This past Sunday, I was on “Joanne’s Healing Within” with my good friend and Reiki Healer Rev. Joanne Angel Barry Colon to talk about ways to make two careers work. Since 2017, I’ve been juggling two careers – real estate and writing/editing. Only in the past year have I really figured out how to make both work. I shared some tips, ideas and what I’ve learned on Joanne’s show.
Don’t forget to Like, Share and Comment on the show to qualify for a free raffle prize!
The President Must Signal It Is Ok To Return To Normal If That Is Your Choice
My Fellow Americans,
When I took office eleven months ago, I had hoped that this Christmas would be one in which we are back to normal, with the pandemic and the disruption it caused to our lives behind us. Unfortunately, SARS-COVID 2 has proven to be a relentless foe. Despite our best efforts, including the successful deployment of vaccines, which have inoculated more than 200 million Americans, we are having to contend with even more contagious variants of this pathogen that we had known were possible, but hoped would not come to fruition.
I know a lot of you out there are scared, angry and/or perhaps frustrated. You are worried about your loved ones and yourselves. You are worried about your businesses, your jobs, and your future. You are worried for your children and their education and health. I understand how terrifying this is, a pandemic that has killed 800,000 of our fellow Americans seemingly without end. But I am speaking to you tonight to tell you, you no longer need to fear this virus in the same way you did 21 months ago.
I want to assure you all that despite these setbacks caused by the Delta and Omicron variants, we are not back to square one. This is not March 2020. We have come quite far from those dark days of overcrowded hospitals and mass graves. There is no reason to panic, there is no reason to be afraid. We are no longer dealing with a novel virus. We have learned a lot and made a lot of progress since early 2020.
For the vast majority of us, any infection from COVID-19 will be mild and perhaps asymptomatic from here on out. There is always a small risk of severe illness and death and there always will be, but going forward, according to many experts I talk to, the risk to those of us who got vaccinated and have some level of immune knowledge is very small. It is not enough, in my opinion, to warrant extreme restrictions on daily life.
I know there are plenty of public health experts out there will are calling for new restrictions and telling people vaccines alone can’t get us out of this, but I am a realist. I know that the level of fatigue in this country, and the lesser virulence of the new mutation has zapped whatever support for further restrictions exist. But let me assure you, I will not call for or support any new lockdowns or shutdowns. I will not call for any more mask mandates or travel bans. I will especially not call, and I promised to even oppose, anymore school closures. Our children have sacrificed enough of their vital education time to this and remote options are not acceptable beyond an extremely short time period. Vaccination is our way out of this pandemic, and it is the only realistic way. I do not expect wide compliance to any future restrictions, not to any level that would make them effective, and I will not waste federal resources enforcing them hoping for a different outcome.
The vast majority of Americans have made tremendous sacrifices to help slow the spread and save lives, especially older Americans who have been forced to spend some of their golden years in isolation. I am troubled by the reports of increasing rates of dementia and Alzheimers in patients who have been isolated and the speed in which these diseases have progressed. Many have died of non-COVID reasons spending their final days isolated away from their families, only able to see them through a screen or a window. Millions of hardworking Americans have had to shutter their business and fall into debt in order to keep up strict social distancing and quarantine regulations. They have seen their livelihoods ripped from them; everything they built just wiped away. I cannot ask them to sacrifice more. Our nation’s young people have had to endure several worldwide crises in their short lifetime and have suffered more than perhaps any generation since the Greatest Generation.They have survived two economic catastrophes, a terrible job market, high energy prices, high housing costs, low wages, war and gun violence. Because of this, they are well behind where their parents and grandparents were at their age. I am troubled by the reports of increased suicide, depression and drug addiction in our young people stemming from the shattering of social bonds because of the pandemic.They have sacrificed enough. Children in this country have seen their schooling disrupted, often for unreasonably and unacceptably long durations. Education and social connections are vital to a child’s development and I cannot accept depriving children of these things almost two years in. When we first stared down this virus in early 2020, the benefits from closing businesses and schools and limiting travel outweighed the negatives, but since then, these trade offs have shifted. I believe now the negatives far outweigh the benefits. As President, it is my job to make tough decisions for the good of society as a whole, not just for our economic and physical health, but also for the greater good of society.
I cannot in good conscious, despite many infectious disease experts and activists demanding it, ask Americans who have done their part to continue the sacrifice indefinitely, especially not to protect those who made the choice to forgo vaccination. You have earned your right to return to your pre-pandemic lives, if you should feel safe and confident enough to do so. For those who may still be concerned, the CDC will continue to offer guidance on what steps you can take in order to feel comfortable resuming your normal life.
I know some of you feel that many in our nation has not made the same sacrifices others have in order to control this virus and that is why our death toll is so high. It is true, we did not do the strict lockdowns and contact tracing other countries did, and we saw many American flout mitigation rules and protest them, but most Americans did what was asked of them and those countries that implemented stricter protocols are not clear of the pandemic anymore than we are. Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and South Korea, despite early successes utilising non-pharmaceutical interventions like lockdowns and contact tracing are struggling with COVID again right now, Australia has ruled out anymore lockdowns.
We must accept that the earlier mitigation measures that we endured may have prevent hospital collapse and may have prevented deaths at the time, but they did nothing to end the pandemic and will do nothing to end it now. We are opening a new chapter in our history with this virus, one in which we have the medical tools to live alongside it.
To help the transition to post-pandemic life, I am issuing an executive order that will allow Americans access to free at-home rapid tests and am asking Congress to authorise a paid family leave program to allow workers time to convalesce when they are ill away from workplaces. I will flood federal resources to any area of the country that may see a surge in hospitalisations and I will invoke the Defense Production Act in order to mass produce COVID-19 treatments which I expect to be approved by the FDA in the coming weeks.
COVID will likely be with us for eternity. That does not mean the war is lost. Vaccines, therapeutics and treatments have and will continue to render the threat from this disease as minimal. We will aways have sone lives lost from this disease as we have and continue to have with others, and those deaths are indeed tragic, but will be minimised thanks to amazing advances in medical science.
As we move forward, let us take time to remember all those we lost during this pandemic, as well as all the heroes in the hospitals and on the field who helped save lives and keep us safe, those in the food industry from the meatpackers to the grocery workers to the delivery drivers who kept us fed and warm.
I want to leave you tonight with a story. During the course of this year, I became acquainted with Brian and Stephanie Borgestede, a young couple from Pleasantville, New York who are raising their three young kids, ages 5, 3 and 1, close to their parents and grandparents. They looked forward to having big family Christmases with their families so their children can experience the type of love and community Brian and Stephanie were raised with. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, they did not have a big family Christmas last year. Stephanie said on her Facebook page on December 24, 2020 that “we are foregoing our big family Christmas this year for the good of everyone’s health and wellbeing and we know this sacrifice will lead to happier Christmases ahead.” They looked forward to a big family holiday this year. Sadly, in March, Brian was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given six months to live. Though he fought a fierce battle, his increasingly frail condition meant there were no family gatherings this year. Brian died on December 2, having never had the chance to celebrate the big family Christmas he and Stephanie had wanted.
Cancelling or postponing big life events for a few weeks or months is acceptable to most people, but for years, you are not promised tomorrow and the risk of them never happening is real, and while many of you may feel that weddings, birthdays, graduations, vacations to Disney, trivia nights, theatre tickets, concerts or Christmas gatherings are trivial things, for many of your fellow Americans, they are a big part of the lives we are trying to save. For what is a life is it is not lived, it’s just a mere existence and I will not ask any American to just exist, I want you to live. So today, I am telling you, it’s ok to live.
Thank you and may God bless you and your loved ones and may God Bless the United States of America.
By Relying On Unsustainable Measures, We Ignored Both History And Reality In The World’s Most Vulnerable Nation
In June, 1918, in a crowded apartment block in the port city of Mumbai, India – then called Bombay – a crackling chorus of coughs echoed through the halls and streets. Several young people had fallen ill with a fever, chills and uncontrollable coughs, and that number seemed to double, triple and quadruple in the coming days. Within weeks, the malady spread across the city like a raging fire, the Indian people like thick trees and timber of a parched forest. By the end of the summer, the entire country, then the most populated territory in the sprawling British Empire, seemed to succumb to the viral conflagration.
India, the second most populated country on Earth and home to some of the most densely-populated places on Earth, was the part of the world hardest hit by the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. It is unknown just how many people died, as many who were taken by the flu were rushed away to the funeral pyres before they could be counted. Estimates put the death toll at anywhere from 12 to 15 million people; five percent of the population of India at the time, and a quarter of all fatalities worldwide from that pandemic.
The pandemic’s effect on India is often forgotten about, overshadowed by its terrible toll in Europe – especially in Spain which gave the illness its name – and the United States, but the Subcontinent suffered far worse than anywhere else. For weeks bodies piled in the streets and clogged the Ganges River; British occupiers put entire cities on lockdown, leaving Indians to die in their homes as the flu ravaged apartment block after apartment block. A young Mahatma Gandhi fell ill from the flu, and the feelings of abandonment and ill-treatment by the British helped spur the uprising that led to India’s independence a generation later.
Knowing that India, which to this day suffered regular epidemics of diseases practically nonexistent in the Western World, was hardest hit by the 1918 pandemic, the historical plague that has inspired much of our reaction to COVID-19, the questions we must ask ourselves is; why and how? Why did we not see a massive outbreak of a severely contagious novel virus as a catastrophe-in-waiting for India and take the past year in which India had been spared to prepare accordingly? How did we let this happen? Italy, England, America, even Brazil might have taken us all by surprise, but India was always vulnerable to disease.
The answer, I believe, comes from the moralization of COVID-19 mitigation measures this past year. At the start of the pandemic, India enacted a strict lockdown, which was credited with preventing a massive epidemic there. After the lockdown lifted, India had a smaller epidemic late summer into mid-autumn last year, but one that was managed, unlike the massive spikes that brought hospitals to near collapse in Italy, Spain, UK, United States, France, Mexico and Brazil. The reason India was spared up until now isn’t quite clear, but many experts appeared to give credit to the Indian people themselves. As recently as February, experts like Yaneer Bar-Yam, a longtime studier of pandemics and an advocate for #ZeroCOVID, which aims to get global consensus on restrictions and policies he argues would eradicate SARS-COVID 2, praised India for its pandemic response. Bar-Yam credited the nation with utilizing “impressive community case finding, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, communications, massive health and volunteer effort, lockdown, support” among other ideas, to reduce the country’s caseload to then only 10,000 a day. Six weeks after he made that post, India was seeing nearly 20 times as many cases a day and the chart of the daily case growth was almost a vertical line. in February, Bar-Yam praised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who politically is aligned with COVID failbros President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former President Donald Trump of the United States, for his leadership. Now, just two months later, Modi is seen with the same level of disdain by experts around the world as Bolsonaro, Johnson and Trump were when their countries were being strangled by the virus.
So what happened? Well experts like Bar-Yam suggest India had succeeded due to adherence to mitigation measures, but then stopped. For a year, the Indian people wore masks, social distanced and observed recommended practices that experts refer to as “smart,” “common sense” and “tried and true.”
In the first days and weeks of the Indian outbreak, videos of big outdoor religious gatherings popped up on social media, and those were immediately blamed for the outbreak. The Indian people, they said, gave up on mitigation measures with the blessing of Modi, who allowed the religious gatherings to go on.
But to place the blame entirely on that, you have to accept a few things that go against some parts of the narrative we’ve gotten from experts.
First, you have to believe the Indian people were not engaging in crowded public gatherings for the past 15 months, which is untrue. Since India’s lockdown lifted last June, there have been several examples of huge public gatherings in the country, some of which were blamed for India’s late 2020 spike in cases, even as those gatherings were illegal.
Second, you have to believe that the Indian people made extremely liberal use of face masks in indoor settings, and then suddenly stopped in late March. It doesn’t make sense if you think masking in India just slowly faded away: No. For this to make sense, you have to accept everyone stopped wearing masks almost at the same time, otherwise the virus would be spreading more slowly, or the outbreak would have started much earlier.
Basically, you have to believe those public health measures kept a bad COVID outbreak, in a country where social distancing is almost impossible, at bay for as long as it has; and you have to believe that the Indian people, en masse, all 1.8 billion of them, suddenly gave up sometime in late March. This seems almost comically unlikely, and that it is the current narrative just tells you how ridiculous COVID moralism has become. The pandemic lives and dies based on masking and distancing, and a population’s virtuous adherence to those protocols and the government’s mandates of said protocols. People, like lemmings, stop following rules the moment a government lifts them. When people are good, there is no COVID, but when they are bad, well, you get America, Europe, Brazil and India.
Finally, you have to accept that even if you get COVID under some level of control through restrictions, you’d have to keep them place indefinitely until COVID is eradicated from the world, or you risk another wave, and you have to accept that this is entirely possible in a world of 7 billion people. Bar-Yam specifically blamed the “relaxing of restrictions” for India’s wave just this week. You don’t need to be a public health expert to know indefinite restrictions are not realistic, and eradication globally would take years, if even possible at all. COVID fatigue is real, in every part of the world, and it is not some moral failing caused by weakness, but a reality of human behavior.
The truth is probably far more nuanced, but it is not entirely understood yet. Certainly more contagious variants are likely to blame. The B 117 variant first identified in the UK which caused a massive winter wave in Europe and later in North America exploded in India in April, as did a new variant first identified in the continent which has similar mutations to B 117, possibly making it more contagious as well. The level of contagiousness probably swamped whatever reasonable measures Indians were taken to keep themselves safe, making them no longer viable.
The truth of how India fell to COVID may never be truly understood, which is why we will likely let an easy answer shoulder the blame: Indians got tired and lazy, and stopped doing what I’ve termed “all the things” – my shorthand for the list of non-pharmaceutical interventions employed first as an emergency stopgap to prevent hospital collapse, and later as the standard COVID-fighting toolbox.
What should we have done? We should have surged healthcare resources to the country and had them on standby for when an outbreak inevitably happened. The situation in India is such that exponential growth was likely to happen quicker than anywhere else (and indeed that’s what we saw in late April). We should have acknowledged two things. One, that NPIs failed all over the world when in place for long periods of time, and they will in India; and two, that once an outbreak starts, it would be impossible to stop it quickly. We should have been prepared to surge medical help to the country in the form of field hospitals, oxygen supplies and other needs. This especially should have been done as cases in the west started plummeting in March, and from countries like the United States and UK, which have successful vaccination campaigns that provided a backstop against any new rise in cases; and China and Australia, which has managed successful border quarantines to prevent domestic outbreaks.
We should have also surged production of vaccines to ship and distribute in the Subcontinent. India, being among the most vulnerable nations, should have been among the first to see mass vaccinations. Moderna has waived its patents to allow production of its vaccines elsewhere, and the Biden Administration has sent vaccine supplies to India so they can begin producing vaccines, and is sending millions of AstraZeneca vaccines that had been bought in case the other vaccines didn’t work out. Since the FDA hasn’t approved that vaccine and we have enough of the others, the administration is sending those to the rest of the world, mostly to India. But this should have been done earlier. Going forward, mass vaccinations need to be part of an outbreak response.
None of that was done, however, and instead we wrote off India as a success story too soon. Rather than recognize the unique vulnerability the country has to a contagious virus and more contagious variants, experts, desperate to sell the narrative that masking and distancing are the pandemic panacea, ignored the risks. Now, India will have to bear the brunt of what is likely to be the worst, but hopefully the last, major national outbreak of this pandemic.
My hope is that we learn something in the postmortem to this. It was a mistake to rely solely on human behavior to control the pandemic. Experts were never sure NPIs would work, and even where they did work, they weren’t sustainable anywhere. Even countries like Thailand and Cambodia, which escaped earlier COVID waves, another consequence of good behavior, experts say, are now being rocked by COVID. We should have predicted NPIs would eventually fail, as they had across the world in the past year in Europe, South Korea and Canada, and that would leave India uniquely vulnerable to a dire epidemic.
Producers Bet On A Chadwick Boseman Win, And Were Left With Egg On Their Faces
I admit there were only two reasons I sat through the #Oscars last weekend. One was to see if Chloe Zhao would become only the second woman to win a Best Director Oscar, which she did, and the second, to see if they would give Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer last August, a rare posthumous Best Actor award for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
I had assumed their victories, if they would win, would come toward the end of the show. The producers thought that was true at least of Boseman. In a confusing, abnormal program, they tossed aside the typical Best Director-Best Actor-Best Actress-Best Picture routine and awarded the directing award earlier in the broadcast and the Best Picture award before the lead acting categories. The goal was clear, engineer a finish to the telecast in which the final two awards are won by black actors, Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, giving the news media a “Oscars celebrates black roles” narrative to run with after the event.
It flopped massively.
Frances McDormand won her third Best Actress Oscar for Nomadland giving a few seconds-long speech, and the show ended with Anthony Hopkins winning Best Actor, and not being present, presenter Joaquin Phoenix accepted it on his behalf and left the stage, abruptly ending the show. The unexpected, anti-climatic ending was mocked on social media. A nasty side effect of this was Best Director was given out early in the show, denying Zhao her chance to shine during the show’s finale (although she later appeared with the cast during the Best Picture acceptance.) With the COVID-19 Pandemic preventing any of the typical afterparties, the post-shows were awkward messes. Hosts searched hilariously for a narrative to focus on, without addressing the elephant in the Dolby Theater, that they had screwed up what they thought would be an easy lay up on the progress of racial equality in Hollywood. Best Supporting Actress winner Yuh-Joong Youn provided some relief with her funny, heartwarming acceptance speech, and some focus was put on Zhao’s win and Best Supporting Actor winner Daniel Kalyuua, who won for his role as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.
For years, the Academy has been criticized for its slighting of black actors and actresses, something that critics say extends to the entire Hollywood community. For years it seemed the breaks actors and actresses of color got were playing roles that either couldn’t be cast by white people, or roles that reinforce racist stereotypes. Hollywood producers and movie studios saw movies with black casts as niche films that wouldn’t be profitable in wide release, so they wouldn’t put money and time into them, denying them not only chances at being blockbusters, but also the key marketing and promotions often required to get an actor or actress onto the Oscar stage.
As Viola Davis said in her 2015 Emmy acceptance speech, “you can’t win [an award] for roles that aren’t there.”
In fact, before the year 2000, only six black actors and actresses had ever won acting Academy Awards, and only won in a lead role; Sidney Poitier in 1963’s Lillies in the Field. That slowly began to change over time, though not as fast as many African-Americans in Hollywood would have liked. Since 2011, seven black actors and actresses have won Oscars, but none in lead roles. Those roles included a domestic servant (Octavia Spencer in The Help); a slave (Lupita N’yongo in 12 Years A Slave); black historical figures (Mahershala Ali in Green Book) or black characters written decades ago by black writers (Viola Davis in August Wilson’s Fences and Regina King in James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk).
Though an improvement, there remains much criticism lobbed at the Academy for its continued perceived snubs of black acting roles. During several broadcasts in the 2010s, #OscarsSoWhite became a trending hashtag, and the Academy has had to try to make amends with actors and actresses of color over past snubs and omissions. Every attempt to improve the situation, however, only tends to backfire because it isn’t focused on the problem itself. Take their decision to award Moonlight best picture in 2017, only to have Warren Beatty go out there and award the wrong picture, or send Kevin Costner out to introduce the film Hidden Figures about the black women scientists who behind the scenes helped America win the Space Race, only to mix it up with Fences.
Last Sunday’s attempt to contrive a fairytale ending out of an unlikely scenario only added salt to the wounds.
A Boseman win wasn’t assured, nor was even likely. Though he won the Golden Globe, Hopkins won the BAFTA, the British version of the Oscars, which are often predictive of how the Oscars go. Further, posthumous wins are rare, even when deceased actors are nominated. Since the Oscars began in 1929, only eight actors have been posthumously nominated for acting awards. They include James Dean who was nominated twice, once each for East Of Eden and Giant, in the two years after his died in 1955. Only two actors have ever won after they passed. The first was Peter Finch for Best Actor in 1977 for Network, in which he played the eccentric, aging news anchor Howard Beale who uttered the now famous quip “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” The second was Heath Ledger, who won Best Supporting Actor in 2009 for his performance as the classic Batman villain, the Joker, in The Dark Night. Both were iconic roles that generated Oscar buzz even before the actors untimely and sudden deaths. Finch died two months before the 1977 Oscars, where he was already the odds-on favorite to win Best Actor anyway. Network nearly swept all the acting categories that year, with Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight winning in the female categories.
The fact that the Academy rarely honors dead actors with posthumous awards made the decision to design the Oscar telecast last Sunday around the possibility of Boseman winning even more puzzling.
Having seen Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, while its certainly an excellent performance by Boseman, it didn’t strike me as groundbreaking to the level of Ledger’s “Joker” or Finch’s “Howard Beale,” and while maybe it didn’t have to be, adjusting for the reality that black actors have to nail the performance more assuredly than white actors to be awarded the Oscar (think of performances like N’yongo’s “Patsey” in 12 Years A Slave or Mo”Nique’s “Mary” in Precious), Boseman’s performance didn’t strike me as living up to that level. If anything, it was Davis who carried the film and was more deserving of a win.
So why did Oscar producers do it? Well, like everything else woke liberals do, they choose the easy solution, hoping that once again style would serve as a replacement for substance and get them out of a jam.
The ending of this year’s Oscars is the perfect expression of a patronizing and condescending woke white self-own. You build everyone up for a glorious expression of racial justice and equality and then it blows up in your face because SURPRISE! platitudes are not enough. The end result was a mess. Poor Anthony Hopkins, who didn’t travel from Wales to Los Angeles for the awards believing Boseman would win, made a taped message honoring his late fellow nominee and Boseman’s family had to awkwardly come out and congratulate Hopkins in order to quiet Twitter critics who had aimed their fire at the 83-year-old winner. Making the matter even worse, entertainment reporters broke the story that Hopkin’s co-star in the winning film The Father, Olivia Colman, was denied a request to accept his Oscar on his behalf.
Platitudes can only go so far, and they are poor substitute for true change. They are nice in the moment, but they don’t repair decades of inequality and lack of opportunity. The goal should not to engineer grand performances at award shows in order to get good Tweets and headlines, it should be to reward black talent not with marketing ploys, but with roles and scripts that allow them to truly show off their skills without concern about box office totals and concerns about niche marketing. We’re already on our way on the small screen. As Davis implied in her Emmy win for How To Get Away With Murder, there is no way a middle-aged black woman would have been chosen for that role twenty years ago. The Academy has also announced some changes aimed at being more inclusionary starting next year that activists hope will move the needle.
Perhaps in the new post-COVID world where the theater is not the only place to see a movie, and studios are less concerned with the demographics of who is sitting in the theater, this may be the catalyst we need for long-awaited change.
They Say ‘Nothing Changes’ After You’re Vaccinated, But For Me, Everything Changed
It felt like a hangover.
The day after I got my second Pfizer shot last Thursday at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, I didn’t work and slept in, sleeping until almost 3 p.m. I felt like I had been pounding tequila shots all night, achey and weak all over my body with a bad headache, and soreness in my left arm. It eased up just enough for me to take my typical Friday night jaunt to my partner’s apartment for movie night and dinner, and by midday Saturday, I felt normal again. After that I was left with just one lingering side effect:
A sense of relief and closure.
Experts say I shouldn’t, and those who continue to advocate for continued mitigation hate when I say it, but for me, the threat has passed. This entire pandemic, I have been following my intuition and though It was sometimes a smidge more optimistic than reality turned out to be, it hasn’t been completely wrong yet. Now, my intuition tells me the danger has passed, SARS-COVID2 is no longer a threat to me beyond the possibility of a cold-like illness, nor my family and friends, and the dark days of the pandemic are behind me, even if it’s not over yet in much of the world.
A year ago, as I sat in lockdown pondering the future, asking myself if I will ever see my loved ones again, my intuition told me there would be a vaccine and it would come in a year. I ignored it because I thought it wishful thinking, but throughout the past year, I found myself seeing late March/early April 2021 has some sort of event horizon, even going so far as to hear my higher power telling me “you’re halfway through this” back in October, when I was freaking out about my parents going to Maine on vacation. I wish I had listened, because the intuition hit then nail almost squarely on the head. On April 1, one year and one week after I started my arduous 55-day stay-at-home measure, I received my first shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Three weeks later on April 22, I received my second, an although I’m waiting for two weeks to pass before giving myself the all clear, to know that I am almost certainly at least mostly immune from a SARS-COVID 2 infection, and nearly as safe from hospitalization and death from the virus as I was before it existed, is just a huge weight off my shoulders.
Though the virus never quite paralyzed me the way it did others, it did scare me. I’m overweight and have a history of asthma. I had a nasty cold back in 2018 that left me with lingering breathing problems for months, knocking me off my CrossFit routine and ultimately leading me to fall out of shape. If there was a 37-year-old out there who would likely die from this thing, it would be me. I was not willing to tempt fate.
But that was hard. It was hard to stay home for 55 days and be separated from my partner and my friends. It was hard not having big family gatherings for Memorial Day or Christmas. It was hard to not spend time with colleagues and not work normally and not do the things I love to do in the summer and during the holidays. It was hard to not eat out at my favorite restaurants, or spend time reading in a library or not go to the beach last summer, or take my annual vacation. It was hard losing out on all the things that make life worth living.
When I was younger, I battled depression and suicidal thoughts. I fought back by focusing on things that brought joy to my life, and things that I could look forward to: Travel, nights out with friends and family, plays and concerts, big family gatherings, Christmas. COVID-19 took all that way from me, and I got through it by reminding myself that it was only temporary. All that stuff will come back, and when it does, I will see it with a newfound appreciation having had to live without it for a while.
What was uncertain however was how long it would take to get back there. Last year we were being told it could be years, and that devastated me. Some experts who I trusted, and later discovered to be complete frauds, warned me some of that stuff might never come back. COVID, they said, has fundamentally changed the way humans socialise and we would have to accept it. I would never have some of those joyful life moments ever again.
I wondered which family members I may have seen for the last time. Which ones would die of COVID or would die of natural causes before the pandemic ends. I wondered which friendships would be lost; if the travel destinations on my bucket list would now just become something I’d have to wait for in another life. There were moments where I would wonder if COVID life was even worth living anymore.
Thankfully, I did nightly meditation with my Reiki healer, Rev. Joanne Angel Barry Colon (whose TV show I regularly appear on and write about here). During the quarantine period, every night at 11:11 p.m., we did a meditation. It was during those meditations that I took time to think and ponder what the short term and long term future would look like, and it was during that meditation that my fears of long term social isolation and life-altering restrictions were alleviated by, for the first time, really learning to listen to my intuition. And it was right. Joe Biden would beat Donald Trump. I would be vaccinated before my next birthday. I would sell a house in 2021. I would finally start my blog and my vegetable garden.
I never forget the feeling I had when my best friend Andrew texted me at 9 a.m. on Monday, November 9th to tell Pfizer’s phase three trial results showed over 90 percent efficacy against SARS-COVID2 infection. We had been told to expect 60-70 percent if we’re lucky. The elation I felt was incredible. This was going to come to end and fairly soon, I thought. My intuition told me Pfizer was the vaccine I’d be getting and it was. Now my body is no longer naive to the SARS-COVID 2 virus, and my entire family and most of my friends are vaccinated or getting vaccinated right now. My life, and my world around me, are slowly going back to normal, with fears of another setback waning by the day. Work happy hours and broker open houses will resume this week, family gatherings this summer, vacations next year. I will check off those places on the list, and I will have joyful moments again.
It felt like a hangover, because getting vaccinated was the greatest celebration I’ve had in years. The crippling fears of isolation and death from one year ago seem far away, and the next chapter of my life, filled with the things I promise never to take for granted again, seems closer than ever.
Traumatized By His Own Childhood In Exile, Philip Dedicated His Life To Protecting The Monarchy
It’s hard to believe knowing the reputation Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, had in his final years as a staunch defender of “traditional values,” and an institution marred in racism and colonialism, but the consort of Queen Elizabeth II was actually quite progressive for a royal. He helped to usher in a more modern spirit at the Court of St. James, closing the gap between the monarchy and the British public, and instilling a more inclusive atmosphere around the historically reclusive institution.
Prince Philip died last Friday at the age of 99, only two months short of his 100th birthday. He had been the longest serving, and living, consort of a British monarch, having served alongside his wife, Elizabeth II, for 69 years. That is 12 more years that the second longest reigning consort, Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III. (Yes, THAT King George III, and yes, Bridgerton fans, THAT Queen Charlotte)
A few weeks ago, after the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle fracas, I wrote a long piece about how the British Royal Family has repeatedly made stupid mistakes and decisions based on its obsession with keeping faith with the public; the key, in the minds of the royals, to their survival. However, the royal family has also made some progressive decisions that have worked in the family’s favor and helped maintain the shifting social realities of the past century. At the helm of many of these decisions, good and bad, has been Prince Philip. That will be his legacy, and there is a lot of personal history and trauma behind his dedication to protecting the Windsor Dynasty.
Denmark And Greece
The understand how Prince Philip built this legacy, we have start from his roots. A big part of the duke’s progressive vision for the monarchy came from his very own experience as a member of the Greek Royal Family. Philip was born in Corfu, Greece on June 10, 1921. Though born Greek, his family had not an ounce of Greek blood. Therein lain the problem.
Philip’s paternal grandfather, Prince Christian of Denmark, was born an obscure Danish noble with distant connections to the British, Prussian and Danish monarchies. His life changed dramatically when the Danish House of Oldenburg died out and his father inherited Denmark’s throne as King Christian IX. To solidify his tenuous hold on the crown, Christian married off his daughters to several royal families. They included the future Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II’s great-grandmother. Christian also had plans for his sons as well. His eldest son would inherit Denmark’s crown, and the king found a prime spot for his second son on the Balkan Peninsula.
At that time, Greece had only been about thirty years removed from being liberated after centuries of Ottoman rule. After more than a millennia of having its culture, language and religion suppressed by Turks, Greece was finally able to reclaim its place amongst the nations of Europe. It was a rocky start. The German king Otto who was chosen to rule Greece after its liberation never gained a foothold in the country and was overthrown in 1862. That led the Greeks to search the royal families of Europe for another suitable contender. The Habsburg possibility, Maximilian, was out of contention, as he was already setting up his ill-fated empire in Mexico City, and the British, French and Prussian monarchies offered candidates, but ultimately it was Prince Christian, through the influence of his father, who was chosen to rule as King George I. Greece, down in Southern Europe with its ancient culture, traditions, language, orthodox religion and historical place in the world, was to be ruled by a family from a Germanic kingdom of Barbarian roots. This would go about as well as you might imagine.
Rather than making the obviously smart choice of a Greek bride, George I married a Russian princess, Olga, further alienating the royal family culturally from the people they ruled. This would have dire consequences. We’ll get to those consequences in a minute.
Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was born in 1885 in the same place her son died last Friday and was laid to rest this weekend, Windsor Castle. A great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and a great-niece by marriage to the Greek king’s sister, Queen Alexandra, Alice was born deaf and learned to lip read in English and German, and eventually Greek and French. She grew up in Germany and England. She was a bridesmaid at the wedding of her future daughter-in-law’s grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary.
Because so little was understood about medicine at the time, Alice’s deafness was often mistaken for mental illness, and her condition lead to years of suffering at the hands of scientists and doctors, including the infamous Dr. Sigmund Freud.
In 1903, Alice married the seventh child of King George and Queen Olga of Greece, Prince Andrew, and relocated to Athens. Between 1905 and 1914, she gave birth to four daughters.
It is commonly, truthfully, said that Philip and Elizabeth besides being husband and wife, were cousins. This is true, they are distant cousins through both Philip’s mother, a member of the British Royal Family, and father, through the Danish Royal Family. Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, and Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, are both great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria. Also, Philip’s father, Prince Andrew, and Elizabeth’s grandfather, King George V, are first cousins, both grandchildren of King Christian IX of Denmark.
Philip’s Traumatic Childhood
The injurious experiences that drove Philip to be a reformer and a progressive started even before he was born. Remember when I said the Danish-Russian Royal Family ruling over Greece would have dire consequences? Well, those came to a head during World War I. The Greek people supported siding with the Allies in the war against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Greece’s sworn enemy, the Ottoman Empire. The Greek king Constantine, son of George I, wanted to remain neutral. This was in part due to his own German roots through his grandmother, Queen Louise of Denmark. King Constantine badly misread the Greek public. He was deposed and the whole royal family, including Prince Andrew, Princess Alice and their children, were sent into exile in 1917. They were returned to Greece the next year when the country became embroiled in a war with the Ottoman Empire’s successor country, Turkey, after the latter refused to give Greece its territories on the Aegean Coast promised at the end of World War I by the defeated Ottomans.
While Greece and Turkey were at war, Princess Alice gave birth to her only son and youngest child, Philip, in Corfu in the Ionian Sea, 50 miles east of the heel of Italy. Fourteen months after Philip’s birth, Greece was defeated by Turkey. Prince Andrew, who was the military commander in the war, was blamed for the loss and the royal family was once again sent into exile. Prince Andrew narrowly escaped execution for treason, saved only by the British, who sent a warship to Athens Harbor as a threat. Baby Philip escaped Greece on that warship in an orange crate.
The family settled in Paris, but Princess Alice, already marginalized due to her condition. was so scarred by the experience of being twice exiled in five years, she suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up institutionalized. Their adult daughters married into German nobility and young Philip was sent to the United Kingdom and raised primarily by Alice’s younger brother, Louis Mountbatten (who was the Lord Mountbatten assassinated by the IRA in 1979). Philip did not even have a surname, so he adopted his uncle’s surname of Mountbatten, an Anglicization of the German royal house Alice and Louis was born into – Battenberg.
It was in living in England as a teenager that he met his future wife, the Princess Elizabeth, and married her in 1947 after serving in the Royal Navy in World War II, setting the stage to be consort to the future queen regnant.
The trauma of having fled Greece and seeing his family torn apart in exile at such a young age left a huge impression in Prince Philip, and he focused his work on making sure that his young family in London avoided a similar fate.
The Consort’s Influence
When Philip became consort, he and his wife were heading a monarchy that had already been damaged by the abdication of Elizabeth’s uncle sixteen years earlier. Philip’s mother-in-law and predecessor as consort, the Queen Mother, did a lot of the leg work to repair the monarchy’s tattered reputation with the British public, and Philip picked up where she had left off, and moved in an even more progressive direction.
It was Philip who urged his wife to make changes to how the monarchy connects with the public. He pushed to open up the palace to common Britons to meet their monarch, a tradition previously reserved only for the nobility and the upper class. He urged the queen to do more radio and later television speeches, beginning with her landmark televised Christmas speech in 1957, which she continues to do annually to this day. In fact, in many times during her reign, the queen took her husband’s advice and used television as a medium to speak to her people in times of crisis. Most recently, she gave a well-received speech at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic urging national cooperation and unity in the face of the country’s first lockdown.
Perhaps the most notable moment in Prince Philip’s history as consort came in the late 1960s, when he invited the BBC to film a documentary called Royal Family, which showed the everyday lives of the royals. The documentary was widely panned when it aired in 1969, with even renowned television host David Attenborough warning that it could “kill” the monarchy. The queen later banned the documentary and it hasn’t been showed in the UK since 1977. It has since leaked on the internet. However, modern historians consider the documentary, and the duke’s ease in appearing on television news programs and sitting for interviews during that time, as a major step forward in terms of the monarchy reclaiming its populist mantle in the late 20th Century.
Despite the common wisdom otherwise, and the way it was portrayed in the 2005 movie The Queen, it was Prince Philip who apparently nudged his wife into giving the speech to the nation after the death of Princess Diana. That speech helped to quiet the harsh criticism lobbed at the queen and the royal family that week, and helped the monarchy escape perhaps its greatest threat during Elizabeth’s reign. The move, along with his choice to support his grandsons’ decision to walk behind Diana’s coffin at her funeral – and walk with them – humanized the royal family and helped erase the bad taste that developed in the mouths of the British people in the wake of Diana’s death.
What He Got Wrong
Philip’s desire to help his wife’s family sustain their position was a noble one, and one that he will be rewarded with as his legacy, but it may have been largely unnecessary.
Unlike Philip’s grandfather, King George of Greece, not a single monarch since William of Normandy came to power without a drop of English blood. Even when the Stuarts, who were Scots, and the Hanovers, who were German, inherited the throne, they did so through recent English ancestors: The Stuarts through Henry VIII’s sister Margaret and the Hanovers through James I’s daughter Elizabeth. No English monarch came to power the way Philip’s family did in Greece.
Nine centuries of tradition and relative stability, including having been overthrown in the 17th Century for a decade, anchored the British monarchy in a way Philip’s family never even tried to anchor itself in Athens.
Further, monarchies that still existed at the time when Elizabeth became queen have largely survived through now, with the exception of just a few. The ones that have been abolished, like Nepal and Iran, were after extraordinary circumstances. In Nepal’s case, it happened a few years after a massacre, committed by the crown prince, leads to the deaths of nearly the entire royal family.
In fact, some monarchies that were abolished in the 20th Century were restored during Elizabeth’s reign, including those in Spain, Cambodia, Kuwait and Greece, though the latter was later overthrown again for a final time in 1967. In the past seven decades, monarchies that survived the upheaval of the early- and mid-20th century, tended to find some stability in the later part of the century. It’s not entirely clear the British monarchy was ever truly in danger during Prince Philip’s time as consort, even during its nadir in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death.
What He Got Right
It’s worth noting though that while some of Philip’s decisions and influences may have led to mistakes, those mistakes often did lead to great successes in the long term. There is no doubt that opening the British monarchy up to the people through television and meeting with commoners fit the trend of the royals crafting a contemporary populist image that sustained them for a millennium.
Sure, without Philip, it is entirely possible Britain would have become a Republic, and the royal family exiled. There were a number of crises where Philip’s quick-thinking and progressive ideas, as well as influence over his wife, helped. The Diana speech the most obvious example. I don’t think it is likely that Philip alone was the key to the monarchy sustaining, but he may just have been the key for it to sustain in the future.
Despite his own mixed success, the one place where his influence may pay off is on his descendants, especially his grandchildren, who have been quick to adapt to changing times themselves. Prince William, the future king, has often spoken of his grandfather as big influence in the way he approaches his role as a royal. His more public image; his openness and comfort talking to members of the public, come directly from Prince Philip, as does Prince Harry’s very open and genuine personality. There’s no doubt that Prince Harry’s decision to sit with his wife and Oprah Winfrey last month is the product of Prince Philip’s influence, for better or for worse. The desire to control the story and the narrative and directly communicate with people, rather than allowing it to go through the media spin machine, is a trait the duke brought to the family.
If Prince Philip’s record as consort is one of mixed success, it is entirely possible his true successes still lie ahead in the generations of royals he leaves behind. If that is the case, then in another 99 years, history may look back at the duke as the most consequential British consort in history.
This past Sunday, I appeared on Joanne’s Healing Within, the weekly show hosted by Queens, New York-based personal trainer, Reiki healer and life coach Rev. Joanne Angel Barry Colon. I regularly appear on her show to take part in some new and often ancient exciting healing and spiritual development rituals. Last summer, life coach and spiritual advisor Sherri Simpson hypnotized me live on Joanne’s show to do what was called a “past-life regression” where I was taken to a past life to clear some blockages caused by trauma carried over to this life. You can check out my writeup on that here, and take a watch, it was a fascinating experience.
This time, I joined Joanne and Natan Bradbury, a spiritual counselor, who did a Qi Manipulation on me to get spiritual forces flowing and clear some blockages that can cause pain, discomfort, exhaustion and other physical ailments that might prevent you from operating at full speed.
Typically this is not done in a public setting, but we broke the rules a bit for this show. So what was the experience like? It was really a lot of energy. The entire event was very quiet. Natan didn’t speak much and neither did I, but what I felt was a lot of moving energy. At the beginning, I was very tired and groggy from lack of sleep. I was worried that as I relaxed, I might fall sleep, which would have been embarrassing, but as I usually do when I am on Joanne’s show, I left whatever happen, happen.
Early on, it felt like a giant weight was pressing me down onto my chair and that energy lifted quite quickly. I could sense and feel strong energy come from all angles. I found myself taking almost involuntary deep breaths like every tenth breath and one of the weirdest things that happened at the end of Natan’s manipulation, my ears teared up as they would during an allergy attack (but it wasn’t an allergy attack, because it otherwise didn’t feel like one).
You can watch the entire show below. The excitement starts about 13 minutes in. Feel free to share you thoughts.
For Those Who Have Followed The Rules; Moving The Goalposts, And Shaming Us For Asking Why, Is Infuriating
On May 6, two weeks after my second vaccine shot, I’m may find myself putting #COVIDIOT in my bio.
In response to news today that Rutgers University will be mandating vaccines for students next Fall, while also continuing masks and distancing, many of us have been asking…why?
If students are vaccinated, why should they continue to wear masks and distance? We know vaccines prevent serious illness, and we know transmission risks dramatically decrease. If they can’t do it after vaccination, when can they? Do you not see how this provides a slippery slope into permanent restrictions? For the rest of time, life is going to consist of vaccinated people spreading COVID to other vaccinated people, so who cares if we do it now? Are we ever going to have big family gatherings, concerts and sporting events again? Have I seen my last Broadway show? Will I ever be able to sit on a plane without wearing a mask for a 10-hour flight?
You’ve asked me mask up and social distance for a year. I’ve done it happily. I’ve been to one (outdoor) restaurant since last January, fewer than many of the preachy folks have been. I remember COVID doomsdayer Laurie Garrett taking pictures of a crowded River Cafe in Brooklyn after Donald Trump called New York “dead” in an October presidential debate, before complaining a few days later about how New York was reopening too fast and risking another wave. I see you Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, relocating your entire family to Europe in the middle of a pandemic so your kids an attend school, while criticizing folks traveling and and jurisdictions reopening schools.
I’ve had one (outdoor) family gathering. I’ve kept a bubble of the same seven people. I’ve barely worked (and built up massive debt because of it). I have only left a 10-mile radius of my house twice – both for essential reasons. I’ve done everything I’ve been asked and I’ve done it better than many experts.
But now, it isn’t enough for some. I am expected to continue doing this even beyond the point where vaccines are available to everyone, a point we will likely reach in the next couple of months. I’m supposed to do this because a good number of people will freely choose not to get vaccinated, or there will be a (very small) number of people who can’t get vaccinated, or variants or whatever new reason people who seem to be enjoying the punitive pandemic life like flagellant monks come up with today.
You may enjoy the pandemic lifestyle. Maybe you ran yourself too ragged before and enjoy a slower pace of life. Maybe you were lonely and bitter and enjoy watching people who have families and friends be forced to sit in the same isolation you’ve resigned yourself to. Maybe you think disrupting normal life will trigger whatever fantasy anti-Capitalist revolution you have been LARPing for years and are intent on keeping it going until it happens.
I don’t know why you feel like things are better now than before, but this sucks. It sucks. I have good friends and dear family members I have not seen since December 2019. I have not been able to travel, which I take a lot of joy from doing. I have seem my hometown, which thrives with crowds and congregate settings, tourism and nightlife, exist in a half-alive state for over a year, a city desperate to heal and unable to heal. Will it ever be allowed to be itself again? Or are we determined to depopulated major cities in cold climates and make Ron DeSantis’ Florida or Greg Abbott’s Texas economic powerhouses?
And why are asking these questions turning into battle? Why am I COVIDIOT because I want to go to a bar in June, or want to see my friends maskless this summer, or think college kids who have been vaccinated should return to college life? None of this is the same as someone questioning whether COVID was a real a year ago. Those people were the ones telling us that we were the idiots, for following guidelines experts had no intention on ever lifting; for being slow-walked into a dystopian future where our freedoms are restricted on the premise of “public health.”
Why are we so intent making them correct?
If you want to understand why people stopped following guidelines months ago, why the COVIDIOTS popped up, this is why, because people recognize when they’re being gaslight and abused. They recognize no one is going to give them permission to live normally again. They made a different risk assessment than you did. You can be angry about it, call them names, but it won’t do any good.
As for me? I’ve done my part, so don’t bother shaming me after May 6th. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
The Windsors Have The Ability And Resources To Adapt To The Modern World, They Just Keeps Refusing To Use Them
It all stems from The Abdication.
When news over the rift between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Royal Family shifted our attention from the pandemic for the first time in a while earlier this month, Americans asked once again why an institution that most countries got rid of over a century ago, still exists in a country as modern as Britain.
The truth is – and it is rather hard to believe having seen how the Royal Family has reacted to the Meghan Markel situation – the institution has outlived all the rest by being comparatively populist and progressive.
And that’s how it would go until 1936, when the Abdication changed everything. That, with the death of Prince Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, were two events that have left the monarchy in a constant state of panic, forgetting the past lessons that allowed it to survive for almost a millennium.
The People’s Monarchy
To really understand why the British Royal Family has managed to hold on to their crown for so long, you have to go back to how it all started – at least in its current form. Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of William of Normandy, who seized the crown in 1066 after King Edward the Confessor died without an heir.
Though William was the son of a Norman duke, his mother was a commoner, likely the daughter of a tanner, making William a bastard. Subsequently, in ongoing skirmishes between the monarch and the nobility, English monarchs would leverage the fact that they descended from the son of a commoner to appeal to the people. Though more often the not, the nobility would win – such as in the establishment of the Magna Carta in 1215 and the English Civil War that toppled the monarchy for a decade in 1649 – the monarchy always kept the faith and popularity of the common folk in ways their colleagues didn’t in other European countries. It some cases, it did work: The Tudors were masterful at being faux populists. Henry VIII exploited feudal anger at the corruption of the Church to break away from Rome and secure his divorce from his first wife. His daughter, Mary Tudor, leveraged her public support as rightful heir to depose a coup attempt by her noble cousin, the Duke of Northumberland. Henry’s other daughter, Elizabeth, painted herself as a “woman of the people” in order to keep the Catholic aristocrats put in place by Mary from overthrowing her, and commanded that populist leadership into a patriotic frenzy that helped defeat the powerful Spanish Armada.
The monarchy’s survival is also rooted in the fact that it was among the first to actually be abolished. In the mid-17th Century, the rift between the Stuart kings, who ruled Scotland as absolute monarchs before inheriting the English crown, and the nobility who made up Parliament exploded into an civil war that ended with the king’s head on a pike and an oligarch dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell. Though the monarchy was restored a decade later after Cromwell’s death, a lesson was learned. The Stuarts had allowed the nobles in Parliament to gain the trust of the British public and mount a populist rebellion against the monarchy. Such a thing could never be allowed again. The monarch would always need to be seen as God’s chosen soldier fighting the nobility in the interests of common man.
In fact, I would argue one reason the United States appears to be an oligarchy today is because we misinterpreted the American Revolution to be a populist revolt against nobility, and not a continuation of the ongoing battle for power between the British nobility and the monarchy. The Founding Fathers were mainly wealthy landowners who wanted seats in Parliament, joining the ranks of British nobility, but the existing aristocracy opposed it and King George III was too weak or too apathetic to assert a different view. The American Revolution was a victory for breakaway nobles against the monarchy, establishing what was, and still is, a country governed by nobles.
The Enlightenment provided another opportunity for the monarchy to position itself as guardian of the people against corrupt oligarchs; the Hanovers through Queen Victoria prided themselves on being thorns in the backsides of the nobility, and a voice for a English public increasingly asking for a larger voice in their government. It was Victoria’s grandson, and the current queen’s grandfather, George V, and his wife, Mary of Teck, who decided to take a royal tour of India, and visit with working people in the industrial heartland of England, something nobles loathed to do. They sought to keep up public support for the institution at a time when monarchs were being knocked off thrones across the continent and worker-based political movements began to grow.
In fact, Queen Mary made it her duty to keep the Royal Family in the good graces of the public, even as labor movements and suffragette movements threatened the social order of the kingdom after the Russian Revolution. By 1935, with the monarchies in Russia, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Greece having been ousted in her time as queen (and Italy not far behind), George and Mary were greeted with fawning crowds during their Silver Jubilee. The monarchy seemed secure. Britain’s institution would once again endure.
The Abdication: That Traumatic Event
Eight months later, in January 1936, George V died. He was greatly mourned by the British people. For more than 200 years, the British crown passed from relative to relative without any issues, father-to-son-to-grandson-to-son-to-brother-to-niece-to-son-to-son. It appeared that would continue when George V’s eldest son, Edward, was declared king.
But the seamless transition would quickly unravel. Edward was single and 42 years old, while his three younger brothers had all married. More importantly, Edward had been dating Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and intended on marrying her. The British government and the Royal Family was not too keen on having Wallis as queen, and neither was the British public, whose good graces Edward’s parents had fought so hard to stay in. Edward marrying a divorced women would counter the teachings of the Church of England, which did not permit remarriage after divorce. Edward would be head of the Church of England as king.
The country was plunged into a Constitutional Crisis that threatened the monarchy. To fully understand why this was such a problem, it is important to know what was going on elsewhere in Europe at the time. In 1936, Europe was just two decades out from the collapse of the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian monarchies and 12 years removed from the Greek Royal Family being exiled from Athens. In Spain, the Spanish Civil War has broken out after municipal elections all but abolished the monarchy. The monarchy as an institution, which had ruled Europe since antiquity, was on the verge of being extinguished. It wasn’t clear Britain was in any less perilous a situation, and the fear of losing the support of the public, and thus suffering the fates of Europe’s other royal families, permeated Buckingham Palace. For once, it seemed the nobles and the public were on the same side for the first time since 1649: there simply could not be a Queen Wallis.
To save the monarchy, Edward VIII abdicated the throne, leaving his eldest younger brother, Albert, to reign as King George VI. It was George and his queen, Elizabeth, who were able to restore the public’s faith in the institution of the monarchy, perhaps saving it. They famously refused to leave London during the Blitzkrieg in World War II, and walked among the rubble in the working class East End of the city after the bombings. Elizabeth, the current queen’s mother, became so popular with the British people, Adolf Hitler referred to her as “the most dangerous woman in Europe” and a major threat to his plan to break the will of the British.
The Abdication Crisis, and how close it came to sweeping away the monarchy, made the royals of that time obsessed with keeping as many segments of British society happy as possible. It appeared they had succeeded…for now.
How It Shaped Her
When the palace was plunged into crisis in 1936, a ten-year-old girl was thrown in the center of it. The Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King George VI, went from being an obscure granddaughter of a monarch to heir to the throne in a matter of months. While all this may seem like ancient history to us, that little girl is still alive today, and at the age of 96, still wears the British crown.
What is happening with Harry and Meghan is a direct result of the trauma Queen Elizabeth II personally faced when watching her family nearly ruined by her uncle’s actions and her family’s overreaction to the instability of the monarchy as an institution in Europe in that era and the decades to follow.
Netflix’s The Crown has done a tremendous job of really dramatizing how meticulous the royal family had been about protecting their status in the wake of the Abdication Crisis, and how they have often gone overboard and made mistakes in being overtly careful and cautious to avoid scandal and disfavor with the public. While the shows storylines are largely fiction, they are based on real life events. The queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was barred from marrying Peter Townsend, because of concern over how the public would view the match. Sir Anthony Blunt was allowed to remain in service of the Crown despite being outed as a Soviet spy, because of concerns that it would damage the credibility of the monarchy, and while it is never been confirmed, it widely accepted that Prince Charles was pushed into his marriage with Princess Diana because of his ongoing affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, whose lifestyle was considering ill-fitting for a future queen.
In the first season of The Crown, there is a scene where Queen Mary, played by Eileen Atkins, writes a letter to her granddaughter who is returning home after learning of her father’s death. Her words set the foundation for the show’s plot, but it also explains the many actions and mistakes of the Royal Family through the modern day.
“I have seen three great monarchies brought down through their failure to separate personal indulgences from duty. You must not allow yourself to make similar mistakes…the crown must win.”
Though the letter is almost certainly fictional, the sentiment is certainly true. Mary implored on her granddaughter that every decision she makes and makes for her family must put the survival of the crown first, even at the cost of her and her relatives’ own personal happiness.
It was a perfect explanation of the driving force behind whatever the Royal Family has done and continues to do, and how always being stuck in 1936 mentality has left it vulnerable. Once an institution that smartly shifted with the times, holding on to some traditions, while getting in front of societal changes on others, the monarchy has instead found itself a deer in the headlights, too afraid to step too far ahead of the curve, and risk its tenuous survival.
The overreaction to the Abdication has led to many bad decisions, most notably the decision for Queen Elizabeth II not to put forward a public show of grief and mourning after the death of Princess Diana in 1997, perhaps the greatest threat to the monarchy in her time. Princess Diana had a very rocky relationship with her in-laws during her time as princess.
The marriage was unhappy and Diana’s very-public distress inspired empathy in the British public, an empathy that grew as Diana charted her own course in charitable causes. For whatever reason, the Royal Family refused to capitalize on Diana’s magic; instead they saw it as a threat. Critics would argue the queen was jealous of Diana’s popularity, which is shortsighted if true. More likely, they saw the progressive actions of the princess as the threat to the monarchy Queen Mary spoke about decades earlier. Her very public lifestyle focusing on divisive causes, seemed as if she was putting her own personal ambitions over duty, which older royals, including the queen, were taught jeopardizes the monarchy. Diana, who would have been Britain’s next queen consort, was the future of the Crown. Leveraging her people skills would have ensured its survival well into the 21st Century, but the Royal Family could not escape from trauma of 1936 and could not see the lessons learned in the first half of the 20th Century no longer applies in the second half.
And Diana’s death was an opportunity for the Royal Family to make past sins right, but instead led to them doubling down on the bad decision making. Rather than capitalize on the grief surrounding her death, and kick the troublesome press while it was down, being blamed for Diana’s death, the monarchy allowed the press to redeem itself by going into hiding and giving the British tabloids fodder to exploit the public’s grief. At the end of the week following Diana’s death, the monarchy had been more unpopular than it ever was in Elizabeth’s reign, with a quarter of Britons ready to exile her majesty.
To this day, the survival of the monarchy is always in doubt. There are only a handful of monarchies left on Earth besides the United Kingdom; Japan, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and some Muslim nations like Malaysia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia Though republican sentiment is not currently high in Britain, the Royal Family is often advised to keep the media on their side to avoid quick public shifts of opinion, like the one that blindsided them in 1997.
Which brings us to Meghan.
How They Messed Up Again
What the Windsors keep missing is this: It is not longer 1936. The world has changed, society has changed, and what the public expects from the Royal Family has changed. Gone are the days when the royals were expected to just to an example of nobility and piety to give the “little people” something to aspire to. The public no longer wants to sit on the sidelines and see well-dressed nobles and royals go to garden parties and debutante balls. Today, the public expects the Royal Family to lead; the put their names and their money to work in charitable causes and causes to lift up the British nation. We see this with other royals around the world. Queen Rania of Jordan has become an advocate for education and cross-cultural understanding worldwide, and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was the first royal to support the rights of LBGTQ people.
Queen Elizabeth II has shown that she has learned this since 1997. Her popularity has remained quite high and her speech to the public at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic helped rally the British public during the initial lockdown.
However, the Windsors were never more popular than when Diana was out in the world finding landmines and hugging children with AIDS. The Royal Family remains largely blind to how that helps them survive in the modern world. To them, hugging AIDS patients, standing up against the use of landmines, and for other causes goes against the advice to remain apolitical given to them by ancestors like Queen Mary, who feared political involvement would doom them. Today, however, it is remaining apathetic in the face of divisive issues that makes people question the continued relevance of the institution.
The arrival of first Kate, and then Meghan, to the Royal Family brought new excitement and promise, but the British press savaged Meghan in a way they didn’t Kate, and the Royal Family did not back Meghan up, give her the help and support she asked for, and keep her and her husband, no doubt feeling he was reliving the trauma his mother suffered, from breaking with the family and triggering the current crisis. After all, to do so risked angering the press, and who knows where the public would fall on the issue. It is likely the Royal Family, unsure of how the younger son of the future king marrying a divorced biracial American actress would play in the British public, treaded carefully in a way that was unfamiliar at best, cruel at worst, to the California-born Duchess of Sussex.
For her part in this, Markle really hasn’t done herself any favors. The Oprah interview almost came across as a kamikaze mission on her and her husband’s part. Their popularity has soured in Britain, but she may have also hurt the Royal Family in the process, and the damage was entirely preventable for them. Maybe that was the goal, but maybe the duchess is responding the only way an American thespian knows how – to tell it to the world and lay it all bare. Perhaps the Royal Family will luck out again and leverage Meghan’s mistake and now growing unpopularity to their benefit, by presenting themselves as victims. It might be their best card to play.
It is time for the Royal Family to escape from the constraints of 1936. The Abdication was nearly a century ago. There are very few Britons still around who were alive to really remember it, fewer who were old enough to have an opinion. The British monarchy is threatened, as it has been for its entire existence, but as Elizabeth’s ancestors learned, oftentimes the hard way, the key to survival is to meet the people where they are. That meant something different in 1936 than it does now. Today, it may have meant throwing your support behind a princess whose background looks more like the emerging diversity of the nation, and allowing her and her husband to chart their own course. Clearly, though, it’s too late for that now.
As A ‘Crisis’ Builds On The Border, Let’s Not Forget A Similar Crisis Is Why We Get To Call America Home
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
This week, while you are scarfing down corned beef and cabbage and scoffing at child migrants at the border, remember Annie Moore.
Who is/was she? On January 1, 1892, she was the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island. She was a 15-year-old girl from Ireland who was put on a boat by her relatives and sent to America with two younger brothers and no adult. They wanted a better life for these children than what they could have found in Ireland.
When Annie arrived at Ellis Island, she walked off the boat, was given $10 and welcomed into America. Until the Immigration Act of 1907, passed 15 years later, there were zero restrictions on immigration into the United States (except against Chinese people). If you were an Irish immigrant, even an unaccompanied minor, you just walked into America. Before 1907, you didn’t have to wait in a facility like children are doing at the border today. Even after, an unaccompanied child was detained at places like Ellis Island and then quickly given into the custody of relatives, a religious institution or a foster family. Few were turned away.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied Irish children were put on boats and sent to America by their parents or other relatives who couldn’t feed them or take care of them during and after the Great Famine, or, as in Annie’s case, to meet parents who came to America without their children to find work. If you have Irish Ancestry, chances are you descend from them. They are our grandparents, great-grandparents or great-great grandparents. You may owe your American lifestyle to a child who came to this country alone. My own great-grandmother, Felicina Deusebio came to America from Biella, Italy (via France) as a 19-year-old, coming to find her two sisters, who came here as teenagers in specialty-designed dresses with their names stitched on them. Our ancestors more than a century ago decided finding a better life was more important than what you might term “respecting borders.”
Those kids at the border are no different than your ancestors. They are sent her by relatives desperate for them to have a better life, or trying to reconnect with relatives who came here looking for work, unable to bring their children with them. We should dedicate ourselves to making sure that they will be given the same opportunities than America gave our forefathers.
As Clocks Move Ahead One Hour, We Can Finally Let Go Of The Darkness We Dreaded
Last summer, as we were still battling the COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight, no word on vaccines and the predictions for a winter surge looming, I noticed something that made me shudder.
Daylight Savings Time was to end on November 1, the earliest possible date it can happen. I noticed it didn’t begin again until March 14, the latest possible date. That meant this winter, the first since the pandemic began, would feature the longest possible timeframe for the sun setting before 6 p.m. The thought depressed the hell of out of me.
When we went into shutdown mode a year ago, New Yorkers started a tradition of going outside and cheering and banging post at 7 p.m. each evening in honor of healthcare workers who were desperately trying to save lives. One evening while joining in, I noticed it was still daylight out. I texted to a friend of mine:
“Thank God this happened after the winter ended, I couldn’t imagine being in lockdown and it getting dark at 5 p.m.”
Early sunsets are my least favourite thing about winter. Growing up, I found myself suffering from terrible depression in the dead of winter when it would get dark at 5 p.m. Even on the rare nice days, it meant there was little chance of hanging out with my friends since we couldn’t be out past dark and “dark” came only about an hour or two after school ended – time eaten up by homework. In my early working days, I remember leaving work at 5 p.m. and it already being dark. When I was Editor-in-Chief of the Queens Tribune, I often got to work when it was dark and left when it was dark, sometimes going 36 hours without ever seeing sunlight. And it felt like it went on forever. I remember walking home from the subway once in pitch darkness at 5:45 p.m. well into January looking at my phone and seeing that the sun wouldn’t set after 5 p.m. until the third week of the month. A few years ago, driving around in darkness at 6 p.m. in February, I noted that “it felt like I had lived ten lifetimes since the last time it got dark after 6:30 p.m.”
That was the dread I felt going into this winter. None of those timeframes between Daylight Savings were going to be as long as this year. That, combined with the idle pandemic lifestyle we are forced to endure, would make this winter hell. It would be long, dark and boring, slowly watching the calendar turn. I dreaded the feeling I felt the first week of the pandemic, where it had felt like a year had gone by. It didn’t help that the winter COVID-19 wave started right after we changed the clocks in November.
It was as bad as predicted.
Hundreds of thousands died, there were no Broadway shows, bar trivia nights and family gatherings to take my mind off my seasonal depression, my usual means of endurance. Christmas was small, New Year’s was quiet, there was little-to-no work. There was an attempted coup in Washington.
But there were also vaccines, a new president and new friends that I made over social media. There were movies I haven’t seen in years, great television shows to watch, recipes to cook and chores to do. There were real estate classes to take, virtual writing groups to attend and decorations to put up. I read books, did puzzles, dabbled in SimCity for the first time in five years. There were things that kept me busy, and away from counting the weeks and days until March 14.
In November, there was a focus on counting votes. In December, Christmas kept me busy and joyful. In January, I got myself back into the grove of work and continuing education, which carried over in February and before I knew, we were closing in on the end of the 17 arduous weeks that Standard Time lasted.
And now the sun will set after 7 p.m. for the next six months. When I eat dinner, it will still be daylight. I can do evening showings again, and not have to turn on my office lights at 4 p.m., allowing natural daylight to illuminate my space a few hours longer. Warmer temperatures come soon, as do flowers and birds and, once a vaccine is in my arm (dose one scheduled for April 1), friends, family and parties will return as well.
I wouldn’t relive the past year for any amount of money, but I can say with certainty that there were positive lessons learned. I learned to tackle my fear of isolation and solitude, and appreciate them when the opportunities to be alone are offered. I learned patience and I learned the value of friendships and family, and I learned that no matter how long and dark the winter may be, filling it with projects and people that bring you joy will help the time go by faster. In future years, the long stretch of time where it gets dark early will be easier to endure, thanks to the Longest Winter.
It certainly did not feel like 17 weeks, but here we are. Now get ready to go out there and enjoy the sunshine.