Pandemic Journal: Trouble in the Heart Land

No words black3

As if a pandemic wasn’t enough, there’s more.

This week, two more deaths, mothers of friends who both died horrific Covid deaths, alone – one after a physician declined to test her and sent her back home to isolate. Turns out, he sent her home to die.

I delivered yet another care quilt. There aren’t enough tears or enough quilts to assuage the unrelenting hemorrhaging.

There is overwhelming grief in so many families as the number ticks up to and passes 109,000 deaths in this country. 5890 people have died of Covid in the US in the past seven days, and 1500 just yesterday.

It’s not stopping and it’s not over. Not even close.

And yet, I observe people in public, walking around in stores, many with children, with no masks for anyone.

They may be “done with Covid” as one t-shirt proclaimed, but mark my words, Covid is not done with us yet.

My friend’s mother’s death occurred after a family member infected her on Mother’s Day weekend, and now her husband, my friend’s father, has it too. So, killing Grandma just got very real for this family, not just a platitude people think is meant to scare them into compliance with something as horribly personally invasive as wearing a face mask.

Once it’s too late, it’s too late. There is no redo.

As my friend said, “We would do anything, absolutely anything, to bring her back.” She explained, in detail, her mother’s horrific death, alone. I desperately wanted to put my hands over my ears and block it out, but my friend had to live it, and her mother had to die it, so the least I could do was listen to it. My friend is suffering too.

She said, “All we had to do was NOT visit her, or wear masks, and everyone didn’t. I didn’t press the issue. It seemed like it was OK – and now she’s dead. I’ll never forgive myself.”

And now, with the focus shifted to what borders on a national emergency, the importance of masks, social distancing and other prevention measures has retreated to a much less visible back burner.

Trouble in the Heart Land

There are few times in my life that I’ve been left entirely without words, bereft of inspiration. This day, this past week, is that time. So please forgive no DNA article this week.

I. Just. Can’t.

Furthermore, I feel that publishing about genealogy right now is disrespectful of the gravity of what this nation, and we as citizens, are facing. I’m not referring solely to the pandemic.

With the unrelenting pandemic, mounting deaths, unemployment, dams breaking in Michigan causing thousands to be evacuated, their homes destroyed, and then the horrific death of George Floyd last week and resulting violence – many of us have been pushed beyond the limits of our personal emotional endurance.

Not only that, but life’s “regular” frustrations and challenges continue too, complicated sometimes by our new reality, in addition to these added stressors.

It’s almost impossible to discuss this situation without an injection of politics, but I’m going to, because right now, the toxicity of politics is fueling all of these fires.

These “problems” belong to everyone, regardless of their politics, because we will all suffer the consequences – good or bad.

I am strongly, with every ounce of my being, opposed to what I saw happen to George Floyd in Minneapolis. I’m opposed as well to the system that allows that to happen to anyone.

Secondarily, I’m heartsick to see our cities and property within those cities burned and looted. Many of those mom-and-pop businesses were barely surviving Covid, and may not survive at all now.

Not only is that behavior unacceptable in and of itself, but it also distracts from and diminishes the message of non-violent protesters, whose voices clearly need to be heard – because obviously change wasn’t going to happen otherwise.

Opportunistic looting and violence detract attention that should be focused on George Floyd’s death and the cumulative situation and actions across days, months, years, and decades that allowed and caused this day to arrive.

George Floyd’s homicide was a horrific human rights violation that we have all now seen, from several, indisputable angles thanks to readily available video technology.

And yes, it just so happens to have occurred while the US is a tinder box, in the middle of a pandemic with record unemployment and the most toxic, divisive, political climate of my lifetime. Everyone is on edge and many are frustrated and angry for any variety of reasons. All it took was a spark and the result is a explosive fire stoked with gasoline.

Having said that, I also feel compelled to say that not all police officers are like the man, men, whose names I won’t utter, that murdered George Floyd.

My son is an officer, and so are my friends, both black and white, male and female, and I know first hand that the majority of officers choose to serve and protect and do so honorably. Those officers are horrified too, and right now, many officers are being targeted with violence because of their uniform, both on and off duty, along with their families, which is also wrong.

The difference this time, in Minneapolis, with George Floyd’s murder, is that with multiple public videos, there is no question about what happened before or during the encounter. The “resisting arrest,” excuse falls short, because one can’t “resist” very effectively after being handcuffed face down. After being restrained, there is no need to be “held down” for another 10 minutes by 3 men until the very life-breath is squeezed out of you.

We, the public, don’t have to try to figure out who to believe this time, because we can see the situation unfolding with our own eyes, watching every horrific second, for nearly 10 minutes in total, as even bystanders begged the officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck to stop and an EMT repeatedly asked to check his pulse. Yet, that officer continued compressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes as George repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, called for his mother near the end, and finally, begged the officer not to kill him. Then, the officer continued for almost another 3 minutes after George lost consciousness. There is absolutely no possible justification.

George Floyd died, face down in the street, at the hands of 4 (now former) officers, in the full light of day, in front of a crowd, nonchalantly – like this was nothing out of the ordinary and happens every day.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s because it does.

I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know.

We need answers.

We need an impartial investigation.

Justice needs to occur.

Along with change.

Not just for George Floyd, but for all of the George Floyds in the future – regardless of the color of their skin.

The next George Floyd could be your father, son, brother, spouse, uncle…

We need to do better, as a society.

As humans.

Not just in Minneapolis.

We need to find ways to unite and not divide.

To heal these freshly re-opened wounds so that the next generation, and the next, don’t have to replay this scenario over and over again.

I thought we were past this as a society. We aren’t.

We need to provide the same protections for all Americans, all humans, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, sex or gender – whether or not they look or act the same as or different from us.

People should not be demonized or vilified because of the color of their skin, their sex, or anything about them that they do not have control of. People must be held accountable for behaviors they do control.

Racism and systemic discrimination are what needs to die. Not just related to policing, but in each and every one of our hearts. That’s where evil lives and takes root.

We Are in This Stew Pot Together

I had hoped that this pandemic might convey a much-needed message that indeed, we, all of us, ARE IN THIS TOGETHER, because we are.

“This” isn’t just a pandemic, it’s life on this earth, and if we sanction and ignore crimes against any person or people unjustly, we ourselves become potential candidates for that same behavior when the tides turn one day.

We or another family member could be the next George Floyd – black, white, Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, female, whatever – fueled by hate and rage. It has happened before and it’s up to us to be sure it never happens again.

Or our mother, grandmother or another family member could be the next to die because we failed to take what really amounts to minor, inconvenient, pandemic precautions. Because we simply CHOOSE not to.

These deaths are all unjust, unnecessary, and preventable.

We just have to “want to” badly enough to do what’s necessary. Before someone dies, not after.

In reality, both situations boil down to respect and acting respectful to others. Wearing a mask is simple, painless and easy. Officers may need to arrest a man, but they don’t need to kill him in the circumstances we saw. There are appropriate situations for deadly force, and that clearly wasn’t one.

Do unto others…

Remember that?

These aren’t other people’s problems; the responsibility belongs to each and every one of us – individually and personally.

There is no us-versus-them. There is only “us.” There is no “them.”

Don’t allow any of these three deaths to be wasted. They didn’t die peacefully, but their final chapter has not yet been written. That’s up to us. We can assure that their legacy serves a larger purpose – these deaths being catalysts for good, for doing better, for change.

Look in the mirror.

What actions are you taking?

We need to ask ourselves how each and every one of us can make a difference, and act, so there won’t be more.




50 thoughts on “Pandemic Journal: Trouble in the Heart Land

  1. Genealogy is deeply meaningful and how unfortunate to spurn it because of the troubled situation in the World. I am sorry you’ve made that decision.

  2. An absolutely beautiful expression of what so many of us feel, but have difficulty articulating. Thank you. And be safe.

  3. Thank you for your post, Roberta. It is beautifully expressive. Take care in these difficult times.

  4. Beautifully said, Roberta. So incredibly sorry for your friend. Your words and viewpoints CAN make a difference and remind us all what matters most. Take care of yourself.

  5. The reason that we learn history is to try to prevent the mistakes of the past. The same is true of our family history. Now is the time to look at where we are as a nation and decide where we want to go and the best way to get there. I have to believe that building bridges is far superior to destroying what generations have have fought to create.

  6. Beautiful! So very sorry for your friend. I think we are all suffering now, maybe at different levels, but we are suffering.

  7. Very well said Roberta and with great compassion! I agree, as much as I love genealogy, sometimes we have to pull our head out of the past and look around us as current world and personal events remind us all of the importance of our shared humanity and the crucial need to be better, show kindness, fairness and justice! As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said: “We must all learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly… I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.” Oh, and wear those masks!!

  8. I agree with you completely and wish I had the ability to express it as beautifully as you did. We are all in this together and as genetic genealogists we know that human beings are all 99.5% the same. We must look at our sameness not our differences. I too am saddening to hear of your friends loss, wearing a mask and staying away from elderly relatives seems a very small price to pay for their continued existence. Stay safe & healthy.

  9. My heart hurts. You have captured in words what so many of us are feeling. Wishing you all the best for your own surgery.

  10. Dear Roberta, I so feel with you! But even with all the trouble around and even more ahead, when looking at the world as a whole, I am so grateful for your brilliant gift to express your feelings in words – may it be genealogy or daily life. You clearly make that difference that you urge us to make ourselves!
    Take care, my friend!

    • Thank you. I was torn about saying nothing or writing an article. I didn’t want to just go silent without any explanation. Plus, I felt this was important to say.

      • This post is also a part of your own genealogy and ours collectively, something for future generations to look back on–all of it. COVID, the social injustices, the impact on you as an individual and as a member of society.

  11. Thank you Roberta. Your words helped pull together some of what I have been feeling. I hope that the country can survive this.

  12. I can’t stand what is going on in the world. You hit the nail on the head, and echo my thoughts, when you wrote “Do Unto Others”!!! Would anyone want to be treated like George Floyd or any of the hundreds of others who have been mistreated or out and out accosted because they look or walk or talk differently than us? Would anyone want their store to be ransacked and destroyed?

    Roberta, I am reading your words because I enjoy your genealogy posts. I am sorry that you felt the need to write these words, but am glad to have read them. I can only hope that everyone writing (and I am seeing it from all over, including the CEO of 23andMe) actually lives up to what they are saying and we actually do something meaningful about it for a change.

  13. Thank you so much, Roberta. What an incredible, heartfelt statement. We all need to do as you said. This is about us. It is incumbent on us to do the work to heal this country and our very souls. We are in risk of losing both if we do not.

  14. Agree 100% with your thoughts. Van Jones said something along the lines of “It’s not enough not to be racist. We need to be anti racist.” I couldn’t agree more! To that I would add that we need to be actively anti racist! We need to use our white privilege. When we see or hear racism (and we all do in our lives), we need to speak up and call it for what it is. We need to intervene when we see racist behavior. We need to demonstrate that racism won’t be tolerated no matter who’s involved. That’s how I’m going to show my support and try to help change things. That and voting out of office people that are part of the problem. Government officials (local and federal) that “go along, to get along.” They need to go!!

  15. No words. That’s what our prime minister chose as a response and the silence had more weight than any comment he could make.

    And the other message from North of the border is – racism, it happens here too – so we should keep the shaming to ourselves and look in the mirror first before judging.

    Finally : out of Africa, we are all out of Africa, the only difference between all humans is when it happened. So, that is my message for genetic genealogy this week. Since our ancestors were brothers and sisters, we are all one big family.

  16. Roberta, I’m so very sorry that COVID has touched you thru your close friendships.
    I thank you for standing up and saying what needed to be said about both the unnecessary deaths from the disease of COVID and from 1-4 individual’s criminal behavior under the guise of lawful justice resulting in George Floyd’s death.
    I plan to speak up whenever or wherever I can and without fail VOTE!!!!

  17. Thank you, Roberta. All this is so horrifying and disturbing, even to those of us who don’t live in the US.

  18. What I’m doing is contributing my entire “stimulus” check to food banks. And contributing discretionary funds to various candidates for the US Senate, including (so far) Hickenlooper of CO, Mark Kelly of AZ, Steve Bullock of Montana, and Amy McGrath of KY. More to come once primaries are held in ME, NC, and IA.

    However, I’m also still writing about genealogy. It seems to be the only for which I can muster my energy in between all the weeping fits.

    Thank you for calling out people who don’t wear masks.

  19. Wow! That’s powerful writing and so insightful, Roberta. I love reading your blogs about genealogy and you deserve a break from always coming up with new material.
    Your underlying care for others comes through in your genealogical writings. I am constantly amazed at your capacity to give your heart and soul to everything you do.
    You are an amazing woman!
    Thank you!

  20. Very well said, Roberta. We can and need to do better. This world isn’t large enough to allow the hatred and fear of differences to continue. I imagine a world where acceptance is primary, where this earth is valued, pollution is not allowed, we all live in peace.

  21. What is important for me is that this not be ended with demands, even results, for policing reformed. We, each one of us, must own that we carry racism in our hearts possibly unconsciously. I am an historian and I know how many centuries in England “racism” thrived. It wasn’t even signaled by pigment it was just “other” It was the Anglo-Saxons, the Celts, the Welsh, the Scots , the Irish, the Jews. It never stopped.

    • The Poles, the Slavs, the Indians and Pakistanis. It never stops. Brexit isn’t going to stop it either, but you have to believe that Brexit was substantially motivated by racism. Sigh.

  22. What is this “neck restraint” technique.
    When the person is already down and cuffed or zip tied?
    And leo’s are actually trained on this?
    Extremely dangerous.
    It resembles hanging while the arrested person is in a prone position.
    Execution without charges being brought and trail by jury.
    Better to tie a drugged person’s cuffs to a bumper, stand off and wait for a paddy wagon.
    ( of course outraged metro local crowds could compromise any situation like this)
    LEO’s must not have the tools and methods to successfully and safely deal with these situations without what has resulted in a form of deadly force.

  23. I’m sorry about your friend’s parents. We just can’t let down our guard with Covid…not yet.
    Thank you for standing up for police officers, and I hope your son stays safe. My husband is a retired police officer, and I worked with police officers in my last job. I am saddened about what happened to George Floyd, and even sadder that people thoughtlessly label all police officers as “abusive”. I do know that if enough people continue to treat our police officers with violence and disrespect, young people will no longer want that job. Who could blame them?

  24. Your words, Roberta, have deeply touched my heart. My friend in Washington lost her husband to Covid in March. It just about crushed me. My husband and I have just stayed in, ordering delivery of groceries when needed. Even as things open up we won’t be out much at all and we always wear a mask. It makes me so angry when people don’t. The whole situation resulting from the murder of Mr. Floyd is like a step back in time. I remember the fear felt when the 1967 riots were in Detroit. Then we had 1968 – another mess of a year. I truly believe that the vast majority of police officers are good people just trying to do the best they can. My late brother was a long-time officer for the city of Dearborn. In fact he was at the time the youngest Sargent the department had ever had. Tom was a true believer in de-escalating bad situations and he enjoyed teaching the younger officers how to do just that.
    Thank you for this post. I’m saving it to re-read when I need to. Take care and stay safe.

  25. Amen Roberta,
    You have the overwhelming agreement and support of all right thinking people. There are always the small minority of individuals with their own personal agendas or mental health issues who might disagree. Hopefully time and exposure to decent values such as those you express will perhaps alter their mindset.
    Best wishes from Scotland,

  26. Thank you for these words… We certainly are living in extremely difficult times. Praying things will settle down soon. Beautifully stated…thank you for sharing.

  27. Thank you for this post. I agree with you completely. I am very sorry about your friend’s mother, and all the other people who have died from this dreadful virus.

    I would like to stress that Mr. Floyd’s death is not just a racial problem. Any low income people of any race can be subjected to this, including the disabled, because it is almost impossible for them to afford legal representation to fight it, if they survive. Brutality is seen here, for whatever reason, including racial discrimination. Brutes can be anywhere. It is unfortunate that some of them gravitate to places of power, like police departments. Not all police or people of power are like this. The growing viciousness and brutality needs scrutiny wherever it is found.

    • This is related to genealogy, because we are also interested in the history of whatever time frame we are looking at. Today is future history.

  28. Through 30+ years of researching my family, I have increasingly become aware of how we are all one family and of the importance of a deep understanding of history. As a scientist, I am well aware of the role our biology plays – out tendency to be tribal and to let hormones run amok. In this rapidly changing world with all our new understanding of human biology and amazing technology, we must do better at bringing everyone along.

  29. We feel for you all, from the other side of the border. With this pandemic, everyone is stress out a little bit more than usual, triggered a little bit faster than usual. Job lost, loved one lost, live long business and saving in jeopardy, health care uncertainly and always the invisible enemy lurking around us. It easy to give in to our feelings and want to flip over the table in rage and quit.

  30. For many of us, genealogy also forces us to confront the darker side of our heritage, the legacy of slavery, of perhaps owning slaves, of fighting to preserve and expand slavery, and sometimes dying for “the cause”. My 3rd great-grandfather is buried at Rock Island Confederate Cemetery in Illinois, and several other ancestors also fought for the South. How do we react to this? Do we take pride or are we now ashamed? Is it “heritage not hate”, or both? Thank God I’m not descended from Nathan Bedford Forrest. But how do we handle this knowledge? I’ve thought of this for years now, and have personally come to accept my own obligation to eradicate any hint of not just racism but all xenophobia from my own thoughts. It admittedly takes a concerted effort as tiny bits of stereotyping try to creep in. Still, I owe it to my ancestors to persevere, to right the wrongs as best as I know how. So pull down those statues of slaveholders, and instead put up some to Nat Turner and John Brown who fought and died for freedom, not slavery. Thank you as always, Roberta.

  31. I am grateful for your comments, Roberta. They need to be said. As you probably know, but many do not, we are experiencing the “fruits” of evil and chaos. Many as individuals, families, society, churches, political groups, my “profession”, and nations have steadily over the past few years “voted God out” and “off the island”. Sometimes, we get what we ask for. When God backs away, true evil has authority to come in and reign over mankind. Self-worship, stealing, killing and destroying become the rule – not the exception. In the process innocent people are affected! Choices of individuals and entities have consequences. The actual facts of history bear this out many times over. At the moment, our nation “hangs in the balance”. It is difficult to watch, but some of us have seen it coming. Three groups have and are working together against our Nation’s existence as it was intended to be and it’s future success. – those deceived – those who act with truly evil intent, and – those who know the truth, but choose to remain silent when evil and educational opportunities present themselves.

    There is a way out, if we will pursue it. God has promised to heal our nations and lives, if we turn back to him humbly and ask his forgiveness. Every individual, entity, and nation must answer this question while we are in existence on this planet. Whose side are you on – God or Satan? Our personal choice will determine our future both now and in eternity. To be on God’s side involves a proper relationship to Him. As our creator and the King, we must come with respect and humility to ask for forgiveness for our sins and the sins of others in our nation. He loves mankind and longs to forgive. To be in right relationship is the requirement for being on God’s side, and included in His Kingdom. In a proper relationship with God, we learn what is truth, what is right and what is just. Outside of a “just war”, it should never be “ok” for any human being (no matter how “well-dressed”) to steal from, kill or destroy another human being or another person’s property – no matter what the characteristics of the person’s involved are. ( It is unthinkable that I watched as a leader stood in front of a burned, historical church to condemn this behavior of burning and the “media” and “the clergy” sided with the side of those doing the evil act.) Having said that, it should also be said that anyone who has done any of these and comes to God to truly ask for forgiveness, He will forgive these too.

    We are in a war for the heart and soul of this nation and there is not much time left. The enemy is unseen, but very real and his fruit is “evident”. It is emotional and draining. Nevertheless, we must go to God for forgiveness, healing and restoration for our future and future generations. He is the only one who can bring that kind of healing to these issues we are facing. Let us be silent no more -call out to God and peacefully stand against the destruction of what is right and just and good. Let us properly embrace history and teach it as it happened with the proper lessons learned from it about what is right and truth. Let us restore honor to those to whom it is due! -those who have and are defending what is right and true by their actions and those who are rightly enacting justice. And, let us call out evil when it behaves by stealing, killing and destroying and insist it has no place among us.

    I stand with my forefathers – several of whom served in the Rev. War and no doubt knew and used the slogan No King but King Jesus”, as well as those who engraved on the Muller property, “Fear God and keep His commandments”.

    So glad you wrote what you did, Roberta. I appreciate the work you do. It is important to preserve our past, to learn from it and to be able to pass on to the next generations what is truly important and a heritage to learn from. Thoughts and prayers for you and the many others with losses, as well as for our Nations!

    Brenda S.

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