politics

Covid City 12: Week Three

4/1/2020, 8:15 am

My family is starting to fall into a groove here in Covid City. Aspects that felt hard before are getting easier. We’ve found a flow of sorts to our days. But new things feel hard now, like the repetition and redundancy of it all, and how much video chats suck. The unknowns are weighing on me in a new way this week, too. 

There are too many questions, on both the global scale and the individual scale. I worry about hospitals being overwhelmed beyond capacity; Maimonides Medical Center recently had to turn their pediatric emergency unit into a coronavirus isolation wing (see the picture from TIME magazine below). This scares me. What happens if my baby has an allergic reaction to a new food, or if my big kid breaks an arm? Will there be a doctor available to treat them? Will this treatment expose our family to the virus?

Week one was just insane, everything coming at us all the time, changing every hour. Life was so different so suddenly. I jumped straight into plan-and-prepare mode. Week two brought me the ability to find space for myself, to cry and be angry and work on acceptance, but it still wasn’t enough space to truly reflect. This week, though, as my household has begun to settle and I’ve been able to think a bit more, reality is sinking in deeper, and my OCD has been set off. All these thoughts keep rushing my brain. We have more time in quarantine ahead of us than behind us and this feels daunting. More daunting is that we have no idea what our future economy and society will be like. Things can’t go back to how they were before, yet this return to before is exactly what those in power want. What can we the people do about this? Signing petitions and calling senators doesn’t feel like enough. Now that COVID-19 has woken more of us up, it feels like we’ve got a large enough mass to do something real. But what does that even mean? What actions should we take? And will our so-called leaders listen? What will happen if they don’t? Will things get violent? 

And then there’s the hardest question that keeps shoving itself into the forefront of my brain: Who am I going to lose to this?

laura in hospital
Two decades of cognitive-behavior therapy and practice living with OCD are kicking in. I’m doing my breathing exercises, and the act of replacing an intrusive thought with a more positive one has become second-nature by this point. I’m also trying to avoid the news entirely and focus instead on my family. We’ve had more good blocks so far this week than bad ones. It’s interesting how Covid City has turned even the most normal expectations upside down. Like, Mondays are good for us now; after two days of hanging out together with no “Mommy work,” we’re refreshed and ready to go. But then by Thursday, which was an easy day in the time of before, we’re a wretched mess (at least I think that’s what’s happening; the days are certainly blurring together).

I’m also trying to focus on what I’ve learned and what tweaks I can make to improve our days. A new framing has helped me: this life in Covid City is not homeschool, working from home, nor stay-at-home parenting. This life is all of it all the time. It is not possible to separate my roles out from one another. I don’t stop being the mama because I closed the bedroom door and put headphones in for a work call. I don’t stop being a program coordinator because my kid slinked into the room with tears in his eyes. My children appear in video meetings with my boss, I send emails while watching Frozen 2 for the fifth time in five days, and I make edits at night while Dave reads kids’ books out loud. All of my boundaries have merged. It is intense and at times overwhelming, but giving in to this merge feels better than trying to resist it.

Even if I had the physical space of a house with a home office on a separate floor, I don’t think I could work and ignore my family all day. I’m the organizer, the one who keeps track of time and pays attention to the little details. Dave is great at diving into messy art activities, cooking elaborate meals, wrestling and rough-housing with L. He does the laundry, walks the dog, cleans the kitchen (sort of). But without me, he struggles, just like I struggle without him. If anybody’s in this together, it’s the two of us. 

I keep thinking about my mom. I’m glad she doesn’t have to live through this, though in some ways, she would have been perfect for life in quarantine; during the years approaching her death, her phobias had forced her to isolate from the public, her undiagnosable illness meant she had to live with a million unknown answers, and her ongoing hallucinations had reduced her days to just getting through rather than planning ahead.

When I was L’s age, though, she wasn’t so sick. I have the sweetest memories of sitting at her and Granny’s feet, picking up scraps of fabric that had fallen from their sewing shears, draping the pieces over my dolls to make a patchwork dress, pretending like I wasn’t listening in on their conversations. I didn’t go to school until I was five and started public Kindergarten; most of my early-childhood days were spent over at Granny’s in the sewing room. The two women who raised me were hired to do big jobs like bridesmaids’ dresses, cheerleading uniforms, and elaborate quilts, but they also made almost everything I wore. They worked busily, and I was often told to entertain myself. There were no smartphones, iPads, or even TVs in the sewing room. The fact that I was bored did not bother them at all; they felt no obligation to keep me entertained. I certainly had my moments of ennui, but now looking back, those moments aren’t the ones that stand out. What I remember more than anything is how safe, comforted, and loved I felt in that sewing room, even when I was being ignored.

Granny_Mom_Me
This week I’ve decided to focus less on structuring our days and more on trying to create this feeling for my family. The world outside our window is scary right now. But here inside our apartment, we’ve got so much. I’m not giving up on our old homeschool plans and activities – I want L to be challenged, to keep learning, to practice the skills he’s been working so hard on in preschool. And I’ve actually really enjoyed some of the homeschool moments we’ve shared as a family doing yoga, learning about octopuses, or doodling with Mo Willems. But these things can still happen without the entire family centering our days around L. Letting him sit in boredom sometimes is probably good for him. At the very least, it allows me the space I need to keep breathing and to keep those positive thoughts flowing. Ultimately, that’s good for us all.

It’s Voting Day, New Yorkers!

i votedToday is a big day. Your vote matters – be heard!

For those of you who share in my sentiments, I included a Progressive Cheat Sheet below. But whether you agree with me or not, GO VOTE!

If you aren’t sure where to vote, find your polling site by entering your address into this website.

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The BPRS Live at Freddy’s, Saturday, July 21st at 9:15 pm!

Freddy's Poster 7:2018

The Brooklyn Players Reading Society is thrilled to return to Freddy’s Bar and Backroom (627 5th Ave – map here) after a long live hiatus. Please join us for some tunes, poetry, snacks, and drinks from 9 pm onward – we’ll be spreadin’ the good vibes all night long!

No cover, 21+. RSVP here.

Families Belong Together: Ways to Help

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I, like most of you, am completely distraught and enraged over what’s happening at our border. I, too, am worried over the Supreme Court vacancy and angry about their recent rulings. Yet I have also found hope in the fact that so many Americans have put aside political and religious differences to come together and fight for human rights. Hundreds of thousands of us have already donated over twenty million dollarsOrganizations like RAICES have already reunited multiple familiesA number of prominent politicians, including Republicans, have publicly decried Trump’s policies. And Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez just beat 10-term Congressman Joe Crowley by a huge margin! As a result of this pressure, the Administration released an executive order ending family separation at the border only days after saying they would never do such a thing. Our efforts are working.

However, this executive order is nowhere near the end. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and are now living in hospitals, warehouses, detention centers, and cages all over the country. And while ICE is no longer separating families at our borders, it is still their practice to separate families within our borders by detaining and deporting immigrants who have lived here, many legally, for years, even decades. It is also still their practice to imprison children, who have committed no crimes, and hold them indefinitely, alongside their families who have also committed no crimes.

Many people are saying, “This isn’t who we are, this isn’t America.” Others are saying, “This is exactly who we are, just look at our history.” While it is absolutely vital that we address our country’s history of genocide, slavery, lynching, and more (Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, anyone?), it is also absolutely vital that we hold on to the positive aspects of our identity. It’s easy to get lost in rage and feel like America is full of monsters, but this is only partly true; America is also full of helpers.

There are so many people and organizations working for these children, their parents, immigrants, women, the working class, and human rights in general. These organizations need our donations and our volunteering efforts right now. Our Senators and Representatives need to hear our voices. Even if you just have a few minutes on your lunch break, please be a helperEvery action matters.

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Below is a list of organizations to donate to and/or volunteer for, along with ways to stay updated. There are also country-wide #FamiliesBelongTogether demonstrations this Saturday, June 30th – click here to get involved, and sign the petition here.

Remember: being a helper requires taking action, but also taking care of yourself. Hug your kids. Enjoy a good meal with your mom. Tell your friends you love them. Find and spread your joy, even if – especially if – your joy feels impossible to find. We cannot let fear, anger, and hatred take over.

I am sending my love to you all. Stay strong, and keep paying your union dues.

WAYS TO HELP

Lunchtime for Change – Quick daily actions you can do from anywhere.

The New York Immigration Coalition – This fantastic organization helps immigrants apply for citizenship, provides free legal aid, organizes demonstrations, and more. You can donate here, and also join them in Foley Square on Saturday at 10 am to march across the Brooklyn Bridge for a demonstration in Cadman Plaza at 11:30 am. Text “NYIC” to 864237 to receive their updates. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Make the Road New York – “Building power of Latinx and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice.” Follow them on Twitter and FacebookDonate here. Text “ROAD” to 52886 for action alerts.

Cayuga Center
 – 
This NY-based organization has taken in many children who were separated from their parents at the border. I know this is a little fraught because they receive government money in exchange for taking these kids, which feels like they’re a little in cahoots with the Administration, but at the same time, the kids are there. They aren’t currently accepting volunteers due to fingerprinting/background check requirements, but they do have an Amazon wish list created by the kids currently being held there.

RAICES – An excellent organization based on the Texas/Mexico border. You can donate as part of this fundraiserThey also have many great resources on their website for grassroots organizing.

Mamas Week of Action – Beautiful message with actions all week following June 30th’s protest.

The ACLU – Always doing amazing work tackling not just immigration but many other human rights issues. They always need financial support.

Abortion Funds – The truth is, even under Roe v Wade, many low-income and rural women do not have access to abortions even when they’re medically necessary. Abortion Funds picks these women up, takes them to providers, gives them support and after care, and more. They need our money. Donate here.

Planned Parenthood – Making sure women have access to affordable healthcare and birth control. They are constantly under threat. Support them here.

Images taken from Mamas Week of Action.

 

Bamboozled

Did you know that toothbrushes are immortal? Unlike human beings, plastic toothbrushes keep on living even underneath tons of pounds of garbage. They keep on living even inside the bellies of dead dolphins. They keep on living even as they float all the way across the ocean until they wash up on Taiwanese beaches. Then, they keep on living even after they’ve become sculptures in the sand.

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— ◊ —

The past six months have tried to end me. The life I once lived in which I wrote, mothered, taught, sang, performed, took politic action, and somehow also relaxed, has been shattered. Instead of making art, going out, or sleeping, I’ve learned firsthand about anencephaly, the gray area of sexual harassment, and municipal regulations on basement apartments. I’ve dealt with wild hormonal swings. I’ve worked my ass off for a job I was promised that ultimately didn’t exist, then found myself in an uncomfortable situation when I said no more. I’ve packed, moved, unpacked, re-packed, re-moved, and re-unpacked – all with a cat, two dogs, and a busy-bee toddler who recently dropped nap.

I’ve never felt this much rage before, and while it has cracked me open in important ways, it has also shaken me to my core. My mind has raced in circles. My muscles have morphed into a single knot of tension. And my anxiety, after eighteen years of treatment, has found a new way to express itself: my throat is clenched tight, leaving my voice strained and hoarse, my neck and teeth throbbing with each heartbeat.

— ◊ —

Did you know that bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the word? It is also one of the sneakiest. Its roots can run underground for over twenty feet before popping up again as a new shoot, called a culm. These culms then grow up to three feet a day for the next 120 years, sending their own runners out to sprout in surprising, faraway places.

Three to five years after its initial sprouting, a culm can then be harvested and transformed into basically anything: food, medicine, toys, rugs, clothes, bikes, houses, roads, bridges. In fact, bamboo can withstand twice as much force as concrete, and can hold up to 16 tons of weight. It can also cure cancer.

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— ◊ —

Becoming a mom has turned my home into a plastic palace. I look around the living room of my new new apartment, a place I hope will last much longer than the three months we spent in our illegal new apartment, and identify eleven items that will never die.

The bathroom isn’t any better. Three toothbrushes stick out from inside a plastic cup. A plastic bin filled with plastic toys is propped precariously on the lip of the tub. I move it to the floor, out of sight, then run hot water for a bath, but as I soak my stress-induced hemorrhoids and eat the M&Ms intended to aid in my toddler’s potty regression, I can’t relax; plastic is still very much on my mind. Also on my mind: pregnant women who’ve been denied access to proper health care, immigrants who’ve been detained for going to work, animals whose homes have been destroyed by loggers. I lament my now inactive Quick Action email list, my abandoned blog, the phone calls to senators I never placed. The enormous task of surviving my day-to-day has been all consuming, and while the depths of my strength have truly amazed and buoyed me up, I also feel like a failure of an activist.

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— ◊ —

Did you know that toothbrush bristles were once made from boar hair? Of course they contained loads of unhealthy bacteria, not to mention the moral issue of how these pigs were treated before they became tooth-brushing tools, yet, because animal hair is biodegradable and nylon is not, this is the only completely decomposable option presented thus far.

There are scientists out there who have dedicated their entire careers toward dissecting the greater impact of a single bristle. I think of these people doing this work, and I feel the knot inside of me loosen a little.

— ◊ —

I’ve always approached my activism from the angle of who needs it the most, but for the first time, I’m now approaching it from the angle of what I can most reasonably do. I am not ready to jump back into the strict schedule that once worked for me, and perhaps I never will be, perhaps that life wasn’t sustainable with or without my recent crises. But either way, here I am, dealing with effects of events that, though they’ve calmed, are still very much present: an unfulfilled due date, a static career and lingering sense of violation, an unresolved case with the Department of Buildings.

I will never solve all of the world’s problems. I will never even solve all of my own problems. But as I hold my recently purchased bamboo toothbrush and move its brand new form of bristles around my teeth, I realize, I don’t have to.

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— ◊ —

You can buy your own set of bamboo toothbrushes by clicking here. And if you need some more motivation to start the long process of giving up plastic, check out Margaret Atwood’s compelling piece in the Guardian.

Sources:
Encyclopedia Britannica: Bamboo
Bamboo Facts
Bamboo Herb
Brush with Bamboo
The Bamboo Solution
15 Creative Uses of Bamboo

Photo Credits:
1. Flotsam and Jetsam by F Delventhal
2. Bamboo by Serlunar

Our Proud Flesh

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To my fellow fighters,

Yes, this tax scam sucks. Yes, this entire past year has felt terrible. And yes, I am tired. But let us not get lost in our anger, sorrow, and exhaustion. Instead, let us be proud of our work. Let us be impressed by how quickly We the Resistance came together. Let us be motivated by how much we have accomplished. And let us be ready for what’s next. This particular bill will go to the House and we will make more calls, send more emails, march down more streets. New bills, transgressions, and violations will arise, and we will come together and fight those, too. Times are dark and will likely grow darker, but we have our voices, our bodies, and our allies across the world. We, you and me, regular people who may have never even thought of ourselves as activists just one year ago, WE are ushering in a cultural and political change in which equality, respect, and love are at the forefront. This is bigger than us. It’s bigger than Trump, the Republicans, the Democrats, even bigger than the rampant corporate greed currently ruling our country.

Let them attack us. Through actions like passing this tax bill, they’re revealing their true motives and intentions which will only send more people to our cause. And together, we will heal, we will organize, we will be stronger than before, and we will prevail.

I leave you with a poem that reminds me of two things we resisters must hold onto as we move forward: our toughness and our love. Be proud, comrades, and resist.

In solidarity,
Becky Fine-Firesheets

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For What Binds Us

By Jane Hirshfield

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

Photo Credits (Creative Commons): 1. Resistance by Baysal and 2. Resistance by Ivan Tasic

Stop This Tax Scam RIGHT NOW! Call, Email, and Tweet Your Senators!

unnamed.pngMany of you have been following the progress of this horrible tax bill. The vote is nearing, and we absolutely must put the pressure on Republican senators to not let this travesty pass. It’s not only a back-door ACA repeal but also a total scam, giving the uber rich a break while the working and middle class pay more. How long are we going to allow this corporatocracy to continue, at our expense no less??

Take five minutes right now, call 202-335-5529, and beg these Senators to VOTE NO on this tax bill! When your first call ends, press * to advance to the next call automatically.

I don’t agree with all of her views, but Senator Susan Collins has been a hero on the health care front so far. She has not confirmed her vote either way, but says she is hesitant because of the ACA repeal. Her vote is crucial, so CALL, EMAIL, TWEET HER RIGHT NOW! She knows what’s right, but her party is coming down hard on her. She needs our support. Thank her for supporting the ACA so far, and beg her to VOTE NO.

Senator Susan Collins
 – (207) 622-8414email contact form – Twitter: @SenatorCollins

Having trouble finding the energy to keep it up? From Senator Kamala Harris’s Twitter feed last night (Thurs, Nov 30): The Republicans had to delay votes on this tax bill until tomorrow. They’re rewriting it right now and we don’t even know what’s in it. This is no way to govern. We need you to keep up the pressure & keep up the calls.

Click here to tell your legislators, “Stop this devastating tax bill!”

Call 202-335-5529 and give your own explanation or use this sample script:

“Hello, my name is ____. This tax bill would repeal the ACA individual mandate and increase pressure to gut safety net programs like Ryan White in future budgets. I demand that you VOTE NO on this tax bill!”

It is on us to defend our country, and our work is paying off. Stay strong and pick up that phone RIGHT NOW! Resist!!

(Action alert courtesy of HIV Prevention Justice Alliance and AIDS Foundation of Chicago).