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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

"The world is too much with me"

To modify William Wordsworth's poem a bit, for just my singular usage.  Almost every day, I feel that the modern world is too much. No, I don't want to go back to the 1950s, when a long-distance call was a big deal – but it seems to me that creation of academic departments of communication in fact has lessened communication.  Or something.  Most of the young people I encounter on the phone are polite and sound sincere, but they seem to be largely incompetent.  That is if you can get a human, after passing through countless menus, messages about COVID, privacy, and a bunch other things that are not the reason for your call.


I just spent thirty minutes of my life that I'll never get back, trying to track down a $350 item that I ordered online.  I got an e-mail saying it had been delivered, but it had not.  I called the number on the e-mail and was told to call another number and after numerous transfers, lost connections, and the worst hold "music" I've ever heard, I was referred to the same number I'd called originally.  This time I got a different person who referred me to another person who didn't answer the phone or use voice mail.


You know the drill.  There's no reason for me to rage on with you.  But seriously, I think that robotic phone systems are causing mental health problems – and maybe even heart attacks and strokes for people with high blood pressure who lose it when they encounter such "customer service."  It may be indeed be a public health crisis.  Businesses love to be trendy:  let's make it trendy to just answer the phone.  Ala LaGaceta.


One more bit of rant.  When Instacart cancelled my Publix order without explanation or apology, their e-mail also said that I could expect a refund of my $200+ within 5-10 business days.  This amounts to an interest-free loan to them without, of course, the permission of the lender.  Someone should investigate.




It was lovely to see Ron DeSantis address rising sea levels and call it "climate change," words that literally were forbidden under the previous Republican governor (and sadly, current senator) Rick Scott.  I hope DeSantis is sincere and especially that he listens to the experts – an attitude that he has not demonstrated in other areas, particularly the pandemic.  We'll see.  The point I want to make, though, is that Florida's coastlines have been shrinking for a long time, and perhaps we should acknowledge Mother Nature in our planning and consider simply letting her take her course.  She will, anyway.


My book on Florida history based on women's experience (They Dared to Dream, University Press of Florida) begins: "Florida is going, not coming.  Our fragile peninsula used to be almost twice as big, extending more than a hundred miles father west into the Gulf of Mexico.  As the last Ice Age ended and northern glaciers melted, the sea level rose in the Atlantic and the Gulf, covering the land.  The change, of course, was slow and not perceptible to our prehistoric ancestors.  Yet it occurred recently enough in time for divers to have found evidence of prehistoric humans on undersea ledges on the continental shelf of Florida's west coast.  As the science of oceanography grows, we should learn more about this era when our peninsula was larger."


So I hope the governor asks for advice not only from engineers and technocrats, but also includes oceanographers and archeologists and anthropologists.  We should stop thinking in the short term and listen to what nature is trying to tell us.  If I were young, I'd buy land in interior Canada.




Perhaps related to climate change or maybe not:  My flowers are way behind schedule this year.  A month after Christmas, a large poinsettia is only beginning to turn red, and a small one hasn't done a thing.  Kalanchoes that usually are in bloom in December have stayed in the bud stage for weeks.  I asked my daughter at Christmas to find us a cyclamen, but none were for sale.  I guess all of these plants still are waiting for winter.


Also sort of related to climate change and human evolution:  facial hair.  It doubtless is an atavistic remnant of a time when men were more closely related to apes – and did you notice that almost all of the guys who invaded the Capitol had shaggy beards?  This is a reversal from the 1960s.  Hubby, who had been clean-shaven in college and (of course) in the Army, deliberately grew a beard when we joined protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War.  I remember him saying of his facial hair, "It shows which side I'm on."  The idea was encapsulated in the musical, "Hair."  Now it's the other side that is hairy.  They're slow.


Also only semi-related, but a thought I've not seen elsewhere.  Do you know anyone who has had a simple cold or flu this year?  Usually I could name a dozen friends and family members, not to mention strangers.  The thought occurred to me when I took my risky trip Up North at Christmas.  There were no sniffles or coughs or anything similar among the hundreds of people at airports, nor among anyone on the ground, not even in the 24-hour clinic where I went after injuring my foot.  Maybe we should wear masks every winter.


And children seem happier and are better behaved these days.  A bunch of kids were in the airports, on their way to visit grandparents at Christmas.  They all were wearing their masks, pulling their tiny suitcases, and usually toting a doll or stuffed animal.  They followed the protocol, and I never saw one aggressively disobey.  There wasn't even any crying on the plane, which is unusual with babies aboard.  I talked with a cousin my age about this observation, and neither of us could remember a holiday when some kid didn't get a spanking, usually well deserved.  Fights between cousins were routine, and crying was frequent.  We decided that the difference is because people are having fewer children, and therefore each child gets more parenting.




The New York Times recently ran a full-page ad sponsored by about fifty individuals and feminist organizations.  I didn't recognize most of the names, but they included actor Charlize Theron, an Academy Award winner, and Comedy Central's Amy Schumer, a Peabody Award winner.  The ad read, "Dear President Biden: You know this well:  Moms are the bedrock of society.  And we are tired of working for free.


"We need a Marshall Plan for Moms – now.  Like the original Marshall Plan of 1948, this plan would be a financial investment from the ground up.  [The 1948 policy, named for General George Marshall, rebuilt a devastated Europe after World War II.]  COVID has decimated so many of our careers.  Two million of us have left the workforce, at a rate of four times that of men in September alone…  This is a national crisis.  You didn't create this problem, but your administration has an opportunity to fix it.


"In your first 100 days, we're asking you to: (1) establish a Marshall Plan for Moms.  (2) Implement a short-term monthly payment to moms depending on needs and resources.  (3) Pass long-term overdue policies like paid family leave, affordable child care, and pay equity.  Sound crazy?  It's not.  It's time to put a dollar figure on our labor.  Motherhood isn't a favor and it's not a luxury.  It's a job.  The first 100 days are an opportunity to define our values.  So let's start by valuing moms."


A Marshall Plan for Moms.  How about it, pro-life people who say they value children?  Let's take this shot.  The 1948 Marshall Plan went a long way to creating a peaceful economy in Europe, and the GI Bill supported millions of veterans and their families after World War II.  The 1960s War on Poverty in the US also made a documented difference.  Indeed, I am a veteran of that war.  My mother looked into it, found that we qualified, and it gave our family affordable housing.  Let's cast bread on the water again.  Please tell your members of Congress that you support the Marshall Plan for Moms.


Also related to children and a fun thought, too:  Do you know who represents former President Trump in Congress?  Lois Frankel, the former mayor of West Palm Beach.  She has been a trustworthy and even fiery liberal for a long time, and I have to wonder how Trump feels about her being his rep.  I wrote about Lois in the Florida history cited above.  It was published in 2015, but I quoted the Miami Herald of June 6, 1989.  The scene was set in Tallahassee, where she was working to increase state spending on children:


"Lois Frankel has a big bag of buttons…that say in crayon script "Kids Are Special People…"  She's wearing a lawyersque black suit as she circulates through the Florida House of Representatives, toting a printed list of lawmakers' names…on the latest bill she's shepherding.  She's the majority whip, lining up the votes one by one, ignoring no one, not even the most recalcitrant rural Republicans.  Her hands are duel word processors… Another box checked off.  She moves on."


She did and she does.  And The Donald will move to the golf course.  Until the prosecutors catch him.



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