It's been a really strange week -- and the best question I heard was somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
Noting that 2020 was off to a very disjointed and tumultuous start, like sometimes happens with a computer, someone asked if unplugging the year, waiting 20 seconds and then plugging it back in would help.
That's the last line of defense against cranky computers, so it might work on a year -- although so far nothing much is working.
Many small businesses are shut down, governments have hunkered down and parts of them are closed, the schools are closed, people are being urged to keep "social distance" or self-quarantine. Even our own U.S. Congressman David Price is in self-imposed quarantine after being near someone with the virus.
Everything seems out of kilter -- but maybe not all.
Some things never change.
It's still business as usual for some of our politicians in Washington, doing what they always do.
Take for instance our own U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who has been elected and re-elected to represent our interests in D.C. for years.
Sen. Burr went to a Jan. 24 briefing about the COVID-19 virus situation and its effects -- and then immediately began selling off at least $1.5 million of his own stocks in February to be sure he didn't lose any money.'
And he wasn't alone. One of his Senate buddies, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, one of the richest members of the U.S. Senate, did exactly the same thing, preserving her personal fortune. Should we mention that her husband is head of the stock exchange?
Also selling ahead of the crash were Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.
Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also privately warned dozens of donors about the impact the coronavirus would have on the market, while keeping the public in the dark.
While all that was happening, Burr and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, whose once stellar reputation is falling faster than the stock market, were telling the American people that the virus pandemic was well under control and they shouldn't be worrying, especially not about the economy.
To my mind, lying to the American public and trying to instill a false sense of calm while selling stocks frantically, as Burr did, is inexcusable.
All four of these senators should be investigated and, if found guilty, get the maximum penalty for insider trading.
But lying to the public during a dire national emergency is a far worse offense -- and, to my mind, borders on treason!
Same old stuff
Yep, it's business as usual in the swamp! And I'll bet these aren't the only examples of despicable behavior that we'll learn about.
Burr even had the unmitigated gall to criticize National Public Radio over its accurate reporting of his behavior -- yet NPR didn't even initially mention his improper stock trading using inside information!
Then, late last week, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham proved that he is in touch with the critical needs of his hard-hit constituents when he admitted he was trying to talk President Donald Trump out of sending individual coronavirus relief checks to Americans struggling to pay their bills and feed their families.
Graham wants to make sure that federal relief dollars go to his supporters and contributors -- and everyone else can starve.
Yep, the swamp creatures live, slither and thrive inside the Beltway!
Even after President Trump endorsed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, some in his own party balked. The act was first passed in the House with a 363-40 margin and it was then approved in the Senate without changes with a 90-8 vote.
All of those 48 no votes were cast by Republicans -- and yet the president continually castigates the Democrats for refusing to work with him on important issues, yet didn't mention those 48 members of his own party.
But if watching our inept federal government and scattered responses from states is giving you heartburn, there is much more positive news on the local front.
Personally, I like how the schools -- and especially school nutrition folks -- have stepped up to deal with this emergency.
What's the problem, they wondered.
Hungry kids, many of whom have had to rely on school breakfasts, lunches and even snacks to get by.
So ... let's feed 'em, came the response.
And feeding them they are. It didn't take long for the school nutrition folks -- many of whom are moms or grandmas, to get moving.
In the blink of an eye, they were organizing -- with a lot of support from the school administration -- to begin planning, bagging and delivering food to hungry local kids.
With a little planning, they were assembling bags that contained lunch, a snack and breakfast items for the next day -- and making them available at four sites around the county.
There were problems along the way. For example, how do you deliver multiple bag lunches to a parent with several kids. The obvious solution was plastic bags for the individual lunch bags --- but where do you get that many bags in a big hurry?
Someone (actually, it was Donna, my better half) thought to send out a call to the Centerville Fire Department, which had to cancel its planned chicken dinner fundraiser because of the virus. Donna handles the advertising for the fire departments and realized they probably had spare bags since their event was canceled.
It should be obvious that telling a fireman that there are hungry local kids needing help gets about the same response as telling him or her that your house is on fire.
Rule one, after you ask, get out of the way 'cause they're coming to help!
Literally within minutes after Centerville Fire Chief Marvin Edwards got the request for bags to help hungry kids he was in our parking lot with a whole case of 'em for the schools. Since our office was closed to the public, as was the schools' office, he called and we came out, loaded the bags into our car and headed off to deliver them.
By the time we got to the West River Road administrative offices, Dr. Larry Webb, who is in charge of child nutrition efforts and a lot of other things, was -- literally -- waiting for us in the parking lot. He grabbed the bags, said thanks to the Centerville firemen and headed off to be sure the kids got fed on time.
In the overall scheme of a global reaction to a pandemic, this may all seem like small stuff.
It is, and it isn't.
In a time of crisis and need, the American people have a huge propensity to reach out to help each other -- even when they may be facing danger or challenges themselves.
At the local level, you won't see people sitting around debating about who will get the credit, how to help their friends while punishing their foes or spending days deliberating whether the kids should get a chicken sandwich or a ham sandwich today.
Nope, they cut to the chase, get organized and do whatever they can to meet the needs and lessen the impact on those less fortunate.
Got hungry kids? Feed them! Simple as that.
This kind of thing happens all the time here at the local level.
Lots of assistance
The fire departments, law enforcement, emergency medical workers, utility crews, you name a problem and someone is going to be available to help.
If the issue is domestic violence, there is Safe Space -- and a legion of volunteers and donors standing behind that organization to make the response effective.
Many of our churches are rock solid during a crisis, whether it's feeding workers, gathering up clothing, food or cleaning supplies or providing a host of other necessary services in a time of need.
Never, ever count out the various veterans' groups or any number of civic organizations that will come running when needed.
The group called Care and Share does just that, caring about local folks and sharing in the effort to help out.
A shortage of blood? A blood drive will quickly help.
And don't forget neighbor-to-neighbor assistance which is unplanned, unorganized and often extremely effective in dealing with a crisis.
Finally, if money is part of a solution to a problem, you might be shocked at how so many people will pony up their dollars to help ease the pain and suffering of others.
Perhaps that's why some of us find it so frustrating when we watch our "leaders" who have vast resources at their fingertips stumble and bumble around for weeks or months before they can even begin to act responsibly. And we wonder why it takes "forever and a day" to mobilize a coherent response to national challenges.
That's why we want to scream into the wind when our "leaders" are more concerned about their personal political power and their personal fortunes than they are about us, the people they are supposed to be representing.
Maybe that's why so many of us have tuned out the political noise and turned away from a political party-dominated scheme which focuses entirely on whether we have a "D" or "R" following our name.
That's certainly why so many of us believe that everyone has a right to quality health care at an affordable price, especially when they are facing a health care crisis like this pandemic that they didn't cause, can't control and which, if it doesn't kill them, could push them into financial ruin.
Eventually this viral pandemic will run its course -- or we will find a cure or a vaccine to blunt its effects.
When it's over, I hope that we "common" Americans (who are most uncommon!) can come together like we do on the local level and find ways to adjust our government and our responses so that the actual needs of the American people are in the forefront, not the greed and self-centered attitudes of the politicians.
More than 240 years ago when our nation was being formed, one of the major failures of its founders was that they never dreamed -- could not imagine -- that public service would be anything but service to the public.
They never dreamed that politicians would turn what they viewed as civic duty and personal sacrifice into a lucrative, long-term right to prosper, not for the voters, but for themselves. The founding fathers would be appalled at politicians who gorge themselves at the public trough as many do today instead of looking at public service as a short-term duty and obligation to others and the nation at large.
It's true that many of us Americans are beginning to understand the morass that we are in. It's why so many of us have turned away from the political parties and now see ourselves as independents or unaffiliated.
But the flaw is that organizing unaffiliated voters is even more difficult than herding cats. We don't seem to be able to unite behind a cause, or a candidate, to effect the kind of systemic change that our nation so desperately needs.
If this pandemic teaches us anything, it should be that our system is badly broken, flawed in such a way as to benefit the few at the expense of many, and likely cannot survive like this much longer.
The system has to change and it is up to us to find the courage -- the guts -- to change it and restore the American Dream and American ideals before the swamp creatures who grow fat at our expense devour our future.
Our future is in our hands. We're getting a lesson in just how badly broken and terribly skewed the system has become.
We either fix it -- or watch the dream drown in the political swamp we all know exists.
In the meantime, hunker down and stay safe. Brighter days are coming. The American spirit will ultimately prevail -- and then our real challenge will begin!