Troubling Times

 

Here are our heroes – those who had to play an active role in our national coronavirus emergency. These pictures are imprinted in our brains – the ICU videos with all the signs of the catastrophic struggles to save lives – the rows of beds, the crowd of medical staff around one patient, the worried expressions in their eyes (which are all we can see of their faces) the packages of opened medical devices scattered across the patient, the coded conversations that determine the next steps to stabilize just this one person – a single Latinate word, a lifted eyebrow, a request that sends one of the team off in search of a new medicine, or a piece of equipment. The drama of the moment is gripping even to us, the spectators. It is a drama that has been repeated thousands of times in the past month and a half. It is a drama that continues, although, as the cases decrease, the intensity diminishes.

There are the canyons of our biggest cities echoing with the applause of those of us who must stay home – whose only heroic action is inaction. There are the recovered, applauded by those who labored to save them.

There are the demonstrators. They have had enough of sickness. They feel that they are killing their prosperity out of respect for people who don’t deserve the gesture; the old, the sick, the immigrant, darker-skinned Americans. After all, not all Americans are at equal risk. As the numbers reveal what we knew all along, that COVID19 was killing the old and the less wealthy masses. Youth, and American youth lasts a long time, demands a return to work. The demonstrators are overwhelmingly white. Whiteness lasts a lifetime. These demonstrators who demand to work are not the minimum wage workers who have had to keep putting themselves at risk in jobs considered essential, without the personal protection of masks and gloves or even social distancing (which is free). They labor at low wage jobs in grocery stores, pharmacies, warehouses, trucking firms, fast food restaurants, meat processing plants, burying the dead. They don’t choose to work; they are required to work.

These demonstrators can’t be those workers – they would have to be at work. Some of these demonstrators seem older – perhaps they just want to party and travel, get their massages, their facials, their hairdos. Some look like they may own a small business. Perhaps they would not be demonstrating if the government aid had been more forthcoming.

But it is the tattooed, bearded, muscle-shirted guys with stony, intimidating faces, and long guns that contrast so jarringly with those whose heroic actions have allowed our nation to control and suppress this killer disease. It is, this time, Americans who do not resist, who do not demonstrate, who stay home and keep their distance, who give up their pleasures for the greater good; these are the Americans who have kept America from turning into a charnel house.

As an American who watches America from the cheap seats and tries to decide what keeps American democracy alive and what forces seem bent on destroying our republic, I have to come down on the side of the heroes, the everyday heroes. What do those with long guns expect America to do – knuckle under to a posse of citizens dressed up like outlaws, purposely using intimidation to get their way, placing America between a rock and a hard place – if the virus don’t get you the bullets will. They can’t think to beat a virus with a gun, so it is the government that must bow down to them. Then we won’t have a government; we’ll have anarchy with mob rule.

And, because we don’t want a confrontation, it looks from where I sit, as if intimidation is working, although these scary folks chose a moment when the country was almost ready to reopen anyway. Long gun-vigilante-style is working better than the more peaceful demonstrations of other disobedient unarmed citizens. In these days when we have been trying to avoid becoming an authoritarian nation, have been trying to avoid becoming a nation split in two and headed for a second civil war – I am just not sure how people keep these two Americas in mind and still trust that America is one nation, with a singular and unified vision. Why do some Americans feel the need to threaten other Americans with long guns and why does the President of our nation encourage their intimidations? Will they become Trump’s army in 2020? Will the South rise again? And if it does God help our heroes, and all of us. I did not think our Grand Experiment would come to this and I still think it can be saved. Our founders said, “we give you a republic, if you can keep it.” I want to keep it. How about you?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – the intelligencer,  Ebaumsworld

We Are Waiting

We are Waiting

Waiting for the end of the Trump years is truly an exercise in patience, although our patience constantly wavers. Waiting to see if our democracy/republic survives seems far too passive. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s ersatz chief of staff, tells us that Trump’s administration uses political extortion all the time and we need to get over it and get used to it. Will we ever get over it? Should we get used to it? Mr. Mulvaney acknowledged that using a quid pro quo to get a deal, or even to order a foreign government to do Trump a favor though, is just business as usual. The extortion comes in because this little piece of coded conversation intimates that before we send you the military aid we promised you must do us the favor of providing dirt on one of my (Trump’s) political opponents. This is also called a quid pro quo and it is an impeachable offense against our Constitution.

Even after we are done with waiting for Trump to leave office we will not be done with waiting. Next we will be waiting for the GOP to act like the real GOP or perhaps a better GOP, or suffer big losses at the ballot box, which could take decades because they have “stacked the deck.” Waiting and waiting has consequences. Time is not on our side.

Don’t we all feel such a sense of urgency. Years of climate denial. Years of backward and racist ideology. Years of pushing against our documents and our traditions to mold them to accord to the Party’s desires. Their legacy, a mad and bad boss that they cannot even control.

It seems that we will never be free to tackle our most important issues and that our freedoms could be lost any day now, are being lost already. Watching decades of painstaking compromises disappear in a sharp, Sharpie minute is excruciatingly frustrating. Watching our allies treated with contempt and accused of not having value because the only value America now understands is money is embarrassing and actually against our best interests. Watching dictators sit in the Oval Office as honored guests makes us ashamed of what our government has become. But there are losses even greater than this although not in the Washington limelight.

There are 3 billion fewer birds in the world. Perhaps it is difficult for news like this to compete with the way we have betrayed the Kurds in Syria who helped end the caliphate and lock away ISIS terrorists. It sounds anticlimactic. These birds are, however, the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine.” That’s 3 billion canaries. It’s a loss of song and beauty. Birds keep insect populations under control. They spread seeds. They twitter and flit and entertain. But the loss of so many birds is also a warning that if we stay on our current path, if climate deniers keep all of us from devising ways to keep our planet balanced and healthy, then we will soon be reading articles about human population loss. There will be mass migrations, food shortages, water shortages, epidemics, fights, and chaos everywhere. This GOP government will not have predicted apocalypse; they will have caused it.

We need these people gone before they trash civilization and the planet. We must turf these gas-guzzling, authoritarian-loving, lawless, regulation-banishing, money-grubbing people out of our government. The dilemma is that we must turf them out using the tools our nation has given us in order to stay true to our Constitution and our laws, in order not to have to begin again from scratch. Can lawfulness win out over such flagrant and brazen lawlessness? It is not looking at all promising. Our tools require that laws still matter. But it seems we have a president and a party that no longer has any respect for laws.

We are hoping to outwait Trump as we are watching our 243 year old republic turn into an authoritarian state in the tiny hands of a man who engenders pride and trust in no one. This man will say that it is the windmills that killed the 3 billion birds, but he will be wrong. He doesn’t care about facts but some of us still do and the fact that you can still look this up on the internet tells me that we still have some time to rescue ourselves and our offspring from oblivion, or the demise of our republic.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Independent