The world has been fascinated by the arrival of the British culture wars on American shores with former Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.Millions of people watched Oprah Winfrey interviewed them and the show was the highest-rated entertainment special since the February 2020 Oscars ceremony. While some question Markle’s integrity, most of us are we mesmerized by the comeuppance of a former colonial empire.
Harry’s brother William denies any royal racism and the U.K. government issued a report denying any institutional racism in Britain. British Black journalists blast the report while anti-Markle press says that she’s endangering the monarchy. Markle is hijacking the British government and she’s a bully, embraced by Americans who don’t know any better. No wonder Harry and Meghan plotted their escape.
I experienced remnants of the British Empire as a kid in the colony of Bermuda. We were taught the ‘Golliwog’ dance in ballet class. Considered entertainment, Golliwog was an embarrassing stereotype of its African colonies.
As we come to the end of March, Women’s History Month, we need to see this time as a wake up call regarding women’s safety. The shootings at Asian spas in Atlanta, where most of the victims were women, underscore the vulnerability of these women. Yes, the Asian-American community as a whole is experiencing a rising number of hate crimes given COVID. And Asian-American women experience twice as many hate incidents as men.
An Asian American studies professor noted that women have always dealt with harassment and public safety issues, but COVID provided another excuse to target Asian women. Bullies attack the vulnerable and stereotypes of Asian women as meek and subservient make them easy targets. That’s why it was unusual that a 75-year old Asian-American fought back when attacked on a street corner, sending her attacker to the hospital. She isn’t the only woman to be fed up with harassment and violence.
The White House lowered its flag in mourning for victims at the FedEx facility. It’s hardly the first time this year that this flag has been flown at half-staff. There have been 147 mass shootings, defined as killing four or more people not including the shooter, since January. There have been 45 in just the past month. That comes to more than one mass shooting per day. It’s an increase of almost 73% over the same time period last year and they’re deadlier with almost twice as many fatalities. Maybe the White House should leave the flag in mourning mode permanently.
It’s unlikely that we’ve seen the last of these massacres. Gun violence researchers describe the situation as a contagion effect with each incident spawning copy cats. This deadly disease is particularly contagious to revenge-seeking males who make up 98% of these shooters.
I paid close attention when an old friend jokingly asked on Twitter: “Can anyone tell me why I’m so Angry all the time?” But it’s not so funny that rage is the new normal. We’ve gotten louder and more contentious, as we’ve suddenly been catapulted into a new Middle Ages with a politics and economics that mirror medieval lords and serfs with castles, indebted servants, and a dying middle class. Each age group is struggling in its own way and there are super-angry people in every generation. Tweets that aren’t crude and rude are often cries for help, for someone to listen, respond, and care. Both sides of the COVID coin are expressed online: anger and despair.
Many of the despairing are young and I’ve written previous columns about their skyrocketing suicide rates. But many of them are elderly and their desperation makes them more vulnerable than ever.
COVID has fueled a raging Black Market: scammers, fraudsters and con artists. Charlatans surface in tough economic times with a vengeance. Be afraid, especially if you’re older. It’s true that scams like “Free Solar Panels” target homeowners of all ages, but many fraudsters are focusing their stimulus check scams and community donation scams on senior citizens. Playing on understandable fears, fraudsters offer opportunities to skip the line and get quicker access for outlandish fees.
We’ve just completed National Consumer Protection Week and Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon said: “Fraudsters are making a fortune by targeting Americans, particularly older Americans… The scammers tell elaborate lies, often become demanding and threatening, and take advantage of the physical isolation that many seniors have experienced during the pandemic.”
Who would disagree that this is a shameful development towards the most vulnerable in our society? But what are we doing about it? Too often we consider the elderly faceless and expendable, like serfs who owe us or can easily be replaced. So we’ve seen a nonchalance towards the elderly whowere going to die soon anyway. Arguments against wearing masks to protect the elderly by wearing masks have been responsible for surges in infections and death. But the biggest COVID fraud towards the elderly has taken place from governors’ offices.
New York Governor Cuomo used emergency pandemic powers to tell nursing homes that they couldn’t deny admission to patients discharged from hospitals solely based on a confirmed or suspected COVID diagnosis. Supposedly freeing up hospital space, Cuomo should have anticipated that nursing homes would become the state’s lethal epicenter.
Instead, Cuomo made even more of a mess by covering up and delaying death toll reports. With multiple excuses, mostly nonsense, the governor finally acknowledged that he’d made a mistake. His apology, almost a year later, brings the term “obfuscate” to mind. With recent news of official reports being doctored to show only about 50% of the total nursing home deaths, the term “criminal” comes to mind.
Another ‘obfuscation” veering towards “criminal” comes from Governor DeSantis of Florida where vaccine sites targeted wealthy communities of political donors. DeSantis’ denial seemed sincere, “I’m not worried about your income bracket, I’m worried about your age bracket.”Yet he blocked death toll reports on eldercare facilities and his new data analyst is an anti-masker sports blogger with no credentials.
Nix the medieval mix of lies and cons by lords of the manor. Let’s be honest and truly honor lives lost and elderly still at risk. And don’t bow down to the lords’ anti-masking propaganda. The lives that masks protect may be some old folks you love.
“Yellow Terror” arrived in the mail out of the blue. I opened to the first page and I’m sure my face turned pale as I read, “Poor Shreveport! Woe-stricken Memphis! How afflicted, how lamentable you are… Friends, dearly beloved have been laid low, and the very air is ripe with lamentation.” Those words were written in an 1873 opinion columnby Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. The language sounds old-fashioned, but as noted by the booklet’s writer, American Jewish Archives director Gary Zola, they are echoed today.
Infectious diseases have haunted us historically, and I take their misery and devastation personally.When I first came to America from Bermuda as a young girl, I came down with chicken pox, measles, German measles, pneumonia, and scarlet fever all in my first year here. Antibiotics saved me and I’ll be forever thankful to the scientists who invented medications and vaccines. But I’ll never underestimate the power of transmissible diseases. Continue reading Pandemic futurists wanted – by Deborah Levine→
Of all the inauguration speakers, the one that truly hypnotized me was Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate. The tiny young powerhouse joins the roster of famous inaugural poets like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. Reading “The Hill We Climb”, she had us all climbing with her. It was a joy to see her energy, hear her inspiring verses, and be reminded that poetry heals the soul.
The words bring optimism about the future. A colleague messaged, “The seed of hope has been planted. It is up to each of us to build upon that hope in order to cultivate and strengthen the ties that bind us together as a People —one Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all!”
Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
I should write about the siege of our Capitol but my brain has oozed out of my ears. I’m rendered speechless at the gallows and chants calling to hang Vice President Pence who refused to illegally overturn the election. My loved ones hid under the covers seeing the nooses, Viking-like horned helmets, Confederate flags, Auschwitz T-shirts with skull and crossbones and 6MWE (6 Million Weren’t Enough) signs referring to Jews killed during the Holocaust. Not surprising that people wondered if America, not just Trump, lost its mind.
We’re on the cusp of receiving a vaccine for COVID but we’re also at an all time high for cases and deaths. It’s time to get real. Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Texas State University noted that, “If poorly designed and executed, a COVID vaccination campaign in the U.S. could undermine the increasingly tenuous belief in vaccines and the public health authorities that recommend them.”
My first reaction to that was to deny we’d have a problem. Isn’t the United States the most advanced country on the planet scientifically and technology-wise. Surely folks will listen to the scientists and epidemiologists and make a logical judgement. But then I was reminded that we have increasingly fallen under the conspiracy syndrome. Just a few days ago, A Wyoming Department of Health official insisted that the “so-called pandemic” is a plot by Russia and China to spread communism worldwide. And he told the audience that the vaccine was a biological weapon.
I’m addicted to watching TV news shows, especially “This Morning’s Eye Opener: Your World in 60 seconds”. It’s everything I need to know in just one minute.We ran out of names for hurricanes predicted to decimate coastal lives and Trump’s EPA prevents legal suits against polluters and allows drilling for oil in Alaska. The CDC warns us not to travel on Thanksgiving and the White House encourages rebellion against state-mandated masks. Trump plans to pull down troops from Afghanistan and maybe bombing Iran. Defense experts freak out.
Now for the fun part. Sometimes the 60 seconds ends in a comedy shtick. It’s no accident that the popularity of political satire goes back to the ancient Greeks. Scholars describe the power of satire as a way to express truths in ways that are blunt, digestible and even enjoyable. George Bernard Shaw said it more succinctly, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
But some scholars say that TV satirists alienate folks from any political involvement:Letterman, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Cooper, Dave Chapelle, and the list goes on. They echo the general disgust that Mark Twain voiced, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
Yet given the record-breaking vote counts of the 2020 election, we’re more political than ever. And everyone’s a comedian, too. Go on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean. Better yet, go see Pinterest and check out how satire and cartoons have blended into a hypnotic flow of irony, puns, goofy images, and a bit of fantasy. One of the cartoons that combines all of the above got stuck in my mind. A mermaid, unicorn, and a leprechaun was into a bar and sit down in a circle. The mermaid points to an empty chair and says, “I’d like everyone to welcome out newest member to the group, Ethical Capitalism.”
Some are over the top like, “Breaking: Dr. Fauci discusses new life-saving face mask.” The cartoon pictures Dr. Fauci and behind him is President Trump with masking tape over his mouth. Then there’s the meme caption, “FBI uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot to just sit back and enjoy collapse of United States. They’re funny, horrible, and mind-blowing all at once.
For better or worse, research shows that while satire may educate and entertain us, it doesn’t change how people vote. The politics remain nerve-racking. But it does give us comic relief and disrupts the anxiety of our COVID-19 era. We can sure use some relief these days.
So let’s give a shout out to all the comics out there. Thank you for your satire and periodic goofiness. The laughter that you generate is healing and inspiring.
Now I gotta try some humor myself. A liberal politician, a conservative politician, and a turkey walk into the bar. The bartender says, “What’ll you have?” The liberal votes for a turkey sandwich and seltzer water. The conservative votes for a turkey sandwich and a beer. When it’s the turkey’s turn, he gives them the stink-eye and says, “I want a recount.” The politicians stare at him as he gobbles out the door. They nod to each other and call over the bartender, “Make that whisky instead. We’re gonna get basted.”
OK, so I’m a lousy comic, but I had to at least try to make you smile. Now it’s your turn. Go out and make someone smile. Bring on that comic relief and knock the stuffing out of us!
DIVERSITY TRAILBLAZER DEBORAH LEVINE HONORED BY GLOBAL WOMEN’S PEACE NETWORK
FOR LIFETIME OF COUNTERING HATE
CHATTANOOGA, TN – The American Diversity Report announced today that founder and editor-in-chief, Deborah Levine, has received the distinguished ‘HerStory Award’ from the Women’s Federation for World Peace USA (WFWP), with chapters nationwide in all 50 states and locations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America and the Middle East.
Levine is a leading international expert and top management consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the private and public sectors. Her unique neuroscience cognitive-based approach to advancing DEI helps employers and disparate communities harmonize, rather than homogenize.