Tag Archives: George Floyd

Pandemic, Protests, Panic Attacks

Three people I know have had panic attacks lately. They all thought they were having heart attacks.

I may be next.  No, not really.  But I do feel the stress.  A number of people have said, “Being locked down isn’t that different from my life before.” They live in comfortable homes, have access to limitless entertainment, and have the means to get whatever they need delivered to their door.  They haven’t been impacted financially.  They don’t live near the protests.

“It’s psychological,” a friend said yesterday as we were socializing on his deck.  “I’m playing pickle ball in a Covid-19 ‘pod’ of six guys. I’m an introvert anyway.  I’m retired, so staying home shouldn’t bother me.  I Skype with my mom, but I won’t be visiting her any time soon.”

His mother, in India.  Her short-term memory is gone, but her face lights up when she sees her son.  He was visiting every two months.  It’s a grueling trip with long flights and ground transport. I thought he would be relieved to have an excuse not to go, but no.  He’s a good son.

“In the UK, they talked about BAME people dying at much higher rates from Covid.” I said. BAME is black, Asian, and minority ethnic.  And by Asian they mean Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian.

My friends looked a bit thrown.  Should I not have said anything?  “They don’t know what the causes are.  It’s doctors dying, not just poor people.”

“So it might be genetic,” my friend said.

“Or something to do with darker skin blocking Vitamin D absorption, which supports immunity?  Or that Asian families tend to live in multigenerational housing in densely populated areas?”

“It’ll probably turn out to be a complex set of factors,” he said.

I am still doing contract work from home.  My duplex is comfortable and the weather has been great so I can get out and walk at a distance from a friend or ride my bike.

I am going to have my granddaughters and nephews once a week (separately).  I want them to have a wonderful summer.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t as long as we can be outside or in the car with windows rolled down.

I took the girls on an unintentional tour of Minneapolis due to a detour.  Every storefront is boarded up or charred.  On the plus side, there is a lot of great street art.  I explained what had happened in very simple terms.  The nine-year old said, “But that’s not right. That’s like what we learned in school last year, about Martin Luther King.”  I thought it went over the head of the four year old, but days later she said, out of nowhere, “Cops killed a guy.”

I’ve decided to move.  Again.

My neighborhood was dodgy before Covid and the unrest caused by the murder of George Floyd.  Many houses have been bought by investors and filled with registered sex offenders, including one kitty corner from me which must have 5-6 guys in it.  It must be very lucrative.

Then there’s the noise—in spring, the punks tear up and down the streets in their extremely loud hot rods.  You would think my neighbors who lived through the Vietnam War wouldn’t be fond of fireworks, but you would be wrong.  Several nights a week, the BOOOM, Booom, Boom goes on until one or two in the morning.  I’m not talking firecrackers; I’m talking industrial grade fireworks.

Then Covid came, and an area with lots of people in low-wage jobs became an area with lots of people with no jobs.  The uprisings began.  I’ve seen numerous cars without license plates, this one was abandoned at the end of my alley for days, even after I called it in to the police.

There was the incident of the cops with assault rifles surrounding my house.  Finally, two nights ago, I woke to the sound of a dozen gun shots.  Sirens and a high speed chase ensued, then a CRASH in front of my house, then the police shouting through megaphones, “Come out with your hands up!”

Seriously? This does not align with my brand.

I’ve got a lead on a condo-sitting gig near the Mississippi in St. Paul. Fingers crossed.

Surreal, Unreal, for Real

When I began blogging in 2014, it was because my son, Vince, had been sent to prison on a 50-month sentence for drug possession. He admitted he was a drug dealer and that the police had found drugs in his motel room. He also claimed they had moved his wallet from his pocket to near the drugs, so they could more easily seize his money.

I believed him, and the recent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and subsequent protests has me thinking how much worse it could have been if Vince had been black, or if his arrest had taken place in Minneapolis instead of Rochester.

But it’s more complicated.  Since 2000, 109 white people have died in “fatal encounters” with Minnesota police.  That’s twice the number of black victims.

I get it—numbers are one thing and percentages are another.  Fifty-six percent of the victims were white, whereas white people comprise 83% of Minnesota’s population. Twenty-seven percent of the victims were black, whereas blacks make up only 6% of Minnesotans.

Still, 109 dead people is a lot of humans.

And 68% of the killings occurred outside of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Here’s the data if you want to play around with it.

As the mother of a white son who had his share of run ins with the law, I don’t know how I could have worried any more than I did before he turned his life around. I cannot imagine how mothers of black and native sons, in particular, live with their worry on a daily basis.

(Credit: https://www.mother.ly/news/george-floyd-called-for-mothers-everywhere)

But I worry when the problem is reduced to only a racism problem. Racism is a big part of it, but it’s also a police problem. It’s a male problem (96% of the victims in MN were men and the vast majority of cops are male).  It’s a poverty, drug addiction, mental health, and cultural problem.

I’m not saying it’s so complex, so let’s not make drastic changes.  I’m saying, let’s make drastic changes on multiple fronts.

People followed along as Vince’s and my stories unfolded in the blog.  But what I got thanked for was transparently expressing my grief, rage, and shame.

I felt then, and I still do, that since race was not a factor in Vince’s arrest, people believed he deserved what he got, and maybe it was my fault.

I am reliving a lot of the same feelings these days, plus anxiety and ennui and a sense of unreality.

Today is the last of 14 days of quarantine after returning from the UK.  I have become “institutionalized,” a term normally used for prisoners and others who are released after many years locked up.  I went inside a grocery store last week; I had to buy food.  I shambled, blinking, through the store wearing my mask, startled when people got too close,  overwhelmed by something I have done a thousand times.

In my work I come across some surreal stuff.

There was the story about Merritt Corrigan, USAID’s new deputy White House liaison.  She wrote an article last year in The Conservative Woman, where she said, “It’s time for women to return to the home, where we rightfully belong and where real joy and fulfilment await.” Corrigan’s role at USAID includes working with the White House to place political appointees at the agency. Also of note: USAID’s newly-appointed religious freedom adviser has a history of making anti-Islam comments on social media.

I saw a $600,000 US Government grant opportunity for “Mapping Russian Disinformation and Propaganda in Sub Saharan Africa.”  The Administration knows Russia is doing this in the USA, right?  They are working to fight it here, right? Probably not, since Russian disinformation and propaganda helped elect Trump.

Maybe Russia was behind bogus social media stories that the KKK was marching through Minneapolis last week, or that only people from out Minnesota were looting.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear which Federal agency ordered the Predator surveillance drone that circled over Minneapolis during the protests.

Unreal!  But it is real!

Or is it?

So there you go, a fractured but honest account of my state of mind and emotions.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Welcome Home, Home on Fire

I want to go back to the UK now.

A week ago I was trying to enjoy my last day in Oxford without wasting by fretting about traveling during a global pandemic.

It’s hard to explain certain things to people back home, like how cramped and close together people live in a place like Oxford.  I had wanted to take this photo for some time—if you look through the picture window of the house across the street you can see through to my neighbor Wendy’s back garden. I wanted to get a shot early in the morning when—I hoped—she wouldn’t see me.

It seemed to matter at the time.

I took a walk.  How had I never noticed that enormous Monkey Puzzle Tree, now laden with what looked like seed pods?

Were these juniper berries?  If I filled my pockets with them could I make homemade gin? These were my pressing questions.

None of the things I had worried about happened.  The bus to Heathrow had five passengers, all widely spaced and wearing masks except for That One Asshole.  This was Heathrow.

Here’s the main shopping and dining atrium in T2.  Usually my biggest concern is whether the Cath Kidston store will be open (it was not).

Almost everyone was wearing a mask and everyone practiced social distancing.  The plane was about 25% full.  This was going to be fine!

Obligatory farewell photo.

I played with the newfangled window dimmer button. There’s no window shade anymore.  Is it the magic of nanoparticles, I wondered, having worked in a nanoparticle lab years ago.

I watched movies: Rocket Man, Witness for the Prosecution, Book Smart, and Jojo Rabbit.

Every time I removed my mask to sip some water my mask and ear bud cords got tangled up.

We were served food as usual but there were no alcoholic beverages or coffee on board.

Beautiful Chicago.

Re-entry to the US was uneventful.  Public Health Service officials collected my contact details, took my temp, and handed me this.

O’Hare seemed like Heathrow at first.

But here were the C gates, with flights headed for Mexico City, Indianapolis, Washington DC, and Minneapolis.  I spent four hours here.  It was impossible to social distance and only about half of the people wore masks.

My first views of Minnesota on a hot muggy evening.

I retrieved my bag and found my car, which my son had parked in an airport ramp the previous day.  The next morning I would get a grocery delivery which I had set up while still in Oxford.

Phew!  After almost five months in the UK, I was home, with no dramas!

As I was driving home, a man named George Floyd was being murdered in the street by Minneapolis police just a few miles away for the alleged crime of trying to pass a counterfeit bill.

Protests erupted the next day.  The killer cops were fired but not arrested.  The protests turned violent Wednesday night and escalated each night.

Those who wear badges that say, “To Protect and Serve” (the police) abandoned the people of the Twin Cities and let looters run wild.  So far 255 businesses have been looted and/or burned.  Post offices.  Restaurants.  Pharmacies.  Gas stations.  Barber shops. Liquor stores.  Libraries, for god’s sake!

Institutions like the Town Talk Diner.

Nonprofit organizations like an Indian dance company, a Native American youth center, and an arts-funding foundation.  The grocery that delivered my food four days ago is now closed indefinitely. We are living under a curfew.  The national guard has now been called in, and Trump is even being consulted about sending federal troops.

The Minneapolis and St. Paul mayors did nothing but make polished, kumbaya speeches.

The cop who knelt on Floyd’s neck was charged with murder on Friday, but the ones who stood by and did nothing must be charged as well.

There have been rumors that the looters are all extremists—anarchists and/or white supremacists. There have been some people from other states among those arrested, but as of what we know now, most are Minnesotans.

I am in shock.  I have to find a way to get involved and keep moving.

Meanwhile, Minnesota passed the milestone of 1,000 Covid-19 deaths.