Indoctrination Nation: Did you vote with your face?

COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER

I voted today. With a naked face. I entered the polling place ready for battle, armed with printouts of the governor’s order exempting voters from the mask mandate and the secretary of state’s election rules. I didn’t need them.

One poll worker offered my husband a mask. He said, “no, thanks.” That was that. Nobody said a word to me. Maybe I still have that lingering cop aura about me that broadcasts “don’t mess with Texas women who carry guns.” Even though I couldn’t carry it at the polling place.

I was sad to see that we were the only free breathers in the building, although we did see another older unmasked lady going in as we were leaving. As I watched the muzzled faces of the rest as they trudged up the sidewalk to enter the place where they would cast their ballots, I felt a little as if I was watching sheep being led to slaughter the voting booths.

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This post may make some people I like angry and it may make some others uncomfortable, and I apologize in advance for that. In writing it, I’m really trying to work through my thoughts and feelings and I am genuinely trying to come to an understanding as to why people do what they do while verbally advocating something different.

I have quite a few friends whom (I thought) are in agreement with me regarding the uselessness of masks as a means of preventing viral transmission. They quote the (real) science on Facebook; they refer to the many pre-Covid politicization studies that showed little efficacy; they post anti-mask-mandate memes and they “like” or “love” my social media posts and blog posts that express my opinion about the current mask hysteria.

So is it any wonder that I find myself bewildered to see that so many of them are dutifully donning face coverings to go vote — in many cases after publicly declaring their support for the candidates they believe will restore our personal freedoms and do away with the mask orders?

It’s as if their words say one thing, but their actions are saying something else entirely.

Let me clarify that I’m talking here about my fellow Texans. I know the mandates – and the consequences for violating them – vary widely from state to state. I realize that in some places there may be serious repercussions for trying to cast your vote without being masked up. The decision to engage in civil disobedience (refusing to comply with unjust laws as a form of peaceful protest) can be a difficult one. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

In Texas, Governor Abbott’s mask mandate, GA-29, specifically exempts voters from masking requirements:


The governor’s order also specifically overrides orders issued by county and city officials.

And as if that weren’t enough, the Texas secretary of state’s election advisory also states that “There is no authority under Texas law to require voters to wear face coverings when presenting to vote.”

So why are so many of my friends here in Texas, who profess to know that masks aren’t doing any good (and in fact in some cases are doing harm) — people who have repeatedly said that they hate wearing a mask, some of whom have even said they won’t go on a cruise if masks are required despite the fact that they were avid cruise addicts pre-Covid — putting on the hated symbol of submission when the law specifically says they don’t have to?

Is it because they honestly don’t know their rights? Has the media has done such a great job of brainwashing that many folks think the cops will come and fine them (or worse) if they don’t cover their faces in the voting place? That’s probably the case for a lot of them. I asked one friend who posted “I voted” whether she wore a mask and she said yes, she had to. I asked whether she tried not wearing it and she said it didn’t even occur to her.

it didn’t even occur to her. That is how insidious the indoctrination is. That’s how deeply the propaganda has permeated our society. It doesn’t even occur to most people to question it. It doesn’t even occur to the majority to find out exactly what their rights really are. After all these months of government oppression, they just assume they don’t have any, I guess.

Another good friend, who has done a ton of research into the scientific evidence regarding masks and who’s been extremely opposed to the lockdowns and mask mandates since the beginning, likewise lamented that he “had to wear one” to vote in the county where he lives. He was surprised when I sent him the documentation showing that no, he didn’t — no matter what anyone might have told him.

I’m not blaming them — at all. I think they are just two out of thousands, maybe millions, who are in the same rocky boat. The first friend even made a self-deprecating statement that “I guess I drank some of the Kool-Aid” but actually, it’s more like she had her mouth forcibly held open and the Kool-Aid poured down her throat.

And it seems that very few are immune. Thus the almost universally masking up that I saw at the poll.

Oh, we might be a minority but there are others out there like me, who are aware of their rights and exercised them at various polling places throughout the state. But they, too, generally reported back that they were the only ones there with naked faces, out of dozens of voters. I do wonder how many just don’t know they have a choice.

Is it because they do know, but are doing it to avoid a confrontation? I guess that’s the case with some of them, whom I know have researched and studied the orders just as much as I have. I know they know. But a few have commented that it’s just “not a hill they want to die on.”

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I understand that. I really do. It’s a lot easier to just “go along to get along.” Especially when it seems as if the capitulation is harmless enough. The irony is that, at least in my case, there was no confrontation. Everyone I encountered was actually very friendly. I only saw one person (a voter, not a poll worker) give me a look — but it was more surprised than hostile.

Still we’ve all seen or heard about maskless people being verbally attacked or even physically assaulted by vicious crowds in grocery stores and such. Nobody wants to be subjected to that. Putting on the mask may feel like a necessary act of self-protection, not from a virus but from angry self-appointed mask-enforcers.

And every situation is different. The decision to stand up for your rights might be different depending, for example, on whether you have your small children with you. Or it might be based on how hostile the environment is; if you can see that you’re greatly outnumbered and that some of the “maskholes” seem to be on the edge of physical violence, you may decide it’s more prudent to back down. That is and should be your choice.

Is it because they don’t want others to disapprove of them? It’s human nature to want other people to like us, or at least to not dislike us. While there are those who go out of their ways to provoke negative reactions, most of us like to be admired and will settle for being accepted.

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Even in the absence of real violence, going maskless among all the “Karens” who in the infinite wisdom of their social media-earned fake medical degrees know for certain that your doing so puts them and the rest of the world at risk of imminent death is asking to be judged — and these people judge harshly and often loudly. It’s not pleasant to be sternly lectured by people who don’t know us or anything about us, even if we don’t really give a flip what they think of us. Why spend our standing-in-the-voting-line time being yelled at when we can avoid that by simply cutting off our oxygen supply for however many minutes it takes to get in and out of the polling place?

Again, this is a personal decision. I’m not going to criticize anyone for choosing to give in to peer pressure on this. After all, “it’s only a mask” and “it’s only for a short time.” But I’ll be honest: it does make me wonder just a little about where they’ll draw the line — whether they’ll draw a line. Because it may not stop there.

Next there may be peer pressure to spy on your neighbors and turn them in for violating orders. There someday may be peer pressure to look the other way when the dissenters are loaded onto the trains to be taken away to the concentration camps. It’s happened before. Can it really happen here? Maybe not. But Germany was a civilized and enlightened society, too, and six million died because so many of their fellow citizens didn’t believe it could happen there, and didn’t want to buck the system that was telling them that everything was okay. And right now in New Zealand, all who test positive for Covid-19 are being forcibly relocated to concentration oops — quarantine camps.

Is it because they don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable or afraid? Nice people care about other people’s feelings. Never mind that many of those other people don’t care about yours, or about how uncomfortable wearing a mask makes you. While there are bullies who actually enjoy scaring other people, most of us don’t want to cause grandma to cringe and scurry away from us, or make that nervous new mom spend the night lying awake, worrying that we’ve infected her infant with a deadly disease (let’s put aside for a moment that the fatality rate for Covid in babies is almost non-existent. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that fears don’t have to be reasonable to cause extreme distress).

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If I had to guess, I’d say this is probably the number one reason that people who know masks are useless and know the law doesn’t mandate them at the polls are wearing them there anyway. Certainly it’s good to accommodate others’ needs when it makes sense to do so. But does it make sense to do so when it infringes on your own needs, comfort, and principles?

And at what point does accommodating become enabling? If you agree government edicts forcing individuals to wear a muzzle are unethical and unconstitutional, but you wear one anyway — particularly in a venue where you are not required by any law or order to do so, what message does that send? I fear that even those who voice opposition to these mandates have accepted — perhaps subconsciously — that this is indeed “the new normal.” It might be new, but it will never, ever be normal to me.

EDIT #1: Freedom has fallen

This morning, as I was wrapping up this blog post, I saw the news that a judicial activist federal judge has taken it upon himself to rule yesterday that Governor Abbott’s mask mandate exception for voters is invalid and that Texans have to wear masks while voting despite that exemption.

I’m glad I voted before this came down. I’m sad for those who may be unable to exercise their right to vote mask-free because of it. I’m frustrated that yet another step has been taken toward total oppression in my formerly free state of Texas.

There is a good reason we have three separate branches of government with different duties, responsibilities and authority. That constitutional order of things has been completely turned on its head here in Texas and elsewhere this year. Now we have both the executive and the judicial branches making laws — which should be the purview of the legislative branch.

We can’t kid ourselves any longer, folks. Freedom has fallen and it can’t get up. Not by itself. It’s going to take more than just one or two of us, here and there, standing up for what we believe in, to get it back on its feet again.

EDIT #2: And the good news is …

Maybe freedom in Texas isn’t down for the count just yet. A couple of hours after I wrote that first edit, this came down the pike:

Texas voters won’t be required to wear masks while voting after appeals court temporarily lets Abbott order stand

Earlier I had said to my husband that surely Abbott should be able to get a temporary order given that there is no time to appeal the ruling before the election. Lo and behold, it happened faster than I expected.

“A requirement that Texans wear face masks when casting ballots during the pandemic lasted less than a day after a federal appeals court halted an order that would have compelled voters to don the coverings.”

And so I’ll end this on that happy note. And now, if you haven’t yet voted, you once again have a decision to make: How will you vote? And I’m not asking which candidates’ names you plan to check off on the ballot.

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Walking the Line

COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER

File:Nik Wallenda Trains for Grand Canyon Walk at Nathan Benderson Park,  Sarasota, Fla., June 14, 2013.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Fear is just as crippling whether or not it’s valid. Just as the mainstream media and certain politicians have become sources for spreading and exacerbating exaggerated fears of Covid-19, so also have the many groups established for the purpose of debunking those fears turned into sources for spreading and exacerbating fear of government, mainstream media, and those politicians.

That doesn’t mean Covid-19 isn’t a serious health problem for certain groups. That doesn’t mean the government reaction isn’t a serious threat to our liberty and freedom. But maybe we on both sides need to consider the possibility that our particular fears are being exploited just like those of the other side.

As the Covid responses get more and more absurd and overreactive, the conspiracy theories get wilder and wilder. And it gets more and more difficult to know who and what to believe, where to draw the line.

I make no secret of the fact that I am far more worried about becoming a victim of my own government than becoming a victim of the virus. But am I letting the extremists in my camp exaggerate those fears just like my mask-wearing, home-staying, long-distancing friends are letting the MSM propaganda exaggerate theirs?

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I don’t know. I don’t want to be like the oblivious Germans who refused to believe the Jews were being shipped off to their deaths. I also don’t want to be like the good folks of Salem who let themselves be persuaded that their less conventional female neighbors were evil witches who needed to be burned at the stake.

How do we walk that thin line between denial and gullibility when the waves on both sides are trying so hard to wash us off the wall and into their particular sea of madness?

If you came here looking for a definitive answer, I’m sorry to say I don’t have one. Like so many others, I struggle every day to stay atop that wall, to walk that tightrope without falling off. Sometimes I lose my balance and almost get swept away by this or that new revelation or a heretofore unnoticed connection. But so far I’ve been able to grab the rope again, to scale the wall again, to scramble upright again — soaked to the bone and out of breath but still clinging to some semblance of sanity — for now.

I can’t help but envy those on both sides who are never plagued by doubt in this and other important issues. They are sure that they know for sure what’s true and what’s false. They are one hundred percent certain that they know what’s wrong and what’s right. Their world view consists only of angels and demons, white hats and black hats, good guys and bad guys. There are no pesky gray beret wearing, well-meaning but misguided, complicated human beings to muddy the waters.

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I envy them the simplicity of their thought processes, the utter conviction with which they go about the business of making decisions, and all the time they save by not having to listen, read, research, analyze, weigh the arguments, consider the opinions, ponder other perspectives, mull over the talking points, challenge their own biases and motivations, and think outside of the box and between the lines.

I envy them and I also pity them. Because as smart as they think they are and as confident as they might seem, I know that life is not an Apple interface. Over-simplification is not the solution. Life and its biggest issues are made up of messy, mixed up command line arguments where one mistyped character or overlooked space can render the entirety of the code completely useless.

And so I will continue to walk the fine line – occasionally staggering slightly like a not-drunk-but-a-little-buzzed driver desperate to pass the sobriety test – and I’ll keep on questioning my own assumptions as well as those of others, and I’ll turn up the color sat and turn down the contrast control so I won’t miss the shades of gray that color every issue and every individual in this 16,777,216-hue RGB world.

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Behind the Mask: An Informal Analysis

Copyright 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER

What do your face covering choices say about you?

The Covid-era mask mandates issued by so many states, counties, and/or cities, have unwittingly resulted in a fascinating study in sociology and psychology. The rules requiring them to be worn have created a unique opportunity for people to deliberately or unintentionally reveal a lot about themselves.

The mask you wear (or don’t) can provide a plethora of clues about your personality, political views, belief system, and in some cases your health status (physical and mental). Of course, like other indicators, the evidence may lead to inaccurate conclusions in some cases.

Still, it’s interesting to see the choices people make when faced with a dictatorial edict commanding them to cover their faces, and to speculate regarding what those choices may mean. If nothing else, it can alleviate some of the boredom brought on by all the government restrictions, travel bans, etc.

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To mask or not to mask

That is the question. Whether, when, and where you wear a face covering is should be a personal decision. Even most of us who are adamantly anti-mask have donned one during this time of tyranny, under duress, to be allowed to get in somewhere or do something or see someone that wouldn’t be permitted otherwise. And even those who are thoroughly bought in to the idea that masks are magical essential life-saving talismans that protect from an apocalyptic-level deadly disease presumably take theirs off sometimes — in the shower, at the very least.

Those who choose not to wear them (or only do so when absolutely necessary to satisfy the rulers who now control the minutia of our lives) have different reasons:

  • Some are physically unable to tolerate something covering their mouths and noses, are unable to breathe properly, or overly sensitive to the feeling of the cloth on their skin.
  • Some are psychologically unable to tolerate the coverings and suffer from anxiety attacks or PTSD when they have to put on a mask.
  • Some are constitutionally unable to tolerate the restriction on their personal liberty as citizens of an ostensibly free country.
  • Some see refusal to wear the mask as a political statement, an act of civil disobedience in protest of unjust laws and edicts, akin to those used in the civil rights movement to bring attention to unfair race-based rules and restrictions.

Some of us fall into more than one of those categories.

Not all mask-wearers are created equal, either. Those who faithfully put on their masks whenever they venture out in public (some of whom even wear them outdoors or alone in their cars) can fall into any of the following categories:

  • Some are rule-followers by nature. They do what they’re told, especially if they’re told by people in positions of authority. It would never occur to them to disobey. They may not like it; they may even realize it’s useless or harmful, but “rules and rules” and they feel they have no choice but to comply.
  • Some are true believers. Despite all the experts’ flip-flopping and all the contradictory evidence and the obvious illogic (such as the absurdity of requiring a mask on the one minute walk from the door of a restaurant to your table, where you can take it off while sitting 3 feet from the strangers at the table next to you for an hour and a half), they still somehow have convinced themselves that these arbitrary measures are somehow protecting them and those around them from a disease they believe is a death sentence even as the pumped-up and skewed statistics show the recovery rate is 99.5 percent.
  • Some are “Karens.” I don’t like the term, but there isn’t really one that captures the essence of this personality type (and it’s important to note that not all Karens are female). They’re not necessarily obsessive rule-followers. They break rules that they don’t like all the time, and frequently demand that rules be bent to their benefit. But they like this one, for whatever reason, and most of all, they like to micromanage everyone else’s life, to tell others what to do, and to tattle on those who don’t toe the line. These are the quintessential HOA members, never content to let their neighbors do what they want with their own property, and they’re likewise unwilling to let the rest of us do what we want in making decisions regarding our own health.
  • Some are overly cautious souls. They don’t gamble. They don’t play the stock market. They don’t take risks. Their motto is “better safe than sorry.” They’re smart enough to know that the masks might/probably don’t protect them but they wear them “just in case.” Many of them really are “doing it for others.” They’ve been brainwashed into believing that other people’s health is their responsibility, even that they’re “murderers” if they give unknowingly give the virus to someone else (or attempted murderers if that person doesn’t die).

~~~

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Some have embraced the idea of mask as fashion statement (more about that later in this post). Women (and probably some men) are making or selecting masks to coordinate with the rest of their clothing. I’ll admit it — I did it back early in this when I wanted to go out to a nice restaurant that required a mask on entry and I wanted to look a little less like an idiot. When I saw Amazon had a gaitor in the same “chain link” fabric as one of my favorite skirts, I bought it. I see gaitors as the lesser of the evils of mandatory maskdom as you can pull the thing down and it looks like you have a scarf on your neck, rather than looking as if you just emerged from the operating theater.

I’ve worn that mask exactly once. I think I’ve worn any mask at all a total of three times – before I found my wonderful “No fear” hat with a clear face shield built in. Shields aren’t accepted by the airlines — one of so many arbitrary idiotic rules to come out of our current “crisis” — but the stores around here are fine with them and I guess I won’t be flying for a while.

We all know the old caveat that appearances can be deceiving. No doubt not all the face coverings we see really represent what they appear to convey in every case. But like it or not, we judge people — especially strangers — based on appearance. When we make judgments based on facial features or skin color or height or weight or other characteristics that folks are born with, that’s inherently unfair and bound to result in erroneous assumptions. But judgements based on appearance choices, such as tattoos and piercings and including what people choose to wear, usually have at least a little more basis in fact.

Now, I’m not claiming to be able to read others’ minds and hearts, or to be the final arbiter of what a particular “mask style” means. I can only tell you the impression that you make on me when I see you wearing this or that face covering (or not wearing one at all).

Here are some of my observations and thoughts on this. Don’t take them personally. You might very well be the exception that proves the rule. And while your mask might figure into my initial reaction to you, it’s by no means the only factor nor is that first impression necessarily permanent.

Maskless marvels

I’ll say it up front: This is my tribe. You are my peeps. We are the few, the proud, who stand against the storm. When our eyes meet across the grocery store aisle or across the room in a venue where most are masked but it’s either not required or at least not enforced, we can see one another’s subtle smiles because our mouths are naked. Our noses are free to breathe in the aroma of the memory of the free world in which we used to live. And no matter who you are, I feel a flicker of kinship with you.

happy face 3d smile public domain image - FreeIMG

I’ve found that even in this troubled time of racial and political tension, masklessness brings us together. I’ve gotten that same smile from a diversity of people, ranging from black teenage girls to elderly white men. We may be rebelling for different reasons, but we’re alike in that we’re different from all those covered-up faces around us. For a moment, at least, we share a sense of comradery and revel in the power of numbers, even if that number is only two instead of just one.

In this crazy era when the Powers That Be have taken away most of our pleasures, it’s inordinately gratifying to see that slight lip curl and that tip of the head from someone else who dares defy the “new normal.”

Sometimes, though – incredible as it still feels to me – showing your face isn’t an option, at least if you want to be able to buy food or attend an important in-person event. Then what?

Agents of Shield

Clear face shields are the next best thing to going bare-faced. You can actually breathe in most of them — and you can see a person’s face through them. Thus those who wish to muzzle the populace for political and power reasons deem them “insufficient” to protect against the virus. They don’t do nearly as good a job of dehumanizing us and making us fear each other.

The airlines, in particular, have created policies disallowing face shields without masks under them. This flies (pun intended) in the face of all logic. Thin cloth masks that hide your features are allowed, even though the fabric won’t stop particles the size of the virus. Hard plastic does block those particles — but isn’t allowed.

R20 Protective Face Shields with Clear Vision, Adjustable, Lightweight and  Anti-Fog For Eye Protection. Made in The USA (2 Pack) - Walmart.com -  Walmart.com


The argument is that shields are bad because they’re open at the bottom (this, of course, is what makes them wearable for those of us who can’t breathe in a tight mask). Again, the premise makes no sense. Even if you sneezed, the shield would direct all of the droplets downward onto your clothes, not out into the air toward someone else. Unless you’re very tall and have people standing right under you — which shouldn’t be happening with reasonable social distancing — you aren’t putting anybody at risk.

Being able to see people’s faces makes an enormous difference. For me, it’s the difference between being able to accurately understand what people are saying or not. I rely more than I realized on seeing a person’s mouth move to decipher the speech; this is why I often have trouble understanding over a phone. A mask on the mouth not only takes away that visual aid, but also muffles most people’s voices. Ironically, trying to hear/understand a person with a mask makes me need to get closer to them — thus violating the social distancing guidelines (which do make sense in preventing transmission of the virus).

I’m thankful that most venues I visit have not followed the airlines’ asinine guidelines, and when I absolutely have to go to a place where face covering requirements are enforced (and I’m also thankful that enforcement seems to be getting less and less commonplace here), I can wear my hat shield. Sometimes I get funny looks from others — I guess we’re becoming conditioned to be as shocked to see a naked face in public as we would be to see a naked butt — but many, after the initial reaction, say “Oh, I like your hat!”

Hat shields and shields that come down from the forehead cover your eyes along with your nose and mouth. This can be considered more protective, but it also can make it difficult to see clearly, depending on the quality of the plastic. A solution, especially for those of us who believe know that masks are safety theater and don’t protect anyone from viruses anyway, and are especially unnecessary for those who have already had the virus and recovered, is the dental type shield that fits under your chin with the plastic sticking up in front of your mouth and nose. With it, you can still see fine and the plastic deflects any “deadly droplets” you might emit.

Seeing right through it

Closely related to the face shield is the transparent mask. When policies demand that your face covering must “fit snugly” — an obvious ploy to exclude most shields, an alternative may be a transparent mask. It’s made like any cloth mask but the material is clear. These are marketed for those who work with the deaf, who need to see lips to read them, but they’re also useful for anyone who wants others to see your face, in situations where shields aren’t allowed.

The clear masks have another benefit over the full face shields, in that your vision isn’t obscured or distorted when you wear them, as it can be when the plastic goes over your eyes as well as your nose and mouth.

Personalised Face Mask Soft Polyester Face Covering with Your image 0

Those venues (such as the airlines) that don’t allow shields as a substitute for a mask may also be hostile toward your see-through mask even though it fits their criteria of fitting under the chin. (This, by the way, is more proof positive that these rules aren’t really about public health but about cutting off communication between people and “muzzling” the population).

You’ll need to pay close attention to the material from which your transparent mask is made. Airline policies usually also specify no material with “holes” or disallow “mesh or lace fabrics.” Clear plastic would presumably be okay, but clear plastic that fits up tightly against your skin is going to cut off your oxygen supply and may be even worse for your skin than a cloth mask. I’ve seen ads for some polyester masks that claim to be both transparent and breathable, but I’ve not had an opportunity to examine one in person.

Certainly if a mask must be worn, a transparent one would be preferable from a psychological standpoint – especially when working with children. Kids need to be able to see faces and facial expressions when they interact.

Ready to operate

Surgical masks are popular with many people. Why not — after all, it’s what doctors wear in the OR so it must be effective, right? Well, yes, at preventing the dissemination of bacteria into the patient’s open wound, which is what they’re designed to do.

They’re also designed to be disposable – docs change them out during long surgeries. Unfortunately, many of the people wearing them as talismans to ward off the evil COVID spirits don’t dispose of them (and when they do, they don’t do it properly) and use them over and over — making them effective at transmitting the very disease they’re supposed to be preventing, along with bacterial infections.

Most likely, the majority of people wearing surgical masks do so because they’re relatively cheap and because they seem as if they would be effective since they’re worn in clinical settings by health care professionals (and never mind that many of those same medical personnel will tell you that masks don’t do much to protect against viruses).

But a crowd of people wearing surgical masks certainly serves the purpose of making it appear that illness is all around us, just waiting to pounce — thus keeping the fear factor high.

The intimidation factor

Speaking of the fear factor, have you noticed that many of those in power who are making these rules, when they appear in masks, wear solid black ones? Senators, governors, even the president: when they’re seen wearing a mask, it’s most often a solid black one.

File:Balaclava 3 hole black.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to wearables, black is the color of intimidation. In business, the black “power suit” is intended to induce fear, or at least submission. The black balaclava is worn by both terrorists and SWAT teams to instill fear and gain maximum control over their targets. The infamous black helicopters symbolize government surveillance and oppression. Black projects a sense of authority, control, and importance.

Of course, you’ll see plenty of regular people wearing black masks these days, too. Some might do it because they think it makes their faces look less fat; fashion experts have advised for years that black is the most slimming color. Others may think it looks professional (sorry, but the only mask that looks professional is that blue surgical mask, and only if your profession is surgeon and you’re in the operating room).

Black Neck Gaiter / Breathable Washable and Reusable / Simple image 0

I think most, though, either consciously or subconsciously know that covering your features in black makes you look scary, someone to be reckoned with. And perhaps wanting to look that way is a natural reaction to the feelings of enslavement and subjugation that go with living in a time and place where the government restricts our movements, dictates with whom we can associate (even, in some places, in our own homes), and fines us if we dare to show our smiling faces in public.

If wearing a black mask makes you feel a tiny bit more in control, in a world where we’re rapidly losing it, more power to you.

Mask as high fashion

As I noted above, it seems that many among us have not only accepted the mandate to wear masks, but have embraced it. Now a visit to any mall or other large gathering place (where large gatherings are allowed) will reveal more than a few women (and even some men) who have taken the time and trouble to color coordinate their masks with their outfits, or even make them of the same fabric. At fancy restaurants, you’ll see masks all aglitter with bling — rhinestones and gold threads and lace trim. This winter, we’ll probably see ladies in mink masks, along with their tuxedoed escorts in crisp facial cummerbunds.

Amazon.com: Hello Kitty Adult Face Mask Dust-Proof Adjustable Cover Masks  Black: Clothing

Teenage girls are turning the mask into a trendy accessory. I’ve seen cartoon character masks, animal face masks, masks with teeth, clown face masks, and many more. Kittens, unicorns, hearts and flowers, stars and planets and constellations: if it can decorate a lunch box or a tee shirt, it can adorn a face mask.

Adults, too, are using masks to advertise their hobbies, interests, favorite celebrities, and more.

A beige mask with cartoon white, red, and rosé wines

Again, I can’t really blame them too much for having fun with it. They’re trying to turn an unpleasant requirement into something that feels a little less heinous. It’s a coping mechanism, and if it helps them feel better, who am I to criticize?

Making a statement

While in some cases wearing a mask of any kind can be construed as a political statement, there are some masks that take that a step further – including masks that serve as a protest against mask mandates.

“This mask is as useless as our governor.”
“Worn under duress”
“Useless”
“Let’s just pretend masks work”
“Placebo” (or “Facebo”)
“I can’t breathe. Literally.”

These and many other statements printed on masks allow us to at least make it clear that we’re wearing a mask only because we’re being forced by government edict to do so.

Of course, this being an election year, you’ll also see “Trump 2020,” “Biden/Harris,” and “Vote Republican (or Democrat)” splashed across people’s faces. Some opt for more subtle solid red or blue masks to indicate their partisan persuasion. U.S. flags, thin blue lines, and “I can’t breathe” masks also proliferate – the latter intended as a reference to the controversial death of George Floyd, but ironically also describing the situation of the mask-wearer.

Multiple and solo masking

While lately I’ve noticed that more and more people seem to be yanking the face coverings off (or at least dropping them below their chins) the second they step through the door exiting the store or other “mask mandated” venue, I’m also still seeing more than a few who have on one mask over another, or a face shield on top of a mask, or who inexplicably are wearing masks as they drive, alone, in their cars with the windows up, or while taking a walk with no one else anywhere within 30 feet of them.

The ones who wear multiple masks in public places where there are a lot of people around I can perhaps explain as someone who is in a highly vulnerable group, with serious underlying medical conditions, or who lives with somebody in that category. The solo maskers, though, have me bewildered.

Okay, maybe if you’re driving from one place where they’re required to another and it’s only a couple-minute drive, maybe it’s too much trouble to take the mask off and put it back on again. Maybe they’re taking very seriously the instructions from the “experts” not to touch their masks or their faces except when absolutely necessary. Maybe they actually like wearing the mask? There are, after all, masochists in this world — I guess we could call these maskochists.

Although I don’t understand them, I don’t have to. In the end, no matter what impression they might make on me with their face covering choice, it doesn’t matter. What they wear on their faces is their own business. I just wish they (and more important, the government) would acknowledge that likewise what I choose to wear or not wear on my face is my own business, too.

Freedom Does Not Look Like This Face Mask | Allbluetees.com

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Laughing Matters

COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER

No, Virginia (or should it be “no, Karen” these days?), posting a joke about Covid doesn’t make a person a cold, callused, evil son-of-a-witch who doesn’t care about your friend who died with the disease — just as Fred Sanford’s chest-clutching fake heart attack jokes didn’t mean Redd Foxx was a wicked sociopath who was making fun of my daddy’s death from myocardial infarction.

I have a case of corona : CoronavirusMemes

Laughing in the face of tragedy is a well known and widely used coping mechanism. It’s especially common amongst those who must regularly deal with the darker side of life: cops, doctors, nurses, EMTs and firefighters and others whose work exposes them to death, disease, disaster, pain and human suffering.

An ability to laugh at rough moments can reduce the negative emotions surrounding a stressful event and also create the positive feelings associated with amusement in general. Put together, those two affective swings can enhance a person’s coping powers.

“To the extent you can use humor to change your perspective on things, to see something that is potentially threatening as less threatening, then that allows you to be more efficient in your coping.”

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/awfully-funny

~~~

My mom passed away several years ago, with lung cancer. Her last year was difficult, but she never lost her ability to joke about her condition. I remember her half-seriously lamenting the fact that she’d given up smoking a couple of years before (except for occasionally sneaking one in the bathroom when she thought nobody knew) and saying her diagnosis was a relief because she could go back to chain smoking now (she didn’t).

The night she died, we knew the end was near and I, my daughter, and my son and one of his friends were at her house and taking turns staying up with her. She passed away in the wee hours of the morning and I called one of the hospice workers and my aunt. Both came over to be with us and after the funeral home personnel came and took her body, after we’d all had a good cry together, I got out mom’s big box of photographs and we went through them, passing them around and telling the stories that went with the pictures.

laughter | larger view- click photo- all sizes- original | James Vaughan |  Flickr

We were all laughing at one of those memories when mom’s neighbor came to the door, knocked once and walked on in, as she’d been doing since Mom got too sick to get up and answer the door. I’ll never forget the shocked look on her face as her eyes went from the empty hospital bed that was set up in the living room to all of us, sitting there laughing. It was one of the most awkward moments of my life, and although we quickly explained what we’d been cracking up about, I felt the judgment in her stare. How dare we appear to be enjoying ourselves when Mom had just died?

I guess some people just aren’t wired to understand, but I knew my mom and I know she would be the first to tell us to recall the good times, the fun times, the funny times, and have a laugh instead of drowning in tears. I had been with her on the occasions of enough other loved ones’ deaths to know that she would do — had done — the same.

~~~

There are a ton of jokes about Covid-19 going around on social media right now. And there are a lot of people castigating those who post them and even unfriending those who, via emoji, laugh at them. Are some in poor taste? Yes. Will some be offensive to people who have lost friends and loved ones to the disease? Certainly. Does that mean the people posting them are malevolent and uncaring. No. It means their way of dealing with the major upheaval to all our lives that has come along with this pandemic (and we’ll leave the whys of that to another discussion at another time) is different from yours. And that’s all it means.

There are mean and evil and unkind people in this world, but most people are not that way. Most people are just trying to get through this the best way they can. If you thought enough of them to make them your Facebook “friends,” then maybe you should give them the benefit of the doubt — or else unfriend them.

And on the other side of that equation, if friends you otherwise get along with and care about take umbrage at the funny Covid meme you posted, cut them some slack. Maybe they’re grieving a loss. Maybe they’re terrified for loved ones who have the disease. Maybe they’ve just been diagnosed themselves.

Laughter is frequently the best medicine, but like all medicines, sometimes some people have adverse reactions if the dosage or the timing isn’t right.

Fact is, there are a lot of people who just can’t see the humor in anything right now, especially when it comes to the pandemic. Earlier this year, some governments even passed laws and threatened jail time for anyone who made April Fools Day jokes about Covid-19.

~~~

Covid or not, humor is a very subjective thing. What one person finds hilarious, another may think is just dumb and yet another may find incredibly disrespectful and distasteful. I’ve had the experience of seeing another person walk out of a comedy show in disgust while I laughed, and I’ve also been the one leaving as people around me cackled uproariously.

Laughter Laugh Fun - Free photo on Pixabay

A shared sense of humor can serve as a powerful bond between two people. I treasure those people in my life who always “get” my witticisms and whose repartee always makes me laugh.

Some even say a shared sense of humor is the key to a good relationship. I wouldn’t go that far. My husband and I find some of the same things funny, but often he dissolves in laughter at jokes that leave me thinking “meh,” and some of the subtle bantering style humor in which I revel doesn’t seem to touch him at all.

But that’s okay. Each of us has many friends with whom we can share those laughs that go over the other’s head. And at the end of the day, as long as I can cry on his shoulder when I need to, as long as he’s there for me when I’m afraid or down in the dumps, as long as we hold the same basic life values and he cares about my kids and the animals I love, he doesn’t have to laugh at all of my jokes. There are other people who’ll do that. He might not always make me laugh, but he knows how to make me smile.

Luckily, some scientific studies agree with me. According to Psychology Today:

For long-term relationships, such as in marriages, couples generally share a similar sense of humor — although similarities in sense of humor are not associated with greater marital satisfaction, nor with longer marriages.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/humor-sapiens/201811/how-humor-can-change-your-relationship

~~~

The funniest Covid-19 memes and jokes

I think some of the animosity over current Covid jokes stems from not understanding the distinction between laughing with, at, or about someone or something. I laughed with my mom, about her cancer — never at her or it.

It’s when people think you’re making jokes aimed at the people who have Covid that they get upset. Let them know that’s not the case, that you can take seriously the plight of the folks suffering from serious symptoms while still still having a chuckle at the expense of all the “experts” who have been frantically flip-flopping and skewing the numbers and making this whole thing so much worse than it had to be.

Because let’s face it, those are the targets of the jokes, not the Covid victims. And perhaps we’re using that humor to deflect the extreme anger over this that would otherwise be at the forefront of our emotions. Cracking jokes about the inefficacy of the medical advisors’ protocols helps us not to dwell on the horrific impact that incompetency has had on so many lives.

Sometimes we laugh to keep from crying. And sometimes we do both.


Be kind.

Stay strong.
Be smart.
Keep laughing.

200+ Free Laugh & Laughing Vectors - Pixabay
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Mask Hysteria

2020: The year they stole the smiles

COPYRIGHT 2020 Debra Littlejohn Shinder

Over on yahoo!life, Matt Schneiderman tells us It’s OK to yell at strangers who don’t wear masks. Even more disturbing, a Facebook user in a public post recently equated not wearing a mask to driving drunk and proposed that the legal consequences — i.e. prison — be the same.

Of course, The major fallacy in his analogy is that mask laws presume that everyone who goes out in public has the virus, when in reality only a small percentage of the population has been infected. Even the highest estimates range from 15-20%. We don’t presume that everybody who gets behind the wheel of a car is drunk and arrest everybody who dares to drive “just in case” they might be drunk. And THAT is the accurate analogy for imposing such draconian punishment on those who don’t wear a mask.

Image may contain: drawing

Unfortunately, the social media user mentioned above is not unique in his opinion. We have rapidly moved from public shaming (i.e. bullying) of those who don’t buy into the muzzling of the population to calling for them to be jailed or even killed. Violence against people without masks — even in circumstances where they aren’t violating the local laws (for instance, they meet the medical exceptions criteria or they’re in an area such as outdoors where it isn’t mandated or they’re practicing social distancing) is growing in frequency and degree.

Even the president of the United States has been shamed for not wearing a mask, with many members of the party of tolerance and love decreeing that he deserved to catch the virus and when he did, joyfully proclaiming that they hoped he would die.

The animosity is not one-sided. There have also been violent reactions from those who were ordered to wear a mask or turned away from locations for not having one, or lectured by strangers as to what they “should” be doing. People on both sides of this issue are very, very angry and an already divided country is being further torn asunder over face coverings.

Meanwhile, the “expert” guidance has been less than helpful. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who in March said there was no reason people needed to wear a mask, has now changed his mind (again) and is urging state and local leaders to “be as forceful as possible” on masks. The CDC has also done an about-face and now claims cloth face coverings — which only a couple of months ago were useless to block tiny viruses — are now “a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.”

WHO Says Test For Coronavirus, Despite CDC's Flip Flop | KTTS

The World Health Organization’s stance in March was:
• If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected coronavirus infection.
• Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing

In June, WHO reversed that position and got with the political program aimed at symbolically “shutting our mouths” and silencing our questions and criticisms of the handling of the pandemic response. And it just gets worse and worse. Now most states either have governor-issued edicts requiring the wearing of masks in public places (some even outdoors) or allow local tyrants officials to force mask mandates on businesses and/or individuals.

Yet if we look back at the studies and medical literature written before Covid became a political issue and masks became a religious symbol, we find little to no evidence that mask-wearing protects against viruses, as I’ve discussed in previous blog posts.

But this post isn’t really about that. It’s not even (only) about the mask mandates. It’s about the way our “leaders” (rulers) have used the specter of the pandemic to suck so much of the joy, spontaneity, and even love out of our lives.

I’ve never been a big fan of “shopping” — the frenetic hunt for the perfect something on which to spend money, which seemed to be a favorite pastime of many women I knew. But I did enjoy occasionally just walking around in the malls, people-watching, window-shopping, soaking in the energy of the crowds and the festive atmosphere, especially at holiday time.

Now I hate going to a store. Instead of a throng of smiling, laughing faces, all you see are eyes – many of them frightened and darting, many of them visibly angry, and maybe worst of all, many of them eerily blank – above the masks.

Their mouths are covered so it’s hard for them to speak or to hear/understand the words of other mask-wearers, so most don’t even attempt to say “hello” or strike up an impromptu conversation with a stranger anymore. After all, you’re not allowed to get close enough for that, anyway. Their noses are covered, so it’s hard to breathe, and many are focused on struggling to get enough air or unable to focus on anything since they’re too light-headed from the oxygen deprivation.

Christmas Shopping Centre - Free photo on Pixabay

I can’t imagine how different Christmas will be this year in public venues. Can’t have little kids sitting on Santa’s lap for photos: they might catch or transmit the virus. And with so many little ones already a little scared of a big old man with a white beard, just think about how much more scary he’ll look to them in a mask. Which doesn’t work with a full beard, anyway.

Perhaps more people will just stay home with their families to celebrate the holidays this year, and maybe that will be a good thing. Or maybe not. As every cop knows, the holidays are a prime time for an increase in domestic disturbance calls, and one of the reasons is families cooped up together with relatives with whom they don’t see eye to eye.

Let’s face it: many of us have had a little too much familial togetherness this year already. I wonder how many marriages have suffered or even broken up because of the pressures of being in the same house with the same person 24/7 for months on end.

I guess it’s a testament to the strength of our relationship that my husband and I only get irritable and snappy every now and then. But then, we’re used to both of us working from home and neither of us going much of anywhere all week, sometimes for a couple of weeks in a row. I have a feeling that some of those couples who were used to going off to their separate workplaces five days a week and pursuing their separate weekend interests may not be faring quite as well. And what about all the poor kids who are caught in the middle?

Divorce,parents,child,people,family - free image from needpix.com

I think the majority of married people, particularly those who are introverts by nature, need some alone time now and then. We used to accomplish that via Tom’s forays to the horse races and my solo cruises and occasional lunches with friends or relatives. Now we go almost nowhere other than out to eat on the weekend, together. And while I love that time we spend in each other’s company and count it as one of the silver linings of the Covid Cloud under which we live, the everyday all-day togetherness sometimes creeps up on us and we find ourselves criticizing or reacting to the other over small and silly things.

I guess the flip side is that this crazy year of near-isolation has brought us closer, I think. We’re both quicker to recognize that our irritability is really about our own frustration, not the other person’s fault, and we’re quicker to apologize and let it go than we used to be. So there’s that.

They say that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and the petty tyrants who are suddenly in control of so many aspects of our lives have thus far left us alive. And where there’s life, there’s hope. So we have built on that hope, creating an environment in which it is at least pleasant to “cocoon” for however long we have to.

Since we can’t sail off to Caribbean resorts, we’ve turned our own backyard into our private resort with the money we’ve saved not traveling. Since most of the restaurants in the area require you to don the mask on the walk from door to table (one of the genuinely most ridiculous rules of the many examples of Covidiocy that abound this year), we’ve pledged our loyalty and our money to the one that doesn’t and now enjoy the status of “regulars” who are greeted with big unmasked smiles when we walk in the door.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, drink, sky, ocean, table, outdoor and water
Image may contain: Tom Shinder, beard

As we work our way through the stages of grief over all the loss this year has brought, from denial to anger to depression, I think maybe unlike the process that follows the death of a loved one, this peculiar exercise in coping with the formerly unthinkable may culminate in a different end game. Or maybe it’s just a matter of semantics.

Acceptance doesn’t have to mean giving up. It doesn’t have to mean giving in to this “new abnormal” and embracing it as the way things have to be. To accept also means to receive, to attain, to tackle, to affirm, to undertake a transformation. In this case, a transformation of self not into a sheepish, compliant, beaten and broken slave to the system but into a stronger, bolder, more self-reliant and more powerful person.

Adversity can work either way: it can be the wedge that drives people apart or it can be the glue that holds them together and gives them common purpose and drive – as a couple, as a community, as a country, as a political movement. I think we’re seeing that begin to happen.

And in defiance of the ones who tried and are trying so hard to steal our happiness, we can and do find new reasons and new ways to recapture the joy. We are speaking up. We are standing up – refusing to kneel before their false idols and refusing to worship at the altar of their new religion. We’re ripping off the masks and showing our faces proudly. We are reclaiming our smiles.

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Twenty-first Century Talisman for a Scared Society

© 2020 Debra Littlejohn Shinder

Tom and I were talking this morning about the mask phenomenon, as we often do. He said something that he intended to be dismissive, I think, but it hit me like an epiphany when he observed that “It’s like a rabbit’s foot.”

Yes. Yes, it is. That’s exactly what it’s like. It’s an object that some people have imbued with magical protective powers, that brings them comfort and gives them hope and soothes their fears — even though it doesn’t really do much of anything to protect them from the virus.

Rabbit Foot Keychain For Sale | Paxton Gate

But a lot of people still carry around a rabbit foot, too — although not nearly as many as did when I was younger. Others carry a lucky coin, or wear a special amulet or necklace or ring, or hang a horseshoe over their doors to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune.

In fact, most cultures have had their good luck charms. In Italy, the horn known as the “cornicello” is a traditional talisman. In Sweden it’s a carved Dala or Dalecarlian horse. Elephants are a symbol for good luck are common all over Asia, but they are especially prominent in India and Thailand. In England, carrying an acorn in your pocket is supposed to protect against illness. And of course we’re all familiar with the four-leaf clover to which the Irish attribute good fortune.

So it’s really not so strange that so many have glommed onto the mask now in spite of increasing evidence that its efficacy is suspect, at best — not as the political symbol that it represents to others but as a totem that will confer a force field against Covid-19 around them and their loved ones.

Lucky Charm Bitcoin Four Leaf Clover St Patricks Day Wall Clock by teepsy |  Society6

And just as the superstitious gambler will absolutely insist that he loses or wins based on whether he’s wearing red or has a badger’s tooth in his pocket, those who have subscribed to faith in the mask truly believe that they’re saving their own and others’ lives by wearing it, and if they don’t, something bad will happen.

Belief in magic is something we all succumb to now and then; it seems to be a propensity that’s hard-wired into the human condition, affecting some people more than others.

The appetite for such beliefs appears to be rooted in the circuitry of the brain, and for good reason. The sense of having special powers buoys people in threatening situations, and helps soothe everyday fears and ward off mental distress.

Do You Believe in Magic? New York Times

Magical thinking is much more common than most people think. No matter how rational and logical you are, you probably engage in it now and then. When I travel(ed), especially on a plane, I always wear the same necklace, a pendant with a picture of my beloved cat, Bobble, with her angel wings. Do I know, intellectually, that it doesn’t keep the plane from going down? Of course. But hey — not once have I been in a plane crash while wearing that necklace so it must work, right?

The problem isn’t that ordinary people are donning their “good luck” masks in a time of fear and uncertainty. It might be surprisingly if they didn’t. The problem is that governments around the world have, for various reasons, decided to make doing so a mandate.

That is not really surprising, either, to anyone with more than a passing interest in history. This human susceptibility has been exploited throughout time by those with nefarious intent, ranging from lowly con men to powerful kings.

After all:


” … certain forms of social compliance and obedience to authority historically evolved from magical practices of mind control and are still powered by the implicit belief in magic.”

The Belief in Magic in the Age of Science – Sage Publishing

The above-referenced paper is a long but fascinating read, and it sheds light on much of the mystery surrounding the whole Covid “crisis.” Over and over, when I’ve discussed both the governmental reaction and willingness of otherwise intelligent people to go along with it and even embrace and defend it, there has been an aura of bewilderment. “How did this happen?”

The SagePub article addresses not just the idea of attributing magical powers to objects (such as the mask) but also the attribution of magical abilities to people — such as Dr. Fauci and the other “experts” whose words are taken as gospel even when their advice and opinions regularly make 180° turns.

“The psychological structure of the modern belief in some
people’s special abilities cannot be properly understood
unless we have a brief look at historical roots of this belief.
In traditional societies, people believe that some individuals
have special powers; these individuals can speak with the
Gods and spirits …

“As the belief in magical forces in traditional societies is so
strong, people view the orders coming from their leaders as
imperatives that are sanctioned by spirits, and the issues of
resisting these orders or critically analyzing if these orders
are true or false rarely arise.”

Frazer, 1890/1959; Lévy-Brühl, 1923/1966; 1926/1985

So when we look at this from a human psychology point of view, it starts to make (a crazy kind of) sense. There’s even a name for this “condition”: Belief-in-Magic-based social compliance (BMSC for short). Here’s what the article has to say about it:

It is well known that reasoning, perception, and other cognitive functions can be affected by emotional attitudes (Forgas, 2002; Gasper, 2004). However, the characteristic feature of BMSC that distinguishes it from other “emotionally driven” responses is that while affecting participants’ actions, subconscious magical beliefs do not affect participants’ critical reasoning capacities. As a result, an individual who exhibits BMSC must display a word/action dissociation of the following type:

(a) Individuals are conscious that the suggested idea is wrong and/or has no personal benefit to them, but (b) they act as if they believed that the suggested idea is true.

Applying this to our current situation, then, we come upon the people who claim to “believe in science” but who reject all of the scientific literature and even the previous statements of their esteemed leaders that came prior to Covid becoming a political issue showing masks to have little or no value in protecting against virus transmission. When asked why all those previous studies were wrong and the new dogma proclaiming masks as the miracle preventative, they flounder, and frequently just get angry and accuse you of “not believing in science.”

But why is it that some of us seem to have been immune to the delusion from the beginning, others bought into it at first but then lose the rose-colored glasses and see through the scam after a while, and still others continue to cling to the mask hysteria for dear life?

Hypnotized Person Clipart Hypnosis Hypnotherapy Clip Hypnotized Person  U3jvx Image Provided - EpiCentro Festival

I have no idea whether there is a connection here, but I find it interesting that some people (estimated 25% of the population) can be hypnotized easily and others can’t be put into a trance even when they try hard to let it happen. As you might guess, I’m in the latter group. Several times in my life I’ve volunteered to be the subject of hypnosis, but for whatever reasons, I can’t go under. Some scientists say the brains of people like me are physiologically different from those of folks who can fall under the hypnotist’s spell.

Other researchers have found correlations between hypnotizeability and certain personality traits.

In everyday life, says Dr. Spiegel, high hypnotisable people are notably different than their less hynotisable peers.

‘They get side-tracked by sunsets and lost in movies; they tend to show up three hours late for things because they lost track of time.’

By contrast, those who are resistant to hypnosis tend to be more judgmental, fastidious in their habits and less trusting of people.

Scientists discover why some people just can’t be hypnotised – Daily Mail

I can’t deny that the last paragraph sounds a lot like me. And although they didn’t say it in so many words, my guess is that most of us in the “can’t hypnotize” category would also be described as control freaks. It makes sense that if you’re less trusting of people, you’re less likely to allow someone – especially a stranger or mere acquaintance – to “put you to sleep.”

Maybe that explains why I wouldn’t or couldn’t believe the “experts” when they changed their minds and told us all to wear the mask. Or maybe it doesn’t.

Because you know, I do believe in magic. Just not the magic of masks and medical “experts” and politicians. I believe in the magic of love and the way it can transform a life. The magical healing power of nature. The magical bond between a human and an animal. And, of course, the magic of my “Bobble necklace,” that has kept me safe on so many trips to so many lands.

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Trust Issues

COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER

Of all my COVID commentaries, this one has been the hardest (thus far) to write. I started it more than a month ago and it’s been sitting in my Drafts folder, abandoned while I wrote about other, easier topics. I’ve come back to it from time to time to add a thought or expand on an idea, but bringing it all together was difficult.

I try to stay objective but this one is personal. It’s the part of this whole fiasco that has impacted me most — and I believe, though many may not yet realize it, it’s the one thing that will have the most lasting detrimental effect on all of us. More than the loss of jobs and money, more than the loss of precious time to do the things we love doing, even more than the loss of friends and family relationships due to the disagreements over it all (though closely related to that), the thing we’ve lost that will be hardest to get back and that we’ll miss the most is trust.

When I was in high school, I discovered and fell in love with Kris Kristofferson’s music and especially his gift for lyrics. I also loved the songs that he sang with his then-wife, Rita Coolidge, who had one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. Around 1980, when he was going through a divorce from Rita, he wrote a song called “Nobody Loves Anybody Anymore.” It was one of the saddest songs I’d ever known, full of matter-of-fact finality and hopelessness.

If there were to be an anthem for our current COVID situation, I think it should be “Nobody Trusts Anybody Anymore,” sung to the same tune. I hear it in my head every day now.

Fear Trust Away - Free image on Pixabay

Trust issues: Most of us have had them at one time or another. It’s an unavoidable hazard of living on this earth with other human beings; sooner or later, one or more of them will betray you. We want to believe that the people with whom we deal are always honest, that their intentions are always pure, that they know what they’re doing and they would never lead us astray. But unless you’re very young or very naive, you know that’s just not the way it works.

“Trusting is hard. Knowing who to trust, even harder.”

Maria V. Snyder

Betrayal always hurts. But when you’re betrayed by almost everything and almost everyone all at the same time, that goes beyond pain and gets into devastation territory. The COVID crisis has stolen away our trust on so many fronts.

  • It’s not just that we’ve learned we can’t trust our governments, even (maybe especially) those at the local level; many of us already knew that.
  • It’s not just that we lost trust in the “experts” — many of us already knew or suspected that most of them are really just “winging” it and/or offer their opinions for sale to the highest bidder.
  • It’s not just that we lost trust in the media; most of us realized long ago that objectivity in journalism – if it ever existed at all – died a painful death on the floor of the 2000 election, smothered in hanging chads.
  • It’s not just that we found ourselves losing trust in the medical system and those who are supposed to “first do no harm.” We’ve known for a while that many are incompetent, others are overworked and burned out, and a few are downright malevolent.

The trust that has been lost over the last few months extends far farther than just those people and institutions directly involved in directing the official COVID response and manipulating our own responses to it.

This crisis that seemingly the entire global governmental apparatus found too compelling to let go to waste has damaged or, for some, decimated trust in almost everything in which we once believed.

It certainly destroyed our trust in strangers. The guy we pass on our walk down the street, the lady coming up the aisle in the grocery store – they went from being people we might have smiled at, maybe even stopped and said a few pleasant words, or perhaps not even really noticed at all if we were caught up in our thoughts, to potential threats – possible carriers of a disease we were told was deadly.

Northern Exposure

We now have to cross the street or quickly swerve down a different aisle to avoid them. We can’t get close – not just because of fear but because of government mandate. Did you ever dream that, in the United States of America, we would be under orders with the force of law to stay six feet away from other people?

Now, with further edicts requiring us all to cover our faces in public, it’s even worse, of course. We look to facial expressions to help us evaluate whether someone is friend or foe, open to our friendly gestures or not. The mask obscures all that, makes them all faceless zombies, hides whether they’re happy, sad, or mad — although these days it’s a pretty good guess that most are the latter two.

The mask also makes it difficult to speak and hard, especially for those of us who have auditory issues and always did a little lip-reading, to hear what’s being said. So we stay silent, do our business and get away as quickly as possible. New friendships that might have been formed aren’t. But hey, we (maybe, probably) escaped in time to keep from acquiring the “deadly virus.” And that’s all that matters anymore, right?

If this whole thing had only made us more wary of strangers, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. At least serial killers and con men/women would have more trouble luring victims in. But it doesn’t stop there. The fear-mongering has many people now terrified to even interact with their friends and family members.

I see heartbreaking stories all the time from folks who haven’t seen their own kids or their elderly parents in months – people who are used to enjoying and whose emotional well-being depends on their close family ties – because of fears literally pounded into them by the media headlines:

18 family members test positive after birthday party!
Coronavirus outbreaks traced to parties and family gatherings

Then there are those who are afraid to go to church, for many their main source of comfort and socialization, even now that our rulers have so generously allowed us to open them back up. Again, those doomsday headlines:

Church linked to Oregon’s latest cornavirus outbreak!
High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice!
COVID-19 Outbreak Reported at Church Scrutinized For Violating Health Order

And so officials — oh, so concerned about our health — crack down again, take away our families, take away our religious sanctuaries, put us back into isolation, all the better to break our spirits and as an extra added bonus, weaken our immune systems so we’ll be more susceptible to this and other diseases and when we get sick, they can crow, “we told you so.”

All over the country, amidst reports of “surges and spikes” that are according to many within the system based on skewed numbers that count anything and everything as COVID and then counts that same COVID case as a new one every time that person is tested, governors are rescinding the small freedoms they had granted us last month and shutting things down again, as if in some carefully coordinated dance being choreographed by … whom? Or what?

The government giveth and the government taketh away. Blessed be the name of the government.

But governments have always sought more and more power; it’s the nature of the beast. This is no surprise. The surprise – to me – is that so many ordinary people are buying into it, obediently donning the muzzle, subserviently staying away from those they love, putting the illusion of safety above not only freedom but above family and friendship – above love – and excoriating anyone else who doesn’t want to do the same.

Someone commented on Facebook that most of those “whining about the masks” “seem to be Texans.” He meant that as a snide remark, but I guess maybe it’s true. Because we Texans, at least the true Texans who were raised from birth to embody the independent and self-sufficient — and fearless — philosophical foundation on which our state was built (Remember the Alamo!) will not go quietly into that dark night of state oppression and tyranny.

Even when the governor we once admired and trusted and believed to be on our side betrays us. Even when the people we thought were good friends turn against us. Even when some of our own family members fall into the pit of fear and want nothing to do with us.

It’s hard to know who to trust these days. Many people’s words say one thing and their actions say something different. There are those who want to be on the side of freedom but their fear just won’t let them. That’s frustrating but forgivable. And then there are those who want you to think they’re on the side of freedom but they’re really not. That’s reprehensible.

Image may contain: text that says '"15 days to slow the spread" ....they told us 108 days ago'

During this “situation,” my trust has been shattered over and over. One thing I know about trust is that it’s hard to attain and it can be lost in the blink of an eye. One betrayal negates all the faith that was slowly and painstakingly built up. One lie puts all the truths under suspicion. We have either been lied to time after time or those “experts” have proven they know absolutely nothing — or more likely, both.

Should we really wonder why conspiracy theories are flying left and right (and from both the left and the right)? Should we be surprised that a large percentage of people say they would refuse a COVID vaccine if one were available? Does it come as a shock that violence against strangers, as well as domestic violence toward family members, are on the rise?

Without trust, people don’t feel safe. And when people don’t feel safe, they lash out at others, often blindly and randomly. It’s almost as if this is all an orchestrated effort to turn us all against each other — not just white against black, not just Democrats against Republicans, not just states and countries against each other, but also loved ones against loved ones, destroying our last and best source of safety and comfort and inner peace.

But that’s probably just another conspiracy theory.



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Fear, Faith, and Forgiveness

COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER

Since COVID-19 went viral and the world descended into the madness of COVIDiocy, I’ve written a lot about fear and the role it has played in this global fiasco. I even wrote an entire blog post about it.

I’ve also written about how I watched phobias – unreasonable fears – take over my mother’s life and gradually suck the enjoyment of life out of her, and about how I avoided following in her footsteps letting my own fears control me because of my dad and his virtual fearlessness. So I’m not going to repeat those details here.

But today I do want to talk a little about the relationship between fear and faith, and my theory about the reasons (and there are multiple reasons) that so many today are so afraid of a virus that has a 99.5% recovery rate and for a vast number of people causes no symptoms at all.

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I don’t often get into the topic of religious beliefs and most of the time I keep my own to myself. Politics, money, and God are the top three hot buttons that are sure to start an argument, hurt someone’s feelings, or make somebody uncomfortable every time.

If this topic makes you uncomfortable, feel free to stop reading right here.

These days, politics permeates every conversation, money makes the world go ’round (and even a global pandemic quickly turns into a money-making opportunity), and for many, God is little more than the third part of an acronymized Internet expletive preceded by “Oh, my.”

I have found it interesting, throughout this pandemic, that most of my friends and acquaintances who exhibit the most fear of the virus are relatively young (20s, 30s, 40s), while most of those I see opposing lockdowns and mask mandates and going about their own lives without fear tend to be older (50s and above).

Age,youth,contrast,old,young - free image from needpix.com

I’ve noted before that in the stores where masks aren’t mandatory, my observation is that most of the unmasked tend to be either teenagers or old people. The teens can be explained by the natural risk-taking and illusion of immortality of youth, as well as the fact that statistically, the virus poses very little threat to them.

But what about the old folks? We’re the ones who, according to all the dire warnings from the “experts” and media, are most at risk of dying from COVID. Yet we as a whole seem to be a lot less fearful about it than our kids’ generation. Are we just senile and stupid? I don’t think so.

Of course this generality doesn’t apply to all individuals; there are plenty of old people who are terrified of the disease and 30somethings who aren’t. It’s just a trend. And there are a lot of different factors at work here, no doubt. Those who are adventurous by nature are less likely to succumb to the fear-mongering headlines. And those who are in poor health are more likely to be afraid, as they should be.

But I think when you look more deeply into the demographics, you just might find that a high percentage of the people (of all ages) who have strong religious beliefs are a bit less bothered about the slight possibility of dying from this (or anything else) than those who don’t. And that makes sense.

Faith Over Fear Yard Sign

If you believe this life is all there is, and after that comes nothingness, then of course you want to take every precaution possible to preserve it, even if that means sacrificing quality of life for quantity. If you believe there is something more beyond the pale – whether that’s heaven or reincarnation – you’re going to be more inclined to “let go and let God,” and not worry so much about all the viruses and bacteria and other things lurking out there in the world that could kill you on any given day, but probably won’t.

We all know everything can be taken to an unhealthy extreme, and there are some whose religion leads them to refuse medical help even when they’re dying and could easily be saved by the proper treatment. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the role of faith in soothing unnecessary and unreasonable “what if” worries about things that haven’t happened and statistically aren’t really very likely to.

Just as religious extremism is harmful instead of helpful, so is the extreme quasi-religious fervor with which so many people have embraced the opinions of “experts” and political “leaders,” giving their advice and edicts a cloak of infallibility akin to worship of words handed down from on high.

And like religious extremists throughout time, they’re consumed by a special kind of hatred for anyone who denies the holiness of their deities. Those who question the Supreme Expert Beings or refuse to wear the mask of submission must be punished, rebuked, shamed, and death wished upon their houses.

Faith is a funny thing. It can be used as a vehicle of love, kindness, goodness, and light — or it can become a motivation for the most heinous of crimes and the most egregious violations of rights. That’s nothing new. It’s been going on since the beginning of time.

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I think this clash of faiths – the spiritual one and the secular one – is the source of so much of the anger and hatred that we’re seeing as the population divides into two distinct camps in relation to the COVID virus and how to react to it.

But anger and hatred never won anyone over to a different point of view. If anything, it makes us (on both sides) dig in harder, close our minds, and justify our own beliefs.

There’s little doubt that there are people in positions of power and influence who are exploiting this epidemic for their own political and personal purposes. However, I think the major of the people with whom most of us are arguing are neither malevolent nor profiteers, but are driven by genuine fear.

Ridiculing those fears, even if we think they’re invalid, won’t change their minds or make them any less fearful. Trying to push our faith on them if they don’t want it likewise doesn’t help and can hurt our cause. So what should we do?

For me, the answer is forgiveness. When people say nasty things about me, I try to recognize that those words come from a place of fear and pain, and I forgive them. Remember that forgiving doesn’t mean you agree with them or condone what they say or do. It doesn’t mean you’re obligated to keep them in your life if they’re damaging to your peace of mind.

Karen Salmansohn Forgive them. All of your thems. The more… | Flickr

Forgiveness means you choose not to hate them for the hurt and harm they’ve caused you. It means you can let them go with love, untie the ties that brought and bound you together and watch them gently drift away from you and out of your realm of awareness instead of ending the friendship in a storm of animosity and attempting to sink their vessel that may already be barely staying afloat.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you or trusting them after they’ve betrayed you. It doesn’t mean you forego the right to protect yourself and your family from harm. Forgiveness isn’t the mark of a wimp; it takes courage and confidence — and yes, faith — to forgive.

My faith is all about forgiveness. And forgiveness is all about faith. Faith not in the person you’re forgiving, but faith in the future of humanity. Faith in the belief that in the end, goodness will prevail over evil and that as long as there’s life, it’s never too late for salvation.

Because I’m far from perfect, myself. I still get mad. I slip and I think things and say things I shouldn’t. Things that aren’t kind. Things that aren’t necessary. Things that are rooted in emotion rather than logic. Things that come from a desire for retaliation instead of a spirit of helpfulness.

I try to be pragmatic and objective and base my opinions on reason but I’m not an automaton. I’m a human being and so I sometimes let my feelings – including my fears -get in the way. And for that, I too need forgiveness.

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Mantra of the MIsguided: The New Abnormal

COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER

Pet peeve: the phrase “new normal” when applied to the current locked down, fear-fueled situation.

Abnormal - Tablet Dictionary image

There are a number of buzz phrases, repeated over and over on social media, on public service commercials, in product ads, and in government propaganda, that have gained prominence during the COVID crisis. I hate most of them:

Safe at home – which disregards the fact that for victims of the mostly-hidden crimes of domestic violence and child abuse, home is not a safe place.

Stay home and save lives – which is an attempt to guilt you into believing that if you don’t stay locked down, you’re killing people. But where is the evidence of that? It presumes a) that you’re infected, b) that if you leave your home, you’ll automatically infect other people, and c) that those you infect will die — even though this virus has a 99% recovery rate. And more important, what about the lives that are being lost to the lockdowns themselves, that have nothing to do with COVIDthe suicides, stress-related illnesses, untreated unrelated medical conditions, and those aforementioned victims of domestic violence and child abuse?

Social distancing – there’s nothing social about it. It should be called anti-social distancing, as it has created an atmosphere in which people are terrified of every human being who comes near them.

We’re all in this together – which implies a) that we’re all making equal sacrifices, which is completely untrue, and b) that we are or should be all in agreement about how this is being handled, which is ridiculous given the sharp divide in public sentiment and the animosity between the two camps.

Safety first – which, if actually practiced, would mean never taking any kind of risk again. In real life, safety isn’t, can’t be, and shouldn’t be “first.” It must be balanced with quality of life because in order to live a perfectly safe life, you can’t really live at all.

I don’t deny that mantras serve a purpose. For those with an agenda, they’re used as a subtle form of subliminal seduction — or brainwashing, if you want to be more blunt about it — designed to make people feel virtuous about blindly following the rules. That’s a subversion of their original intent.

Mantras have traditionally been used in meditation to focus the mind inward, to soothe and calm and remove the distractions of the outside world. The word comes from Sanskrit: man = mind, tra = vehicle. A mantra can move your mind in a particular direction.

The good news is that we can choose our own mantras, and thus the direction in which we want our minds to go. If you need a slogan to repeat, how about these:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Keep calm and carry on.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Dawn comes after the darkness.
A life lived in fear is a life half lived.

Those are some of my favorites. You can find more inspirational and motivational quotes all over the web, that are far more inspiring than the COVID quotes.

~~~

While I intensely dislike the COVID quotes listed above, my absolute least favorite is the repulsive idea that we must all now accept and learn to live with “the new normal.”

Surrealism,3d,faces,trees,free pictures - free image from needpix.com

I refuse to accept that this absurd real-life episode of Black Mirror in which I find myself today is any kind of “normal.” It’s a temporary anomaly and one way or the other, it will end. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll completely go back to the “old normal” — which in some ways is a good thing and in other ways isn’t.

I acknowledge that there will indeed be a new and different way of doing some things, but this — entire states and nations still under house arrest, governments ramping up to track the movements of their citizens, requirements to wear mostly-useless masks in public venues, even outdoors, serious discussion of forced vaccinations and/or “immunity passports” required to go to work or even enter a store or restaurant — is not it.

Some parts of our lives are probably going to be changed forever. I’m afraid that cruising as we once knew it is over, just as flying as we knew it pre-9/11 is gone for good. Again, that’s both good and bad.

Royalty-Free photo: Closeup photo of boy's face | PickPik

If cruise lines do away with self-serve buffets and switch to a cafeteria style serving model where people can’t grab the rolls out of the bin with their hands or use their finger to get the sticky mashed potatoes off the community serving spoon and onto their plates, I’m all for it. If they do away with those self-service soft-serve machines where the kids make huge messes and smear ice cream all over the place, that’s a win.

I can live with having my temperature taken in the terminal before boarding (although I do have to question whether temperatures will register at all accurately in those circumstances). I’m willing to sign a waiver absolving the cruise of liability if I catch COVID-19 on the ship. Personally, I wouldn’t even care if the public pools and hot tubs were taken away; I never use them. And I wouldn’t be thrilled to see the gyms and spas and hair salons shut down but those wouldn’t be deal breakers for me. They would for some of my fellow cruisers, though.

On the other hand, if they start doing blood or nasal swab testing of all passengers in the terminal or requiring people over 70 to bring a doctor’s note to cruise (which is age discrimination; I know 70+ year olds who are far healthier than some of the 40 year olds I’ve met), that’s going to slow boarding way down and raise the cost of cruising for, in my opinion, dubious benefit.

News

If food in the dining room had to be served in cardboard boxes with one-time-use plastic spoons, if we were all forced to wear masks in public areas of the ships, if theater shows, deck parties, and other high-density activities are all cancelled, if we have to spend each cruise worrying about whether we’ll be denied reboarding the ship in port if our temperature reads high after spending a day in the Caribbean sun, if we’re required to present proof of vaccination to cruise at all — these are deal breakers for me. I think they will be for a lot of formerly-avid cruisers.

Cruising is only one of the many areas of our lives that are likely to be impacted for years, maybe decades to come by this fiasco.

I think/hope the time we spent in government imposed confinement will make some people stop and think about the freedoms we had and how it feels to live under a true oppressive regime, and perhaps changes some political views. That would be a good thing. I also think/hope that the time spent together may revive some marriages and make some families stronger – even as it tears others apart.

But I also fear that the distrust and fear of strangers, neighbors, even family and close friends who don’t live with us that’s been instilled by this “keep your distance!” brainwashing campaign is going to become hard coded if it goes on too long and it’s going to be difficult to deprogram.

I think we are going to be a less outgoing, more isolated and more paranoid society for at least some time to come even after the official restrictions are lifted. I despise the ease with which people have been convinced to turn against each other, to “tattle” on others who are doing innocuous and harmless things like taking a drive in their cars or spending an hour in the park nowhere close to anyone else because “it’s against the rules” and the (lack of) logic of those rules be damned.

I’d like to think that having this shared common enemy (the virus) will bring formerly divided groups together but I’m seeing the opposite. We seem to be more divided than ever, as individual and in the U.S. as states. That’s sad. But through the Internet, the virus issues have also revealed to us who in our circles are strong and who are weak, who are optimistic (mostly) and who are doomsayers, who panics and who doesn’t, who thinks and acts based on emotion and who insists on logic, with whom we want to be in the bunker and with whom we definitely don’t. And that knowledge, while it may cause some pain, is invaluable as we head into an unknown future where an as yet unknown new normal will prevail.

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