Back To The Bullpen
Almost 3 months ago, I wrote what I expected would be my last big COVID data post. With vaccines widely available and cases and deaths calming down to a simmer, I decided there wasn’t a lot more to talk about with COVID that would be particularly compelling. I reasoned that, at a certain point, the COVID crisis has to end and wanted to lead by example by saying “ok, we’re done here. Let’s move on with our lives.”
Then, three weeks ago, I wrote another big COVID data post out of simple frustration that there was a lot of COVID news, but very little context. It’s hard to believe, but two weeks ago everyone was talking about how awful Missouri was b/c that was where the biggest COVID wave was happening. I don’t know what the situation is now, but given that I’m not seeing anyone screaming about Missouri anymore, I assume they are now on the other side of their COVID curve.
Since then, I’ve packed my family and everything I own into a POD and a van and drove 3,600 miles across the country in what was, without a doubt, the strangest road trip of my life. I’ve been able to glance at the news from time to time and I’ve realized that COVID news is now the neutral news story: If nothing else is happening, COVID will be the story.
All my COVID data tools are currently on a desktop computer sitting in a box right now and I have felt their absence. I’ve been unable to check the news stories against the data, unable to verify the panic I see, unable to do my normal sanity checks that have helped keep me grounded these past 18 months. I’ve realized that, as long as COVID is a topic of conversation, as long as mask mandates fade in and out, school closures are a topic of conversation, and partisan blame continues to swirl around this stupid virus, I should keep writing about the data… if only for my own sake.
As a result, I’ll be digging back into COVID topics and data in the coming weeks. The only way to really keep my head in the whirlwind of bad newsgathering is to publish my own better newsgathering. And, anyway, it would be a shame to let all the data tools I built go to waste.
The Importance of Home Defense
“Where are you moving to?” he asked, as he walked across my driveway, scanning the menagerie of furniture, tools, and toys scattered in front of my house.
“Chattanooga, Tennessee” I answered. Normally, I would simply say “Chattanooga”, but this far out west, not everyone is altogether clear on where exactly that city is.
“Ah,” he said with a knowing smile, “getting away from all these liberals.”
I hand back a friendly chuckle, even though I resent the implication that something like politics would frighten me and drive me away from a place that I love. I love Seattle, I love Washington. I hate to leave it.
I’ve been in Washington for almost a decade. I moved here for a job with a Very Big Company and stuck around even when that job didn’t work out. My kids have almost no knowledge of any other place, we’ve lived in the same house for longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere in my entire life. We’ve made friends, become part of a community, developed patterns and traditions, found favorite restaurants and parks. This is our home.
Occasionally, something Big will happen here and everyone will start talking about Seattle as “San Francisco 2.0”, an avatar for blue-tribe incompetence. I hate it when people reduce all that to politics. There is so much more to life than politics and so much variation of ideology within an area to reduce it to a binary “good team / bad team” dynamic. I hate it when people from red states point and laugh at my city or state when something bad happens. The bad thing could be forest fires or heat waves or an epidemic of homelessness or CHAZ occupations, there will always be a strain of people who spout off some “you voted for this, you deserve what you get” vindictive culture war smugness.
The instinctive rebuttal is to point out that even deep blue areas are 30% red, which means there are plenty of people who didn’t vote for the dominant tribe. But that rebuttal doesn’t get to the true inhumanity of this attitude. No one deserves these bad things. No one wants these bad things. Most people would stop them if they could. Yes, there are some cases in which a political alignment might create an environment in which it becomes impossible to implement the policies necessary to solve the problem, but that doesn’t lessen the suffering. This “everything-flows-from-politics” attitude reduces the humanity of the people suffering so that others can digest that suffering as a punishment from God. While most don’t consciously think it and fewer would say it, there is a very pungent sense that, when something bad happens in Seattle, we had it coming because we are the Blue Tribe.
Seattle (and the surrounding area) isn’t Blue Tribe in my mind. That’s a facile reduction of my city. This city is where I can walk from my house to the beach, to our school, to one of five wonderful playgrounds for my kids to play at. It’s where the bald eagles fly above our house and where the great herons nest, their hatchlings chirping up a storm as I run along the creek in the early morning hours. Seattle is where I took my kid to the Seattle Center and we walked around, admiring the Space Needle, playing with the public art installations, unable to repress a smile at the architectural elegance of the Pop Culture Museum. It’s where I’d grab lunch at the top of the Harbor Steps across from the Hammering Man and I’d trudge up the hill to the greatest library in the world.
I’ll miss it. As I leave the state, I only get more reminders of the things I’ll miss. I loved the looming presence of Mount Rainier, the mountain my daughter called it “our mountain” since she was three. There’s nothing back east quite like the drive up Snoqualmie Pass. I’ll miss the arid east of Washington, the roads winding through the steep hills in a long winded negotiation between man and nature of the terms of passage, the transition from emerald coast to parched desert landscape as we near the Idaho border.
As we drive away, I think back to my lovely city, a wonderful part of a beautiful state that I’m glad is a part of this great country.
I could turn this essay into a short book gushing about the people I’ve met in Seattle, their drive, intelligence, and humor. I’ve met some people who have changed my life and made some (I hope) lifelong friends in this city. There is something wonderful about the people that gravitate toward a tech city and there is something about the west coast that draws people who prize independence and living life on their own terms. It speaks to a part of me that was under-nourished when I lived in the eastern part of the US.
Even so, while I’ve lived here, I found myself spending a lot of time defending the politics, inclinations, and policies of the places that once were my home. I’ve lived a good chunk of my life in Utah, New York, and Georgia, and people always seem to have curiously strong opinions about people they have never met who live in cultures they don’t understand. This dismissive disdain for other Americans from other regions lives uncomfortably alongside a reverent deference for international cultures. My own kids’ public school aggressively avoided all culture war topics not because they were concerned about the American conservatives in the school, but because the school had a huge number of international students whose parents were not going to stand for the school abandoning instructional time in favor of a climate change protest. There was a tolerance of social conservative attitudes as long as they came from overseas, even as we heard horror stories from our church friends about nearby schools who attacked parents begging that their children not be propagandized during instructional hours.
A lot of my political rhetoric over the last decade has been a release valve for my frustrations of living here. I have the sense that the political culture here is the ascendant and dominant culture of the country and that it is increasingly aggressive about punishing those who oppose it and, more recently, even those who wish to abstain from it. As they do this, they are attacking my old home. I’m contrarian and pugnacious and when I hear attacks on my friends and family, I dig in my heels in defense of the despised. Certain flags go off in my mind when I hear my friends (not casual acquaintances, but real friends whom I adore and admire) sneer at people I know and respect.
I hate this attitude. I hate that people end up with such hatred and prejudice against people they’ve never met and do not know.
Perhaps I’m engaging in my own bigotry against my future home, but I expect that when I settle in, I’ll end up doing the same thing in the other direction.
I’m not “getting away” from liberals and I don’t want to hear people who try to reduce my city or my friends into such a small box. Listening to online discourse or watching the news, you would think that politics is the foundation of all things, the seed from which all things sprout. Everything is reduced to “red vs blue” and every conceivable difference between red and blue states is flogged to death as The Discourse separates the faithful from the heretics.
I refuse to accept this. Seattle is bigger than politics and I love it for that. Every place and every people is bigger than politics. I’m determined to hold my love for this place in my heart, to act as ambassador for my city and my friends, even as I’ve tried to be an ambassador for the South to the Pacific Northwest. I hoe that whenever I come back here, I’m always coming home.
Looney Tunes: Frigid Hare
Bugs Bunny takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque (natch) and ends up at the South Pole, where he becomes embroiled in a hunting match between an Eskimo and a penguin. I liked how there is a small moment when Bugs acts as if he is going to abandon the adorable penguin for the oafish Eskimo, but fortunately he solves the problem by dressing in drag and kissing a boy.
After few antics (this short requires a lot more setup than most of the others), the penguin makes himself useful by saving Bugs and helping to dispose of the hunter.
This was ok… there were a few gags that felt like too much set-up and too little payoff. The cuteness of the penguin and Bugs’ callousness help to distinguish this short from just being your average Looney Tune.