I will not look away.

I’m really trying to stay off Twitter, Facebook & news sites until I get to work late on November 4. It’s dipping my brain in pure stress for no gain. Nothing I read can affect my vote. I voted last week. Nothing I see will make me think better or worse of anyone supporting candidates whose explicit political goal is to make me an un-person.

(I am willing to discuss incendiary topics calmly and rationally. Honestly, when it comes to support of Trump, I have QUESTIONS. But the chances of online or on-screen hyperbole and insult changing my mind? Not high.)

There’s no reason to watch the process unfold from here to the finish.

But I keep peeking, like a little kid watching a scary movie with her hands over her eyes. it’s like watching a really big, dangerous weather front move in. Like a derecho, or a sandstorm, or a blizzard. The disaster is so huge it’s visible from far off, so huge it seems motionless until you look away, and then BAM it’s crept up on you, the horror is there, it’s blowing down your walls, toppling your castle, burying you alive.

The socio-political scene in the United States is as bad as it’s ever been in my lifetime, and I don’t expect it to get better. I mean that not in a “I don’t expect it to get better soon,” kind of way, but in a fundamental “something big is gonna break and a lot more blood will be spilled before things improve” kind of way.

I can’t say, “before blood is spilled,” because that’s already happened. It’s been happening for as long as this country has existed. And no, I don’t expect the country to erupt in flaming chaos overnight everywhere no matter who wins.

In fact what worries me most is not that the current outbreaks of violence are organized or that they’re extremist right OR extremist left. What’s terrifying is that much of the violence is NOT extremist. It’s violence BY the state, normalized, supported and encouraged by vocal supporters OF the state. Who vote.

All the false equivalencies and “both sides-ism” being thrown around are signs that this time, things are a little different. It pains me to see so many intelligent people I know so focused on the basketball game of “regular politics” that they are failing to see the great big gorilla waltzing through the game while people on the sidelines loot the box office and kill the staff.

Sorry. That analogy kinda got away from me. ANYway.

To all my acquaintances who fear we are doing a replay of Russia in 1917, that if Democrats win majorities that they’ll be stripped of their fortunes by a leeching leftist state, dragged out of their dachas by leftist antifa, and hauled off to re-education camps if they dare to voice conservative ideas…

I submit that we are actually in a rerun of Germany in the 30’s

Hitler was elected. He was all about law and order and bringing back prosperity. To some of the people. The right people. Good, everyday, law-abiding people who believed that

I really hope I won’t be living in 1930’s Germany after this election. I hope that at least one more time, the system creaks along towards correction.

Free and open elections are one of the few things the USA got more or less right, back at the beginning. In most ways we have never lived up to the democratic ideals we hold to be self-evident. I mean, it’s right in the Declaration of Independence that only all MEN are created equal, and on top of that insult we committed the injury of engraving in our Constitution that idea not all men were, in fact, men, that some were only worth 3/5ths of others.

But we got elections more or less right in concept. (Our execution has not been good, and since 1929, it’s gotten progressively unprepresentative, but that’s not what this post is about.) Then along came television, and the internet, and now somehow we’ve managed to forget how the basic process of having a bunch of people cast ballots and then counting those ballots even WORKS, to the point where people can believe that not knowing the results instantly means the result is wrong.

FFS, THINK about it. Why do we wait until late January to inaugurate the new President if we know who it is back in early November? Sure, orderly transition and all, but 12 WEEKS just to prepare?

Nuh-uh. There’s that long delay because it took time to count ballots and declare official winners. Every. Time. There are rules about when and who and how ballot counting happens. It can’t be rushed. Now imagine how long it took to collect and collate it all before computers. How long it took to transmit those results from place to place BEFORE telecommunications.

Yeah. Elections ain’t over until they’re over, and this time, no matter who wins, it’ll just be the beginning of a long next act.

I’mma go work on a stories with protagonists who are good and gentle folk who want to do better even after they’ve been beaten down and done bad things, stories where they achieve victory through cooperation and kindness in a world where none of those things are valued.

So, yeah. See y’all on the other side of this bit of history.

Cute panda included for de-stress purposes
Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

A Monday List

In no particular order, what’s going on in my head:

  1. I’m through Late Eclipses in my reread of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, and I need to say (once again, this isn’t the first time) this author is a genius and if you love fae stories or urban fantasy or both, you really, REALLY should give this series a try. It’s immensely complex but totally accessible, and there are rich layers of story and history that build and build, but the hints and foreshadoing are all there from the very beginning. Absofucklutely amazing.
  2. My Twitter feed now provides me with a cat, a bird, a possum, a wholesome meme, and a fox every hour, plus one Aziraphale meme and a silly gender description per day. This makes the rest of my online life in 2020 more bearable.
  3. Black lives matter, trans lives matter, the United States Postal Service deserves to be freed from its obscenely punitive business restrictions, the US presidential election is 77 days away, and Covid-19 is running rampant through the American population.
  4. #3 is the reason I need my hourly fox fix and visit from BirdBot. Yeah. I should add a few more happybots to dilute the doom.
  5. 2020 is the kind of year when Iowa can essentially get hit by a hurricane and not make the headlines anywhere else.
  6. I am 1/3 of the way through the final revisions on Sharp Edge of Yesterday by chapter count, but it’s closer to halfway through by pages. (87 of ~210 pages) I should probably take a closer look at that. The shit has hit the fan (AKA I’ve hit the first rising action) and the plot complications are piling up. Good times.
  7. Our new old house is getting a shiny new skin REALLY soon now. Fingers crossed the last 3 windows to get finished & the weather holds. Then it will take 2 weeks(ish) to replace the upstairs windows, add eaves & adequate ventilation to the roof, do a redesign on the gutter & downspout system, and button it up with pretty new siding. ALSO VERY EXCITING. YES.

That’s all for now. More when I think of it. Until later!

Say buh-bye to the worn black shingles and faded yellow metal siding. Riviera Dusk vinyl coming in, with a nice Barkwood shingle roof.

Stop and Think. That’s all I’m asking.

I get angry-tired like a toddler who’s awake three hours past bedtime every time I hear comments about Covid-19 like the ones below:*

“The science keeps changing.”
“All the experts are saying something different.”
“The rules are confusing and don’t make sense.”
“So many statistics are overblown/confusing/don’t tell the whole story.”
“The whole crisis is being exaggerated for headlines.”
“It’s impossible to tell what’s true, there’s too much hype.”

No. No, no, NO. ALL WRONG.

The science is NOT changing, and it ISN’T contradictory, and it isn’t exaggerated. If you feel like the news is overwhelming, confusing, and full of hype, you are not filtering out the crap and only absorbing the facts.

There is a LOT of crap information in the world. Always has been, always will be, and it gets worse all the time. Blame conspiracy theorists, the news media, arguing scientists, the way social media works, human nature…I don’t care.

What I care about is stopping the spread of defeatism that goes along with those complaints. So, then. How to do that?

There are two systems of crap-filtering: do the critical thinking work yourself, or farm it out.

The second one is the easier and historically proven system. People routinely base their practical, everyday life choices on advice from a set of trusted, knowledge-having, opinion-dispensing friends.

Word of mouth recommendations. They’re the gold standard. Ask anyone.

In modern life, we have an alternative that also works well: find and collect a few–a VERY FEW–information sources known for rigorous fact-checking and analytical, easy-to-understand reporting, and only base your actions on them when all those sources agree. But that’s a little harder.

Either way, I strongly suggest farming out your info-filtering unless you are a wonky, information-obsessed, research specialist trained in scientific analysis, critical thinking & education. (Hi. It me.)

Prefer to do all the work yourself? Don’t trust any research you haven’t done yourself? Cool. Then DO IT & stop pretending the problem is in the information being too confusing. Here are some tips from your neighborhood wonky, information-obsessed research specialist trained in scientific analysis:

  • The words “forget everything you’ve learned” mean “ignore this, it’s bunk.”
  • The more times an article about anything medical refers to “poisons” & “toxins,” the more likely it’s bunk.
  • Never trust any data provided in an article unless it comes with citation links.
  • When provided links, follow them. If I had a dollar for every time I discovered the original study said the opposite of the what it was being used to prove…I could feed all my friends steak for dinner every night for a year. Not exaggerating even a little.
  • Never assign the same persuasive weight to opinions as to analysis.
  • Never trust an expert’s degree or fields of study alone. Dig deeper. Are they experts in the field they’re speaking on, or only something that makes them look relevant? What do they do for a living NOW? (Example: whose opinion should you believe about cloth mask effectiveness, someone w/a phD in industrial design who works for a company selling respirators, or surgeons & nurses who can confirm they’ve remained unharmed despite decades-long careers wearing masks for hours at a time?)
  • Learn the difference between expert opinion and expert analysis. (Hint: are they asking about their own research, or someone else’s? Some people are willing to pass judgement on studies they haven’t even read. investigate the expert’s background, determine how current their credentials are, etc. And again, check for “further research citations and check THOSE!)
  • Don’t dismiss a new analysis because it contradicts an older one–or because it contradicts someone else’s opinion. (Are you seeing a trend here?) In rapidly changing environments, older information becomes obsolete.
  • Example: in early March there was ZERO data to support wearing basic masks. No public studies had ever been designed, and in the medical field, the results were 50/50. Sooooo, I was all-in with Team No-Mask in March. But GUESS WHAT? That was months ago, and the Grand Uncontrolled Experiment that is Pandemic 2020 has produced a LOT of data that confirms mask use helping.

Does that list sound like a lot of work? Does it make you tired just reading it? The people shoveling bullshit information into the world on purpose count on that. They know very few people want to do all that filtering just to get a little useful, practical advice. They rely on that defeatist reaction to spread self-serving spin and outright lies. They make money off it. GAJILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Meanwhile, I look at that list of techniques and think, “Oh, look, another day ending in y, another new topic to chase back to its primary sources.”

The current mask situation as I see it stems from the collision of America’s Two Big Twitches: its fetish for personal responsibility and its distrust of intellectuals. But that’s a topic for another post, and maybe one best left to someone else.

My wonky friend recommendation, gleaned from way too much research & analysis: if you’re going out of your home to face other people, put a mask on, keep your distance, and don’t touch your face. And don’t let anyone INTO your home if they won’t abide by those safety guidelines.

Look, if you want to buy me a glass of wine, I’ll grab my soapbox and I can rant (at length) over Zoom about the nature of science, evolving bodies of knowledge, the dangers of being “fair & balanced,” and the unintended consequences of using analogies instead of facts… but I warn you, it will end up with me saying, “JFC, do the math. Wear a mask anywhere indoors and outside where you can’t keep your distance, keep your distance when you can, and follow basic hygiene. Look at the infection rates in every country that’s done those three things–and in some cases, nothing else!–and it’s fucking obvious. Do the easy things, nobody has to shut down again, everybody wins.”

Stay safe, amigos. That’s it for now. Until later.

*I grant there are worse things to declare & share than the comments up at the top of the post. There’s ACTIVE disinformation. But refuting false statements has a way of giving them more weight than they deserve, so I will NOT be indulging in an exhaustive & exhausting debunkery post. I have more Valerie & Jack scenes to write.

PS: I mean, in person I burst out laughing at people who think masks can make their blood toxic, scoff at people who feel oppressed by being asked to stand back six feet and give the Mom Stare Of Doom to anyone cold-hearted enough to say Covid won’t be serious for them, so their grandparents deserve to die from a preventable disease…but I don’t have the time to get into online arguments.

So. That’s a long explanation of why I’m not taking comments on this post.