No Smell, No Taste…

Granny

My restless brain is in overdrive search now that I have all this time and nowhere to go, so when I heard that one of the symptoms of Covid-19 was the loss of smell and taste, I free associated back to a bar of the same name (No Smell No Taste) in the West African country of Liberia. As Jerry Jeff Walker said about going to jail “I wasn’t there on a research project.” No Smell No Taste was a shanty bar, part wood, part corrugated tin, dirt floor on the road from the airport at Roberts Field to the capital, Monrovia. Big fun. Heineken beer preserved and fortified with formaldehyde (not unlike Trump’s injection of disinfectant) and a favored watering spot for Pan Am crew members. But, that’s another story.

Next in my Covid-19 free association ramble brought me closer to home. One of my grandsons came up short in the no smell no taste department last month. He’s fine now but it’s likely he had the virus though he was never tested. Thank you, Donald, for doing such a great job with that. But, that’s another story too.

Here’s the story I want to tell you about smell:

I come from a small family. My father was the youngest in his family by 13 years, and my mother and I are both only children. We never lived close to any of the extended family, but I remember my Granny well from the times we did visit. She was the matriarch in a patriarchal family, a farm wife in the hardscrabble world of Depression-era farming. She died before I got to know her well, but I remember how she would wrap me in her soft, wrinkly arms and pull me onto her generous capacious lap. I was her youngest and last grandchild. She loved me and her embrace enveloped me, but her smell was off-putting – one I associated with old people. 

Moving on; my father had his own set of smells. He was 75 when he died and though I didn’t think of him as an old man in his last years there was smell about him too. I remember opening the closet door to hang my coat and being overwhelmed by the pungent mixture of old age and cigarettes. Mind you, this was the closet where his business suits hung, but people didn’t launder or dry clean their clothes as often then as they do now. There was always this aroma that went with my father. It came from the combination of contributing elements. He smoked—a lot. It’s what killed him. Regardless, to this day, I remember the whiff of body odor and cigarettes that met me as I opened his closet door. 

I was reminded of those family smells last fall when the New York Times ran an article entitled, Do Older People Have a Different Smell? The study was inconclusive. The jury, they said, was still out, but I come down hard on the “yes” side of the question. You might see where this is going. The “family” smell and my age have combined to give me a heightened sensitivity to the “scent” of old age. I hate the idea I’m giving off an offensive odor. I picture an old cartoon figure surrounded by a cloud with wavy lines emanating and people backing away. Yuck.

Because of that and the fact that I’m OCD, I shower with the vigor and compulsiveness of Lady Macbeth then shave and add a dollop of Bath and Body Works Orange-Ginger Aromatherapy lotion to my face. I could swear my sweat never had an odor, but now, in the age of coronavirus, I’m not sure. I mention coronavirus only because I live so differently as its captive. I’m disciplined and regimented, but except for every other day bike rides I get almost no exercise…yet, every morning I wonder if there’s a hint of odor as I head for the shower. Paranoia? The power of suggestion? Or is it true? No way am I going to smell like an old man…even if I am one. The derivative etymology of scent is the same as that of senescence or the gradual deterioration of the organism – of growing old, and after reading the Times article, I think the scent I associate with my grandmother’s embrace and my father’s closet probably WAS due to their senescence.

My wife is appalled and astonished at my choice of subject matter. “You can’t write about BO.” Why not, I ask? I’m exploring life’s continuum. What are we like at different stages? “You’ll embarrass me,” she says. “It’s not about you,” I say, as she leaves the room in disgust. “You might mention the after-dinner grease spots on your shirts while you’re at it.” That’s her thing. Smells are mine. Spots are hers. She’s a consultant to senior health care facilities and tells me all the time that one thing you can count on with old guys in retirement homes is that they are covered with spots. Spaghetti sauce. Olive oil. Ice cream. Drool. All the things that make life worthwhile. Nevertheless, since I’m incarcerated and under her care, Nurse Ratched makes me change shirts after dinner if I’ve dripped. It’s a power thing…and a laundry thing. She loves the washing machine and folding clothes is her meditation, so I do what I can to keep her happy.

It looks like eternal vigilance is the price of a fragrance-free body, and I will continue to bathe daily and support Bath and Body Works to make it so. It’s my hope that senescence will stay socially distant while I try to do better with the spaghetti sauce. Here’s hoping the smells I associate with Granny and my Dad are anomaly not family legacy.

Stay healthy. Wash your hands. Smell the flowers. And, love your family and friends.

Sliding Tiles and Memory…

With the dual contagions of Clovid-19 and Donald Trump in the air, I’ve been looking for an escape from the news cycle. It’s exhausting, but after combing the Netflix, Amazon Video, and Audible libraries while rereading The Plague, The Andromeda Strain, and Love in the Time of Cholera I think the solution is to go back to work. Writing as therapy.

Most writers carry a notebook where they jot down snippets of dialogue or the elements of a scene, so they have material for a story or article, but I was always a lousy notetaker. Back in college, when I was studying for an exam, I had a hard time making sense of my notes. Nothing stood out. I’d look at them and see nothing but “the” or “and” as if they were the important facts in a lecture. I was hopeless. It didn’t take long to learn I’m an oral and visual learner which is why I love the iPhone camera and why I never wanted to miss a class lecture.

Joan Didion’s essay On Keeping a Notebook is fascinating and full of conjecture on how and why notes are important and how details inform memory. But notebooks still don’t work for me. I have dozens of them, but they’ve never been an important part of my toolkit.

To be clear, even though I wasn’t a good notetaker I hated cameras. I felt ripped off buying film, threading it on the spool, and dealing with f-stops, apertures and focal lengths before taking twenty-seven pictures that cost a fortune to develop, but only two which I wanted to keep.

My Dad gave me an Argus C3 SLR when I graduated from college. It was his camera and I think he passed it to me because he hated to take pictures too. I used it once or twice but gave it away the night before my first trip to Europe. I didn’t want anything getting between me and the world. I didn’t regret the decision then, but there are long gaps where the only record I have are pictures friends took and shared with me. 

I still have no regrets, but there were some incredible experiences over the years that I have no visual record of. Nepal. Africa. Greece. Turkey. Jerusalem. Damascus. Japan. Thailand. So many memorable locations and encounters with barely a picture until the iPhone came along. I love it.

All this is to say, the combination of the iPhone camera and the computer is like having a high-quality visual notebook. I write a weekly blog and am working on a book of essays, and in the writing process I often go to iPhoto to retrieve a picture or just to refresh my memory.

One of the things I love about my MacBook is the Desktop/Screensaver set of options. Both draw from my collection of 7864 photos. The Desktop picture changes every minute and the Screensaver feature, called Shifting Tiles presents in a random shuffle collage adding or subtracting tile photos every few seconds. Yesterday, M and I sat in my office and watched the shifting tiles as they presented elements of our lives over the last 10 or 20 years. 

The two pictures in this post are of two different screenshots showing pieces of our lives in different venues. The photo above includes shots from:

  • Inside the Pantheon in Rome
  • A café courtyard on Sardinia
  • The inner workings at the Tillamook Cheese Factory
  • A girl selling coconuts on Dong Khoi Street in Saigon
  • The interior of Galeries Lafayette in Paris
  • M’s courtyard with strawberry tree
  • A beach market in the Florida Panhandle

I wish I was a better notetaker. I’m sure it would make me a better writer. I’m not good at retaining dialogue, which is useful in relaying information and sources. On the other hand, with 7000+ photos to refresh my memory I don’t have to remember details in scenes I’m describing. The detail, the colors, the people, the scene itself is there to draw on. I wish I had pictures from my weeks on Crete or roaming the gold souk in Beirut or the back streets of old Jerusalem. I can refresh my memory by looking at other photos and reading other writers words, but they don’t pack the same punch as a photo I’ve taken at the scene or a story I’ve written.

This sliding tiles screenshot shows snapshots of:

  • Our trip up the Mekong from Vietnam to Cambodia
  • Biking along the road in Moab, Utah
  • A pre-Raphaelite painting from the show at SAM
  • M at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston
  • Mutt Mitts in Tucson
  • The Guggenheim Museum during the Picasso exhibit
  • A mystery collage
  • A Tucson taco bar

Each tile has a story that goes with it. Remember when people kept scrapbooks? This is so much more immediate and the digital photos don’t fade and curl up. It gives me more than a notebook ever could though I admire the writers that keep them. These sliding tiles tell stories of people and places that have enriched our lives and seeing them flash by takes us back to the prime experience. 

Is This It for Us?

As of today, April 24, 2020, there are 2,736,979 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and 192,125 reported deaths. Of those, America has 870,468 cases and 50,031 deaths. Here in Washington there are 12,282 confirmed cases and 682 deaths.

“April is the cruellest month” (T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land)

The world is on lockdown. Our streets are empty. Essential businesses are permitted. Nothing else is open. In New Orleans, rats are swarming in the streets, because the restaurants are closed, the dumpsters are empty, and there’s nothing to eat.

NOLA 2020

“It was about this time that our townsfolk began to show signs of uneasiness. For, from April 18 onward, quantities of dead and dying rats were found in factories and warehouses. In some cases, the animals were killed to put an end to their agony. From the city suburbs to the center of the town in all the byways where the doctor’s duties took him, in every thoroughfare, rats were piled up in garbage cans or lying in long lines in the gutters. The evening papers that day took up the matter and inquired whether or not the city fathers were going to take steps, and what emergency measures were contemplated to abate the particularly disgusting nuisance. Actually the municipality had not contemplated doing anything at all, but now a meeting was convened to discuss the situation.” Albert Camus – The Plague

In The Plague Camus tells us that authorities minimized the threat of an epidemic. He tells us that under-reaction is more dangerous than overreaction. He writes that “most people share that tendency, it’s a universal human frailty: Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky.”

Coronavirus, like the plague that struck Camus’ Oran, crept silently into the world, first in China then stealthily throughout the world. Now it’s crashing “down on our heads from a blue sky.” 

Our numbers are ominous, cases are increasing, hospital systems are overtaxed, a majority of Americans are isolated in their homes. Even now, four months later, we lack adequate testing, a plan, an effective treatment or a vaccine.

For those of us in our 80s this could be it. I’m not being morbid or hyperbolic – just realistic. We’re doing fine now. We live in a great apartment with a big library, a courtyard garden, and a deck view of Lake Washington. My writing life is only slightly changed. I no longer take the bus to my downtown workspace, but I’m quite comfortable working at home. Until there’s a vaccine, at least a year or eighteen months in the future, it’s unlikely our living/working arrangements will change.

It is quite likely that our lifestyle, M’s and mine, will never return to what it was. My life has been built around travel and for the last 20 years M and I have spent part of every year on the road, on our bikes, or on extended stays in foreign capitals. With Covid-19, in the air (literally) we are unlikely to travel, work, or recreate the way we did. We will continue to support the ballet, the theater, and our gym but we don’t expect to participate in any of them until the danger is gone, and that may be in the distant future.

But…we’re the lucky ones. Though we may be vulnerable to the virus because of our age, we haven’t lost our jobs, our income, our health, our health insurance, or any friends or family members. 

This isolation and confinement is strange and inconvenient but bearable. Ordinary people approaching retirement always ask, “How long will I live?” and follow with “Do I have enough retirement savings to make it to the end?” M and I think we’ve answered the second question, but now we ask ourselves, Will we survive and if we do will we be healthy enough to resume the life we loved so much? We’re both optimists, but we’re on the last leg of our journey. I hope our optimism is rewarded. We still have places to go and people to see.

Nevertheless, I started this rumination with a line from T.S. Eliot about April being the cruellest month. He may have given us the right final quote as well. It’s from The Hollow Men:

“This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whisper.”

Where’s My Alan Mullaly?

Seattle’s horse left the barn in 1997 when Boeing acquired its sickly competitor McDonnell Douglas. Little did anyone suspect that a company on life support could hijack the culture of its acquiring giant and precipitate a corporate tailspin that would drive the company into financial bailout territory.

The public could be forgiven for believing Boeing’s problem is the 737 MAX safety issue compounded by the Covid-19 crisis. The truth is more complex and the problems, including those related to the 737 MAX, derive from a cultural change that began with the McDonnell Douglas merger. 

Essentially, the company’s transformation from a locally based engineering culture to a bottom-line orientation has led Wall Street and the airline industry to question the quality and reliability of the company’s products and leadership. 

Following its acquisition of McDonnell Douglas, Boeing became a Wall Street darling in a series of moves that included moving the company’s headquarters to Chicago, the surprise resignation of president Phil Condit, a Boeing lifer, and the appointment of Harry Stonecipher, a former GE executive and protégé of Jack Welch who came in with the merger. With his ascendancy, the McDonnell Douglas hijacking of the company culture was complete. 

Before the merger, promotion at Boeing was primarily from within. Engineers were promoted on the strength of their expertise and the products they created. Aircraft design was a cooperative effort with airline input and the effort was rewarded with passenger satisfaction and company prosperity.

It’s hard for me to criticize The Boeing Company. I worked there when I was in college, and I have friends who spent their entire careers in its employ. As a Pan Am pilot, I flew three of its airplanes. Boeing was the gold standard in American engineering and manufacturing. Today, it’s a startling example of what happens when shareholder value trumps product quality in a company’s operational plan.

When the merger was complete, Alan Mullaly was serving as president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and in 2001 he was made CEO of that most important and profitable division. In 2005, after scandals forced the resignations of company Phil Condit and Harry Stonecipher, he was passed over for the CEO job and left the company.

Alan Mullaly was a superstar, admired by business leaders, industry insiders and Boeing employees alike. His departure marked the end of an era. After he left the company, other longtime employees like my friend Jim Morris, Head of Engineering and Manufacturing, left too.

But, the business world kept its eye on Alan Mullaly, and in 2006, when the American automobile industry was in dire straits because of foreign competition, he was hired by Ford Motor Company as its CEO. In that position, he brought the company back from the edge of bankruptcy. Under his leadership, and in spite of the 2008 Great Recession, it was the only American car manufacturer not to need a recession bailout funded by the government, and under Mullaly’s leadership established itself as the premier American auto manufacturer.

Fast forward to the Covid-19 crisis. Since it was first alerted in January, the White House has been offering band aids to a nation bleeding to death. We are reminded on a daily basis that there is a leadership vacuum. Trump has been operating without a plan, shooting from the hip, ignoring his science advisors, and, as he admits, unwilling to accept responsibility for anything related to the problem. 

Early in his presidency, Donald Trump was asking “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” referring to the disgraced disbarred lawyer who protected and mentored him early in his career. Today, as we look for leadership at the top, America would do well to change that refrain to “Where’s my Alan Mullaly?” though Mullaly is Cohn’s ethical opposite.

Trump’s found a Roy Cohn in Attorney General William Barr, but Barr’s role has looked more like spin doctor defense than guidance in confronting the Covid-19 crisis. What the nation needs is leadership and a plan to deal with and protect us from the viral invader. I nominate Alan Mullaly; someone who has the skills to manage the crisis and lead us to the “new normal.”

Who better than an executive who’s proven himself in two major manufacturing sectors – airplanes and automobiles? An experienced logistics expert, who with the authority of the Defense Production Act, might be able to guide us out of this nightmare. We need a testing plan, a contact tracing plan, a ventilator production plan, personal protective equipment for our health care professionals, and a distribution plan to get these essentials to the people who need them.

We’ve had enough of Donald Trump as Commander-in-Chief and by the same measure Boeing has had enough of the McDonnell Douglas bean-counters. The nation and Boeing both need leadership with more than shareholder value to guide them.

Boeing is currently led by David Calhoun, an accountant and former GE executive. As CEO, since earlier this year, he has been considering a bailout under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or “CARES” Act.  The problem is he doesn’t like the conditions imposed by the Act – including the promise to retain employees and limitations on executive pay. Mr. Calhoun and his board would rather bust unions, (as they did when they moved a plant to non-union South Carolina), and reduce staff and pay while raising their own compensation. Like Trump, Boeing leadership seems to care little for the men and women who made it the world’s largest aerospace company and America’s largest exporter. Since the McDonnell Douglas leadership team took over, Boeing has engaged in serial union busting and reductions in pension and work rule protections while accelerating raises in executive pay.

Calhoun is only the last in a series of CEOs whose cost cutting and engineering short cuts, including outrageous “extra charges” for safety features on the 737 MAX resulting in two crashes and the death of 346 passengers in 2018/2019. These cost saving decisions at the expense of aircraft and passenger safety have driven Boeing into the ditch just as Donald Trump has driven the nation down there by abdicating his responsibility for the protection and defense of the American people under the Constitution of the United States. It’s time for a change in both places.

Where’s my Alan Mullaly?

Chernobyl and Coronavirus…

I think of myself as a healthy person, but airborne contagion doesn’t care what I think, and it doesn’t care if I go to fitness class or run marathons. It’s an equal opportunity disrupter. A neurologist once told me that some people are more vulnerable to diseases of the central nervous system than others. He thought I was one of them because in my time on the planet I have uploaded viral meningitis, polymyalgia rheumatica, transient global amnesia, two episodes of myasthenia gravis and what a pediatrician diagnosed as a mild case of polio. I’m lucky that they’re all in the rear-view mirror now.

Does that mean I have a good immune system or a weak one? Good question these days. Like all of you I’m sheltering at home, limiting my exposure to the outside world, washing my hands like Lady Macbeth, and hoping that dread viral bug doesn’t creep in with the morning paper.

One of my distractions while waiting it out has been to watch the HBO series, Chernobyl. Not exactly uplifting considering the deadly invisible threat outside my window, but I see fascinating parallels between the Soviet nuclear disaster and coronavirus. 

Photo courtesy of diyphotography.net

My fascination with Chernobyl began on April 27, 1986. I was the co-pilot on Pan Am’s inaugural flight from Frankfurt to Stockholm that day. It was a big deal. New York mayor John Lindsey and former world heavyweight champions Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson were on their way to Stockholm for a reunion celebration of their famous fight, and we were met on arrival by Stockholm’s mayor and other dignitaries.

In Frankfurt, as we were briefing for the flight, Operations told us that there had been an accident at the nuclear facility at Chernobyl, Ukraine, and it was emitting a radioactive cloud. Our flight path might take us near it. We didn’t know exactly what that meant but it didn’t sound good. Nevertheless, we flew to Stockholm, spent the night and flew back to Frankfurt the following day. After landing in Frankfurt, the skin of the airplane was checked for radiation and what was determined to be an acceptable level was detected. Two weeks later, I woke up with double vision, muscle weakness and the myasthenia gravis that ended my flying career.

I have doctor friends who think Chernobyl radiation triggered my disease but there has never been a study as far as I know. Last year, I wrote a blog on the 30th anniversary of the accident (http://www.jackbernardstravels.com/how-chernobyl-changed-my-life/) and a few weeks later I received an email from a British actress who was performing in Stockholm when Chernobyl blew. I don’t know how she found my blog, but she wanted me to know that she had also contracted myasthenia gravis within weeks of the disaster. Small world. Now we correspond regularly.

One reason Chernobyl interests me today is that I see striking parallels between it and the Covid-19 contagion. There are obvious differences; Chernobyl exploded because of faulty engineering and cheap construction while the virus is a biological mutation thought to have passed from infected bats to humans in the Wuhan market. Nevertheless, both crises were bungled and thousands could have been saved if only there had been timely interventions by the Russian, Chinese, and American leaders called on to respond.

Both events are catastrophic; Chernobyl’s sudden explosion cast its skin-blistering, organ-destroying radioactivity across Eastern Europe while Covid-19 stealthily cast its lung-choking little bug around the world. In the aftermath, both governments (Russian and Chinese) reacted by withholding important information about the danger. Official government statements (Russian, Chinese and American) claimed the situations were “contained.” Government officials assured their respective citizens that everything was under control.

Bureaucrats (Russian, Chinese, and American) dealing directly with the emergencies denied the serious nature of the problems and promised the public they had everything under control.

None of these three governments was prepared to deal with a catastrophic event. We used to mock the Russians and Chinese for the quality of their products and their heavy-handed approach to social problems but America was also woefully unprepared to deal with the pandemic. The Chernobyl explosion was caused by faulty engineering, cheap construction, and the absence of “fail safe” backups. The Chinese government had no public health measures in place when the virus appeared and could not assure its citizens that their public markets were safe, and America even after the HIV/AIDS epidemic and Hurricane Katrina ignored the prospect of a pandemic, disbanded the National Security Council’s Pandemic Response Unit and failed to replenish the government’s stockpile of emergency PPE (personal protective equipment).

In both crises, when scientists attempted to advise and inform, they were silenced or ignored. In Russia, the Central Committee refused to admit the truth for fear it would embarrass the government and alarm the population. In China, Dr. Lin, a Wuhan physician tried to warn the government but was silenced, punished and ultimately killed by the virus and the delay cost them precious time in controlling the Wuhann spread. In America, though on notice from China, the World Health Organization, and one of his top advisors, President Trump played down the Covid-19 danger for two months before acknowledging the problem and implementing containment strategies.

By the time the severity of these events were finally accepted, after long delays in government action, both emergencies had reached catastrophic levels. High radioactivity levels extended 200km in all directions from Chernobyl. By the time Chinese authorities accepted the true situation and acted to quarantine Wuhann and Hubei province thousands were dead and the virus was migrating around the world.

In November 2019 the Federal Advisory Committee of the Department of Defense warned the White House of the appearance of a virulent virus in Wuhan China that could threaten the US, and on December 31, 2019, the US was advised by the World Health Organization that Covid-19 had the potential to be a worldwide pandemic. But, despite these warnings and the January lockdown of Wuhan and Hubei Province, President Trump’s only action was to limit flights from China (though some 430,000 people did enter the US after his embargo). In February and most of March he did nothing to address the prospect and continued to diminish the threat even when the first cases and deaths were appearing in Washington State.

Even though Chernobyl involved an explosion and nuclear meltdown, the real dangers posed there and by Covid-19 were the invisible. Neither could be seen and only through testing could a true assessment of the risk be made. Wind, rain, border crossings, cruise ships, and international travel all contributed to the spread of radioactivity and the invisible virus. Containment and mitigation depend on immediate action. Geographic areas needed to be evacuated or quarantined and time was of the essence, but authorities in all three countries were all slow to respond. 

The Chernobyl and Covid-19 emergencies are egregious examples of the failure of leadership. Russian bureaucrats blamed low-level operators at the nuclear plant. The Chinese ignored Dr. Lin’s warning and allowed the virus to spread throughout the province. All three countries tried to shift the blame by firing whistleblower troublemakers.

The American response is particularly distressing. As in any war, leadership is the key to victory, and the US had none even though the infrastructure, blueprint, and tools were there to effectuate and limit the damage. The Obama administration briefed the incoming Trump team on pandemic preparation and presented them with a 69-page response plan. It also had in place an established Pandemic Response Team within the National Security Agency, and recommended replenishing FEMA’s national stockpile of emergency preparedness supplies. Trump ignored the plan, disbanded the response team, and failed to replenish the stockpile.

Nevertheless, he still could have managed the crisis by establishing a national plan, appointing a logistics czar and implementing a plan under the authority of the Defense Procurement Act. He could have ordered American companies to manufacture and distribute needed supplies – testing kits, personal protective equipment, medicines, and ventilators – to the distressed areas on an as needed basis. Instead, he invoked the Act but failed to implement a national plan.

Instead, he thrust the responsibility onto the governors of the affected states, blaming them (especially the Democratic governors) for the chaos and consequent failure to contain the crisis. Then, looking for a scapegoat, he blamed (in order) Obama, China, Congress, the media, and the World Health Organization for bringing on the virus, limiting his ability to act quickly, for telling lies about his performance, and for being an expensive, left leaning, do nothing globalist organization.

Today, thanks to the action of Governors Cuomo, Newsom, and Inslee, the states most effected are managing the contagion but without needed supplies and federal support. Emergency rooms, and temporary facilities are overwhelmed but managing because first responders and health professionals are risking their lives even without the appropriate protective wear.

Donald Trump did not cause the coronavirus problem. He mismanaged it and endangered American lives by winging it without plan. America has military, business, and political leaders with the intelligence, experience, and skills to manage a crisis, but Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Jared Kushner are not among them.

The Chernobyl film ends with the blame-shifting Russian show trial where. Valery Legasov, the head scientist and truth teller says “No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them.” But it did… Now, unfortunately it’s happening to us.

Every day we hear that life will never be “normal” again. I’m nearing the end of my life, but I’m trying to imagine what life will be like for our children and grandchildren. I only hope capable, visionaries emerge to restore our democracy and give Americans back the country they need and deserve. Chernobyl was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. It brought to light all that was wrong with that system. Today, Americans are staring down a crisis, not just Covid-19, but a crisis in leadership. We have an election, maybe the most important election in our history, coming up in November. Please vote. Please believe your vote counts. Have faith in the system. It’s the only way we can repair the damage that’s been done in the last four years.