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Friend of mine in Iowa is a home healthcare nurse. She was telling me recently the state is being slammed with the trifecta of covid, RSV, and influenza with case numbers sharply on the rise.

“And not just those but rotavirus and norovirus too,” she added. “Covid just weakened us up for this.”

That’s true enough. I have a cousin who complains to me about catching covid over and over. She’s personally up to five times being stricken with it herself. She’s got eye and heart issues now as a result, but she still won’t get vaccinated because “that’s poison”. As if being disabled in her early 50s is a preferred outcome. But, she was raised to believe in literal magic, so she was fertile ground for the conspiracy theories her daughter filled her head with.

All the research says wearing a mask cuts your risk of getting infected in the first place. The better the mask, the less the risk. She wouldn’t need necessarily to get vaxxed, but she’s addicted to shopping and going to bars and wineries. Vaccination and masking would make these hobbies of hers less risky but she’d rather get sick and then brag about how tough she is after she’s recovered.

It’s worth noting that each recovery has been twice as long as the last one.

I started masking in April of 2020 and except for a brief week during our federal election last summer, I haven’t stopped masking in public spaces. I am seldom the only one but there aren’t many maskers anymore.

People I know generally don’t mask out and about even though they tell me they are tired of getting sick, and they know masking would alleviate this issue.

The real reason people won’t mask is the same reason everyone wore the same brand name shoes or jacket when they were kids. Peer pressure. We never outgrow the need to fit in. Even if it’s harmful to us. People experience almost acute discomfort if they are perceived as different and they are quite susceptible to subtle, and not so, negative feed back. Even from strangers.

I don’t care much for negative feedback but very often over the course of my life, negative feedback has had the opposite of its intended affect on me. It makes me dig in and fight back. Passive aggressively for the most part. I don’t go to the mattresses for no very good reason. But I won’t knuckle under if I know I am right. And on masks, I know I am right.

Masking, along with good air filtration and ventilation of indoor spaces plus distancing would very likely cut viral spread of airborne diseases. Throw in some basic hand and surface washing and we could be golden right now. I am afraid, however, we are going to watch a lot of children needlessly suffer, and perhaps die, instead.

This is on us for buckling and giving into our fragile feels when we needed to be a whole hell of a lot stronger.

Winter is always coming when you live in the north, and it’s still a surprise. Every year, the first snow blankets the landscape and like magic, I forget what not winter looks like. The world is just white and frozen, and it feels as though it has always been so. Green and leaves are not even memories because that’s how deep winter penetrates.

I have ever mentioned that I hate winter? It wasn’t always so. As a child, I loved snow. Maybe it’s part of being born in a winter month or maybe it’s just that winter is so easy when you aren’t responsible for adulting while enduring it. Being an adult certainly killed the joy that was winter when I was young.

When I was ten, I raced outside every night after supper to play in the snow. Sledding until my corduroys were frozen stiff and my mittens were crusted with ice. It’s a wonder I never suffered from frostbite.

During the pandemic, I regained a bit of that winterish outdoor joy. I walked in the snow every day. Properly bundled, of course. Perhaps it was the lack of worldly obligations that made it more delightful? Like when I was a kid? I was not compelled to be anyone. Risk anything on icy roads. It was snow day after snow day.

Now that the powers that be have declared the pandemic over (though the evidence suggests that is more than just wishful thinking) there is pressure to risk when we should stay put.

My elderly self is not as winter hardy (or foolish) as my ten year old self. A fall would likely break something. Thinner skin less likely to weather a bout with frostbite.

I need a place to winter now where winter isn’t a hazard, but I am afraid snow-birding is not a thing in this “post” pandemic world for those of us who don’t think as magically as others.

I have pretty low hopes for America. Latest polls say the House of Representatives will turn over to the GOP and that means Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. Oh my god, what a conspiracy driven revenge fest that’s going to be. They are already talking about impeaching Biden though they don’t know what they will be charging him with yet. I’m sure that will go well.

The US Senate might actually tip 51 to 49 in favour of the Democrats. Worst case scenario, however is status quo, which is still a Dem held Senate. This means whatever QAnon nonsense the House gets itself up to can’t go anywhere because the Dem Senate will simply block it. That’s not great for Americans because there is actual work to do and nothing is going to get done. It will be Obama’s second term all over again. Americans love stalemated government when they truly need progress and majority rule when they can give conservatives and libertarians a blank cheque to fuck them over. It’s astounding how much suffering they will accept if it means people they hate suffering even more. The American dream in reality.

Among my family and friends, there is a fairly even split between those who’ve stopped voting, those who vote Democrat, and those whose not terribly hidden misogyny and homophobia (throwa bit of racism in there too) keeps them voting Republican. I’d say racism was the biggest driven this year, as it has been since Obama won, but transphobia and Roe V Wade narrowly edged it out for the moment.

I have been warning my friends for years that the US was sliding quickly into a kobayashi maru, but they simply don’t want to deal with it. Covid accelerated it even more than electing Trump did. This is bad for the world. It’s terrible for Canada given that we share a completely unprotected border with them.

Someone on Twitter (no, it hasn’t imploded and disappeared in a supernova yet but that’s coming), is speculating we are heading into a lost decade. I agree. The next decade is going to be very hard and what does (or doesn’t) happen will set the stage for the future our grand-kids may, or may not, have.

Anyway, happy US election eve. No one country should have this much impact on the world. Particular one with a population that is so very small. But here we are. Good luck to all of us.