An Underreported Concern: COVID and the January 6, 2021 Pro-Trump Uprising

As I said on my blog a number of days ago when giving my most recent COVID-19 update, what happened at the pro-Trump uprising last Wednesday was awful, un-American, and frankly, insurrectionist. However, I’m not going to rehash all of the thoughts I went into with last Thursday’s post, because I feel that more people need to talk about yet another concern stemming from the uprising that I’ve heard few mention yet.

The concern is that we also may’ve witnessed a COVID super-spreader event as well.

From reports I heard, there were tens of thousands of individuals at this event. And, based on images I saw and audio I heard, many of the individuals there had just about the worst conduct imaginable from a COVID prevention standpoint:

  • Nobody appeared to be practicing social distancing.
  • Few people appeared to be wearing their masks. This is crucial, as from what I’ve heard, mask-wearing is key when you are unable to practice social distancing.
  • Many of the individuals were yelling, which results in droplets from someone travelling much further than individuals talking in a normal voice.
  • Many of the individuals came from far-away places, which meant that they may’ve already come into contact with individuals on the way to the event and may come into contact with other individuals yet on their way back home.

Time will tell as to whether this was indeed a super-spreader event in addition to being an act of insurrection. But if the behaviors I saw on the news were any indication, I think all signs point toward a potential super-spreader event. If the event celebrating Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court (a gathering drastically smaller than the one last Wednesday, albeit with similarly poor precautions in many ways) could be a super-spreader event, then this one has the potential to be a super-spreader event many times over.

All I can say is this: if there were a large concentration of individuals at the event coming from any particular part of the country, I just sincerely hope that those areas’ health systems are prepared to handle a surge of COVID patients.

P.S. The day after I scheduled this post, I heard news reports saying that some members of Congress may’ve been in isolation during the insurrection with someone who had COVID (and as such may’ve been exposed to the virus). You can find a news report from ABC on this issue here.

Also, I will not publish a post next Monday, which is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Rural Hospitals and COVID-19

Anyone who knows my background would know that I’ve spent most of my life living in a big city. So, you might be asking why I’d take an interest in rural hospitals during COVID-19, and why others should take an interest in this topic as well. There are really three answers to that “why” question:

(1) many rural hospitals were in danger before the pandemic,

(2) many rural hospitals may be in even more danger of closing as a result of the pandemic, and (3) such closures would reduce access to care for many during this pandemic.

Even before COVID-19, many rural hospitals had been closing at an alarming rate. The problem has been particularly bad in poor rural areas here in the United States. The reason for this is often attributed, at least in part, to the fact that some states have decided not to opt for Medicaid expansion, a move that affects the finances of hospitals severely.[1]

With COVID-19, this situation is expected to get even worse, unfortunately, especially in the states that have not expanded Medicaid. That’s not to say that the pandemic isn’t taking a toll on other places, but that toll is expected to be particularly bad in places that have not seen this expansion.[2]

What this will mean is potentially more rural hospital closures, especially in poor rural areas.

It means that many in these places who need urgent care for anything, whether it be for COVID-19 or something else, will need to wait longer to get urgent care that they need, ranging from heart attacks to severe strokes. Furthermore, it will mean that people in the areas affected by these closures will need to travel further to get the care they need, in the process putting more of a burden on the hospitals that do survive (both hospitals that exist in rural areas and ones that do not exist in rural areas).

All of this, in turn, would affect places’ abilities to adequately address COVID-19. I am presenting a rather doomsday scenario because it does sound like a doomsday situation, unless rural hospitals get the help they need.

There are two ways forward from this crisis, as far as I can tell. First, states that have resisted Medicaid expansion should end that resistance immediately. Second, federal assistance to rural hospitals, which from what I have read has been inadequate, should be much more substantial.[3] This is not to say that the situation will be universally great even with these measures because the entire American healthcare system is feeling the strain from COVID-19. However, the measures I suggest above would hopefully slow down some of the financial bleeding many rural hospitals are experiencing.

For any of my readers who live in rural parts of the United States and may be affected by the closures of rural hospitals, you may want to do the following:

  1. See if your state has implemented Medicaid expansion. If not, put pressure on your state officials to expand Medicaid in their states.
  2. Contact your members of Congress (particularly if your member covers some rural areas) to ask them to make sure that rural hospitals are adequately addressing any future COVID-19 relief or stimulus plan.

Yes, I may be a city kid in many ways, but I also know that we need urban, suburban, and rural hospitals alike to be in adequate shape financially as they confront this pandemic. Anything less than that is irresponsible and may result in unnecessarily losses of life.


[1] This Forbes article explains how a lack of Medicaid expansion causes significant financial harm to many rural hospitals: https://www.forbes.com/sites/claryestes/2020/02/24/1-4-rural-hospitals-are-at-risk-of-closure-and-the-problem-is-getting-worse/

[2] https://www.npr.org/2020/04/09/829753752/small-town-hospitals-are-closing-just-as-coronavirus-arrives-in-rural-america

[3] https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/health/iowa-rural-critical-access-hospitals-money-problems-coronavirus-relief-20201019. This source, which is the paper of record for much of Eastern Iowa, has been consistently covering the issue of federal assistance to rural hospitals.

Gaslighting in Contexts Other Than Relationships

I was absolutely overwhelmed with the response to my “what is” post last week about gaslighting. I never know when a post will resonate with my readers, and I could tell that my post resonated with quite a few of you. It’s unfortunate that so many related to the post because of their experiences as victims of gaslighting, but I’m also hopeful that some people will come to a better understanding of their experiences through reading that post.

However, I think it is worth doing a follow-up post because of things I’ve learned even since last Monday, and things people should learn as well, about gaslighting in contexts other than one-on-one relationships with other people.

In saying this, it is worth remembering that gaslighting is “a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.”[1]

Phrases like the following can be commonplace:

Of course that didn’t happen. You’re being crazy.”

“Your mind must be playing games.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“You’re being too sensitive.”

These challenges to one’s reality, memory, and perceptions happen a lot in relationships, as I said in my post last Monday, but they can also happen in other contexts.

One other context in which gaslighting can happen is politics—something that a couple of the comments in response to my post pointed out last Monday. When a politician makes a person, or a whole group of people, question their own reality, that is political gaslighting. In fact, as controversial as it may be for me to say this, I think that the American people are a victim of President Donald Trump’s gaslighting regarding the election results—he is trying to get the entire country to doubt the basic reality that he lost, so that he could be president for four more years (or for life). Thankfully, no amount of gaslighting can result in giving Trump an election that he undoubtedly lost, but in the meantime the American people have to deal with the fact that he has successfully convinced a group of people of a reality that simply does not exist. And, when you have someone with a large platform who engages in an act of political gaslighting, the result is that a group of people gets convinced of a reality that does not exist (as is the case here with the election and President Trump).

Yet another context that gaslighting can exist is in the experiences of people with disabilities, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and other groups that face discrimination. Reading a post from Jackie at Disability & Determination helped me recognize that gaslighting absolutely exists in this context. Jackie’s post talked about gaslighting in the context of the disability community—it is painfully common in the disability community for someone to question or doubt the reality that there are certain things you aren’t able to do, or at least not do in the same way, as an able-bodied individual (or dismiss the reality of the disability in general). It can exist in the context of LGBTQ+ individuals through people who counter their perceptions of their sexual or gender identity, in the context of Black people through people who try to divert attention to how difficult they also have things in life, in the context of poor people by countering any notion that they are working hard yet struggling to still get by (saying that they simply need to work harder), and much more. Groups of people face discrimination and are gaslit about their own experiences of discrimination—a double whammy.

There may be other major manifestations of gaslighting that I did not cover either in last week’s post or this post; if so, please let me know in the comments section below. However, it is clear to me now that in addition to gaslighting rearing its ugly head in relationships, it can also rear its ugly head in other forms, such as in politics and the experiences of people in groups that face discrimination.


[1] My definition comes from here: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-gaslighting-how-do-you-know-if-it-s-happening-ncna890866

What Is…Gaslighting?

Content warning: Emotional abuse

Because of other things I felt I needed to cover on this blog, the “what is” blog series took a bit of a backseat for a couple of months. However, I feel that it’s important to continue with this series, as I still have some important terms to cover.

The term I’m covering today is gaslighting. As National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was in October, one of the months I was hoping to do a “what is” post but was unable to because of election-related topics, I felt that gaslighting—which can happen in abusive relationships, including ones with domestic violence—was worth covering next.

But what is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is “a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.”[1]

Phrases like the following can be commonplace in gaslighting:

Of course that didn’t happen. You’re being crazy.”

“Your mind must be playing games.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“You’re being too sensitive.”

Regardless of what sorts of phrases or sentences are used in gaslighting, there can be one or more techniques involved when someone is gaslighting someone else, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • Withholding: The person doing the gaslighting does not listen to what the victim is saying or pretends not to understand.
  • Countering: What this means is that the gashlighter is countering the gaslighting victim’s understanding of events, as if the gaslighter is trying to make someone question or doubt the way things happened.
  • Blocking/Diverting: The person doing the gaslighting is trying to change to a different subject and/or question than what the victim is thinking.
  • Trivializing: The person doing the gaslighting tries to make it sound as if the actions of the abuser are no big deal.
  • Forgetting/Denial: The person doing the gaslighting either pretends to forget what was done to the victim and/or denies what the gaslighter is accused of doing.

The questioning of one’s reality that can happen with consistently being a victim of gaslighting can become extremely dangerous. Victims of gaslighting can find themselves second-guessing things, feeling confused, and struggling to make decisions that would usually be simple, among other things.[2]

Speaking from a personal point of view, I know people who have been victims of gaslighting, particularly gaslighting in the context of romantic relationships. Therefore, knowing about it is so incredibly important because knowing about gaslighting is a way of understanding the experiences of friends or family members who have been victims of/survivors of abusive relationships that involve it. That’s not to say that it can’t happen in contexts outside of romantic relationships, but most of the contexts I’ve heard gaslighting in have been in romantic relationships.

Additionally, I’ve been aware of situations where someone was being emotionally abused but did not quite have the words to describe how they were experiencing emotional abuse. Spreading awareness of what gaslighting is can also hopefully help more abused individuals realize what they are going through, so that they know what steps to take.

While talk of abusive romantic relationships often centers around physically abusive relationships, some relationships, both romantic ones and non-romantic ones, can also be emotionally abusive. One of the common forms of emotional abuse in relationships is gaslighting. Therefore, while gaslighting is a term that may not be understood by many, it is a term that should be understood by more people.

If any of the signs of gaslighting exist for you, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (United States) at 1-800-799-7233 or chat with them online 24/7/365. If you don’t live in the United States, please contact your country’s equivalent of the National Domestic Violence Hotline in the United States.


[1] My definition comes from here: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-gaslighting-how-do-you-know-if-it-s-happening-ncna890866

[2] https://www.thehotline.org/2014/05/29/what-is-gaslighting/

The Importance of Following the Money in Politics

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

He hasn’t even taken his oath of office yet, and I’m already writing about a concern I have with the Biden administration. Yes, I voted for him (and even wrote a blog post about my planning to vote for him[1]), but this doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else) should avoid holding who we vote for accountable.

The offense? President-elect Biden nominated former Secretary of State John Kerry to be Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry, who is also a former United States senator and the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States back in 2004, is a believer in climate change and taking measures to address it. However, people should have concerns about whether Kerry will be as bold as he needs to be (and by extension, concerns about whether the Biden team will be as bold as it needs to be) on climate change, which is a major crisis.

Why am I concerned? Just look at Kerry’s investments. I don’t know about now, but at least as of 2013, Kerry had investments with dozens of companies in the oil and gas industry. And these are not all small investments, either—at least six of those companies he had investments in were of $100,000 or more.[2] At the very least, in the recent-ish past, he was benefitting from big oil money.

I hope that between 2013 and now, Kerry has dropped all of his oil and gas investments. If he hasn’t, then people should definitely be concerned about his investments keeping him (and, by extension, the Biden administration, potentially) from being as aggressive as he should be on the issue of climate change.[3] That concern should be present because aggressive action on climate change would go against the best interests of what’s potentially profitable for many of these companies Kerry has invested in, and by extension for Kerry himself; because of that, it’s reasonable to be concerned that this conflict-of-interest could result in Kerry not advocating for actions as bold as they should be.

Let’s be real though—Kerry is only a microcosm of a larger issue, which is the concern that money, and particularly receiving of money from certain people or entities, could influence politicians in unjust ways.

This problem can manifest itself in many major issues, ranging from climate change to income inequality. From Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma saying odd things about environmental issues and then having the oil and gas industry as his second largest industry of contributions,[4] to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer being criticized for being cozy with Wall Street (with Wall Street being accused oftentimes as being a big reason for our current income inequality) and then having big banks as four of his five largest lifetime contributors,[5] there are serious concerns about money having a major influence on our politics and politicians.

However, these concerns about big money polluting our politics in unjust ways can only be recognized if we follow the money. If we learn about the monetary connections to the policies of the Kerrys, Schumers, and Inhofes of the world, we can start to recognize how it might be the large donor class, and not so much the constituents these politicians are supposed to serve, that influences the work that is done (or the work that is not done).

As to how we can learn about these monetary connections, I would strongly recommend starting with a website called Open Secrets for national candidates (presidential candidates, as well as members of Congress). This website can allow you to learn about what sorts of companies contribute to individual candidates, as well as which companies a candidate has investments in. That way, you can learn, for example, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a lot of money invested in the technology sector,[6] so if she ever sounds tepid about holding Facebook accountable for certain things, maybe it’s because of the $500,000+ in investments she appears to have in Facebook. As for holding local and state-level candidates similarly accountable, it varies from municipality to municipality, and from state to state, but in many cases there are ways to find out even at the local and state level who your elected officials seem financially beholden to.

By learning to follow the money with our politicians and their actions, we will hopefully also learn how much big money can result in some of the positions our elected officials take, even if some of those positions are unjust. Recognizing this might not solve any injustices, but it could offer one explanation of how we ended up where we are in the first place with issues like climate change, income inequality, and many others.


[1] https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2020/10/26/how-issues-of-injustice-influenced-my-presidential-pick/

[2] https://www.opensecrets.org/personal-finances/john-kerry/assets?cid=N00000245&year=2013

[3] While I am guessing that Kerry will help the Biden team with any help needed in rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, there should be concern about whether he, and by extension the Biden administration, will be as aggressive as needed. You can read about the Paris Climate Accords here: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement

[4] https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/james-m-inhofe/summary?cid=N00005582&cycle=2020

[5] https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/charles-e-schumer/contributors?cid=N00001093&cycle=CAREER&type=I

[6] https://www.opensecrets.org/personal-finances/nancy-pelosi/assets?cid=N00007360&year=2018