” and I literally closed him down there and my buddy changed the subject. Just one word, spat out with venom, was the warning.

    I’ve never seen this level of anger bubbling under the surface before. What Fox News and Trumpism have done to this country is a sin.

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