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#Covid

  • "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement--Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)

     
    Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)
     
     
    "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement
    By
    Robert Sihler
     
    Chuck's Note: Robert Sihler lives in Driftwood, Texas, where he works in special education in the Dripping Springs Independent School District. His passions are rock climbing and mountaineering and getting his children to roll their eyes at him! He often moonlights as a climbing guide and instructor. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

     

    I don't do politics and religion on my Facebook page. There are people I like and love who have widely different views on these things than I do-- both to the left and to the right-- and it just isn't worth fighting about this with any of them. On a personal level, I like them more than I dislike their positions.

    But I feel compelled to throw my own worthless two cents in on a particular subject: masks.

    I'm of the Atticus Finch school, which is that you should try to see other points of view. 

    So far, most people reading this will agree, but here's where the split will happen:

    A majority of Americans, including me, want the nation to reopen. But among that majority is a majority that wants to be careful about it.

    And this is where we are splitting now. Suddenly, wearing a mask or not wearing one has been turned into a political statement by conservative media. Either you are a brave patriot eschewing masks and flouting distancing guidelines, or you are a coward trembling in your living room under the sway of the deep state and the media and, predictably, George Soros, and, preposterously, Bill Gates.

    My friends, this is completely false.

     

    Unknown.jpeg

    First, let me say that I'm personally not that concerned about covid-19 affecting me. I have always had a strong immune system. On the rare occasions I do get sick, I recover very quickly, and without medical treatment. So although I could be tragically wrong, I suspect that if I contract the virus, I will be asymptomatic or that I will experience mild symptoms that will pass quickly.

    Next, I do understand the frustration and desperation building out there. I am lucky to be among those staying home but still getting paid, and I am supplementing my income by working online as a copywriter. Not for a second do I dismiss the worries of those who have been out of work for weeks now and are facing a financial and mental abyss.

    Finally, I think I look plain stupid wearing a mask. For a while, I didn't bother wearing one except where it was required. But now I am wearing one in enclosed spaces where others are near.

    You can call me a coward if you like, but as I've already said, I'm not really afraid of the coronavirus for my sake. I wear a mask because I have no idea if I might be carrying and so I don't want to risk passing it on to others if I happen to sneeze or cough while I'm standing next to a bunch of people in the bread aisle.

    Over the past couple of months, I've continued going to grocery stores and convenience stores. I've probably climbed more than I did the previous two months. I've been spending money and supporting local businesses, not cowering behind the couch at home and wishing it would just all be over.

    You might be of the mindset that masks and distancing are pointless and we might as well just get it over with. If you are, I know I can't persuade you. But if you're of that mindset and you intentionally get close to people when you know many are trying to avoid that, why are you doing that?

    What if you are an asymptomatic carrier and you infect someone and that person dies? How would you feel about that? Are you that person who knowingly serves a person a food he or she claims to be allergic to just because you don't believe it? I mean, I get tired of all the accommodations allergic people demand, too, but I'm still not going to crack my pistachios over the head of a person with a nut allergy. So why can't you make your statement from a distance?

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not for me; it's for you.

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not a political statement. And it isn't one for most people wearing them.

    Unfortunately, it has become a political statement to not wear a mask and to not distance yourself from people you don't live with. It's been turned into a loyalty test, loyalty to Trump.

    It doesn't have to be this way. Here in a pretty red area of Texas, I routinely see bearded guys in big pickups wearing masks indoors. There's no way more than a few of them vote D. They're going to vote for Trump, but they're wearing masks because they get that the virus is not political and that they may have vulnerable loved ones; there are a lot of old people here, and Texans, for all their faults, do have strong family bonds.. 

    Vote however you want in November. If you vote for Trump and Trump wins, I'm not going to have a meltdown and unfriend you because I think that will really show you, lol. And if Biden wins, I hope most of you who vote for Trump won't do the same. I expect better from all of us because of the connections we had way before all of this. And, as always, I'll climb with anyone regardless of politics as long as you're a solid partner.

    But please reject this false dichotomy being peddled for the sole purpose of dividing us. You can wear a mask and still vote for Trump. If you won't wear a mask, you can at least respect the distance others want and expect. Trolling is fun, but it's not funny when lives could be at risk.

    You can also be a Biden voter and be completely fed up with some of the restrictions. That's okay, too; some of them are ridiculous.

    I remember Ronald Reagan's calm and compassion after the Space Shuttle disaster had the country in tears. I remember George H.W. Bush's competent leadership when the Middle East was blowing up and we thought war was coming. I remember Bill Clinton trying to comfort and heal after Columbine. I remember George Bush rallying a shocked nation after 9-11; his words moved me, and when Trent Lott and Tom Daschle led Congress in singing "God Bless America," I had tears in my eyes and felt proud to be an American. And I remember Barack Obama trying to lead us out of a terrible recession that hurt so many people.

    All of those presidents and their policies had flaws, but they tried to unite the nation in times of crisis. They stepped up to the moment. History will judge their efficacy, but they did try.

    Today, we have a president who hasn't even tried to do that. As polls and facts and numbers have increasingly gone against him, he says he never said what he is on video saying, he moves the goalposts, and he pursues division, not persuasion or correction or reconciliation.

    If you like Trump, okay. If you don't, okay. But it's clear he's not going to lead us out of this. Please, let's stop talking past each other trying to score points and instead talk to each other. If I can have rational conversations with family and friends who vote differently than I do, so can you.

    And you can wear a mask in the grocery store or at least stay away from others if you won't. It's not hard and it's not much to ask, and it's not violating your rights under the Constitution.

    Stay safe, be well, and climb on!

    Copyright, Robert Sihler; all rights reserved.

     

  • A Unique Election Wager

    (Note from Chuck Cascio: This piece was written by my son Marc, a teacher, coach, and writer. He poses an important question in a unique context.)

    AN ELECTION WAGER TO CONSIDER…

    By

    Marc Cascio

         Pascal's Wager is a philosophical aphorism that discusses whether God does or does not exist. The long and short of it is that if you bet on God, and you are correct, you gain all, whereas if you lose, you lose nothing because you are just dead. Let's put Pascal's Wager in COVID-19 terms, though it is a bit of a stretch since we know the virus exists in a tangible sense.

         If you throw in with Trump, who has already had the virus and was airlifted to a place where he could receive treatment from the world's top medical professionals, you are buying into the premise that the virus is "going away," which is contrary to statistical evidence. You are also subscribing to a man who is dismissing Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently said that the way the virus has been bungled has created a situation where the "stars are aligned " for a tragic scenario.

         Throwing in with Trump dismisses tangible evidence and relies on the fantasy that this is over and we can resume life as normal. If he is right, we gain everything. If he is wrong, we lose big.

     

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          On the other hand, you could choose to throw in with medical science and Joe Biden, both of whom refuse to dismiss this virus as an arbitrary nuisance. They seem to recognize the fact that the virus is proliferating just as winter and the flu season hit and people are forced inside more and more. They warn of a potential doomsday scenario predicated on a knowledge of medical science. 

         So if you align with the Biden group, you accept the fact that our inconveniences will continue and perhaps even become greater, but the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term hassles.

         It is mind boggling to me that anyone would bet with their lives on the Trump camp. It is, simply, not logical. It is dangerous, it is irresponsible, and the consequences of doing so could be beyond imagination. 

         If you draw a Venn diagram of those who hold with Trump, I believe there would be a large intersection of those who also have faith (which means belief in the absence of evidence) in God. By choosing this route, they may force all of us to find out the answer to Pascal's Wager much sooner than we wish!

    Copyright Marc Cascio; all rights reserved.

  • BLM Is Gaining Awareness--Thank You, Pandemic!

    BLM Is Gaining Awareness--Thank You, Pandemic!

    By

    Paul Thomas

    Chuck's Note: Paul Thomas is an educator and a self-described "geek" and  "mutt." On his personal blog, A Reston Kid Rambles (restonkid.blogspot.com), he writes about race, music, politics, economics, and many other topics. An education consultant who does business as Docent Learning (www.docentlearning.com), Paul also blogs about educational topics at Driven to Learn (blog.docentlearning.com). Paul lives in Reston, VA with his wife and two kids. Paul originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission. 

    So... I have seen articles about why Black Lives Matter is gaining such traction now. Why didn't it gain this sustained attention after the deaths of Trayvon Martin or the Charleston Nine or Philando Castile? I know that the movement has been building in strength for years, and that the current political climate helps shine a light on the issues. But I think we have something else to thank for the current focus: The Pandemic.

    Thanks to the pandemic, the normally short news cycle is lengthened. There are no playoffs or movie premiers or new seasons or political rallies to distract us. We aren't splitting our time between conference rooms and gyms and brutal commutes and Little League and band concerts and parties. Instead, we're sitting in our homes and focusing on the problems around us. We're worried about the heroes caring for the sick and the underpaid workers who are barely hanging on. We're worried about widening opportunity gaps for students who are falling farther behind. We're worried about how small businesses will recover. We're worried about how we are all going to move forward!

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    In this sea of worry, we see this horrific video, and there is nothing to distract us from it. Now we have something for which we can stand up and fight. We can't do much about many of the things we worry about, but we can stand up and protest the systemic racism of which police brutality is a symptom.

    Thanks, pandemic!

    You've made us a captive audience that can't turn away from the structural racial issues in our society that we haven't made the time to focus on before. They aren't new, but now we are giving them the attention for which they have been screaming for years!

    Copyright: Paul Thomas; all rights reserved.

    >>>Want to share your thoughts? Send them to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

  • KIDS' THOUGHTS ON 2020

    WHAT SOME KIDS THINK ABOUT 2020:
     
    Youthful Words of Wisdom

       

          “Unprecedented” was once considered exceptional word usage. Now, it is part of our daily vernacular thanks to the strange, tragic year 2020. More than 340,000 Americans are dead of the corona virus. Most schools are closed. Happy gathering spots such as restaurants, theaters, and bars are desperately trying survive. Work places have shuttered or transitioned to acceptable “social distancing” accommodations. 

         

         Still, it is always good to search for hope, so I did one of the things I enjoy doing most when pondering life’s direction: I sought out my one niece and all six of my grandkids (including just-turned four-year old Catherine) and asked them to send me some brief thoughts on what they will remember most about this unprecedented year. On the surface, perhaps not a lot of what they have to say will surprise you. But look a little closer, and their thoughts might be quite revealing.

    year-2020-5761045_640.png

         

         So, going from oldest to youngest, here is what the kids in my family had to say:

    >>>Caroline (college sophomore)The first thing I learned about myself during 2020 was how much the community of orchestra/chamber groups, and my friendships mean to me. I have seen myself grow a lot as a violinist through my practice challenge, the Curtis Institute Summer Program, and as the American University Symphonic Orchestra’s concertmaster. I also loved how our family started doing weekly Zoom calls to catch up and to check on each other throughout these hard times. I think this was a great time for reflection and growth for our family, and I hope we keep doing our calls after the pandemic is over! 

    >>>Maddie (high school senior)Things I will remember most about 2020 are how close I have gotten with my family because of corona and how many things used to be taken for granted. I was also applying to colleges and having to attend school virtually. Covid forced me to find new hobbies and happiness in small things that before 2020 were normal activities, such as calls with friends and family or getting to eat at a restaurant!

    >>>Jack (high school sophomore):Covid was important to me because it pushed back all of my sports and canceled my lacrosse season last yar. The election was important because we got a new president who will do great things. And the death of Kobe Bryant was important to me because he was such an inspiring athlete. 

     

    >>>Ryan (high school sophomore)The coronavirus was so important for me because it changed the way we do everything. For starters, it just feels uncomfortable now to watch videos or movies from the past where people are in groups without masks. It also affected my school and sports life because I have to do classes from home, and sports were postponed for many months. Overall, it just has affected almost every aspect of everyone’s life.

     

    >>>Zoey (high school freshman):  One thing that I will remember about 2020 is the change of lifestyle that we all had to transition into. It was like a flash—one day we were able to walk around with no mask and were able to stand close to people, and the next day we had all new rules! Another thing I will remember is the way this virus was handled. Our president chose his own luxurious life over the millions of lives in the country he runs. He continued to say this deadly virus was a “hoax” even after he went to the hospital for covid. Lastly, I will remember school—school has been one of the largest learning curves for me and other people. 

     

    >>>Wyatt (sixth grader): I remember when Joe Biden won the 2020 election against Trump. It was important because now we will have a better president for the economy and for the people. I also remember when covid started in the United States—I thought that it would not impact us, but I was terribly wrong, with the U.S. being the most impacted country in the world by this terrible disease. And I will also remember that the Washington Football Team changed its name, which showed that (owner) Dan Snyder at least gives a crap about other people.

     

    >>>Catherine (preschool): I don’t like masks! They make me itchy. But my favorite masks are the rainbow one and the unicorn one. I want to go back to school because I am bored, but I would miss (big sister) Zoey. But I do miss Eloise (her friend) and want to see her.

                        

         Back to Me: I talk to the kids. I read their words. I think of what Pablo Picasso is credited as saying: “Youth has no age.” I hope he is correct.

    Here’s to a happy, healthy 2021!!!

    If you would like to send me your thoughts, and if you would like to share what kids in your family have to say about 2020, please email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.While I can’t promise that I will print all comments, I will definitely read them and respond to as many as possible.

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

  • Time for a "National Staff Meeting For Educators"

    IT’S TIME FOR A “NATIONAL STAFF MEETING FOR EDUCATORS”
    by
    Chuck Cascio

    (Note: I taught secondary school for 27 years in Fairfax County, VA, the nation’s 10th largest school district.--Chuck Cascio)

          President Joseph Biden has correctly called the fact that millions of school children are still unable to attend school in person due to the novel coronavirus a "national emergency." He and his staff are outlining ways to make the return happen as soon--and as safely--as possible. The need for vaccination of all school personnel--teachers, administrators, and support staff--should be at the very top of the list. That is why I think something that might be labeled the "National Staff Meeting for Educators" should be instituted immediately.

         The National Staff Meeting for Educators would require that all in-school personnel report to a school or schools that would be identified as vaccination centers over the course of approximately 10 days. As staff members are vaccinated, they would then be required to return to school (except in cases where mitigating health issues might compromise the vaccine's effectiveness). Since studies indicate that even the first dose of vaccine can provide up to 80% protection against the coronavirus, if other precautions such as mask wearing, social distancing, thorough cleaning of lavatories, cafeterias, and classrooms throughout the school day and other precautions are mandated in schools, then it makes sense to phase back in-class instruction.  The National Staff Meeting for Educators would then be repeated four weeks later so school personnel could receive their second dose.

          What the dreadful coronavirus has "revealed" to many parents and politicians is that teachers are actually "essential workers."  Comments in editorials, opinion pieces, and general conversation use that term daily in reference to teachers, but most often in the context of demanding that they return to in-school classes. So if there can be a slight bit of good news in the context of coronavirus life, it is that the stereotypical image of teaching is disappearing: Teachers do not simply just roll into their classrooms each day, prop their feet up on their desks, tell a roomful of attentive and obedient kids what to do, and eventually a bell rings and life goes on for everyone. 

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    Will school buildings and their parking lots fill up again soon?
       
        It seems that virtual learning spurred by the pandemic has created an awareness among the public that things are, in fact, more productive and healthier for everyone when teachers, administrators, and the many support personnel who contribute enormously to the daily job of educating students are actually back in the school building. Because of the individual experiences parents have dealt with and the studies documenting how student learning, socialization, and personal well-being are being negatively impacted by schools not being open, parents, politicians and educators want a return to in-school instruction. The question facing everyone is how to do it safely for all because it makes no sense to have teachers return to schools without being vaccinated; doing so, among other potential dangers, opens them to the possibility of being asymptomatic carriers to their own families and communities.

        Under the leadership of President Biden, the country is establishing realistic precautions as we move toward reopening. The CDC has outlined logical steps, including the wearing of masks in schools; regularly screening students for symptoms; providing cleaning, disinfection, and hand hygiene protocols; and a detailed list of "Strategies for Protecting K-12 School Staff from COVID-19." 

         In Chicago, the nation's third largest school district, a tentative agreement between the school system and the teachers union has been reached, which proposes to vaccinate 1,500 Chicago Public School staff members each week under a new program developed during the collective bargaining process. That is definitely commendable, and it shows that districts and unions can reach a logical, safe approach to the reopening, but with thousands of in-school personnel in Chicago, more needs to be done…and it needs to be done more quickly. But at least Chicago has a possible model in place to build upon.

         Approximately half the states in the country have already started vaccinating their teachers, but the process is slow and the other half of the country is not responding to this educational emergency. If President Biden would adopt the National Staff Meeting for Educators and find a way to roll out, say, National Guard trucks filled with vaccines to the specified schools where educational staff members are to meet, get vaccinated and then return to their school buildings, it would speed up the entire process. In addition, it would emphasize what people are finally starting to realize:

    TEACHERS ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS!

    (Copyright Chuck Cascio; All rights reserved, including use of the label "National Staff Meeting for Educators.")

     

     

  • Trump and "The Deer Hunter"


    A LESSON ABOUT DONALD TRUMP FROM THE DEER HUNTER

    by

    Marc Cascio

    (Note: Marc Cascio is a high school English teacher, father of three, soccer coach, and my son. I am pleased that he is an occasional contributor to my blog.)

    More and more, I keep thinking of the scene from The Deer Hunter where Robert De Niro’s character Mike explains to his friend Stan (played by John Cazale) that reality is reality by angrily exclaiming, "This is this!" The lesson is clear: Some things are just not subject to being false simply because you want them to be false or because you say they are false without proof.

    maxresdefault.jpg

    For example, climate change is real. It just is. You can yell and scream and rant and rave, you can surround yourself with other people who deny it, and you can find a screwball or two with some fancy degree who offers some quackish data that supports your claim, but that doesn't outweigh the throngs of experts and the mountains of data the prove the truth: Climate change IS real. This is this.

    The dangers of Covid are also real. Just because you might happen to be living in an area where emergency rooms aren't packed with the sick and dying doesn't mean that the dangers aren't real. No one person is the center of the universe, and no one person's subjective experience dictates objective reality, so to run around foolishly without precautions puts everyone at risk. This is this.

    And the president of the United States incited a riot-- 

    >>>He fomented an insurrection. 

    >>>He got a police officer killed. 

    >>>He lied about a stolen election. 

    >>>He badmouthed governors and his own vice president. 

    >>>He vilified the Supreme Court because the justices upheld the law rather than saw it as their obligation to side with him because he appointed some of the justices. 

    >>>He is guilty of treason. 

    Maybe (?) there were a few antifa people milling around who jumped in, but those people rioting in the Capitol were radical Trump supporters doing Trump's bidding.

    That is that and this is this!

    (Copyright Marc Cascio; all rights reserved.)

  • Turning the Corner

    TURNING THE CORNER
    by
    Chuck Cascio
     
     
     Over the past year, I have--
     
    >>>Seen the empty parking lots of shuttered businesses.

    >>>Heard a president say that a pandemic that has now killed as many Americans as were lost in World War II would "disappear."

    >>>Missed visits, hugs, laughter, and vacations with my kids, grandkids, other relatives, and friends.

    >>>Felt the disappointment of students unable to attend college, high school, or elementary school with their classmates, and the social interactions so critical to those brief years.
     

    >>>Missed the outings to concerts, theaters, movies, restaurants, and other simple social gatherings.

    >>>Seen a presidential election marred by anger, lies, and disgraceful comments and actions by the "leader" in power.
     

    >>>Witnessed with sadness, horror, and anger the assault fueled on our Capitol by a demagogue, an assault that included the hateful racist and anti-semitic signage and screams reminiscent of another era in another land along with chants to hang the vice president and kill some member of Congress.

    >>>Come to realize that this presidency and this pandemic have revealed tragic evidence of simmering anger, a desire for "privilege," and an incomprehensible fear of seeing others gain the fundamental elements that make life comfortable, enjoyable, and fulfilling for each individual. 
     

    Yet...there is now a corner to be turned, and I believe (or want to believe) that we are turning it because--

    >>>I have seen people determined to defeat the killer virus by adhering to rules of wearing masks, social distancing, and other steps to safeguard health even when threatened by those who felt their "privilege" was being compromised.
     

    >>>I have seen more kids outside playing and adults walking than had been the norm as they sought diversion from the suffocating events surrounding them.

    >>>I have learned to compensate for missed relationships by using other means of communication that are not as intimate but are still rewarding.
     

    >>>I have seen individuals treat employees with great respect and kindness in health care, grocery stores, education, and other professions that we finally realize are "essential."

    >>>I have come to value more than ever the passage of time, the simple joys of daily life, and the importance of understanding that reality extends beyond ourselves.
     
       Perhaps as the hate-filled presidency of the past four years and the nightmarish events of the past couple of months end, we will move toward a greater sense that we are all in this together. The virus--whether defined as corona or politics or both--has proven that.  
     
       So as we turn the corner, let's consider the value of health for all, employment for all, security for all, and opportunities for all.
     

       Let's turn it and not forget the raging hatred we have experienced, but let's not let that define our future. 

       Let's turn it and take new pleasure in seeing the parking lots fill, the schools reopen, the family and friends return to our lives, and the simple, personal ways we have learned to fill our lives. 
     

       Let's turn the corner...and take the new, open road ahead.

     

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.