The Very Good Countering the Very Bad

There’s been this eerie feeling hanging in the air, a never-before felt-feeling that something ominous is on the horizon. The feeling that, sooner or later, IT is going to hit not only far, but near – and this IT is going to hit hard.

La Belle Femme always faces the unanticipated surprises of life (those road bumps that jar, rattle and bruise the bones) with poise, grace, dignity, composure, serenity, and resolve. These include the unexpected death of a loved one or dear friend, surviving cancer surgery, recovering from grave medical procedures and illnesses, and adjusting to those circumstances that reset all of one’s daily routine. As a wife, a lifelong friend and partner, a loving and dedicated mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister and sister-law, friend, retired teacher, and disaster relief volunteer, she’s always been that constant, that anchor, and that glue that bonds very tightly the many threads of that miraculous marvel we call life and family.

It’s been raining for the past few days, and the weatherman promised more rain for the coming five days with the possibility of severe weather that might include heavy rains, flash floods, damaging high winds, and tornadoes. Like the Corona Virus, the storms are expected to move across the nation in a diagonally broad brush pattern.

So, when we turned on the telly to watch today’s morning news, the doom and gloom reports hung heavy in the air; the threatening weather reports intensified the anxious moments. And today’s COVID-19 news reports on more deaths, more infections, sloppy government response, and economic turmoil is weighing heavy on the minds and hearts of people across the globe. As retirees, we’ve been watching our retirement accounts ravaged, and we’re wondering whether the financial markets will ever recover so as to provide us an income that’ll meet ever-increasing medical and other bills. Besides, we’d like to leave something for our children, one of whom has special needs.

And that’s when La Belle Femme, in a most uncharacteristic manner, stated the following: “It’s like you’re waiting for an atomic bomb to fall.”

Shortly thereafter I called J.B. to check on her to see whether she needed anything from the store. “Thank you, I am stocked up. I even went to the library and checked out 7 books,” she responded. That’s a former public school and college teacher for you. In her 80s, J.B. told me that current events “remind me of the Great depression and WWII. Of course I have clearer memories of WWII and the fear it created,” she added.

In an email to former colleague and accomplished artist Larry Thompson, I described “these times as Strange Times.” His quick response: “Indeed strange times. The closest thing I can equate it to is 9/11 when I walked in your art history class to inform you. But we didn’t go home alone. Teaching in my garage with an iPad is bizarre.”

A popular Samford University Art Professor and Associate Dean, Larry’s having to operate out of his garage to continue his mentoring and teaching. I responded thusly:

How well do I remember your coming into my class on that miserable 9/11 day. Funny how I’ve been thinking about the same thing. The look on your face told me that something dastardly had happened. … Teaching on you iPad from your garage: what a scene this must be? Have you considered writing about it?

Ever the English professor who urges others to record their unique experiences in journals or essays, I pressed Larry to write about this unconventional manner of video-chatting/teaching. Years from now these necessary adjustments (some, perhaps, bizarre) during these extraordinary times will make good reading.

While tracking down news stories on four sites and cable news stations on which I regularly hone in just to keep up with national and world news and events, including, of course, the stock market, in the last three days I’ve been appalled at the wretched behavior of politicians, pundits, and their many supporters. Fortunately, to counter these egregious outbursts of xenophobic and boorish behavior, many uplifting stories have come to light, actions and narratives that counteract the loutish behavior of numerous politicians and rabidly sick citizens alike.

The Very Bad

Last week arch conservative Senator Tom Cotton (an Arkansas embarrassment) suggested that the coronavirus was manufactured by the Chinese government in a high-security biochemical lab in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China, inferring that it was a deliberate act of sabotage. He threatened that “China will pay for this.” America, get ready for a Cotton presidential run – he’s copied the first page of Trump electioneering tactics. Fully cognizant that nativist anti-anything-not-European folks has been successfully adopted by the Orange Thing, Cotton is sharpening his xenophobic proclivities. Donald Trump has referred to the virus as the “Djinese [Chinese] virus].” Not only did he defend this xenophobic typing in today’s press conference, but he also agreed with one of his staff members’ racist puny pun. Trump stated that the anonymous White House cloned employee was right in naming the virus the “Kung Flu Virus.” And, he added, “I agree with Tom Cotton, I have great respect for him. … it [virus]came from Djayna.”

Even Texas Senator John Cornyn stuck to the racist party line propaganda, claiming that some “Chinese cultural practices … created this pandemic.” Using convoluted logic, he added: “We’re not talking about Asians. We’re talking about China, where these viruses emanate from, which … created this pandemic.”

Equally repugnant, Tucker Carlson and Meghan McCain got in on the act. “I applaud President Donald Trump for insisting on calling it Chinese flu,” Tucker asserted. And McCain affirmed similar sentiments on the low IQ telly show, “The View.”

Last Saturday a local citizen pushing an overflowing grocery store cart with mounds of foodstuff and paper products confided that the whole thing is a HOAX, a favorite word with “President Hoax hisself,” and a charge FOXNEWS has been making until the ominous virus, in an Albrecht Durer “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” image, crashed through our borders. It took a while for reality to sink in. Another Trumpist assured me that the Liberal Media is spreading these lies to discredit Trump and hurt him in November.

Court Jester Jared Kushner heretofore repeatedly told the media and his father-in-law that the virus warnings were highly exaggerated. As of today, Trump is the War President, the Virus War president, that is. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is worried that the virus “will make people lazy should they get ‘too much [financial] relief.’” Rabid Ron, go tell this to the $8.25/hr., 32 hrs./week, no benefits, no savings workers. Millions of them, Ron, millions who are and will be unemployed for no telling how long.

Some companies are refusing to give sick leave pay. Two brothers were arrested for hoarding large amounts of hand sanitizer. A gang of five held up a truck-load of toilet tissue and stole its contents. After first denying that the virus is real, Super Christian Jerry Falwell closed down his Liberty U. venture. Trump and Republicans gutted the paid sick leave. Paula White, one of Trump’s many spiritual advisors, stated that “her ministry is like a hospital and is asking people to send her money … not necessarily for the physically sick, but the spiritual [sic.] soul sick.” Are these the same Evangelicals who, a while back, prayed that God would “expose Michelle as a transgender”? Nationalist Tom Kawcyznski branded himself as the Corona Expert on his Corona Central podcast. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt boasted that, by God, he was going to take his family out for dinners. Young Spring Break vacationers are flooding the beaches in defiance of warnings. Ah! The arrogant invincibility of youth!

Racist Mark Steyn, filling in for Rush Limbaugh, told his listeners that the San Francisco Bay Area is under “shelter in place [order] … because of gay guys. People, he stated, have been ordered to stay home to prevent a ‘big gay apocalypse’ that would be blamed on President Trump.”

In 2018 Donald Trump dismantled the National Security Council’s pandemic response team (as he has done with almost all Obama policies and initiatives). When, during a press conference, NPR’s Yamiche Alcindor asked him about his decision to do so, he shut her up by declaring that “It was a nasty question.” Even before assuming office, Donald Trump has been lying to the American people. There is no denying that he underestimated the CORONA-19’s potential for lethal exponential spread in the U.S. – as it has in other countries. As long as the economy was strong, and as long as the stock market was making exponential growth, he perceived America to be invincible, like him.

On the international scene, Britain’s Boris Johnson sardonically referred to ventilators as Operation Last Gasp equipment. Israel proposes to use biometric and cell phone technology to monitor the movement of infected citizens. Once in place, this is a 1984 etched in stone Big Brother is watching policy. In Iran, religious fanatics have been disregarding the prohibition to attend the Nairuz (Iranian New Year) shrine festivities where close human contact and the embracing and kissing of relics is part of the religious ritual. In Saudi Arabia palace intrigue goes on as usual as another group of relatives and officials have been arrested by the ambitious MBS. The Russian military has stated that the virus “affects only the Mongol Race.” In Egypt, like all repressive regimes, the press credentials of foreign reporters have been revoked because reporting on the virus “harms Egypt.”

As of today, 1135 Iranians have died as a result of the virus. This, as Trump refuses to lift his most stringent economic embargo on Iran, and only because Jewish Zionist Sheldon Adelson has bought the Chosen One with a $300 million donation. In Palestine, especially Gaza, where 2 million people are locked up in the largest open air prison, there is a shortage of food and medicine. And the spiteful Venezuela embargo has added further misery to a nation that refuses to kneel down to its Northern American overlord.

The Very Good

In recent days the human spirit triumphant, benevolent, compassionate, and magnanimous affirmed itself in the many acts of kindness across the globe.

Standing on the lawn and peering through the glass window, a granddaughter visited her nursing-home bound grandmother. Her loving gestures comforted the elderly woman. Across the nation and the world good Samaritans are checking in on the elderly, delivering medical or food stuff. Grandparents, neighbors, and friends are babysitting young children whose parents have to work. Businessmen are buying iPads and gifting them to home-bound low income children so as to help them keep up with their homework. In Jacksonville, Arkansas, an African-American businessman was delivering lunches to needy children.

In Puyallup, CA, the Puyallup Police Department gave the nation a much-needed comic relief bulletin:

Due to local cases of #COVID-19 PPD [Puyallup Police Department] is asking criminal activities and nefarious behavior to cease. We appreciate your cooperation in halting crime and thank the criminals in advance. We will let you know when you can resume your normal behavior. Until then #washyourhands.

The AWOL Justice Department should issue a similar request to all politicians.

In Houston, Texas, a customer left a $4,000+ tip for the waiters. Sitting six feet apart, an adolescent boy and his younger sister entertained a 78 year old lady on her front porch; seated some 18 ft. away, she was treated to a cello performance.

All across Spain and at a designated time in the evening, Spaniards stand at their doors, windows or on their balconies to clang kitchen utensils to express their gratitude to all their health care providers.

Fellow Citizens, let’s do the same for the hundreds of thousands of American health workers who are hourly and daily putting their lives on the front lines in every city, town, and hamlet.

In Italy people stand at their windows or on their balconies to sing, play the violins, accordions, and other musical instruments. Ah, Roma, Venezia, Sienna, con Milano, how I wish I could witness this outpouring of resilience and sanguinity.

Also in Italy, a gym instructor, standing on the roof of his house, led across the street high rise residents in calisthenics and aerobic exercises. Iran released over 10,000 prisoners, mostly political prisoners, and in Argentina, which has over 10 thousand seniors over 100 years, the government has vowed to protect them. Perfumeries and Distilleries in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Little Rock, North Carolina, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, to name but a few, are producing hand sanitizers and giving them away to benevolent organizations and others. Christ’s first miracle was to convert water into wine so as to treat to the wedding guests. The distilleries are converting alcohol into cleansing liquids to make up for a shortage of hand sanitizers.

And last in this Very Good list, “disturbed by empty store shelves and reports of hoarding during the coronavirus crisis, a man stood on a Southern California street corner and held up a homemade cardboard sign with a simple request: ‘“Share your toilet paper.’”

The wisdom of this citizen outweighs Donald Trump’s wisdom and his many apologists and supporters.

In the meantime, while the rain storm is about to clobber our region, I have this deep faith that humanity will survive this contagion. While an atomic bomb is not going to drop, this is a most serious call for the world, especially the powerful armed-to-the-teeth nations, to step back and prioritize their goals for a better, kinder, more peaceful, and less materialistic future, a future with fewer nuclear bombs and killing gadgetry, a future that saves and protects the environment, and a future in which respect for every human being – no matter her/his religion, race, class, and nationality is the norm in an ever shrinking planet.

The hopeful human spirit demands that we counter the Very Bad with the Very Good.

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist.