The Valentine's Day Edition
Close-to-home COVID-19 stories, stirring commentary for Black History Month, and a little glimpse of Winter Carnivals past.
Recognizing Black History Month
This week, I’d like to introduce you all to Logan J. McMillan. Originally from Port Huron, Michigan, McMillan is now a chemical engineering student at Michigan Tech. She’s involved in several campus organizations, including the Society of Intellectual Sisters and the National Society of Black Engineers. She’s also been a part of the popular Mind Trekkers program, and has performed research in four different states.
Closer to McMillan’s heart are her two nieces and a nephew. She also enjoys painting, drawing and playing piano and told me, “Bringing happiness is a passion of mine.”
Here is her letter.
Dear White People,
I have been involved in the local Houghton, MI community for several years now and I can say wholeheartedly that Michigan Technological University is like any other campus, it embodies the harmful and apathetic college culture that white society has sensationalized. However, this perverse trope is a recurring nightmare for BIPOC students, especially the women of these demographics. It is not something we can escape nor remove ourselves from after ninety minutes like those who experience discrimination in forced role-play diversity trainings.
I will not go into detail or list all the ‘isms’ that plague a place like this, but I want to delve into the uniqueness of Michigan Tech's shortcomings. What makes calling Tech out on their mishandling of campus issues difficult, is the ever-presence of its gatekeepers; the ones who will defend Houghton's safety rating until their dying breath. Albeit Houghton is a relatively safe place if we compare how many times I have been able to leave my car doors unlocked, my house unlocked, or walk home at night unbothered (sometimes), but because of this is it almost impossible to address other factors that make a place safe. For example, community security, accessibility to health care services, community respectability, etc.
When victims of bigotry come forward with their experiences, it is often invalidated by these gatekeepers with statements along the lines of "I've lived in Houghton for years and never experienced anything like that!" or "Everyone in Houghton was so nice to me! I think you are overreacting." or my not-so favorite "I'm sure they didn't mean it like that. Sounded like a joke."
I often find myself more appalled at the vehemence in the invalidation than the invalidation itself, as racial gaslighting is expected. The psychological abuse surrounding racism endured often occurs when a victim is led to doubt their own sense of reality through tone-policing, dismissiveness, and manipulation. It is an invisible threat encompassing techniques including withholding understanding, challenging someone’s memory of events, denying the realness of events, and/or downplaying the victim’s feelings as irrational or unimportant.
It is simple to change a campus' culture from bigoted to an equitable one that levels the field for BIPOC students. The reason why campuses like Michigan Tech will not take true action, the action that targeted groups have continuously and patiently demanded, against racism and misogyny is because they (the administration, student body, and community members) believe they will have to take extra steps to accommodate the BIPOC body. They do not believe it fair to go to all the trouble to make them feel safe, comfortable, or appreciated, however administration would be implementing resources that white and non-BIPOC students have been enjoying since the establishment of these colleges.
The reason why these minority students will not see appropriate assistance, counselling, and support is because these administrations do not want to upset the people who keep their lights on. They cannot see themselves ever rocking the boat and relinquishing their all-access pass to the 'grey zone'—The area that allows them to "speak out" or "condemn" bigotry, but still grants them guilt-free access to the privileges they hold. What it comes down to, is administration and the like are not willing to give up their time to stop being complacent, listen and learn, and do what is right.
Advantage is all they know, and the people of this area do not want things to change because they believe they will be treated the way BIPOC have been treated since American laws permitted us to step foot on these campuses.
Our trauma is real. Our experiences are real, and they are not isolated. How many times can we be our own counselor, confidant, or friend? How can we continue to offer consolation when there is so very little left to give?
A poem I wrote in 2016 after the senseless murder of Philando Castile:
You can visit Di’or Armond Hill’s Instagram here. He performed Logan’s poem specially for this occasion.
I didn’t remember the whole story of Philando Castile, so I looked it up a minute.
His car was stopped by a police officer in St. Anthony, Minnesota. His partner and her four-year-old were also in the car. Castile informed the officer of the firearm in the car, which he was licensed to carry.
To be brief, one of the two officers present shot him five times as he reached for his license and registration. He died within twenty minutes.
Video of the shooting was released to Facebook by Castile’s partner, and protests formed across the country. Five months later, the officer was charged with second-degree manslaughter, but acquitted. Nonetheless, he was fired by the city immediately following the trail. The city paid nearly $3.8 million to settle wrongful death suits.
I encourage you to read more of the details.
COVID close to home
“They didn’t know what to do with me,” Theresa Ball Meyers-Green said. “I was the first one.”
On March 24, 2020, Meyers-Green felt a little nauseous and dizzy. She has a perforated eardrum, and says that’s what normally happens when she gets a little water in it, so she tried to brush it off and get on with her day at the Walmart Vision Center. She works there as a part-time optician. She went home later, and went to bed that night like normal.
“And at two o'clock in the morning I woke up screaming,” she said.
She said she believed she was in sepsis, a body’s extreme reaction to infection. She had been through that with an illness several years before.
“Get me to the hospital” Meyers-Green told her husband. “I said ‘I'm in full blown sepsis, only it's worse this time because the pain is so much worse.’”
At the emergency room, Meyers-Green was given a swab test for the flu more than once, despite her insistence she was in sepsis.
“I really wasn’t friendly to them,” she admitted. “I was sure I knew what was going on.”
After doing bloodwork, they told her she was not in sepsis. At that point they brought her to the ICU and isolated her. Meyers-Green said while she experienced extreme body pains and the migraine symptom that has been associated with it, she didn’t have a fever.
“But I’m an oddball,” she said.
It took more than a day for them to get the pain under control. Meyers-Green was given oxygen, and breathing treatments, but wasn’t put on a ventilator. She did get pneumonia.
“I'll tell you what, it could have been so much worse,” she said. “I'm so thankful.”
She stayed at the hospital until Saturday morning, when they sent her home. She said she would have rather stayed at the hospital, given the choice.
“Sunday, the health department called me and said ‘You are positive’”, Meyers-Green said.
As rumors of the first positive case began to swirl through Houghton County, the health department issued letters to Meyers-Green and her family that they needed to stay on the premises of their property or they would be put into protective custody.
“Which meant we would be jailed,” Meyers-Green said. “And people were horrible.”
She said that people were watching her home and calling the health department, reporting that they had left the premises or had gone into stores, or spread the virus intentionally, none of which was true, she said.
Meyers-Green said she must have had contact with someone non-symptomatic who was shopping at Walmart. She had volunteered to pick up a shift covering the self-checks.
“And at that time, there was no masking,” Meyers-Green said. “They tried to trace me to the places that I had went, and that was the only place that would have been out of my norm.”
Almost 11 months from when she was infected, Meyers-Green says she’s still pretty far from feeling well.
“Oh yeah, no,” she said with an ironic laugh. “I don't have taste. I don't have smell. I have intestinal issues. I have breathing issues. There's days like today—I don't know if it's because I got the shot or what but I feel like a Mack truck hit me. I have cognitive problems…”
Feb. 15 is Meyers-Green’s 65th birthday, but she was able to get her first vaccine dose on Feb. 3, the day before our interview, because of her position as an optician.
She said since having COVID-19, she sometimes smells gasoline inexplicably. She said eating is an altogether different experience than it used to be.
“I can taste things that are extremely salty and really sweet,” Meyers-Green said. “But if I sat down to eat a pasty it would taste like garbage. I don't drink any caffeine but I love the smell of coffee. Now it's horrendous. It's horrible. Peanut butter’s horrible.”
She also had to change her perfume, toothpaste and shampoo, “Because my mind thinks it’s something else,” and her doctors have told her they don’t think her senses will change back to what they were.
Meyers-Green gets upset when people, including her own brothers, suggest what she caught was “just the flu”.
“…because I've had the flu and it's never put me in the hospital. It's never taken my smell and taste away. It's never given me pneumonia. It's never done any of this,” she said.
The virus has progressed differently for others in Houghton County, even people living close together.
“I retired due to different health conditions—I think March of last year—roughly a year ago,” said former 97th District Court Judge Mark Wisti.
He said his first COVID-19 symptom was just coughing, in mid-October of 2020.
“And my doctor ordered a test and I had COVID-19,” Wisti said.
It took a couple days for him to get results back. They didn’t do much contact tracing because both Wisti and his wife, Amy, were already isolating as strictly as possible.
“My immune system is very badly compromised to begin with,” Wisti said. “And we weren't going anywhere. I have to go to the hospital quite frequently.”
He speculates the hospital is where he was exposed. His wife also tested positive, but showed few symptoms.
Amy Wisti is a financial supporter of Late Edition.
“My symptoms were so minimal, I would not have gotten tested if Mark hadn't already tested positive,” Amy said.
She said it really worries her how many people might be carrying COVID-19 and spreading it while thinking they’re healthy, or only slightly sick.
“I had like a slight cough one day, and then I had a runny nose one day, and that was it,” she said. “If I had those symptoms and thought, ‘Oh, maybe I should be tested,’ I would have, you know, said to myself, ‘Amy, you're being ridiculous.’”
Likely due to his compromised immune system, Mark Wisti’s case was severe.
“Way severe,” he said. “I ended up being airlifted to the Mayo Clinic and spent a week down there.”
Wisti didn’t need to be put on a ventilator, but his blood oxygen level started dropping dramatically whenever he undertook any kind of activity, even just moving about. They put him on a heavy dose of oxygen and he entered intensive care for about a day before his airlift to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He said they gave him “whatever Donald Trump got” and that he wasn’t really asking a lot of questions at the time because he was so sick.
“Yeah, Remdesivir,” he said. “And I got that and I probably got something else. But I really wasn't asking.”
Remdesivir was approved for treatment of RNA viruses including coronaviruses by the FDA in late October 2020. Previously it was only approved under an Emergency Use Authorization from May 1, 2020.
Wisti said he felt fine when they discharged him, except he had difficulty breathing.
“Which I guess is a big thing,” he said.
Wisti has undergone a double lung transplant, end-stage kidney disease, a kidney transplant, and numerous complications.
“So compared to what I’ve been through, it wasn’t that hard,” he said.
He’s still not recovered, though. His lung function, which was already as low as 87%, dipped to 61% and was at about 73% when we spoke in the first week of February.
“So it’s functional at that level but that’s still a—they don’t know if it’s going to come back or not,” Wisti said.
He said that because of his other conditions, the loss of lung function is more irritating than significantly impactful to his life. At 64, he hasn’t been able to get vaccinated yet, despite his medical condition.
Wisti said people making comments along the lines of ‘if you’re afraid of the virus, you can just stay home’ is offending to someone with his medical conditions.
“Someone like me, it’s almost at the point where you start feeling like you’re viewed as a second-class citizen,” he said.
He was already isolating himself, he said, and he’s prepared to continue that if that’s what is required to get through the pandemic. But the dismissal is insulting.
“There's ways of expressing that other than, you know, ‘Stay home, coward’, which is, you know, you hear that…,” he said.
The impacts of contracting COVID-19 aren’t constrained to a person’s own health, or even the people they live with, either.
“We ended up having to shut down for two weeks, because we didn’t know if anybody else had been exposed,” Donna Jarman, owner of the Mosquito Inn, said.
Three of her employees contracted COVID-19, and as a result, they were closed over Labor Day weekend in 2020. She said they were worried about all the employees.
“It was just scary, you know?” Jarman said. “Because to have three of our younger, healthier ones get it?”
Her and several other employees were tested and no more came back positive.
Jarman said the Mosquito Inn was following the rules with sanitizing and masking, and continues to do so, but losing out on Labor Day weekend business in the midst of a year where they’ve had to contend with limited or no seating is difficult. The Mosquito Inn, on M-26 outside of Toivola, depends heavily on ATV and snowmobile traffic. People riding the trail like to have somewhere inside to take a break and eat.
Jarman said that since some seating is now allowed, and that the area “actually got snow” the business has been doing comparatively well.
“But that’s normal,” she said. “This is normally our busiest time, right?”
Meyers-Green, who’s also back to work now, is really frustrated that some people continue to resist wearing masks in stores.
Many stores, including the local Walmart, still don’t insist on it from their customers, despite their corporate policy.
“I wear one for ten hours a day, and there’s days I can’t breathe and so I have to have my inhaler with me,” Meyers-Green said. “But they’re crying because they need to have a mask on for a half hour… I don’t know why they can’t just do this for somebody else.”
Many stores solicit customer comments, including Walmart. Below is a screenshot from their website.
Since it’s a holiday of sorts, consider this a little valentine
I care about you. Feel free to share.
And in the vein of a journalist, here’s a Valentine’s Day/Winter Carnival story.
Browsing through the Michigan Tech Copper Country Historical Archive, this photo jumped out at me as needing colorization, because Julie London sings one of the songs in one of my favorite video game series.
It’s something of a love song, so I thought I’d share that, too.
London was an admirer of the great Billie Holiday, which is especially worth noting during Black History Month.
London passed away in October of 2000, after a successful career as a singer and actor that spanned more than 40 years.
Aggregated News - Endorsed, not sponsored
These are articles (and a couple podcasts) I’ve found that I thought should be shared. None of the work is my own, but it comes from colleagues and organizations that I find generally trustworthy, or am personally a member of.
Click on the headline to be taken to the story.
The owners of Café Rosetta seem to have started taking the situation seriously, and so far haven’t paid a very high cost for their transgressions, despite missing one hearing.
Bridge Michigan covered the University Senate meeting where faculty and some citizens disagreed with the Senate’s resolution condemning white supremacy.
As the comment sections on many media sites gets nastier and more contentious, many sites are limiting or eliminating the comment sections to compensate.
The annual local art show is displayed in photos on the Copper Country Community Arts Center’s web page, with a virtual reception coming up on February 23.
As a metal processing plant moves to open in a majority-Latino Chicago neighborhood, people have launched a hunger strike this month to protest.
A deliberate, thorough story on the outsized struggle for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous people, from the Mishigamiing Journalism Project.
“THE FACTS: This characterization does not resemble Trump’s speech. For more than an hour, Trump made the case that he and his supporters at the rally had been…”
“Over the last several weeks, ProPublica has interviewed 19 current and former U.S. Capitol Police officers about the assault on the Capitol.” This is an intense description.
In Other News:
I’ve cut back my hours at my day job again. This is exciting, because it means I’ll be free in evening to attend government meetings again, and I’ll have more time during the day to make interviews. It’s scary because that makes Late Edition my primary source of income. Please consider supporting me through Patreon, a subscription site that also lets me offer exclusives to subscribers.
I’m reviving my old website, and it has a great new domain name, LateEdition.live! I’ll continue sending out these emails, don’t worry! But having this website lets me do some new things, including embed more forms of media, post and share individual stories to social media, and open up the possibility for hosting podcasts and live radio. It isn’t much now, but having this site means I can do a lot more in the future. Foundational stuff. If you like the Substack newsletter, you’re going to really enjoy LateEdition.live.