Every Which Way

“Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright.” — Paul McCartney

The concept of federalism has always been fascinating. It’s loosely tied to democracy, but even that is a stretch. When it works it works beautifully. Local leaders make local decisions that state and national leaders really don’t care about and shouldn’t care about. State and national leaders make decisions that local leaders probably don’t have the wherewithal to make. It really is a sight to behold.

On the flip side, there are lots of moments when this system just seems to bog down. I remember watching former governor Rick Perry fumble around during hurricane relief when he was tasked as being a go between with the federal government and local government. Bill White (the mayor at the time) got so exasperated that he told him to just stand in the corner while he worked directly with the federal relief people.

When it comes to a response to COVID, we are rapidly getting to that level of gross incompetence. The fact that the state actors are the ones again in the crosshairs shouldn’t be lost on anyone. The state level is dominated by Republicans while the local level has been dominated by Democrats. That alone is a good explanation for why things have gone awry.

However, that is a bit harsh. At least locally, Democrats and Republicans have worked together on disaster relief and never missed a hitch. So, it really isn’t a Democrat and Republican thing necessarily. It’s more likely that it is a state and local thing. Whatever the case, we can’t seem to get on the same page on the virus and people are getting confused. When they get confused they get frustrated and then enters chaos.

In a time when it would be great to have one unified voice of how to proceed we have voices on four different levels. We have the national government making rules and recommendations. State governments have virtually punted any response or responsibility. This is especially true for those that have possible 2024 aspirations. So, that leaves local authorities and or private businesses to pick up the slack.

My daughter had a volleyball tournament this past weekend. Except, they weren’t allowed to go. One member of the team had been exposed to COVID. So, the whole team was barred from coming. I think the tournament organizers really don’t understand what they were doing here. See, there wasn’t one player on the team that was exposed. There were multiple players exposed.

Kids on these sorts of teams go to multiple schools. Those multiple schools have multiple rules in terms of COVID and exposure. Some tell you if you have been exposed and some don’t. Some advise you to get tested when exposed and some don’t. Obviously, a lot of people know these rules and will be less than honest about their exposure. That’s especially true when you consider the consequences of reporting that exposure.

I’d have to imagine that if every team were following the rules to the letter there would be no tournament. So, in a roundabout way they were actually guaranteeing more exposure and not less. Obviously, the situation caused a lot of frustration for the girls and for their parents. Frustration leads to less cooperation and less following of the rules. I imagine that is not what we are after.

That’s just one isolated situation. Multiply that numerous times and you’ll get what we currently have. You get a situation where national, state, and local entities say three different things. Public and private entities say two different things. Multiply that by the number of private entities we deal with on a daily basis and the number of public entities we may deal with and you get a recipe for frustration and confusion. That’s for the people who are inclined to follow rules and recommendations in good faith. As we know, many people are not that way.

In that world it shouldn’t be surprising that some people won’t follow the rules and instead may resort to drinking their urine to fight back the virus. This is federalism problem, but it really is a problem where some people are not invested in finding solutions. Some people are more invested in making sure others fail. They want frustration. Frustration is a path to their electoral success. At least we are all on the same page as far as that is concerned.

A point of Sympathy

“I’ve been fobbed off, and I’ve been fooled
I’ve been robbed and ridiculed
In daycare centers and night schools.”– The Traveling Wilburys

It’s a Friday for a holiday weekend. I decided to turn my head away from the political mess and into the fray of local sports. I certainly offer my commentaries at those places too these days. The Houston Texans fired their coach yesterday after waiting an excruciating four days to make a command decision.

There are all kinds of views on these things. Those from far enough away see the bigger picture I guess. They saw an untalented team that somehow won the same number of games as the season before when there was more talent. They saw a team that played harder down the stretch and seemingly improved in the second half of the season. They saw dysfunction as something beyond the coach.

As usually happens, the closer you get to the situation the more you see. You saw decisions within the game that just didn’t make sense. You heard explanations of those decisions after the game that made even less sense. Finally, it came out that at least two people were on the headset at all times telling the coach what to do. When we heard that this wasn’t enough some of the time we kind of knew.

It was in those moments when our humanity had to take over. You can laugh at someone for only so long before you begin to pity them. Eventually you just want to shake their hand, pat them on the back, and send them on their way. The organization cited philosophical differences on the direction of the team. I’ve always been a fan of a good euphemism, but even I found that obscured the facts just a little too much.

If you listened to the coach talk at any point in the year, you understood why the regime took four days to let him go. Rumors were running rampant that only two years of his contract were guaranteed. They knew. What they also knew is that you get one of these blunders. The next one you have to get right because this one went so horribly. There’s really no defense for something everyone saw before it even happened.

Ultimately, the David Culley story will be a fish out of water story. It will be a story about a guy that held a position at least two rungs above his capabilities. All it takes to feel sympathy is to experience that kind of thing yourself. I have experienced that on multiple occasions.

Dozens of younger teachers get degrees in counseling and middle management. They do that because they want to leave the classroom some day. Everybody wants to rule the world as the song always said. With new found opportunity comes new found responsibility. The best advice I always give those teachers is that they have to manage their opportunities. You can’t afford to jump at every opportunity out there. I did and it probably cost me another one.

We all have our place where we are most comfortable and ultimately most competent. I’ve talked about this guy before in this space because he so obviously drives home an important lesson for all of us. We wish we were the boss until we discover that the boss’s job is a little harder than we imagined. Then, there’s no going back. I wish the best to David Culley and hope he can find his level somewhere. Unfortunately, it wasn’t here.

The Usual Caveats

“Any fool knows that a dog needs a home. A shelter from pigs on the wing.”– Roger Waters

The newest battle cry amongst conservatives is that Joe Biden broke his primary campaign promise. He promised to beat COVID-19, or at least that is what the right seems to say that he did. It’s fun watching people tie themselves into pretzels with their arguments. I suppose one could argue that we all do it at one time or another.

The Biden response to the virus has been fairly consistent actually. When the administration began, they hit the ground running and had some pretty ambitious goals in terms of vaccine production and distribution. They not only met those goals. They exceeded those goals. By the summer, they were lifting federal mask mandates for people who had been vaccinated. The unvaccinated were supposed to continue wearing masks.

Again, the conservative response has been that of the petulant child. Break it all down to its lowest common denominator and you get the basic phrase, “you can’t tell me what to do.” It really is something to behold. The pushback has been consistent and downright stupid. They seemingly alternate between questioning COVID’s existence and then blaming the president because he hasn’t defeated it.

Clay Travis has spent his career in sports commentary where he operates as kind of a shock jock and gambling expert. Somehow he graduated to political commentary and just being a general jackass. The tactic is straight from the conservative playbook. Complain about a problem. Offer zero solutions. Block the other side from implementing any useful solutions. Blame the other side for not solving the problem.

That’s been the local response as well. It could be Greg Abbott’s overarching ban of mask mandates. It’s one thing to block government entities from mandating masks. It’s something else to block private businesses of doing the same. Then, as we said before he is now begging the federal government for resources.

Omicron numbers are through the roof. Dr. Fauci told us that virtually everyone will end up getting it at some point. So, we cannot force people to wear masks. My district strenuously recommended masks and practically begged teachers to wear masks themselves so they could set a good example for students. Most of the administrators on my campus don’t wear one. The kid in my office that just had COVID doesn’t wear one. When leadership shows such blatant disregard I’m not really sure where to go from here.

Meanwhile, more locally our family has seen Christmas 2020 pushed back again. We couldn’t meet in 2020 because of the pandemic. 2021 was impossible because of work schedules and travel schedules. Then, the pandemic struck again to postpone our January meeting. Certain family members have COVID. They were the ones that refused to vax because they believed it was all a hoax. I just hope and pray it doesn’t hit them that hard. Maybe we can get together this spring when it gets warmer.

We want our life back. We want to be able to do the things we did before. The Clay Travis’s of the world can prattle on about how much of a failure Joe Biden is. These are the same people that booed their own hero when he told them he had been boosted. Their selfishness is costing the rest of us. They are the ones keeping this damn virus alive. Get vaxxed. Wear a mask. Sit down and shut the hell up. Or don’t do those things. When it comes to asking why we are still in this mess, get up and look in the mirror.

A sign of respect

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate drops to zero.” — Tyler Durden

Tyler Durden doesn’t really exist. He is a character in a book that eventually became a movie. Amidst all of the shenanigans between Rand Paul and Dr. Fauci, more statistics seem to bandied about. Some of them are actually thought provoking and deserve some exploration. Of course, the Durden character reminds us that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. He’s useful that way.

Paul has taken it upon himself to be the fly in Fauci’s ointment. At every step of the way he has been there to question his findings and disagree with his conclusions. After all, he’s a doctor. Despite popular belief, he is still licensed to practice as an ophthalmologist. I guess he has that going for him.

This is where we get bogged down into the small details of pitting one expert against another. See, Rand Paul did go to medical school. I’m sure he did take classes in immunology. He probably knows more than the average bear. Yet, when compared with a medical doctor that has spent the past four plus decades studying immunology exclusively there can be no real comparison.

The numbers I saw last night would allow you to question all of this. In 2018, the world death rate was 0.76 percent. That was the same death rate as 2019 and the same as 2020. That nugget of information would lead one to believe that COVID hasn’t impacted the world population at all. I suppose if we looked at this through a vacuum we’d close the book and move on.

Sadly though, we don’t live in the world. We live in the United States. In the United States, death rates have not been level. When one looks at the world rates for just COVID we see something else entirely. Sure, there are disputes about how deaths should be counted, but these deaths are counted the same way around the world and they have yielded very clear results.

So, two things are clear based on the data we do see. First, the overall mortality rate IN THE UNITED STATES has gone up since COVID has been a thing. So, releasing world data is nice, but that demonstrates that most of the world has gotten this thing under control. That’s because when health experts in those countries have proposed ways to get the virus under control, the people in those countries actually listened.

There are nearly eight billion people in the world. The U.S. population represents around four percent of that total. Basic math tells us that the mortality rate would really need to spike in the U.S. for it to have a dent in the overall world mortality rate. This is especially true when we consider that things like masking and heightened hygiene have decreased the amount of flu deaths we normally have and probably improved health on the other end.

Fauci already has probably earned his salvation if people believe in such a thing. In addition to all of the potential disasters he has helped prevent in the intervening decades, he had to listen to Trump prattle on with his nonsense for over a year. One can forgive him if he loses his cool even this one time.

So, we can debate whether we should count people who die because of COVID or whether people die with COVID. We can argue as if those verbs, pronouns, and adjectives even matter. The point is that an expert that has been doing this for going on 50 years tells us it matters. Sure, he could be wrong I guess. Science continually improves itself throughout time. If you are prepared to take the word of an eye doctor over him then you take your life into your own hands. Good luck.

Life By the Numbers

“Well, I get up at seven, yeah
And I’ll go to work at nine
I got no time for livin’
Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.”– Geddy Lee

You couldn’t have set up the punchline any better. Our parish priest announced that the bishop was lifting the dispensation on attending mass virtually. So, no more live streaming of mass. No more simulcasts over the radio. Of course, that came with the usual caveats about health and what not. The punchline? Half of the choir was out with COVID and the high school confirmation night had been cancelled due to COVID. I guess irony isn’t lost on the church.

It was that moment that hit me like a ton of bricks. All of us desperately want to be back to normal. No one likes quarantine. No one likes masks. No one likes getting two rounds of shots and then a third. No one likes rapid tests or blood tests or antibody tests or any other kind of test. Some don’t like it and so they don’t do it. So, he we are.

A friend posted on Facebook about the unemployment rate and it created quite the stir. See, someone once said that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Sure, the numbers themselves don’t lie. They can’t lie. They are numbers. What can happen is that we can have false conclusions when we misunderstand the numbers.

Unemployment rates are based on the number of people actively seeking employment. If I stop looking for whatever reason then I no longer count. That is a stark contrast with counting the number of people actually working. In 2019, 157.54 million people were working. In 2021, that number dropped to 152.72 million. If you click on the link you’ll notice that 2020 was even lower.

When you have competing numbers it becomes important to talk about context. When you are a writer it becomes important to tie up loose ends. What does COVID have to do with unemployment and the numbers of people working? It has everything to do with it although most people wouldn’t necessary identify it as the culprit.

Clearly, there is a gap between the number of people seeking jobs (which is historically low) and the number of people actually working. Understanding the gap is the key to understanding everything. I really can only speak intelligently about my industry. There is a huge teacher shortage throughout the state of Texas. COVID plays a role in that, but it isn’t necessarily the only thing.

It would be more accurate to say there are a variety of factors that have come together to create this situation. COVID simply was a catalyst in bringing these factors all together. Suddenly, hundreds if not thousands of teachers realized they were being asked to do the impossible. Student to teacher ratios were increasing, more pressure was coming from on high about test scores, and support from the central office and from the average home was dwindling. Add that to a pandemic and the need to somehow socially distance 30 children while teaching an interactive lesson without people interacting and it was enough for thousands to throw in the towel.

This is just education. Those in other industries could tell their own tales. Working for a living involves trade offs. We all work for an income and that income allows us to afford certain things. Yet, we exchange some risk in return. That risk takes the form of stress, aggravation, and certainly our time. When those costs become too high then workers will decline the paycheck and live the consequences of that decision.

Employers have three doors to choose from. They can either deal with the loss of productivity, they can increase the pay, or they can work with the workers to mitigate the risks. Obviously, different employers have chosen each door to greater or lesser amounts of success.

Meanwhile, many on the employer side are waiting with bated breath like the bishop. They are waiting for that special day when everything will go back to the way it had always been. Like the bishop, they fail to see the irony of that belief system. We can certainly choose to believe what we want to believe about whether this change is a good or bad thing. If we want, we can call workers lazy and ungrateful for the opportunities they have. We can call employers greedy and unwilling to change with the changing times. Maybe it took COVID to create this new reality, but it doesn’t change what is. Somehow we will have to manage.

Who’s Behind the Curtain?

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” — William Shakespeare

I usually take the weekends off from these things. Then, when you consider that I had a story arch already picked out at the end of last week it makes sense that some of these stories fall through the cracks. Of course, it could also be my natural aversion to Ted Cruz. Some people just make my skin crawl. In the pantheon of right-wing celebrity, Cruz inspires less contempt than pity.

See, every time he appears in the news it seems to be for an alarming lack of courage. He made the news again before the weekend when he appeared to be groveling to Tucker Carlson. My decision to push this story back makes me late to the party. A lot has been said both here and abroad about this exchange. I don’t know how much I can add to it.

If the Texas GOP political delegation were a cast of characters they would almost certainly come from the Wizard of Oz. Louie Gohmert would almost certainly be the scarecrow in search of a brain. Dan Patrick would play the role of the Tin Man searching for a heart. That would place Ted Cruz as the lion searching for courage.

Whether he’s bailing the state when the freeze comes, buckling under to Donald Trump even after Trump insulted his wife and father, or assuming the position with Tucker Carlson, Cruz has long established that he is far from being the king of the jungle.

One could analyze his statements about the insurrectionists and then his overwhelming desire to somehow take it back. Psychologists could analyze the whys and what fors until the cows come home. I think what we know and what we suspect are not all that far away from each other. Cruz was a part of a plan to delay the certification of the election. I’m sure they trusted him with the parliamentarian side of the plot. No one ever accused Cruz of being dumb.

The less you know in a conspiracy the better. I’m willing to guess he didn’t know about the violence before January 6th. Goodness knows what he would have done with that information had he known. Maybe he would have assumed the position. Maybe he would have blown the whistle. My guess is that the human part of him was horrified at what transpired.

That’s the part that came out and called the participants terrorists. It is one thing to steal an election through parlor tricks and slight of hand. It’s another to steal it on the tip of a sword. As per usual, his first words spoke the truth before he forgot who was in charge.

This brings us to the real scary part of this dilemma. The story is not that Cruz was groveling, but who he was groveling to. We would expect him to grovel to Trump. Having him grovel to a prime time talking head is a cross between bizarre and unsettling. How did Carlson get this much power and who exactly is Carlson accountable to?

A number of folks have thought Carlson could make a run for president. I suppose it makes sense. He has money. He has name recognition. He has a brain. He can match being an outsider with his knowledge of the key players on the inside. However, this would involve him getting in the game. He can snipe from the outside and wield much more power. Power and a lack of responsibility is a dangerous combination. No one on the left has this kind of power. It could be about Carlson, but it really isn’t. Democratic politicians don’t grovel to the talking heads. As long as the wizard denies Cruz and others their courage people like Carlson will be in total control.

Proportionality

“He can play the Honky Tonk like anything
Savin’ it up, for Friday night.”–Mark Knopfler

Every once in awhile there are comments that crystalize ideas in your mind. The discussion of 24 hours news networks came up. One of the graphs we teach to students involves two axes. Most people focus on the left versus right axis. That certainly makes sense because that is the focus we want them to consider.

Jon Stewart had a terrific interview with Rachel Maddow years ago when he was still on the Daily Show. He described the whole apparatus as climate versus individual commentators as weather. The whole idea behind it was what he would call a relay effect. He compared it with his own show where at what point he was followed by puppets making prank phone calls. His brand of political satire existed on its own.

What he was describing was proportionality. When I’m watching a network that features Jeannine Pirro, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson back to back to back to back there is an amplification effect in motion. The effect is the same as someone that watches Joy Reid, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell consecutively.

Bias can exist in two different axes. If we want to call this journalism, we would call it the journalistic judgement of choosing which stories to focus on and how much attention they receive. In the newspaper business they would talk about what goes above and below the fold. In terms of radio and television it becomes the equivalent of 64 point font being used for the headline.

When that gets multiplied four or five times (with consecutive talking heads) it becomes impossible to put any news story in its proper context. The only illustration that immediately comes to mind is the local flagship station for the Houston Texans. They have a siren that blares every time there is “breaking Texan news.” At one point they were interrupting every show with updates on whether Rusty Hardin (the attorney for Deshaun Watson) had spoken or the fact that their third string strong safety had been added to the COVID list. I openly asked what would happen when there was actual news to report.

24 hour news networks work in the same way. They were initially designed to cover news like 9/11 or 1/6 when there was a need for in-depth coverage. The trouble is that most days don’t have the need for coverage on that level. So, we hype up minor stories until they become major stories. We could repeat the same question as above: what happens when we actually have a major story?

The point that needed to be made though is that this is just one of the two major axes that separates different news networks. CNN, MSNBC, Fox, OANN, and Newsmax all employ the same tactics on that level. It’s the only way 24 hour news networks know how to survive. However, that is where the similarities stop.

The other axis is the axis of accuracy of truthfulness. Some networks report facts and some don’t. Even then, we have varying levels of truthful reporting. Some report facts most of the time, some report them some of the time, and some rarely ever report them. Add a big lie to the amplification effect and you can see how millions of people can find themselves trapped in an information silo.

When you find yourself battling to save a friend or family member it becomes important to realize what you are dealing with. People used to spend 30 minutes watching the nightly news. It may have gone on for an hour when you combined the local and national news. Now, people are tuning in when they get home and camping on that channel until their head hits the pillow. Saving someone from that level of bombardment is a daunting task. Furthermore, seeing an MSNBC or CNN viewer interact with a Fox or OANN viewer can be both maddening and fascinating at the same time. They are two different realities and who is to say which one is really real or not?

The Anniversary

“Who needs information
When you’re living in constant fear
Just give me confirmation
There’s some way out of here.”–Roger Waters

These days usually creep up on all of us and that is no less true for days where we disagree on the meaning. Last year, a bunch of MAGAs decided to invade the capitol in hopes of derailing the certification of the 2020 election. These are the facts and yet a number of people still want to dispute them. Millions of people are trapped in what we might call an information silo.

If you have lived in Texas for any length of time you have seen a silo. My mother’s hometown had those outside the city limits. Of course, we could scarcely call her hometown a city. There were only about 5000 residents. In this case, the silos were responsible for holding and sifting through rice. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you should never go inside a silo. The impending result could be disastrous.

It’s in this backdrop that we address the news that the House January 6th committee wants to hear from Sean Hannity. The Fox “News” night time host apparently was involved in text messaging with Mark Meadows prior to, during, and after the events of January 6th. We already know he’s involved. The question is how much more involved was he than what we already know through the text messaging.

Since 2007, 80 people have died in silos around the country. Usually they are teenage boys that should know better but don’t. The process is downright frightening. When you are inside you can suddenly be engulfed with whatever the silo is sifting through. It’s quick and deadly. You can’t just be pulled out. It usually requires heavy machinery and in some cases they can’t get to you in time.

The term “information silo” is particularly apt in this case. Sources like Fox News and talk radio have been broadcasting for over 30 years. If you get inundated with enough bile, it is impossible to simply extricate yourself or someone you know from that life. We can trace these information silos back to the eradication of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

Hannity has become the newest symbol for this, but he might not even be the most guilty party. However, the notion of a media member participating in an insurrection is downright frightening. Yet, the relationship between Fox and their hosts is fascinating to say the least. Hannity is represented, but he isn’t represented by any attorneys working for Fox. He is being represented by one of Donald Trump’s former attorneys. It brings to mind that whole notion about two masters and what not.

So, Fox both promotes Hannity (along with Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham) and then distances themselves from him at the same time. They do the same with the others as well (particularly Carlson). It’s almost as if they know how dangerous the silo has become. When the monster becomes self-aware we have broken through the fourth wall. When you consider just the amount of malarkey that Fox spews it is easy to see how 25 percent of the public can think the events of last January 6th were just another day in paradise. Watch enough Fox News and you can find yourself trapped in an alternative reality. It really is just like a silo.

Ends and Means

“Try to realise it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you.” –George Harrison

When you take political philosophy classes you eventually get to the point where you read Niccolo Machiavelli. It’s really unavoidable. One of the things I’ve talked about with my daughter is the concept of a “money line”. Essentially, it is the line all writers are hoping to find. They are the poignant lines we remember from our favorite songs and poems. They are the lines that live on forever in literature. They quite literally stand on their own.

For Machiavelli the line was the infamous, “the ends justify the means.” The line is so iconic that most people could scarcely say what the title of the book was. Hell, most people probably identify the line before they identify Machiavelli. The rest of us hope to get there someday.

These thoughts came to mind when PBS released a poll about the events on January 6th. Tomorrow will be the anniversary of that event and a year later we can’t even get any kind of agreement on what to call it. We certainly can’t get agreement on the implications of it.

Ultimately, it is a disagreement on ends and means. For those that never took a political philosophy class, the ends refer to the goals of a particular action. The means refer to how the goals are obtained. The poll results above certainly tell us a great deal about how some people view ends and means.

The 25 percenters represent the hardcore membership in the modern day GOP. They are the ones that excuse the events on January 6th and somehow decry what had happened in the cities around the country the previous summer when Black Lives Matter and Antifa protested police brutality. The difference of course is one of both ends and means.

Even if we accept the narrative that protesters were solely responsible for the acts of vandalism in the summer protests, those acts were not central to the protests. The vandalism and violence were not ends. In fact, they weren’t even the primary means to the end. They were unfortunate byproducts of so many people involved in something that wasn’t exceptionally organized.

As most of my readers know, we can’t accept the premise that the protesters were responsible for all of the violence and vandalism. Conservatives are overwhelmingly adept at the concept of projection. Accusations of voter fraud, vandalism, and violence are there because they do those things themselves. The first clue should be their insistence that BLM and Antifa were infiltrating the crowds on January 6th. The notion is ridiculous and yet makes perfect sense when you consider it in this context.

The modern day equivalent to ends and means would be bugs and features. Was violence on the 6th a bug or a feature? We know it was a bug for the summer protests. We know this because it actually detracted from the goals of the protests. We know this because right wing insurgent groups used the tactic of drumming up violence and vandalism to derail their aims. Of course, while we know of some isolated incidents of right wing provocative action, we don’t know if the majority of the violence and vandalism were inspired by insurgents.

What also know is that violence and vandalism were features of the attack of January 6th. It wasn’t an unfortunate byproduct of people exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly. It was wholly necessary so that they could reach the end of their action. They wanted to prevent the legal counting of electoral votes. They hoped it would be returned to the states and thrown into the House of Representatives. They wanted the rightful victor to be replaced by their guy. Ends and means and features and bugs. That’s the key to this whole thing.

Here we go again

“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around.” — Pete Townsend

Working for one school while your child goes to another has a number of disadvantages. It can be tough to plan events around the year because the calendars may not sync up. However, they innately know this on some level. On one occasion our principal was really pressuring us about the importance of a local election. The district had a bond issue that needed to pass. Finally, someone had to tell him that no one from our office actually lived in the district. He probably knew all along, but was compelled to politic out of habit.

It’s been situations like COVID that have really made living in a different district interesting. I get to see the differences between where I work and where our daughter goes to school. Naturally, with every major difference there are stark similarities.

Transparency is a huge difference. My sister works in a third school district in the area. She had a positive test come back on a student in her classroom. The principal didn’t officially identify the student (since that would be illegal) but allowed her to guess until she guessed correctly. Our daughter’s school will tell us when students test positive, teachers test positive, or visitors test positive. When students test positive they’ll even tell you how many from each grade level tested positive.

The school district where I work tends to skew on the conservative end. We will find out that a homosapien on our campus has tested positive. I suppose if we saw a Neanderthal testing positive then maybe that would provide too much of a clue. Last year, teachers were told if someone tested positive in their room. To my knowledge, no one has gotten such notification this year.

All of this builds to this moment. The Omicron variant has wreaked havoc across the country and positive cases have risen to the highest level of the entire pandemic. My daughter’s district reported that 12 percent of employees surveyed were either currently positive, had been positive at some point during the break, or were waiting on results of a test. Of course, the same could be true in my district, but we would never know such a thing.

In the movie Animal House Dean Wormer is talking with one of his student toadies when he announces that the evil fraternity will be on probation. The student tells him they already are on probation. So, he amends the statement to tell us they are on “secret double probation.” What exactly did that mean? No one quite knew.

A similar thing is happening in all of our schools. Some districts are making a huge deal over how threat levels are increasing as we move from threat level beige to threat level light brown. As you might suspect, the difference is minimal at best. It’s minimal because the governor has forced it to be minimal. We can recommend masks. Now masks are strenuously recommended. If you don’t wear one we will be compelled to strenuously suggest that you wear one again.

When we were kids we actually practiced for situations when a bomb might explode or one of the nearby plants blow up. It always involved bending underneath our desk with a handy textbook being placed at the base of our neck. Such a book would have to be strong to withstand a nuclear blast. One could imagine the school disintegrating around the kids, but they would be safe with “See Spot Run” comfortably protecting their heads from the carnage going on around them.

The collective response to this thing seems somehow similar. I’m sure the heavy cleaning of the building does something. Certainly, instances of the seasonal flu have gone down since COVID began. Cleaner living does promote overall health I suppose. However, one can’t ignore the foolishness of it all. We can’t seem to all collectively do what should be done. Our freedom won’t allow it or some such nonsense like that. Shared sacrifice? The hell you say. I’m an American. In ‘Murica we go our own way. We do it all the way to our grave if we have to.