Tulsa Time

tulsa in ok 0620

Today is Juneteenth, which means more to some of us than it might have in the past. For myself, I was mildly aware of it as something celebrated in the Five Points district of Denver, traditionally a black neighborhood, but not the historical significance.

The reporting of this history is a bit more varied than it ought to be, but my best understanding is that, two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and more than two months after Lee’s surrender of the Confederacy, U.S. soldiers finally brought the word to slaves in Texas that they were free. June 19, 1865. Better late than never, I suppose.

The discordant collision of this history with Tulsa’s shame, brought to national prominence by a tone-deaf administration, I already knew about, thanks to my book group. One of our selections, one I actually read, was The Burning, by Tim Madigan. Greenwood, a prosperous neighborhood of Tulsa occupied by African Americans, was burned to the ground and 300 of its residents killed by thousands of white Tulsans in 1921.

It was a horrific event that went uninvestigated, underreported, unremembered and unremarked on by most. To this day Greenwood has yet to regain the prosperity that marked it a century ago.

So you might think Tulsa would be a highly appropriate place to have a gathering, one where this tragedy, which began on June 1, could be solemnly commemorated. Perhaps this gathering could even take place on Juneteenth, to acknowledge a more prominent awareness that freedom for some Americans came well after July 4, 1776 (which really wasn’t the date actual freedom was gained from the British, any more than June 19, 1865, provided actual freedom to African Americans, but it’s the thought that counts and we love our holidays).

But of course, nothing of this sort was planned by anyone connected with the president, who was originally going to a gathering in Tulsa today, but a gathering — at a guesstimate — populated 99 percent by white people, some disproportionate number of them — at another guesstimate — racist, if not outright white supremacist.

As long as we’re guessing, I imagine the freewheeling, rather nonsensical, litany of grievances aired tomorrow (rather than today, which shows every last bit of deference this president can manage) will include the “thugs” who are currently overrunning our streets in protest and disparaging the noble profession of law enforcement. John Bolton will be on the menu, almost certainly, and so will a long list of people who are stifling this country with their squawks and mandates around an inconsequential virus.

So let’s talk about this virus, as if we’ve never done that in this space.

On Tuesday in Tulsa, 228 people newly tested positive for covid-19. On Wednesday it was 259. Yesterday it was 450. But we’re not worried. Senator James Lankford, who plans to be in attendance at the rally, noted that there will be masks available for every attendee, and sanitizer. Waivers, too, promising not to sue the presidential campaign, should anyone contract this hoax of a virus — but Senator Lankford didn’t mention that.

He’s planning to wear his mask, he said, but only up to the point when he starts talking to people. Then he will take the mask off so he can spray them with particles they can hear him.

I don’t know who is behind it, but some group offers up “The Darwin Awards.” These always posthumous awards go to those who strengthen the survival of our species by removing themselves from the gene pool. It wasn’t assigned by my book group, and I may no longer have it, but I did have a book with these awards. They go to people who, for example, go into houses to investigate gas leaks and light matches to better see the leak.

It seems to me this rally has all kinds of Darwinian potential. Back in March (I think) somewhere in the state of Washington, almost every member of a community choir was felled by the virus, two members permanently, because one member came to practice already infected (back in those days before we really knew what we were dealing with).

The louder you talk, or sing, the more you project particles into the air. The closer together you stand with other people, the easier it is to absorb these particles. And if you’re in an enclosed space, particularly one with air conditioning, those particles get all kinds of opportunity to circulate and recirculate.

Masks are for liberal wimps who actually believe this virus hoax, so whoever is handing them out at this rally will have wasted a lot of money. I understand mask burning is becoming a thing, maybe more so than bra burning ever was. Perhaps there will be a bonfire in the arena tomorrow, just to top everything off right.

This week, two different stories emerged, both offering anecdotal (but not scientific) evidence for the efficacy of masks. A group of friends in some state that just re-opened celebrated their first night out by going to a very crowded and unmasked bar — and every one of them contracted the virus, along with a large number of other people in the bar that night.

But at a Great Clips in Springfield, Missouri, two stylists who worked on over 150 people while sick with the virus, and next to other stylists and hundreds of other customers, don’t appear (at least so far) to have infected a single other person. Both stylists were wearing masks; it’s unclear if the customers were as well.

Now, those scientific types (probably also a likely target at the rally) are deciding that some people are “super spreaders” of the virus, and maybe the hairstylists weren’t this while the sick choir member and whichever bar patron or employee were. Or maybe masks do make a difference, just like a slew of studies continue to show.

Some doctor in a Miami hospital was on the news this morning, looking rather haggard. Up until a day or two, he thought his hospital was managing just fine, and in that short span he is starting to feel overrun.

That’s what Italians said; that’s what New Yorkers said. You’re coping just fine until the second you aren’t. And then you’re in a nasty game of catch-up that taxes all your resources, including the human ones.

So rally away, Tulsa, with nary a nod to Juneteenth or Greenwood, and then I guess we’ll wait to see who wins, you or the made-up virus.

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