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STAGE – TRANSFORMATION — 4


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STAGE — TRANSFORMATION — 4


DANIEL'S LION: LIVING IN 2 WORLDS
Journeying amidst Covid

After breakfast on December 28th, leaving their Minnesota home on Augusta Lake just outside Minneapolis, Daniel steeled himself for the long drive ahead but looked forward to relatively empty roads. Although Deanna offered to share the driving, he much preferred to drive than be a passenger, not to mention that it would be no easy trip, and he wanted his wife to be able to relax as much as possible before the conference. Planning the route carefully, he chose to take Interstate 94. Stopping in Black River falls Wisconsin to pick up veggie burgers and raspberry shakes, they drove the short distance to River Street to eat their meal in the car. Afterwards, Daniel and Deanna stretched their legs walking by the picturesque Black River.

Back on the road they drove the 131 miles to Madison Wisconsin, arriving around 4:30. In planning the trip, Daniel spent a considerable amount of time determining the safest places to stop, not only to stay overnight but also where to get something to eat. Due to Covid-19 necessitating restaurants to close, as vegetarians he and Deanna expected to be relegated to take outs of veggie burgers and pizzas. However, they were pleasantly surprised to learn that many vegetarian restaurants offered take out, including one in Madison, although it meant eating it in the car. Collecting their meal as everyone was masked Daniel felt safe. He was impressed that the restaurant packed the meal in sturdy containers and provided plastic utensils, meaning they could enjoy a delicious vegetarian meal in their car.

Resuming their journey, they picked up the i-90 and drove 165 miles to Chicago. Leaving the Interstate, Daniel located their lodgings for the night, the Royal Sonesta Chicago Riverfront hotel, chosen for its location and Covid-19 compliance. Since it was late Daniel and Deanna went straight to sleep. Next morning on December 29th, pulling back the drapes, Deanna was greeted with full length glass doors opening on a balcony overlooking the Chicago River, and realized why her husband chose the hotel. Although both would have loved to take a stroll along the riverbank, their schedule did not allow for it. Even so, Daniel knew how much Deanna would enjoy having breakfast on the balcony. Despite it being winter, the balcony area was shielded from the wind, moreover, the sun was shining. So, dressed in warm clothes, in preparation for the long drive, the couple tucked into a hearty breakfast.

Ninety-six miles later, breaking their journey in South Bend Indiana they stopped for a coffee to enjoy while taking a stroll along the banks of St. Joseph’s River. Departing from South Bend around noon, Daniel headed for Toledo Ohio. Aware that it was nearly 300 miles and four hours away, after two hours Daniel pulled off the Interstate in Freemont Indiana, to grab a coffee for them.

Two hours later, taking the exit to Toledo Daniel headed for a Greek Restaurant to pick up a delicious vegetarian eggplant dish called a Briam. Planning to drive to Promenade Park next to the Maumee River to eat it, while waiting for their meal Daniel took the opportunity to ask the manager of the restaurant if he could interview his staff. Clarifying that he was a reporter from The Minnesota Advocate accompanying his wife to a medical conference in New York, the manager’s question of where they planned to eat their meal, caught Daniel off guard. Explaining that as their hotel was in Cleveland, more than a hundred miles away, they were going to drive down to Promenade Park to eat it in the car, he added, “Could you provide disposable utensils.”

“Sure but wouldn’t you and your wife rather eat here?” inquired the manager, adding “We have an empty restaurant, and my staff would be honored to serve people helping with this chaos.” Deciding that it was safe Daniel called Deanna to join him. Consequently, the two were treated like VIPs while they ate dinner. Afterwards Daniel took the opportunity to interview their servers, who told him of the learning curve in operating during a pandemic, complicated with the rollercoaster of job insecurity. An hour later, Daniel and Deanna drove another 115 miles to their lodgings for the night, the Hyatt Regency in Cleveland. After checking in, due to the restrictions they ordered a bottle of wine from the bar and settled in for the night watching TV.

Early on the morning of December 30th, Deanna had a hearty breakfast of eggs wrapped in spinach tortillas and hash browns, along with Belgian waffles delivered to their room from a local restaurant. Continuing their Journey a little after 10, and with a seven hour drive of 460 plus miles ahead of them, Daniel wanted to cover at least two hundred miles before stopping for lunch. Having had a substantial breakfast, he felt confident they could push on to Pennsylvania. Considering the number of miles they needed to cover that day, stopping in Lock Haven Daniel and Deanna decided to get a pizza, thinking it would see them through till New York. Arriving in Lock Haven around two, after eating the pizza at a picnic table in Hanna Park, they picked up a coffee to drink while they went for a walk along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Then with nearly 3 and a half more hours of driving, Daniel and Deanna resumed the final leg of their journey to New York.

As a member of the Minnesota University faculty, not to mention invited guests of a health official of New York State, the couple were booked into the Staybridge Suites in Times Square. Checking in around 8:30 that evening, due to Covid-19 once again they had nowhere to go, so Daniel ordered hot chocolate and an assortment of cookies from a local café delivered to their room.

Settled in for the night Daniel pulled out his notepad. Throughout the trip whenever possible, usually when he stopped for coffee, and or food, from a safe distance he asked people they encountered how Covid-19 had affected them. Scanning his notes, he read how tragically several had lost someone. However, in general although many had lost their jobs, at least for a short time, most had been able to make it. Obviously, he needed to qualify this with the fact that those worse off, were stuck at home and were barely able to afford bread, let alone take outs from restaurants. As for those working in the service industry, across the board like the restaurant in Toledo, staff shared how at first they were furloughed as the restaurant closed down but once the science knew how to protect the staff and patrons, they were able to adapt to take outs.

Speaking with the few locals he met on the journey, like the guy parked next to him outside the restaurant in Madison. Rolling down the window Daniel introduced himself, explaining he was a reporter for The Minnesota Advocate, and inquiring if he could ask the man about his Covid-19 experience. Sighing, the driver admitted that like most people initially he avoided going out at all but with more information and the vaccine available now, he felt more prepared to venture out. He was also one of the lucky ones, in that he could work from home. At the two hotels they stayed, Daniel had asked both concierges about adapting to the pandemic. Not surprisingly, both admitted to it being difficult at first but as they learned what worked and what didn’t, it improved and more people stayed there, which meant the staff did not need to be laid off.

Exhausted from their nearly thirteen-hundred-mile journey, Daniel and Deanna were grateful they could sleep in the next day before New Year’s Eve festivities. Because the event necessitated a late night, neither wanted a hectic day but they did want to get some fresh air, especially as Deanna was expecting to be in a closed room for two days. The conference was being held at an exclusive Club where the sponsors of the conference, a consortium of philanthropists had booked it for the event. Wanting to thank health workers across the country, the philanthropists had also arranged for a banquet on New Year’s Day, for representatives from every state, as well as the thirty members of Deanna’s national panel and their guests from the ten Continental US regions and Alaska.

Checking what was open in the vicinity, Daniel was not surprised that there were very few options. Having done his due diligence, Daniel had packed their ice-skates because he knew that the skating rink at Rockefeller would probably be open, with the provision that people brought their own skates, and he thought it seemed a perfect opportunity to get some exercise after their long drive. Consequently, after breakfasting in their room from a nearby café, they spent several hours gliding on ice before returning to the hotel.

Determined to make the trip as pleasant as possible for Deanna, Daniel arranged for a 3-course vegetarian meal from an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant to be delivered to their hotel. This time they did not have to eat with plastic knives and forks from Styrofoam containers on their laps, as their hotel suite provided plates and cutlery for them to use. Later that night, they walked the short distance to where the New York health official had arranged for the thirty members of the Covid-19 national panel to watch the ball drop.

New Year’s Day, since they were attending a banquet that evening, they chose to have the complimentary continental breakfast. Lunchtime, not wanting to stray far from the hotel Daniel and Deanna took a leisurely stroll around Bryant Park, stopping for a bowl of Tuscan tomato & fresh white bean soup in the park’s outdoor café, before returning to their hotel.

Dressed in appropriate evening wear, with Daniel in a tux, and Deanna in an emerald-green velvet evening dress, they took a taxi to the exclusive club next to Central Park. Walking into the Great Hall, Deanna pointed to the exquisite marble architecture, as they made their way up the sweeping staircase to the  ballroom on the third floor. Entering the ballroom, the reporter in Daniel noted the Renaissance style ceiling murals, and two Baccarat crystal chandeliers, together with artistic gold panels, marble fireplaces, and plush deep burgundy upholstery.

Normally accommodating as many as 340 people, the ballroom was the perfect arena for the social distancing required during the pandemic. Everyone had either been vaccinated or like Daniel and Deanna tested that day. Scanning the room, Daniel estimated there were around 200 guests attending the banquet, which meant everyone invited had accepted. Provided with printed menus, the couple were pleased to see a vegetarian alternative of wild mushroom and parsnip ragout with cheesy polenta, served with umami-packed tomato and miso pastes. Despite not knowing exactly what he was eating, Daniel found it delicious, as did Deanna. Following dinner, after clearing the plates and serving coffee and liqueurs, the guests’ attention was drawn to one end of the room where a quartet of musicians were setting up to play. Deanna loved classical music so she was in heaven listening to the musicians. Generally not a fan of the genre, even Daniel had to admit to the musician’s artistry and skill.

On the drive back to their hotel, Daniel admitted that when Deanna had first told him about being invited to a banquet, he had thought it unwise and a little extravagant. However, once he realized that rich philanthropists were footing the bill, he changed his mind. Musing over his change of heart Daniel remembered that 140 of the guests that night were front-line doctors and nurses. Not to mention the hundreds of healthcare workers who watched the ball drop in Times Square itself, their sheer delight was visible to everyone present. Smiling at the memory, he was pulled out of his reverie when Deanna asked, “What are you smiling at?”

“Just remembering how much those healthcare workers in Times Square were enjoying themselves last night. Although I was skeptical of the appropriateness of such an extravaganza during a pandemic tonight, seeing the pure joy on so many health workers’ faces made me realize why the philanthropists held it.”

“Yes”, agreed Deanna. “They’ve been through hell and I’m afraid their trials are not over yet. Afterall, this is what the two-day conference is all about.” When Daniel raised an eyebrow, she explained, “Its estimated that as many as 50% of the same number of people have travelled this holiday season, as did in 2019. What worries me as that from December 17th to just today, we had another 2 million people infected. That’s just 15 days! Hospitalizations and deaths always lag about 10 days behind; we need to figure out how to prepare for the inevitable surge.”

Over Christmas, Daniel had observed how Deanna grew more concerned as the nightly news reported the number of people travelling. He knew she was thinking of her exhausted nurses and what they were about to face. Although he wished to comfort his wife, as the taxi had pulled up to their hotel, he squeezed her hand as he helped her out. Deciding not to comment, Daniel led Deanna into the elevator.

Early the next morning after a breakfast of banana nut pound cake and coffee from a local café, wearing a smart green suit under her camel-colored wool coat Deanna left for the conference. Daniel had not dressed before they had breakfast and was wearing a hotel bathrobe when she left. Deciding to spend the day exploring the various establishments still operating in the area within walking distance, his goal was to learn how they had coped with the pandemic, and what measures they took. Leaving an hour after his wife, Daniel was gone all day. Returning to the hotel late afternoon he reviewed his notes, which without exception recorded the learning curve each establishment endured before nailing down the safest way to open. Most used social distancing and strict cleanliness by limiting the number of people at a time, and regularly cleaning all the areas. Some erected plastic barriers for their cashiers, and without exception, all insisted on everyone being masked. Overall, Daniel was impressed but reasoned that this was Manhattan and most establishments were fairly well supported by delivering to the many hotels in the area. He wondered how it would be in the less affluent areas of New York, which he planned to visit the next day by driving into the city.

An hour later around five o’clock Deanna returned from the conference looking defeated. Having prepared for her return by purchasing tea from a grocery store during his travels, helping her off with her coat Daniel handed his wife her favorite beverage, a cup of steaming earl grey tea. Silent while she visibly relaxed as she drank her tea, Daniel waited patiently until she was ready to talk. Placing her cup on a nearby table and sighing deeply Deanna began, “It’s as I feared, everyone is predicting a much worse surge than the previous ones. Apparently, Dr. Fauci’s warning that we could have 100,000 cases a day, may be a gross underestimate.”

Although shocked at Deanna’s words, Daniel didn’t comment, instead he nodded his head encouragingly as she continued. “We’re already seeing an uptick in hospitalizations, and I shudder to think where we’ll be in a couple of weeks.” Looking away with tears in her eyes, Deanna mumbled “my poor nurses.”

Knowing how tired Deanna would be Daniel had hunted for the right meal for them. Using his search engine, he came across a promising vegan/vegetarian restaurant that delivered. Finding out that it not only had his wife’s favorite dessert, tiramisu but also a wide selection of dishes, he ordered their lasagna rollatini, together with a bottle of their favorite wine. Due to Covid, the Staybridge Suite’s restaurant was closed but Daniel had arranged with the concierge for them to eat their meal at one of the well-spaced tables, as no one was using it.

Feeling that the complimentary Continental breakfast was not going to cut it, and as their suite had a stove-top, before dawn Daniel crept out of bed, careful not to wake Deanna and went in search of supplies for their breakfast. Walking the short distance to Wholefoods market, he picked up eggs, mushrooms, and cheese to make them omelets. He also bought doughnuts for him, and whole wheat bread, butter, and strawberry preserve for Deanna’s toast. Quietly letting himself back in the room, he began preparing their breakfast. In the back of his mind, Daniel intended to wake his wife up with the coffee he picked up from the nearby Starbucks on the way back from Wholefoods. However, the smell of cooking woke her, and she sat up smiling at his thoughtfulness, as he walked over with her coffee.

Originally planning to drive into New York City for his report, after what Deanna told him the night before, he decided to check what had been referred to as the “epicenter” of the pandemic in April 2020, the area around Elmhurst hospital in Queens. Believing that if he could report to Deanna that it was much better, it might cheer her up, he smiled as checking the map he chose the best route. Even though it was under fifteen miles, looking at the notification of heavy traffic, he estimated it could take him as much as an hour, therefore he needed to be heading back by 3pm in order to be ready for his wife’s return.

Driving to Queens and parking his car in Roosevelt Avenue Parking, gauging that he would not be there more than four hours, Daniel prepaid the $12 plus tax fee. Walking along Roosevelt Avenue, he interviewed the staff and customers of several establishments, including banks, a home furnishing store, bakeries, and multiple restaurants, cafés, jewelers, and diners. He even found an open beauty salon, where the beauticians were taking extreme caution with their customers. Satisfied that he had gotten all the data he was looking for to cheer up Deanna, Daniel decided to grab a quick coffee before driving back to Manhattan.

Unable to resist a chocolate croissant, he sat down at a table to eat it. The café was almost empty, with only one other customer, a woman that the reporter guessed to be in her mid to late thirties. Because she was wearing a “mega” cap, indicating her support for former President Trump, Daniel avoided eye contact with her. Quietly enjoying his croissant, Daniel didn’t look up when another customer came in, passing his table as he went to the counter. However, neither Daniel nor the female Trump supporter could ignore the man, when clutching his chest he fell to the floor. Not stopping to consider that the man could have Covid, leaping to his feet, the reporter dropped to his knees beside the man. Kneeling there and checking for a pulse, Daniel became aware that the woman had joined him on the floor, holding the man’s hand. Safe behind the counter, one of the shocked staff called for help on her cellphone. Sadly, by the time help arrived the man had taken his last breath, despite Daniel pumping his chest fervently.

About to leave, Daniel was stopped by one of the masked paramedics saying, “We need to check to see if he had Covid sir, just to be safe.” Daniel hadn’t even considered that the man may have the virus because he was obviously having a heart attack. Nonetheless, he realized that the medical team had to make sure. Wondering how long it would take, his delight that it only took 15 minutes was immediately quelled by the look on the paramedic’s face. As such, he was ready for the inevitable, “I’m sorry sir but you and the lady have both been exposed to the virus.” By this time, Daniel had been joined by his unwitting accomplice to his predicament. “Have either of you been vaccinated?” The reporter could see that the question was clearly directed at him, because the woman was obviously under 40 years of age.

“No I haven’t, I was scheduled for my first dose next week when I’m back in Minneapolis. I’m here with my wife, who is attending a conference on the virus in Manhattan.”

Daniel also expected the paramedic’s next question, “Has your wife been fully vaccinated yet sir?”

“No she received the first dose of Pfizer December 20th.” Again, fully cognizant of how the vaccine works, Daniel was not surprised when the paramedic informed him that Deanna was still vulnerable, and should not be exposed to the virus. Suggesting he quarantine at their hotel, when the paramedic called Staybridge Suites, he learned that they could not accommodate him.

Wishing he could avoid it; Daniel called his wife who was still at the conference. Listening quietly while her husband explained what happened and the consequences, she was silent for several minutes before saying, “Give me a minute, I’ll call you back.”

While he was waiting for her call, Daniel listened as the paramedic questioned his reluctant companion. It seemed that her name was Elizabeth Ogden, and amazingly, not only was she also not a native New Yorker, he heard her tell the paramedic that she was from Minnesota, visiting her aunt in New York. Hearing this Daniel thought to himself “What are the odds?”

Exploring the possibility of Elizabeth quarantining with her aunt, the paramedic asked about her aunt’s age and general health. Explaining that her aunt was 73 and diabetic, it was obvious that the woman could not go back to her aunt’s house. As this was determined, another paramedic nearby answered his cellphone. Surreptitiously listening Daniel heard the paramedic say, “Okay sir, I’ll take them to the Marriot. Are they expecting them?” Clearly receiving an affirmative answer, the paramedic ended the call and walked over to the two detainees patiently waiting. At that moment, Daniel’s phone rang, it was Deanna. She explained that the New York health official had arranged for her husband, and the woman to quarantine for the next ten days at a hotel situated three blocks west of Times Square, on 37th Street.

Apologizing for not being more careful, Deanna cut Daniel off, “Don’t be silly I know you. You could never ignore someone needing help, it’s second nature to you.” Laying out the plan for her to remain in their suite, Deanna told her husband not to worry. Promising to call her when he was at the hotel, he hung up.

Soon after Elizabeth and Daniel were hustled into a waiting ambulance. Knowing that his fellow passenger was also from Minnesota made him feel more comfortable, so during the thirty minute drive to Manhattan, introducing himself he learned that Elizabeth preferred being called Beth. Breaking the ice further he pretended to have not heard her conversation with the paramedic and asked where she was from. Informing him that she was from Doncaster in Minnesota, Daniel feigned surprise exclaiming, “That’s quite a coincidence, I’m from Minneapolis. How did you come to be in New York, did you come for New Year’s Eve’s ball drop?”

“Not really, I came to check on my aunt before meeting my family in DC on the 5th.” Seemingly gauging Daniel’s response, Beth almost inaudibly mumbled “before the rally on the 6th.” Of course as a reporter Daniel was well aware that Donald Trump had summoned his supporters for President-elect Biden’s certification, and expected the president to repeat the lie that the election was stolen. Debating whether to share that he was a reporter, Daniel decided that it might spark a conversation about the election, as the situation provided him with a perfect opportunity to speak to a Trump supporter, who believed the lie. When he confessed his profession, he saw Beth bristle a little but when he asked her how she had planned to get there, she relaxed again. “I had planned on flying out tomorrow to be there before my family but I guess that plan has been nixed now. What is that they say about plans? ‘Men make plans and God laughs’, I guess He’s laughing now.”

Changing the subject, Daniel asked Beth how the pandemic had affected her? “In our small town, apart from being locked down you would hardly know we had a pandemic. However, talking to my aunt things were catastrophic here in New York. Even so, since it has not been nearly as bad where we live, my family are really unhappy with the restrictions.” As the ambulance was pulling up to the hotel, their conversation was cut short.

Opening the doors of the ambulance, the paramedic stated, “Someone will go to your homes to get your clothes, which will be brought up to you, so just go to the front desk to pick up your room keys.” In the foyer it was obvious to the reporter that their New York host had gone above and beyond, because it was clearly at least a 4-star hotel. Collecting their room keys, Daniel was not surprised that his room was next to Beth’s.

In the room Daniel scanned his surroundings, noting that the room was at least of equal, if not superior quality to their room at Staybridge Suites. Located in the garment district of New York, after checking a map, he reasoned that he could easily walk from the hotel to Bryant Park to meet Deanna in less than 15 minutes. Thinking that as long as they adhered to CDC guidance they could get together every day, excitedly calling his wife he enthusiastically laid out his plan, arranging to meet her the next day in the park’s café. Falling silent there was a long pause before Deanna sighed and said, “I’m sorry hon but I don’t think that is possible. John told me the man had a very high viral load, and as neither of you were wearing N95 masks the likelihood that you were infected is very high.” Cutting in, Daniel protested that he and the man were double-masked. “I know but you were pumping his chest weren’t you?” When Daniel confirmed that he was, Deanna reasoned, “That is how hundreds of doctors and nurses have become infected wearing N95 masks. True, most cases was because the mask had been worn too long but nonetheless, it’s a very risky thing to do. The medical authorities are going to monitor you both very carefully, and should you test positive they are now more equipped to deal with it. Knowing how much you hate being couped up, I’m sure the next ten days will seem to drag. Still, you can take the opportunity to work on your article for Ruth, and indulge your love of reading. Would you like me to get you some novels, I can drop them off at the hotel. I’ve packed your clothes, toiletries, and laptop, is there anything else you need?”

Despite being disappointed at his containment, Daniel realized that Deanna was also stuck in Manhattan too. With new restrictions put in place due to the recent surge in cases, he was well aware that her evenings at least would be confined to watching TV in their room. Answering her question with as much cheer in his voice as he could muster, Daniel said, “Actually, this gives me a chance to read Sophia’s treatise on spiritual evolution, it’s been in my suitcase since she sent it to me but I never got around to reading it. The next ten days gives me the perfect opportunity to do so. What will you do?”

“John suggested I visit the hospitals to talk to the staff to ascertain what they need, and the best way we can help them prepare for the surge. That will take care of most of the day, which just leaves the evenings. I think I will take advantage of watching some soppy romantic movies, as I know how much you dislike watching them with me.” When Daniel protested that he didn’t really mind, Deanna reassured him that it was okay, before saying “Hold on, that’s the door. It’s probably the people coming for your stuff. Talk to you tomorrow. Love you, Bye.”

Checking his watch, Daniel noticed it was 6 o’clock and realized that he was hungry. About to pick up the phone to order a pizza, there was a knock on his door. Opening it, his eyes met the smiling green eyes of a young woman dressed in the hotel’s uniform. “Sir, I’m here to take you down to the dining room for dinner, would you come with me please.”

Following the hotel’s representative, they took the elevator down to a lower floor, where she led Daniel into a small dining room. Beth was already seated at the round table sipping on a coke. Taking a seat opposite her, conspiratorially Daniel chuckled, “I guess this is to protect us from the other guests,” which made Beth laugh too. Looking down at his place setting, Daniel noticed a menu on his placemat. Impressing him, he saw that it not only included comfort food like spare ribs, pizza, and hamburger and fries, it also had among other dishes lobster thermidor, black pepper-corn steak, risotto, spaghetti and meatballs, and ravioli. Expecting to have to order a vegetarian pizza, Daniel was pleased to see several vegetarian options available to him. Beth ordered ravioli and double-chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Choosing the vegetable stir fry, glancing at Beth he added, “And I think I’ll also have the double-chocolate cheesecake please.” For the most part, the fellow quarantines ate their meal in silence, until dessert when Daniel commented, “This is sinfully good.” To which his dinner companion silently but enthusiastically nodded.

After a while, a mail server came in asking if they would like anything else, proposing “perhaps a coffee liqueur?” Shaking his head, Daniel said he would just like a regular black coffee. Beth followed suit also ordering a plain coffee but with cream and sugar.

While they were drinking their coffees, Daniel covertly examined Beth with a reporter’s eye. Up close, he could see that she had blue eyes and blonde hair, which he suspected was from a bottle. Although from the fine lines around Beth’s eyes he gauged her age to be mid to late thirties, he acknowledged that she obviously took care of herself because she appeared to be a healthy weight, and looked in her twenties. That night, she had divested herself of the “mega” cap and American bomber jacket to reveal a red sweatshirt and blue jeans. Strangely, Daniel felt a little protective as there was a certain vulnerability to Beth. However, this thought was quickly dispelled when she unceremoniously asked, “Who did you vote for?” After Daniel replied Joe Biden, he was a little taken aback when she retorted, “You know that he stole the election from the President, don’t you.”

In spite of being reluctant to engage in a political debate, Daniel could not let Beth’s statement stand, and taking a deep breath asked, “What makes you say that.” Looking at him with near pity, expectedly, Daniel heard her parroting all of Donald Trump’s rhetoric over the false claims of wide-spread fraud. After she fell silent Daniel calmly asked, “If the election was stolen, then how do you explain the phenomenal success of Republicans down ticket.” Predictably, Beth’s answer repeated the ridiculous claim that the voting machines had somehow switched Trump and Pence’s names for Biden and Harris, while leaving the remaining names the same. Realizing that it would take too long for him to explain how her reasoning didn’t make sense, cutting the conversation short, and getting up from the table Daniel said, “We’ll have to pick this up tomorrow, I’m tired.” Smiling to ease the tension he added, “You need to remember I’m an old man. Goodnight, sleep well.”

Opening his eyes at 8:00 the next morning, Daniel realized it was the phone ringing that woke him up. On the other end was the hotel’s concierge informing him that the dining room he had dinner in would be serving breakfast until 10:30. After calling Deanna to wish her good morning, an hour later he made his way down to the dining room. In the empty room, a long table along one of the walls was laid out with several plates of various breakfast items. Selecting a plate of scrambled eggs, and a bowl of fresh fruit, he grabbed a croissant before sitting down at the table. Halfway through his meal, he looked up when the door opened to Beth, casually dressed in blue jeans and the same red sweatshirt. “Good morning how did you sleep”, greeted Daniel. 

Beth replied politely “Very well thank you, and you?”

“Like a log.” Since leaving Beth the previous evening Daniel had considered how he was going to get through the next ten days with this combative Trump supporter. Deciding that the best way was to stroke her ego a little by making her a contributor of his article, he waited while she ate her bowl of cereal and ham omelet.

Just as Beth was finishing breakfast, a hotel official came in to inform the reluctant guests that the New York health authority had arrived to test them for Covid-19. Leading them into a small room to be tested, thirty minutes later the health official informed them that they were both negative. Delighted Beth declared, “Great, we can leave then.”

Shaking his head the health official said, “I’m sorry mam but evidence of infections of the novel corona virus can take up to ten days to show up, and with cases on the rise, we need to be safe. That is why we are asking people to quarantine for at least ten days. We will test you every day, and should you develop symptoms, the hotel is equipped to handle it.”

Shortly afterwards, the female smiling hotel representative came in, informing them that the Marriot management had set a lounge aside for them to use during their stay, adding that it had a TV and coffee maker. Deciding the lounge would be more comfortable to talk Daniel asked, “Shall we adjourn to the lounge?” Getting over her disappointment, Beth assented by standing up to follow the representative out of the room. In the lounge after making expressos for them both, while drinking their coffee Daniel broached, “I’m writing an article about being quarantined and was wondering if I could include you in it?”

Supporting Daniel’s assessment of her, predictably Beth smiled and said “Sure, what do you need?” Explaining that he needed a little background, she reiterated what he heard her tell the paramedic. “I’m from the northern Minnesotan town of Doncaster in Kittson County. It’s the farthest northwestern county in the state. Talk about small we have less than 400 people living there. Even so everyone knows everyone. It’s mostly a farming community but it’s a friendly town, probably because we have an Amish community there too.”

Turning to politics, Daniel asked, “As you obviously supported Donald Trump, would you say that your town is mainly Republican?” Like most reporters he already knew the answer, having determined in an internet search that Doncaster was split roughly 60/40 in favor of Democrats, with a smattering of Independents.

“No, not really. In fact Republicans are in the minority. Most of my friends are Democrats, who are vehemently opposed to President Trump. However, my dad and my brothers and I are strong conservative Republicans, which is why we support him in his fight for this country. Although we don’t hold with everything QAnon advocates, we do agree that he is the best person to put our country back on track, and stop the radical left. That said, my family are not racists, we have minorities living in our town, although its predominantly white.”

Seizing on the opportunity to point out the contradiction Beth had made Daniel inquired, “How do you reconcile President Trump’s racial remarks and support for white supremists? Not to mention, his condemnation of Black Lives Matter. He’s hardly a beacon for racial equality, don’t you think?”

“There are no African Americans in Doncaster, so my family has never been confronted with the problem.” Noting that Beth referred to African Americans as a “problem”, Daniel asked what she thought of the movement Black Lives Matter. “It’s funny you should ask that. During lockdown, most days we worked the farm trying to keep afloat, so usually we did not watch much TV. However, when George Floyd died we were watching a movie, when one of my friends texted me to turn on CNN. None of us could believe what we were seeing, I’ll never forget what my mother said that day…” As her voice trailed off, Daniel urged her to tell him, and reluctantly Beth replied, “my mother said that cop means to kill him.”

“Since it affected you so much, did you support the protests?”

“Not really, my Democrat friends did of course, and I was tempted but as President Trump seemed to be against the protests, we felt it would be disloyal to him if we joined in.” Pausing a moment Beth admitted, “It was shocking though.” Checking his watch, Daniel noted that it was one o’clock. and suggested they get lunch. Thinking a moment, Beth replied, “I’m not really hungry but I could drink a milkshake or fruit smoothie though.” Picking up the phone, he called their hotel representative inquiring if they could get one. Informing him that she would order them from a nearby café, the representative asked what flavor they wanted.

Asking the representative to hold on, Daniel turned to Beth, “What flavor milkshake do you want?” Telling him that she’d like a strawberry one, Daniel passed on her order adding that he’d like a mixed berry yogurt smoothie. Then the representative asked if either of them wanted something to eat. Answering for them both, he said “No thank you, we think the drinks will tide us over until dinner, if not we can get a snack from the vending machine downstairs. What time is dinner?” Hearing that it was again around 6, after hanging up Daniel passed on the information to Beth.

Around ten minutes later, a male server came into the lounge with their milkshake and smoothie, having obviously transferred the contents to one of the hotel’s tall glasses. While they were drinking them, Daniel turned on the TV with the remote, searching for News about the upcoming Georgia election the next day to determine which part controlled the Senate. On the news the night before, the newscaster had reported that Joe Biden, as well as President Trump were holding rallies in the state. Everyone expected the Republican Senate incumbents to easily hold their seats, so Daniel was interested to see what the president elect and former President had to say.

As Donald Trump was not scheduled until the evening, most of the coverage was about the Democrats. Being sensitive to Beth’s political leanings, he decided to continue his “interview” with her. Digging deeper into her beliefs, opening up his spiral notepad he flipped back through the pages. Then silently reading the page, reminding her he stated, “You said that you didn’t hold with everything that QAnon says but that you agreed, as you said that ‘Donald Trump is the best person to put our country back on track, and stop the radical left’, I’m curious why you think the Democrats are bad for the country?”

“One word, Socialism!” , exclaimed Beth. “If they had their way, this country would be like Soviet Russia and China, where no one is free.”

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The Great Divide, Or is it?

Daniel was not surprised by Beth citing Socialism as the reason she supported Donald Trump, because when he was young he’d argued that very point with his grandpa. Yet, having finally investigated the claim, he had reached a different conclusion. Cocking an eyebrow he said, “Really, did you realize that the United Kingdom advocates partial Socialism, in that everyone has free healthcare and there are safety nets for the less fortunate, as well as the elderly. My friend Sophia is a British citizen married to an American. She’s been here for more than 25 years but resists becoming an American citizen because there are certain practices here that she cannot agree with, such as guns, capital punishment, and how we treat the sick.”

“My family isn’t exactly rich either but we’ve never asked for a handout from the government. Our community sticks together with neighbors helping each other. I’ll never forget when our barn burnt down in the summer, due to the pandemic we had let our insurance lapse so we didn’t have the money to rebuild it. Within a day, everyone in our town had rallied round to rebuild the barn for us. That’s how it should be, it’s the Christian way not the radical left’s Socialism of running to the Feds for a handout.”

“I agree, neighbors should help one another but unfortunately a large percentage of the population live in cities and areas where everyone is disadvantaged. I think you are mistaking Socialism for Communism, which incidentally Jesus practiced every day.”

“What do you mean, are you trying to say that Jesus was a Red?”, demanded Beth.

“If you mean a Soviet Communist, then No but the fact is Jesus advocated the purest form of Communism, which would be demonstrated kind-of like the way your community pooled resources to help your family.”

Leaping to her town’s defense Beth retorted, “That’s not the same thing!”

“Yes it is.” Sighing Daniel changed tack, “Regardless, Jesus’ community first type of Communism is doomed because it would require the eradication of selfishness. That is why the inclusion of Socialism is the appropriate alternative. Socialism became a part of the UK after WWII but it did not stop free enterprise or people getting rich. It just made sure that everyone was taken care of. Although, as Sophia would be the first to acknowledge, the system is not perfect universal healthcare is everyone’s right. There’s also a safety net in the UK for families who lose their home, the local council will provide them with a council house. Children have to be a priority, and a Socialistic society makes that possible. In essence, Socialism is already in the US, as unions are a feature of it and I’m sure you don’t think unions to protect worker’s rights is a bad thing do you?”

Beth asserted, “Of course not. I just don’t want anyone in government telling me what to do, or how to live.”

Daniel continued with, “Socialism is about promoting equal opportunities for everyone, leveling the playing field, if you would. You have to admit that most minorities have hardly experienced equal opportunities, with racial practices like red-lining, and gerrymandering, not to mention outright prejudice. African Americans were hit the hardest by redlining, which is one of the reasons they have the highest number of Covid deaths. Unfortunately, over the years Hispanics and other minorities have also fallen victim to these practices. From the outset, they are disadvantaged, unless of course they can play sports, or are exceptionally smart. I think that for the most part the UK has demonstrated a more equitable society, with a balanced approach to wealth, where the rich help support those less endowed through their taxes and social programs, promoting social justice. This way, Capitalism is tempered and can work side by side with Socialism. It would be like the Republican and Democrats combining their platforms to work in harmony with each other.”

Letting his words sink in, Daniel could see that Beth was thinking about how to argue against Socialism, something he did not want her to do, as he wanted her to dwell on the subject for a while. So checking his watch he announced, we’ll leave it there for today. I’ll go and put this”, holding up his recorder and notepad “in my laptop”. “See you tonight at dinner.”

Going to his room, Daniel spent some time scanning the News for reports on Georgia’s Senate elections, before calling Deanna. He listened intently as she gave him the details of her day, voicing her concerns on the direction the pandemic was heading. “the US is averaging 200,000 plus cases every day and it keeps going up. Hospitalizations are through the roof too. Today we had 128,210 people in hospital and deaths are up to 344,802.” Unsure what to say, Daniel commiserated that the vaccines would help. Unfortunately, Deanna was not mollified and frustratingly said, “Yes but God knows how many will die before that happens, or how many of my nurses will still be on their feet.” There was a long pause, before Deanna said, “Sorry hon, I didn’t mean to unload on you but it’s so frustrating. Anyway, how was your day? Did you get to interview the Trump supporter?” Daniel caught the slight edge to her voice due to her holding President Trump responsible for the situation. Realizing that it wouldn’t help her to know what Beth had said, he simply relayed that it was going well. Then conveying that he needed to go down to dinner, promised to call her later that evening.

At dinner, Beth was very quiet as she ate her steak and fries, followed by chocolate ice cream. Daniel selected a vegetarian chili with wild rice, and a slice of apple pie and vanilla ice cream. When they finished their meal, Beth said she wanted to watch TV in the lounge as President Trump was scheduled to speak at 7 o’clock to his supporters in Georgia.

Speaking first, the newly elected President-elect Biden reassured the Georgian voters that he would get help to them as soon as possible, in the form of a relief package that would make up the $600 they received to the promised $2000. Alternatively, the defeated former President used his rally to continue his claim that the election was stolen from him. Listening to the speech, Daniel was deeply concerned as the rhetoric was even more vicious than usual. One particular attack on Jon Ossoff was especially worrying to the reporter, so much so that he pulled out his recorder to tape a particularly vitriolic part to use in his weekly column, where almost incoherently Donald Trump ranted against the Democratic candidates.

As troubling as watching Donald Trump’s ranting was for Daniel, Beth’s reaction was even more concerning. She appeared transfixed by the man, hanging on his every word. Sophia’s statement that Trump supporters were “caught in the energy of demagoguery” came to the reporter’s mind. After a few more minutes, Daniel excused himself citing that he needed to call his wife, leaving Beth glued to the TV.

In his room, Daniel rang Deanna, who filled him in on more news. “Despite my concerns, the situation is actually much better as the staff have more experience. Nonetheless, they are still struggling and suffering from exhaustion. Amazingly, PPE is still a problem. I can’t wait until Biden is in charge, and can take over this colossal problem. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that between now and his inauguration it’s going to get much worse, as I said, the numbers are exploding again.”

Deciding to distract his wife, Daniel changed the subject. “Sorry to hear that. Did you hear about Trump’s rally in Georgia today, it was awful. Not only did he continue lying about the election being stolen but listen to this,” picking up his notebook Daniel read his notes:

“Jon Ossoff is an unhinged radical leftist. He’s not a senator… he’s very proud to be endorsed by socialist crazy Bernie Sanders… He promoted Chinese propaganda and then he failed to disclose his business ties to the Chinese communist party. Other than that, he’s a wonderful guy, right? Ossoff supports the largest tax hike in American history… Warnock and Ossoff, if they get in, you’re going to have the largest tax increase …in the history of our country… He supports the insane Green New Deal, which would crush middle-class parents trying to raise a family. He will support the socialist takeover of American healthcare, which will lead to rationing poverty and death. Ossoff also backed the radical left wing crusade to defund police… If you vote for Jon Ossoff, he will attack our heroes. He will destroy our economy, and he will betray you and your family.”

“That’s terrible,” Deanna stated. “Doesn’t he realize how incentive his language is, someone’s going to get hurt.”

Agreeing with Deanna, Daniel confided how affected Beth was by the speech. “The amazing thing is it didn’t appear to disturb her at all. I couldn’t watch anymore and had to leave before he finished speaking. Still, I read the transcript later on line. What do you plan to watch tonight?”

“A rerun of The Notebook, you know how much I love that movie.” Daniel was well aware of his wife’s predilection for romantic movies but wondered at Deanna watching this particular movie, because of the ending. Voicing his concern, she defended, “That’s what so beautiful, they find each other again. It says to me that true love never dies.”

Next morning, following a plate of scrambled eggs, which he complimented with a stack of pancakes, Daniel waited as Beth, who had arrived fifteen minutes after he did, finished her bacon and eggs, accompanied with a glazed doughnut, as once again they were scheduled to be tested for the virus. After receiving the all-clear from their tests, they made their way to their lounge, where Daniel switched on the TV but left it on mute. While making them both expressos, Daniel asked Beth, “Would you like to continue the interview? There won’t be a result until later, we can keep an eye on what’s going on while we talk.”

Surprising Daniel, Beth eagerly accepted adding, “ I have a few questions about what you said yesterday about injustice and Socialism. I’ve never heard of gerrymandering or redlining, what are they?”

“Gerrymandering is a term for the name of the Governor of Massachusetts from 1810 to 1812, Elbridge Thomas Gerry who was governor when it was enacted. It became more famous because he went on to serve as Vice President to the noted “Father of the Constitution”, James Madison from 1812 to 1814. In a nutshell, gerrymandering is a way legislatures manipulate the electorate so they can win the Electoral College, which often supersedes the actual, or popular vote count.” Ignoring Beth’s obvious skepticism written all over her face, Daniel explained, “This is how George W. was elected when Al Gore beat him in the overall number of votes, and how”, pausing to gauge if he could risk upsetting her, and deciding it had to be said, “Donald Trump won in 2016, despite losing the overall “popular” vote by more than three thousand.”

Flooring Daniel, instead of leaping to “her” president’s defense Beth simply stated, “That doesn’t seem fair. Why hasn’t it been changed?”

“Good question but I believe it is because the Electoral College is a part of the Constitution. It’s like the reason each state has two senators regardless of how many people live in them. A safety net put in place was by assigning the number of Electoral votes based on population, which is why Pennsylvania with over twelve million people has twenty Electoral votes, and Hawaii with a million and a half has only four. The problem is the districts determine who wins the state, which is where gerrymandering came in. Obviously, the Founding Fathers never dreamed that politicians would be so desperate to hold onto power that they would manipulate the shape of districts, in order to make sure their supporters, who were usually in the minority, always had the upper hand in all laws and policy decisions. I was only talking with my wife about this a few weeks ago. Here look at this”, taking out his cell-phone Daniel scrolled down the screen, then holding the phone up to Beth showed her the same caricature of the districts creating the out-line of a salamander in The Boston Gazette, he’d shown Deanna. “This is how it came to be known as gerrymandering, ‘Gerry’ for the governor, and ‘mander’ for salamander.”

“So you’re saying that we would need to change the Constitution? As in an amendment like the second amendment?

“Yes and that takes three quarters of the Senate to vote for it, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon, because the status quo is the only way the Republicans can even hope to keep power.”

Taking a quick look at Beth, Daniel half expected her to argue but instead she murmured “That’s what frightens my family, they are terrified of losing their rights. They never used to be, as I said most of our neighbors are Democrats, and we used to be friends with many too. But this past year, even before then, everything changed and now our community is as divided as the country.”

Sensing an opening, Daniel carefully broached, “You mentioned that you have friends who are Democrats, how has that been? Has the election affected your friendship with them?”

“Not really, although we’ve had some lively debates but in general we agree to disagree. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with my dad, he lost his best friend over it. Mom tried to act as a mediator but neither would have it. It’s such a shame, as I know my dad misses him.” Shaking herself, Beth said, “Never mind I guess once this is all over they will sort it out. Getting back to my question about red-lining, I’m almost afraid to ask what it is.”

“Curiously, this terrible practice was created under one of the most Liberal and Democratic Presidents we have ever had, Franklyn Delano Roosevelt. My friend Sophia explained it best in her treatise New Jerusalem’s Stolen Fate, which looks at historical events energetically. Anyway, let me go grab my copy from my room for you.”

As Daniel rushed up to his room for the book, he wondered what Beth was thinking about their discussion. Returning to the lounge, he was a little surprised that she had not turned up the volume on the TV while he was gone. Instead he found her sitting in the exact same position, staring off into space. Disturbed from her reveries by Daniel entering the room, Beth looked up and smiled. Noting how lovely her smile made her look, lighting up her face and making her deep blue eyes sparkle like sapphires, reminding himself that he is a married man, Daniel pictured Deanna’s beautiful green eyes.

Sitting down, Daniel began flipping through the pages of Sophia’s treatise, searching for the section concerning red-lining. “Here it is. Essentially red-lining is the practice of dividing and assigning areas of cities a security rating, which affected housing values and the ability to attain mortgages. The term red-lining comes from the lowest areas, or Type-D being outlined in red on the city maps. Nevertheless, as Sophia relates, the practice came about through a corruption of the National Housing Act of 1934. Establishing the Federal Housing Administration, city officials set about rating city districts from A to D. Type-A and Type-B, outlined in green and blue, respectively were deemed ‘desirable’ for investment, with Type-C, outlined in yellow judged to be ‘declining.’ However, all three were deemed to be a ‘safe investment.’ This was not the case for Type-D districts outlined in red, because these areas were designated as a ‘risky’ investment. Ultimately, as Sophia wrote, ‘the National Housing Act of 1934 caused the creation of slum areas in 239 cities, where the poor, usually minorities, were prevented from improving their communities. Predictably, Type-D areas of a city were mostly the older city center parts, and generally populated by minorities, in particular, African Americans. She relates that urban planning historians theorize that these maps were used by private and public entities for years afterwards, in order to refuse loans to people in black communities.”

“Sadly, racist language embedded in reports reflected the bias of the private sector and experts hired to conduct the appraisals. Private investors were also consulted and allowed to participate in designating the ‘red-lined’ zones on the maps. Evidently, these private organization’s maps were designed to meet the requirements of the Federal Housing Administration’s underwriting manual. It seems that banks needed to ‘consider FHA standards’, if they wanted to be eligible for the FHA insurance on the loans. To Sophia, the most damaging aspect of the whole business of red-lining neighborhoods was its racism, which she said is seen in the FHA ‘appraisal manuals’, which instructed banks to steer clear of areas with ‘inharmonious racial groups’ and recommended that municipalities enact racially restrictive zoning ordinances.”

Looking up from the book Daniel elaborated, “Over the years, red-lining districts in cities resulted in isolating minority communities into specific areas, which of course led to cultural and linguistic isolation from the white community, a form of segregation. However, much worse was that these areas were given less resources, meaning less opportunities in education and employment for its residents. It became a self-sustaining situation, where the residents, reduced to lower paying jobs, paid less taxes, which in turn meant less resources being allocated for those areas. Every year, more and more people fell into poverty, which further deteriorated property values for even those who managed to purchase their own homes. Naturally, the minority community came to resent the treatment, opening up for the influence of gangs, drugs, and crime. Viewed by affluent citizens of the Type-A and Type-B parts of the city as slums and ghetto’s, these fortunate residents urged politicians to keep them safe through stringent policing. Today we see the result, more murders, muggings, and violent crime than the suburbs, due to abject poverty. It is this situation that has led to the untenable relationship between young predominantly African Americans and police officers.”

“Is red-lining why so many African Americans seem so angry?”, inquired Beth.

Fixing Beth with his eyes, Daniel countered with, “Wouldn’t you be angry, if you and your family were systematically treated like second-class citizens and hamstrung at every turn?” Not letting Beth respond he continued, “The amazing thing is that most African Americans are far more likely to forgive their tormenters than most white Christians. I could give you a perfect example, with the woman whose son was killed by the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Until I left home, I had never even seen a black man or woman but I was in Minneapolis this past summer, a month after George Floyd was killed and saw thousands of black men and women marching in the streets. Obviously, they have a right to be angry at the police but do they have to paint every white person with the same brush? I have nothing against them. Besides as you said, it was instigated under a Democrat. I remember by great grandpa referring to FDR as the only decent Democrat. If so, then why did he allow such an injustice?”

“Unfortunately, when FDR was president, the Democratic party was ruled by its southern members, who were pro-segregation. Roosevelt was a pragmatist and worked around them as much as he could to help the underprivileged but he had to make compromises. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1968 when LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, which included the Fair Housing Act that anything changed.” Seeing Beth’s look of confusion Daniel qualified, “President Lyndon B Johnson. Anyway, the South’s reaction to the act was for the southern states to defect and join the Republican party. It took a while but little by little, the mentality of white supremacy has seeped deeper and deeper into the Republican platform, with the last administration heralding its rise by supporting the election of out and out white supremists.”

“That’s a bit strong, as I said my family have nothing against colored people, we’re not racists”, defended Beth. “Surely most people feel the same?”

“One can be a white supremist without being a racist.” When Beth said she didn’t see a difference Daniel explained, “I realize that most people would be horrified to even contemplate them supporting white supremacy but it comes down to unconscious bias. Without even realizing it many are simply conditioned into thinking the White Race is superior to other ethnicities, especially when the appearance is distinctly different, such as color. The tragedy is, as Robert and Sophia pointed out, it’s all an illusion.” Allowing the statement to just sit there, Daniel went on, “Even so, this isn’t just the problem. The real problem is that too many good people are numb to the situation and feel helpless, when their not. Politicians work for us but those in power today seem to forget that. Therefore, despite the overwhelming support for a reckoning on the wrongs of slavery, segregation, and racism, many politicians are ignoring these calls for justice.”

Checking his watch, Daniel suggested getting a bite to eat. Choosing to order smoothies again, while they were drinking them Daniel turned up the volume on the TV to see if there was any indication of the Georgia election results. Like the general election, at first the incumbents had looked primed to win, so early on they were ahead. Then as the day wore on, slowly both Democrats began a comeback.

After dinner, back in their lounge, Daniel and Beth silently watched the Democrats gain ground, and when it became apparent that the Republican incumbents were going to lose, she excused herself saying, “I need to call my family in DC, they should be in the hotel by now, see you in the morning.”

In his room, Daniel turned on the TV watching in delight as the results became that more obvious. Calling Deanna, he shared his delight in this surprising outcome she enthused, “You know what this means, it will be a lot easier for Biden to get things done.”

Although agreeing with his wife, Daniel was less certain, because of the Republicans determination to do everything they can to stop Democrats from being successful, so he simply said, “Let’s hope so.” Reading into the early hours of the morning, Daniel was awake when the candidates were declared the winner, even though neither of their opponents conceded.

Feeling a little lighter, Daniel was grinning from ear to ear as he entered their dining room the next morning. Beth was not there, and came in while he was ladling scrambled eggs onto pieces of toast. Glancing up at his fellow Covid prisoner, who was wearing a denim skirt and green sweatshirt, the reporter observed her morose look. Deducing that she was probably not too pleased about the election results, he chose not to ask, and just threw her an encouraging smile. Informing her companion that after they were tested, she intended to stay in her room in support of her family at the rally. In an attempt to make things easier for her Daniel said, “That’s fine. I have a lot of work to do, and I want to finish Sophia’s treatise, see you at dinner.”

Cognizant of the plan for many congressman and senators to challenge the results of several states, triggering the lengthy process of debating for two hours each time, Daniel had decided not to even watch TV. Working on the article for an hour, Daniel ordered his smoothie and settled down to reading Sophia’s treatise. Engrossed in her hypothesis while drinking his smoothie, his quietude was suddenly interrupted by a loud banging on the door, accompanied with “Daniel!, Daniel!, open the door! Its Beth, are you watching!”

Wondering what on earth could have happened, Daniel grabbed the remote off the table, turning on the TV as he went to let Beth in. Following her back into the room, both stared at the screen. For a moment, the thought crossed Daniel’s mind that the building under assault was abroad but then he saw the Trump flags and signs, quickly realizing that it was the US Capitol under attack from Americans! Beth cut into his thoughts crying out, “I can’t believe it, my family are in the middle of that! I keep calling them but they aren’t answering!” Then spotting something on the TV Beth cried out again, “Good God! That’s my Mom and Dad!” Pointing at the screen, she added, “They’re the fools standing next to the Confederate flag.”

Stunned and unsure what to say, Daniel collapsed on his bed, as Beth sank down onto the other one next to him, both glued to the scene in front of them. Asking her how it started, she almost spat out “It was Trump. You should have heard what he was telling the rally.” At that moment, CNN reran excerpts from the defeated president’s speech, and the reporter registered the same incendiary words he heard the night before, only more vehemently. Watching the unmitigated violence being directed at American police officers, Beth and Daniel demanded almost simultaneously, “Where are the National Guard! Why aren’t they there?” Like most people, they watched in disbelief as Maryland’s National Guard arrived but did nothing, unaware that they were waiting for permission to intercede.

For more than 3 hours, the two watched the violent scene of the insurrection play out like some R-rated movie. Unable to look away, Daniel knew that Beth was worried about her family, as she frustratingly said, “Look at them, they look like their under a spell.”

“In a way they are.” When Daniel added that they were caught in the energy of demagoguery, Beth shot him a dirty look but didn’t challenge his statement, so he didn’t elaborate. Transfixed by what was happening, even after it calmed down neither wanted to go down to dinner. Ordering a couple of pizzas from a local pizzeria, they ate them while staring at the TV. Around seven o’clock, Beth finally reached her parents but was surprised to hear them almost jubilant at their participation in the insurrection. Hanging up, she turned to Daniel in bewilderment, “I don’t get it, my parents have never condoned violence. Mom and Dad were hippies in the sixties. Yet they sounded proud of the mob’s actions, telling me how patriotic it was.”

Beth stayed in Daniel’s room until the election was certified in the early hours of the morning of January 7th. Before she left, he called down to the concierge asking if they could have a late breakfast in their rooms, rather than going down to the dining room. Accommodatingly, the concierge said he would be happy to arrange for a continental breakfast to be delivered around 11 o’clock, informing them that he had postponed their daily testing until the afternoon. Thanking the concierge, Daniel informed Beth, adding, “We can talk about this after we’ve both been tested, okay?” Nodding her assent, she said goodnight and then laughing amended it to good morning, and left the room.

Next day, Daniel is awoken by his cellphone’s familiar ring tones. Picking up the phone he says, “Good morning Darling. How are you today?” Deanna was quiet before relaying her distress at the events at the Capitol. Listening as a dutiful husband rather than as a reporter, Daniel could tell that she was extremely upset and once again, cursed his predicament that meant he could not comfort her in person.

“Have you seen the recent footage taken by those idiots?” Not waiting for a response, Deanna continued, “Those poor officers, I would never believe Americans could do such a thing but I guess that’s what happens when we elect leaders who are liars with no integrity. At the time I was at Mount Sinai and none of us could believe what we were seeing.”

“Yes, it’s crazy, I didn’t call last night because I figured we’d talk this morning. Also, I considered that as you were working, you may not have seen the melee, and if so didn’t want to burden you with it. Obviously, I was wrong, why didn’t you call me?”

“Everyone at Sinai was so upset by the violence that I stayed late with them and didn’t get back until the early hours. Thinking that you had my cellphone and could reach me, I too wasn’t sure if you were watching, especially as you’d told me that you weren’t going to watch the fiasco, as you wanted to finish Sophia’s treatise. Apparently, you did watch it.”

“I hadn’t intended to, as I knew there would be plenty of people reporting on the challenges to the certification and could catch up on everything. However, as I told you Beth was supposed to meet her family in DC for Trump’s rally before she got stuck here with me, so, she was watching the rally in her room. When the proverbial hit the fan, she saw her family in the fray and it really upset her. Banging on my door, I had to let her in, so we ended up watching the whole thing live. In fact, she didn’t leave until early this morning because we stayed up to watch Congress certify Biden as the winner.”

“Thank God Vice President Pence didn’t go along with it, can you imagine how much worse it would have been, even if the mob was screaming for his head”, observed Deanna. Proving her caring nature Daniel smiled as she asked, “How is Beth’s family? Were they hurt?”

“Thankfully no because they were not in the actual fight. Although Beth was having a hard time understanding how her mother seemed proud of their actions, even telling her daughter that it was patriotic.” Deanna commiserated with Daniel, adding that watching some of the footage on CNN, what had struck her as the saddest was the sincere commitment of the normal Trump supporters, and their desperation in what they saw as defending American democracy.

“I agree. Forget the normal militias of white supremists and racists, there were a lot of down to earth Americans caught up in that. It will be interesting to see the fallout to this.” Promising to call later with his test results, Daniel hung up. Minutes later there was a soft knock on the door, which he correctly surmised was his breakfast.

Daniel and Beth did not run into each other again until they were summoned for their daily tests for Covid-19. Despite getting the “all clear” for the fourth straight day, neither celebrated because they knew that it didn’t mean they hadn’t been exposed to the virus. Moving to their exclusive lounge, Daniel enquired if she had checked on her family again. “No. They are on their way home. To be honest with you, I’m dreading talking to them. I’m still fuming and have no desire to hear how”, making air quotes she continued, ‘patriotic’ they were. Ideally, I could use a couple of days to cool off but I’ll have to call them after supper. Actually, I wanted to ask you about something you said yesterday about demagoguery.”

Seeing the look on Beth’s face when he mentioned demagoguery, Daniel knew that he would need to explain it later. Consequently, when she brought it up he was prepared. “First, I think it will help to understand the term. Demagoguery concerns being under the influence of a demagogue.” Stating that her Democratic friends had used the term in respect to President Trump but she’d ignored it, Daniel scrolled through his phone to the definition that he’d used in his article Donald Trump’s Media Accomplices. “Here it is”, handing Beth the phone, he silently watched as she read…

Looking up and handing Daniel his phone Beth conceded, “I guess I can see how the president’s actions of late could be interpreted as that of a demagogue. However, I don’t understand how it could have contributed to yesterday’s riot. Are you saying that they couldn’t help themselves when the president told them to fight? It seems a little farfetched, what about free will?”

Pleased at Beth’s interest Daniel explained, “Of course, a lot the them were driven by racism and anti-authority motives but I’m talking about the normally down to earth law-abiding citizens like your parents. Even you said their behavior is out of character. It is these people that are most adversely affected by demagoguery, which unfortunately is very prevalent in the world right now.”
“Why is that? Surely President Trump isn’t responsible for what is happening outside of America?”

Deciding to risk it as he deemed Beth a little more open, Daniel took a deep breath then very deliberately said, “I guess in order to understand what is happening, the most important thing is to view our universe and everything in it from the energetic perspective. How familiar are you with quantum physics?” When she confessed that she only understood that atoms have several parts. Daniel smiled and said, “Good that helps. Quantum physics reveals that solid matter is in fact an allusion.” Seeing Beth’s resistance to the statement Daniel quickly added, “by that I mean if we could blow up the size of the atom, we would see that most of it is empty space.” Acknowledging her skepticism, Daniel concurred, “Yes I know, I had a problem with it myself and it wasn’t until it was explained metaphorically, as enlarging an atom to the size of a sport’s stadium that it made sense. This is because at these dimensions, the atom’s nucleus containing the protons and neutrons would be the size of a bumble-bee in the center. As for the electrons, they would appear as tiny wisps in the outer bleachers, the rest of the stadium would be completely empty space. The trick is to remember that this so-called ‘empty space’ is actually conscious malleable energy, which we mold with our collective consciousness.”

Observing that Beth appeared genuinely interested, Daniel continued, “Obviously, this is an extremely complicated subject, which cannot be covered in an hour or so. To explain how Donald Trump could be involved in world events, comes down to the energy of demagoguery, and its effect on world events but it’s a little more complicated, because it brings in spiritual evolution, in particular how the Elements are connected to human emotions. As I said, this is really a lot and I cannot fully explain it properly, so if you like I can share how I came to understand it, with Robert and Sophia’s writings.”

Enthusiastically Beth agreed, as her mind was buzzing but she was still upset about the incident at the Capitol. Then Daniel broke into her thoughts, saying, “I think it will help you understand what happened yesterday and why your parents are acting so out of character. But you will have to keep an open mind, as this stuff is very different. It ultimately comes down to the energy in the law of reincarnation.” Beth’s immediate reaction did not surprise Daniel, as the concept was contrary to everything she knew.

“I don’t believe in that! It’s ridiculous to think we could come back as a dog or cat. To me, it’s a cop out for people failing to make the most out of life.”

Expecting Beth’s response, Daniel reasoned, “I agree that it is ridiculous to think we come back as an animal but that is a misinterpretation of the teaching. As I have come to understand it, reincarnation is a universal law that Life continually evolves through multiple incarnations. However, once we cross into another category, we do not regress to a lower one. What might surprise you is that even Jesus taught about reincarnation.”

Reminiscent of Sophia recounting Robert’s reaction to her telling him that Jesus mentioned reincarnation, Daniel couldn’t help but smile, when Beth angrily demanded “Where! Show me where in the Bible he says that.”

Feeling a little self-satisfied, Daniel picked up his phone and typed in “ KJV Elijah, and John the Baptist” into his search engine. Predictably it pointed to Matthew chapter 11 verses 12 to15 in the New Testament where he read aloud: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Watching Beth struggle with the information, Daniel elaborated, “Naturally, the church denies this, saying that Jesus did not identify John the Baptist as the, using air quotes, Daniel explains ‘actual’ Elijah but in the similar vein to how the people would react to him. The fact is, reincarnation was held as real for nearly 300 years after Jesus, until a Roman Caesar named Constantine the Great adopted Christianity for expediency after winning a battle, elevating the Church. At the time, before this being Christian was decidedly detrimental to one’s health, as under certain emperors Christians were regularly sacrificed to the Roman gods. During these times, church officials struggled to get converts, as the belief in reincarnation made sacrificing one’s life in agonizing deaths unnecessary. To counteract this, the church adopted the Greek concept of Hades, adapting it to those not willing to die for their faith being condemned to suffer for all eternity in hell, while those who endured the temporary pain as an avowed Christian, was rewarded with living in paradise for ever. The truth is that reincarnation makes sense when understood as it should be, energetically, as a part of evolution. Obviously, no one returns as themselves in their previous life, which is how the church addresses the difficulty of Jesus identifying John the Baptist with Elijah. I think Robert and Sophia’s hypothesis in The Missive explains it best, let me find it on their web site.” Scrolling through his favorites, Daniel finds the website, locating the document and the correct section he says, “Here we are” and begins reading:

“Our hypothesis has Jesus growing up in Alexandria, with no idea that he was destined to be the prophesied Jewish Messiah. As an adolescent he entered the mystery school of Isis and was eventually initiated by the high priestess and trained in the arts of alchemy and magic. His training explains some of the more mysterious events, such as recorded in John 8:59 where, when the Pharisees tried to stone him, he escaped by becoming invisible to them.

“At the same time as Jesus was being trained in Egypt, his cousin John had entered an ascetic Essene community. While he was there, John received a vision informing him that he was to prepare the way for the Messiah. At the time he did not know that the Messiah was his cousin Jesus. More than likely he told his teachers about the vision, but because the Essene leaders were waiting for Elijah to return and John didn’t fit the expected profile, his revelations were not received well. He was told to forget the vision and continue his studies.

“Preconceptions of even the most well intentioned people can be deadly to spiritual truth. If the people interpreting the Truth are not only wrong but also people in powerful positions, then it is near impossible for anyone who offers a different interpretation to be accepted. Truth is absolute. It is only our capacity to understand the Truth that is dynamic. For example, the absolute Truth is that the planet Earth has always orbited the Sun, yet less than one millennia ago people in power decreed it was heresy to state this Truth. When Galileo dared to challenge this decree, he was accused of heresy, and after being forced to recant, died a broken man under house arrest. We were surprised to hear that Pope John Paul II, not long before his death exonerated Galileo by announcing that those who condemned Galileo were wrong. This is a perfect demonstration of humanity’s dynamic ability to understand the Truth. Today because of the greater knowledge of astronomy, Galileo can be proved right every time someone looks through a telescope.

“Reminiscent of many people who have been called, John tried to obey his teacher’s instructions, but also like many prophets he could not ignore the vision. Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Jesus’ parents wanted their son to know his Essene heritage before he had to marry (The Jewish custom was for a man to marry before his twentieth birthday.) Because a family member was already studying at an ascetic order, Jesus was sent to Palestine to join his cousin. Esoteric writings called, The Essene Gospel of Peace and The Essene Jesus report that Jesus became an Essene master.

Continuing with our hypothesis, John had tried to ignore his calling but it was too strong. Eventually unable to deny his destiny, John left the sect and went into the desert. Interestingly a documentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls said there were scrolls, which recorded that if a member of the community broke the rules, that member would be exiled and banished to the desert. Could this be why the gospel account of John states that John the Baptist survived in the desert by eating locusts and wild honey? (Mark 1:6)

“Ultimately John was inspired to teach of the repentance of sins and the coming Messiah. He also started baptizing, as a symbol for a new life. As he was baptizing, he spoke of the different baptisms, telling them that he baptized with water but another, which he would identify, would baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost. (Mark 1:8) It was important for us to remember that John did not know that he was the reincarnation of Elijah. Like his cousin, Jesus was also driven to his destiny, arriving to be baptized by John. At the time, Jesus did not know that John was the reincarnation of Elijah and that he himself was the Messiah, John spoke of. The Baptist had received a vision of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove alighting and remaining on the messiah, but he had not seen his face. The New Testament says that John recognized Jesus as the messiah before his baptism. All the same, in our hypothesis it wasn’t until after Jesus arose from the water and John saw the dove descending onto him that he knew his cousin was the messiah. Because John denied that he was Elijah, theologians use this to deny reincarnation. Still we need to remember that it was only after John had died and Jesus had experienced the transfiguration on the mountain that he understood both his and John’s role.”

After Daniel fell silent, Beth remarked, “That’s an interesting hypothesis.” Then thinking for a moment inquired, “Where did they get it from?”

“As I understand it from her husband Robert, Sophia has been divinely inspired and guided in her research for more than 25 years. She explains it in her treatise that I read from earlier, remember?” When Beth nodded her assent, Daniel continued, I have an idea if you are interested, since we’re stuck here for the next six days, if you like we could read the treatise together. It might give you a different perspective on Life. What do you think?”

Daniel didn’t expect Beth to agree. Consequently, when she responded, “That sounds like a great idea.” Then flippantly added, “After all, I’ve got nothing better to do, have I?” he was caught off guard. Mumbling that as it was an hour before dinner and that he wanted to call his wife, Daniel left the room.

At dinner, neither Beth or Daniel brought up the proposed joint reading of Sophia’s treatise, and after selecting their meals sat quietly awaiting them to arrive. After eating in silence, pushing her plate of fettuccine aside Beth began, “I spoke to my Mom, she’d just got home. She was a different person tonight, and confessed to feeling ashamed of their participating in the whole thing. My dad is also dumbfounded at getting caught up in it, and is now questioning whether the election was really stolen. My Mom said, ‘We’ve always trusted the TV news as we thought they had to tell the truth but now I’m not so sure. I just don’t know what to believe anymore.’ I’ve never heard my Mom so distressed before, other than when gran and grandpa died.”

Daniel was quiet for a few minutes before saying, “I agree. Normally rational people seem to be acting out of character but I think the treatise might help explain these bizarre events. We can start tomorrow after we’re tested if you like. Tonight, I’m going to have an early night to catch up on some sleep, see you at breakfast.”

Even though Daniel told Beth he was going to call Deanna before dinner, he didn’t call her until after. Smiling at the sound of her voice, he asked how her day had gone. “Pretty good, although it is clear that we are in another surge. That said, New York is better prepared than last year, and my nurses are bracing for the onslaught of patients. What about you? How are you getting on with our Trump supporter?”

“I’m not so sure that she still is. Seeing her family in the middle of the insurrection has really thrown Beth for a loop, especially as now their home, her parents are regretting taking part. Amazingly, she’s going to read Sophia’s treatise with me.”

Almost incredulous Deanna queried, “Really, what made her want to do that?” After Daniel related that he’d told Beth that not only the insurrection but all the bizarre behavior of the past year could be explained energetically, Deanna observed wryly, “You always were a smooth talker.”

Laughing Daniel reasoned, “Perhaps so but I think it’s more about her being bored out of her brain. I honestly think that Beth would agree to pretty much anything right now to relieve the mind-numbing situation. It’s been five days, and we’re only half way through. There’s also the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads that we could still be infected. Still, it will be interesting to see how she reacts to Sophia’s hypothesis, I’ve already shared her insight into reincarnation.”

“Interesting. By the way, have you been watching the awful scenes of violence at the Capitol on Wednesday? I couldn’t believe it and yet some people are still denying it was an insurrection. I have a hard time watching the News right now, as they are sharing so many opinions that it’s even more difficult to separate fact from fiction.” Daniel comforted Deanna by telling her she could trust CNN, as they at least fact check their information. Sighing, she responded “That may be but they are still predominantly opinion driven.”

“It’s funny you should say that because Beth had a similar conversation with her mother, who also lamented over not being able to trust the News anymore.”

Deanna concurred adding, “In political news distrust is not a problem but when people don’t trust the news to bring them real information about their health, then that takes it out of the realm of politics and puts it into the real danger we are facing today. What I can’t understand is why so many people are still denying the virus, calling it a hoax when so many have died. We’ve all seen the freezers filled with bodies outside of hospitals.”

“Sophia has an interesting take on why that is still happening connected to guilt. But I’ll leave that discussion for the journey home. What are you going to watch tonight?” Daniel smiled when Deanna related the title to one of her favorite movies. “You’re really getting to binge on romance this week, aren’t you?”

“Yes but I’d much rather watch our shows with you. Time seems to be creeping by, I miss you so much.” Returning the sentiment, Daniel told his wife to enjoy her movie, promising to call the next day with his test results. He knew that although Deanna had never voiced her concern, she was aware that due to his age getting infected with Covid-19 could be dangerous for him.

After the 6th, Beth was less supportive of Donald Trump’s claim of a stolen election, especially when Daniel explained that if there had been evidence to overthrow the election, the Attorney General William Barr and the 60 judges would have certainly used it. He also pointed out that Donald Trump has always claimed elections are rigged against him, “He did so in 2016 before he won, and was warning the same day George Floyd was killed that allowing mail-in voting would lead to fraud. The simple fact is that on both occasions he knew there was a good chance he would lose the election, and his claims were precursors to him challenging the outcome. Did you see any of the interviews with his niece Mary Trump?” When Beth said she hadn’t, Daniel explained, “She’s a clinical psychologist and worried about her uncle’s mental stability, wrote a book about him. In the interview she states ‘Donald’ is incapable of ever admitting he is wrong or has lost, because his father drummed it into him to never be a loser. He literally cannot help himself.”

Beth countered with, “Then how do you explain not only millions buying into his claims that the election was stolen but also politicians? Surely the politicians know the truth.”

“They do. This is why I want to read Sophia’s treatise with you, as it will help put this into perspective that makes sense. When we look at it energetically then it completely changes how we see it. However, to understand what is happening today, we need to go back to the 1800s, with the start of the corruption of Freemasonry.”

Recognizing the term Beth offered, “Freemasonry. Wasn’t that a secret organization tied to all kinds of conspiracy?”

“It’s more complicated than that. Originally, Freemasons were all a part of the Divine Plan in helping us defeat our false selves that sabotages our spiritual evolution. Unfortunately, over the years many were tricked into promoting the “Shadow’s agenda.”

“Come again! What’s that?” Demanded Beth.

“You could think of it as what the Church calls Satan but that is such a gross oversimplification of what we are up against, and besides, it is no longer in play.” Observing that Beth was about to ask another question, Daniel quickly added, “I think it is best if we read the information first and leave the questions until later. Okay?”

“When Beth nodded Daniel clarified, “You are going to hear a lot of names and incidents cited, some you may recognize and some you may not. I had the same problem, until Sophia told me to just read the treatise, as in most cases our questions are answered. The important thing is to follow the energy of both sides effect on the real world. So getting back to the corruption of Freemasonry, Sophia explains it happened when the society of Freemasons went through a drastic change after the Civil War. This change was instigated by the Confederate General Albert Pike, who was pro-slavery. Clearly under the influence of the “Shadow” he became a Freemason in 1850 and a decade later had rewritten the sacred rituals of the Scottish Rite, just in time for the Civil War. Amazingly, despite writing that although ‘He didn’t necessarily believe in KKK’ he called for ‘one great Order of Southern Brotherhood… whose very existence should be concealed from all but its members’.”

According to David Ovason’s book The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital, Albert Pike was ‘probably the most learned esotericist’ in America. As such, he was aware that the Age of the Angel of the Sun, was imminent. Traditionally the Archangel Michael, Pike renamed the Angel of the Sun, Ialdaboath. For Sophia, the most damaging influence Albert Pike exerted on Freemasonry was to introduce ‘ideas from French translations’ into his ‘writings’ on astrology and astronomy especially as America did not have its own understanding of astrology at the time.”

“As we started in the mid-1800s, we didn’t cover that energetically Pike’s introduction of French astrology coincided with France recovering from the first antichrist Napoleon Bonaparte’s influence. Sophia wonders if Pike was not ignorant of astrology, but rather deliberately introduced astrological errors into Freemasonry. Especially as 1854 began Night 3 in the 7th Wave, and questions the coincidence of him starting “a complete rewriting of the rituals of the Scottish Rite” under the rule of the “god of death.”

“Sorry Mr. Bruin”, interrupted Beth, “You’ve lost me. What does ‘Night 3 in the 7th Wave’ mean?”

“Forgive me dear, I forget that you haven’t read Sophia’s treatise. Briefly, Sophia connected her hypothesis of Life progressing through a series of ‘upsteppings’, to a Mayan experts theory that the Mayan civilization marked time in a series of 9 Waves. Each of these Waves consists of Days and Nights, denoting an active, and dormant phase, respectively.” Stopping, Daniel realized a way to connect the concept and smiling said, “Have you ever heard of the date December 21st 2012, as a date when people were scared that the world was going to end?”

“Vaguely, was that what the movie 2012 was about?” When Daniel nodded, Beth continued, “That was about the end of an Age wasn’t it?”

“Yes. A Mayan Age lasts 5,113 years, with the last one beginning in 3115 B.C.E., however, this expert believed that superseding the Ages, Life was evolving through 9 Waves. Interestingly, he also believed that the last Mayan Age incorporated the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Waves ending in October 2011 not 2012. Each Wave gets progressively shorter, with the 9th Wave lasting only 36 days, through its Active/Day, and Dormant/Night cycle. The way he explains the lack of change in 2011 was to hypothesize that although all 9 Waves were completed in 2011, entering their dormant Night Phase, the Waves continue, consequently, we are still under the influence of the 8th and 9th Waves. It would take too long to explain how Sophia was able to connect the two theories, which incidentally, the Mayan expert has not shot down but of course, they don’t agree on everything. Anyway, I suggest you take the time to investigate both writers data, as it is fascinating. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes here we are:”

“As an advocate for slavery, proven by his statement that ‘With negroes for witnesses and jurors, the administration of justice becomes a blasphemous mockery,’ as well as declaring that all White Southerners ‘opposed to negro suffrage’ unite ‘into one great Order of Southern Brotherhood…’ Not to mention, Pike’s comment that the order’s ‘existence should be concealed from all but its members’, revealing how spiritually destructive he was to Freemasonry. Nevertheless, Sophia felt that Pike’s rewriting of the Scottish Rite rituals was not the most spiritually harmful. That dubious honor goes to others. As Sophia writes:

“Later masons chose to replicate King Mausolus’ tomb for Freemasons House of the Temple in Washington DC. And replacing the plant of life, corn with acacia associated with death’ Citing its entry on Wikipedia, she writes ‘Designed by John Russell Pope and modeled after the Mausoleum of Mausolus, the temple was dedicated four years later on October 18, 1915, and included an alcove to hold the remains of Albert Pike.’

“Despite knowing the decision to replicate Mausolus’ tomb for the Freemasons headquarters in Washington D.C. was influenced by the “Shadow”, initially I did not know why. After all the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was one of the Ancient Wonders of the World, so surely it was a safe choice. Regrettably, after doing a little research, I discovered why the “Shadow” used ‘his’ influence on the architect John Russell Pope, who designed the building. ‘He’ did so because the original Mausoleum was instigated under extreme grief, which led to a ritual desecration of the dead. This was another instance of taking a circuitous route to find the relevant information. It is testimony to how stealthy the ‘Shadow’ was in hiding ‘his’ motivation, it is also indicative of Great Spirit-Mind’s guidance throughout this treatise. Therefore, in understanding the seriousness of choosing to replicate the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, we get a glimpse into the subtlety of both sides in the conquest. I start with the relevant information from excerpts in his page on Encyclopedia Britannica:

“As well as listing his military exploits, Mausolus’ page relates that he has come to be known for the term Mausoleum, named for the tomb his widow built in his honor. This tomb built at Halicarnassus was recognized as one of the Ancient Wonders of the World. To be honest, the page for King Mausolus did not raise any flags, other than he was involved in a ‘Social War’ with Athens. However, Great Spirit-Mind moved me to investigate his sister/wife Artemisia, but her page was even less interesting. However on Wikipedia’s entry for her I found some very disturbing information. The ruler of Hecatomnus’ daughter, she married her brother Mausolus and reigned alongside of her husband until his death in 353 B.C.E. Then amazingly, she reigned as Queen Artemisia (II). Her entry tells us that she ‘supported the oligarchical party on the island of Rhodes.’ Nonetheless, it was the account of how she handled her husband/brother’s death that explained why I was guided to her. Apparently, the queen was so grief-stricken that she ‘mixed his ashes in her daily drink’.”

“Reading that she drank the ashes of her dead husband, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise, as this is a serious desecration of the dead. Yet, apart from being King Mausolus’ wife, she was also his sister, reminding me of another sister/wife, the Egyptian goddess Isis. Was this the connection the designers of the House of the Temple were trying to make? It made sense, but unfortunately, they were duped by the ‘Shadow.’ For it was not Isis, an Archetype of Sophia/Virgo that was being associated, but her sister Nephthys. I will return to this misidentification a little later, but now I want to address the entry revealing another effect of replicating the tomb, because it shaped the very development of America. Both King Mausolus and his widow’s type of rule was an oligarchy. To be honest I did not know what an oligarchy was, so I turned to Encyclopedia Britannica and found that ‘Aristotle used the term oligarchia to designate the rule of the few, when it was exercised not by the best but by bad men unjustly. In this sense, oligarchy is a debased form of aristocracy… Most classic oligarchies have resulted when governing elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling caste… set apart from the rest of society by religion, kinship, economic status, prestige, or even language. Such elites tend to exercise power in the interests of their own class… Oligarchs will secure effective control whether the formal authority is vested in the people, a monarch, the proletariat, or a dictator’.”

“Dealing with Oligarchy first, in replicating the Halicarnassus Mausoleum in the House of the Temple, the central seat of the Freemasons, the “Shadow” effectively made the Freemasons organization an oligarchy. I am not for one minute saying that all Freemasons are oligarchs. On the contrary, it is my sincere belief that today within the Freemasons are factions and or individuals who still hold the ancient secret knowledge. Moreover, there has been members of the “Orders of the Quest”, who were masons, such as the two Roosevelt presidents, Theodore (Teddy) and Franklin Delano, which we will meet a little later. Both of these Masons were great tools for the “Light.” Still, from an energetic perspective, the construction of the House of the Temple firmly placed the organization under the “Shadow’s” influence, beginning the long road to dividing America between the haves and have nots. This was further strengthened energetically by actually making the replica a tomb, housing Albert Pike’s remains, a man who represented the very opposite of the “Orders of the Quest’s” philosophy, of tolerance and understanding, instead replacing it with racism and bigotry. As devastating as this was to the “Light’s” objectives, the consequence from a spiritual perspective of corrupting the Freemasons headquarters in Washington D.C. was far worse. This is because, as the sub-title of this section implies, it caused a shift from Life to Death…

When Daniel paused, Beth lamented, “It seems to me that the Shadow held all the cards and America was doomed from the start. No wonder, were in such a mess. You said that only some Masons were affected. If so, then why didn’t those not affected do something about Albert Pike?”

“They did in New York.” Seeing the surprise on her face, flipping through the pages, Daniel explains, “Sophia covers this in detail but I will read the most relevant parts of how a hundred and 10 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the French gifted America with what they called ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ but we know as the Statue of Liberty. According to its entry on Wikipedia, the Statue began with a conversation between two friends, Édouard René Lefèbvre de Laboulaye and Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. As she says:

“…On this occasion, Laboulaye suggested to Bartholdi, the French citizens gift the American people with a statue representing freedom, to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. Feeling that it should be a joint venture to cement the bond between America and France, Laboulaye proposed that France create the statue, while the US provide the pedestal for it to rest on. Despite receiving approval from the US government in 1875, the project was not completed until October 1886. Still, this is only half the story as it does not explain why the “Light” inspired such an endeavor, to uncover this, we need to dig a little deeper…

Statue Liberty plaque“Bartholdi’s insistence that the cost of the venture be borne by both France and the US, meant there was a considerable amount that needed to be raised. To assist in the fundraising, he sculpted the massive head and the statue’s raised torch-bearing arm, to display at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878. He also sold tickets for the public to view the statue’s construction. Within a year, Bartholdi had raised 250,000 francs ($296,438), a lot from ordinary citizens. As remarkable as this was, the way the US raised the funds needed for the pedestal, was even more amazing.

“The entry has that in 1882, a New York committee was set up to raise the money for the statue’s pedestal. One method was to auction off ‘art and manuscripts.’ Looking for a way to promote the project, the committee approached the poet Emma Lazarus to compose an original poem. Unwilling to give up her work of helping Jewish refugees escape the ‘anti-Semitic pogroms in eastern Europe’ by coming to New York, she initially refused. Nonetheless, when she realized that she could write a poem hi-lighting the refugee’s plight, namely, being ‘forced to live in conditions that the wealthy Lazarus had never experienced’, she agreed. Therefore, she wrote the inspiring poem, entitled The New Colossus, which includes the famous, ‘Give me your tired, your poor/your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ The author of the entry tells us this poem, ‘is uniquely identified with the Statue of Liberty and is inscribed on a plaque in the museum in its base.’

“Despite Emma’s inspirational poem the author of the entry relates, ‘fundraising lagged.’ Having only raised $3,000, the lack of funds caused a delay in constructing the pedestal. Evidently, since New York appeared unable to raise the money, according to the entry ‘groups from other American cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, offered to pay the full cost of erecting the statue.’ Of course, these cities wanted the statue in their own cities, not New York harbor, requiring its relocation.

“Nevertheless, Joseph Pulitzer publisher of the New York World, a New York newspaper was inspired to help. As a result, he ‘announced a drive to raise $100,000—the equivalent of $2,300,000 today’ for the pedestal. Due to his position as a publisher, ‘Pulitzer pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given.’ Without knowing it, this action would directly appeal to people’s egos’ desire for recognition and allow their spirits to direct them to donate money. Regardless, as the author tells us, ‘The drive captured the imagination of New Yorkers.’ Apart from using the egos, I believe the “Light” inspired children, because when Pulitzer began publishing the notes he received from contributors, it affected New Yorkers. The author gives several examples, such as: ‘… A young girl alone in the world donated ‘60 cents, the result of self-denial.’ One donor gave ‘five cents as a poor office boy’s mite toward the Pedestal Fund.’ A group of children sent a dollar they had ‘saved to go to the circus with.’ Another dollar was given by a ‘lonely and very aged woman.’ Residents of a home for alcoholics in …Brooklyn… donated $15; other drinkers helped out through donation boxes in bars and saloons. A kindergarten class in Davenport, Iowa, mailed the World a gift of $1.35’.”

“Once the money began coming in, the New York committee was able to resume building the statue’s pedestal. Moreover, on August 11, 1885, Pulitzer announced in the New York World ‘that $102,000 had been raised from 120,000 donors, and that 80 percent of the total had been received in sums of less than one dollar.’

“…Another choice Bartholdi made from the inspiration of the “Light” was to choose Liberty Island, formerly known as Bedloe’s Island for the site. Bedloe Island was free land, as during the 19th (1800s) century, the New York State Legislature had given the island to the US government ‘for harbor defense.’ Another important energetic factor was the island’s history with the original native population, the Lenape, or Delaware People. This association was beneficial because the Lenape were a matriarchal society, connecting it to the Feminine energy. Finally, the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal is built over Fort Wood, whose walls were constructed in the shape of an 11-pointed star.”

Liberty Island

Holding out the book, Daniel showed Beth an ariel view of the island the Statue of Liberty is situated on in New York Harbor, standing on a base forming an 11-pointed star. Commenting on it, Daniel continues, “As Sophia relates:

“The first thing that struck me was how much the 11-pointed star reminded me of Islamic art. It appears my intuition was accurate, because when I typed ‘11-pointed stars in Islamic art” into my search engine, I found a page full of 11-pointed stars in Islamic design. Apparently, this symbol, which I gather is called a hendecagram, is also connected to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life…

“…Even more interesting, according to a plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the Masons of New York performed a sacred laying of the cornerstone ritual at its official dedication. Something told me that these Masons did not use acacia, but rather the original corn, not only because of the “Light’s” involvement, but also the influence of the French Masons. Feeling the need to verify my hypothesis, I searched the web for articles on the Cornerstone ceremony in 1884. Apart from the expected conspiracy articles, I found one entitled Masonry and the Statue of Liberty. The article by R.W. Robert C. Singer, the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York, is on the web site masonicworld.com. As this was from an actual mason from the New York Lodge, I thought it could be informative. Unfortunately, I can only include extracts on the dedication and a few extremely relevant excerpts. That said I highly recommend reading the full article, as it is well worth consideration in view of this treatise:

…The presentation and erection of the Statue of Liberty was an occasion of world-wide significance, and delegating the laying of the cornerstone to the Masonic Fraternity was a fitting tribute rendered to free men of high principles, and recognized international reputations throughout the world. The date set for the ceremony was August 5, 1884… A United States Army band played " La Marseillaise," the French National Anthem, following with the very popular "Hail Columbia." Then began, on the raised northeast corner of the pedestal, the formal cornerstone ceremony… By traditional ceremony, the cornerstone was then tested and being found, square, level, and plumb, the Deputy Grand Master completed the work by applying the mortar and by having the stone lowered firmly into place. The Grand Master then struck three blows with the gavel and declared the stone duly laid. The elements of consecration, corn, wine, and oil (My own emphasis), were next presented…The principal address was given by the Deputy Grand Master, R.W. Brother Lawrence, who said in part:

"Massive as this statue is, its physical proportions sink into comparative obscurity when contrasted with the nobility of its concept. Liberty Enlightening the World! How lofty the thought! To be free, is the first, the noblest aspiration of the human breast. And it is now a universally admitted truth that only in proportion as men become possessed of liberty, do they become civilized, enlightened, and useful... As Masons, we cannot appropriate to ourselves alone the lessons which this monument will teach. Not only to us, but to all men will it appeal… the gigantic figure which is here to stand in unapproachable grandeur while the centuries pass, will command: “Be noble, and the nobleness that lies in other men, sleeping, but never dead, will rise in majesty to meet thine own.”

“If the above account of not only the Cornerstone ceremony, but also Frédéric Bartholdi’s vision of a magnificent goddess holding aloft a torch is correct, then I suspect Sophia was behind the whole endeavor. With this in mind, I considered the reason for choosing the Roman goddess Libertas.

To the casual observer, choosing a goddess that represents freedom is a no-brainer, as it were. Nevertheless, the “Light” had been moving away from the Roman influence in America, consequently, I questioned why the “Orders of the Quest” would choose a Roman goddess for the Statue of Liberty, obviously I needed to investigate further.

“On Libertas entry on Wikipedia, I found a reference to the goddess Libera, who is also a goddess of freedom. I discovered that she is connected to the Roman goddess Ceres, or the Greek goddess Demeter. Apparently, Libera was the female counterpart to the god Liber (freedom), who was also linked to Dionysus. As such, Libera is merely the feminine form of the name Liber, and the two deities should be viewed as a pair, like Jupiter and Juno. However, although ‘she has no known native mythography’, around 205 B.C.E. Greek cults dedicated to the mother and daughter goddesses of Ceres (Demeter) and Proserpina (Persephone), identified Libera with Proserpina…

“I think this is a clear case of the “Light” hiding the truth in plain sight. As I reported in Volume I, Mother goddesses were known by many names, and the Mother goddess even came to be depicted as The Empress in the Major Arcana of the Tarot: ‘In Greece, the mother aspect of the goddess was the Earth Mother, Demeter.

“On a website called Ancient Mother, I found the various titles listed as:
“Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Gods, The One Who is All, Lady of Green Crops, and the Brilliant One in the Sky. Her Latin name was Stella Maris, or Star of the Sea…’ She was also known as ‘Great Lady of Magic, goddess of magic, fertility, nature, motherhood, underworld, Mistress of the House of Life, She Who Knows How to Make Right Use of the Heart, Light-Giver of Heaven, Lady of the Words of Power, Moon Shining Over the Sea.’”

Empress Card“…With the goddesses Libertas and Libera both representing freedom, I wondered why the “Orders of the Quest” used Libertas as the statue’s model, because “she” is also associated with money. On the other hand, Libera is connected to the Mother goddess as a goddess of fertility, through her association with Persephone the daughter of Demeter/Ceres. For me, the names of two goddesses representing freedom were too much alike to discount their connection, and that is the point. Energetically, these two goddesses were one and the same and at the appropriate time Libera’s attributes will take over from Libertas as the archetype’s consciousness. Even so, all goddesses were archetypes for the Divine Feminine, otherwise known as Wisdom or Sophia…

“Considering the important role that the Statue of Liberty was to play in Great Spirit-Mind’s plan, it is no wonder that the “Light” used their tools, the “Orders of the Quest”, to place an archetype of Sophia to hold the energy for the future. In designating the goddess as Libertas, rather than Libera, those following the “Shadow’s” agenda would see the Statue of Liberty as strengthening “his” position in America, especially, as ‘she’ was sitting on top of a 11-pointed star… Even so, let us look at what making the Statue of Liberty an image of Libera, and connecting her to Demeter/Ceres meant. We will start with Demeter’s entry on Wikipedia, which describes her as the ‘goddess of the harvest and agriculture, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth’, because among her titles is ‘she of the Grain…’ Demeter or Ceres was also associated with ‘divine order, unwritten law, law bringer, and law bearer’…

“Many interpret the Myth of Demeter and Persephone as representing the seasons, in that Persephone, Kore, or Libera the goddess of birth, represents Life in nature. According to the myth Demeter AKA Mother Nature makes a deal with Hades, Death, and or hibernation, for Persephone to spend half the year underground, symbolizing autumn and winter, and returning to her mother for the other half, representing spring and summer. Although this interpretation is accurate, it is only one of the meanings for the myth. Therefore, we could look on this as the outward or exoteric meaning, or the way Jesus taught the people in parables, whereas He taught The Mysteries to the Disciples…

“One of the biggest problems for me was understanding that The Christ, Sophia, her partner What-has-been-Willed, and Melchizedek could be in more than one place at a time. As I wrote the answer concerns our concept of time, we discovered this in a casual remark by Jose Argüelles concerning the conscious effect of looking at a clock in his book Time and the Technosphere. Amazingly, he reports that the act of looking at a clock engages the human being’s cognitive brain and prevents any natural telepathic tendencies…

“Something that Robert and I came to understand is Humanity’s connection to linear time. Throughout our studies, one message keeps repeating: The Human race creates its own reality. The Life Principle has the imperative to move forward, which we see as linear movement. Despite that information, physical evolution is cyclic. So why would Great Spirit-Mind want a person to continue thinking linearly? The reason is the condition of the general consciousness. Until Humanity attains the ability to control his or her lower instincts, it was unsafe to connect the consciousness of the planet together. As this is the Fullness of Time, obviously Great Spirit-Mind feels a large number of Humanity is capable of controlling his or her baser instincts and are ready to graduate. Once I realized that in the Divine Realm there is no such thing as Linear Time, the answer appeared. Clearly, if there is no past, present, or future in this realm, then, The Christ, Sophia, her partner What-has-been-Willed, and Melchizedek could be both in the Divine Plane, as well as in any of the lower planes at the same time. This concept helped in understanding Great Spirit-Mind’s plan in respect to the Return of the Palladium’

“However, at present we are still discussing the role the Statue of Liberty played in Great Spirit-Mind’s plan. To ascertain “her” role we need to determine which deity’s energy and consciousness was infused into the statue.

New Colossus plaque “We find another clue in Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, The New Colossus, which is on a plaque (left) within the statue. As stated, this is where the iconic words associated with Statue of Liberty, “give me your tired…” etc., comes from.

“Even though Emma wrote the sonnet specifically for the Statue of Liberty to raise funds for its pedestal, the sonnet was not associated with Liberty until 1903. This was when the plaque bearing the words was placed within the statue.

“Bearing in mind the importance of the sonnet to the “Light’s” objective for the statue, I wondered why it was not included in the Masonic ceremony.

Initially, I thought it might concern the 7th Wave, in that the Wave was inactive or under the wrong god. Yet when I checked …I saw that the Masonic ceremony, not only fell in an active phase for the Wave that ended slavery and fostered equality, but the ceremony was also under the auspices of the god of maize and sustenance.

“To my mind, the only explanation for not using Emma’s inspired words in the Masonic ceremony, was that the “Shadow” did not want the sonnet associated with the statue. For as the entry says, “it was [Lazarus's poem] that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants.”

“Regrettably, the “Shadow” was able to mitigate the more spiritual aspects of the sonnet’s connection to the statue. This was achieved simply by making the exoteric or open meaning of its inspired words become the accepted interpretation. If instead we use a deeper more esoteric interpretation, we can see clearly who the goddess that would enlighten the world really is.

“I believe the ‘woman with a torch whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name, MOTHER OF EXILES’, is none other than The Empress in the Tarot’s Major Arcana. Representing Venus, card 3’s “goddess” is a quintessential archetype for the Divine Feminine, or Sophia. There are several reasons for connecting Libera/Liberty, or Liberty Enlightening the World to The Empress. The figure in the card’s crown of 12 stars is supported by seven points and Liberty wears a crown with seven points or rays.

Empress cardNotice that The Empress’ right arm is also slightly raised while holding a golden shining orb. Likewise, Liberty raises a torch in her right arm, which again mirrors the Empress. Moreover, the Statue is encased in copper, which is Venus’ metal, evinced by the astrological symbol for Venus » representing the alchemical symbol for copper. Finally, Robert informs me that when he enlarged the photo of the statue’s head, it revealed a rectangle running down her neck and through the exact point of the red box in the Empress’s card.

“We know that The Empress is an archetype for Sophia, because “she” represents both Venus and Wisdom, and as fans of The DaVinci Code know, Sophia is Greek for Wisdom. In addition to the physical similarities… the masons used corn in their cornerstone ceremony. Looking at the card, I do not think there is any doubt that The Empress is sitting in a corn field, which incidentally connects her with Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries. The clincher for me was remembering that the Hebrew letter assigned to the Empress, Daleth ד means door. Could there be any better representation for, ‘I lift my lamp beside the golden door’, than The Empress/Venus/Sophia with her golden hair, lifting her golden scepter in a field of golden corn?

“In respect to the traditional interpretations of the other features mentioned in Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, I concur with two of them, since there can be no doubt that “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs, astride from land to land…’ is referring to anything other than the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Moreover,  I think ‘your huddled masses…’  is unlikely to mean anything other than the thousands of immigrants that would pass through Ellis Island. However, I disagree with interpreting the “the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame” as only referring to Brooklyn and New York City. I believe the ‘air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,’ is also referring to Paris and New York with the air-bridged harbor being the Atlantic Ocean separating them.

“When I first learned that the French gave America the Statue of Liberty, I can remember being surprised. Nonetheless, in working on this treatise and discovering how the “Light” worked, I can understand a little better now. The purpose for Life is to transmute the elements through our emotions and unite all opposites. One of the most persistent divisions has been between Protestants and Catholics. As more wars have been fought and more blood spilled over the different doctrines, uniting Christianity has seemed hopeless, but that is the brilliance and patience of Great Spirit-Mind and the “Light’s” plan.

“Today we associate the masons as being exclusively Protestant, yet in the 12th (1300s) century as the heirs of the Knights Templar, they were Catholic. Inspiring French Masons to launch such an endeavor, the “Light” achieved two things. First it connected the Continent to the Americas, but more especially it brought Catholic France and Protestant America energetically together. Some would say that this had already happened with Spain conquering South and Central America and their descendants emigrating to the US, and of course they would be right. Even so, I am not speaking in literal terms here, I am speaking symbolically. The actions taken in 1884 would have the most impact in modern times, which is the reason why Emma Lazarus was inspired to write “air-bridged harbor”, as today the Atlantic is certainly “bridged” by “air” – planes.

“Apparently, a “tablet” with Frédéric Bartholdi’s name states that the Statue of Liberty was a “gift” from the citizens of “the Republic of France”, honoring the two countries “alliance” in America “achieving” its independence. In essence, the “gift” is a testament to the countries “abiding friendship.” Affirming my conclusion was the fact that in France, Bartholdi created a scaled down version of Liberty Enlightening the World and placed it in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower facing West. Admittedly, as I learned of it in Nicholas Cages’ film National Treasure: Book of Secrets, my conclusion might seem fanciful, but looking at the photo of the Paris’ version below, the two statues seem energetically connected to one another.”

Liberty & Eiffel Tower

Silent for several minutes, Daniel could almost see the Wheels turning in Beth’s head, as she clearly was formulating a response to what she heard. “I had no idea that the Statue of Liberty represented anything else other than a memorial to the immigrants who founded this country.” Gathering her thoughts Beth continued, “To hear it connected to, what did Sophia call it, the Palladium was mind-blowing, not to mention her reference to The Christ. I find it interesting that Sophia includes her name in the list of Divine figures. Not to mention, her so-called partner What-has-been-Willed, and Melchizedek, or the mysterious Pleroma. It all seems a little out there to me. How come I’ve never heard of this?”

Acknowledging Beth’s frustration at Sophia’s revelations, as he had exactly the same struggle, Daniel tried to remember how it was explained to him. “As Sophia wrote, the name Sophia is simply the same as the Greek word for Wisdom, and like the  famed actress of the 60s, Sophia Loren, has nothing to do with specifically identifying any human woman with the Divine Feminine. As this actress might be before your time, I’m sure you know the actor Sophia Bush, or the model/actor Sofia Vergara, who spells her name with an ‘f’ rather than a ‘ph.’ Regardless the fact is, as my friend Sophia explained, all humans have the essence of Wisdom/Sophia as the Divine Feminine within them.”

“How?” Demanded Beth. “Are you saying this being is inside all of us?”

Realizing that they had a long way to go, Daniel patiently explained. “I know, I had a hard time with this information too at first. But I came to understand that this is ancient teaching from the earliest Christians, known as Gnostics. Robert and Sophia cover this in their book The Missive. However, I think it would probably help you most to read how Sophia explains it in her on-line initiative on their website. I’ll send you a link later.” Pausing a moment, Daniel decided Beth needed a break and stated, “That’s enough for today. It will give you a chance to check out their website. Then tomorrow we can delve into how the Shadow sabotaged the Founder’s purpose for America.”

For the remainder of their quarantine, Daniel and Beth fell into a routine of reading and then discussing for several hours throughout the day and evenings. Since the work was too big for them to adequately cover in six days, Daniel selected the most relevant parts to give his unexpected companion an overall view of Sophia’s treatise, focused on America’s role in evolution, which led to some lively debates.

While reading, the quarantine cohorts also kept up with the situation and was aware that Congress was moving to impeach President Trump for a second time. Daniel wondered at the wisdom of attempting to impeach him again, as he was certain that the Republican Senate still under Mitch McConnel would never convict their leader. True to form, despite being outraged at the president’s actions on January 6th, as Daniel expected, when the House passed impeachment legislation, with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats, the outgoing Senate leader announced his refusal to take up the impeachment until after the inauguration.

For Daniel, their study went well, consequently, he wasn’t that surprised when on their last day, after receiving the all clear rather than rush off, Beth wanted to know how to get a copy of Sophia’s treatise. Generously, Daniel offered to send her a copy, which she initially declined but after realizing that he really wanted to give it to her, she gave him her address. Although entering quarantine as what many would call, at least politically, enemies, Democratic Daniel, and Trump supporter Beth, parted as friends, exchanging e-mails and phone numbers.

Outside the hotel Daniel hailed a taxi to take him to the Staybridge Suites in Times Square. He was only home an hour when Deanna walked in, and almost flew into his arms. By this time, the country was witnessing the result of American’s celebration of the holidays, with another pandemic surge. Frustratingly, Deanna reported “It’s worse than ever today, we are averaging over 200,000 cases a day, which is always a precursor to deaths. Good God Daniel, since you’ve been in quarantine more than 36,000 people have died, and their saying that we will hit half a million before March. Can you imagine, 500,000 loved ones gone, it reminds me of that song from Rent, 525,600 minutes for the number of minutes in a year. This means that someone has died from”, derisively she makes air quotes saying, this Covid ‘hoax’ every minute.”

Before Deanna got home, Daniel had called their favorite vegetarian restaurant to have them deliver their artichoke and mushroom lasagna, so changing the subject Daniel informed his wife of the plans.

Over dinner, Daniel  suggested that they head for home in the morning and was a little taken aback, when Deanna responded, “I can’t wait to get home but we’ll have to be careful. I take it that they gave you your first dose today?” When Daniel nodded Deanna continued, “Good I had my second dose on the 10th but as you’ve only had your first dose, we need to ensure that you don’t get infected with the new UK variant. Plus the experts are saying that not having both doses could allow the virus to mutate again, and that’s the last thing we need. It might mean taking a little longer to get home, what do you think?”

Already planning to take a different way home as Ruth had asked Daniel to visit other cities, taking out his laptop after dinner he checked the route and where he planned stopping for the night. Deciding to take his time, rather than just stopping for two nights, they would spend the night in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Indianapolis Indiana, and Cedar Rapids Iowa, and break their journey every two to three hours to stretch their legs. As with the drive to New York, Ruth instructed him to stay at upscale hotels, which she would pay for. So, selecting the Wyndham Grand, a four-star hotel in Pittsburgh, Daniel called to book a room.

Leaving New York around 10, after an early breakfast of vegetarian eggs benedict and blueberry muffins delivered by a nearby café, taking the New Jersey Turnpike they drove 97 miles on the i-95 to Philadelphia. Stopping to pick up latte coffees and apple turnovers, they enjoyed them while walking along the Schuylkill River, before heading West on i-76.

A little over 2 hours later, Daniel drove into the city of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania where they grabbed cups of hot tomato soup, drinking them while stretching their legs downstream from the Susquehanna River, which they encountered in Lock Haven on their way to New York. Departing 30 minutes later, they drove for a little over 3 hours to Pittsburg to their lodgings for the night.

Parking the car near the Wyndham Grand hotel in Pittsburg at 6:30, Daniel and Deanna checked in. After depositing their suitcases in their room, they went down to the hotel’s restaurant to check if it was safe for dinner. Noticing that there was only one other couple, Deanna conveyed her approval. As vegetarians, the couple were used to having few choices in regular restaurants. Nonetheless, they were a little surprised that such a prestigious hotel only had one vegetarian entrée option. Even so, their meal of balsamic grilled zucchini, spinach, eggplant, and portobello mushroom, served with roasted herb sweet potato was delicious.

Ordering an early substantial breakfast of mushroom omelet, with bananas foster from a local café to be delivered to their room, Daniel checked the route that day. He planned on stopping only once, in Columbus Ohio, which he estimated should take them around 3 hours to reach. So, leaving Pittsburgh at 9:30, and taking US-22 to avoid construction, he picked up i-70 to Columbus.

Driving into the city at precisely 12:30, Daniel located a restaurant to get a cup of cream of mushroom soup and a vegetarian BLT. As a former meat eater, he was astounded at how close to real bacon the vegetarian industry had achieved, noting that they even had the texture down. Choosing to eat their meal in Scioto Audubon Metro Park next to the Scioto River, in order to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings to stretch their legs, the couple took their time. Consequently, it was 2 o’clock before they were back on the road. Determined to push on to Indianapolis, Daniel and Deanna resumed their journey, driving the 174 miles.

Grateful they had taken the time in Columbus to eat and exercise, Daniel was hungry when they arrived at the JW Marriot in Indianapolis, chosen for its location next to White River State Park. Checking in, Daniel and Deanna liked that their room overlooked the White River. Deciding to grab coffee lattes from the hotel’s Starbucks, they took a walk by the river before dinner. On the way back to the hotel, craving something chocolate they stopped at a nearby bakery to buy German chocolate cake. Due to Covid, the couple chose to order a take away from a local Turkish restaurant, and again the hotel was happy to provide the plates and silverware for the meal of sauteed broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and portabella mushrooms, served with hummus. They’d also picked up a bottle of their favorite wine on the way back from their walk.

Next morning, using his laptop Daniel searched for diners and cafés that delivered. Finding one, he ordered a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach, along with lemon corncakes and fresh berries, served with berry sauce and fresh cream. Leaving Indianapolis just before 10 on i-74, Daniel stopped in Peoria Illinois around one o’clock. Locating an eatery on the deceptively named Farm Creek, because it is within the larger two hundred and seventy-three mile long Illinois River and a major tributary of the Mississippi, Daniel and Deanna enjoyed a hot cup of their favorite tomato soup, and cheese sandwich by the water.

After lunch, leaving Peoria Daniel drove 155 miles to their destination for the night, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. Even though it was only a 3-star hotel, Daniel chose it because they were clearly geared for dealing with Covid. Arriving late afternoon, before checking in, Daniel and Deanna explored the area, walking a couple of blocks down to the Cedar River to watch the sunset. Lingering by the river long after the last rays of sun disappeared, reluctantly they walked back to their hotel to check in. Calling down to the desk, they asked about the hotel’s policy for dining. Told that they could accommodate them in their restaurant, the weary travelers made their way down. Delighted that their table overlooked the river, Daniel and Deanna enjoyed a vegetable risotto, with strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Since the restaurant was nearly empty, they ordered liqueurs before returning to their room.

Impressing the couple, the hotel was able to provide individually wrapped continental breakfasts, and as Daniel planned on stopping in Rochester, which is in their home state before driving the final leg home, they felt the breakfast would be sufficient for their morning drive. Besides, they reasoned they could always grab a snack and coffee on the way if need be. Picking up the i-380 they drove 168 miles to Rochester, arriving around 12:30. Buying a portabella mushroom hoagie Daniel drove to Wildwood park to use one of its picnic tables to eat their lunch. He’d also stopped at a local café for coffee, and their favorite apple turnovers. Since they were less than two hours from home, the couple took a stroll around the park’s lake before heading to Minneapolis. Driving into the city, in no mood to cook Deanna suggested they pick up something for dinner from their favorite Chinese restaurant.

Next day January 18th Deanna arranged for Daniel’s second vaccine dose, making an appointment for February 3rd. As the pandemic was raging, she wanted to check in with her office and being fully vaccinated felt relatively safe to drive into town. Initially Daniel expressed a desire to go into The Minnesota Advocate to report to his editor Ruth, and give her his receipts but Deanna told him it would be foolish, as he only had to wait a few more weeks, adding, “Plus you can Skype with her.” Conceding that she was right, while Deanna was gone he called his editor, watching as the spinning icon dissolved into Ruth’s face.

Marveling that his editor always managed to look so put together, he pondered whether Ruth had ever worn sweats during the lockdown, because he had never seen it. Realizing that she was staring at him, Daniel quickly said, “I wanted to check in with you, as Deanna said it was best I didn’t come in until I was fully vaccinated.”

Nodding in agreement, Ruth smiled, “Good to see you got home in one piece, you had quite an adventure and were very lucky not to get infected. Still, quarantine must have been hard?”

“Luck had nothing to do with it!, asserted Daniel. “Deanna said the health officials believed it was because both I, and the man I was performing chest compressions on were double-masked. Even Beth was wearing a mask, which is why neither of us tested positive. That said, quarantine was a bear but she was an interesting companion.”

“Oh yes. I believe you said she was a Trump supporter from Minnesota. How did Beth react to the insurrection on the 6th, did she support it?”

Thinking that Ruth was being particularly obtuse as he’d already told her what happened, Daniel’s internal radar was alerted. Wondering what was her angle, and knowing how sharp Ruth was on details, he decided to bring the conversation back to his assignment saying, “About the article, how do you want me to approach it, from a pandemic preparedness, or personal experience. If it is the former then from the six states we were in, overall I would have to say most restaurants were pretty well set up for the pandemic, utilizing both take-outs and limited indoor dining. Although we mostly used the take out option, on the few occasions that we dined in we felt pretty safe.”

Ruth was writing when Daniel finished and without looking up stated, “Both. I want your impression as well as the interviews.” Pausing, Ruth thought for a moment before adding, “Actually, I want you to address the whole trip, including your experience in quarantine with Beth on the 6th, Okay?”

“Got it. Interesting that you should mention the insurrection because on the way home, there was a whole different attitude with people.” When Ruth asked what he meant, Daniel elaborated, “Driving out to New York, everyone we met seemed hopeful and optimistic that the worse was over but on the way home, there was a sense of hopelessness and resignation.”

 

Ten years later, in 2030 Daniel confessed, ““Before writing the article, which Ruth entitled Journey to Reality Check, not sure why but as she was the editor I didn’t argue, I called Beth to get her permission to cite our conversations. She was okay with it so long as I didn’t identify her by name, as she didn’t want to embarrass her family. It was a very short conversation, as she was on her way out.”

Raising his hand respectfully, David was encouraged by Daniel to ask his question. “I’ve read that as President Trump was exonerated by the Senate finding him not guilty in his impeachment trial, he was emboldened to continue claiming the election was stolen. My question is, wouldn’t it have been better for the Democrats to not try to impeach him again.”

Silent for a moment, Daniel weighed how to answer David’s question. Then fixing the boy with his eyes, the reporter stated. “Some might say it was a mistake but what message would it have sent to the nation if reasonable people did not call out the commander in chief for inciting an insurrection. Also I wouldn’t say that Trump was exonerated, as Mitch McConnel clearly condemned the president’s actions, suggesting that he could be prosecuted as a private citizen. The problem was that when Republicans in Congress saw that their base still supported Donald Trump, they were so scared of losing power that they gave up their integrity.

“Nevertheless, you are right in surmising that failing to convict Trump was a problem. To be honest, during the Biden administration’s first few months, the country seemed to go backwards, with racial attacks on Asian Americans going through the roof, not to mention police shootings of African Americans. Republicans across the country also seemed to dig their heels in to stopping President Biden’s progress at all costs. Moreover, they mounted an all-out effort to curtail the disenfranchised and generally minority population from voting, by rolling back the advances in 2020, which made it possible for a record number of people to vote during a pandemic safely, and securely. Even though the vaccinations were ramping up, there was still an almost concerted effort to sabotage its success with multiple states, not only opening up but doing away with all restrictions. Then mass shootings increased, raising the question of gun control. Sophia explained that the constant rhetoric of division was dangerous, as it was raising the anger levels to where anyone dealing with anger was susceptible to explosive rage. She believed it was this energy that we saw in 2021. That said, President Biden was able to pass a substantial relief package early on that improved the lives of so many ordinary people. Amazingly, although these people included Republicans, gaining their support, Republicans in Congress ignored their constituents wishes and refused to support Biden’s effort at every turn. Of course that was because of the energy of demagoguery infusing the country. Not to mention the fact that we were in a transition…”

 

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