Insurrection Goes to Washington

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Photo by Alex Martinez on Unsplash

I woke up yesterday morning exhausted from watching the election returns from Georgia; I finally called it a night around midnight when they called the race for Reverend Raphael Warnock. I remember feeling joy; the first Black senator from Georgia? What an awesome sight to see. Maybe that arc is bending toward justice after all.

As we are in the midst of a global pandemic, my children are home doing virtual learning, so the day got going quickly. No rest for the wicked. I chugged down a few cups of coffee and ushered everyone to their respective spaces. Then I got to grading work that had been submitted the evening before. …


Why Individuals and Structure Have to Work Together

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we hit some grim milestones. 200,000 positive COVID tests. Over 2,000 deaths. The highest number of people hospitalized since the pandemic began. The dark winter has certainly begun.

And, yet, that same week, we saw a dramatic uptick in the number of flights around the country. People packed into airports to travel to family and friends. Photos of large, maskless gatherings packed the social media feeds. Black Friday saw decreased traffic but not pandemic decreased traffic. Lines and packed parking lots were still in plentiful supply.

In many ways, it’s a repeat of the fall and winter of 1918–1919. We didn’t learn much from our forebearers. In fact, the flu waves of that time period look eerily similar to the COVID waves of 2020. As a society, we are so much more prepared and equipped than they were in 1918, but the problem remains. …


The Danger of Coronavirus Fatigue

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Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

As we look around, we see a real phenomenon emerging: I call it COVID fatigue. Everyone is tired. We are all overwhelmed. While we have experienced it differently, we are all suffering from trauma. Everyone wants to go back to “normal”. It can be easy to do that for an evening or even a few days. You get together, you have fun and laugh, and you go about your merry way. What COVID? We are all fine!

Until you aren’t.

The reality is pretty grim. We had a major wave of coronavirus infections in March and April, but it was mostly centered on the coasts of the U.S. In late May, states started opening up again, and a second wave hit the south and southwest regions of the country. As they implemented some rules and mask mandates, we saw the shift to the Midwest. But now? We are in a third wave, and it’s bad. Very bad. The entire country is in the “bruised red” territory meaning that 48 out of 50 states have “uncontrolled community spread”. Testing and contact tracing are simply not possible when that happens. In most areas of the country, we are worse off in November than we were in March, and, yet, COVID fatigue is at the center of everything. …


“The Best Doctors in the World Around Him”

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Photo by David Todd McCarty on Unsplash

A telling thing happened today. In the midst of a major wave of coronavirus infections, the Trump team is still holding massive rallies throughout the battle ground states. On CNN, Alisyn Camerota asked the Trump 2020 press secretary, Hogan Gidley, this question: “Hospitals in WI are near capacity. Does that give you any pause about going there and holding a big rally?”. His response? “No, it doesn’t … the VP has the best doctors in the world around him”.

What?

The best doctors in the world. Let that land for just a moment. Sit with it. Here’s what he’s really saying: the candidates will be fine. We just don’t care about the other people there. Depending on who you ask, there are 6,000–29,000 people at the rallies; there’s quite a variance there, but, nonetheless, thousands of people are showing up each time. Gidley told them in no uncertain terms: their lives simply don’t matter. …


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Photo by Steve Shreve on Unsplash

As the presidential race reaches its fevered pitch, a new line of attack has emerged from the right: Joe Biden as a father. It’s a strange thing to watch because one of the hallmarks of Biden’s 40+ years in public service has been that he’s a good dad. He emerged from remarkable pain and suffering and did the work to be a good single father. We have all heard the stories of his commute from D.C. to Delaware each day and night; he simply couldn’t leave his boys when they needed him most. …


Relative Poverty and the COVID-19 Response

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Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

“How can you say that? There are children starving here!”. My student was incensed; I had just explained the concept of relative poverty to the class. The idea is that poverty is an intractable part of our society; we cannot eradicate it because there are those that will always have more and those that will always have less. We, thus, have to find a lesser degree of poverty based on our how our wealth and income are distributed. As I explained that the worst poverty in the U.S. would be considered average or even good in other countries, my student pushed back. I was minimizing people’s suffering, she said. It made me think of a question to ask the class: what does it really mean to be poor in a country where starvation is rare? …


Being Dad in a Presidential Debate

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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

There were so many viral moments in Tuesday’s Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Moments played over and over again because they get likes and clicks. “Just shut up, man”. “Stand back and stand by”. Words that will be burned into our history, even as we are shocked and repelled by them. It seems obvious that we have never seen a debate quite like this one; neither the moderator or one of the candidates could get a word in edgewise. As so many people noted: it was a mess.

But there was a moment that didn’t get as much play; it didn’t go viral because it wasn’t summed up in a few words that could be put on a meme. However, it resonated with a lot of people. …


Education in the Time of Coronavirus

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Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

This will be a school year like no other in recent memory. To put it mildly, our children face a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Their lives were upended in March, and they haven’t been the same since. No amount of “normalcy” is going to change that.

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the school reopening debate. On the one hand, we have a raging pandemic. Its impact on children is not as clear as we would like; we have no idea what the long-term effects of this virus are. We have a government that has basically shrugged its shoulders and for most of the year and is now heading straight into the “herd immunity” argument that Swedish doctors say they wish they had never tried. On the other hand, kids need school. We know this. The data is clear; the socio-emotional impact of school cannot be understated. The reality is, there is no good answer, and politics is driving much of the argument. …


#PortlandMoms Stand Up

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Photo by Joshua Koblin on Unsplash

As protests have continued around the nation, the media has largely lost interest, and so we don’t see the images on our television as much as we did a month ago. A raging pandemic and economic collapse are sucking all of the air out of the room, and an administration that is willfully trying to ignore all of it is scrambling to figure out the plan. But the protests continue.

Disturbing news emerged last week in Portland, Oregon; protesters reported an escalation in violence by unnamed individuals in camouflage. They had no identifiers and were often driving around the city in unmarked vans. Several protesters said they were pulled into the vans and kept for hours without being told why. People wanted to know: who was sanctioning this? …


The Pain of Protest

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Photo by Spenser on Unsplash

I saw a quote this morning on Twitter that took my breath away; it was from a user named @_darriussimpson: “a protest with permission is a parade, y’all”. Protest is baked into our founding in the United States; there is almost nothing more American than fighting against oppression. Over and over again, we are told if we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything. So, we fight for what believe in. But, over and over again, we are told there is a “right” way to do that. What does that mean?

Our founding fathers were rabble-rousers; they didn’t like the system, and so they fought to change it. How did they accomplish that? Well, they were pretty “by any means necessary” kind of guys. They literally went to war for it. But before they went to war, did they protest the “right” way? We sure do celebrate their methods. This winter, I took my kids to Boston Harbor; I have photos of my youngest throwing tea into the ocean. All the kids lined up to hurl the cartons overboard. We walked along with history with the reenactment celebrating and cheering as the voices got loud and boisterous. Big, powerful words by revered men. We heard about the Boston Massacre and the tyranny of oppression. I am certain this same historical event is not told the same way across the pond, but the audience ate it up. So, was this the “right” way? Not everyone thought so at the time; there was a lot of grumbling about the methods and the audacity. Stealing cargo and ruining it? When confronted later, meeting violence with violence? The attitude of a fair number of colonists toward the protesters is quite the juxtaposition to what we see today. We are very proud of those rabble-rousers. They put down the ground work for a new nation, and we celebrate them as heroes. …

About

Jennifer Graham

Sociologist. Writer. Observer. Explorer.

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