Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Family and the Pandemic


In the last eight months or so we’ve all had an extreme case of separation, separation from our extended families, our friends, our jobs, and a way of life where we felt (more) carefree. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and it looks like, unfortunately, it’s going to continue interrupting life as we wish it would be for a while yet.

 For years I watched some of my extended family deal with their military children overseas and wondered how they could contend with that time and distance separating them. My children and their spouses live within a few hours from where we live, all four are in first-response and health/wellness, and I consider myself lucky having seen each of them (in person) two or three times each since February.

 So how have we coped? It really hasn’t been easy. Fortunately all of our immediate family and most of our extended family have gotten used to various visual and audio means of communication; of course there have been phone calls and emails as well. We watched, via the power of the internet, a niece get married, and a few months later a nephew tied the knot. We enjoyed a multi-household abbreviated Passover Seder together via ZOOM, and our daughter and son-in-law broke the Yom Kippur fast with us through the same online app.

 And we’ve had the opportunity to attend community board meetings and a few interesting seminars. I even got to attend my first ever Romance Writers’ Conference virtually! So we’ve had interaction beyond the occasional trips to the supermarket (where I feel like a bandit adorned with my mask!) and our routine doctor visits which have graduated from tele-visits to the office. With both of us retired, we haven’t had to deal with routine office work; except for the first-responders in our family, most of our working relatives have been working from home — we’re lucky in that several of our extended family have been able to maintain at least some of their employment.

 I can’t help but think back to my childhood and wonder how we would have survived without so many ways to virtually interact, or how my folks would have dealt with the concept of home-schooling my sister and me without online learning. How did folks and families survive the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic? Today in 2020 the separation stings… but the lack of communication venues more than 100-years before was so much less than today. I can’t even imagine. Right now I just want to hug my kids.

 And yet, even with all of our advances, so many of us are battling with depression and feelings of isolation. Even when we are outside, we can’t come near others, many grocery stores still have six-foot reminders on the floor. When we say hello to someone, we can’t even see their mouths because of our masks. I certainly am NOT advocating that we do not use masks or social distancing, more than 225-thousand deaths prove that we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones. But even when we are near others, the feelings of loneliness are enforced. Many of the things we used to do for enjoyment and socializing are now taboo, or at least severely limited… no movie theatres, limited restaurants, or other leisure activities. Everyday we seem to hear of another business closing permanently because they couldn’t survive the necessary shutdowns. It’s just sad.

 As we are heading into the holiday season we’re once again trying to juggle. Big family dinners are probably not going to happen; even if we feel safe enough to have some family together, we need to be wary of including some who might be quite vulnerable. Maybe we’ll need to turn to ZOOM again in order to share? Those of us whose major concern might be choosing between ZOOM or Facebook Rooms to share this holiday season need to remember there are those who have lost loved ones, who are in danger of losing their homes, or might not be able to put a holiday meal on their table.

 If you or a loved one is suffering from “COVID depression/anxiety”, take care of yourself and those around you (easier said than done?). Be sure to reach out to your family and friends, especially those who might live alone or feel more isolated from their loved ones — pick up a phone, send an email or do a “drive-by” and wave through the window. If you are able, think of others, send a pizza to an on-duty ambulance crew, or a boxed dinner on the doorstep of a neighbor who needs help. Helping others can help you to feel better. Get involved with activities in your own home, play board games, watch a movie on TV together, and look for on-line seminars and video tours. And if seems really too much for you, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.


We will get through this.




Wednesday, October 21, 2020

To Vote, to Vote, Perchance to Vote


 In just under two weeks, Americans will go to the polls (or will have mailed in or walked in their ballots) to vote for several candidates, most importantly for who will be the next President of the United States. It’s a heavy burden on each of us. Anyone who follows me on social media knows who I support, but this post is not about WHO – rather it is about YOU.


I recently posted the following on my Facebook page:
     I remember, in 1960, one of our neighbors sitting on the front stoop of the Bronx building she lived in and crying her eyes out. My parents stopped to speak to her to find out what was wrong... she wanted to vote for JFK but her husband told her that if she didn't vote for Nixon she had to leave their home.
     My dad told her "when you get into that polling booth, who you vote for is YOUR business, no one else's..."
     In 2016 I heard a father screaming at his daughter over a cell phone (standing in the center of CVS), apparently she made it known she wanted to vote for Clinton, he screamed at her that if she didn't vote for trump she could pack her bags that day.
     It truly doesn't matter who you vote for (well it does, but I am not trying to make THAT point), YOU have to vote for the candidate YOU choose.
     Whether you are in a booth or filling out a ballot, you have privacy and NO ONE has the right to tell you how to vote - certainly NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO THREATEN YOU IN ANY WAY.
     Even if your polling place has "observers", YOU NEED TO VOTE FOR WHO YOU WANT.


Your vote DOES count. A lot of folks cry that it doesn’t, that the Electoral College actually elects our president. There is SOME truth to that as we saw in 2016 when the Electoral College did NOT declare the popular vote winner as president. However each state is assigned a specific amount of electors (supposedly something to do with population) and the popular vote of each state decides WHICH electors will cast a vote. Even if the vote is close then the electors vote for the majority candidate. There are many arguments calling this system archaic, but for now it is what we are stuck with.


Understand though that the ONLY and very few times the Electoral College disagreed with the popular vote, the popular vote was CLOSE, VERY CLOSE (considering the percentage of votes against the people who voted). So your vote, along with others, DOES decide who the Electoral Collage from your state chooses. Unfortunately, especially in national elections, third party candidates have not historically shown enough strength. Those votes in effect do not help decide the Electoral College count. If 100 people vote and 46 vote for candidate A, 44 vote for candidate B, and 10 vote for candidate C (third party), then candidate A will receive the Electoral College. So even if 8 of those C votes were people who absolutely did not want A but thought B wasn’t perfect, A would win because those 8 votes weren’t enough to give any strength to C.


This year between the pandemic and fear of violence at the polls, as well as some areas closing polling places and creating longer lines, getting your vote in may seem more challenging. Remember though that whatever time you need to take to vote, or distance to drop your mail-in ballot at an authorized receptacle – well this vote will have a major impact on the next four years of your life. It is extremely important to make your voice heard.



A state-by-state guide to voting in 2020

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Religion and Interpretation


No one practices their faith exactly the same way as the next guy, and I’m talking about the SAME religions. Everything is subject to interpretation. There’s an old joke in Judaism (my own faith) that goes, “If you ask two Rabbis you’ll get three opinions.”


Almost every religious reference, NO MATTER WHICH ONE, is accompanied by “…and by this, it means…” (no wonder TV commentators think they can tell the viewers “this is what you heard”). In their defense most religious volumes have been translated from their original language to the current language of the people. It’s a well known fact that you can lose a lot in the translation.


If you read scripture or religious tenets OF ANY FAITH, you can really find yourself horrified at some of the writings.

·       “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” [Deuteronomy 21:18-21]

·       I decided to order a man to lead the prayer and then take a flame to burn all those, who had not left their houses for the prayer, burning them alive inside their homes.[Bukhari 11:626]

·      Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.[Matthew 10:34-35]

Are you cringing yet? These are just three of MANY examples from the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Quaran.


The other day, on Facebook of course, someone posted a meme that showed a picture of Judge Amy Coney Barrett (a Catholic) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (a Muslim) which was headed, “When her religion is a problem, but hers isn’t”… My response was an innocent “Religion shouldn't matter in either case.” Another FB member (whom I don’t know) responded abruptly about how violent the Quaran is and “Muslims have been fighting Christians since Mohammed!!”


Indeed there have been many religious wars through the centuries and ALL of our spiritual texts do contain items that seem callous or violent. But, it is my opinion, that every human being, while respecting the main preaching of their chosen faith, must decide on what kind of a life they want to live. No matter what you call your higher power, HE (or SHE) has also given commandments to love your fellow man, to always strive to be better, and to make this world a better place.


Surely we’ve all sinned, sometimes by error and sometimes in anger. But really, are we that different from our fellow beings. We feel pain, we love, we cry, we bleed, and in the end we ALL die.