Cabbages and Kings

When I came across the NYTimes article about the Colvin brothers in Tennessee and then subsequent articles about them being forced to donate their thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and other supplies following the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office investigation, my first thought was They’re just doing what we’ve taught them to do.

We live in a capitalist economy, purported by many to be a “free market”, and in the behavior of our wealthiest population, we are told the story over and over about how we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and become rich, too. It’s a tantalizing dream, one that grips us all. 

I don’t fault the Colvin brothers and others like them who had the foresight to recognize that this pandemic was going to get out of hand rapidly in America and that they could make some money. Also, having lived in northeast Tennessee myself, I recognize that sometimes if you want to make money, you have to take your goods elsewhere. 

Business Insider reported Tennessee to be among the states with the lowest income nationally and with a poverty rate of 13.8%  from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 data. Many states in the South and Appalachians show similar – or worse – numbers. Also according to a 2017 report, Tennessee and many of its surrounding states have the unhealthiest populations of the U.S. It’s prudent we don’t take for granted that while supply may be greater in rural areas with fewer people, residents of these places are also more likely to be unable to purchase supplies online where prices are responsive to wealthier markets and increased demand. They are also more likely to be high risk in any health crisis. 

Ignoring for a moment that it is illegal to price gouge limited supplies in a state of emergency, let’s say the plans of Colvin brothers everywhere go forward and they can price their goods from $8 to $70 dollars, as they are reported to have actually accomplished on Amazon before the price gouging crack down. 

People looking at the situation from cities and suburbs throughout the country might think that if the population is smaller in rural areas, they don’t need much supply and therefore moving it elsewhere is not a problem in and of itself. The photos that friends, family, and strangers are sharing from Tennessee tell a different story. The shelves are empty, except perhaps for some unsweet tea and arugula. So can they hop online and buy hand sanitizer at triple the normal cost? When they are living paycheck to paycheck, swamped in medical bills, and getting laid off, can they compete with people who have as a baseline greater resources and healthcare? No. 

If hoarding and re-selling entrepreneurs could keep their price gouging within reason, within basic consideration for their neighbors and first responders and nurses and so on, I don’t mind them making a profit on a global crisis. After all, politicians, various multi-million dollar industries, and the super rich have been doing it for a long, long time. Who do you think the Colvins of the U.S. learned from?

A private Senate briefing from senior government scientists on the coronavirus occured on January 24th, which Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) attended. Between then and mid-February, before the coronavirus became a national emergency in the U.S., Burr and Loeffler sold millions of dollars worth of stock. In response to accusations of abusing her position, Loeffler claimed on Twitter that “Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.” Perhaps it would have been helpful if her third-party advisors had a private briefing with her about the coronavirus instead of Senate Health Committee officials, the CDC director, and the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases because maybe then she wouldn’t have spent weeks telling Americans not to take this threat seriously. 

Historians like to say, “Follow the money.” The money says Loeffler bought between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a tech company with teleworking software whose share price has risen since the stock market took a plunge following the coronavirus outbreak. The money says Burr warned the members of a club for businesses and organizations in North Carolina called Tar Heel Circle, whose members pay up to $10,000 for such information, with far more severity and directness than he did the public. So even if we believe that these politicians did not illegally use non-public information obtained through the privileges of their office to sell millions of dollars worth of coronavirus-related stock, they have been nevertheless in a position to profit from a global crisis. They have held this position while telling the public they claim to represent and serve that we are not threatened by this virus. The money tells us they are speaking for themselves, not us. 

I have a difficult time begrudging the behaviors of average Americans when they simply reflect what we have deemed “normal” for the most privileged among us. A sufficiently clever idea that concentrates wealth pretty much instantly makes you a successful, even celebrated American. And while the Colvin brothers and politicians are being publicly criticized across the internet, for our wealthy elite, more than likely that will be the extent of it. When we tell the stories of our wealth, no one says, “I cheated. I lied. I withheld. I abused. I took advantage of their desperation.” That is not the story Americans like to hear or tell about success.  

It is often a survival technique of the disadvantaged to look at models of power for replication. The Colvins specifically may not be disadvantaged, but they certainly are compared to Loeffler and Burr. I would venture to say everyone reading this is more of a Colvin. Price gougers among us are easy to access and therefore palatable targets for our anger. Will Burr resign? Will this hurt Loeffler’s election campaign in November? Will either of them donate any of the profits they’ve gained from our global pandemic? What are they doing to ensure supplies get to where they are needed most? If we are crabs in a bucket, it’s because our society has been designed to foster this mentality. We can choose differently. We can create a new narrative.

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happy birthday

I think he would be 38 today.

I like the shore better in winter. We’ll draw lilies in the sand if we can’t find any, and we’ll pretend some are orange with flecks of red. I won’t drink another pale ale tonight, though, even if it says its name is Phoenix.

 

The last time I checked, we were heading out into the snow-covered wilderness to escape a powerful group of men who were trying to assert permanent dominance by raping and impregnating us. Some of the women were not trust-worthy, more crab-like. They found my secret room.

It’s time to go.

don’t call me cupcake

A couple months ago I started regularly dreaming about situations that involved me trying to lock someone or something out only to find it was already inside or that it came inside anyway. On one occasion I was locking the door and as I backed away from it, a man lunged forward from the corner. On another occasion, I fussed with the locks and thought I had managed to lock the door, but it wasn’t actually locked and the man found me hiding in the bathroom. (The latter was much more common.)

It was usually in this house that I dream of often, although there are a few different houses, and they’re only common component is a secret passageway and room that I think I am the only one who knows about. I often used the passageway and room to escape and hide. Hiding and escaping has seemed to replace the not-really-locked doors scenario. I’m still trying to escape, but now I have to leave the house. If I stay in my secret room, I risk being found. In fact, I’ve been forced out a few times and caught once because I waited too long to leave.

Of course, last night I dreamed that I was scavenging for weapons and make-up, as in a video game, and decided to hide in a bathroom instead of going out to fight my enemies since I couldn’t find any ammo. Just orange mascara, red nail polish, and blue nail polish. Suddenly aroused, I started surveying the room for something to use to rub on myself. (The backside of a mens’ shaver, anyone?) When two women found me, instead of shooting me they brought me outside into their van. As I sat between them with bags of flour, sugar, and blocks of butter on my lap, they groped me and tried to convince me that my husband wouldn’t care if I had sex with them.

Mostly what I’m left with is the odd recollection of melted butter between my thighs.

I’m not entirely confident in my abilities to understand my dreams, but they have demonstrated on multiple occasions – especially the reoccurring dreams – that they are somehow important. They tend to show me things that I am not addressing, for one reason or another.

When I was about 9 years-old I made a decision not to tell my parents something important because I didn’t want to deal with the unintended punishment. I wanted to play outside and run around and have time alone. I didn’t want to be afraid all the time, like they appeared to be.

Surely, you understand why this is funny now.

Texas plays

It’s raining. It was raining in my dream this morning, too. There was a naked girl and I gave her a piggy back ride, running through a parking lot. The idea behind this was that if I carried her, people wouldn’t be able to see as much of her body. Men would stop leering. Her menstruation blood left an ink blot on the back of my sweater that looked like a voice recording. I couldn’t carry her, she kept sliding. People were staring. We ran.

Yesterday I spent a few hours working in my sketchbook, today feels like it will be similar, with some painting mixed in there. My studio and the kitchen are right next to each other with a swinging door separating both rooms from the rest of the apartment. Most of the time I prop the door open, but if I decide to close it, it’s like Rapunzel in her tower. And I cut off all my hair, so you can’t fucking come in.

Unless you bring me a soy dirty chai latte.

I’ve had many studios, including my bedroom years ago, which I turned into a studio when I got rid of my bed to make more room for painting. It’s tricky, figuring out how to make a space work. If it will work at all. This is one of the better studios I’ve had, despite it’s rather small size.

A bluejay christened it when he found himself trapped in here a couple months ago. In some cultures, poop is a good sign. I’ll take it.

it’s okay

I’m in the process of getting a website put together for my work, and while that process is going on, I’m also making work and collecting things for my projects. I wanted there to be a home for it all because, based on my experience, everything counts toward the “real” work. It may not be clear right away. I may hate what I’m currently working on. Everyone else might think it’s garbage. But I know how castles are built. Perhaps that’s presumptuous. I’m okay with that, too.

Mostly I’ll be posting pictures and seemingly harmless thoughts. Occasionally there will be a dose of self-promotion. This or that show. Sketches after the fact.

My mom told me and my husband a story once about when I was a little girl. She would secure me in my car seat and then after driving for a while, I would jump out between the two front seats and exclaim some happy ah-ha in the child language. I knew I wasn’t supposed to do it, but I did it often and enjoyed it every time.

This interaction strikes me as being very representative of my relationship to people and the sharing of information.

Just don’t swerve too much and it’ll be okay.