Looking for America
Let us be lovers We'll marry our fortunes together.. And (we) walked off To look for America -- from "America" - Paul Simon
On September 18, 2021, my husband Steve and I loaded up our Prius and its new roof box with three suitcases, two backpacks, three shopping bags, two duffel bags, a laundry basket, and a tent and sleeping bags (just in case), and embarked on a two and a half month driving trip around America. Unvaccinated and in our late 60s, we drove 10,000 miles, visited 20 states, and stayed in 33 hotels, motels, and Airbnbs. Our friends and family were shocked that we decided to do this at the height of the Delta variant wave. But we had begun taking Ivermectin as well as a host of vitamins as part of a recommended regimen for staying healthy. And we were also armed with COVID testing kits, over 100 homeopathic remedies in two potencies, my homeopathic repertory and materia medica, and a nebulizer for hydrogen peroxide. We were a bit nervous but felt ready. And we believed it was critical that we take this trip — now.
Why? First let me give a little background.
Steve and I are retired computer scientists and writers who have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years. In fact, we have lived in our beautiful home in the foothills behind Stanford University (where I got my PhD) for over 37 years. During that same period, however, our life took several twists and turns that led us to alternative views about health and life in general. You can learn all about this by reading my books Impossible Cure and Active Consciousness.
Perhaps most important, however, was that a series of unusual circumstances led Steve to create and maintain — for over 20 years — the most popular search engine for the CDC’s vaccine injury data (VAERS). You can check it out here: medalerts.org. Over the years, Steve’s site has been used heavily by both pro-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers alike. And over the course of just 2021, vaccine injuries, hospitalizations, and deaths from the COVID vaccines grew to outnumber those from all other vaccines combined cumulatively for over 30 years. Because of this, Steve and I found ourselves in the unlikely position of knowing more about the US vaccine injury data than almost anyone in the world — and definitely more than the mainstream media has publicized to the general public. As a result, we became increasingly convinced that the COVID vaccines were the most dangerous in the history of vaccination and we grew more and more resolute not to partake in them. Thus, our decision is based on almost too much understanding and knowledge. It is mostly medical, but it is philosophical and religious as well. It is also a decision that we believe we should have the right to make.
Unfortunately, since we live in California and especially since we live at the epicenter of tech-pharma power and preeminence — Stanford University and the surrounding Bay Area — our personal choices have rendered us pariahs and untouchables among most of the people we know, despite the fact that we have remained perfectly healthy. Almost all of our friends will no longer come into our home or allow us to enter theirs. Some won’t even meet with us outside — at a distance. And ironically, their fear has increased since they were vaccinated; they were much less fearful throughout 2020.
In addition, we have increasingly been barred from entering or attending a variety of gatherings and venues. For instance, I recently found out that I could no longer enter two art institutes at which I used to take painting classes. Steve and I are beginning to wonder if we may soon not be able to see our doctors as well. Even back in September we saw all of this coming down the pike at alarming speed. So before winter set in, we decided that we needed to find out if there was another place in America where we could belong, live in peace in a relatively normal way, and find new friends and community who would accept and welcome us.
Believe me, at ages 66 and 69, retired and living in our dream home and two-acre property that we have developed for almost 40 years, embarking on this journey was tinged with disbelief, sadness, and loss. We felt like COVID-vaccine refugees. But it was also exciting. Over the course of our voyage, we slowly grew accustomed to living in an almost complete state of unknowing. What would we discover? Would we survive or find ourselves sick with COVID in a random motel room? (We didn’t. No COVID.) Would we find our new homeland, or come back relieved to return to our old home? (We found some candidate places to check out more deeply in 2022, and discovered that once we did return to California, the situation had escalated further and become more intolerable.) How would the people we met along the way, including some friends and family members, react to us? (The results were mixed. However, in general, only the unvaxxed welcomed us with hugs and parties.)
Now we’ve begun to talk to real estate agents to better understand our options. I’m still not fully accommodated to the idea that 2022 may bring huge changes and shifts for Steve and me — where we live and who our friends will become. But just “waiting until things get better” — as advised by some of our Bay Area friends — no longer seems like an option. Besides, even if things do get better, our experiences over the past couple of years and the changes that have taken hold of the entire Bay Area over the past decade (changes that I’ll admit we had been ignoring) have made it a less attractive place to live, despite its beauty.
I have many thoughts and theories about what we saw driving around the USA. It is too much to put into one article. So let me begin by briefly describing eight key discoveries. Note: I will tend to use the terms “open” and “closed” to indicate the level at which things have returned to the old norm of human behavior (open), versus the new norm characterizing places like the Bay Area (closed).
1. There is still freedom in the USA.
Once we left the Bay Area and especially California, a change in energy and spirit was immediately palpable and visible. Thank God for the innate spirit of freedom cherished by so many American citizens, who refuse to let their lives be controlled by fear. I have a vivid memory of being at a gas station/mini-mart in Nevada on the first day of our trip. No one was wearing a mask. And when we checked into our first stop at a little motel in Winnemucca, NV, I was amazed that the clerk was not wearing a mask either. At the gas station, however, I saw people get out of a car with California plates. With their masks fully in place, they seemed to be looking around in abject fear, as if they had entered a plague zone. It was the first hint that what I had considered normal and “protective” over the past 1.5 years may actually have been based on misguided and excessive fear.
Over time, as we traveled the country, we saw the use of masks became rarer. We even began to forget to keep a mask in our pocket. Not that I’m a rabid anti-masker; I’ll put one on if most people are wearing them. But we soon realized that the dwindling use of masks in “open” areas was accompanied by greater ease and less fear. When they completely disappeared from use, everyone acted like the old normal. In other words, the prevalence of mask wearing became symbolic of the state of mind of a place and its level of fear and separation between fellow human beings. I also found that the process of unmasking is a bit like taking your clothes off or at least getting down to your skivvies. You feel a bit weird at first and rather naughty and reckless. Soon, however, you forget all about it and feel freer and more connected to other people and your surroundings.
2. Once you are outside of the big cities, things tend to be more open. The more “blue” the city, the more closed.
I say this with sadness as a life-long Democrat who has always leaned far left of the Dems. Cities that I once would have chosen as ideal liberal spots to live in — for example, Madison, WI or Asheville, NC — are now the most closed cities. Once you are out in the rural areas, you begin to see more resistance to masking, restaurants with unmasked waiters, motels with unmasked workers, and the disappearance of plexiglass shields. Along with this, of course, is an increase in pro-Trump and other signs that protest vaccine mandates or discrimination against the unvaccinated.
3. The more vaxxed up a person is, the more fearful they tend to be.
We saw this time and again with friends and family we met. Among our vaccinated friends, there was not a single one who was willing to meet with us inside. The only exceptions were my brother, some family members who had lunch with us indoors after a belated funeral for Steve’s mom (though some relatives wouldn’t enter the restaurant or even bump elbows with us outside), and a few family members at a wedding (which we attended after promising to be tested first). We could also tell that some friends were still extremely nervous when they ate outside with us at a restaurant. One of my oldest friends (triple jabbed) would not meet with us at an outdoor restaurant in the DC area, even though we had driven all the way across the country and I had been Zooming with her regularly during 2020. I’ll admit, her refusal to see me was extremely hurtful.
In contrast, every person we met who was unvaccinated hugged us immediately, invited us into their homes, or were happy to meet with us inside. Many of these people were complete strangers — people we had connected with as part of an online community of people who are inspired by the writing and speaking of philosopher Charles Eisenstein. Although we had never met them in the flesh before, these folks felt more like true friends to us than our fearful long-term friends. Over the course of 2021, the meaning, importance, and sadly fleeting nature of friendship — even very long term friendship — has become a profound and often painful teaching for us.
4. Fear is contagious.
I am a pretty psychically sensitive person. I can really pick up on the vibes of a place. As we traveled the country, in and out of more open or more closed places, I felt my own level of fear and anxiety about COVID ebbing and flowing. You’d think that when we were in the super open and reckless red states, I’d feel more fear. Completely the opposite. The more closed a place was, adhering to all the rules of “protection”, the more fearful and worried I became about getting COVID. The more open a locale was, the less fearful and free I felt. I’ll make one admission though. I never got “open” enough to be willing to mingle in densely crowded bars, like the wild 24/7 party scenes in Nashville. But other than that, Steve and I just did what others were doing.
The fact that fear breeds more fear also explains the toxicity of places like the Bay Area that have embraced the closed attitude with relish. As soon as we got back home (a wealthy area that has one of the highest rates of vaccination and lowest incidences of COVID in the country), I slowly became not only depressed but also more worried about getting COVID myself. It took a week or two, but the creeping fear and anxiety sank back in again. It is no wonder that people who haven’t left this area since March 2020 simply can’t believe what the rest of the country is like. I have more than one friend who has not left self-imposed complete lockdown in almost two years. When we tell our friends here about our voyage across America, most of them simply ignore us. I now believe that most of the people living in the Bay Area are in a psychotic delusional state of fear. They truly believe that the emperor is wearing regal robes. In contrast, most of the country can see that he is naked or at least has hardly anything on.
5. America has become homogenized and corporatized. Local charm has become harder and harder to find.
Unfortunately, almost every city in the United States has become more or less the same as any other — the same big box stores, the same restaurant, motel, and hotel chains, the same everything. The gas station chains may change names (some very humorous — e.g., “Kum and Go” gas in Wyoming!) but the ubiquitous mini-marts are the same everywhere. Interestingly, each state does seem to have its own variety of rest stop. Some states take pride in theirs (Iowa and Tennessee stand out), whereas others have had their rest stops sponsored by Geico, complete with annoying audio ads that blare 24/7 (N. Carolina).
In each city and town we visited, we searched for “local color” — the mom and pop shops and recommended local restaurants. Small towns and cities were most likely to have retained some local charm. Decorah, Iowa was a standout. And I’ll never forget visiting a famous candy store in teensy tiny Wilton, Iowa. On the door hung a sign that read: “You can wear a mask if you like, but we’d prefer to see your smile!” Wow, you’d never see anything like that in California. One person in Texas remarked to us, “All small towns in America are the same.” Well, they are the same in that they are more open and friendly and more likely to have their own unique quirkiness. The small towns tend to epitomize what is best about America.
But the truth is, the large cities also tend to be the same as any other too, with many suffering from a languishing inner city with homeless and disenfranchised people roaming the streets. In many you can see an attempt to build downtown luxury lofts accompanied by a fleet of outdoor scooters (probably in order to attract the younger crowd). Sadly, in almost all cases, these lofts and scooters remain empty and abandoned, perhaps victims of COVID. Nashville was the only city where we saw one person actually using a scooter.
All in all, our observations made a strong argument for moving to one of the smaller towns and cities, which we now aim to do. Apparently, many other Americans are now making that choice as well.
6. Drop your stereotypes! They are generally false.
If you told me even one year ago that I would be considering moving to Texas or South Carolina, I’d think you were joking. Like most coastal liberals living in places like California, I stereotyped these places as backwaters of ignorant, racist, gun-toting Trumpers. But the truth is, the United States is full of good and kind people living everywhere. As one person said to us, “Texas will surprise you.” It’s true. Sure, Steve and I are an older white heterosexual couple, so on the surface, we would be welcome anywhere. On the other hand, we are also identifiable as long-grey-haired “hippies” driving a Prius with California plates. We are also of Jewish background. So we still do have some hesitancy about some of the red states.
In general, however, we discovered that there is friendliness everywhere. If we were open, people were open — and in fact, more friendly than people tend to be in California, especially now. We told a great number of people we met along the way about the nature and purpose of our voyage and were usually met with enthusiasm and an encouragement to “move here!” This was true in Texas and South Carolina and Tennessee and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Iowa and almost everywhere we went, especially the smaller towns and cities. It’s true that many areas do not have as good restaurants and health food options as California. But there is often a surprisingly good gourmet or Asian restaurant (especially Thai, Japanese, or Vietnamese) and some form of health-food store to be found in even the most obscure places.
7. The great migration.
Before 2020, if you drove almost anywhere around America and told people you lived in Northern California, they’d be a jealous. “Oh! So beautiful! I wish I could live there.” Not true anymore. Everyone we met and told about our trip said, “Oh yeah! Get out of California! All the the Californians are moving here now.” People are calling it the great migration. Apparently, it’s now quite expensive to get a moving van to move you from the West to the East because the truckers have to drive empty on the way back. Between the fires and drought and severely restrictive COVID policies, California is beset by malaise and a feeling of decline. And it’s not just California. I know people who have run screaming from Oregon as well. It’s sad to see.
In contrast, in many red states, things are booming and home prices are rising as a result. In 2021 alone, a million Americans left the blue states and moved to the red states. My prediction is that not only will the Republicans retake the White House in 2024 (especially if they find someone more palatable than Trump), but the red states will increase in predominance and power. I don’t agree with many policies of the right, but with a huge infusion of people from the blue states, the COVID era might be the turning point that yields a more purple and less-divided future for America. I wrote about this in August 2020. As far as I’m concerned, this migration could end up being a wonderful thing for the future of this country.
8. A theory: Fear of COVID is, in general, inversely related to sincere spiritual belief and a deep relationship with the land.
All through our trip, I kept searching for some unifying explanation for what determined the openness or closedness of a particular locale. Sure, there is the political divide — Republicans vs. Democrats. But that doesn’t explain, for example, the fact that most blacks are not vaccinated and are more tolerant of the unvaccinated in their communities. And what about the Latin communities who, by and large, want no part of the new COVID “narrative”, as people are calling it? I remember that in the summer of 2020, we had our house reroofed by a Latino operation on July 4 weekend. The whole extended family had a party on our property, no masks, good food, good times as they did a beautiful job on our new roof. What a contrast to our fearful neighbors cowering in their homes. Truthfully, at that point we were cowering in our home as well. In any case, my current theory is this:
If people have a sincere spiritual belief of some kind and/or a true feeling of connectedness to the Earth, they are less afraid of COVID.
If you have faith that there is life after death, if you are willing to put your life and spirit into the hands of some greater spiritual power, if you accept that your body is mortal just like any other living thing on this planet, then you will more deeply accept that, yes, you will ultimately get sick and die. And you will also more deeply value and maintain your connection to friends and family while you are alive. You will not accept that you must be separated from your loved ones if they are dying. You will not accept that you have to live forever behind a mask that blocks interaction and connection between people. You will not accept that you can no longer gather with others you love and must instead sit fearfully in your home in front of a computer screen. And certainly after months and years of this existence, you will believe that it’s no longer worth it, no matter the consequences. You will insist on being free again.
However, there is a different impulse that has grown up around us. It is the same impulse that keeps us glued to our cell phones and computer screens. It is the impulse that values virtual over direct human connections. Unfortunately, the younger people are, the more they are cajoled and hypnotized into this impulse. And I’m sad to say, this impulse has been bred and spread by my former peers in Silicon Valley who value being “safe” more than anything else. Never mind that living in a chronic state of fear indoors is anything but safe for their immune systems and health.
About 15 years ago, Steve and I attended a birthday party in San Francisco that was filled with young computer entrepreneurs. We were probably the oldest people there. Throughout the evening, these folks told us that they believed they could live to be 1000 years old, that they were freezing their eggs and sperm, etc. They were aghast when we told them that we didn’t mind getting older and dying — that there was beauty in living the full arc of life. These people called themselves transhumanists — a term that was new to us at the time.
Steve and I left the party thinking, “That was weird!” and believed these people were anomalous nerds. Now we realize that it is people like them that are running Silicon Valley and increasingly the world. Transhumanists look forward to a future where humans and machines merge. They do not believe in a spiritual reality. Instead, they believe that the physical body is all there is and that once they die, that’s it. Given this belief system, it’s no wonder that they will do anything — take any drug or insert any gadget into their bodies — in order to extend their lives. They will also happily attach or insert monitoring devices that alert them to any deviations from the norm, and welcome any new discovery that promises to let them live forever. Unfortunately, human history is filled with unexpected disasters that befall this kind of hubris — the belief that you can outsmart Mother Nature.
Ultimately, I see two futures lying ahead of humanity, and that human civilization might bifurcate as a result. One is based on a fully controlled and mechanized society, where humans essentially merge with computers and, yes, feel safe and secure within high-tech bubbles. The other is guided by the goal of becoming more fully and deeply human — with a deep spiritual connection to the land, to each other, and to our higher selves living in unseen dimensions.
To summarize, the observations and experiences that Steve and I had on the road made us realize that the Bay Area is increasingly out of alignment with who we are now and what we believe and value. Uprooting our entire lives and starting over in a new locale is a difficult thing to contemplate at our age. And what if we make a mistake, move, and don’t find what we’re looking for? Given the cost of living in the Bay Area, we could never afford to move back and recreate what we have. But we also realize that it’s now or never. If we don’t make a leap now, we will be too old to do so in ten or even five years. The bottom line is: Steve and I know what kind of future we want to be a part of. And unfortunately, it’s becoming obvious that the Bay Area, once a beacon of openness and “groovy” spirituality and creativity, has abandoned that future.
My question for you, the reader, is: which future do you want to join?