Saturday, October 24, 2020

Texas notes: Flags

     Austin bureau chief Caren Jeskey speaks truth to Texas.
    Mr. "President" there is nothing funny about COVID. There is something very wrong with you to have made fun of Joe Biden wearing a properly fitted mask. It is surreal to watch you making light of an epic tragedy. Our only solace is that you will surely be kicked out of high office in the near future. Only then our “great” nation can cease to be the laughing-stock and horror of the world as you mismanage this plague and march your people to death. Once you are properly fired why don’t you do us all a favor and disappear? You’ve joked about leaving the country— please, please do.
     In mid-June on a COVID walkabout I noticed a hand painted wooden sign affixed to a tree in a neighbor’s yard. It boldly read “Texans Lost To COVID 19: 2,193.” The yard was peppered with 2,193 brightly colored flags. It brought home the gravity of the situation and I was moved to tears.
     As the weeks have worn on, I’ve watched the sea of flags grow in this lawn around an otherwise nondescript corner house. We are now nearing 17,000 Texans dead. This is not a soap opera or telenovela. None of those people are coming back.
     A few days ago I saw a brightly colored Fiat with 2 kayaks on the roof drivings towards me as I walked down the street; (we don’t have many sidewalks here). I recognized the car from the flag driveway. Instinctively I waved and the driver stopped and unrolled his window. He knew this was about the flags. He told me his name is Shane, and his wife Erin sat next to him. I asked if I could come by and learn more about his project, and he agreed. We set a date and a few days later Shane warmly invited me into their colorful and well-appointed backyard replete with a brand new chicken coop (with Lucy and Dinah pecking about), a fire pit, and modern wicker furniture. Large vinyl curtains with art prints from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art hung brightly on the wall behind him. Shane and Erin once lived in LA and both have backgrounds in film. 
     “When this all started everyone treated it like it was big vacation.” Shane described how he felt watching neighbors bike and walk around, and congregate in each others’ yards. He felt it was important to bring attention to the reality of what was happening. “It’s a real disease and people are dying from it. It was as though we were driving 100 miles per hour in a school zone. If we get hit, we get hit.”
     I knew exactly what he meant. Folks seem to think the virus picks and chooses people and will skip them and their loved ones. While on a walk with a neighbor the other day, she ripped her mask off complaining “it’s just so hot. Do you mind?” She is a healthcare professional so I asked her how this choice would affect me. She said “if you have a mask on but I don’t your chances of getting the virus from me increase by about 5%.” 
      “Um, YES. I DO MIND!” I told her to either stay at least six feet away from me, or put her mask on. For the rest of the walk she repeatedly pushed the boundaries and rather than a pleasant walk with a new friend the walk became a stress-laden game of dodge the germs for me. Frankly, I’d prefer to be alone than with someone who is not safe. She works in a medical practice, hangs out closely with people from at least four other households that I am aware of, and sadly cannot be one of my COVID buddies anymore. I’ll just decline the next invitations and maintain my inner balance that comes with impeccable safety standards during this stretch of the marathon.  
Now it's up to 18,000
   It felt good to be with Shane who put his mask on just to talk to me from his car during our first meeting. In his yard, we sat at least 10 feet away from each other if masks were off. As Shane put it, “most things in life are manageable.” He should know, as the father of a teen who had multiple heart surgeries before he was even 4 years old, thus a high-risk person. I stand with Shane and his family and all other at-risk people and I will not compromise these standards. 
     If we’d simply been mandated to wear masks and practice distancing, similar to mandates to wear seat belts and not to smoke in public indoor spaces, people like my dear former landlord Angelo Vouris who died on April 12th of COVID in Chicago would still be with us. For those of us who have the ability to follow simple rules, let’s just do our best to stay on course. It will be over before we know it and we can always say that we stood on the right side of history. Play this song for those who need a push:
     For more information about Shane and Erin:


  1. Well said, especially on the first part of the column. Trump is indeed a dangerous disgrace.

  2. The Covid-19 numbers in Texas are not so good. Sweden took a different path, with somewhat more lax face covering rules. Sweden has roughly one third the population of Texas, with roughly one third the total deaths. They appear to have achieved herd immunity, with the daily death toll in the single digits for the last 120 days.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Also, I have more to learn about the term "herd immunity," which feels like a buzz word these days.

    3. I can say, though, that I have a huge problem with this part: "In contrast to privileged professionals, Mr. Kulldorff says, the blue-collar class is “out there working, including high-risk people in their 60s. So the working class is building up the population immunity that will eventually protect all of us.” Dr. Bhattacharya adds that one of the reasons “minority populations have had higher mortality in the U.S. from the epidemic is because they don’t often have the option—even if they’re older or have co-morbid conditions—to stay at home.” (from the last link I shared)

    4. Actually Sweden is experiencing a serious spinke. Their approach initially seemed to be effective but the opposite is true. COVID is COVID everywhere in the world. Not wearing a mask and not safe distancing will result in an increase in infections and deaths. Maybe their lower death rate is due to their superior healthcare system.

    5. Hi Les. It took a while to find what appeared to be the most reliable current data. The links provided are updated daily. Both Chrome and Microsoft Edge seem to work, move the cursor over the graph and the deaths for each day are highlighted. No spike is apparent yet, but we shall see what tomorrow brings. This pandemic is extremely politicized, with people pointing fingers of blame everywhere. I hope the scientist are given enough free rein to determine an optimal solution. Hopefully they can create a vaccine soon.

  3. I sincerely wish that President Trump would take Covid-19 with him when he leaves, but I know that the effects of his blasé attitude and his reckless public disdain for proponents of effect safety measures against the virus as well as all of his blunders and all of his undermining of democracy and trust in government will survive along with a judiciary he deliberately chose with the whole-hearted support of Republican legislators to have a pro-business, anti-consumer bias. Amazing that his acolytes continue to call all opposition to Trump's policies as "hate," while Trump himself foments hate for immigrants, hate for minorities, particularly mouthy minorities, hate for protesters, peaceful or not, and hate for any semblance of bi-partisanship and political comity.


  4. He hates all that is not an entitled, rich, white, male U.S. of A. Alfred Nyron Washington, a friend, noted "you are racist if you are the least racist person in the room." Infinitely more so if you can call yourself a world leader. Terrifying.

  5. I don't understand how science denial became a partisan political position. Stupid people hold all kinds of beliefs, like we only have high numbers of cases because we test the most. Intelligent people seeing New York hospitals being overrun this year knew we were in serious shit and acted accordingly. The rich people making light of the crisis are also calling for repeal of the ACA. Their replacement plan is "I've got mine, you're on your own" , comes from the same place as their desire to open the economy no matter what it costs. Some climate deniers have come around, I suspect Covid awareness may take a similar arc, which means many unnecessary deaths in our future.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.