A Night of Madness

“Somebody help me. I’m going to die” the young woman on the stretcher screamed. She had just been wheeled into the Emergency Room of a local hospital. She then started sobbing quite loudly. She wasn’t the first person I heard in the ER screaming they were dying. I heard a dozen of them when I was in the ER from 5 PM until 12:30 AM last Friday. Many of those stretchers had patients who weren’t saying anything. That is because they had arrived wearing some kind of portable respirator. As one ambulance pulled out another was arriving. It was as if they were an assembly line.

          I really didn’t want my 91-year-old father in an ER full of Covid patients. My brother stopped at dad’s house and found he had fallen. Dad now had slurred speech and difficulty breathing. My brother phoned me with the news. After I arrived, we decide to call 911. They promptly arrived and did a great job of persuading my stubborn dad that he needed to go to the Emergency Room.

I don’t know the last time I have been in a place as stressful as that ER. Everyone in the unit was required to wear a mask. I always travel with one in my pocket. My father was put on a bed in the hallway because there were no empty rooms. I was sitting in a chair near the end of his bed. A nursing aide stood next to me holding a blanket. Housekeeping staff showed up and took it from her. As they took it the aide said, “Possible Covid.” I heard the word Covid, over and over that night. It was really adding to my stress. More stressful was the guy who kept parking his wheelchair next to the chair I was sitting in. He was probably in his early seventies. He wore a flannel shirt and a camouflage NRA ball cap. He had a scraggly sparse gray beard and a gray pony tail hanging out the back of his cap. He did not have a mask on. A nurse handed him a mask and told him to put it on. He held up two he already had. He explained that both security guards had had already given him masks. He said the nurse could shove it because he wasn’t wearing any damn mask. He kept wheeling around the place getting in the way of nurses and constantly arriving ambulance crews. A nurse told him that he was in the way. He loudly yelled, “I don’t give a shit.” He then again parked next to me. It was decided that something needed to be done with him. He was sent to the bathroom to fill a cup for a urine specimen. He rolled out of the bathroom proclaiming, “Who wanted this cup of piss?” They soon gave him some antibiotics, explained how to use them and away he rolled out the door.

A 35 year-old guy entered the emergency room next. He had washed down a large dose of his depression meds with a huge amount of wine. A doctor asked him if he drinks often. He said only at Pittsburgh Steeler and Pens games. A social worker came to talk to him. She suggested a rehab place for him and was describing it. It all sounded good to him until she hit the last detail. That was the fact that it was a non-smoking environment. He claimed that was a deal breaker. She asked if he smoked tobacco. He replied, “Among other things.” His aunt had come in with him and was now shaking her head. He asked her why his mother had not brought him in. The aunt replied, ‘She didn’t think you’d want her here and frankly she is tired of this.”

My dad threw up three times and had to go to the bathroom three times. The nurses were patient with him and were doing their best. I asked a nurse if the ER was always this insane. She replied, ‘Sometimes it’s worse.” She also explained that only three nurses were in the unit for the night.

At the nurse’s station the phone kept ringing. A nurse was shaking her head after one call. She told another nurse, “A caller wanted to know if she should come in with pink eye. Pink eye, dang. Would you want to venture into a Covid pandemic area with something as minor as pink eye?” The other nurse laughed and quickly ran to one of the rooms because a buzzer was going off. There are several rooms in the ER and all have a glass sliding door on them.

An ambulance crew now brought in a middle-age woman on a stretcher. She had a ring on every finger, a nose ring and several earrings in each ear. She looked like a walking jewelry box. She had fallen and they were taking her for a head ex-ray. They told her they had to remove her earrings and recent nose ring. They took out the earrings but she refused to take out the nose ring. Her husband was pleading with her. Another nurse with a diamond in her nose came over. She told the woman she recently got her nose jewelry also. She took it out and put it back in. This convinced the jewelry box woman to take her own out.

The ambulance team brought in a woman screaming for help. She claimed her gall bladder was attacking her. A nurse was trying to calm her but she screamed for twenty minutes. She then climbed off the stretcher and calmly stood at the desk. She then told a sitting nurse, “I’m not going to be here all night.” Sitting nearby I wanted to tell her I had already been there six hours.

The ambulance crews tried to hang around and help the nurses. Most could only help for ten minutes or so until another 911 call. I was feeling very sorry for the nursing staff that was on a twelve hour shift. The midnight nurse crew had just arrived. They were also understaffed and hurrying about. A nurse was on the phone trying to get a couple of patients transferred to other area hospitals. She was told they were all packed and no beds were available. At 12:30 AM a nurse told me I might as well leave as they would keep my father in the hall until a bed opened up. I felt I was in the way as the ambulance crews were back to full assembly line mode. I left very stressed out and really grateful for the wonderful job the nurses and ambulance crews were doing. As I exited the ER door a car quickly pulled up outside the doors. A man and woman got out screaming and fighting angrily with each other. The midnight shift was in for another wild ride. I arrived home exhausted showered and went to bed.

The next morning I went back to the hospital and dad was in a room with another patient. He is undergoing further testing. On my ride home I tuned into KDKA a Pittsburgh talk radio station. Callers were arguing with the host. Caller after caller stated that hospitals are empty as Covid is a hoax, that Covid was a “plandemic” by the Democrats, or that vaccines don’t work.

I just wish that one of those idiot callers would have experienced the seven hours I just spent in a hospital ER. Better yet, I wish they had to do one of the nurse’s twelve hour shifts. I only wrote about a small percent of the madness I saw in that ER. Bless these healthcare workers who are up against Covid deniers on top of the daily madness they face. Thank God for these heroes.  

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Who’s Looney Tunes?

I was on my way to our townships’ recycling center, which is behind the volunteer fire department. That is when I first spotted two flags, at a home next to the station. One was a Trump flag and one had a photo of President Biden. The Biden photo was in the middle of a Looney Tunes’ logo.

I really hadn’t seen much about President Biden that I thought was looney. I felt like stopping and asking the homeowner what he thought was looney about President Biden. I’m sure that would be a two minute conversation. I would have had to respond with all the things I thought were; bizarre, erratic, weird and looney about President Trump. Reciting that list about Trump would have taken me hours. I just haven’t had the time to stop and have that long conversation.

Let me just list a number of things about Trump’s looney behavior. During a rally he asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email account. Trump said that Crimeans were happy to be ruled by Russia. He was also unaware that the Ukraine had been invaded by Russia. His lack of what was going on in the world should have been enough to disqualify him as a candidate.

Trump insulted veterans when he said that he had no respect for veterans like John McCain because he was captured. That should have been enough to disqualify him as a candidate. I just realized that the arthritis in my hand is not going to let me type that long list of idiot things Trump has done.

          I’ll just leave you with this list to look over: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/davidmack/dumb-trump-moments

 I didn’t even get into Trump’s racism. I’ll let Trump speak to that, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes… Those are the only kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else…Besides that, I tell you something else. I think that’s guy’s lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks,” John O’Donnell, a former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump saying to him in his 1991 book. In May 1997, Trump was asked about his comment during an interview with Playboy, and he confirmed that “the stuff” O’Donnell wrote about him were “probably true.”

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Climate Change is Something to Fear but I Fear Human Nature

The GW Bush Administration was sure Iraq

had weapons of mass destruction.

That’s because they had a smoking gun,

Ronnie Reagan’s sales receipts.

The U.S. has a history of recipes,

for cooking up weapons of mass destructions.

In 1862, Richard Jordan Gatling

 invented the Gatling Gun

rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat

and just like that

200 deadly rounds in a minute.

But, hold on a minute,

that didn’t cause enough death and destruction,

so a new model arrived firing 400 rounds a minute.

In the US that meant a small army could effectively murder

 large numbers of Native Americans or striking workers.

Our other Imperialist ally, the British

used them in Africa, to slaughter Zulus.

Mr. Gattling naively hoped that the tremendous power

of his new weapon would discourage large scale battles

and show all the nations the folly of war.

How little such inventors understand mankind.

Instead, it inspired automatic machine guns to be created,

that were even more effective devastating utensils.

World War I ended with 1.3 million casualties caused

by chemical weapons, including 90,000 fatalities.

A study of patients 25 years after World War I

 indicated that 122 genes were significantly mutated

in the lungs and airways of mustard gas victims.

The United States detonated two nuclear weapons

over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

during World War II on August 6th and 9th in 1945.

The two weapons killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people.

The noise from these two weapons exploding,

was 240-280 decibels, which is loud enough to kill all by itself.

The moral and ethical implications of nuclear weapons

and the deaths caused to civilians gave pause

as nations considered the destruction of the human race.

The pause was quickly over and the arms race was on.

Every country wanted a monopoly on violence.

Drones are the latest technology of impersonal mass murder.

In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen

US drones have killed up to 12,000 people,

including as many as 1,700 civilians – 400 of them children.

These numbers don’t include drone killings in Iraq and Libya. 

Over the last few years we don’t know

how many have been killed by drones.

That is because President Donald Trump

reversed an Obama-era requirement that the US military

 release annual reports of civilians killed,

 in airstrikes, both manned and unmanned.

No more hand to hand personal combat.

Destruction in modern war takes place

 miles and miles away

 from the source of the destruction,

 the human being who has caused it.

The superior military force is measured

by who can cause the most destruction.

War has become second nature to humans.

It is high time for mankind to realize

that real victories should better human life not destroy it.

“The ever more sophisticated weapons piling up in the arsenals of the wealthiest and the mightiest can kill the illiterate, the ill, the poor and the hungry, but they cannot kill ignorance, illness, poverty or hunger.” ― Fidel Castro

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Green Jobs

Labor Day had me thinking about things that have been devastating to the working-class in this country. One is union busting and the demise of unions. Along with that demise is the loss of a voice in the workplace and safety concerns. Without unions companies have been able to use temp workers or they have contracted out for labor. I wondered if the use of these kinds of workers had led to more deaths and injuries. That is when I found this article about the use of contracted out coal miners in Illinois: https://inthesetimes.com/article/contracted-coal-miners-illinois-injury-danger

This article points out a dangerous issue that unions and others in the labor movement need to address. I’m hoping that in the near future that the labor movement and the environmental movement can be allies. With that alliance I think we could create safer greener jobs.

I want to offer up this a poem, I wrote awhile back in honor of coal miners:

 Body Snatchers

An Unsolved Crime

Working in the coal mines

was the only work available.

Joe started there as a young man,

he died at middle age

as an old man.

He left his family next to nothing

because next to nothing

was what he was paid.

What he got out of the mine

 was arthritis      

from the dampness,

a curved spine

from the low ceilings,

blindness from the darkness,

deafness from the drills

and black lungs

from the dust.

Every day he left work

a company guard checked

his lunch bucket and thermos.

As if he was the one

who was the thief.

“The world is changed by your example not by your opinion.” ~ Paul Coelho

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In the Garden of Eden 2.0

Wild animals always flee

when man approaches.

It’s a learned statement about

our interactions with them.

They long ago realized man is an enemy.

Man’s worst enemy is also man.

That is because of his ignorance of this world.

Warning, warning universe beware

because man is intent on exploring other worlds.

Thus putting the entire universe in peril.

If this Earth had legs to stand on

it would  have quickly bolted

 at the first site of man.

If man-kind would have put as much

 time and effort and money

into humanity and social justice

as they have put into theology

and if every house of worship

had  instead been a school of higher learning

that taught us the things of real value in life,

we’d already  be living in a heavenly paradise.

It’s time to quit thinking about how we got here

and to start thinking about what we are going to do

to make life the best it can be here,

in our far too short stay on this planet.

We need to treat each other like brothers and sisters

and realize that co-operation is the orbit

that will influence change for the better.

Gravity is the force that grounds us to this Earth.

I’d like to think there is also another gravity

and it pushes down from above

so that we stay firmly on a course

centered between both destined to realize

that love makes the world go round.

If we don’t work for that better planet,

know that the powers that be

have the recipe for soylent green.

“If I were a tree I’d have no reason to love a human.” ~ Maggie Stiefvater

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Community Hands

The barber was able to provide for his family,

even during the long haired trend of the sixties.

He helped others in his trade better provide

for their families by being instrumental,

in organizing the valley’s first barber’s union.

He cut generations of the same family’s hair.

There were boy’s first haircuts,

while they cried and screamed

in a booster seat in the barber chair.

There were elderly men living out their

“Golden years” in a nursing home.

At families’ requests he would go

to the area’s funeral homes

to cut a customer’s hair one last time.

These are the ways he was able

to give back to the local community.

Being a small business owner

with no pension or healthcare,

he worked as a barber for over fifty years.

He was near eighty when he retired. 

After all those years of holding vibrating clippers,

he was left with a twisted arthritic hand,

which shows the record of his achievements.

In the end, if God rewards us by our scars,

the working-class people of this world

will have a VIP entrance through the pearly gates.

John Lennon: “A Working Class Hero” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMewtlmkV6c

“The most important word in the language of the working class is “solidarity.” ~ Harry Bridges

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Moving On From an Election

Mrs. Elecpencil and I just got back from Asheville, North Carolina. We went there to attend our daughter’s wedding. It was a small beautiful event. It took place at a cabin she rented on top of a mountain. We stayed at a stone cottage Airbnb in Clyde, North Carolina. Clyde is in Haywood County a mountainous region in western North Carolina. It is a conservative area where Trump won by almost 30 percentage points. I have to say that in driving around Haywood County I only saw only one Trump sign in a yard. It was at a beat-up trailer that also had a huge Trump flag. I’d say most of his supporters seem to have moved on. That is not the case here in NE Ohio and NW Pennsylvania. I drove over to my 90 year-old dad’s house in nearby Pennsylvania yesterday. In that 11 mile trip, I saw Trump signs or flags in a dozen yards. Eight of those were here in Ohio.

I find it odd that a conservative area like Haywood County North Carolina moved on from the election. Yet, a moderate area like Trumbull County Ohio, Mahoning County, Ohio and Mercer County Pennsylvania still has folks who haven’t got over Trump’s defeat for president.

Conservative Haywood County, North Carolina folks amazed me, as conservatives, moderates and liberals were coming together on an issue in their county. The cause was to fight a proposal to build a new jail. The sheriff and county commissioners were pushing for a jail which would cost  $16.5 in construction costs. Down Home North Carolina, a grassroots organization is leading the fight to stop the jail from being built. Down Home has become respected by local citizens because they have been helping the poor and working-class since 2017. 86% of the people incarcerated in Haywood County suffer from substance abuse. 48% have post-traumatic stress and a third have other mental disorders.

        Haywood County, like our area has suffered the loss of manufacturing jobs and rising substance use over the last few decades. Haywood has more emergency room visits for opioid overdoses than any county in North Carolina. Most people in Haywood County have friends or family with drug or mental health issues. That has helped Down Home to get people to take a new look at locking up drug addicts and the mentally ill. People in Haywood County, have come to realize incarceration is an expensive solution and does more harm than good for those incarcerated with drug and mental health issues.

Jails are crowded in Haywood County because the county doesn’t have enough mental health facilities. Between 2016 and 2020 mental health organizations in the western part of North Carolina have seen cuts of $52 million in budget funding. Down Home has presented a budget of $3.4 million for facilities and services to provide help for people with mental health and substance abuse issues. That is far less than the $16.5 million for a new jail.

        Down Home and opponents to the jail face a tough battle. Especially, since the sheriff and county commissioners are busy promoting a bond issue for the jail. I’m not sure how the fight will end but there are lessons to learn from fights like this. That being, that educating people on an issue, finding common ground and most importantly, saving taxpayers money can unite people of different political backgrounds.

It’s time to move on from the last presidential election. The things that affect most people are local issues. It’s time to concentrate and come together on those issues.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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Wishing This Was a Pandemic Epilogue

No chance of maxing out your fun meter

during this over year long pandemic.

Unless you want to be like a local covidiot,

I saw proudly posting an event on Facebook.

A video showed a nearby happening at a winery.

A local band played a really bad cover version

of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk Going to Funk You Up.”

The dance floor was packed elbow to ahole.

None of the dancers were wearing a mask.

They were all in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Which proves stupidity comes in all ages.

They partied like they don’t want the pandemic

to ever come to an end in their lifetime.

It’s like they want Covid to become a chronic

cause of death like heart disease or cancer.

Super spreader events like this

are going to hold us all hostage.

It’s toxic selfishness that will “F us all up.”

I see some anti-maskers who want others

to also not wear their masks.

If they think masks make no difference,

why do they care that others wear them?

It’s one thing to commit suicide,

it’s another thing to kill innocent bystanders.

These anti-vaxxers don’t want the gubbmint

atellin’ them what they ought to do.

They think they can just use a gun

to shoot the corona virus away.

All the vaccinated hypocritical hosts at FOX News,

are telling viewers to rebel and not get the vaccine.

The hosts tell lie after lie denying the virus.

When caught in lies they just resort to

more spin and double down lie sauce.

It helps ferment chaos, fear and anger in the base.

Doctors and scientists labored

to create a vaccine to fight Covid.

Covidiots would rather believe social media memes

claiming the virus is a hoax by the Deep State.

An anti-vaxxer that I know

told me that you just can’t trust

a vaccine that was made that quick.

This same guy has zero patience,

and always pays extra for overnight shipping.

Podcaster Joe Rogan says don’t get vaccinated.

I wouldn’t take medical advice from

the Fear Factor TV show host,

who had people eat cockroaches

and swim in fish guts and blood.

I understand that it’s hard to trust healthcare,

when it has a profit motivation.

The whole concept of a for-profit healthcare industry

should be abhorrent to any decent, caring human.

Ignorance is our most dangerous virus.

They need to come up with a vaccine for stupid.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to re-enter the world.

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What’s Love Got to Do with It?

This was written by my daughter-in-law, Ljubica. I found it very worth sharing.

On Love, Violence and Yugoslavia

Ljubica & Adam

When your name is Ljubica, most introductory conversations will follow a standard script. As soon as I say, “Hi, I’m Ljubica,” someone will ask about my heritage. When I say I was born in Macedonia, they’ll ask, “What language do they speak there?” and I’ll say, “Macedonian!” They’ll say, “Oh sure, duh!” and ask what my name means. My parents, Vesna & Blagoj, having lived through very similar interactions, armed me with an answer before I’d even entered elementary: Ljubica means love to all people. 

It’s interesting how a name works when you’re younger. You have to form a relationship to your own name, while you’re still learning about yourself. Repeating “love to all people,” it seemed like my Socialist, Yugoslav parents had given me an imperative through my name. And like all things repeated often enough, and all words given to you by someone wiser, it became a bit of a mantra.

My relationship to “Ljubica,” to love, was colored by my parents’ political values. They sent me to a Catholic elementary school despite being atheists, as many immigrants do, because public education in America is criminally underfunded. As a young atheist at that school, my feeling about the religious people around me was never that they were stupid or gulible. I felt by being religious, by having faith in a higher power to take care of things, they were missing out on the type of love for all mankind that I believed in. I thought being an atheist or Socialist meant we have to take care of each other. We have to limit suffering for all people, because we only have each other, and we only have this life. 

When I was a little older, the Kosovo war was on TV. My parents (and every other Macedonian I knew) were glued to the footage. We couldn’t look away from the news about how, once again, Yugoslavia was being torn apart. When I asked my parents what was happening, my dad told me something nice: You have to understand, in Yugoslavia, we’re all like brothers. And sometimes when families fight, we can hurt each other more than anyone else can hurt us, but that’s because we love each other. Even if we break up, we’ll always be a family, and we’ll always love each other like family. 

As an adult, I know now that’s not the most precise explanation, but his simpler explanation is still effective: it gives me clarity, an emotional truth to hold onto, when I think about the complexities of the breakup. It’s not a less true explanation, and if I forget about it – if I think that this violence was somehow inevitable, instead of a choice made cynically by people who could’ve remained brothers – then the horrors of history are less clear in their horror. Maybe it captures more of the unconscious truth of the situation, which would be difficult to explain in prose, and it’s been useful to me for a long time.

When I was a little older, we saw the Iraq War on TV. I saw grandmas who looked like babas I knew, and like the ones I’d seen on TV in Yugoslavia — my Slavic babas wore head-scarves tied in the same style, even though we have different faiths and ethnicities. These Iraqi grandmas looked like family, and the love and pain I felt for the people of Yugoslavia transferred to the Iraqi people. I hated the Iraq War and the Bush administration that started it. I protested and volunteered for Kerry at a time when I was too young to vote, with a hope that I could help end the pain I saw in the faces of the Iraqi babas. All of my earliest political actions were driven by love for my brothers and babas, and a deep desire to see them flourish instead of suffer. 

As a Socialist, my politics are rooted in love, in a universal love to all people. When Bernie began running in 2015, I was excited and invigorated to suddenly see more Americans identify as Socialist and become interested in left-wing politics. I started to seek them out online, but the Socialism of online was so aesthetically and emotionally different from the brotherly love of my parents & Yugoslavia. Online, Socialism took on the characteristics of an American subculture, with in-jokes, trivia, and the cynical, knowing attitude that all nerds use to irritate each other and mock outsiders. Aesthetically, it was a subculture drawn to spectacle and gore, juxtaposing guillotines with ironic cuteness. Practically, it was inclined to in-fighting and factionalism already. When it was united, it was usually in mockery or cynicism.

Fast forward a few years, and not much has changed. After Bernie lost the nomination for a second time, if anything, the online Socialist discourse got even more cynical. Bad faith readings, factionalism, and cancellations continued and continue to this day. Slightly different patterns of left-wing media consumption produce warring factions. Tenuous groups of commentators and fandoms define themselves in opposition to other groups of left-wing media consumers, who said or thought something that wasn’t the best or most correct thing to say. Among all the groups, the idea that politics is a game of power – a zero-sum struggle over who gets what – seems to be setting in.

In Yugoslavia, there were two crucial periods of violence: one at the beginning, when the nation forged itself through violent struggle in the midst of a world war, and one at the end, when violence tore the country apart.

In the beginning, we united our different regional identities in a common project, first to survive and then to live. Partisans formed volunteer brigades, fighting and dying together against fascists and genocidal violence, until they won. But the violence of the Partisans was exceptional — it was literally a state of exception, when an untenable political order had already started to break. Up to that point, the Partisans and the communities they came from had lived fractured under different imperial regimes. After that exceptional moment of violence was over, they remained united and began a new project. Monuments were built and schools were named to honor the fallen heroes — but always to center their sacrifice and the importance of fidelity to the project they ushered in. When I was little, my baba would take me around to monuments and teach me about the various heroes. We would honor their sacrifice by cleaning the monuments, my baba washing them with a plastic water bottle she’d brought along, and I with my little broom would sweep away leaves and dust, the same way we would when we visited my great-grandparents’ graves. To aestheticize violence and guillotines takes them out of the contexts where they made sense. It cynically normalizes them, as if conflict is something to celebrate, and not a unique moment where you sacrifice for others.

The end of Yugoslavia was also a violent period, but for a different reason: people (particularly those in power) acted cynically, out of a belief that violence was inevitable and necessary — or worse, they saw it as a strategic choice in pursuit of their own power and glory. Now, especially in the West, we talk about that period of violence as if it were normal. It’s discussed as if it were inevitable, and the brotherly union under Tito was a temporary dream masking a deeper, cynical reality

But that’s not true. During WWII, there were also Nationalist groups who fought, who felt they were fighting for “their people.” But those Nationalists ended up in collaboration with the Nazis to exterminate their neighbors. The Partisans – fighting out of solidarity, not the self-interest of an ethnic identity – forged a new “the people” out of this common struggle. And when the war was over, the people began to self-determine politically, outside of imperial borders, together. They continued in this solidaristic love to form a united state, and then as Socialists, they began to self-direct their own means of production.

As it turns out, the violence when they came together was momentary, but their participation in it stemmed from a universal(izing) love — it was a love of the people for whom they fought and who they fought with. A Macedonian Partisan named Stiv Naumov was a local fortunate son, and he’s a hero of my city to this day. He was born relatively wealthy, and he studied abroad. When he saw that even the poor people where he studied were better off than the poor back home, he became a Communist. He fought and gave his life as a Partisan, even though he had been personally wealthy and comfortable under the existing order. After the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was founded, people like my grandparents maintained fidelity to the revolutionary beginnings of the country — my grandparents built the refrigerator factory where they would work for the rest of their lives, dedicated it to Stiv Naumov, and held celebrations every year to honor both his memory and their own hard work. (This is how you never allow yourself to forget that moment of exceptional violence, without glorifying death.)

Stiv Naumov didn’t side with his own narrow self-interest. And we should be careful as we fight capitalism not to imply it’s natural to do so — we should say no, if anything is natural, love is natural! I want to convince every Socialist that it’s important to keep love at the center of our politics, but I know immediately that many will be turned off by the concept. I know how people will excuse themselves from love: They’ll say politics is about power, and we need to wield it; we must ruthlessly attack systems that oppress; we have wealthy, powerful enemies, and we need to create a better world as soon as possible. 

Yes! To all of that, yes — but how do we seize and use power? How do we take it away from the wealthy, connected few, and occupy it together? Solidarity! Americans associate love with a position of weakness, because it implies dependence on another. In fact, we pathologize couples who rely on each other as “co-dependent.” We don’t imagine that the strong, rational, radically self-reliant individuals we’re supposed to become under capitalism should ever be in such a position.

It’s no surprise that both romantic gestures and unions have degenerated in America. These muscles have atrophied from underuse in our hyper-individualistic, hyper-capitalist environment. Loving work, commodities or “self-care” – things that optimize you for market valuation – is safe, not a vulnerability or a risk.

To see what a modern gesture of love looks like, we can look to Youtube, which hosts seemingly millions of proposal videos. Over and over again, we see men make ostentatious, public displays. Instead of a private intimacy between two people, love becomes the relation between you and an audience, like a commodity you produce and ask the market to value. It’s an attempt to make love safe by taking it out of its proper one-on-one exchange, by neutralizing the intimate risk when you ask the person you love if they love you back. How could a person say no in front of a whole football stadium?

Similarly, when we post online, we perform our politics for an imagined audience. Many of us want to label ourselves Leftist in our profiles and feeds for the world to see, so if someone we’ve brought into our space says something that might be problematic – maybe it’s just ambiguous, but we worry it might be – then we feel a need to call (or kick) them out. In the absence of love & solidarity, we’re performing for an audience, so our politics become about self-definition. And our relation to others in turn is as their audience, a relation of consumption. We feel we should be vigilant, when it comes to our process of self-definition — we have to police the bounds of our consumption, when that’s our connection to the world. 

If we read people in bad faith, we can reduce our exposure. We can reduce our risk of being let down or challenged by others, but we also reduce our chance for connection. Factionalism is a problem for the American left only where there’s a lack of love — or more precisely, an unwillingness to acknowledge that we are all already dependent on one another. It’s much safer, psychically, to be cynical. It’s easier to build your own atomized, idiosyncratic ideas about what you would do if you were AOC, than it is to risk all that’s entailed in joining a collective project. Likewise, it’s easier to engineer the most epic proposal than it is to work through the doubts and difficulties relationships leave you vulnerable to.

Love and risk go hand in hand. In the instability of life under capitalism, we learn a desire to eliminate risk. But when we think of love, we should know that depending on another person is not an inherently weak position. And when it comes to politics, we should know building a connection with others does not leave you weaker — turning your politics into a process of cynical self-definition does. Is not the cynic someone who tries to protect against exposure so drastically that they armor themselves, trying to forget their soft middle, while shouting to anyone who will listen, “I knew it all along! I am impenetrable!” 

Love through solidarity is how we work together, how we come to build confidence in one another and move things forward. Love (in the agape, brotherly sense) will allow for people, including ourselves, to make mistakes in the service of a common project. The relationship of love and solidarity, unlike the individual/audience dynamic of the marketplace, will allow us to say and even do the wrong things sometimes, if afterwards we can reaffirm our commitment to the relationship sincerely, and be accepted by those we’ve hurt. Forgiveness follows from love and is necessary for all relationships.

Romantic relationships can seem threatening, because they require us daily to subordinate ourselves to another — to their needs, desires, points of view, etc. After all, in our movies, churches, and diaries we imagine the perfect marriage as “two becoming one.” There’s a horror in that vision of what “union” is supposed to be. We can easily imagine there will be a stronger and a weaker partner, and the smaller one will be absorbed, blob-like, into the other. Politically, America has the same nightmare of a grey, Soviet society where we all have to wear the same rags, share a communal toothbrush, and become simple extensions of the will of Mao. We would merge into a single mass, moving together in a smooth mess of skin and repression.

But as Alain Badiou reminds us, in In Praise of Love, we can never internalize another, not even in love. “Love is not simply about two people meeting and their inward-looking relationship: it is a construction, a life that is being made, no longer from the perspective of One but from the perspective of Two.” Our love, as we make it, is something that exists outside of us as well as in. We have a relationship to it – it is, after all, our mutual relationship with an other – but it only works because we retain and respect autonomy, and we choose to continue creating it together.

Love is already inscribed in every act of solidarity. Solidarity gives us strength because it requires us to trust and need others in the struggle with us. Other people will be the means of our liberation, and we of theirs. None of us can do this alone, and for that reason when we act together, we do not “become one” blob-like mass, even though liberal and conservative ideology fear that we do. (In the particularly virulent individualism of American conservatives, the imagined horror of the Black Lives Matter “riots” is that Antifa and/or George Soros pulled the puppet strings of the brainless masses and got them to “destroy their own neighborhoods.”)

In reality there are massive individual benefits, personal as well as social, in building this perspective of Two, in mutually constructing love or a political movement. Both carry much the same risks — you might be let down, made uncomfortable, or even be betrayed. But when you act for another person, to meet their needs or further their desires, you will gain confidence in yourself, because they gain confidence in you. Then when they act for you, the virtuous cycle continues. 

Badiou goes on to say that love (the perspective of Two) is crucial, because, “It is an individual experience of potential universality.” This, I believe, is the dimension that opens up to us when we act in solidarity: a perspective of difference with universal implications. That’s why, to fight the cynicism that leaves us blind to our already existing interdependence, to fight the suspicions that separate and weaken us, we need to keep love at the center of our politics. 

No guarantee will ever be possible. There is no way to neutralize risk and produce a version of your love (or revolution) that won’t fail – one that any rational individual would choose in the marketplace – because this is not a process of selling yourself to others. Like romantic love, if you want to make a better world, you have to take an actual leap of faith with another!

Badiou talks about love as a tenacious adventure. He calls love an “event,” which in his own philosophical language is a phenomenon that feels impossible until it happens, and then the world, even history is re-shaped around it — like two people falling in love by chance, and then feeling they were “meant” for each other. But for the event of love to continue, the lovers cannot revel in the moment of their initial meeting. It must be an on-going construction.

The event of love is not a meet-cute, where you trip over your perfect match. We would dissolve the gravity of the event, if we replace that feeling of impossibility with a story of fate, to make it feel guaranteed to happen no matter what. We might like to imagine it was destined, but for a radical, life-changing event to happen, there can be no guarantee ahead of time that it will — or else it would not be radical and life-changing! “Fate” loses its magic, when you realize that it’s just a synonym for necessary.

Just as we’ve replaced intimate gestures of love with spectacle in America, for many on the left and particularly those online, we’ve chosen to fetishize revolution. (Like money, it represents and hides social relations, until we begin to desire money itself.) We want it to be fate, to be inevitable. We want to experience that one magical moment that will recreate the world and reconfigure History around us — and we want it to be guaranteed, instead of an event that we have to keep making happen together.

The online left reminds me of having Hugh-a-Thons with my friends in middle school. A Hugh-a-Thon, of course, is a sleepover where you marathon Hugh Grant movies and talk about boys. Lots of junk food is involved; it’s very fun. But those nights can limit your imagination to the end of the movie. They leave you dreaming about fabulous meet-cutes with the perfect match. Once you get past some hijinks caused by his charming, foppish inability to properly communicate his feelings, getting to the altar will be inevitable. The promise of the meet-cute will be fulfilled. Of course, most of us are hoping to live past the wedding night!

So we have to ask ourselves, actually, what does happen after the libidinally charged, highly anticipated wedding night? What’s after the honeymoon? We want that magical moment of revolution. But if we all make our feelings known and flood the streets tomorrow, is that what we would have? What happens the next day? Would that moment itself birth a new, collective life? The answer – the only answer – is that we must construct love and solidarity every day. In the weeks, years, and decades after a night of revolution, solidarity will carry us through.

Solidarity in movement building is solidarity for a new world. It will have to be a tenacious adventure, or else like Yugoslavia, all of our love and sacrifice will be lost in a spectacular explosion of self-identification and cynicism.

“He who once became aware of the power of solidarity and who breathed the air of freedom will not be crushed.” – Lech Walesa

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Virus Among Us

Planet of the sick and dying.

USA land of the sick and dying

Empty roads have evolved into

Roads with constant auto accidents

It’s as if drivers are on suicide missions

People not wearing seatbelts

Thrown from vehicles and killed

Those in the lockdown who haven’t

Locked their car’s seatbelts

In decades don’t care about their own lives

They also don’t care about other’s lives.

As they are also non-mask wearers

In this the age of the corona plague

Those refusing to wear masks

Will eventually make us all have to don

Hazmat suits just to leave the house

All because wearing a mask was politicized

By a president who said the virus would

Pack up and leave us by early spring

As if it were one more immigrant he could ban,

Cage or build a wall to keep out of the country

He, later much too late states

“Nasty horrible” virus “will probably

 Unfortunately get worse before it gets better.”

He is sadly, finally right about one thing

Now, infection surges, finally combated

 By various new made vaccines

The virus fights back with new strains.

Each much worse than the last.

The virus was able to sneak up on us

As many were embracing being anti-science

These anti-science people are refusing vaccines

For a virus they say is a myth

Their ignorance is a virus

That welcomes Armageddon

Religious people say they don’t need

To social distance or wear a mask

Because their messiah is looking after them

News flash, the messiah is wisely in quarantine

The rich have gotten richer during the pandemic

For the rest of us, every inequity

In our economy has multiplied

The corona virus has heightened homelessness.

Destroyed human connections, our health,

Livelihoods, Increased loneliness, and made us

All fearful of our fellow man

I fear some of these impacts will be long-lasting.

No bars, no theatres, no concerts

Pleasure world is closed for now.

Now replaced with zoom and a digital community

Will things get worse?

Will these be the good old days?

Can we find optimism in these times?

In an ocean of solitude and despair

We are drifting in our own life rafts.

Can we lash them all together

Decide to work in solidarity and end up

 On the island paradise of our dreams?

Be safe, be kind.

Black Uhuru: “Solidarity” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9OjPQMnY7c

“The environment is changing and so are the viruses.”
― Steven Magee

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