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Home Life Politics

Summer Solstice 2020

Sugar Snap Peas

In these waning hours of spring I have no regrets.

There are challenges created by the coronavirus. There is a legacy of challenge from the before time. Many are substantial and require action. Summer starts at 4:43 p.m. today and with its new season comes hope of means and methodology to address what challenges us in a new paradigm.

Last night I had planned to escape into one of my favorite movies, The Matrix most likely, although Out of Africa or Blade Runner maybe. Instead, I listened to former Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe interview Joe Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon. The podcast made me hopeful that Democrats could win the Nov. 3 election. For my first ever podcast, it was not bad.

I became familiar with O’Malley Dillon when she was Iowa State Director for John Edwards’ presidential campaign. I re-read some of her emails from 2007 this morning and don’t have a memory of meeting her in person. She became part of the 2012 and 2016 Democratic presidential campaigns. She knows who she is and what she’s doing.

While I listened through headphones that cover my ears, I began to walk about. I had to roll up the 12-foot cord and stick it in my pocket so I wouldn’t trip on it. I did dishes and started a load of laundry that included my used home made face masks. I’m not a pod person but might be if others are this engaging. What she said revealed where political organizing stands in the coronavirus pandemic.

O’Malley Dillon thought the entire presidential campaign would be conducted virtually. She reported how the rate of contact through text messaging was high, and that because of the coronavirus it was important to keep canvassers safe. I am reluctant to relinquish in person campaigning and adapt to text and phone banking. The podcast put me on the way to overcoming my hesitation and joining the campaigns of Biden, Greenfield and Hart as a canvasser.

The tradition of canvassing is long in my family. My father organized for JFK in 1960. Working with his union, he was part of a substantial effort to elect Kennedy. Even though Richard Nixon won Iowa with 56.7 percent of the popular vote, our family celebrated Kennedy’s election. After the assassination, I did a small part in helping elect Lyndon Johnson by a landslide. Taking the in person part of canvassing out because of the coronavirus goes against the grain.

So much is at stake in the Nov. 3 election we have to get involved. While I’m busy with our garden I’m also figuring out how I will engage to elect Democrats. O’Malley Dillon and Plouffe put me on the road to doing that before the Summer Solstice.

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Politics

Final Spring Days

Wild grape vine, June 16, 2020

Tuesday afternoon I went to the drive-through COVID-19 test site in Cedar Rapids and was screened. I arrived early and there was no line. I’m expecting a negative result on Friday.

The small city near us is evaluating a way to hold the annual festival celebrating beef. The committee in charge knows because of the pandemic it won’t be as in previous years — with hoards of people pressing around the hay bale toss. They feel a need to do something. So many non-profit organizations depend upon the money raised each year. Announcement of a modified festival is expected soon. While not a fan of beef, I do my part to support the good work being done in the community.

Vice President Mike Pence was in Iowa yesterday promoting a “Great American Comeback.” His assertion the worst of the pandemic is over and we can start returning to normal is absurd. At a rally held at a manufacturer of recreational vehicles attendees held Trump-Pence signs while wearing no personal protective equipment. Despite such made for press events the pandemic is far from over and we have no way to trace the infection as more people contract COVID-19. Pence is the poster child of potential disaster rooted in inaction.

We stay home most of the time. No restaurants, no visiting friends, no trips except to get the basics of survival or to exercise on the trail. I’m starting to need a haircut. It can wait. Everything can wait.

As spring turns to summer it has been a good one. One of the best I can recall. In isolation we heal and gain strength. It is as if we’ve sworn an oath of solitude and will persist until the pestilence is purged from the globe. It’s a matter of who’s in control. For the time being we are.

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Politics

Theresa Greenfield Wants A Real Conversation With Iowans

Theresa Greenfield

What conversation does Joni Ernst want to have with Iowans about the fall election for United States Senate?

If a recent advertisement by the National Republican Senatorial Committee is an indication, she doesn’t want any conversation with Iowans. She’s letting third party interest groups do her dirty work hoping to ride the coat tails of Donald Trump to a second term.

The ad depicts Theresa Greenfield’s work as the president of a home building company in an unfavorable light. When I interviewed Greenfield about this work on Feb. 22 here’s what she said:

“I went into home building and eventually became the president of a small home building company in Iowa. That was fun through the recession, until it wasn’t any more fun. We sold the assets at the end of 2011.”

I included it in the profile as part of Greenfield’s work history. Senator Ernst and the NRSC are grasping at straws to make something of this work experience.

The company was Twin Cities-based Ruttlund Homes which went into receivership in 2011. Greenfield was president of the Iowa division when a global recession reduced property values and banks stopped lending. Thousands of home builders went out of business. Did Greenfield get caught up in the massive recession? Yes. Has she been honest about it? Also yes.

Part of being a successful businessperson is having experiences such as this one. How one learns and reacts to business challenges is the mettle of which character is made. While losing her business and source of income was disappointing, Greenfield’s resiliency enabled her to be successful in a commercial real estate company where she eventually became president.

The conversation Theresa Greenfield wants to have with Iowans is about resiliency, optimism, and the jobs we need to get done after the disastrous years Ernst served in the U.S. Senate. She wants to represent every Iowan.

If Ernst chooses to go negative, that’s her liability. Voters will hopefully see through the noise and vote for Greenfield.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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Politics Social Commentary Writing

Being Racist

First big kale harvest, Spring 2020

We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and consider whether we are racist. It’s not easy to do in the best of circumstances.

Dictionaries consistently define a racist as someone who has a notion that one’s own ethnic stock or genetic makeup is superior.

Which is it, ethnicity or genetics that defines race?

This week Merriam-Webster updated their dictionary to include a definition of institutional racism. Okay. The authority of dictionaries has diminished in society. There are few rules in the living language except we be understood. Haters gonna hate, as Taylor Swift wrote, regardless what’s in the dictionary.

I was confronted with the idea there were different races as a child. It was and remains an idea. I knew I was different, but superior? I don’t think so. Diversity in the neighborhood in which I grew up meant defining whether one’s family was of German or Irish descent. Racism as we know it today, as in the Black Lives Matters Movement, wasn’t an obvious issue. We were shielded from racism and those blacks we encountered were in a context of their relationship with our father: plantation workers in Florida, co-workers at the meat packing plant, fellow union members.

What are the genetic characteristics that define race? What cultural behaviors are specific to race? Should we care about race? These are the questions I’m asking while witnessing the resurgence of protests over race after the viral video of George Floyd’s murder.

Our family visited the Gettysburg battlefield when I was a grader. Which side of the Civil War was I on? My maternal ancestors immigrated after the war and my paternal ones from Virginia fought on both sides. After a moving childhood visit to the battlefields I decided to adopt the Confederacy as my own history and bought a Confederate flag in the museum gift shop.

We cannot disown this history even if we want or if contemporary values discredit the institution of chattel slavery. Thanks to the combined work of my fourth grade teacher and my mother I came to realize the racism inherent in that embrace of the Confederacy, and that it was wrong. Before long, with their encouragement, I sought and found my own history.

I first encountered systemic racism while serving in the military. I paid little heed to the naming of military bases after notable racists Andrew Jackson and Henry Lewis Benning, where I trained in the U.S. Army. I was stationed at Robert E. Lee Barracks in Mainz, Germany. It was named after the World War II veteran with the same name as the commander of the Northern Army of Virginia. Racism in the military was about more than names.

Daily work was integrated, which is to say as an Army officer I paid little attention to race when giving orders or following them. All but one officer in the battalion was white and the lone black lieutenant and his family lived in a twelfth century castle off base. I visited them a couple times while we served together. In conversations, I came to understand he was held to a different standard because he was black.

When we lived in Indiana I managed an operation that recruited thousands of truck drivers. I became familiar with parts of Chicago and the suburbs because of this work. I hired the first black recruiter the company had and remember the surprised faces when we returned to the corporate office for a meeting together. Race made no difference in this hire. I just wanted someone who could do the job.

We rejected an applicant from our orientation and he threatened to call Bobby Rush because he felt we were discriminating against him because he was black. The claim bordered the ridiculous because more than half the group in orientation was black or Hispanic. I don’t recall why we rejected him but I said I’d like to have that conversation and provided my number. Several weeks later we received a letter from Rush’s office and I replied. That was the end of it.

That protesters in the county seat chose to shut down Interstate 80 this week in response to the murder of George Floyd was predictable, expected, and ineffective. It’s something, yet I’m not sure exactly what. In 1971 I was part of a group of protesters that shut down Interstate 80 near the Dubuque Street exit in response to the Vietnam War. We built a bonfire in the Eastbound lane feeling we had to do something to disrupt business as usual. What more usual thing is there than traveling on an interstate highway? Law enforcement attempts to keep the interstate open, although yesterday there was a report one of the Coralville exits was closed by them because of protests. Protesters have to do something to gain attention enough to create a fulcrum point for change. I support their actions and also believe there has to be a better way.

What does the Black Lives Matter Movement mean to me? In our rural subdivision the only time race comes to the surface is when it is scratched. If there is talk about a black family moving in neighbors assert property values will decline.What does one do with that? I point out to them the assertion is patently false and reject it. Most people here don’t scratch the surface of race to avoid such conversations.

If George Floyd’s murder was a turning point in how racism is viewed in the United States then some good will come of it once he is mourned dead and survivors heal. We must look ourselves in the mirror on racism. If we can’t then we probably are racist and don’t want to admit it. If so, Floyd becomes just another black man who died at the hands of police as white hegemony continues a while longer.

My religious education taught we are all equal in God’s eyes and I believe it. Yet slave owners sought to justify the institution using the same Bible I read today. In the end, we have to ask ourselves if we are racist, not because we seek an answer, but because in asking we open the possibility of a remedy. We seem so far from that now.

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Politics

Get Ready to Vote for Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden in a May 2010 rope line in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Now that the primary elections are behind us it is time to look ahead politically toward the general election.

Get ready to vote for Joe Biden as president.

Biden is the only thing standing between us and another four years of a president who seeks to dismantle everything we’ve come to know.

Think I’m exaggerating?

During the coronavirus pandemic the president has suggested cutting payroll taxes multiple times. If he did, it would be an assault on Social Security and Medicare.

Donald Trump repeatedly said if elected to a second term he would cut Social Security and Medicare to address his out of control budget. Twice (Jan. 23 & March 2) he walked those comments back tweeting he would protect Social Security and Medicare. Which is it? Do you trust him?

Even today as the Congress contemplates a new pandemic relief bill Republicans are talking about raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. Some view the trust fund as a piggy bank they’d like to break open and spend if they could.

I’m not concerned for myself but for our daughter and her cohort. Since I was a teenager I knew there would be something to retire on in Social Security and contributed through payroll taxes for 50 years. I’d like the programs to be solvent and available for them.

Is Biden perfect? No. Get over it. Get ready to vote for Joe Biden on Nov. 3.

~ Published in the June 4, 2020 edition of the Solon Economist

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Garden Politics Social Commentary Writing

News, Retreat, Action

Home Garden May 30, 2020

When the news goes to hell, like it did on Friday, I retreat.

In an on line chat about poetry I wrote a follower, “Hope things are going better in Canada than they are here.”

“They are, very much so here in B.C.,” he responded. “I’m not a flag waver type but this present moment produces a real sense of refuge.”

On Friday moving to Canada was not out of the question.

To where did I retreat? I worked outdoors from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. I harvested grass clippings for mulch, put in the seventh garden plot, and called initial garden planting done.

I picked kale and delivered it to one of the library workers. Our public library remains closed because of the coronavirus pandemic yet they continue to run limited operations behind locked doors. Next week they begin curb side materials pickup as they determine how best to reopen. The local newspaper featured a photograph of the librarian wearing a mask in from of the building. Our library is the most obvious local indicator of the progress of the pandemic and economic recovery.

Once again, a video shared in social media — the May 25 murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis — sparked demonstrations and violence broke out in cities around the United States. Coverage dominated the news, eclipsing every other story, including the coronavirus pandemic which has now resulted in more than 100,000 U.S. deaths according to official statistics. It is a sign of the times I didn’t hear of Saturday’s demonstrations in the county seat, or in nearby Cedar Rapids until after working in the garden. There were no demonstrations where I live.

The thing about a retreat is it has a fixed beginning and end point, leaving us with the question what do we do next? It’s not complicated.

Above everything else, addressing the lack of leadership in our current government is a priority. That means voting the Republicans out of office in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles. It is difficult to see how any substantial change will be possible, in any area of society, until that is done. I’d much rather be writing about the climate crisis, income inequality, and social justice. For that to have meaning, we need leadership to set different priorities and move the country toward solutions. We can point out solutions to the climate crisis and income inequality, and that black lives matter all we want. To make a difference, our only hope is to change our government.

My last paycheck from a job was in April after retiring from the home, farm and auto supply store. Our expenses came down dramatically during the pandemic so there was money left from our pensions to pay down debt and donate to political campaigns. We’ll be doing more of that. Better than that will be to develop a positive message about who we are as Iowans and as Americans and to share that broadly. Living with a demagogue as president has been frustrating. We have to believe our best days are ahead of us and take action to work toward that end.

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Politics

Brad Kunkel for Johnson County Sheriff

Brad Kunkel Formally Announcing Campaign for County Sheriff, May 5, 2019.

There is a Democratic primary race between Brad Kunkel and Al Fear. I’m supporting Brad Kunkel and here’s why.

He has been a Johnson County deputy sheriff since 2001. His work well prepared him to manage county law enforcement with a minimal learning curve.

He is well-known in the community, having served on the Solon City Council where the decisions he made were well-considered and thoughtful. He has a proven record in governance.

He is engaged in the community, active in many important groups. He is notably a board member of 100+ Men Who Care and of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

He is willing to engage with community members individually. Brad and I have had numerous conversations about gardening, especially since he moved to a more rural part of the county. He has the temperament to get along with people and that’s important in an increasingly diverse county.

I hope you will join me in voting for Brad Kunkel for sheriff as our candidate in the June 2 primary election.

~ Published in the May 7, 2020 edition of the Solon Economist

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Politics

Why I Support Michael Franken

Michael Franken

I am voting for Michael Franken for U.S. Senator in the June 2 Democratic primary election.

He can beat incumbent Senator Joni Ernst on her terms as an advocate for all Iowans and as a former military officer.

After thorough consideration, and interviews with four of the five candidates in the race, Franken offers the best portfolio of qualifications.

During the first of three conversations, I asked about renewal of the New START Treaty, and the 2020 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Franken was knowledgeable both about our treaty obligations and the dangers of ending U.S. participation in arms control. He would support nuclear arms control.

For Franken the climate crisis is a signal issue. The United States has bad leadership and poor strategy to address the climate crisis, he said. He viewed climate change as a national security priority and a question of environmental justice. He would take climate action, while already understanding the science, from the perspective of an engineer with sympathy for the issue. He would act on the climate crisis.

The coronavirus does not recognize national borders. We must transcend nationalism that puts America first and consider the best interests of all of humanity as only the United States can do. A career naval officer who achieved vice admiral rank, Franken’s service took him around the globe in consequential military action. He has the experience to keep America safe while exemplifying the best of what we offer the rest of the world. He would represent Iowa values well.

Franken spent ten years as a military liaison to the U.S. Congress, beginning with work for Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. His work in the Congress gives him a long head start when it comes to writing legislation and getting Iowa priorities accomplished. Experience matters and Franken has it.

Finally, Franken will support Democratic priorities, whether they are health care, voter rights, equal protection, or a woman’s right to choose. His will be a thoughtful vote, one in which the leadership that made him a three star admiral will shine through.

I like each of the candidates I recently interviewed for different reasons. A loyal Democrat, I’ll support the primary winner. With early voting beginning in two weeks, now is the time to make a stand.

I stand with Michael Franken.

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Politics

Kimberly Graham – A Voice For ‘Us’

Kimberly Graham

On Tuesday, March 17, Blog for Iowa conducted a telephone interview with U.S. Senate candidate Kimberly Graham. We had intended to do an in-person interview but in consideration of the coronavirus pandemic we maintained social distancing. Graham was thoughtful in her answers to our questions. The following portions of the interview are transcribed from an audio recording. Any mistakes are the author’s.

Blog for Iowa: Why are you in this race?

Kimberly Graham: It’s kind of a perfect storm of three different things. The first, like a lot of women running for office now-a-days, the first thing that made me start thinking about running was the 2016 election. I never had any intention or desire to run for office. It was not something I thought I could even do as a person from a working class background. But the 2016 election was very upsetting to me like it was to a lot of people. And that’s what initially started making me look into running for office myself.

At the time of that election my son was 17 years old. He’s now 20. I couldn’t keep just only voting. I felt like I needed to do something more and that I could do a better job than a lot of our current leaders. And so, I thought that it would be important for my son, and for the kids I’ve represented for the last 20 years and all of their families, for me to step up and run for office so that we would have what I kind of shorthand “have a regular person” running for office.

I think we need “us” to be representing “us.” When I say “us” I mean regular people who are not wealthy, not well connected, who struggle financially, who know what it’s like to try to make it in the United States of America where if we ever did, we no longer have equality of opportunity on a lot of levels.

So I would say the 2016 election, my son, and all of the kids I’ve represented and families I’ve represented for the the last 20 years as an attorney for kids, for abused kids, and for parents in juvenile court. And watching how we’ve been investing in those kids and families less and less and less and less.

BFIA: How does being an attorney prepare you for being a U.S. Senator?

GRAHAM: Yeah, well I think it really uniquely prepares me because I’ve literally had the job of standing up and fighting for vulnerable people for 20 years now. That to me is really, in a nutshell, that should be the job of the U.S. Senator to listen, listen, and listen again. Find out what it is that either your clients or constituents need, whether you’re being a lawyer, whether your being a senator. What is it they need to live lives of health and dignity?

And then you go whether they are a farmer, whether they are a single mom living in Des Moines, whether they are a rural person living in Harlan, you know, whatever they are doing in this state, what do they need? What are their needs to live lives of health and dignity?

And then I see it as my job to go to Washington, D.C. and either draft legislation that doesn’t exist, or co-sponsor legislation, or advocate for those positions, whatever it takes to respond and to help the people that I am charged with representing. Just like I’ve been doing for the last 20 years as an attorney for mostly, not always, but mostly for people in poverty.

So I have a pretty good idea of how we are not doing a very good job taking care of people that either are in poverty or at the lower edge of the middle class in this country because I see it and I work with those people every day.

BFIA: Why does that experience best qualify you among the five Democrats running for the office?

GRAHAM: I’m best qualified because I still to this day, am still doing this work. In other words, I’m seeing in real time what is happening out there. Meaning what it is that people need to lead these lives of health and dignity.

I think also as someone who has owned a solo practice law firm for all of these years, I also understand how incredibly difficult it is to make it as a small business owner. We know that especially in our rural communities here in Iowa, but also in our cities, too, there are a lot of small businesses that are providing a living for people, but just barely.

If we had things that other developed nations have and have had for many years, like universal child care, like paid parental leave, like universal health care.Just those things alone would transform what it is like to own a small business in this country.

It would really promote and support entrepreneurship in this country to an incredibly high level because we would actually be able to own a small business without, you know, half of our income maybe in some cases, even more than half, going out the door for say our medical insurance right off the top which makes it very difficult to be profitable or to be profitable and not to make it.

I also believe that because I spent three years studying the United States Constitution and I know what it says, and I know how to read laws, and read bills, and read and write legislation that that’s really important because the thing, the devil is in the details, it is. It’s really important that somebody who is going to be our U.S. Senator have the ability to read a law, to read a proposed bill and really hold it up to the light and turn it around and look at it this way and that way and from every angle and have an ability to understand what certain things in that bill may mean when you put that bill into action, when the bill is actually implemented.

I should add, too, that I really, really believe that it’s incredibly beneficial for us to have, for everyone to have, like some kind of voice in our representation. For everyone to have some kind of a voice and what I believe has happened over the last forty years or so is that those who really have a substantial voice at this point are the very wealthy and well-connected and/or corporations. And I mean large, huge corporations.

I’m not talking about a little incorporated business in some small town. I’m talking about these mega multinational corporations and there are I believe more lobbyists by far than there are representatives in congress at this point.

So my argument is, my assertion is, that business is more than represented, in fact, I would say they are over-represented. What we do not have, in enough of a critical mass, what we don’t have a large enough number of, are people in congress who come from a public service background like I do. People that have a demonstrated history of trying to help people, as clichéd and eye-rolling as that may sound to some people. I’m doing the kind of law I do for the most part the kind of law that I’ve done in my career because I want to help people to have better lives.

I want to really be clear. It is not that businesses and corporations are the enemy. We need corporations. We need jobs. We need big business. We need small business. We need medium business. We need social workers. We need teachers. We need nurses. We need all of us. I believe the problem has become that only those multinational corporations for the most part are really being represented in congress. That’s not okay.

Senator Tom Harkin started his career at Iowa legal aid, and so did I. I really believe that most people had quite a lot of respect for Tom Harkin. Tom Harkin, it appears clear to me anyway, became a congressman and then a United States Senator because he wanted to help people. He stood up for unions. He stood up for human rights the world over. He stood up for children. He stood up for people with disabilities. That’s important. That is the kind of U.S. Senator that I intend to be.

BFIA: Let’s talk about Joni Ernst. Why is this senate seat flippable this cycle?

GRAHAM: To me there are several indications that it is flippable. The first one and probably the most obvious is that her polling numbers continue to drop like a stone. I mean, they just continue to drop, drop, drop, pretty much every time there is a new poll she is less popular.

Number two is if we look at the presidential election, the caucuses here in Iowa, what we see, at least among the Democrats is that the ideas of Senator Warren and Senator Sanders, if you add their polling numbers together for the last year and a half in Iowa, that is the majority, at least of Democrats. I can’t speak to the majority of all Iowans; although it is now, I believe the most recent polling indicates the majority of all Iowans believe we should have some kind of universal health care and that pharmaceuticals like insulin, people shouldn’t be allowed to charge what they are charging for insulin and those kinds of ideas. To me, there seems to be a clear shift that people are very tired of politics as usual and I believe that that’s part of how Senator Ernst got elected. Because people were getting tired of politics as usual and what was her campaign slogan?

BFIA: She was going to make ‘em squeal.

GRAHAM: Correct. To me that slogan says, “I’m going to go root out that corruption. It is not going to be politics as usual. I’m going to get in there, and I’m going to be different, and I’m not going to kowtow to powerful special interests.” That’s what that said. I believe that’s why she won by a pretty hefty margin. There’s other reasons I think she won but that’s the main one.

I also believe that’s the main reason President Trump won Iowa is because people are sick and tired, regular working people who are working all these jobs, don’t have health insurance, are barely getting by and hanging on by their fingernails if they happen to be at least nominally middle class, they are still hanging on by their fingernails in a lot of cases because of the high cost of medical stuff, and college, and day care, and all the other stuff. They are tired of it. We’re tired of it. We’re tired of working so, so hard.

We are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Americans are very productive. We work hard but we are not seeing the rewards of that. We are falling further and further behind financially. More of us are hurting financially. We may have jobs, but yeah, we have two jobs because we can’t make it on one. There’s all the gig economy. We have fewer and fewer unions, fewer and fewer union jobs that come with benefits and come with a pension and all of that.

Over these past forty years we’ve just seen this erosion of opportunity and people are sick of it. I think that that is what left us unfortunately vulnerable to a really, really skilled and good con man.

I don’t really blame the person who got conned if they got conned by a skilled con man. I blame the con man. What did he say? He went all around Iowa, including the Keokuk area. He stood on the floor of the, I think it was, the Siemens factory and said “This factory is not leaving here. These jobs are not leaving here. I will keep these jobs in America.” Those jobs are gone, they are gone now. He went around and promised people and sold people a bill of goods. People wanted to hear that because they don’t want their jobs leaving already economically depressed areas. Here’s this guy that they see as a successful businessman. You know, oh, Trump he’s a multi-millionaire… He has this persona that he’s such a great businessman and I think a lot of people mistakenly thought and believes he was going to come in here and was also going to make ‘em squeal.

(Editor’s note: The interview covered additional topics, including Graham’s approach to the climate crisis. For more information about her views on issues, click here).

Categories
Politics Social Commentary

Modernity of Social Distancing

Los Agaves Mexican Grill, Iowa City, Iowa at lunch time on Friday, March 13, 2020.

When it comes to “social distancing” Iowans know what to do. We tweak our normal behavior. Many of us are not socially close by nature so it’s not a big step.

Epidemiologists are using the term “social distancing” to refer to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully slow community transmission and spread of the coronavirus.

A grade school friend and I met in the county seat on Friday. His nonagenarian mother lives in an assisted care facility which was quarantined after he arrived in Iowa to visit her. He spoke to her on the phone, but couldn’t pay an in-person visit.

It was a tweak.

More tweaks are coming.

Last night Governor Kim Reynolds’ office issued a press release which said, “The Iowa Department of Public Health has determined, based on the new COVID-19 case and the announcement this evening of community spread in Omaha, Neb., there is now community spread in our state.”

The release continued to explain:

Community spread occurs when individuals have been infected with the virus in an area and cannot specifically identify the source of the infection, or do not know how or where they became infected.

Due to the detection of community spread, there are new recommendations for individuals with underlying conditions, and all Iowans should be prepared for cancellations and disruptions in routine activities.

Mitigation measures should be implemented immediately to have the most significant impact on slowing the spread of the virus.
Leaders of institutions and organizers of events should begin to act on their contingency plans related to large gatherings, including church services. Iowans should not hold or attend large gatherings of more than 250 people, and consider making adjustments for smaller gatherings with high risk groups.

It appears the governor is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines which include monitoring the progress of community spread and under certain conditions, making recommendations for social behavior. For now, school can continue, but not church where there are large congregations.

There is a political aspect to the coronavirus pandemic and it appears our state is taking reasonable actions if the federal government is lacking in its response. Regular communication and compliance with CDC guidelines should reflect positively on Reynold’s handling of the global pandemic’s mitigation in Iowa. As a former six-year member of our county board of health I don’t see a benefit to criticizing the governor as the state works to understand the progress of the disease and take appropriate action.

For our small family, it doesn’t take much to be socially distant. Yesterday I decided not to attend a legislative forum 10 miles from our home. I went to town to mail a package. On the way home I stopped at the pharmacy to see if I could buy a bottle of 90 percent isopropyl alcohol. They we sold out of all alcohol and sanitizing items. We’ll make do with what we have. Today I’ll go to the farm for our weekly seeding session.

A late winter snow fell, covering everything except the driveway and roads, which were too warm in this meteorological spring. For a day it was still winter by the calendar and by the weather.

There is never a problem staying busy at home. I completed the U.S. Census on my mobile device after reading in social media our state senator did his. It took ten minutes even after I had to re-do it. Between reading, writing, cooking, laundry, and preparing for planting, there was plenty to do. I put some bird seed out on the front door landing but they hadn’t found it by sunrise this morning.

While we were isolated, it didn’t feel that way. Iowans are used to working in isolation and with modern communications it is easy to stay in contact with friends and neighbors.

The news about the coronavirus from Europe, the Middle East and China is pretty startling. We really don’t know how many people are infected, although public health officials seem to be tracking the number of deaths.

Estimates of the impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic range widely yet are relevant. Global population was between 1.8 and 1.9 billion people at the time. The estimated number of deaths ranges between 17 and 50 million, maybe more. In the United States, the death rate was between 0.48 to 0.64 percent of the population or toward 650,000 deaths at the high end.

If we use the lower number in the range (0.48 percent) to determine how many deaths the 1918 pandemic would cause in the 2020 U.S. population, it would be more than 15.8 million. We are nowhere near that and likely to see only a fraction of that number with coronavirus. There is a modernity today that didn’t exist in 1918, with advanced public health and research organizations, better communications, and a resulting ability to coordinate between government and non-governmental agencies.

The phenomenon of social distancing looks to create a positive result. People will die of Covid-19 and the loss will hurt families. It will hurt us all. At the local level, we do our best to understand the pandemic and live our lives accordingly. We not freaking out. We are learning.

We’re sustaining our lives in a turbulent world that’s becoming infected by coronavirus. This may not be the last pandemic in my lifetime, so I hope we learn from it.