A Rainbow of Joy and Hope: Transgender StoryTime, Denton, TX November 20,2021

Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

Yesterday, I was privileged to be present at an event that had been at risk of not happening (and that would have been a shame). Yet, the threat against it became a catalyst that caused it to grow from one small library program (among hundreds) to a festive community celebration this year that drew many times over the number of people who would have attended the original event.

The background has now been widely reported, so I will only summarize some key points:

The Denton Public Library (DPL) hosts “Rainbow Storytime” three times a year and, according to the Library, “Its intent is to provide an inviting atmosphere for families to hear stories together featuring books focused on self-acceptance, learning, and friendship.” The DPL event typically coincides with days associated with “‘different’ or marginalized groups.” This time, it was taking place alongside the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a now 22 year-old observance that remembers those who have been (often brutally) murdered because they were transgender.

Due to the efforts of groups inside and outside Denton, the library decided to cancel the event out of concern for the safety of library staff and families (such concerns tend to arise when you receive hostile and threatening phone calls). Don Huffines, candidate for Texas governor, took pride that his efforts resulted in the event being cancelled. Just a few days before, he posted a press release on his website calling for the cancellation of the event and that all city employees who approved the event be fired. Tough talk, big man.

(Side note: Just perusing his website, I can’t help noticing that Huffines has very strong convictions and opinions about many things he understands poorly to not at all).

Another website, which I will not give publicity to, called the cancellation a victory over a “child grooming” event. The group took credit for this “victory.”

Had all of these fine “family values” people actually thought it through, they should have known not to mess with a loving family, especially a mother! Amber Briggle* (mother of a transgender son) immediately began looking for other options. A local Denton coffee house and brewery, Armadillo Ale Works, stepped up after hearing about the cancellation and offered their business as a venue.

So, while Huffines and others were claiming victory and taking credit for shutting down Rainbow Storytime, those on the side of justice, love, care, and compassion were not to be dissuaded. The result was that a simple library event that would have passed quietly by turned into a huge celebration. On the event Facebook page, 151 checked in as of the time of this writing. Being there myself, seeing that Armadillo Ale Works was packed front to back and many people listening in from outside (as a large garage door was open to the patio), I would conservatively estimate at least twice that number turned out overall. The Facebook page had a total of 453 responding (some going, some interested). Assuming the entire world isn’t on Facebook, doesn’t always tell Facebook when they do something, or didn’t switch from “interested” to “attending,” it is reasonable to assume upwards of 400 people were present.

What did I witness? I saw families. I saw children gathered around to hear stories of love and acceptance. I witnessed love and acceptance in action. I witnessed laughter and smiles.

What didn’t I witness? Hatefulness toward anyone (even those protesting across the street—more on that next). Self-righteous pontificating. Anger. I did not witness anyone trying to make children transgender or to “sexualize” them as many claimed this was about.

There were protestors across the street, as I said. I would say roughly about half-dozen. They didn’t really do anything much. They didn’t even really say anything. All I heard the couple of times I was outside before and after the event were pre-recorded prayers playing over a speaker.

Who I did not see was the lady who posted a protest flyer in the comments of a post I made talking about the event a couple of days ahead of it. I also did not see Don Huffines who still, incidentally, has his victory press release on his website about getting the event cancelled. I would like to see Huffines take credit for helping to make Transgender StoryTime a much larger success than the event he interfered with. I can’t say with certainty, but the impression I get is that Huffines doesn’t really care one way or the other, he just used this as a means to play to his base and get some free press.

So, why was I there? Why am I writing about it on my website? Why does a philosopher care?

Why was I there? History. I look back on the history of my country and think on a time when certain people were enslaved for the color of their skin. I think about the fact that just shortly before I was born, black people had to drink from water fountains separate than those of white folk. I think of all the violence and hatred toward homosexual persons our times have witnessed. I think of how, in my very own lifetime, women could not get credit or own homes. Despite all of the advances we have made in these and other areas, ignorance and hatred endures. And, very sadly, transgender persons are among those who are marginalized and who so often have to live in fear. The amount of ignorance I see about what it means to be transgender and the fear and hatred that follow this ignorance astounds me. In short, transgender rights and LBGTQ rights are emblematic of the struggle for the soul of the American vision. Equality. Freedom. Peace. Tranquility.

Whether it is the color of your skin, your sexual orientation, or your gender identification, you have the right to be free of fear and oppression. You have the right to live just as freely as anyone else.

I also attended because I feel it is my responsibility as a philosopher. Sure, philosophy is about clarity of thought and critical thinking and argumentation. Philosophers have much to contribute in terms of ideas and arguments for LGBTQ persons. Philosophy is (or can and should be) a type of activism. But I also needed to be there, to put my philosophy in personal action. Also, although I am a philosopher, that is not all I am. I also just want to be a caring and compassionate human being that can look at someone who lives in fear and tell them I want to help make it okay.

Some fear replacement. “The Jews will not replace us” chanted white supremacists. Or they think those of us who believe that transgender persons have rights to be who they are want to make everyone transgender. Ironically, those who fear being replaced or marginalized are the ones who engage in marginalization. I am a cisgender heterosexual male. I have encountered no LGBTQ person or organization who has the least desire to make me anything else. No one wants to “pray the straight away” in me. They just want to live as I do. I stand with them.

“I knew he was different in his sexuality/I went to his parties as a straight minority/It never seemed a threat to my masculinity/he only introduced me to a wider reality.”

Neil Peart

It is long past time for a wider reality. Transgender StoryTime was a win. It was a win for love. It was a win for the future. It was a win for children. It was a win for families. Among the nearly 400 persons in attendance, every color of the rainbow was represented and stood together as one. Transgender StoryTime was a win for a wider reality. It was a win for joy and hope.

*Full disclosure: While I am acquainted with Amber Briggle, having had the pleasure of meeting her on a couple of occasions, I have known her husband for many years as he is a professor where I completed grad school. The Briggles have not requested that I write anything about yesterday’s event and will likely find out about this post around the same time you, my dear reader, will have seen it.

Some resources:

https://lovetothemax.net/

Transgender kids are just kids after all | Amber Briggle | TEDxTWU – YouTube

Better Questions for People about Their Home Library than the Ones that are usually asked

My library is, in my estimation, not huge. At least I think it is small relative to what I would like it to be. It is smaller than other personal libraries I have seen and certainly not over the top for an academic. Still, I get it. It is bigger than what you will see when you walk into most homes.

That doesn’t mean people without large home libraries don’t read. Many go to these quite remarkable spaces known as “public libraries.” There are more books there than you could read in several lifetimes. What is fascinating about these places is that they will just let you take a fair number of books home. They simply ask that you bring them back in a specified amount of time so others can access them, too. It is really a brilliant concept.

Also, there are these electronic things like “Nooks” or “Kindles” and other such devices. I don’t really understand them. Sure, I get the utility and convenience. It is easier to transport these thin devices from place to place than carry a book, plus you can have several books on a single device. Since the advent of the internet, I have read text on a screen and do so every single day. That part is not alien. I just like the tactile experience of a book and there is something deeply satisfying about turning a page. But, if you read books, I am not going to quibble with the medium. Just read.

I digress. Yes, I have a home library that, let us just say, takes up some space. I have ten shelves that are maybe six and half feet high and thirty inches wide. Then I have some shelves of the same height, but narrower, plus assorted books scattered here and there. On many of the shelves there are books arranged on top. Within the confines of the shelves there are many books not yet properly shelved but stacked in front of the other books in the general area they need to be.

And that is just what I had before I got married a few months back (well, okay, I have added books since then). My wife brought a substantial number of books along for the ride and several shelves of various sizes. Bottom line, we have a lot of books. I would count them, but that cuts into my reading time.

There are two questions I typically get asked. The first I am sure you are familiar with and perhaps have yourself inquired of friends with a lot of books: “Have you read all of these books”? The first thing you need to understand about this question is that it can cause a fair amount of distress and even despair to a booklover. Of course, we haven’t read them all! And we have had to come to grips with the fact that we only have one lifetime, and several lifetimes would not be sufficient time to read all the books we would like to read. Please don’t ask if we have read them all because, well, it is painful.

To the point of this question, Umberto Eco wrote a lovely little essay entitled “How To Justify a Private Library” (this essay is contained in an enormously fun book of short essays entitled How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays). The late Italian philosopher, semiotician, and newspaper columnist was said to have had 30,000 volumes in his personal library. He considered such a library a “working tool” for research rather than a “storage place” for books already read.

Even the ones already read, to me, are books to return to, especially those I need for research. I won’t ever return to all of them, but the possibility that I might need to is reason enough to keep already read books. This brings me to the second question I have been asked: “Have you ever thought of getting rid of some of these books?” The first time I was ever asked something like this, I admit I didn’t understand the question. But the short answer is, no, I have not entertained the idea even once.

Regarding non-fiction books, clearly to have them available for ongoing research is necessary. But fiction, poetry, plays, biographies are all books that on occasion invite me back, even if it is for that one paragraph that impacted me in some important way. I like having them around.

I will add in a bonus third question: “Why do you spend all that time getting book learning when life experience is where the real knowledge is found”? There are numerous problems with this question. First, its unspoken premise is entirely wrong. It seems to place book knowledge and life experience knowledge at odds where you one is to be preferred above the other. The unexamined idea is that “book smarts” is of no genuine value because it is not the “real” world.” My answer to this is simply that even if book knowledge had no utility value, it wouldn’t matter. Some things are okay to do just because you enjoy them. But books expand vocabularies and introduce one to ideas they might not have been exposed to otherwise, among many other benefits.

Another problem with opposing reading to life experience, is that if you limit your knowledge to what you can personally experience, your knowledge is impoverished indeed. It is like saying one should never travel, if they have means, but stay only where they have always been because that is all you need to know (actually, come to think of it, a lot of people do think that way, which is the root of a great deal of damaging and dangerous ignorance we suffer because of in our day). Books are much easier to access than traveling and can introduce you to worlds that exist beyond you that you otherwise would remain ignorant of.

A little secret: where do you think the things people write about come from? Books contain the experiences of others. My world is expanded, and my horizons broadened by reading in ways my own personal experience could not, alone, provide me. The question of book knowledge and “real life” knowledge is not an either/or matter; it is a both/and. It is not as if I have to choose what I learn from only books or only walking out my door. I can do both.

Okay. I don’t want to merely curse the darkness in my objections to the questions I am frequently asked when someone sees my library. I want to light a candle by suggesting some questions that are better asked of people with a lot of books.

Instead of asking me if I have read all of these books, how about asking, “How many of these books have you been able to read so far?” We can go exploring and I can tell you about the books I have read or stories that might be associated with how I came to a particular book. You might discover a book that you want to get yourself (don’t ask me to loan it to you, I confess I am a bit of a jerk about loaning my books. Few have earned that privilege).

I have a few books that are very old. How about asking me how I got hold of a book with a copyright in the 1800’s in such good condition? For example, I have a complete 1st edition set of the Harvard Classics in pristine condition. The story of how I got those is a hoot and a holler.

Ask me if there are any books that I have been compelled to read more than once (even though reading a book twice means one less book in my lifetime that will get read). There are some of those I will show you, and you can ask me why I’ve read them twice (or three times).

Now, not to be a curmudgeon. I know that often when people exclaim “have you read all these books?” that it is just a reaction of awe toward so many tomes. But the question can also come across as having somewhat of a disdain for such home libraries. If I haven’t read them all, why do I have them? If I have read them all, why do I still have them? The underlying assumption seems to be that there is no point to having so many books.

All I can tell you is that I like them. Books surrounding me is one thing that makes me happy and I like having them around. Read or unread.

I look at my unread books and see them as worlds yet to be explored. Unread books are promises and possibilities. But, you say, if you read one of those books and it does not deliver on the promise or possibility, you have wasted your time. What if it is a dud? Yeah, well, you don’t stop going to restaurants just because you go to one you thought would be good that turned out not to be to your liking, do you? Do you stop watching movies because you watched a dud? Why are books any different? And most of the time, it was worth the journey.

As to books I have read, as I have indicated, they are places that I might want to return to one day. Just like a place I have traveled and go back to, I might find things the second time I didn’t experience the first time.

So next time you walk into someone’s home and discover they have a large home library. Try not asking the same questions they have heard a thousand times. Ask more useful questions. You might learn something new.

Those of you who have large personal libraries: what are some questions you would like to be asked?

Escape from Canada!!! (A Tale of Danger and Adventure)

My wife and I were in the pet store the other day. There was one young couple and their little girl just ahead of us and no one behind us. After the couple made their purchase, they spoke rather animatedly with the store employee for some time, of what we really didn’t pick up (social distancing interferes with eavesdropping considerably).

When they moved on and we finally approached the checkout counter, we were informed in a voice of great intensity and seriousness that the couple ahead of us had just “escaped from Canada!!” Yes, that’s right, they had just escaped from our friendly neighbors to the north and finally made it to this vast expanse of freedom known as the Great State of Texas.

My imagination was immediately stirred to visions of harrowing escapes in the dark of the night in dangerous conditions, such as those depicted in certain episodes of the television series based on the book, The Handmaid’s Tale. What horrors did they witness that these folk, young child in tow, would take such risks to flee? And from the account given by the pet store employee, they barely made it out.

(Apparently, they drove down here freely in their SUV and movers brought their stuff, but that hardly makes for a captivating story).

The pet store employee went on to say that these Canadian refugees told her the current state of affairs in their homeland is “horrible,” such that they could no longer remain. My wife and I were intrigued. What the hell is going on in Canada?! One hears about people fleeing to Canada for various reasons, but fleeing from? (I guess because of their healthcare system where basic care is provided to everyone, some have had to journey to America for elective procedures they didn’t want to wait for, such as a nip and tuck, but I don’t think that counts).

So what nightmares did our friendly Canadian refugees escape from?

Per the pet store employee, they said: “You can’t go anywhere unless you are vaccinated.” And by “anywhere,” we were told they said places such as restaurants and nightclubs, that is, places of a social nature. Now, I must honestly say I have not looked into what is going on in Canada in any great detail. As far as mandates enforced by the Canadian government, I know that all federal employees must be vaccinated, and proof of vaccination must be shown for interprovincial travel by plane or train. Stories reporting on this are a dime a dozen. That the Canadian government has mandated vaccines to go to Tim Horton’s is something I have not seen. My hunch is that individual businesses are requiring proof of vaccination because maybe they think that their employees and patrons have the right not to be needlessly exposed to a deadly virus that causes horrid suffering and death. But I honestly do not know.

But, taking this report of our newly minted Texans, formerly of that gulag of a country known as Canada, at their word, I must admit I am shaking my head. Now, we can agree or disagree about the rationality or legality of private businesses requiring proof of vaccination. We can discuss rights versus duties in a civil society. We can discuss the balance of personal medical choices and public health. We can even discuss whether your sacred political right to go to Smoke’s Poutinerie or to the nightclub to dance without a vaccination trumps the health risks posed to your fellow citizens during a time of a planet-wide deadly and highly contagious disease.

But to claim that conditions are “horrible” when those conditions are simply the restaurant you want to go to requires proof of vaccination? Sorry, pal. Not the same. Likewise, when you have both the freedom and the means to pack up and relocate and tell your tale to the lady checking you out at the pet store, you are not oppressed. You were not in danger.

Fans of Letterkenny will get this…

How selfish have we become and how solipsistic, that being inconvenienced is perceived as oppression? How entitled are we when concern for the health and safety of fellow citizens takes a back seat to my jelly-filled Tim Horton’s donut the very moment I want it?

Such a conception of rights seems to me so deeply childish.

Perhaps our Canadian refugees who escaped the horrors of inconvenience will find a home where they think the “I” is absolute and for which the social order exists solely to serve it.

Hope

What is the essence of hope? I will define hope as the conviction that what is not yet realized or possessed is possible. To lose hope is to give up on possibility.

Photo by Mahdi Dastmard on Unsplash

Hope is the belief that the current state of things is never permanent. Even if the current state of things happens to be good, hope knows there is always growth. Obviously, hope is tied to aspiration, as one who has no hope—no conviction of the possibility of what is yet unrealized—cannot aspire.

Hope is not some version of the power of positive thinking wherein such a power on its own can produce a desired end. Hope is surely not wishful thinking. It is not what I would like to happen if I could have things my way. Hope offers no guarantees. Hope does not promise that life or the world will get better. Hope only insists on the possibility.

It also seems to me that hope, true hope, can only aspire to the good. One does not hope or aspire to evil. Hope, in its very idea, is oriented toward something brighter. Hope, one might say, is of a hopeful character! Of course, one can use the word “hope” in a perverted way such as hoping one’s enemy will come to misfortune and pain. But that seems to me to be more of a disordered desire than the kind of thing hoping is.

As much as hope is tied to aspiration, it would seem to be likewise tied to agency. One is no more going to do what one is not convicted is possible no more than one will aspire to it. If you do not act like you have the conviction on the possibility of something, no one is going to believe that you do.

Hope, as a conviction about the possible, is always future-oriented. One does not hope for what one already possesses. Imagine winning a Nobel Prize and, in your speech, saying that you hope you win the Nobel Prize. Yes, that would be absurd. Hope is lived in the space between the there and the not there yet.

Do not think, however, that because hope is oriented to the future, insofar as it is about the possible, that it does not touch the present. In light of what I wrote above about agency, if I hope for the possibility of something in the future then I have cause to act now to bring it about. Hope is a great motivator.

Hope, also noted above, is not a guarantee. Hope offers only possibility. What is hoped for may be or, just as well, may not be. In other words, the possibility that hope is aimed at is contingent. It does not come about on its own. What hope does, however, is to empower me to strive for the possible that I desire. To hope is to cooperate with possibility.

I defined hope as the conviction that what is not yet realized is possible. Characteristic of hope is that it is aimed at that which is good and that, while it is oriented to the future, is what motivates the one who hopes to act in the present. Another important characteristic of hope is the awareness that perfection has not yet arrived and will not, either for each of us as individuals or for our shared political life. There will never be a time when there will not be something good to which to aspire. There is never a time wherein you can say you can’t or don’t need to become a better person or that, collectively, we can say we can’t or don’t need to become a better people.

Another way to say it is that there is never a time when there is no longer possibility.

The idea that there is nothing left that is possible, that all possibility has been realized is, I think, a strange (and sad) idea.

I want to be a person of hope. That is to say, I want to be a better person. I want to believe that there can be a better world for others. Is justice possible? Is peace possible? I think here of Aristotle-esque reasoning. If something is not impossible then we admit of its possibility. No matter how improbable or unlikely you might think achieving these are, it is against reason to say that things like justice or peace are impossible. To say that justice or peace are impossible is to claim that they by necessity cannot be. So, since I cannot logically say that it is necessary that justice and peace cannot be, it must be the case that they are possible.

What is possible I can hope for. So, I will hope. Won’t you join me?

The Right to Your Own Opinion

A very, very long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, during my undergraduate years, I had a professor who asked the class if we agreed that everyone has the right to their own opinion. We had a conversation and by the end he offered an alternate idea. No one, he said, has the right to one’s own opinion, but everyone has the right to seek the truth in her or his own way.

I suppose I better say right away that I think the statement, “you have the right to your opinion” is a true statement. You have that right. I have that right. But I do believe that my professor from yonder years was onto something. Hear (read) me out.

Consider the following ramblings.

If you hold an opinion about something, I assume that you believe your opinion to be the truth. An opinion, even if it misses the target, is aimed at truth. No one of sound mind holds an opinion one believes to be false. Such is contrary to the point of an opinion.

If you hold an opinion with which I disagree, that means I hold the opposite or something else to be true. A conversation might then ensue between us wherein I seek to persuade you of the truth of my opinion and the falsity of yours and vice versa. It could be that one of us is successful in persuading the other. In the interest of truth, the one who is persuaded changes her or his opinion because it is believed there is sufficient reason to do so.

 At least it would be nice if things went that way. I think our aim all too often is not to pursue the truth with one another, but to win the argument.

The point is that one cannot separate “opinion” from the desire and search for truth. There is no point to opinions without reference to truth. When my professor said, “Everyone has the right to seek for the truth in their own way,” he spoke with insight. I might rephrase his words in this way: “Everyone has the right to one’s own opinion and, therefore, the responsibility to seek the truth.”

In Book VI of Plato’s Republic, Glaucon was attempting to get Socrates to state his opinion on a matter of which Socrates said he did not have adequate knowledge. Glaucon pressed him and Socrates said, “Do you think it is right to talk about things one does not know as if one does know them?” Glaucon replied that even if one does not have knowledge, one should still be willing to state an opinion, nonetheless. To this Socrates exclaimed:

“What? Have you observed that opinions divorced from knowledge are ugly things?”

Here we get to the heart of the matter. Whether it is the right to an opinion or any right, we focus on our individual right while conveniently leaving out the corresponding responsibilities that accompany all rights.

Seriously. When was the last time you heard someone proclaiming, “It’s my right!!” who went on to speak of the duties the right carries with it and their commitment to fulfill those duties?

Yeah, me neither.

If our own times serve as any indication, Socrates was correct. Opinions divorced from knowledge are indeed ugly things.

Wisdom and Prudence

To Socrates, I add that opinions divorced from wisdom and prudential judgment are ugly as well. I may have the right to express my opinion, but I must ask myself whether it is wise to do so in any given circumstance. I ought to use good practical judgment whether now is the right time or the right place to exercise my right, or to the right people. In other words, it is good to exercise my right with virtue.

“It is no easy task to be good. For in everything it is no easy task to find the middle…anyone can get angry—that is easy—or give and spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for everyone, nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable and noble.” 

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, Chapter 9.

I’m with Aristotle on this. Anyone can have an opinion. But to have it with goodness is laudable and noble. Otherwise, it is as Socrates said—ugly.

“You have the right to your own opinion” is shorthand for you have the right to think for yourself; you have the right to struggle through a question or issue and form your viewpoint; you have the right not to be forced to think as someone else does. “You have the right to your own opinion” does not mean you should spout off whatever you want, wherever you want, to anyone you want without regard to truth (which is why you want to spend reasonable time seeking knowledge about something before opining a viewpoint about it).

The right to your own opinion also entails the responsibility to exercise it prudently and with a view toward the common good. The idea of rights, your individual rights, presupposes the exercise of said rights within a community. If there was only you, you could do what you wanted and there would be no cause to think about rights, right?

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, for example, that citizens have the right to bear arms. Does that mean you can just carry around a gun with no training into a crowd of people and start shooting whoever you like? No, you must exercise your right responsibly and you cannot just injure or kill who you want to. Understand, there is no right that does not carry the weight of responsibility. And reason would dictate that the right to bear arms should be regulated. To what extent is another discussion, but given the harm guns can cause, it is only reasonable to regulate their use.

Now, it is not the case that the right to your own opinion should be regulated by law in the same way that guns should be. No doubt things such as hate speech or using an opinion to incite violence and harm are matters for regulation. Regardless, the principle that rights carry responsibilities still applies no matter to what extent those responsibilities should be regulated by law.

Understood in the light of what I have written here, I think my professor from days gone by was on track. Do you have the right to your own opinion? Sure, you do. Just don’t be foolish about it.

That is my opinion on the matter.

Don’t worry ladies. Texas is going to be rape-free.

Photo by Enrique Macias on Unsplash

I have written before when Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, says things that do not hold up well under even light scrutiny. His latest is no different. When asked, in light of the new bill SB 8, why “force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term” he responded:

“It doesn’t require that at all. Because obviously it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion, so for one it doesn’t [require] that. That said, however, let’s make something very clear. Rape is a crime and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

As a philosopher (and a person with a heart), statements like this tend to make me a little nutso because they are so laden with disingenuity it is staggering. Although a brief quotation, there is a lot to break down.

Let’s start with the question itself, which was why force a victim of rape or incest to give birth. He claimed the bill does not “require that at all.” Why does it not? Well, because the law allows for abortion up to six weeks. Setting aside the well-known fact that a woman typically will not know she is pregnant before six weeks, there is something else (and just as insidious) to point out. What surely motivated the question was that SB 8 does not provide an exception for rape and incest victims. Abbott’s reply was essentially that it does not force victims of rape or incest because, gee, victims have the same amount of time as anyone else to get an abortion.

Let’s be clear, Governor. After six weeks SB 8 does indeed force a victim of rape or incest to carry a pregnancy to term. If you are going to pass a law, stand by it. Don’t sidestep. With all that such victims go through, your response that they have six weeks just like everyone else is not only ridiculous, it is heartless and cruel. Be clear, also, that SB 8 has no provision or exception for rape or incest. No distinction is made between women who have an unintended pregnancy from mutually consensual sex and women who have been raped.

Changing the subject

The next thing Governor Abbott does is a rhetorical sidestep. Despite the fact that the question concerned the victims of rape, he decides to talk about rapists—and how tough he is going to be. So let’s not talk about what SB 8 does or does not do for victims of rape or incest, let’s shift our focus to the rapist.

The Governor is very serious here, you can tell, because he says, “…let’s make something very clear.” And if you watch the clip, he says this in a very serious tone. So, I am going to take him seriously and break down what he goes on to say.

First, he tells us rape is a crime in the state of Texas. That’s good. Very glad to know that. So, since rape is a crime, what is he going to do? This next statement is outlandish. Yes, I am still taking the statement seriously and my response here is a seriously proportionate one to the claim. Since rape is a crime, Texas is going to work “tirelessly” (this means that what he is about to say must be a high priority) to “make sure” (no shadow of doubt here) to do what? He claims that with tireless resolve his administration will make certain that they “eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas….” Not some. Not as many as they can. All. Every last one.

Aristotle would say this statement is made universally about a universal. The “universal” is “rapists.” There is no particular category of rapists or any individual rapists, but simply “rapists.” Universal. How many rapists will be eliminated from Texas streets? All of them. Universally. This is a bold statement. Governor Greg Abbott has made a promise that not a single rapist will be left on the streets of the state of Texas because they are going to “aggressively [go] out and [arrest] them and [prosecute] them and [get] them off the streets.”

Back up just a step to SB 8 and the question the reporter asked, which was why force victims of rape or incest to carry a pregnancy to term? In light of Governor Abbott’s bold claim, the question no longer matters! Why? There will not be victims of rape (what about incest that is not rape?) because there will not be any rapists! Now there is a bold vision!

If (when) all rapists are not eliminated from the streets of Texas, Governor Abbott should be held to account. To make such a strong, absolute claim, he is obligated to see it through. I, for one, would like to see this aggressive, tireless campaign to make sure no rapist is left on the streets of Texas, but instead arrested, prosecuted, and put away for good.

What’s the plan?

What’s the plan Governor? Is there a timeline? How is every rapist in the state of Texas going to be eliminated from our streets? There will be a lot to prosecute and put in prison. Are you going to make room by allowing those convicted of non-violent crimes out of prison? You cannot achieve such a bold vision without a plan to make it happen. So what is it? How are you going to pay for it? You are going to need a whole lot of law enforcement across this massive state devoted to this aggressive plan.

My Governor has a hard task ahead. Texas is rated as the 15th most dangerous state in America for rape/sexual assault (Alaska is no. 1). The statistics reveal that 55.2 rapes and incidences of sexual assault occur per every 100,000 people. In a state of 29 million people, at the very most we are looking at a little more than 16,000 rapists. (If anyone wants to separate sexual assault that is not legally defined as rape, fine, go ahead. Given Governor Abbott’s bold campaign to eliminate rapists, it is reasonable to say he should get all who commit any form of sexual assault off the streets.). Now, assuming some rapists commit the crime more than once (and I don’t know any statistics here) that 16,000 number will be lower. Regardless of the number, getting rid of all of them is no small job.

Some might say that not all crimes of rape are against women. Men are victims of rape, too. This is true, but not a relevant point. Certainly, Governor Abbott cannot restrict eliminating rapists from the street to only those who rape women.

Really, the point is this. In response to a question about SB 8 forcing women who are raped to give birth, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that these victims are not forced because they have six weeks like everyone else; and, besides, it is not going to matter because he is going to get all the rapists off the street. Texas is going to be a rapist- and, therefore, rape-free state.

Bullshit.

Regardless of your beliefs and convictions concerning abortion, one cannot reasonably understand Abbott’s words as anything else but that. Complete and utter bullshit.

In Praise of the Mundane

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

C.S. Lewis wrote a poem entitled In Praise of Solid People that for many decades has remained a favorite of mine. The opening stanza reads:

Thank God that there are solid folk

Who water flowers and roll the lawn,

And sit and sew and smoke,

And snore all through the summer dawn.

The poem continues to describe such solid folk as ones who “feel the things that all men feel” and who “think in well-worn grooves of thought.” In the poem, Lewis notes that there was once a time he would have scorned the simple lives the solid folk lead. Yet, he learned to appreciate and admire their stability and how, unlike many who suppose themselves to be more enlightened, they are not “fretted by desire.”

I remember back in my early to mid- 20’s that this poem inspired me to write a poem I would call In Praise of the Mundane. That poem was never written. I may have started a line or two, but that was a long time ago and I really cannot recall. However, the title and the idea behind the title have remained in my ethos and general worldview throughout my life.

The word “mundane” is usually associated in people’s minds with boring or dull. But the word itself comes from French and Latin words that basically refer to what is this-worldly or ordinary. Many things we would consider mundane certainly fall in the category of unexciting. We get up, we go to work, we pay the bills, we engage in routine activities. Not exactly a thrill-ride.

There is something to be said, of course, for working hard as you look forward to your days off or getting a vacation away from it all. We engage in the ordinary so we can, if just for a brief time, enjoy the extraordinary. But what I want to communicate here is that there is something to be said for the mundane. Not all that is mundane is dull or meaningless routine.

Back all those years ago. I used to use the terms “continuities” and “discontinuities” to express my ideas. Continuities have a certain comforting familiarity about them that give our lives some stability and peace. Continuities would align with things we could call the mundane. “Discontinuities” are those unexpected things that come along outside the ordinary ebb and flow of living.

No one likes bad discontinuities—a job loss, tragedy, divorce, disease, etc. But I have observed throughout my life that some people thrive on discontinuities that they perceive are to be preferred to the dull, predictable continuities of everyday life. Give me something exciting rather than the mundane.

In “praising” the mundane, I do not intend to set up the mundane over the exciting discontinuities of life. As with most things, there is a place and time for both. And that is the point. Life should have a balance of both, each in its proper place.

Another way to think of it is that it is good to have a foundation of familiarities, but also a willingness to venture out into the unfamiliar and expand your world. After all, there is so much wonderful world out there to be discovered.

By familiarities, I refer to those mundane things like familiar places and faces, routines that keep us on track, and those activities we find comforting (like reading a book or taking a walk). The unfamiliar, by contrast, would be most anything that lifts of out of ourselves and challenges our comfortableness.

These are the continuities and discontinuities in life. Both do us good.

I would argue, however, that the discontinuities should be tethered and secured to the continuities. Even more, life can flourish and thrive with only continuities and no discontinuities, but the converse is not true. If you have nothing but discontinuities in your life (of either the positive or negative variety), and no continuities, you will likely go insane. Floating in space might be super cool and exciting, but if there is not a ground to which to return and plant your feet, floating in space would be rather terrifying I would think.

Another way to refer to discontinuities would be the “highs and lows” of life. No one likes the lows, but some want nothing but the highs. Zeus forbid they find pleasure in the ordinary! Everything must be new or exciting. All the time.

Look at the blue line as continuities. You are moving ever upward and growing as a human being, but the pace is slow and steady. But if you stay the course, you will look back and see that you have ascended to great heights. Now look at the orange line as discontinuities. If you depend on those for your happiness, you are always going to be up and down. When the good continuities come, you will be on a high. Those can’t be sustained indefinitely, so you go back down. But if you maintain your connection to the blue line, you can derive great pleasure from the high points on the orange line and you can weather and survive the low points.

This is why I praise the mundane. Give me that regular cup of coffee in the morning or a walk in the evening with my love. Give me a book or some music I have listened to a hundred thousand times over, decade after decade. Give me the familiar taste of a garden tomato. If I never have a high again, I am content. Whatever lows may come my way, I will be okay. Your mundane will likely be different from my mundane. Ask your doctor (or your heart) which mundane is right for you. But what mundane you settle into, look for contentment in the ordinary, in the mundane.

Do I want new highs? You bet! There are places I want to travel and things I want to see. There are things I know I will want to do even if I don’t know what they are yet. I want new experiences. You can live a thousand lifetimes and still never experience all that world out there to be discovered. I want to discover as much as my means and abilities will permit.

But I write here in praise of the mundane; to be one of the “solid people” Lewis wrote of. I am happy living in the mundane—the worldly, the earthy. Where my feet find the ground.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Love Your Food and Your Food Will Love You

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

Growing up in rural Indiana, I was no stranger to farms. Farms and fields were part of the landscape that environed me. My parents kept a small garden from time to time. One of my favorite things to do was to pick a tomato or pull a green onion right from the ground. There is really no flavor quite like a freshly picked vegetable (washed, of course).

We live in a culture that worships food; or perhaps worships the glamorization of food. Being a “foodie” is hip. The most popular cooking shows are something considerably different than what they once were. From Julia Child forward, cooking shows were about, imagine this…cooking. People watched these shows in order to learn to make new dishes. To be sure, the personality of the star of the show had to draw viewers, but one could watch these shows and learn a little something about food and cooking.

In more recent years, cooking shows shifted from a focus on food to more outlandish themes. For example, in what I would describe as “The Apprentice” type shows, you might have a number of young aspiring chefs in a competition to see who had what it takes. The experienced chef and judge in such shows would tend to raise his voice in anger to belittle the young up and coming cooks. Viewers “consume” (pun intended) this sort of abuse with delight. Then like The Apprentice or maybe a show like The Bachelor, the aspiring cooks were lined up, judged, and viewers saw the winners and the losers.

This is not a post about cooking shows, so I won’t go on, but I should add that there are still many good cooking shows on. But the kind I am talking about that draw the big ratings have amazingly little to do about food when you step back and think about it.

My point is that while we live in a culture that does seem to idolize food, I wonder how much we really have any kind of a relationship with our food.

What?!?! A relationship with food! What are you talking about?!?!

Say What?

I’ll be honest. I am not sure myself entirely what I am talking about. Like Socrates, I do not know, and I know that I do not know! I am still learning. But I think I am referring to having some sort of connection to the sources of your nourishment. I do not intend to moralize about what sort of connection everyone should have to their food. I would like to suggest, though, that having some kind is something good.

One of my personally favorite ways to connect to food is cooking and, in particular, food prep. The thing is, I know how easy it is to throw a bag in a microwave or have one kind or another of some boxed or frozen food. I am not without sin in this. I know in this world where we move so fast and have so much to do, taking time to prepare a meal is something for which there is little time for most of us. But I find it therapeutically soothing to slice vegetables, prepare spices, marinate something, choose my cooking utensils, and so on.

I find food prep most enjoyable when listening to music. I have diverse musical tastes from classical to metal, but as I have told Grace Rowland, the front woman of the Austin based folk group The Deer, their song Hawkmoth has a perfect tempo for vegetable chopping and slicing.

You can also watch the news or a favorite television program. Best of all, I would say, is engaging in conversation. We tend to think of the communal nature of food in terms of gathering around the table to eat together and this is very true. But for me sharing conversation or some laughs with family and friends around preparing for a meal that we will likewise share together, is a rich experience that connects me both to my food as well as being connected to others by food.

There is also deep satisfaction in growing food. The process of planting, nurturing, harvesting, preparing, and eating has many rewards. I would also add sharing the food you grow with others to that list. I find the sensory benefits of growing food very satisfying. It is intoxicating for me to run my hands through my rosemary or basil plants and then breathe it in. The combined tactile and olfactory sensations remind me what is important in life. Picking some fresh herbs and then immediately using them in a dish is a simple joy.

What am I supposed to do?

But, you say, what if I am not really much of a cook or I cannot garden? Not to worry, there are other ways to have a thoughtful relationship with food. Here are a few suggestions:

Go to the grocery store and take your time. Going to the grocery is not usually considered a leisure activity. We want to get in and get out! Who wants to waste precious time grocery shopping! To be a more thoughtful shopper, however, you must take some time. Author Michael Pollan and others have pointed out that, as a rule, the outer perimeter of a grocery store tends to have healthier (or even “real”) food. The more you work your way into the center, the more you have processed and boxed “foods,” many with labels touting how good it is for you. So spend some time in the grocery store and learn what is really there and seek to become a more thoughtful eater.

Educate yourself about food. There are plenty of good books you can read. Marion Nestle is a highly respected author I recommend. Books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan or The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason are a couple that I have found very helpful. If you prefer shorter books, Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and Food Rules are easy reads and chock full of good information.

If you wish to dive into some more heady literature, go take a look at The Philosophy of Food Project housed in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Texas headed up by Professor  David M. Kaplan. Take a look at the bibliography section for a “smorgasbord” of literature to explore.

Eat more slowly and with others. I mean “eat more slowly” in two ways. The first is simply wean yourself from fast food and eat it infrequently. But mostly I mean to literally eat slowly! We hurry through a meal too quickly all too often. We eat to not be hungry and to get the nourishment we need, but that is not all eating is for. Eat for pleasure. Savor good flavor. Look at eating as an experience and an event, and get all five senses involved. We have been conditioned to think that leisure is for the lazy and a reward for which one is worthy only after a lifetime of toil. Something does not have to produce something else to be good. Some things are just good because they are good. Eating slowly and intentionally is one of them.

Have a relationship with food? Connect to food? I don’t know what to call it. I do know that being more thoughtful about food and engaging it (whether by growing it or becoming a thoughtful, educated shopper) opens up new worlds of understanding.

If nothing else, learning to appreciate the goodness of life and respecting that goodness is enough.

Thoughts for Governor Greg Abbott

The Governor of Texas says that the path forward (in the fight against Covid-19) “lies in personal responsibility not government mandates. “

He has said similar things quite a bit, such as Texans are smart of enough to do the right thing without the government telling them what to do. I think the Governor could use a high school refresher course in government as well as a class I will call “The absolute most rudimentary basic baby principles of logic and critical thinking.”

Here’s the deal.

On his logic, let us remove all traffic signs because Texans can exercise personal responsibility and make the right decision at an intersection. Let’s remove bans on smoking in public places because Texans can decide for themselves what is right or wrong. Let’s not ban getting drunk and driving because Texans have the right to choose for themselves, not be burdened by government intervention.

Governor, the issue is not personal responsibility vs. government mandates, but having the good sense to know where each belongs in society. There are mandates on smoking in public places, for instance, because that is a matter of “public” health not a matter of individual responsibility. While it is great if everyone makes the right choice individually, as a government official with serious responsibilities, you just can’t count on that.

Governor, you envision a utopia in which every individual will always make the rational choice all the time individually, making society run exactly the way it is supposed to. But that utopia does not exist. While if many or even most individuals always made the right choice with their personal responsibility all the time, there are always going to be those who do not. If this pandemic makes anything clear, it is that people have wildly diverging views and come to wildly diverse conclusions about what they ought to do.

Some basics in government for you, Governor. When people come together or live within the same boundaries or on a piece of land, say for example the state of Texas, we want people to have the most freedom they can have to choose the life they want, follow their own pursuits, their creativity, and their fulfillment. But to ensure that for everyone, we all agree to rules that we have to abide by (i.e. limit our freedoms) to make sure my freedoms don’t interfere with the freedoms of my fellow citizens. I can do pretty much anything I want, even if others think its lame or tasteless or even immoral (J.S. Mill made that point in On Liberty. I recommend you read it). But as soon as what I do adversely affects or could harm another, then it becomes a matter of what we call the public good. It is no longer a matter of individual responsibility but a space where the government can come in and mandate things.

Covid-19 is a virus that is highly transmissible. We know this. You understand it, I am sure, because you have been telling us all you are doing to bring in health care workers from elsewhere and other such measures because the surge is out of hand in Texas, and there is no room in hospitals for care that people need. I take it that you accept that the virus is real, not a hoax, that it is deadly, and we have a lot of it here.

Because of its transmissibility and for the good of public health so that Texans can be ensured the freedom to exercise their individual responsibility in the future and not be, you know, sick or dead, you actually can, Governor Abbott, mandate masks in public spaces. No, really! You can! And dig this, it is a hell of a lot less expensive than bringing in workers from out of state to help this independent-not-attached-to-the-national-grid-freedom-fighting state. Plus, your own healthcare workers would finally be less exhausted and exasperated.

Being a lover of freedom, Governor Abbott, I am sure you also believe in free markets. Look at it this way. You enact a mask mandate because as someone in government, you can do that for this matter of the public good (it is that part of the Constitution, for example, that talks about justice, domestic tranquility, and the general welfare right before it mentions liberties). Freedom loving entrepreneurs see the chance to build up the economy by making masks cool! They start selling a whole lot of masks because people love them! In this freedom loving state, you will have all sorts of informed consumers making rational choices because independent corporations know how to use advertising to manipulate the human mind, convincing it what its wants and needs are. People who once screamed about masks saying no one will tell them what to do are proudly sporting their flag of Texas mask!

So you save the lives of Texans, demonstrate the power of the free market, lessen the burden on health care workers, save dollars by not needing out-of-state help (that is, by making use of the national grid of health care workers), and mitigate the spread of Covid in your state! Win!!!

One last thing, Governor. You are sharply criticizing President Biden for allowing immigrants across the Texas border who are infected with Covid-19, therefore spreading the virus in our state. This indicates that you are convicted that Covid-19 is truly dangerous to Texans. If that is the case, why are you not only banning mask mandates but threatening to use your power to take people to court over it? It comes off a bit hypocritical.

That really reveals the real issue. If Covid-19 is real and if it is dangerous and if Biden is being irresponsible by allowing infected people to cross our borders because of the danger (and I grant you that is a very, VERY legitimate issue), then your response that the “path forward relies on personal responsibility,” is grossly negligent.

So, Governor Abbott, lay off the heavy-handed talk about taking people to court who are trying to protect children and their fellow citizens and go do something governor-ish for a change—maybe something like getting our power grid up to spec? That’d be swell, thanks.

Vaccine Refusal and Faulty Premises

When it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, it seems a lot of people have forgotten basic facts about how vaccines work in general. I am referring to things that have always been said and understood about every vaccine ever in the history of vaccines.

One of the things that I have seen people do on social media posts and on some news media is to speak critically of the Covid-19 vaccines because a vaccinated person can still get the virus. I have noticed several posts of a meme where someone is administering the shot and the person receiving it says, “Am I immune now?” to which the person giving the shot says, “No, you can still get it.” I have seen several friends on social media post one version or another of the words, “The vaccine doesn’t work! You can still get Covid!”

The idea is that there is no point in the vaccine because it doesn’t protect 100% you from Covid-19. This gives many people sufficient cause to refuse to be vaccinated during a global pandemic. Others take it even further that Covid-19 vaccinations are a means of control of some sort by the powers that be.

Whether you use the term “vaccination” or “immunization,” it is important to understand the basics of how vaccines work (as told by professionals who, you know, know how vaccines work). As far as I can gather, there has never been a vaccine about which it was promised that it would absolutely guarantee you could not be infected. Vaccines are not magic nor are they cures. What a vaccine does is to equip your immune system to fight off a virus or bacteria that you may encounter so it doesn’t make you sick.

Why do some vaccinated people still get sick? With Covid or any other disease, a small percentage of vaccinated persons can still possibly get sick. The immune systems of some people, even if vaccinated, do not adequately respond. But the fact remains that vaccines are highly effective, some more than others, but none 100%. This has always been the case with vaccines. Why does anyone think the Covid-19 vaccines are any different? Why are they holding this vaccine to a different standard? It is irrational.

Some vaccines seem to do better than others. The flu vaccine is one that requires boosters, for example, more than others. Because of completely new strains always mutating and developing, the flu vaccine is not a one and done event. Why do people reject the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines, as some do, making the argument that the need for boosters proves it doesn’t work? Covid-19 may be a novel virus, but that some vaccines require boosters to adequately equip the immune system is not novel information.

Another reality with vaccines is that one may get the disease, but its effects are considerably lessened as to what they might have been without the vaccine. One of the things that has been said since Covid-19 vaccinations have been available is precisely that: while it is still possible to get the disease, the vaccine would give you a far better chance of staying out of the hospital, for example. By the way, those who work in hospitals really appreciate this.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

No one in a position of authority/expertise regarding the vaccines has ever at any time said that once you receive it, you would be 100% immune. Ever. So why are people refusing the vaccine based on something that has never been claimed as if that was a viable argument? Had the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and other such organizations claimed that getting the vaccine would make it impossible for a vaccinated person to get the virus that would be one thing, but that claim has never been made.

A problem is that memes or statements, such as the ones I referred to at the beginning of this post, don’t tell the whole story. They do tend to satisfy confirmation bias, but ones of this kind do not serve the truth. The truth is that if you are vaccinated (whether Covid-19 or any disease) you are unlikely to contract the disease. However, it is possible that you might. If you do, it is unlikely that you will get anything more than mildly ill. It is highly unlikely that you, if vaccinated, would get seriously sick from the disease or even die. If you do, you are among extreme rare cases.

The simplistic either/or—either you are immune and won’t get it, or you are not immune and can still get it—is not helpful in the least.

What about adverse reactions or even death? It would be great if we came to a time where vaccines were highly effective, and no side effects of any kind ever followed. Until that time, however, we must still move forward and make decisions in an imperfect world. Fundamental moral reasoning asks if the benefit is worth the risk. Do we risk some possible bad outcomes to avoid what would be assuredly innumerably worse outcomes?

In moral reasoning there is a principle called The Principle of Double Effect.  I think this principle tends to get misapplied, but it is a valid principle itself. The Principle of Double Effect goes like this: you do a good (or at least morally neutral) act with the intention of obtaining a good end. However, you do see that your good act will have a foreseen, but not intended, bad effect. So, should you do the good act for the good end knowing there will be a bad consequence alongside the good one you intend? According to the principle, if the good effect of your act that you intend is proportionate or greater to the foreseen bad effect that you do not desire, the act is morally justifiable.

Now apply that to Covid-19 vaccines. The act of administering a vaccine is essentially morally neutral, that is, it is neither good nor bad in itself. The act is carried out with the good intention of stopping the spread of a disease and saving lives. However, because we have yet to create vaccines that have no possibility of an adverse effect, we have the foreseen but not intended consequence that some people could possibly have a bad reaction or even, however rarely, die. Conversely, should we not administer the vaccine, a disproportionately large number of people will no doubt suffer and die. In light of this principle, administering the vaccine is morally permissible and, in this case, I think, morally obligatory.

When someone says “the vaccine does not work” and by “does not work” they mean does not guarantee 100% that you cannot get Covid-19, that is a true statement. But then, no vaccine maker or medical professional ever said that it does. If by “does not work” that person means that the vaccine does not offer an individual protection and when received by a high percentage of the population will not provide herd immunity, that is most certainly a false statement. There is no point in making the first claim to object to the vaccine. It is a refusal based on a fiction. The second claim, as stated, is false.

I guess I have said all the above to say this. If you are refusing the vaccine on the premise that once you receive it you are not 100% immune to Covid-19, your refusal is on a false premise. Just stop. It’s a faulty argument not rooted in reality. Get vaccinated unless there is a medically indicated reason for which a medical professional has advised you against it. If that is the case, those of us who can, will get vaccinated (and do all other preventive, mitigating measures) to help protect you. We’ve got your back.

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

The vaccination against Covid-19 does not mean, and never has as is the case with all vaccines, that you cannot possibly get the disease. But getting vaccinated will result the following: 1) Protect you by preventing you from getting it or from you getting seriously ill from it; 2) Due to number 1, it will reduce the number of those in need of hospitalization which will help those working in medicine and care; 3) Save hundreds of thousands of lives; 4) Help us obtain herd immunity to eradicate the disease or stop its spread. 5) We will get back sooner to what we consider a normal life.

What will not getting vaccinated do? It will ensure that we will stay on the hamster wheel of this nightmare for much longer. It will ensure that much more unnecessary suffering and death will follow. Please get vaccinated.

(Closing note: I made several claims here about vaccines, but I gave no citations or web links. Why? There are a few reasons. For one, much of this information, especially about vaccines generally, is so widely available and has been so for years that it is not some obscure notion. Ask your doctor. I also judged that in the case of a blog post, any link I would provide would unlikely result in someone changing their view. I am appealing here to reason and common sense. The medical science on this issue is, as I said, well-established and easily obtained. Lastly, and this reason is linked to the others, I am not a medical doctor or infectious disease expert. This post is not medical advice. I am a fellow citizen appealing to you, the reader, to get a vaccination based on sound medical science that will help bring this disease under control, saving untold number of human lives.)