The Know Nothings

Dear Michael,

Out there in the world you no longer occupy, things have gone, as my mom would say, “to hell in a handbasket.” I haven’t looked to see if she stole that phrase from someone or if it was her own. Truly, it doesn’t matter. Also out there in the world are people who think I only miss you because of our mad love, your hot body, your warm spot in our bed and your dazzling repertoires of humor, your ability to fix virtually anything, and your constant acceptance of who I am. All of those things are true. But in days like these, I miss your profound depth of understanding history. As the words “Know Nothings” have been spinning in my head, I knew that you’d know I derived them from the short-lived party of nativists who for a short time during the mid-1800’s held political power based on anti-immigration and anti-Catholic beliefs. Self-titled, that group, which some current political cults were seeded from, is more about their name to me right now than their dreadful politics. I think huge swaths of our population want to be Know Nothings.

Rusty Bowers, Arizona state House Speaker – photo credit USA Today

I hardly know where to start with my frustrations about what’s going on around me. As usual, I feel out of step with people. Don’t get me wrong. You were the one who was always aware that my feelings about world problems, always front and center in my mind, often threw cold water on your good time. I still remember our friend Tony, who when seeing me approach would say, “here comes the angel of doom.” Okay, I get it. But there’s so much cataclysmic stuff going on that I can’t stop looking at it like so many others seem to be doing. Hence my current obsession with the “Know Nothings.” Recently I’ve noticed that my social media posts about Covid, climate change and our dangerous political situation, are not drawing the type of responses they once did, aside from those of a few unique friends. Conversations are like that too, with my fervent pronouncements or questions arousing little or no interest. I get it. People are burned out. Covid drags on and people are sick of it and its subsequent results, supply issues, high gas prices, and inflation. How about corporate profits, though? Big oil is doing quite nicely, thank you very much. Like always. But let me get to the politics first. The House Select Committee on the January 6th Attack is finally holding public hearings. The evidence is jaw-dropping. Today I watched Rusty Bowers, an absolutely rigid conservative Republican, describe the efforts of Trump and Giuliani to get him to decertify Arizona’s 2020 presidential election results. A straight arrow, a devout Christian who believes that the U.S. Constitution was divinely conceived, reiterated his refusal to break the law, quoting Ronald Reagan and his other heroes.


Bowers testified that Giuliani told him of allegations of voter fraud committed by undocumented immigrants or dead people who were listed as having voted.

Bowers said he and other GOP legislators pushed for explanations into the theories and for Giuliani to provide sufficient evidence to justify recalling the state’s presidential electors.

“In my recollection,” Bowers said of Giuliani, “he said, We have lots of theories we just don’t have the evidence.'”

Bowers said Giuliani pressured him to call the Arizona legislature back into session — a unilateral move Bowers said he cannot do — to recall the electors that would be going to President Biden after Biden beat Trump in the state.

“It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired,” he said, growing visibly emotional. “I would not do it.”

Photo – BBC

Trump’s attack was ready. “Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers is the latest [Republican in name only] to play along with the Unselect Committee,” Trump said in a statement issued by his Save America PAC, claiming that Bowers is a “RINO,” or a Republican in name only, who told him that “the election was rigged.” – Salon

Powerful, compelling testimony, right? But apparently not. More than half the country does not think this subcommittee is legitimate. Television ratings for the hours are abysmally low. I can’t fathom this. Yeah, I don’t like my gas prices or my grocery prices but I don’t want to live in a fascist state based on utter lies, more than I’m worried about those fluctuations. We did this economic rollercoaster in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. Now we are talking about the survival of democracy. Aren’t we? How is everyone not jumping up and down with rage? When Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” turned up on my Pandora feed today, I thought it was apt.

New York Times – 6/15/22

Then there’s Covid. Mostly everyone is certainly done with that. Masks have disappeared in so many places. Sometimes I’m the only customer in a store who’s wearing one. Occasionally the employees wear them. I can’t understand why so many people feel this virus is behind us. Every day I know people who are infected. Our own kids have had it and are currently testing to make sure they didn’t pick it up again on a recent trip. No one knows who will develop long Covid which is multi-symptomed and difficult to understand. There are those who will still die from it. From the beginning bungled handling of the pandemic’s advent to now, when people are so inured to deaths in the millions, so many unnecessary, I remain baffled by the deliberate disregard for safety practices. Other viruses like the flu have mutated during the time of masking, becoming a bigger and even more dangerous diseases than in the past. I’ll never understand how these minor inconveniences have undone people’s precious individual freedoms. But historian that you are, you’ll remember the same deadly absurdity of the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 which dragged on for a few years too. There are so many more people available to fall sick and die now. Big sigh.

Very Green River – Rotting Cyanobacteria – Kyiv, Ukraine – Photo by EFREM LUKATSKY / AP

I’m passing on the whole gun conversation right now. Tonight the Senate passed a law, shy of enough restrictions to please me, but that the crew in that messy chamber could agree on anything is somewhat of a miracle. Instead I’m going to the ultimate danger, climate change, which no longer threatens but is right here, right now. I’ve been reading articles about wild weather events all over the planet, certainly no coincidence given the warnings that have been ignored for decades.

Dried forests Germany, Harz mountains – Getty images
Lonely Lagoon – A tourist pier in Suesca, Colombia, DIEGO CUEVAS / GETTY IMAGES
Flooded villages – Kenya – THOMAS MUKOYA/REUTERS
Mass fish death – Southeastern France

Drought – Cracked earth is all that remains where water once stood at the Pejar Dam, one of Goulburn, Australia’s primary water supply reservoirs. – IAN WALDIE/GETTY IMAGES

I read article after article about these astonishing floods, fires, brutal heat, melting glaciers and for the life of me, I can’t understand why everyone isn’t racing around, their hair on fire, their fear as extreme as those burning acreages at calamitous rates. How much time is left before everything escalates to a point where people lose their homes while starvation becomes an even bigger issue than it is now? What about earth’s diverse creatures, its flora and fauna? This piece I read today is truly stunning.

Heat. Flood. Fire. Drought. War. Inflation. Welcome to the Age of Extinction.

Our Planet is Changing in Profound, Terrifying, and Visible Ways Now. But We’re Still in Denial About What It Means.

Right now in our yard, the ground looks and feels like August, not mid-June. Rain has been scarce for weeks – I can’t imagine gray skies right now. I feel like our garden is developing in slow motion. After a halting beginning in the spring, blooms have gone from lush to scarce. I water heavily daily but it seems like the plants are storing the moisture at their roots instead of wasting it on flowers. I’ve got bees around though butterflies are in short supply. I look back at photos from a year ago and find a similar situation although this season is further behind. I know this isn’t just happening to me. Everywhere in the world there are reports of 100 year, 600 hundred year, even a 1000 year natural events. We’re in this now. Where’s all the action to save what can be saved? What will the world look like for our grandchildren?

Me in 1972 – Photo by Tom P.

Michael, do you see me in that photo with my bullhorn? I was helping lead a demonstration through our hometown. I’ve been to the ones that have happened here since the last one I shared with you, the Women’s March in January, 2017, a few scant months before you died.

I’m thinking there need to be more of these to jolt the Know Nothings and the Comfortably Numb out of their tiny worlds and what you know I call navel-gazing. You know, the tendency to think small, live small, worrying only about your little personal life, as if it’s all that matters. Who knows better than you and me that existing as if you have all the time in the world ahead of you is a bad plan? I will miss your company in the streets as I always miss you. But I’m still so glad to send my thoughts out to you in the universe before I spontaneously combust. My forever friend and partner.

Well, I got this one healthy enough to open.

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