Friday, March 12, 2021

Mind Metamorphosis


 


March 12, 2021


Representative Scott Allen

97th Assembly District 

8 West

PO Box 8952 

Madison, WI 53708-8952


Dear Rep. Allen:


As one of your constituents, I wanted to comment on your Youtube video Science, Faith, and Fundamental Fairness.


You reference the biblical message that you and the rest of humanity are created in God’s image and indeed, I recall in Matthew the story of Jesus saying that whatever we do to/for the least, we are doing to/for him. To me, that says we’re not just in God’s image- each one of us is of God. I believe that can help us all not fall back on our ego: the part of us that differentiates the “I” from everything and everyone else. Too much ego leads to overvaluing oneself and one’s thoughts over the other and, in my mind, that leads to that fairness issue you mention. You and I are equals, despite what our egos might want to convey.


Ego is an internal mental booster at its best- a motivator that we can accomplish something if we try. It can also help us believe we are better than “other” for whatever reason(s), including but not limited to our looks, intelligence, family, job, sports ability, country of origin, religion, or gender. Too much ego leads to overvaluing oneself within one’s framework of life. Too little ego leads to feelings of helplessness and despair within that framework.


Your tone on the topics of science and gender is pretty derisive- as if your ego has you on a higher ground on these topics. One’s sex is, as you mentioned, based on chromosomes. But when one looks beyond 1980s high school biology of which you referenced, humans can have mixes beyond XX and XY. They (we) are all human beings in the eye of God, I would assume, because they (we) are all his creations. There are even sexual variations in other species. May I suggest “Rare bird: 'Half-male, half-female' cardinal snapped in Pennsylvania” for a fascinating read in this year’s BBC site on one case.


Gender is another facet of humanity. Quite a bit of “gender” is societally-based on the assumptions of sex-based roles that you alluded to. As I’ve already outlined how fluid “sex” is, once we add our personal interests and abilities into the subject of DNA, “gender” can become wonderfully complex. A “man” doesn’t have to be a stern breadwinner (if they don’t want to or have other skills) and can laugh and cry with their loved ones and wear makeup (if they want to). A “woman” doesn’t have to keep house (if they don’t want to or have other skills) and can be a stern breadwinner and not wear makeup (if they want to). In fact, anyone with skills and abilities can do any given role and should be applauded for their attempts- it’s a “they” situation, not a he/she. Again, I felt derision when you described gender misidentification as a “fad”. Yes, we all struggle at some level with identity, but to be boxed in any form is one’s truth and should be respected. Some of us get boxed quite a bit more than others. As a woman, I have felt quite a bit of sex and gender boxing. This reminds me of a famous woman whose roles have been the source of much studying.


Jesus valued Mary Magdalene. To me, that shows again that all are welcome and that is the fair behavior to model. She wasn’t the “ideal” by societal sex or gender standards. And yet, her name lives on today.


I’m not going to argue your statement that “biologists have proven men are stronger and faster and have greater endurance than women”. I’ll simply direct you to Georgetown University’s Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging & Disease. There are differences and studying all benefits all- perhaps your 3 criteria relate to this sports focus that really isn't an issue. Rather than waste time and money on the notion that women’s sports need to be defended against transgender people, how about we work to make sports and all other realms in our country open and safe for everyone? Women aren’t clamoring for protection against trans people. We want to be safe from sexual harassment as we’re seeing in the Cuomo case and what we saw in the Clarence Thomas case. LGBTQIA folks are seeking to feel safe and equally protected under US law. Black and POC folks are looking for the same. And every last one of us deserves the right to vote and be represented in our government. 


There are definitely many facets of US life that need critical help to be fair for all. “Protecting” girls’ and women’s sports from transgendered people is not one.


I thank you for your work and consideration for all of your constituents.


Sincerely,


Susan Baumgartner

Waukesha, WI


Sunday, January 31, 2021

It's Weird. But it Shouldn't Be.

Overcast winter weather can give you plenty of time to think. I’ve been thinking about feelings and perspectives a lot lately. Since January 20, I and many I know have felt differently than they have for the last few years. Some have slept better. Some think the world is over. It all has to do with US politics, and I felt compelled to list a few things about life right now. 


President Biden hit the ground running. According to federalregistry.com, Biden has recorded 24 EO’s so far. 


  • EO 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

  • EO 14007: President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

  • EO 14006: Reforming Our Incarceration System To Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated 

  • EO 14005: Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America's Workers

  • EO 14004: Enabling All Qualified Americans To Serve Their Country in Uniform

  • EO 14003: Protecting the Federal Workforce

  • EO 14002: Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • EO 14001: A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain

  • EO 14000: Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers

  • EO 13999: Protecting Worker Health and Safety

  • EO 13998: Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel

  • EO 13997: Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19

  • EO 13996: Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats 

  • EO 13995: Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery

  • EO 13994: Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats

  • EO 13993: Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities

  • EO 13992: Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation

  • EO 13991: Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing

  • EO 13990: Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis

  • EO 13989: Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel

  • EO 13988: Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation

  • EO 13987: Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government To Provide a Unified and Effective Response To Combat COVID-19 and To Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security

  • EO 13986: Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census

  • EO 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government


It’s weird to see so many topics that support so many different people and our environment. But it shouldn't be.


The CDC has revamped their COVID19 screens and added new reports, including a daily community profile report that is currently 33 pages. In it, Wisconsin is now described as a “yellow” state with prolonged high risk of spread. It’s good to see that all our parameters (cases, deaths, positive percentages, new hospital admits, percent beds used, percent ICU beds used) are trending downward. Unfortunately, testing is also going down. Hopefully neither the new fulltime face-to-face school in 6th-12th grade in the WSD that started this week, nor the attempts of our state legislature to remove Governor Evers’s emergency orders (including, but not exclusively, his mask mandate) throughout the state, won’t negatively impact those data trends. Alas, we’ve lost 61 residents in Waukesha County since 1/14 when I last tracked weekly figures. That’s more than 3 a day. In Wisconsin, for every 100 folks who are hospitalized, 24 won’t make it. 


It’s weird to see so much data on the CDC website regarding COVID-19. But it shouldn’t be. 


The White House has established regular press briefings and COVID pandemic briefings. In addition, all agencies have been directed to speak clearly and regularly to the public about what is going on in their areas. The WH transcripts are all posted in a timely fashion on their website. On January 29, Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave a heads up for a trial of giving Biden’s upcoming week’s schedule. 


“Next Monday, the President will meet with the Secretary of State at the State Department.


On Tuesday, President Biden will deliver remarks and sign an executive order advancing his priority to modernize our immigration system.


And Friday is, of course, Jobs Day, and the President will deliver remarks about the economy.”


It’s weird seeing such transparency and breadth of work in the White House. But it shouldn’t be


In EO 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the following wording on scientific autonomy is included:


“President Biden will also sign an important Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity to send a clear message that the Biden-Harris Administration will protect scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people.”


It’s weird to see explicit shout-outs to the autonomy of science and scientists. But it shouldn’t be. 


A number of cabinet members have been confirmed. While they may have histories within the Democratic Party, they passed through the process fairly quickly and Janet Yellen in particular received strong bipartisan support. 


Antony Blinken: SECRETARY OF STATE 

Janet Yellen: SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY 

Gen. Lloyd Austin: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE 

Avril Haines: National Intelligence Director


It’s weird knowing none have direct family or business ties to the current president. But it shouldn’t be.


It’s weird not seeing the president golfing and tweeting rants. But it shouldn’t be.


It’s weird seeing the president bow his head and go to church services and memorials to those who have died to COVID19. But it shouldn’t be.


It’s weird thinking we may actually see shifts at the federal level toward policies that will support people and not “business” and those who control the majority of wealth. But it shouldn't be. 


It’s weird feeling some hope. But it shouldn’t be.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Our Choices Our Dance


School District of Waukesha Board of Education Members Bill Baumgart, Joseph Como Jr., Greg Deets, Patrick McCaffery, Corey Montiho, Kurt O'Bryan, Karin Rajnicek, Amanda Roddy, Diane Voit

School District of Waukesha Superintendent Jim Sebert

School District of Waukesha Deputy Superintendent Joe Koch

Mayor of Waukesha Shawn Reilly

County Executive Paul Farrow



Monday, January 11, 2021


Dear Officials, 


I am writing as a resident and parent to advocate that our schools and community adopt a science-based system with gating against COVID-19 that emphasizes safety for all our citizens, especially our students and teaching staff.


A pediatrician friend here in SE Wisconsin shared the recent article by NPR, How COVID-19 Attacks The Brain And May Cause Lasting Damage with the reflection that they are very concerned about the public not taking this virus seriously enough. We all know today that there is an average 1% chance of death in Wisconsin for those who contract this virus and this now includes 2 of our children aged 10 to 19. In the article, we are shown that there is also the real possibility of developing significant long-term side effects involving the brain. “For many affected patients, brain function improves as they recover. But some are likely to face long-term disability, de Erausquin says.” The damaged brain areas may include parts that control the body, leading to malfunctions in heart rate, blood pressure, and even urinary control. I also recall the Ohio State study in September that showed college athletes with recordable damage to the heart muscle itself after a COVID-19 infection. This virus is NOT the flu. 


I believe the push by some politicians to safeguard entities from potential future COVID-19 litigation is because they know that what they are advocating, pushing to stay open (both businesses and schools) and not adhere to medically-based protocols, are risky and dangerous choices.


We can make different choices. Many scientists and medical professionals have established covid gating criteria for different places around the world. Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden’s PreventEpidemics.org has a great one that includes alert tiers for when and where different ages of school children should be as community viral rates change. While our numbers have gone down, our hospitals are still very busy, rates are “very high” per DHS, and appear to again be rising.


We (all adults everywhere) knew this would be a dance. We (all adults everywhere) knew we’d need to adapt. If rates fell, we could relax. If rates rose, we would need to contract. We (all adults everywhere) have done a poor job at that dance so far because too many sat on the sidelines or even put their feet out to trip those out on the floor. To consider coming back together until we have fewer infections and appreciable levels of vaccinations throughout the community is folly.


We should have done this all months ago. However, it’s not too late as we move forward to finish the second half of the school year. Please do what you can to support and protect our children and staff. Please advocate to those you know within other entities at city, town, and county levels to adopt a strong plan. We need to work together. Please.


As a side note, if nothing new is done locally, and the federal government releases plans for vaccinations and/or viral control when the Biden Administration takes over on January 20, I ask that the school board, the city, and the county accept those plans, promote them, and actively put them into practice. Again, we need to work together. As so many have said before: together we rise, divided we fall.


I thank you for your work and your consideration.



Sincerely,


Susan Baumgartner

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 to 2021


Oh, 2020. You little rascal. You got us all with your little surprises. I wrote about my hopes for you on January 1, in an essay called Peeping into 2020.


I’ve not been one to make resolutions, but my Twitter profile has become a place that sums me and my efforts in 160 characters or less. Revising it annually has become a fun practice. Here are my 2018 and 2019 ones:






And here’s my 2020.



It’s evolved a bit over the year- which is not something I’ve done before- all thanks to what 2020 ended up being and how I responded to it. I added the she/her. I switched my photo a couple of times- at one point I was so upset at the US political landscape I changed my photo to a picture of a tree stump roughly cut by a chainsaw. My pinned tweet became not a plug to sell my books, but to remind myself and others of my involvement in this country’s problems (more on that to follow).


In 2020, I had hoped to write about and learn new ways to present information on how we humans are amazingly linked to each other and to our natural surroundings. I had visions of officially studying and exploring first-hand in my own life and environment the types of connections I had read about in Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees or Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass in 2019. I pictured filling myself and those I was privileged enough to teach with wondrous examples of these amazing truths and being inspired to project that new understanding into imagining and building a more unified and beautiful future for us all. I imagined bringing people together in closer harmony and understanding to both each other and all the green spaces.

Sometimes, our connections can threaten us or take us down unplanned paths.



Then, a new-to-us microbe living in China leaped into that web of connections and threw our globe into chaos. On top of that, the simmering racial inequities in the US blew up as more Black lives met early deaths at the hands of police. As each country in the world reacted to SARS-CoV2, we learned so many things about worldwide medical and science preparedness and how leaders can cultivate or destroy hope and direction. I saw political affiliation eat away at things I thought everyone could agree upon.


The US’s gutted interest in and means to provide communal needs like public health were dramatically exposed to the world this year.



Some might say this microbe is simply another facet of the world’s connections that we need to adjust to- that some individuals will perish but a new balance will eventually be found overall. Some might say that the loss of certain people or peoples is simply part of that every changing balancing act, too.


Those notions seem way too easy for me to accept. They free us from any responsibility for our choices and actions and that's not right. Cain’s story reminds us we are each other’s keepers. We are, or can be, stewards of all we touch. I think I spoke to that in my Twitter profile when I said “everyone has outside burdens”: we should try to HELP each other because we ALL have burdens. COVID19 became a universally shared one.


2020 hammered home to me that I need to be even more inclusive- my long-term belief in us being stronger together? For all my unity fervor (how many times have I typed "we're stronger together"?), I could do way more thinking, speaking, and writing to promote and argue for that truth. I will do so in 2021. Learning of historian Heather Cox Richardson this year has been an incredibly positive thing for me as she is able to wonderfully describe where we are politically and how we got here. Her social media and others have opened my view on how many people are on this path to understanding. Folks like Robert Reich and Stacey Abrams give pointers on what we can do about it all.


It’s ALL connected. WE are all connected. And NONE of us is more or less “human”.



Political sectarianism has settled into the US and I struggle against siloing or vilifying myself. In 2021, I pledge to speak up and stand up, but to also gut-check. Am I shaming or finding commonalities? Am I escalating a situation or cultivating space for us all to work through some stuff? I’m looking back at my experience with PlayWorks and places like tolerance.org for inspiration.


What could that look like?


“I hear you say…” Truly listen.

“I see you…” Validate.

“I also like…” Connect.

“What are your three favorite foods?” De-escalate.

“I’m interested in our success together…” Extend that hand.

“What if we…” Collaborate.

“Let’s table this for now.” Walk away from conflict.


What exactly do I hope for in 2021?

Here's my 2021 Twitter:

ONE BOAT: Nationally, we need massive efforts on multiple fronts: public health, social justice, green economy, education, infrastructure, and health care. Covid is top, but the others are vitally connected. By the end of 2021, I just want to see some progress on all these. We didn’t get here overnight. We won’t get out of it overnight, either. Dr. Richardson was a reminder to me of that truth and I hope to read one of her books this year to further my understanding.
REAL PEOPLE AND THE PLANET: We need to show we care about both. That we need to care for both. It's not about years old customs and stock prices. 

STAY ENGAGED: To that end, I want to see an expanding political/societal participation by all the people at all levels- especially state and local. Volunteering somewhere. Supporting candidates. Talking with family and friends. Attending meetings as a citizenry. It’s important. Unfortunately, our problems are so big, many can’t do much more than try to survive. Those who can, should.


Personally, I just want us all to feel a little safer- to not feel like everything's hanging by a thread. That's #1. Then, I’d love to work with others and earn some sort of reward in return- money, food, other? Keeping busy would also help me shed some of those pandemic pounds. I’d love my kids to get back into society and the oldest to get a job and his driver’s license. A nature-based retreat sounds delightful: I want stars, water, and living stuff. And a bustling gathering of friends with great food, music, and drinks would be a dream come true. That's it. Well, that and finally see BTS again live. 


Here’s to a 2021 that sustains us. May we find ourselves more grounded by what we do and experience in the next 12 months. May we be open to fully experiencing all of it, but also able to not cling to any of it. It's the breathing of life that's crucial to our growth and development. 



Peace!




Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Time Will Tell: The Mess and Hopes of Wisconsin and Beyond

I didn’t do a monthly look back on the 14th as I have since we were all back intto school back in September here in Wisconsin. The data spoke for themselves. The increasing numbers of folks knowing friends and loved ones suffering and dying spoke of our realities.


For a great review of where the nation is at, I again refer you to Dr. Tom Frieden and his blog, Covid Epidemiology, where this week he says this will hopefully be his last report as the federal government operations that normally are in charge of this stuff aren’t being muzzled anymore and are posting this information publicly as they should have been since the beginning. It’s bad. Most of the nation is about “six times the rate at which we figured contact tracing would be hard or impossible” to do.


Through 12/21, Milwaukee County has lost 942 to COVID19 while neighboring Waukesha County (with 42% the population) has lost 310. There’s a disparity there just as there is in the populations that need addressing but that’s for another day. One could argue that it’s “only” 0.10% and 0.08% of each county’s respective total population suffering the ultimate penalty. One could say it’s “only” a death rate of 1.2% of all positives in Milwaukee County and 0.9% of all positives in Waukesha County.


But it’s also 1,252 families with new holes at the family tables. Thousands of friends with one less number on their phones. Probably hundreds of workplaces with one less employee, religious organizations with one less congregant, and businesses with one less customer.


It’s also about 112,944 folks who have had to isolate- or who should have. Who had to stop working and interacting with others to not spread the virus, thus affecting everyone they live with. Or should have. If those folks worked, it impacted their employers and probably cost them wages. Or should have. The government isn’t helping much in that regard.


It’s about the approximate 4,870 people of that 112,944 who have been hospitalized and have either slowly recovered or...are still fighting. 4% of all positives in Waukesha end up in hospital care. 5.8% of all the Milwaukee County ones do.


It’s thousands of healthcare workers who have to treat all the positives in their care at nursing homes, care facilities, and at clinics and hospitals as positive cases become critical. Those HCW impacted also have families of their own who are touched by this all: children, spouses, parents…


Looking at today’s totals on world rates of covid, the US has the 5th highest overall positive count in the world from the beginning of this pandemic- behind only Czechia, San Marino, Montenegro, Luxembourg, and Andorra. 55,075 cases for every million people. People are suffering around the world, make no mistake. But the US is showing the world a side of COVID19 in a shameful scale.


The world isn’t partying while the US wallows in some false reality of a fake virus. The fact that the “greatest” country in the world has a huge percent of the population believing things like this and not working together with medicine and science is so depressingly mind-blowing. Watching this unfold has been stomach-turning.


We have so much work ahead of us. Dr. Frieden highlights this, too. This virus needs to be controlled and THEN people need to be reintroduced in widening circles to each other in systematic ways. National and international pandemic plans need to be created to be in place for the next time this happens. (I love how Dr. Frieden put it: “It’s literally now or never to fix public health at local, city, state, national, [and on] global levels.”) Our economy needs to be rebuilt, including collecting taxes and/or donations of investment from our most solvent corporations and individuals to restore the nation’s financial strength. All the other crises the US is facing also need to be addressed in their own ways by thought-leaders within those fields, including racial equity, climate change, green economy, education, and health care.


After this year is done, we can take a look back and see how our overall death rates compared in 2020 to what we have experienced in previous years. Perhaps folks like me will be begging forgiveness at blowing this virus out of proportion. I for one would be glad to do so.


We have to get through this virus first. I eagerly await 2021.