Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Livingston, TX: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: Voting

Propped-up building across from courthouse. Livingston, Texas. June 2020.

NOTE: My COVID-19 posts are all over the chronological map for now; I'll number them down the road.

Typically, a Texan run-off election that follows a spring primary occurs in May. My Plan A had been to be in Livingston, Texas, to vote in person for the run-off. (I'd voted absentee in the spring primary.)

Because of COVID-19, I'd stayed in Tucson a month longer than planned, and I didn't apply timely for an absentee ballot.

Because of COVID-19, Texas postponed this year's run-off until July, and the early-voting period began on June 29.

I was in my new hometown of Livingston, Texas, at just the right historic moment to vote in person!

I arrived mid-morning. A clutch of candidates waved and greeted me from a corner, mindful of legal campaign distancing limits for election-day protocols.

Inside the courthouse, COVID protocols were evident, with proper spacing for voter queuing taped on the floor, and masked election workers.

Two COVID-related practices caught my attention:
  1. The first with trepidation, and then delight; and
  2. The second with rueful acceptance. 

The first: The woman at the final voter-processing station sat before a large, white, fold-up case. In front of the case, laid onto the table, were cotton swabs atop l-o-n-g, thin, wooden sticks. As I proceeded along the line, I eyed these swab sticks with a bit of decision anxiety. COVID testing at the polls? Kind of like being able to register to vote when you get a driver's license or library card? Those long swabs - they hurt, right? Knock up against your brain pan to pull out sinus cells? Should I get tested? Yes? No? I mean, I'm right here, right? But this doesn't make sense, does it? COVID testing right here? I don't know ..... Cognitive dissonance.

Upon arrival before the woman and the long, skinny swabs atop those wooden sticks, I learned: Oh! Each voter gets one to use on the touchscreen of the voting machine.

Super clever! I loved it! And myself and I had a big laugh together.

The second: If only two, maybe three, are in the voter-processing area, the set-up was OK for distancing. Alas, the two processing tables were too close together + the two people at each table were too close together, and therefore, voters had to be too close together if each table handled two voters. The problem, in my mind, lay not in the intentions, but the small size and layout of the voting space, including the queue line area.

A better plan, if the weather permitted it (and it did when I was there), might have been to have the first table outside on the sidewalk. Or beginning in the building foyer. Or set up one of those big tents (like for a wedding or beer garden) in the short street to handle the whole thing. Or find a larger space in the building. Or in a different building.

But overall, I was delighted to be able to vote in person!      

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

On the Road: Kansas: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: Meade and The Situation

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Campground and playground. June 2020.

NOTE: My COVID-19 posts are all over the chronological map for now; I'll number them down the road. 

En route from Tucson to Missouri, I stopped in Meade, Kansas, for two nights.

On Wednesday evening, I visited the pleasant city park. There is a campground there, making it a welcome and comfortable retreat for RVers passing through.

There is a pretty playground, too, and it gave a nod to COVID.

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Playground. June 2020.

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Playground and COVID sign. June 2020.

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Playground and COVID sign. June 2020.

I noticed a clutch of people with musical instruments across a parking lot from the playground. Ah! A small outdoor concert! Fabulous - a safe event outdoors with everyone able to choose their physical distance and still enjoy the music and (careful) conviviality of being with other humans IRL. If they chose to be careful, that is.

The musicians: Talented! Old-timey Christian songs, pleasantly nostalgic.

The music ended, and I learned that several clergy had pulled together to host this event for the purpose of offering solace and fellowship in this Difficult Time.

I reckoned, at first, that the clergy intended to talk about COVID, and maybe also some about the Black Lives Matter protests. 

COVID didn't come up at all. They talked about the protests. But they didn't use the word "protest."

Here are words I heard from the four ministers, all uttered with calm, reasonable, and pastoral tones of voice:
  • Race riots
  • Fear
  • Mobs
  • Riots
  • Fear
  • "The events"
  • "The situation"
  • Fear
  • Arson
  • Looting
  • Criminal acts

As I listened to the four members of the clergy from Meade, I felt confused. It was like they spoke in code. I understood the words. I understood the usual meanings of the words. But there was an overlay of meaning that kept me asking myself: "What is he really saying here?"

A minister of Meade, Kansas, at Meade City Park. June 2020.

There was much talk by each minister about how the protesters (my word) should turn to God and find peace and healing. There seemed to be an assumption that protesters (or, as the Meade ministers might call them: "rioters") are not people of faith. It seemed to be further implied that people of faith do not protest (my word). Maybe the thinking is: They protest (my word), therefore they have no faith. 

This talk of fear. Fear .... that Meade residents have? 

Fear of what? This wasn't explained. But maybe for Meade residents, it was understood.

A minister of Meade, Kansas, at Meade City Park. June 2020.

When a Black clergy woman strode to the stage, I had two thoughts:
  • "Oh! I am pleasantly surprised at Meade! A person of color is at this table!" (Because I have my own biases about small Kansas towns.)
  • "I want to hear what she has to say! Surely she'll bring some balance to this talk about riots, arson, looting and the lack of God in the protesters' (my word) lives." (Yes, I profiled her perspective based solely on her complexion.)
But no.

The minister, originally from Kenya, described a harrowing experience back home in which white folks shot at her husband while he and she were in their car, and threatened to cut off her hands! The minister related how she called to Jesus in her mind, and felt supreme confidence that Christ was not going to allow these men to harm her and her husband any further, and they did not! ..... And, she declared, it's this kind of faith and confidence that all of us should embrace.

For one, oh my gosh! What a horrific experience to have suffered! I cannot imagine the terror she must have felt.

But: George Lloyd called out for heavenly intervention, and the police murdered him anyway.

What is it the minister from Kenya - and the other Meade clergy - want African-Americans to do?

Be quiet, keep their heads down, pray?

Maybe the message is for African-Americans to do nothing. Maybe the message is that age-old one that colonizers and oppressors and their compliant missionaries disseminated to the oppressed: Accept your lot and get your reward in heaven.

I puzzled over this during the event, and afterward, and again when I arrived at my friend, Kate's, house in Missouri, who is a faithful follower of Christ, and who also protests in the streets, alone and with others. She is not a quiet Christian. Kate couldn't decipher the code either.

There was only one time when any of the ministers used the word justice.

One time.

Meanwhile, the ants on a tree went about their usual business.

Ants at Meade City Park. June 2020.

Monday, June 8, 2020

On the Road: Kansas: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: Maskless in Meade

Highway 54, New Mexico. August 2013.
Highway 54, New Mexico. August 2013.

NOTE: My COVID-19 posts are all over the chronological map for now; I'll number them down the road.

Highway 54. Two nights in Meade, Kansas.

Crossing the threshold of Meade's Thriftway grocery store thrust me back to pre-COVID times.

No one wore a mask.

There were no plexiglass shields between the cashier and the customers.

Checking into the motel - no masks.

Stepping into the smoke-sodden air of a Meade convenience store - no masks. Oh, I did witness one masked fellow entering the attached restaurant. An out-of-towner like me?

It was all a bit of a culture shock, actually.

On my second day in Meade, I did observe three instances, perhaps, of mask-wearing.

Gosh, it would only take one, asymptomatic, drive-through tourist to set off a viral spark in sleepy ol' Meade.

In the unlikely case I'm infected-but-asymptomatic, it ain't gonna be me to light that spark.

I wore my mask.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Flashback to 2016: Antigua, Guatemala: The Scourge of Pee

Travel does, indeed, expand one's knowledge, as evidenced in this post back in 2016.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: The Scourge of Pee

I learned something in Antigua that was gobsmacking.

Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Men's habit of peeing on the exterior building walls in Antigua is damaging the buildings. Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Center, so this is serious business.

It's not just in Antigua. Consider Germany's Ulm Minister, the church with the tallest tower in the world. "Persistent peeing is damaging the historic structure."

Peeing on the limestone walls of the 250-year-old Alamo in Texas is a serious crime because of the damage it does to the historic structure.

In Berlin, the city created a force of "urine police" to protect historic buildings. "Human urine is so abrasive and corrosive that, over time, it acts like a sandblaster," said a scientist.

It's also a problem in Chester, England, which sits atop Roman ruins.

And in Plymouth, England, for a 250-year old synagogue.

There is apparently a Facebook page that has photos of men caught in the act of peeing on walls in Antigua. It's a shaming page. I haven't been able to track it down.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 6: Elevation

On Build thus far

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods
Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista
Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"
Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens
Word of the Year 2020: Build 5: It Takes a Village

Until I began this post, I'd not heard the term, post-traumatic growth.

It is when a person arrives at a post-traumatic mental place where they thrive after a transformation in their worldview.

Following trauma, a person may regain their pre-trauma equilibrium. (And that, by itself, is a tremendous positive.)

Post-traumatic growth, though, from Association Between Resiliency and Post-Traumatic Growth in Firefighters ....
PTG is more than just a return to equilibrium after an experienced traumatic situation. This phenomenon indicates that as a result of an experienced situation a person underwent some kind of transformation and achieved a higher level of functioning than before the trauma.
.... distinguish the two concepts of resilience and PTG, emphasizing that development following trauma results from transformation, which means cognitive rebuilding [emphasis mine]. Resiliency assumes an ability to move forward with life after adversity, whereas PTG involves a movement beyond pre-trauma levels of adaptation. Moreover, researchers stress that resilient individuals do not necessarily have to experience PTG, as not all traumatic events are subjectively identified as challenging.

[PTG] does not exclude the occurrence of adverse effects of experienced trauma. Post-traumatic growth does not mean that the experience of trauma is desirable or necessary to make significant changes in life. It is not equated with a sense of happiness, either. It is, however, an opportunity for a more meaningful and valuable life. [Note: "valuable,' I'm assuming, in the eyes of the person who experienced the trauma]

Another source framed the cognitive rebuilding succinctly, in Resilience and Post-Traumatic Growth: A Comparison: "Post-traumatic growth is manifested in several clearly defined behaviors and thought patterns not necessarily present prior to exposure. [emphasis mine]"

For some of us - maybe most? - it is a 100% good outcome to regain the equilibrium or the life movement we had pre-trauma. There is nothing intrinsically superior about attaining some higher level of consciousness following trauma, in my not so humble opinion.

But for others of us - take me, for instance - when the original equilibrium may have stood on unstable land, then that "cognitive rebuilding" - the mental rewiring - the post-traumatic elevation - is definitely a goal to reach for.