Dateline: June 21, 2020
The little lad in this photo is my dad, Frank K. Baker. He was maybe 4 or 5 (circa 1938) and proudly showing off the newspaper suit his mom made him for a parade in my little hometown of Fort Stockton, Texas. He was a walking billboard for the family business, the Fort Stockton Pioneer – the local paper that was published at the time by my Granddaddy George.
The printers’ ink got into Frank’s veins and he went on to take the reins of the Pioneer and become an award-winning publisher and president of the Texas Press Association. He was the quintessential small-town journalist, back when that actually meant something. It’s because of him that I am a working writer to this day.
Dad left us a year and a half ago after struggling bravely with Alzheimer’s for several years. He was 84. I still miss him every single day, and I can’t help but wonder what he would think about these crazy times – the coronavirus pandemic, the global Black Lives Matter movement, and the interconnectedness of it all. He was a gifted and insightful writer with a real knack for breaking down all sides of an issue. I’m sure he would have had a lot of worthwhile things to say about all this, if he were still here and if that cruel disease had not robbed him of his ability to communicate.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I hope you’re reading this, wherever you are, and it’s put a little smile on your face.
Black Lives Matter. But so do Native American Lives.
As I said, it’s pretty hard to write about COVID-19 without mentioning the global struggle to end racism and economic injustice. With the terrible murder of George Floyd and now the completely senseless shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, the focus has been – and rightfully so – on Black Lives. But the plight of Native Americans has really been on my mind lately, especially during this health crisis.
The Navajo Nation is one of the poorest and most disenfranchised populations in North America, which means COVID-19 is taking a terrible toll. In fact, the Navajos have the highest infection rate per capita compared to U.S. states. This BBC article puts it into perspective.
All of us need to be asking ourselves and each other why skin color and ethnicity are somehow factors in who will suffer the most during this terrible pandemic. Here’s something that puts a fine point on it: Most of the people we’ve seen in the U.S. who refuse to wear masks are white. In other words, the group with the BEST access to resources for surviving COVID-19 is the one that’s rejecting one of the EASIEST ways to keep it from spreading. Why is that?
I’m glad the Black Lives Movement has accelerated this conversation around the world, and I hope it continues.
Here’s a crowd-sourced site with ways to help the Navajos, with a link to a GoFundMe fundraising campaign.
Colombia: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It’s been a troubling few days here in Colombian COVID World. I’ll save the Good for last.
First, the Bad. This week, Colombia blew through the 60,000 mark on confirmed positive cases and passed 2,000 deaths. And we’ve reached almost 90 days of official nationwide quarantine (although it’s been several days more here in Antioquia). Health officials have said the country won’t reach its COVID-19 peak until at least August.
These accelerating numbers are frightening, but we’re trying to keep some perspective: Colombia still has some of the lowest numbers per capita among the Americas. And the slow slog to the peak in August is actually a good thing, since it means a flatter curve and less impact on the healthcare system. The charts below are from the Colombian health authority.
Next, the Ugly. Friday was the first of three IVA (sales tax)-free shopping days, which as it turns out fulfills a campaign promise of the president’s. It bears mentioning that he took office in January, well before the coronavirus came over the horizon. To get as many people into the stores as possible, the local government called off pico y cédula just for the day. (Pico y cédula has been in place since the early days of the national lockdown here, and it means that individuals can only shop on certain days, according to the last number of their national ID cards). So basically, Friday amounted to an open shopping day for everyone.
John and I thought we’d take advantage of a chance to go shopping together and not on our designated days. We walked up to our local mall but turned right around when we saw the long queue of people waiting to get in and the cars backed up for two blocks to get into the car park. And this was orderly compared to news reports from other malls, where the mobs of people fighting over goods rivaled any U.S. Walmart on Black Friday. WHAT WERE these officials thinking? I wonder how many new cases are going to pop up, just from this one event?
These scenes were in Bogotá, one of the epicenters of COVID-19:
Finally, the Good. Medellín is once again in the spotlight for its progressive handling of the virus and its relatively low case and fatality numbers. This AP story came out a week ago and has since been picked up by news outlets all over the world.
Also, in this article from Americas Quarterly, the head of Colombia’s COVID-19 response team describes the country’s strategies for testing, tracing, and isolation and also Colombia’s measures to bolster ICU capacity.
Colombia has done a good job in controlling the coronavirus so far. But our work is just getting started.
On the Light Side
It’s a safe bet the handshake is gone forever, but what type of greeting will replace it? Our friend Paul Drecksler at Travel is Life has been pondering that very question:
Interesting story. Glad some country is doing better than us where our Denier in Chief does everything he can to be the poster child on what not to do. If roses are red and violets are blue, then why can’t people be colors too?
That is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Let’s hope the momentum for change keeps building. Thanks for reading – hope you have a great day!
This brought a tear to my eye, but it’s so informative, as always! Mimi
Thank you, Mimi! I got a little teary writing it. I miss him.
Thanks for the piece about Native American Lives. It’s hard to know what to do and this helped! Also love that photo and the impact grandaddy and your dad had on you and all of us! ❤️
Thank you so much for reading, Les! I miss them both so much.
Hi, Susan and John – Your posts are always informative and honest while also being inspiring and thought-provoking.
Waving right back to you on this June 21 Father’s Day, and our National Indigenous People’s Day (where Canadians proudly celebrates the heritage, diverse cultures and achievements of our First Nations, Inuit and Métis).
Thanks so much, Donna. The way Canada celebrates its native people really is impressive – one more example north of the border the U.S. could learn from. Hope you’re having a lovely week!
I’ll start with your daddy – so sorry for your loss. It must have been really hard to watch him go through Alzheimers, which thankfully I didn’t have to do with either parent. I love that photo of him, and the way you’ve described him I too would like to know what he thinks of current affairs. Of course I have a million questions for my own beloved father but it’s far too late for that.
As an aside I’m always tickled by the way adult people from the US southern states refer to their fathers as daddy (or is it just the women?). In Australia one “grows out of” daddy which is regarded as something only a child would say. Daddy becomes dad by about the age of 11 or so, but I’ve heard enough of you now calling your dads daddy that all I hear is the love in it.
I’m just so saddened by racism. Here in Canada the indigenous people have been treated as badly as in the US, and are still marginalized though perhaps not quite as much as they once were. In Australia it’s the same. At least the genocide and slavery of the aboriginal people is now becoming more commonly known rather than being suppressed. Of course we were taught nothing about it in school.
Re covid I’m glad you are in a place that seems pretty safe. Good call not to try to shop that day! I think it’s gonna change the world. A lot.
Ha, I’m an old Southern (Texas) girl, so he’ll always be Daddy to me 🙂 And yes, it’s astounding how native people have been discriminated against and treated horribly all over the world. I just don’t know when or how skin color somehow became some sort of factor governing how human beings treat each other. It makes no sense (but nothing about racism does). Thanks, Alison – hope you have a lovely evening there in beautiful Vancouver!
Loved reading about your dad. Nothing warms my heart more than people who love to write, which I do. I also earned my bread by working for newspapers for years and now totally enjoy writing without pay through my blog, which I thank you for finding. Please be careful and stay well. Happy everyday.
Thank you so much for your kind comment! Stay well yourself, and thanks for visiting and reading 🙂
Lovely story and photo of your dad. Interesting how writing runs in the family — it’s the same with mine, starting with my grandmother. 🙂 I, too, have been thinking about Native Americans and their continual exclusion and mistreatment here in the US. A few years ago I attended the Gathering of Nations as a way to dive deeper into the history of North America. What an incredible experience. I learned so much ~ mostly about how terrible the plight of Native Americans has been in the context of US history. I hope the Black Lives Matter movement will also bring change for this marginalized population of fellow (and first) Americans.
Hi Kelly – sorry, thought I already replied 🙂 And thank you for your comment. I’ll bet your grandmother and my dad would have gotten along famously! And I could not agree more about the plight of Native Americans, the original Americans. Let’s hope the BLM movement brings greater equality to all marginalized groups, whatever their color.
Love the picture of you dad, Susan. His influence shines through in your beautiful, thoughtful writing.
That IVA tax free shopping day doesn’t sound like a well thought out idea. But good to hear that Medellín remains in the spotlight for its handling of the virus.
Great video from Paul. I’ve been using the Thai Wai ever since we visited Thailand and I still find myself doing an occasional Japanese Bow picked up from the time I went to school there back in the day.
Thank you so much, dear amiga! Yes, I think they realized what a huge SNAFU that IVA day was. There are to be two more of them, and they’re going to be a lot more careful. We’ve had a big uptick in cases here and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a factor. That video from Paul is fun, isn’t it? Hugs from John and me to you and the Captain!
Such a sweet story about your father, but I can’t imagine trying to fashion a little suit out of newspaper! And, a hometown newspaper, that’s classic.
Glad to hear all is well with the two of you. It’s an extraordinary time we are living through. Life here in the US is … well, let’s just say all eyes are on November and hoping for a blue wave. Can’t fathom any other outcome.
Ha, I know – a newspaper suit doesn’t sound very comfortable to me, but I guess a five-year-old wouldn’t care much 🙂 Thank you for reading. It’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on in the U.S. Agreed, a blue wave is critical – but so many big crises will have to be address right away. All we can do is hope for the best. Stay safe yourself 🙂
So, writing is in the genes 🙂
Nice to know a little about your father. Though you miss him, it’s good that he did not see the bleak Covid World.
I have stopped keeping count of the numbers here in my city of Bangalore in India. Everything has opened up and cases are spreading like wild fire.
The alternative to Handshakes is informative and interesting 🙂
Thanks so much for reading! Yes, things do seem to be pretty out of control with COVID all over the world. All we can do is keeping trying to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe. All the best to you there in beautiful Bangalore!
You take care too and be safe 🙂
Estimates are between 15 to 50% of people in the Navajo Nation have no water. Shocking and shameful.
That statistic fills me with despair. There is no excuse, in the world’s richest country. Shameful indeed.