Seeking the Charm

The coffee shop down the street, in addition to its outdoor “patio” seating and bike rack (they also sell bicycles and effect repairs), further impedes the sidewalk with one of those A-frame signs that features little bits of humor that are frequently quite funny, although I of course can’t ever remember any of them. Since I haven’t gone down the street that way in awhile, I can’t tell you if it’s still on their sign, but at least earlier it read: “2020 2021 2022 third time’s the charm.” So far, though, I’m not finding much that’s charming about this year.

I have learned that while I don’t think I’m guilty of racism, I am subject to coatism: when I saw my first photo of a Ukrainian refugee and her child, I didn’t really pay attention to her skin color, which of course was white — but in her winter coat and her child’s bright snow boots and pants they could have been any mom and toddler here in Gunnison.

That and the ubiquitous media coverage of this particular crime against humanity perpetrated by Vladimir Putin has made much more visceral for me the horrors taking place in Ukraine, and I can’t begin to tell you how many brain cells I have expended on thought exercises about what I would do if I were a resident there.

I have to confess I paid very little attention to the fall of Chechnya or even the Crimea a mere eight years ago. Syria appalls me, but I have no idea what one does about a ruler who has so little regard for the wanton killing of his own people, obviously aided and abetted by those keeping him in power.

I am also noting the disparity in Europe’s welcoming of these particular refugees over others fleeing equally dire conditions. We can even see it in American reactions, although we apparently are not offering any succor to any Ukrainians, unless they think to flee to another country the U.S. deems to be hazardous. One woman flew from San Francisco to Poland to rescue two teenagers, close relations of hers, only to be dismissed out of hand by the American consulate (embassy?). No Ukrainians welcome here, but we sure feel sympathy about your plight. Moreso, say, than Latin Americans trying to avoid oppressive regimes or drug cartels.

Although I will say that if I were in a former Soviet satellite bordering Ukraine, it would be very easy to sympathize with someone fleeing Russian oppression. Perhaps especially in Poland, where memories must be long of how during World War II the Soviets parked themselves just outside of Warsaw, let the beleaguered Poles fight it out until they had worn the Nazis down — and only then did the Russians swoop in, far less about liberation than subjugation.

Then there is the disinformation campaign taking place in many places around the globe, including at Fox News, although sincere condolences to them for the loss of their veteran cameraman near Kyiv yesterday.

First, although many people and news outlets are using the terms interchangeably, let’s be clear: misinformation is when someone inadvertently has their facts wrong, as sometimes happens in this blog and all the time to victims of disinformation, which is the deliberate and knowing dissemination of “alternative facts.”

While most Americans, except those whose opinions have aired nightly on Russian state television, decry or at least lament the suppression of actual information and distortion of the truth in Russia, and presumably are equally concerned about the falsehoods being pumped out by Chinese state media, we’re not always so good at recognizing when it happens to us here at home.

We seem to be even worse at recognizing the politics making it possible for state-sponsored authoritarianism: These books cannot be read; this history cannot be taught; we are trying our level best to erase anyone who might could possibly make uncomfortable our precious little unblemished white boys who are going to grow up to like unblemished white girls who will serve as their vessels.

Any time there is only one right way of looking at something, you are going to find yourself victimized by disinformation. It’s worse to see it happening in our cradle of democracy than it is in Russia and China. It’s even more horrible as we watch the “pro-family” Republican party do this on the backs of children.

Although they’re not doing adults any favors either as they continue to make every attempt to suppress the votes of everyone who is not a straight white male, and their vessels who will vote as they’re told. Make no mistake, we were only one Supreme Court vote away from telling states their legislatures are free to anoint anyone these legislatures feel like to elected offices. We are that close to throwing out the will of the people here in the United States of America, just as they have in places like Russia and China.

So I’m not finding much that’s charming yet about 2022. From daily existential concerns about nuclear annihilation being one push of a red button away at the hands of a possibly psychotic, certainly ruthless one-time member of Russia’s KGB to daily existential concerns about the world economy, the national economy, and the local economy, which is becoming stratified into the billionaire haves and the rest of us, where our 2019 median household income of $43,604 was almost 77% less than the state median while our housing prices outpace the superheated Denver market — this is a seriously long sentence — it’s hard to find something to cheer myself up, let alone the rest of you.

There are some bright points: Oz has perked up, and resumed eating dry food. He even did a little running for a couple of days, until he went floundering through snow drifts to greet neighbor Milo in his fence. We managed to go an entire week without seeing a veterinarian, although I did have to go to the pet store for one kind of the 3,000 kinds of food our animals eat.

I learned I can still print T-shirts after ailments and illness stripped our already bare-minimum staff to the bone. Kara is in the process of interviewing a potential new hire, although there’s now covid in Asia threatening to shut down supply chains that still weren’t completely opened.

And the U.S. Senate managed, without a single Manchin-type holdout, to decide to end this clock-shifting foolishness. Of course, the legislation still has to go to the House and then onto the president, and there’s the throwaway sentence I read yesterday that we apparently tried permanent daylight saving time in 1974, only to toss it a couple years later, but for now — just now — I will only have to endure this clock shifting two more times, which is exactly how many more times my friend Matt would tell me we needed to go out after firewood, every single time we went.

It’s the smallest of things, but that’s the way I’m taking my good news these days: I just this morning discovered two little tomatoes on my sad-looking, un-pollinated plants that are so intertwined I can’t tell which one produced them. Never mind: something is growing, and even if it’s tiny, it is still hope.

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