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Broadcasting Under Siege

Peter, on the right, in his bunker.

 

Each of our lives is a Shakespearean drama raised to the thousandth degree.

 

― Anna Akhmatova (born in Odessa, 1889, died in Moscow, 1966)

 

I usually hear from Peter Zalmayev on FB messenger in the morning. He sends a link to an interview he's done either on Canadian Broadcasting, CNN International, BBC, even WBAI this week, so that I and all his friends, acquaintances and colleagues, can share it, thus creating a chain of information with a global reach. I am sure that other recipients of these messages, which assure us he is still alive and working—body guards at his shoulder—reply  as I do with a thumbs up, or words such as "received and will share," or "thinking of you." Peter has disclosed that his family is safe, and that he has dual American-Ukrainian citizenship, but that like so many other brave Ukrainians, he decided to return to use his expertise and perfect English to help fight the Ukrainian counter-propaganda war; Zelensky's address to Congress was part of that war.

 

Just imagine the logistics of broadcasting in the midst of missile barrages, the struggle to keep Wifi going, the constant worry about friends and family.

 

I first met Peter when I was living in Washington Heights in Manhattan; he lived in my building. I had started a Tenants Association and he wanted to know more about it. I was about to open a meeting in the lobby when he walked in, a commanding presence. Tall, handsome and self-assured, I can't remember if he stayed or left that night, but he was immediately engaged and interested in the process we had started to hold a landlord to account.

 

At the time, he was finishing up his studies at Columbia University; I left the city before he did, and though he returned to Kyiv and I moved to upstate New York, we became FB friends and stayed connected in the casual way one does on FB. Then I read on his page that he'd become the Director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, "dedicated to the promotion of democracy and human rights in post-Communist transitional societies of Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia," according to the Wiki entry.

 

Here's their webstie: http://eurasiademocracy.org/about-us-2/

 

 

I hope (and would pray if I could) that Peter Zalmayev, President Zelensky, and everyone else broadcasting and/or in the Ukrainian government will be able to continue the life-affirming work of building and sustaining the Ukrainian democracy in the months and years ahead.

 

#Слава Україні #Slava Ukraini

 

 

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 89

It's not just a fuzz ball.

 

I Told You So

 

 

I tried to straighten him out, but there is only so much you can do for a person who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer.

 

                                                              -David Sedaris

 

 

"So what did the vaccine do for you?" a woman in the health store asked me after I told her I'd had a mild case of Covid in January with a lingering neuralgic effect that is already "resolving," as my doctor says. I didn't miss a day of exercise—walking on my own when I was still positive—I didn't end up in the hospital, and, best of all—though  I am in the "vulnerable" age group—I  am not dead.

 

"I'm still alive ," I said in answer to her question, more succinctly and more forcefully than I intended. Her righteousness bothered me.

 

We were standing in the alternative remedy aisle. This woman is a rep for one of the products. She's sixty, has an eighty-four year old mother, and neither have been vaxxed.

 

"Oh, you haven't been waxed, how interesting," I said. The malaprop just slipped out. I don't think she noticed. The conversation was absurd, a labyrinth of "theories," and sales pitches for her products to prevent dread disease and stay youthful, etc. "And, by the way," she told me when I confessed my age this birthday week, "You look terrific."

 

"That's because I work hard at it," I told her. "And because I've been vaxxed and  I am not dead. Just a reminder, the global death toll from the pandemic just hit six million." 

 

Of course, we were standing there chatting unmasked, as the mask mandates in NY State have been lifted. My doc told me she thought it was premature, but I've decided to risk it—for my mental health--at least until we are asked to pivot to restrictive protocol again. I'm hoping that will be awhile, or maybe never.

 

Am I past caring about vaccines and safety protocols now that we are in a happy hiatus? No, I'm not.

 

"I'm sorry to hear you didn't at least get your mother vaxxed and glad you have both survived." I said. "And thanks a heap for making it so much harder for the rest of us. PS I won't be buying any of your products, so don't try to sell me anything. Goodbye."   

 

#anti-vaxxers #get vaxxed #getboostered 

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When We Leave The Dead Behind

"The Cloak of Conscience" by  Anna Chrony.

 

 https://www.annachromy.com/annas-legacy/conscience-project/

 

 

 

In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.

-Herodotus

 

If we don't end war, war will end us.

-H. G. Wells

 

 

Dedicated to all the journalists on the ground in Ukraine, and those who have been censored, imprisoned, murdered, or forced into hiding in Russia.  

 

No landscapes of mountains today, dear reader. Spoiler alert: I'm writing about the war in Ukraine, yet again. Click off, delete if you must, or read on. Join me with courage and fortitude. The world is geopolitically in turmoil:

 

His clothes were shredded and reeked from natural and chemical odors from the missile that had hit his group home. He had followed the crowd on foot, walking more than fifteen hours, to the Hungarian border, and because he has Tourette's, he wanted to be alone. The doctor in the mobile clinic accommodated his wish. The man was confused, distraught; the doctor remained calm. The BBC reporter, who has lived in Hungary for a decade, knew the doctor; it was his family's doctor. The doctor said that he quelled his own anxiety by working in his mobile clinic. Without hesitation, he drove to the Ukrainian border, interrupting his cosmopolitan life in Budapest without regret. Unlike the refugees from a modernized, western-facing Ukraine, he will be able to return to that life quickly.

 

This is not a film script; it is an account of one escape among many escapes, one doctor among many doctors. Many refugees will not make it. They choose the wrong escape route; they get shot or die of starvation in the crush on the roadside. Many medical workers will also be at risk as the heavy fighting and bombardment continues. Humanitarian assistance writ large cannot be sent in until there is a ceasefire, thus frenetic diplomatic action to achieve a cease fire and lower the risk to the civilian population.

 

The stories about Russia's atrocities in Ukraine are reminiscent of Chechnya and Stalin's reign of terror. Shock and awe tactics, gulags. Putin and his cohorts have been infected by ancient imperial ambitions. It is as though the Nazi reign of terror crushed by the Allies in WW II, has become undead, the disease of hatred and genocide mutated and strengthened.

 

Are there enough words to describe what is happening? As writers, broadcasters, journalists, can we find the right words to describe what is happening?

 

What, besides donations, can we do to help?

 

I spoke to my doctor-cousin Roger in Michigan this morning. Within minutes we had agreed that watching endless loops of news was not enough for us; our Holocaust history activates. What can we do to help? There are Ukrainian communities in both of our towns. Let's find out what we can do to help them as they struggle to locate their families, for example. Let's do this, or something else,  in the name of our relatives who fled war, or were captured and killed in the Nazi death camps, or shot and thrown into pits. Let us think of them, let us honor them, as we continue to work for the rule of law locally, nationally and internationally.

 

#standwithukraine #standwithallrefugees #humanitarianassistance

 

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What War Reporters Do

Kyiv in bloom and at peace. 

 

 

It's 3:28 a.m. The hotel's quiet. I open the window. The rain has stopped. The lights in the city are still on. I'm going to get some sleep.

 

-Sabrina Tavernise, for The New York Times Daily in Kyiv, 2/24/2022

 

 

It's difficult to get to sleep when war drums are pounding. We can't even say it's a welcome distraction from other news, such as the pandemic. It isn't. In the safety of my upstate home, I thought of my husband's Ukranian-Russian family and a journalist friend who re-settled in Kyiv after finishing his studies in America. I wrote a couple of FB texts:  "Thinking of you, hope you, your family and colleagues are safe."

 

1:36 a.m. a reply came in from the journalist : a thumbs up. It was repeated a while later, then stopped.  

 

When she can't get to sleep, her adrenalin pumping, Sabrina Tavernise takes notes, with time stamps, Like every well-trained reporter, she creates a  documentary record, a testimony, and thinks of herself as a witness to an historical event. 

 

This morning, there are videos on every news site, interrupted by inane advertising, yet another television war.

 

The documentation grows and solidifies: The Russian bear is loosed upon the world. The Ukrainian spring is over.

 

#peaceinUkraine #workforpeace #Ukrainianspring #honorwarreporters 

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The Night of the Howling Wind

"Origins," copyright Mary Louise Long, 2022. Mary Louise continually inspires me to rediscover the origins of our creative,human impulses. https://marylouiselong.com/    

 

 

One day soon, FB will only be a platform for: 1.beautiful photos 2. advertising 3. Wordlers.

 

-Carol Bergman on Facebook 2/17/2022

 

 

I had yet another robotic experience with a bank this week, got tangled in a labyrinth, and could not get in touch with a person who was not reading from a script, asking me about my day, or thanking me for my business. I was angry and disconsolate, not to mention that my "problem" had not been solved. I refused to do the survey. Why all these surveys? I then posted a provocative statement on Facebook, which reminded me that I have not ruminated about social media, declarations of love and war on social media, or the degradation of social media, in a while, so this post is both directly and obliquely related to yesterday's robotic de-humanizing experience with the bank, if that makes any sense. Does it?

 

I wrote about Facebook when it first began in 2004, soon after I got my MA in Media Studies from The New School where I had read McLuhan, among others. I applauded the platform as useful, enjoyable, an amplification of global discourse, a safe space to be playful and/or serious, all this long before the abuses of the platform by bad actors and the Congressional hearings about social media irresponsibility and regulation v The First Amendment, a difficult subject. I had found an old college friend who was a FB friend of a FB cousin, and was warmed by the reconnection. Stories such as these were commonplace, and still are, thankfully. Even the acronym FB is now solidly integrated into our daily digital and real-time conversations. We now understand that social media platforms can be humanizing or de-humanizing, used or abused, vectors of hate or love, a platform to bully or celebrate. It is our responsibility—what Graham Greene called the human factor—that evolves the medium, or devolves the medium.

 

During Covid isolation, our dependency on social media platforms has deepened. These are portals into a larger world from which, for so many months, we have been banished. But when I click onto Facebook these days, I feel queasy. I have noted for a while now that an interesting landscape and snapshots of happy families on vacation will get more "likes" than a serious statement, for example, or a post about Afghan women. Videos have become addictive—dogs and animals for me—and even the tart satire of Randy Rainbow and Trevor Noah has faded away from my feeds. Maybe I don't have enough friends, or the "wrong" friends, is that it? Or has this platform diluted so significantly that it will soon morph into a game show, a physical phenomenon known as entropy. Are we, as humans, also suffering from entropy? Are we so exhausted by—everything—that we can no longer sustain a serious conversation, or feel compassion and act on it?  Is this a fall-out reaction from the pandemic, or would it have happened anyway?

 

As I mentioned Wordle in my FB post, a reminder here that it is owned by the NY Times, a venerable and formidable institution I revere; it now has 7,000 journalists and a strict code of conduct. But what is Wordle beyond an enjoyable word game, exactly? Connective tissue? Scrabble on wheels, or a cash cow? Does it do any harm? Obviously not, or probably not? Is it addictive? Is it meant to deliver the user to an advertiser, change an algorithm? I'm not sure. My main complaint is its effect: my Wordle FB friends have stopped posting other comments. They seem obsessed.

 

This morning I woke to a howling wind and rain spattering hard on the windows. Wires went down again and there was a post from the New Paltz police that their telephone service was disrupted. I knew they would find a way to protect this small town regardless, as they did during the recent ice storm. I asked Alexa to play some piano jazz—yes, I have a robot in my apartment collecting data—and over a hearty breakfast, I read George Packer's disturbing article in The Atlantic, "We Are All Realists Now." I thought of the humanitarian workers I'd met and worked with when I compiled Another Day in Paradise. I am still occasionally in touch with four of them, all of whom continue with humanitarian work; they have not retired or lost their idealism. What explains their tenacity, their refusal to become disenchanted, discouraged, or robotic? Why are they the exception and not the rule? What if all of us shut down our phone and computers, stepped outside the door, and walked into the howling wind, regardless of the danger, or the interruption to our privileged digital lives?

 

#socialmedia #wordle #humanitarianinitiatives 

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 88

Photo © copyright Carol Bergman 2022

To Mask or Not to Mask—That is My Question

 

 

I'll come out and say it: All of this is truly exhausting, and it very much sucks.

 

        -Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic,

                          2/10/20
 


Happy Valentine's Day. I have a gift for you: total confusion. I have spent nearly three blissful mask-free days in upstate New York, attended an in-person book club in front of a cozy fire, dressed and undressed mask free at a locker room at the gym, had a long conversation, albeit distanced, with the lifeguard, the first in months and months and months, and returned to a sensational Mexican restaurant in town that stayed alive doing take-out, for which we are grateful. To treat ourselves to delicious food during the worst of the restrictions, well, it was solace. Today, I ventured onto the SUNY campus where masks are still mandated in all indoor spaces. Oddly, all the students strolling outside on an unseasonably warm day were still wearing their masks. I felt unprotected, perhaps a bit careless. Maybe the lifting of restrictions is premature?  What if next week, say, someone arrives at JFK from somewhere or other, and this unsuspecting traveler, who tested negative before boarding the plane, is incubating a new variant which no one, not even the most canny scientists, have detected or sequenced, and what if that innocent traveler attends a celebration somewhere or other, super-spreads this new variant, and we all get very sick? All those days and weeks and months of vigilance, the boosters, the masks, the protocols,  all for naught. Why throw it all away prematurely? Is it premature? Is the decision to relax mask mandate political, Blue Governors versus Red Governors? As per my Valentine's Day gift: total confusion.
 
Some pundit said this week that our brains are not wired to navigate conflicting messages that may not may not endanger us. We shut down, space out, run in circles like rats in a cage, then slide onto the track that feels most comfortable to us. Like everyone else, I have some friends and family that gather and travel, some friends and family that do not, and won't for a long time. What we do is often not consistent with the dangers or the science, we rationalize and justify the risks we take, or become overly cautious, or opt out of a decision and say, "what the heck." For me, relinquishing a mask feels both freeing and scary, depending on the day and the circumstance. The pandemic will segue into an endemic illness eventually, I say to myself. In the meantime, best to stay calm and carry on.

 

 

#maskmandates #getvaccinated #staysafe 
 
 
 
 

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Strawberries in Winter

May 10, 1933 in Berlin. School- aged children participated in the book burning. 

 

Strawberries in Winter       

 

 

Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings, too.       

 

-Heinrich Heine

 

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. 

 

-Ray Bradbury

 

Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.     

         

-Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate in Literature, 1986

 

 

Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, was published in 1953 at the height of the McCarthy hearings. Writers such as the preeminent Arthur Miller had to testify in front of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Were they communists? Had they ever been communists? Could they name other communists? Miller refused to name names and was cited for contempt. His passport was impounded, then returned when the Supreme Court reversed that ruling. He headed to Brussels for the opening of his play The Crucible about the Salem Witch Trials, the foundation story of America's continuing persecuting and censorial spirit, an autocratic—often  racist—impulse; it will not quit.

 

Actors, producers, writers, and directors working for television and Hollywood in the 1950s had to sign loyalty oaths in order to work. In the midst of writing a short biography for Chelsea House Press about Sidney Poitier, I came across references to the possibility that he had done so. I was shocked, but I understood. If he hadn't signed would we have the memory of his important body of work? What a difficult time it was.  We have progressed, undoubtedly, but the forces of reaction remain strong. Indeed, the persecuting spirit ricochets back to the landing of the Mayflower, the takeover of stolen land, and the pretense that enslavement was necessary to work that land. These false narratives are part of the American story and they must be faced. Book burnings will not erase the truth of the past, or anything else that is threatening to the status quo, received opinion, or what some educators and politicians consider threatening or subversive.

 

Last night a writer friend called to tell me she has canceled a trip to Tennessee for a conference because a local school district banned the Holocaust graphic novel, Maus. A local pastor then staged a a live-streamed book burning event. Harry Potter and the Twilight novels, considered "demonic" went up in flames as the crowd cheered, echoes of the KKK, public lynchings, and the May 10, 1933 Nazi book burnings. "With a Jewish last name, I'm not going to risk it," my friend told me. She's staying home.

 

I'm searching for strawberries in winter. Rich, sweet, succulent fruit. Please tell me there is some available, that there is hope for this democracy, that we are not drifting irrevocably towards the celebration of fascist ideas. Is this one book burning a foreshadowing of worse to come, or has the worst already arrived in the January 6th attempted coup? Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, the cheerleader of the May 10, 1933 book burning, used the code word "debris" to describe the works of Jewish and other German intellectuals. The word "debris" soon morphed/escalated to "cockaroaches." The Jews and other "degenerates"  were then murdered en masse.

 

I am a long time member of PEN America, which is one reason I am writing this post today. For years, this organization, along with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others, advocated and monitored human rights abuses, including censorship and the persecution of writers, in failed states and authoritarian regimes. Much as I am concerned about the shut down of a free press in Hong Kong and the persecution and prosecution of writers all over the world, I am paying much more attention these days to what is going on in school districts and state courthouses in America. I urge my readers to do the same; the mid-term elections are not far away.

 

 

PEN AMERICA:   https://pen.org/    

 

THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS:   https://cpj.org/  

 

 

#censorship #bookburning #bookbanning #protectourwriters #educateourchildren

 

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 87

Into the mountains. Photo © copyright Carol Bergman 2022.

Let The Good Times Roll

 

In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences.

 

-Albert Camus, "The Plague"

 

 

To begin, I hesitate to use the plural pronoun here, to extrapolate from my own experience; I'll just speak for myself as witness, participant, peripheral observer, narrator, protagonist. But I'm also a reporter and have gathered stories, not evidence, but stories. That said, I make no claim to knowledge beyond my own experience and reporting. But the sense of loss, real and metaphoric—of time, of opportunity, of family, of schooling, friendship, romance, micro-connections, among so many other facets of our lives, seems universal and profound. There is courage within us, of course, fortitude, even a great deal of joy, hope and gratitude for the miraculous vaccines, but I am not a member of the clergy and this isn't a sermon. It is not my job to elevate my readers' spirits in hard times, or to be a cheerleader as the good times roll in again for the fortunate among us.

 

Speaking for myself, then, there's a sense that I've lost –not everything, but far too much. This loss, or confusion, surfaces in pandemic dreams which have intensified during recent shut-in months. In the past, therapists have asked, "What do you feel as you awaken from the dream? Describe the sensation, describe the emotion."  And if some of my informants were asked to reply this week, they'd say, "incomparable loss, irrefutable loss, continuing fear and uncertainty, impatience with restrictions, eagerness to get out into the larger world, isn't it obvious?"

 

Speaking just for myself, again, even though I've got food, shelter, work, a significant other, and objectively can't complain, or mustn't complain, I sometimes slip into judgment—of a friend, say, who's just been on a skiing holiday, or another who's boarded a plane to run a marathon in Florida, or another who's been to Spain and toured around as though the plague has completely receded and life is already as it was—for  them. I am privileged myself, no argument there, and if I had the will or the opportunity to travel right now, I probably would risk it. Indeed, I am aware that I, and most of the people I hold near and dear, will continue as before, or even better, albeit older. There might be a glimpse of regret, or desperation, for those of us who were "older" when the pandemic began. These two lost years have hurt. Then again, considering the numbers who have died, and their loved ones who have suffered so much, maybe just being alive is enough now, or should be, as we pivot into renewal and normalcy, whatever our definition is of normalcy.

 

Sometimes the portentous dreams, triggered by what I have researched or written, persist. I think of the family down the street who lost a father to Covid and has been broken by sorrow and a poverty they did not anticipate. They became my dream. I was on a bridge traveling somewhere into the future, which was unattainable. Lord Byron might have called this dream image of nothingness ahead, white as a sun-spattered cloud—Death awaiting. There was no grounding in that image, no ledge on which to sit and watch the sky or sea. The only antidote to such a free fall dream is to weight myself in hiking boots and march full throttle into the mountains.  

 

I'm reminded of the days following 9/11. I was in the city and had to force myself back onto the subway to teach after roaming for weeks on foot. I  wrote poetry and read it aloud at events to commemorate the dead, and the courageous front line workers, and survivors. It was all part of the process of recovery; we will never forget, nor should we, but we will carry on. And something comparable will also be true of this global pandemic, now entering its third year. We won't forget, nor should we. We will mourn the dead. We will carry on.

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Free At Last

Esi Lewis in front of the still derelict Ann Oliver House in New Paltz, NY, the new New Paltz Black History Museum and Cultural Center. I promised to return to take an "after" shot and write another blog post once the restoration is complete.        photo © copyright Carol Bergman 2022

 

Free at Last; Disrupting Systemic Racism in One Small Town 

 

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood." 

- Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28. 1963

 

Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America. 

- John Lewis  Selma, Alabama, March 1, 2020

 

 

I walked past Esi Lewis's house on Huguenot Street in New Paltz yesterday, just a stone's throw from the loosely designated African American Burial Ground—no penetrating radar has ever been done—and close to the Elting family burial ground across the street. And though it was a bitterly cold morning, the thought of Esi living there with her family warmed me.

 

There is irony in Esi's modern home on Huguenot Street with its neighboring stone houses built in the 17th century  by the slave-owning French Huguenot families. An accomplished Black lawyer, born and raised in New Paltz, her mother was the Chair of the Black Studies Department at SUNY. When Esi returned to New Paltz after many lawyering years in the city, she decided to run for the Town Board where her father also served. One commitment led to another; she has now also been appointed the "steward" of the New Paltz Black History Museum and Cultural Center, which hopefully will be open in a year.

 

"It is well-documented that the Huguenots were slave owners," she wrote eloquently in her proposal for the project. "For the forced labor that toiled on this land we have mere signage. Most, if not all of the properties that were built and or owned by the first Blacks and hold the history of the African Americans in New Paltz have been turned over to white ownership.

 

The ONLY anti-racist action under these circumstances is to restore the Ann Oliver House at 5 Broadhead Avenue to Black ownership and create an African American Cultural Center on this historic property."  

 

Enslavement has been designated a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and it is my preference to refer to it as such from now on.  Such crimes require reparations, or truth and reconciliation commissions; as Americans, shamefully, we are just at the very beginning of this process. The Center Esi envisions will be an act of reparative justice for New Paltz. In many ways, it already is. She is interviewing contractors, applied for not-for-profit status, and for grants. She held an—outdoor and masked—Kwanzaa celebration on the lawn on December 31, which was both festive and informative. The crowd was substantial and included the Chief of Police, his wife, the mayor, and other guests.

 

The Ann Oliver House was built in the First Free Black Neighborhood by Jacob Wynkoop, a free Black man. His mother Jane Wynkoop, born a slave and freed in 1827, purchased the property because the vote was only granted to landowners; she wanted her two sons to be able to vote. Jacob fought in the Civil War, and became a contractor and builder when he returned. He is buried in the Rural Cemetery here, a prominent citizen, his contribution to the Union Army and the  community unrecognized until recently.

 

The Village of New Paltz—the Town Historian, the Village Historic Preservation Commission, and the Town Board—worked hard to preserve the derelict Ann Oliver House. When the restoration is complete, it will become a companion to the  Jacob Wynkoop Anna Banks House at 6 Broadhead, under the care of Historic Huguenot Street, which is already a stop on one of their curated walking tours.

 

The relationship between the Black History Museum and Cultural Center and Historic Huguenot Street, an entity in and of itself, partially funded by the descendants of the Huguenot families who still live in town, will undoubtedly evolve in the months and years ahead. Some of the Huguenot descendants have been notably resistant to surfacing their troubled history. Yet, I am hopeful that a changed perspective and a new Director of Curatorial and Preservation Affairs at Historic Huguenot Street, Josephine Bloodgood, will ensure continuing improvements. In an email exchange with Ms. Bloodgood, she expressed abiding support—on  behalf of Historic Huguenot Street—of the new center.

 

There is no statute of limitations on murder and crimes against humanity. Indeed, it is past time to confront false narratives, obfuscations, and buried history, wherever we live.

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 86

(Someone) grant me the serenity...in the days, weeks & months ahead.

 

      Supermarket Encounters

 

Gun ownership is more common among men than women, and white men are particularly likely to be gun owners. Among those who live in rural areas, 46% say they are gun owners, compared with 28% of those who live in the suburbs and 19% in urban areas. There are also significant differences across parties, with Republican and Republican-leaning independents more than twice as likely as Democrats and those who lean Democratic to say they own a gun (44% vs. 20%).  PEW RESEARCH CENTER

 

 

My husband, Jim, does not want me to get shot, wounded, or killed. He implores me not to confront a person, usually a white male, who is not wearing a mask. I usually say something to such a belligerent white male when I am shopping solo, even though I know it is a  grave risk. I cannot stop myself; I am incensed. "No mask for you, sir?" I said the other day to someone as I was waiting to be served at a small market on Rte. 32 that is always open, no matter the weather or holiday, a real convenient convenience store. This guy had his mask in his hand. "I have a mask," he said, waving it. "It's in the wrong place," I said.

 

That was it. He came closer, waved it at me, threw a five-dollar bill on the counter and stomped away. "Give the lady the change," he said.

 

My tip for speaking truth to his so-called power.

 

I can hardly believe the machismo I have encountered these past difficult months, more so since the Covid numbers have surged again. Women can be macho, too, of course, defiant, or just plain ignorant. The woman running the laundromat was mask-less during my last visit. I have chatted to her, know her name, and that made a difference, but she was annoyed with me. "Okay, I'll go get my mask," she said. "I'll comply."

 

"Thank you," I said. "It's for your own good, too."

 

Two days later I was down with Covid. Now I wonder if I got it from her, or gave it to her.  

 

I do not confess about a confrontation when I get home though I am often shaken. I do not want my husband to worry about me.  I sit down at the computer, answer emails, write, and try to calm down. I call up the research about gun ownership in rural areas such as ours and read it over and over again hoping it will sink in.

 

Yesterday's encounter was particularly dangerous, not only for myself, but for my husband. I know he would intercede to protect me, if necessary, thereby endangering himself and maybe some bystanders. We were at Tops, a football field sized supermarket in the New Paltz mall. The mask mandate sign is posted on the entrance doors and most people are masked. Then there's the one who isn't, or the one who lets the thin surgical mask slip under his nose.

 

We'd just recovered  from a ten-day isolation, and were enjoying our supermarket play date. Jim was riveted on all the meat while I was in the organic aisle getting some frozen blueberries.  When I returned to join him, a young man was standing at his shoulder, his mask under his nose. Even though we may now have more immunity, I got crazy. Without hesitation, I shouted to the young man to put up his mask, and though I had no expectation, I had no common sense, either. I had walked right into danger as I often do. I think it has something to do with being the child of Holocaust survivors. In another life, I could have been a relief worker, I know that.

 

The guy got angry almost immediately. I thought he was going to hit me, so I backed away. I had pushed his button and he started to rant. Instead of going to get the manager, who I knew was a young woman, a student, and putting her in danger, I took him on. It wasn't a decision; it was a reflex; I was protecting my husband and everyone else in harm's way. That's the way I think the reflex works; I gear up into rescue mode.

 

I backed away as he took out his phone. He wanted to show me a video, he said. Only then, did I pretend to ignore him. He was almost dancing now, shoving the phone towards me,  "You see," he said. "Masks don't help."

 

How could anyone sane and informed even answer that. I didn't. "Thank you," I mumbled, "I appreciate that," I said. He finally walked away. I was relieved; a video is not a gun.

 

But my husband wasn't happy with me, and I wasn't happy with myself. I promised I'd write a blog about safety protocols as we continue to encounter defiant and belligerent citizens. The reality is that we'll be wearing masks for a long time, maybe even forever.

 

Dear Reader, I'd like to hear how you handle such encounters and if you have any suggestions.  

 

#maskup #staysafe #walkawayfromguns #resistopencarry #reformgunlaws #walkawayfromrage  

 

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