There and Back Again: A Pandemic Journey
by C. A. Matthews
There is another world beyond the county line.
It has been two years since we dared set foot outside of our immediate vicinity due to COVID-19 concerns and lack of funds. Finally, we broke down and realized how much we needed a change of scenery. That, and we also had to admit how much we missed seeing friends we enjoy chatting with at an annual convention we've attended for years in a nearby state. (It was cancelled in 2020 for obvious reasons.) Once we acknowledged our unaddressed needs, we made plans to go on a road trip.
Or at least we attempted to. Our plans required fine-tuning. It's amazing how out of practice one can get, particularly after two years of staying put. We felt physically and psychologically out of sorts and even a bit fearful. Not that there's anything to worry about when there's a worldwide pandemic going on, is there?
We hit the road a half hour later than planned. (That's a record for us. We usually start out an hour or more late.) The journey proceeded smoothly until we got closer to the state line. There I began to notice a disturbing trend:
Where the hell did all these semi-trucks and double trailers come from? Sure, it's a highway, but why is 80-90% of the vehicular traffic we're seeing commercial rigs--many owned by uber-billionaire Jeff Bezos? What's happened to all the "regular people"?
Oh, yeah. There's a pandemic going on. People who are sensible have curtailed their travels. Most are cash-strapped. Only the wealthy "golden bubble" dwellers can travel without fear because they can buy out whole hotel floors and rent entire campgrounds. Those who state they're not afraid of a "pretend virus" because it's part of a "liberal conspiracy" don't stay at home. This mainstream media viewpoint was reinforced when we stopped at a rural gas station for a comfort break. We couldn't find the restrooms and were about to ask the clerk when I spotted the hand-scrawled sign in the window: Trump flags available--$19.99 plus tax.
We couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Onward we traveled, experiencing some minor discomforts due to road conditions, weather, and endless construction zones. We've now decided to modify the state slogan of Indiana to The Construction Crossroads of America. It's more accurate. Folks will thank us.
Coming to a standstill twice on the interstate due to construction, and possibly an accident caused by said construction, caused us to lose an hour. (Funny, we saw plenty of orange barrels but mostly invisible construction workers. The barrels must do the actual roadwork?) However, when we crossed a time zone line we magically gained the wasted hour back. Hurrah! Travel can be like that at times.
Brief stops at rest areas revealed that those of us wearing masks in public are in the minority in Middle America. A lady came up to me in the parking lot of a large interstate highway rest area and said she noticed our masks and wondered if we were vaccinated. I said yes, and she said she was vaccinated too, but she had suffered through two bouts of COVID-19 already, as she worked as a nurse. We commiserated about how not everyone was taking the virus seriously.
This says a lot about us as a people, doesn't it?
We arrived at our convention hotel and were relieved to see that the state of Illinois doesn't mess around when it comes to COVID-19 precautions. Masks must be worn by all persons age 2 and older inside buildings open to the public. Our fellow conventioneers complied with the regulations without fail. Another plus was that at registration all attendees had to offer proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within the past 72 hours. It gave us a feeling of security that others actually cared about their neighbors' health and were willing to be slightly inconvenienced by wearing a mask in public for three days.
Not that wearing a mask doesn't have its downside when attempting to verbally communicate with your fellow humans... It was often difficult to impossible to hear what panelists and questioners were saying through layers of cloth or paper. But no one complained or insisted their "rights" were being abridged. We simply asked folks to repeat their comments, laughed at any unintentional misunderstandings, and continued the conversation. (And the variety of the novelty masks worn was phenomenal! I've definitely got to order myself some. Maybe the Joker's mouth one or the vampire fangs. Or both.)
The high point of the weekend for us was seeing friends we hadn't seen in 3-D in two years. The lowest point was not seeing a lot of friends because they couldn't attend the convention for whatever reason. Attendance was way, way down--by about 50% when compared to the previous 2019 convention. The traditional big group activities had been cancelled due to COVID precautions. These events are usually huge draws, and it explained some of the regulars missing in action. Is the state Illinois being too restrictive in keeping hundreds from sitting or standing in close proximity to each other for a few hours in an enclosed area? Or was this a decision of our convention planners to forego these crowded activities in order to prevent a super spreader event from occurring that could bring about the demise of our annual get-together? We don't know.
We were sad to leave and head home, but it was also a relief. Getting out of our rut and venturing forth into the pandemic-riddled world took courage and effort on our parts--especially on the drive home through a climate change-fueled monsoon-like thunderstorm. We felt exhausted when we pulled into our driveway. We hadn't been sure we were up to the trip, but now that we've done it… Will we do it again?
It remains to be seen. Delta variant case numbers are on the rise, and our bank account balance is plunging in the opposite direction. Until both crises are met and vanquished, you'll be finding us at home, wearing our masks, scraping to get by.
Check out Lee's latest story on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. See what they're really up to in Africa and why Bill Gates owns the most farmland in the US today. (We're still in the dark about why Bill liked to hang out with child rapist Jeffrey Epstein, however. Creepy.)
Right now, as the U.S. escalates its war on China, the U.S. military is actively violating the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Guam, Hawai’i, the Marianas, Okinawa, and other pristine islands in the Asia-Pacific. The U.S.’s militarization of these regions is causing mass environmental devastation of sacred ancestral coral reefs and carbon-sequestering forests, while oppressing and harming Indigenous Pacific Islanders through military exercises and accidents, military crime, and the poisoning of drinking water. All of these issues can be traced back to the bloated pentagon budget. It is more evident than ever that the military and fossil fuel industry cannot be trusted with billions of tax-payer dollars each year. We must #CutThePentagon to save the planet!
From Minnesota to Okinawa, the people, planet, peace and our future are under attack! The U.S. military is the largest consumer of fossil fuels, and we must demand an end to its pollution and displacement of Indigenous, Black, brown and low-income people around the world. Tell the Biden administration to stop building the environmentally destructive Marine base in Henoko, Okinawa against the will of the Indigenous Luchuan (Okinawan) people! #WarIsNotGreen
Water and land protectors are once again leading the charge against the fossil fuel industry, join with us and our #CutThePentagon message in the streets of DC. From October 11-15th, frontline leaders are calling for a mass mobilization in DC to ask Biden: will it be People or Fossil Fuels? CODEPINK will host a demonstration Wednesday, October 13th - sign up to act with us, and join our affinity group here. We would love to see you for one, two or more days during this important week of action!
Contact Olivia - firstname.lastname@example.org - if you have any questions!
Onward to Peace & Justice,
The CODEPINK Team
P.S. Make sure you’re ready for Cut The Pentagon events in your town with the proper CODEPINK gear! Get your masks, tees and accessories to make the message stand out! SHOP HERE!
P.P.S. CODEPINK is co-sponsoring the free, virtual War on Terror Film Festival for the month of October - view the schedule and featured films here!
From Faithful America:
During his campaign, President Biden promised that his immigration policies would represent a clear break from the white-supremacist regime of his predecessor, who banned Muslims and refugees, demonized Spanish-speaking peoples, and mocked "s***hole countries."
Sadly, this is one promise Biden hasn't kept yet. Viral images of Border Patrol agents on horseback violently rounding up Haitian asylum-seekers tell a very different tale of how our country still treats our neighbors in need.
President Biden is demanding that courts give him the right to keep using Title 42 -- a provision originally intended to protect public health -- as a legal excuse to lock down the border and turn away Haitian nationals and others in need before they can even apply for asylum, just like Donald Trump did.
Americans have been shocked and horrified by the new administration's escalation of Haitian deportations, and by the inhumane treatment of Black asylum-seekers by the Border Patrol. Earlier this week, 177 diverse faith organizations -- including Faithful America -- released a letter demanding the Biden administration stop the deportations.
Let's send the administration 10,000 signatures to show them these faith groups are speaking for a nationwide movement that supports Black immigrants and refugees.
The people of Haiti have been through so much in recent years. Earthquakes, tropical storms, landslides, and political turmoil have devastated the country. These children of God have turned to Americans for refuge, safety, and hope -- making it even more immoral to force them to return to such violent and unsafe conditions.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to welcome strangers with open hearts, and to never turn away those who are seeking help and safety. President Biden's Catholic Church has been particularly strong on immigration -- more than 160 Catholic organizations have called for the end of Title 42.
As Mary J. Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, said, Biden's continued abuse of the Trump-era policy is "a violation of the human dignity of immigrants and asylum-seekers. We cannot allow the continuation of this xenophobic order, which puts asylum-seekers in harm's way. We call President Biden to honor the call to love our neighbor and end the misuse of Title 42 completely."
In this spirit, let's raise our voices together and urge President Biden to take immediate action to stop the misuse of Title 42 and welcome all those who have fled Haiti.
Thank you for everything you do to love your neighbor and welcome the strangers in our midst.
- Karli, Rev. Nathan, and the Faithful America team