Wednesday, July 08, 2020

WHAT, ME WORRY? - WELL, YEAH!

TOO MUCH TIME AND NEGATIVE INPUT
With all the turmoil going on in our country, and the world, for that matter, and because I’ve been hunkered down in semi-quarantine for the past few months, I’ve had way, way too much time to just sit and contemplate.  Of course, the daily dose of strife, rancor and all-around divisiveness we see on the news all day, every day, only adds to the things floating through my otherwise fairly empty head…. and I worry.

WHY WORRY?
OK, what do I have to worry about, right?  I have a great life.  I am married to the best, kindest, most patient, beautiful, loving wife.  I have lots of friends and family whom I love and I know reciprocate.  I have enough to eat - obviously! - and live in one of the finest places in the entire world (or so my in-laws used to tell us when they would return from one of their trips at exotic venues around the world).  I believe them.  But, I worry…

MAKIN’ A LIST…
So, as I sit and contemplate this issue, I’m making a list of things that cause me anxious days and sleepless nights.  What you will read below is a partial list, sadly.  In no particular order, here you go…

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
I worry about the impact of this darn pandemic.  I worry for my wife and myself because we have our own special mix of issues that makes each of us more vulnerable than most.  I worry about our future if one, or both, of us contract this darn thing.  I also worry about our friends and family and the potential impact of this virus on them.  We have relatives and friends with compromised immune systems who have the potential for serious problems with it.  I continue to plead with folks to follow the official guidances and Stay Home, Exercise Proper Social Distancing, Wear Masks and Wash Your Hands and Use Hand Sanitizer.  Honestly, I HOPE I’m wrong about this!  I HOPE this pandemic is not as severe and long-lasting as predicted by some.  I REALLY want my friends and relatives to be able to say to me in a year, “See, Geoff - you were wrong!  All that angst was for nothing!”  I will be a very happy man if that happens… but I don’t think it’s likely.  So, I worry…

THE ECONOMY
Because of this pandemic, our economy - the hottest one in my lifetime - went in the tank.  Yes, some of it is rebounding, only to be punched in the teeth again by what looks like a resurgence of the virus.  I worry about all the small businessmen who have done their very best to find a way to survive - many unsuccessfully - as we all deal with the isolation caused by this disease.  I worry that some of my friends simply may never be able to re-open their businesses, and how that will affect their families and employees and their families. I grew up in a family supported by a small business and I try to imagine the impact something like this virus would have had on it.  Very likely my father and uncle would have had to fold it up, putting 20 people out of jobs.  It’s a terrifying scenario to contemplate and I know it’s the real world for many, many Americans these days.  So, I worry…

CIVIL UNREST
I am VERY worried about what the future holds for our society now that we see widespread unrest throughout the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands (knee) of the Minneapolis police officer(s).  While I’ve never lived as a black man and cannot ever fully appreciate what life is like as one, I believe I do understand some of the rage being expressed by the mobs of demonstrators, which have morphed into looters and murderers.  As I watched the marchers walk down the street a block from our home recently, carrying “BLM” signs, and chanting, “Black Lives Matter!” quite honestly, in my head I was yelling back, “All Lives Matter”, because that’s how I feel about it.  Did I yell back at the marchers?  No, I didn’t.  I continued to watch and record the marchers and tried to figure out exactly how much those mostly young,  privileged, white kids actually knew about why they were protesting.  I worry that, after we (society) have permitted armed, angry mobs to take two municipal police stations in two of our proudest cities, and for them to claim seven blocks of one of those cities as their own, challenging the authorities to reclaim them, the line of authority may have been scrubbed from the pavement.  I worry that those mostly young violent protestors - people with nothing to lose except their freedom and/or their lives - may continue to misbehave in even more violent ways.  Yes, I worry…

“DEFUND THE POLICE”
A sub-set of my concern above is this movement to “defund the police” - to redirect precious budget resources away from traditional police activities to more social services.  I AM NOT saying that we don’t need more attention paid to those things where social workers can be effective given the time and money.  I am saying that to remove funding from already-beleaguered law enforcement agencies is a catastrophe waiting to happen.  This past weekend New York City was a perfect example of just what will happen, as crime sky-rocketed.  Yes, I know it was Independence Day weekend and that was a crappy metaphor, but it was accurate.  Crime will not disappear just because there are fewer police on the streets.  Do we need to look at how we train our cops?  Probably.  Do we need to hamstring them by taking away some of the tools needed if we expect them to perform their duties as peace officers?  Absolutely not!  Unless you have worn a badge or gone into a combat situation and faced an armed opponent you (we) really have no idea what it’s like.  We have no idea what it’s like for families to kiss their loved one good-bye in the morning never being sure they will return home to them any night.  So, yes - let’s look at how we train them.  Yes, let’s look at how we have them interact with the public they are sworn to protect and serve.  Let’s make adjustments where necessary to make them even more effective.  Let’s weed out those few bad cops - the ones who make every other cop look bad by their actions.  Let’s do all those things, and more, but let’s not strip our cops of their ability to do what their job really is - to fight crime and keep us all safe.  Let’s NOT do that.  I worry…

FRACTURING OF FRIENDSHIPS
This is a really big issue for me.  It causes me to lose a lot of sleep every night. I’m an old guy - with any luck at all I will turn 80 in 13 months - and I’ve accumulated a lot of really wonderful friends over all these decades.  I have friends since we were 5 years old with whom I still have regular contact.  In my circle of friends there are childhood buddies, school mates, Army pals, work friends, close relatives, both through blood and marriage, and the many friends I’ve made writing this blog and elsewhere over the past couple decades.  I value every single one of them for their wit, wisdom, patience and just plain love.  I DO LOVE THEM.  And yet, over the past few months there have been fractures in some of those relationships.  I know the current circumstances mentioned above have created some of this - everybody is feeling stress from what’s going on these days.  I also know that some of the positions I’ve taken on some of those issues have created rifts.  I wish that was not the case, but it is, apparently.  Sometimes I’ve written on Facebook quick little blasts to provoke a healthy discussion of issues.  Frequently I will share something someone else has shared with me - a link, a meme or something I think is funny.  Sometimes those struck some of my friends wrong - a product of my insensitivity and a general thinning of skin in these times.  I feel bad when friends get peeved at me, but hope, at the same time, I have caused them to consider the issue at hand more carefully.  It seems not to be happening that way, though.  Circumstances seem to have polarized us and made us more willing to aggressively defend our position without considering others.  I understand that, but it saddens me to think that, after years - dozens - some friendships may dissolve.  I won’t like that, but neither will I stop expressing myself.  And, I worry…

NATIONAL POLITICS
Yes, I do lose sleep contemplating National politics.  As a lifelong Republican I was very disappointed when Trump gained the nomination in 2016.  There were SO MANY highly qualified candidates on that dais during the debates that I could have, would have, voted for.  Sadly, I doubt any of them could have defeated Hillary Clinton in the election.  The fact that Trump was the last man standing and that he did, indeed, defeat Clinton, caused me great concern about the future of our Republic.  I was concerned that our president - our highest elected leader and the most powerful man in the world - was a bully, who seemed to follow his basest instincts instead of listening to the smart people around him as he went about setting policy and making major decisions.  Those concerns were affirmed by his behavior following the election.  Quite honestly, I had not seen such bad, juvenile behavior since I was in junior high school.   It got so I cringed every time Trump opened his mouth or typed a Tweet in those early morning hours when he sought retribution against those who dared to criticize him.  It has pained me for nearly 4 years, and I can’t do a thing about it.  He will be the Republican candidate and will run against Joe Biden - a man nearly my age who seems to have lost more brain cells than me.  I cannot vote for Biden, but I might have voted for Amy Klobuchar.  It won’t make any difference if I vote for Trump, since any Democrat running against him will take my state, California.  So, I’ll probably just write in a name of a Republican I admire - it’s not a big pool -  on the ballot and never look back.  I will worry, though…

STATE POLITICS
I am very concerned that my state has become such a liberal bastion.  Any good ideas that might come out of the Republicans in the Assembly or Senate have zero chance of being considered.  Our elected leaders in this state seem all too willing to simply give away our hard-earned wealth to any special interest group that whines enough about it.  A recent move to create a blue-ribbon (all liberal) commission to consider giving reparations to every black man and woman in this state for the perceived injustices they have experienced may just be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.  If that happens, and the liberal leaders of this state DO decide to provide cash to those who feel entitled to it - my tax dollars, that could be used for better roads and better education for all - it will force me to consider leaving this state.  Despite all it’s natural wonders and that I’ve lived here most of my life, and the fact that it is home to so many of my friends and relatives - it will have become no place for a person with conservative values to live.  I may just pack up my stuff and hit the road, probably following the moving vans of many companies who will do the same thing.  And I certainly do worry about this…

LOCAL POLITICS
We have yet another watershed election ahead of us in Costa Mesa this year.  Four years ago we were among the many municipalities and districts extorted by a law firm in Santa Monica into creating voting districts to “create more equitable opportunities for minority residents to have their voices heard”.  In our case, it was to give a greater voice to the 37% of the residents who are Latino.  Because of that change, two years ago we chose our first directly-elected mayor and the first three council members to be elected by districts.  Ironically, the voters of this city gave the finger to the Republican-dominated council at the time - the ones who manipulated the system to attempt to stack the deck.  The voters chose Katrina Foley - who the previous council had ousted as mayor a year earlier just because they could - over multi-term councilwoman Sandra Genis, by a huge margin.  Even more delicious, the voters chose newcomer local woman and MIT-educated engineer Arlis Reynolds over feckless, divisive, multi-term councilman and former Assemblyman Allan Mansoor by a huge margin.  Youngster Manuel Chavez also defeated the old majority-supported candidates to represent the smallest, but most densely Latino district, where he grew up.  The voters also chose US Naval Academy graduate and successful Naval Officer, Andrea Marr over one of the old majority’s sycophants, also by a big margin.  So, the plan to snatch control of the city again by manipulating  the districting process backfired and our city ended up with not one, but three Latino members on the council.  It  was a great day for our city.  And, a year into their respective terms, the wheels came off with all those things I mentioned above.  However, the new council majority - those named above plus Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens - were out ahead of the problems from the start.  They took charge and, with new city management in the form of new City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison, crafted policies and an organizational structure to blunt the impact of the virus and economic collapse.  We will not escape the impact of these calamities, but I’m proud of the way they’ve managed these tough issues.  The upcoming election will tell the tale.  Will this majority be joined by three new people of similar dedication and skills?  Foley must run for re-election - the term of the mayor is only 2 years - and Stephens must also run for a seat in his district, Number 1, where he will certainly face heavy opposition from members of the old majority.  I’m encouraged by some of the names that are surfacing as candidates in Districts 2 and 6. We simply cannot afford to return to the days when cops were despised by the elected majority, where ICE agents were invited into our jails, thereby terrorizing our Latino population.  We cannot return to the time where developers were allowed - encouraged - to run roughshod over our city.  I lose a lot of sleep contemplating this election, where candidate forums are unlikely unless they are done online and tons of Republican cash will pour into our city.  And, I worry…

HOMELESSNESS
For several years our city has dealt with a growing population of homeless folks.  Arrangements were made, through the cooperation of a local church and non-profit organizations, to temporarily house upwards of 50 such people.  The city will have spent nearly $10 million to acquire, refurbish and launch a new housing solution in a commercial area of our city.  This MAY go a long way to solve the issue, but it’s taking longer than expected and costing more… so I worry.

SOBER LIVING HOME INFESTATION
For a decade our city has become a haven for Sober Living Homes, many of which are operated by unscrupulous people who are simply in it to make big bucks.  Addicts are recruited from outside our state, moved here and placed in one of these homes in residential neighborhoods and are given only a minimal chance to succeed - to get clean and sober.  The stories abound about the mismanagement of these places and the tragic affects on some of the folks residing in them.  Our city has successfully sued several of them and hope that the other bad operators will get the hint and decamp for another venue.  Many of the failures that drop out of these homes end up on our streets as part of the homeless population mentioned above.  The current city leadership has made great strides in managing this issue, but I worry…

NMUSD DRAMA
Our local school district, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which serves the children of both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, continues to be in turmoil.  It recently lost another superintendent and it’s unclear whether they will attempt to rush the selection of a new one before the election, when at least a couple new faces will be chosen for their Board of Trustees.  Issues of equality of education throughout the district persist and flight by students to distant districts in neighboring cities continues to be a concern.  And, of  course, the issue of Distance Learning due to the pandemic is a real hot-button issue today.  The Board of Trustees has long been populated by well-intentioned folks who simply stayed too long at the dance.  New ideas were discouraged and out-right rejected and ignored.  It’s hard to make progress when new ideas cannot even make it to the floor for a discussion.  I worry about this, too.

THIS IS JUST A START
So, my friends, this is just a taste of what’s on my mind these days - the stuff that causes me angst and sleepless nights.  There are other things, too, but this is one of those sleepless nights when it all begins to overwhelm me.  This is a start… Back to worrying…

NOTE: I amended my previous post, HERE, to correct the record regarding my writing about race.  A friend reminded me that I did, indeed, write about race as I jousted with another local blogger who, although has shriveled from the local issues,  continues to foul the ether with his vile pontifications.  I apologize, but he’s a guy most try very hard to forget.

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