On the Catholic Bishops’ Vote and the Unsolvable Dilemma

As all who care are aware, last month the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted by a large margin to – in the USCCB’s own words – “… task [its] Committee on Doctrine to move forward with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.”  In the Catholic faith, under the doctrine of “Transubstantiation,” the whole substance of bread and wine are changed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Jesus (the “Eucharist” or “Communion”) when consecrated by the priest during the Mass.  The words describing the Doctrine Committee’s assignment, innocuous in and of themselves, were widely interpreted as an initiative by conservative Catholic bishops to issue a statement disfavoring the provision of Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden.  The USCCB’s action stirred immediate and intense controversy, and apparently caused the body to issue a qualification that “There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.”  Even so, American Bishops’ overwhelming support for creating a document which might at least impliedly cast disapprobation upon pro-choice Catholic politicians underscores the marked rift between Catholic liberals and conservatives that has developed in the U.S. Catholic Church.

That life begins at conception is one of the core tenets of the Christian faith.  Even the fiercest pro-choice advocates will presumably acknowledge that if one accepts the premise that the fetus is indeed a person, the conclusion that abortion is murder is inescapable. No one can deny the emotional force, the hope, the prayer that drives a couple yearning to have a child and the joy that accompanies their earliest awareness that a baby is in the mother’s womb; it makes one wonder why the Almighty grants conception to some who have no wish for it, while withholding the blessing from others so desperately seeking it.

I nonetheless find the seeming thrust of USCCB’s initiative deeply troubling both as a Catholic, and as an American.  From a personal standpoint, I, like the President, have been a practicing Catholic my entire life.  I, and I assume the President, believe that life begins at conception.  My spouse and I, and I assume the President and Mrs. Biden, would not have aborted a fetus.  It accordingly appears to me that despite the fact that I have tried for close to seven decades – while admittedly frequently failing — to be a faithful Catholic, any disapprobation that the majority of American Catholic officialdom may, even by implication, level at Mr. Biden is also directed at me, given my support for his candidacy against a materialist with notable fascist tendencies who, notwithstanding his purported “pro-life” stance, enthusiastically incites false and hateful discord among our people and intentionally implemented demonstrably inhumane border policies while in office.

I will always believe that the best way forward for our nation is through accommodation of competing positions held in good faith (i.e., not espoused for political or other self-interest).  Abortion is the one issue that seems to me by its very nature to defy compromise between Americans sincerely holding conflicting views. That said, I would submit that Christians’ belief that life begins at conception — no matter how fervently held — is, inherently, no more (or less) than a matter of Faith.  Many scientists reject the notion that the few cells existing upon and for a period following conception constitute “life.”  I claim no expertise in other religions, but understand that neither Jewish nor Islamic scholars consider life to begin at conception, and that these Faiths do not prohibit abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.  There are certainly millions of Americans of other or no faiths who reject the notion that life obtains either at conception or for a period thereafter.  Justice Harry Blackmun, in Roe v. Wade, observed, “It is undisputed [i.e., even those defending the Texas criminal abortion statutes at issue in Roe conceded] that, at common law, abortion performed before ‘quickening’ – the first recognizable movement of the fetus in utero, appearing usually from the 16th to the 18th week of pregnancy – was not an indictable offense. …  In this country, the law in effect in all but a few States until mid-19th century was the preexisting English common law.”  [Note to the Originalists now sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.  ;)].  Notwithstanding more recent holdings arguably designed to limit abortion rights, the Supreme Court held in Roe and has maintained since that a woman has the constitutional right to abort a fetus.  It is Mr. Biden’s duty as President to protect women’s constitutional rights as defined by the Supreme Court and to not impose his personal faith beliefs on the American people – the majority of whom, if polls are to be believed, favor women’s right to early term abortions. 

Despite its backtrack, there is no little irony in the USCCB’s apparent intent to pressure Mr. Biden, given the reassurance that then-Democratic Presidential candidate U.S. MA Sen. John F. Kennedy delivered in September, 1960, to a conference of Protestant Ministers fearful of the influence that the Vatican might seek to assert on a Catholic president:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no … minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote …  I believe in an America … where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials …. I want a chief executive … whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation. … Whatever issue may come before me as president … I will make my decision … in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”

One of our children remarked to me recently that while our family was being raised, there was much greater emphasis in our household on our Catholic faith than there was on our identity as American citizens.  Despite my many failings, I hopefully still place much greater weight on what I believe the Almighty expects of me than I do upon my responsibilities as an American.  Even so, I have not been able to avoid the conclusion that in a diverse secular civil society pledged to separate the affairs of church and state, I should accept the fact that my religious beliefs regarding abortion are not shared by a substantial segment of my fellow citizens.  I accordingly cannot make the abortion issue my overriding civic focus. I fear that any attempts by American Catholic hierarchy to impose its views upon the nation generally will ultimately severely undermine the Church’s mission in the United States. 

Although Mr. Kennedy’s words obviously no longer resonate with U.S. Catholic officialdom, I would venture that the following passage offers ample ground for reflection – perhaps providing solace, perhaps evoking despair — for an American Catholic who seeks in good conscience to differentiate between faith and civic responsibilities:

[Then the Pharisees said,] ‘Tell us, then, what is your opinion:  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?’  … Jesus said, ‘… Show me the coin that pays the census tax.’  Then they handed him the Roman coin.  He said to them, ‘Whose image is this and whose inscription?’  They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’  At that he said to them, ‘Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’

Mt. 22: 17 – 21

On Lowering Your Hands

As one’s time in retirement extends, more and more friends retire; how one best approaches retirement is a topic that comes up from time to time.  This seems a suitable time for this note, since for the vast majority of my life, mid-summer meant … baseball.

In the fall of 1967, three teams were locked in a tight race for the American League pennant:  the Minnesota Twins, the Detroit Tigers, and the Boston Red Sox.  Boston wasn’t intimidating across the board, but where it was stong, its quality was superior:  Starting Pitcher Jim Lonborg, and most importantly, unquestionably the world’s best baseball player that year:  Leftfielder Carl Yastrzemski, then 28 (hereinafter, not “Mr. Yastrzemski,” but merely, “Yaz”).  After finishing ninth in a 10-team circuit the preceding season, the Red Sox bested the Twins and the Tigers to win the pennant by a single game (before the current playoff era) primarily because Yaz seemingly hit a home run to win a game in the late innings every day down the stretch.  I have the warmest memories of the Brewers’ Robin Yount’s 1982 MVP season, and concede that my knowledge of baseball deeds is dated, but I can’t name any player who so single-handedly brought his team a pennant as Yaz did in 1967.  He was the season’s American League Most Valuable Player and posted the last Triple Crown (combining the League’s highest Batting Average, Home Run and Runs Batted In totals) Major League Baseball would see … for 45 years.

A left-handed hitter, Yaz had a distinctive batting stance (for those more attuned to the current era, a stance somewhat similar to the Brewers’ recently-retired Ryan Braun):  he would stand in the batter’s box grasping the bat with hands held highhelmet-or-higher high – and from that position, without the assistance of steroids, would bring the bat through the strike zone with unnerving velocity to spray hits across the field and over the fence.  Think about the reflexes required to bring a bat through the strike zone from that high against a 90+-mile-an-hour fastball.  And even in those days, baseball had great fireballers – the best pitcher I’ve ever seen, Sandy Koufax, had just retired, and Bob Gibson, he of the mean heater, was in his prime.  [In those days, no statisticians were documenting pitch speed with radar guns   ;)].

The Red Sox lost the World Series in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals, although Yaz hit .400 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI.

Although he never again had – nor for decades, did anyone else have – as mighty a single season as he did in 1967, Yaz remained a force for pitchers to reckon with until he retired in 1983.  Even so, as the seasons passed, his batting stance changed; he kept lowering his hands.  When asked about it, he was candid:  his reflexes were slowing.  He kept lowering the bat to a position from which he could still react and get the bat through the hitting zone against baseball’s best.  He had become more selective about the pitches he went after.  Had he continued with his 1967 approach, he would not have been around to contribute to another decade and a half’s worth of Red Sox teams. 

We seniors are overwhelmed by a blizzard of data and opinion about how to “age gracefully.”  Some of the commentary is helpful, some not.  I would submit that one could do worse than to follow Yaz’s example:  be selective about where you devote your energy; and from time to time assess when, and by how much, you need to lower your hands to stay in the game. 

On Infrastructure and the Art of the Possible: a Correction

A good friend kindly pointed out to me that I incorrectly indicated in this post that the infrastructure proposal currently being put forth by the bipartisan Senate group including U.S. WV Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. UT Sen. Mitt Romney is valued at approximately $IB ($billion), when the package is in fact valued at approximately $1T ($trillion).  I appreciate his calling my attention to the oversight; apparently it is true, as apocryphally attributed to the late U.S. IL Sen. Everett Dirksen (whose gravelly voice I fondly remember from my youth):  “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”  😉    

On Cheney for President

“Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few.”

  • Tweet by U.S. UT Sen. Mitt Romney, May 10, 2021

Let’s put aside for the moment what matters:  our continuing existential threat arising from the dumbfounding choice by the majority of organizational Republicans nationwide to deny truth and seek in various ways to undermine democracy in order to run headlong into the embrace of former President Donald Trump and Trumpism – a movement which, as I have previously indicated in these pages, I consider a devolutionary step toward fascism.  Instead, let’s consider the possible political ramifications of U.S. House of Representatives Republicans’ recent expulsion of U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney from their leadership in the context of the 2024 presidential race.

I am now an admirer of Rep. Cheney.  If reports I’ve seen are accurate, she and I probably have significant substantive domestic policy differences.  Furthermore, as far as I know, she has never separated herself from the Bush Administration’s 2003 decision to invade Iraq – a decision driven in major part by her father, former Vice President Richard Cheney – which I consider to be the worst American policy mistake in the last 50 years.  I don’t care.  What matters is where we are today.  She clearly believes that being an American comes before either political party affiliation or attempting to cling to power for power’s sake, so in this most meaningful regard, she has my complete support (as does Sen. Romney and a few other Republicans).

In their haste to solidify the allegiance of the lowest and/or most credulous elements of their base by clinging to the demonstrable myths that Mr. Trump actually won the election and that there was no Trump-inspired insurrection last January 6, Republican party leadership has apparently accepted the notion that it can win (albeit perhaps through chicanery) the presidency and elections in swing areas without the support of the independents and conservatives who value truth and reality.  However, surveys show that over 25% of Republicans and over 60% of Independents opposed Ms. Cheney’s removal from Congressional Republican leadership.  These are seemingly ominous portents for Republicans.  Organizational Republicans are apparently calculating that enough politically center/right Americans will be sufficiently offended by President Joe Biden or some aspect of the Democratic agenda that they will be able to look in the mirror and say, “I am willing to vote for a candidate who I know is espousing a lie about the 2020 presidential election.  I am willing to vote for a candidate who I know rationalizes an insurrection.”  I think – I hope — it’s a bad bet.

Although the Founding Fathers envisioned the legislative branch – the Congress – as the primary protector of our democracy against any potential encroachment by the executive branch – the president — it is clear that at the present time, the vitality of our system of government rests almost entirely upon the character of the president.  I hope that for the good of the country, Ms. Cheney runs for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024.  It’s hard to imagine her winning the nomination (although she might do well in the early primaries if she was the only anti-Trump candidate), but her candidacy would force the Republican field to take stands on uncomfortable general election questions regarding Mr. Trump (assuming he’s not a candidate himself):  Do you believe that Joe Biden legally won the 2020 election?  Do you agree that it was overwhelmingly Trump supporters that invaded the Capitol on January 6, 2021?  Do you believe that Mr. Trump played a significant role in inciting the insurrection?  Do you condemn any action by any state legislature to override a state’s majority vote?  Do you agree that Congress should not accept the Electoral College votes of any state in which its legislature has overridden the state’s majority vote, even if the action benefits you?  Requiring the Republican field to face these types of questions would potentially create a split among the Republican electorate that would be very difficult to mend for the general election.  I would submit that the Republican disarray that Ms. Cheney could cause by mounting a presidential campaign is the most patriotic step she could take.  In the current environment, it would certainly be a courageous step undeniably involving an element of physical danger.

In exiling Rep. Ms. Cheney from Republican Congressional leadership, I would suggest that in addition to turning its back on the truth, Republican leadership may have made a pivotal political mistake.  Ms. Cheney is not U.S. NE Sen. Ben Sasse, or U.S. IL Rep. Adam Kinzinger, or even, at this stage in his career, Mr. Romney.  Whether or not she retains her Congressional seat in the 2022 election, she has the marquee name, the gravitas, and now the record to command as much free media in a presidential run as any candidate could ask for.  If Ms. Cheney was to launch such an effort, it might well ultimately cause Republicans to ruefully recall the political wisdom of former President Lyndon Johnson, who, when asked why he did not replace the then-Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, famously replied:  “Better to have your enemies inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent, pissing in.”

A Father’s Pride

I have never met, nor will ever meet, Richard Cheney.  There is no doubt that we strongly disagree regarding the wisdom of the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003 and whether its aftermath strengthened or weakened America.  That said, as last night I watched Mr. Cheney’s daughter, U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney, speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, as a father I was confident that Mr. Cheney – a former White House Chief of Staff, a former U.S. Representative for the State of Wyoming, a former United States Secretary of Defense, a former Vice President of the United States — considered her stand his proudest moment.

We will never see more important words spoken in the defense of the United States of America.  A link to Ms. Cheney’s remarks appears below.     

A Couple of COVID Notes

Two unrelated notes pertaining to the pandemic:

I’m not sure how widely know this is — it has been reported by a number of news outlets – but those Americans who turned 60 in 2020 face an adverse, and potentially significantly adverse, Coronavirus-related reduction in their lifetime Social Security benefits if Congress fails to enact a remedy in 2021.  The potential shortfall arises from the manner in which Social Security calculates recipients’ benefits, which is based on the average wages of all workers in the year in which they turn 60.  Average wages fell notably from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-induced recession.  It is well worth recording on these pages since several that read these posts were born in 1960. 

This issue could arguably have been rectified as part of the recent COVID relief package, but wasn’t.  Members of Congress are aware of this impending “notch” in benefits, and there appears to be bipartisan support for fixing it; a couple of bills have been introduced to alleviate the irregularity.  That said, this is a problem deserving immediate attention; those that turned 60 in 2020 will be eligible to start claiming benefits as they hit age 62 during 2022, and at that point, it will seemingly become more difficult to unscramble the egg.  The links below are to articles, now spanning almost a year, calling attention to the issue.  One of the pieces reports that those turning 60 in 2009 faced a similar “notch” due to the Great Recession that was never addressed.

https://www.prweb.com/releases/people_born_in_1960_face_permanent_social_security_benefit_reductions_says_the_senior_citizens_league/prweb17706617.htm

https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/info-2020/pandemic-impacts-1960-birth-year-benefits.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/05/some-retirees-social-security-benefits-could-dip-unless-congress-acts.html

Separately:  all who care are aware that the average weekly number of Coronavirus vaccines being administered across America is beginning to decline.  Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran an account, “Officials Push to Encourage Shots,” which reported that nonprofit sources project that the United States’ supply of vaccines will exceed demand within the next month.  We are apparently yet reasonably far from achieving herd immunity.  Public health officials across the country are now devising programs on vaccine education to overcome the hesitancy of some citizens to get the shots and on making it more convenient for some population segments – not only those facing employment, transportation, or other barriers, but those whom the article refers to as “unmotivated” — to become vaccinated.  It was presumably to these “unmotivated” that an Alabama health official was referring when described in the article as declaring that he is ready to get down on his knees and beg residents to get shots.

The programs that these health professionals are initiating are obviously vital, and all efforts should be undertaken and no expense spared to get vaccinated those who truly seek the vaccine but are constrained by barriers beyond their control.  That said, there are people dying across the globe – e.g., India is on the brink of collapse, and Brazil remains in chaos — that would do whatever was within their power to obtain protection if vaccinations were available to them.  While being mindful that we need to maintain sufficient production and supply to provide boosters to vaccinated Americans if, as Pfizer has already suggested, such might be necessary, I would favor an Administration announcement on May 1 that starting August 1 – after all Americans wishing to be vaccinated will have had at least ten weeks to receive readily-available shots — the United States will start to divert its vaccine supply and priorities from the United States to other countries in need, and that there will no longer be a vaccine availability guarantee or federal funding available to vaccinate those Americans who had not already been vaccinated.

A suggestion born of exasperation with obstinacy?  Clearly.  Even so:  what would you wager that if currently-unvaccinated Americans believed that the Administration meant what it said — that indeed, as of a certain deadline, they couldn’t be sure of getting vaccinated even if they wanted to — another 10% to 20% of our people (which, according to the Wall Street Journal article, health experts believe would put us pretty close to herd immunity) wouldn’t overcome their recalcitrance and find a way to get their shots?

One Season Following Another

On a particularly cold Saturday morning in January, 1990, our two sons and I were returning home from an errand.  Our oldest, then 9, was in the front passenger seat; our youngest, then 4, was safely – at least by the standards of the day – strapped in a back seat.  Our oldest has always thought long term; even then, he and I were casually discussing when he would someday go away to college. 

We got home; our oldest went into the house; I came around to get his brother out of the back seat.  Our youngest looked up at me, and said, “I don’t have to leave, do I?” 

Faced with that question from a small one, you respond even as you know that things will change:  “No, son.  You never have to leave.  You can always stay here with Mom and me.”

Our son — whom I assured on that long-ago day that he never had to leave home – is now based in Brazil.  A COVID silver lining for his parents:  he and our daughter-in-law just spent the better part of a month with us while they received their two-shot COVID vaccinations.  While all are aware of the stresses families face when economic difficulties require adults to rejoin their childhood households, the pleasure of having one’s adult child return home for an extended stay without such pressure cannot be adequately described. 

As we settled into a routine, our Cariocas (the Brazilian term for residents of Rio de Janeiro) at first shivered in the chill of Wisconsin’s early spring, then acclimated … at least to an extent.  Our son took our daughter-in-law around the neighborhood, which it must be conceded still retains more than a passing resemblance to the Cleavers’ 1950s TV neighborhood.  After one of their walks, he brought home an old baseball he had found in a field near his grade school.  We played catch on a couple of occasions [our boys could fling the ol’ pill around a lot longer than I could; inasmuch as I had literally not picked up a baseball in over 20 years  and given my vintage, I quickly developed “Fauci Arm”  ;)].

The two worked throughout their visit; TLOML and I found it entertaining to watch the Rio de Janeiro Bureau Chief of a major news outlet provide insights on the chaotic state of Brazil’s politics and its COVID response in televised interviews against the backdrop of one of the walls of his boyhood bedroom. Our daughter-in-law maintains an Instagram site through which she provides enticing plant-based recipes to thousands of Spanish speakers throughout the Americas; as she posted her creations, our kitchen was beamed across the world [making us particularly glad we had remodeled a few years back  ;)].  [A number of her followers were intrigued by life in a Midwestern American neighborhood; others inquired as to how her decidedly carnivorous father-in-law was enjoying her vegan dishes.  I could assure them that each was, indeed, magnifico : )].

Vaccinated, our son and daughter-in-law have now returned to their life in Rio.  Although we have been empty-nesters for over 15 years, the house is and for a while will be empty, and silent.  Even so, we have mostly felt the joy and warmth of a great visit as we have moved furniture back to normal spots, reshelved books, and returned the lawn games to their accustomed places.  Where my pang came:  picking up the baseball gloves and the found baseball.  For whatever the reason, my immediate association was to a song from TLOML’s favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof.  A part of one of its verses seemed the appropriate title for this note.

That said, I will venture that our vaccinations and the visit have made us ready to re-enter our lives.  As recently as this week, we have heard a medical professional opine that if one has been fully vaccinated, the primary obstacle to returning to normal pursuits is psychological – reticence born of a year of protective behaviors — not physical.  A number of those that follow these pages are, like us, of retirement age; I would submit that once one has become fully vaccinated, being too reclusive will result in the unnecessary forfeit of irretrievable life space.  Also, we can’t expect President Biden to run the country for too long without the benefit of our guidance  ;). 

The seasons have changed. Let’s go.

On Vaccinations

It has been reported that one out of three adult Americans has already had at least one COVID vaccination shot; we seem well on our way toward President Joe Biden’s expressed goal of being able to provide a vaccination to all Americans who want one within, at the latest, the next sixty days.  I hope that the Administration is already setting plans, assuming our domestic rollout remains on track, to make our unneeded vaccinations available to citizens of disadvantaged nations as the summer proceeds.  Although our international image has taken on more than a bit of tarnish over the last four years, I would venture that these nations, if given the option of receiving vaccines from the United States, China, or Russia, will still instinctively prefer the American option:  likely better quality, almost certainly fewer explicit or implied strings attached.

Closer to home, set forth below is a note I received recently from a very close friend of many decades – whose antics our adult children still well recall from their early days — who will only become aware of my intent to enter it here as he reads this post.  I am confident he won’t mind; when you read the note, I suspect you will share my confidence : ).

“When I was waiting for my second shot, a young lady (30 – 35) or so was pacing around.  I asked her if this was her first shot and if she was nervous.  She said yes.  I told her not to worry, this was going to be my second shot and it’s no big deal.  You just pull down your pants, they give you the shot and you are on your way. 

????!!!!!  She said WHAT???   She thought you get the shot in your arm!  I asked her who told her that?   She said she saw it on TV.   I told her that they can’t put people getting butt shots on TV plus if they did a lot of people might not get the shot.  Then they called her name and I said Good luck.   

Do you know she gave me the finger when she got out of the office?   How rude!” 

I suspect that all that read these pages either have received their vaccinations, or intend to do so when given the opportunity … while of course, keeping their pants on  ;).  Hopefully, many of our fellow citizens currently expressing reservations will soon resolve to do the same.  In the meantime, stay safe.

Easter Reflections on the Georgia Election Law

As all who care are aware, the Republican-dominated Georgia legislature recently passed the state’s “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” purportedly to address alleged irregularities in the state’s voting processes that, according to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger and as established by several state presidential vote recounts, were never there.  The law appears a pretty ham-handed attempt by Georgia Republicans to limit the voting opportunities of Democratic-leaning voters in a state that has, judging by the narrow 2020 victories of Democrats President Joe Biden and U.S. GA Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the potential to trend increasingly Democratic.

A provision in the statute that has garnered a fair amount of attention is Section 33, which in the guise of preventing voter inducement, prohibits anyone but a poll officer from “… giving … food and drink, to an elector” in the vicinity of a polling place.

Clearly, anyone determined to wait in line to vote despite a notable thirst has already affirmatively decided how s/he will vote; the rationale that evil doers might be able to persuade a malleable voter to change his/her vote by offering the elector a drink of water – when the voter, if s/he cared so little about the substance of his/her ballot, could simply leave the line and slake his/her thirst — is on its face absurd.  The repressive aspect of the measure has been extensively noted; however, what also struck me were the ironies related to the provision.

First, the prohibition on furnishing food or drink to an elector waiting in the vicinity of a polling place evinces such mean-spirited pettiness that it has made me ponder whether such an obvious display of cancerous partisanship might even cause a conscientious conservative jurist to question the statute’s constitutionality.

That said, what seems to me the sharpest irony arising from this provision — perhaps brought to mind by the Easter Season, combined with a high level of confidence that the majority of the Republican Georgia legislators who voted for the Act consider themselves Christians — is embedded in the Gospel:

“Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’  There was a vessel filled with common wine.  So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.  When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, ‘It is finished.’”

John 19:28-30

Georgia Republican legislators have prohibited the provision of a humane accommodation to fellow Georgians seeking to exercise their constitutional rights that Roman soldiers provided to one they had just crucified as a criminal.

May you have the opportunity to celebrate this time of the year, including as it does holy days sacred to those of multiple Faiths, in the manner you consider most fitting.  Stay safe.

Breaking Out

There was extensive focus last week on the anniversary of the day when America officially shut down because of the Coronavirus.  There has been much appropriate coverage of the COVID stresses that have built on our people over the last year:  on those infected by or taken from us by the virus, and on those that have attended or grieve for them; on healthcare and frontline workers; on the health and emotional challenges faced by large families living in cramped quarters; on parents trying to work from home while ensuring that their children maintain their studies; and on the terrified, looking at their four walls after being laid off.  These have borne the brunt of the pandemic and the attendant enforced isolation.

As all who care are aware, President Biden recently declared that during May, there will be sufficient COVID vaccine for all adult Americans who want one.  I can’t believe that someone who has been as adept at setting COVID expectations as the President would make such a statement if he wasn’t very confident that he could meet it.  This presumably means that all adult Americans seeking to be “fully vaccinated” can achieve the condition within July.  Our need for enforced separation is apparently coming to an end.

I tend to agree with those commentators that have suggested that it will be difficult for the Administration to maintain the cautious line it is currently taking – to the effect that in the summer when all Americans desiring a vaccination will have already had one, it will then be appropriate for limited gatherings.  I expect that the sentiment among the majority of those that get vaccinated will be that those who choose not to be vaccinated had best take care of themselves, and that it will be time to break out — to start “getting back to normal.”  That said, I suspect that there may be a wide variance as to how we each individually emerge from our cocoons.  Some of us have appeared to handle seclusion better than others.  While having a reserved disposition has outwardly provided a healthy coping mechanism throughout the crisis, I would suggest – being cognizant that there are learned psychologists that read these pages, and so tread lightly — that while there has been extensive reporting on the deleterious effect that enforced isolation has had on those commonly considered “extroverts,” those commonly thought of as “introverts” may now be facing a different, but perhaps nonetheless trying, virus-caused transition.  Emotional as well as physical muscles need exertion. Too much isolation for too long might have become too cozy, might have arguably bred in some a disinclination to socialize that could, unaddressed, seemingly become detrimental. 

The other night, we watched one of our favorite films, Shawshank Redemption, which, as virtually all are aware, sets forth events involving prisoners in the fictional Maine Shawshank State Prison.  Toward the end of the film, Morgan Freeman’s character, Red Redding, remarks, “These walls are funny.  First you hate ‘em.  Then you get used to ‘em.  Enough time passes, you get so you depend on ‘em.  That’s institutionalized.”

It would seem that merely getting used to COVID-induced walls, at least for the period we have had to abide thus far, wasn’t bad; that said, the fictional Redding’s observation resonates.  I would submit that this summer, it will be beneficial for those of every personality inclination to actively “break out” — while paying appropriate heed to then-current CDC COVID safety protocols, of course  :).