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Category: Politics

Yes, it really is that bad in the US.

It’s 11:45 pm on a Saturday night here in Zurich, Switzerland. For several days now, I’ve been watching the protests in the US and realizing that there’s not a whole lot I can do at the moment. I’ve done the things that I can do, but mostly, all I can do is watch. Like a friend of mine in South Korea said on social media a while back, it’s like watching a slow motion train wreck. 

This has deepened my disillusionment about the US that started a long time ago. When people from other countries ask me about US politics, my usual answer is to say, “Why do you think my wife and I  live here now?” The other person usually nods in understanding, or says “Wow, it’s really that bad?”

Yes, it is really that bad. It has been for a very long time. 

The protests now have been reminding me of my arrest at the Republican National Convention protests in 2004 in New York City. My friend Kenny and I took the bus down, planning to hang out in the city the first night, then go to the protests the next day. We arrived on Tuesday, dropped our luggage at the hotel, and went out. We saw the Stonewall Inn, had some excellent coffee at a very gay cafe, and wandered around a bit. I don’t remember if we managed to have dinner before we went over to the plaza where CNN was broadcasting or not, but it was already incredibly busy and crowded. It was interesting to see the broadcasters I’ve watched for a while in person. There were also a lot of people protesting at the time, but we were there just watching most of the action from the sidelines.

Around 8 or 9 pm or so, we decided to make our way back to our hotel. The vibe was starting to feel a bit weird and suddenly there was a massive police presence. We managed to go down a side street where we bought some drinks from a little corner shop. As we stood outside the shop with our drink it seemed that all of a sudden the road was blocked off. We tried to just quietly walk away, but the police had kettled us in. We were surrounded by cops and they started arresting all of us. They took our bags as they asked us our information, putting tags on them so we could claim them later. They zip tied our hands behind our backs, and marched us into police wagons. There were a number of  people who got rounded up who were just going about their lives. One woman was crying because they took her bicycle as she was trying to go home after buying groceries. It was dark and hot, and none of us knew exactly what was going to happen. 

We were dropped off at the now-infamous Hudson Pier Depot at Pier 57. The police had set up cages in the depot with chain link fencing that had to be at least 12 feet high (about 3 meters or so). It used to be an old bus depot, so the floor was covered in oil and other car fluids. There were only a few benches in each of the cages. The lights didn’t turn off so no one could really sleep. I tried to tell one of the officers that my friend Kenny needed medical attention (he was doing a special medical fast), but they didn’t really pay attention. In fact, they didn’t really feed us anything until we asked for it repeatedly. Eventually, they rolled several boxes of apples into the cage for us to eat. 

Kenny and I were together in the same cage for a while, but then we were separated into male and female cages. At some point in the morning, we got some cheese sandwiches and milk, but they really didn’t feed us much at all. We spent 17 hours total in Pier 57, and didn’t even get processed by the police department until Wednesday evening.

As we were going through the system, there were a lot of cops who just didn’t care. When we got to the jail, finally, it took me over an hour with a blinding headache (mostly from dehydration and lack of food) to get some ibuprofen from the first aid nurse. When they finally believed me, I was handcuffed, brought to the aid station, uncuffed so I could take the medicine, sign a waiver, and then re-cuffed to go back to the holding area. 

One cop asked why we were so dirty, and we told him that we had been at Pier 57 and that there had been no where to sit except on the ground. He shrugged. Some cops made fun of us for being dirty. 

One cop was nice to me when I broke down last Wednesday night, and it was the cop who was taking our pictures and fingerprints. By this time, I wasn’t really sure what time it was, since I was pretty delirious with lack of sleep. I was crying and hysterical at this point, as I didn’t know where Kenny was, I hadn’t been allowed any phone calls, and I’d barely had anything to eat. The cop reassured me that we were nearing the end of the process, and would be seen by a judge in the morning. After getting our pictures and fingerprints, they moved us to cells in smaller groups. Thankfully, this area actually had the lights turned down so we could at least attempt to sleep. By this time I think it was about 2 or 3 am on Thursday morning. 

I think I must have slept a little bit because the next thing I remember is the light coming on, and that we were getting fed some sandwiches and milk again. I do remember they were pretty nasty, but it was food and drink so I didn’t care. Around mid morning, we were moved to the waiting areas on the courthouse side of the jail. It was here where I finally was able to get access to a phone to make a phone call. I don’t remember clearly, but I think I called my parents to let them know where I was. I think I remember them being pretty shocked that I was still being held, and that I hadn’t even been given a phone call until nearly 48 hours later. I don’t really remember what I had said to them, but it was good to hear a friendly voice. 

Around 6 pm or so, we were finally in front of a judge, and I got offered something called an ACD. I can’t remember what the acronym meant, but I was basically set free and had to not get arrested in New York for 6 months, after which the charges (which I don’t remember what they were) would be dropped. When I left the courthouse, it was about 8 pm, and there were still protests going on outside. With the help of some of the Lawyer’s Guild people, I found Kenny and we went to the area where we were supposed to pick up our personal belongings. I managed to get my backpack that night, but Kenny couldn’t get his till the next day. We finally made it back to our hotel. It was a little funny walking into the hotel, since it was a little on the posh side, and we both walked in covered head to toe with dirt and grime. We both showered, had something for dinner, and pretty much passed out. Luckily check out time wasn’t early!

The next day I went with Kenny to go get his backpack. I stayed outside the station while he went in. I made the mistake of pulling out my laptop, then. I think I was going to upload some pictures I took. I was minding my own business, when a cop came up to the bench I was sitting on, and asked, “Whatcha doin’?” I told him I was looking at some pictures, but catching on, I told him I’ll finish looking at them when I get home. “Good idea,” he said, and walked off. Kenny then came out, and we caught the bus home. 

After my experience, I sent emails to several newspapers, and only my local RI town paper interviewed me. I tried to keep up the spirit of solidarity with other protesters on mailing lists, but those mailing lists devolved into “I’m more activist than you because I got a lawyer and fought it.” I wasn’t privileged enough to be able to do that. I had to go back to work and couldn’t afford to spend months fighting the City of New York. I became disillusioned with the whole protesting thing, and stopped getting involved with other people from the protests. I was really disappointed when Starhawk posted about her experience and said it “wasn’t so bad.” She had gotten arrested earlier in the week and never was in Pier 57. 

This whole experience left me with more trauma that I realized. I have never had a desire to return to NYC, nor do I trust cops. I’ve had other experiences myself and with family members, before and after my arrest in NYC, that make me distrust cops in general. American cops, especially, are pretty terrifying for me. 

However, I’m lucky. I’m a white woman. My experience in NYC gave me just a glimpse of what happens to people in jail. It made me think that if this was *my* experience, how much worse would it be for black people? Asian people? Other people of color? I was lucky because there were some others who could afford to start a class action lawsuit. In 2015 I got $2000 from that lawsuit. 

I was lucky to get something back for the wrongful arrest. But again, I’m a white woman. 

Seeing the protests now, brings back my memories of the experience. So when people from other countries here ask if it’s really that bad, I can say that it is. I can tell them that I was lucky to be a white woman and not black or hispanic, or it would have been much worse. I can tell them that the cages with children are real. That the school to prison pipeline is real. 

When I see people trying to say that it’s not so bad, or that if they weren’t doing anything they’d have nothing to worry about, or that the police are required to let you have your phone call, or only hold you for 24 hours, or that if you’re polite, then things will be fine, I call bullshit. The system doesn’t care about you. If you’re white, it might be a little less time, especially if you’re a rich white male. If you’re poor, they shrug. If you’re a poor black person, they destroy your life, or kill you. Even the “nice” cop was shoving us through the system, even if he helped to calm me down. He just was doing his job and didn’t say anything to other cops who were making fun of us. 

So please don’t tell me “not all cops.” It’s bullshit, and you know it. I’ve been lucky to get away with things with cops because I’m white, even when I lived in Oakland, CA, that black people would have been shot for. Even the good cops prop up an abusive and unjust system. Even the good cops use intimidation to show who has the power in one’s town. Even if your relatives are cops, even if you think they’re one of the “good cops” that would never harm anyone like that, they are still complicit in a system that is just plain wrong and corrupt. 

Like I said, I was lucky. I’m white.

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10 Weeks Quarantine

As of this writing, the Wife and I have been quarantined for 10 weeks, and Switzerland has been virtually shut down for nearly a month. It hasn’t been easy for either of us, and I know my emotions have been up and down since the beginning.

For those that don’t know, I have depression and anxiety, and last year around this time I had a really bad anxiety and depression spike. I’ve since gotten help, and medication, which has improved things quite a bit. The quarantine, though, has really tested my new coping strategies. I did have an anxiety attack a couple of weeks ago from watching too much covid-19 things via TikTok. (I have since taken the app off my phone.) I’m kind of surprised that it’s been the only one I’ve had. Not knockin’ it though…one is plenty.

Facebook is also hard to read now, especially anything coming out of the US. Looking at what’s happening in the US from the outside is incredibly scary and worrying. Not just about what Trump is doing, but seeing people I know (who should know better) trying to pass off Covid-19 as “not that bad” or “it’s just a bad flu” or worse: “people die all the time!” Seeing clergy and Fundamentalist Christians flouting stay at home orders thinking they’ll be immune because of Jesus is just appalling. Then there’s the people suing the government because of the lockdown orders. The lack of compassion for fellow human beings is stunning. But, sadly, not surprising. I fear for the US, and for the people I love there. 

In Switzerland, while some people have been griping about staying home, most people are following the rules. I’m lucky to be here with a government that is taking the Covid-19 situation very seriously. It will be awhile before things go back to a semblance of normality (although, things won’t be really going back to how they were, will they?), but at least I can count on the Swiss government to be rational about it all. 

What hurts, though, is when people don’t seem to believe me about covid-19, especially people I know. I’m a former biochemist (worked in biotech for 13 years) and I live in one of the covid-19 hot zones. I’m not lying to anyone about this. (This has slowed down in the last couple of weeks as things have gotten worse, but still, it hurt.) 

Life here, though, has settled into quarantine-normal. It’s hard not going out of the house, but the weather has warmed up enough that going out on the porch is now a regular part of our routine. The Wife and I have taken to playing cards (usually Skip-Bo) on the porch either around lunch time, or in the evening. I’ve also put a bird feeder out on our porch, since we have been kind of adopted by the local mourning doves and magpies. (Eh, witches, right?)

This is a short video of one of the mourning doves that have adopted our porch as it’s territory. They do have to fight with the magpies once in awhile.

The candle in my office window.

I’ve been keeping a lit candle in my office in the window facing the street. It’s my prayers for healing from covid-19, prayers for the healthcare workers, and prayers for the dead. I’ll keep a candle in my window until theirs either a medication that can help with the severity of the disease (most likely) or until there’s a vaccine (not as likely as coronaviruses are hard to make vaccines for). 

I’m surviving, and that’s the best I can do right now, you know? 

Writing:

  • Unity: This is a military/hard sci-fi/spy novel set in a future where humans have colonized several other planets. One of the main characters is a Religious Program Specialist and Senior Communications officer who has PTSD and works with the station’s Chaplain to figure out why the colonization survey they’re supporting isn’t going according to plan, and realizing that who’s behind it is more dangerous than just a failed colony.
    • Word count as of today: still 101,765 (not including the chapter I’m currently working on.)
    • Haven’t really worked on this since January, but I’m starting to get the urge again. Hopefully, I’ll be writing again soon. 
  • The Four Keys: A spiritual prose journey to the underworld and back.
    • Started final edit pass for e-book version.
    • Graphic novel version on hold for the time being.
  • The Little Tarot E-book: This is a book started for my tarot class here in Zurich
    • Still in draft. Need to finish Major Arcana and more spreads.
  • Poetry For Lent
    • Finished! Deciding if I want to publish any of them on the blog. 

Fiber Arts:

My altar with the altar rug I made.

About 2 weeks ago I started a new weaving project using the last of my red churro wool. This wool was gifted to me by a friend, and is wool from red churro sheep raised in the Navajo Nation. It was a very special gift, so I made an altar rug out of it. I really liked doing the rug weaving, so I’ll be making one for our house altar, too. (I had to order more wool to spin, though. The horror! lolz)

Fountain Pens:

I haven’t gotten new fountain pens for awhile, but I have heard that people are spending money on stamps in the US to help the Post Office. So, if anyone would like a penpal from Switzerland, send me an email and I’ll send you my address. I did order some fancy paper, though, to write my letters on!

Cooking:

I’ve been doing lots of food experiments lately, and the one that I really wanted to do was make a sourdough starter and make a successful loaf. I managed to achieve that yesterday by converting my French bread recipe to use sourdough instead of yeast. (If you want to know how that works click here.) I’m mostly happy with the results, although, my recipe calls for 10g of salt, and with the dry yeast you usually don’t notice it. Interestingly, you do when you use the sourdough starter. So the next batch I’ll use only 5g of salt and see how that goes. But it’s still mighty tasty, though!

Sourdough French Bread

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Staying Home (COVID-19)

Been working from our porch.

I’m going to be real with you all, especially folks in the US: this shit is real. Right now, as I type this, Switzerland is pretty much closed up. People are only going out if they have to. There will be a press conference from the Bundesrat (Federal Government) soon, and we’re expecting them to probably place a curfew, and maybe close the borders.  Italy is pretty much closed. Germany has closed its borders. France just instituted a curfew. 

Take it from someone living in a hot zone: It’s not “overreacting” or “hype” leading to these restrictions. In fact, even if we are “overreacting” I’d rather we do that than have more dead people than we should. I fear for you all in the US. 

Haven’t done much writing work lately because, emotionally, it’s been hard to go there. I think I might start doing more work on it, though, since it’ll give me a bit of an escape. 

It’s been really hard, though, and I pray that science will find something to make it a less dangerous infection or come up with a vaccine. Either way, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. 🙁

Writing:

  • Unity: This is a military/hard sci-fi/spy novel set in a future where humans have colonized several other planets. One of the main characters is a Religious Program Specialist and Senior Communications officer who has PTSD and works with the station’s Chaplain to figure out why the colonization survey they’re supporting isn’t going according to plan, and realizing that who’s behind it is more dangerous than just a failed colony.
    • Word count as of today: still 101,765 (not including the chapter I’m currently working on.)
  • The Four Keys: A spiritual prose journey to the underworld and back.
    • Started final edit pass for e-book version.
    • Graphic novel version on hold for the time being.
  • The Little Tarot E-book: This is a book started for my tarot class here in Zurich
    • Still in draft. Need to finish Major Arcana and more spreads.
  • Poetry For Lent
    • Started writing poems for Lent. Not sure if I’m going to make a book out of them, yet.

Travel:

All travel postponed for the time being.

Fiber Arts:

Finally finished a weaving project I had on the loom for a year and a half. Unfortunately, it came out too short for what I had wanted to do with it originally. Instead, I bought some fabric to make a sewn version of said thing. The fabric I did make, though, I’ll make into a glasses case, and probably some other little bags. I’m deciding whether to start another weaving project, or just stick with my crochet projects for now. I have the Bacon Scarf (made with bacon colored yarn) and a Van Gogh scarf (with a set of yarn from A Hundred Ravens). Both of these projects have been on the go since before I left the US, so…

Photography:

Finally finished processing my pics from Florida and Schilthorn. Both of which are on Facebook.

Sunrise at Piz Gloria

Fountain Pens:

I ended up buying a Lamy Dialog 3 off of Ebay, and I kind of wish I had bought it new. It’s a cool pen, though, although, I’m not sure if I like it any better than the Pilot Vanishing Point. This one has a medium nib, and writes really wet. The pen I got is also a bit fiddly when closing it up, so I’m not sure if that’s the design of the pen itself, or the fact I got it off of ebay. A little disappointing, but new pen!

Swimming:

Swimming is also on hold for the time being. Figures when I try to get back into it….bleh.

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