Onward America

“That was some weird shit,” surmised our forty-third president, George W. Bush, as he departed the inaugural of our forty-fifth, Donald J. Trump. Four years on, the American carnage visualized by Trump at his inaugural—his “weird shit”—has been realized in full.  We descended, slowly but surely, into his tangled web of threats that he carefully crafted to assure the manifestation of his psychopathy as our collective doom.

Would he become presidential, transformed by the traditions and honor of his office?  No, he would not.  Would he be cajoled and contained by veterans of American exceptionalism? No, he made short shrift of them; one crisp dark blue suit at a time. In the end, he was left with Mr. Pillow, the last and lowest of his sycophants, save America’s (former) mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Cormac McCarthy could have written it, but none of us would have believed him. The Road, a feat of dystopic eloquence, feels too real today.  Hardscrabble America, as the playwright Sam Shepard celebrated, was an early victim. That America belonged to Trump too. Remember, “Trump Loves Coal!”? He promised them deliverance from their fears of falling into irrelevance, or worse.  But, dying of whiteness became a thing. Deaths of despair eviscerated rural America; MAGA hats clasped upon their chests as they were lowered into the cemeteries of their ancestors.

It seems we have slipped on every step as we stumbled toward peril; as if the edges of each riser were glazed in black ice. An empire lost. Generations of toil and sacrifice butchered at the altar of a malignant narcissist as his insatiable appetite raged; a gluttonous monster. “America First” was, in truth: Trump first, last, and always.

Today, we are left looking over our shoulders as we attempt to live our lives. The web of threats we face strangle us with demonic ire. Invisible death lurks in the contrails of each human exhalation we pass. Some families have grown deeper in their conviction to each other, while others have been lost. Communities and companies and churches struggle to remain united behind the glassy indifference of Zoom screens. Children, whose memory banks are naturally low, struggle to remember what happiness is. Despair has taken up residency in the soul of America.

We have hit bottom, or damn close. Weird shit, indeed. Will God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea?  It seems unlikely today, but who knows? For the moment, most of us have survived what has been a monumental challenge—to evade the gangrenous rot of Donald Trump. While there are those who still dangle, tethered by their stubborn sense of denial—continuing to support the madness Trump hath wrought—their tentacles will eventually wither in the sunlight of truth.  We may no longer count them as friends or family, or possess the mercy to catch them as they fall, but it is what it is. Life is an onward proposition.

It will be a long road out from this purgatory. We must resist the notion of sudden deliverance or redemption.  It will take all of our strength and resources. Hard work and hard love. Time. We were crossed by a madman, but that too is our responsibility. Determination must supplant compromise for now. Those who continue to suckle the nipple of deceit must be relinquished of their authority; banished from further consideration. If we are to save America from treasonous Americans—whether Proud Boys, QAnon, or members of the United States Congress—we must do so with the disposition and strength of a grizzly bear. The stakes are simply too high.

Our first president, George Washington, warned us in his farewell address that

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetuated the most horrid enormities, is itself frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

We have lived through Washington’s warning; we must never forget this lesson again.

May we find strength and resolve in our memories of those who preceded us, and inspiration and hope in the promise of those who follow.

Onward, America.

By |2021-02-16T19:49:09+00:00January 19th, 2021|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Let’s Give Each Other a Chance Again

It started as a fairly normal Saturday morning in southwestern Colorado, excepting the dull headache that persisted following too many hours of viewing election coverage for what seemed an eternity.  The headache quickly resolved with a stout cup of coffee born on the island of Sumatra—a steady morning companion.  There were chores to be done, which arrived with a sense of urgency to beat the arrival of a winter storm creeping toward the doorstep of the San Juan Mountains.  The storm warning suggested more feet than inches of snow accompanied by a fierce wind—the kind that would erase any of the last golden vestiges of autumn in favor of a white blanket of winter.

As I organized the trash and recyclables to arrive at the dump when the gates would swing clear to receive the castaway evidence of my solitary life, my Springer Spaniel, Stella, started her twirling dance by the door.  She loves to go to the dump; her enthusiasm, while odd by human standards, provides a welcome spirit to an otherwise pedestrian chore where the only human interaction is with a maskless transfer-station clerk who takes down license plate numbers and assesses fees with alacrity commensurate with the bounty her customers leave behind.  The rats that live beneath the industrial-size compactor are the only critters that wage a smile.  Yes, rats can smile.  (Google it—they smile with both their ears and lips; happy happens.)

Upon returning home and moving more firewood closer to the front door, I decided to flip on the TV and sink, once again, into my oversized leather chair where reading, viewing, and naps are common.  The scene that revealed across the glassy platter of Samsung digital clarity was stunning, even jarring.  People gathering in the streets of America—that much seemed normal following months of civil unrest.  But, this was strange.  Screaming, anger, and violence had been replaced by cheering, singing, and dancing.  I struggled to remember the last time I had seen joy, but my memory failed to comply. Tears gathered in the lower half of my eyes then, as suddenly as they arrived, they breached the dam of my eyelids and streamed down my face; an aging white man trying to reconcile the moment after living of the edge of dread for four years.

I wept for the prospect of normalcy.  I wept for the promise of hope.  I wept for the possibility that the America I was raised to love and protect might return.  I wept for the immigrant children who may now be reunited with their parents that had been exiled by an evil American regime.  I wept for those who lost their lives at the hands of an incompetent leader who cared more about his reelection than saving them from a deadly pandemic.  I wept for those who, because of the color of their skin, or unsettled legal status, or gender preference, or simple political persuasion, have lived in a state of fear moving from shadow to shadow lest the light of day place them in peril.  But I also wept for those who prefer red to blue—Trump to Biden—for they are victims too.  Dying from a poverty of dignity at the end of a gun, or a stomach full of opioids, bereft of hope and swindled by a man who promised them deliverance but never, ever, cared enough to save them.  And, I wept for those who sold their souls to grab what benefits they could—political or financial—from a man who was determined to destroy American values and institutions so that he might realize his fantasies of fascism.

The heart of America has many wounds.  To be clear, I am far from Pollyannaish.  It is highly uncertain if America will recover her promise, her hope, her power.  The American Dream may be lost forever.  Our greatest days may only be experienced by reading our history, rather than living our future.  However, I heard president-elect Biden’s plea, that we “give each other a chance.”  After all, chances—first, second, and more—course through the veins of the American spirit.  It is within our power to choose, and each and every one of us has the responsibility in every new morning that arrives, to decide whether we want to save our heritage from the travesty of the Age of Deceit—punctuated in finality by the Trump administration—or meander toward mediocrity, or worse.  In November 1863, with the Union teetering on collapse, Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—the same commonwealth that delivered victory to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—and argued for a “new birth of freedom.”  Today, we must again set aside fear for hope, hate for love, dread for grace.  We must give each other a chance again.

By |2020-12-03T14:33:05+00:00November 8th, 2020|Donald Trump, General, Recent|0 Comments

A Time to Dream Again

Let’s finish the fight. Let’s reclaim our heritage and fix our future.  Let’s set our eyes on the next America.

As I watched the empty, fragile, flaccid, and Covid-infected man that is our 45th president attempt to bully his way past Joe Biden in the debate, then rescue his deluded self-conception as a modern-day Mussolini saluting Marine One (or the lawn?) from the south portico of the White House, I felt the week’s images captured perfectly and poignantly the state of our country.  In a word: pathetic.  An empire rotting from the center of its power—the White House.

How far we have fallen in just four years.  I have studied leadership, taught it, written about it, and advised and led a number of companies. More books have been written about Lincoln than any other president—for his character and leadership. The same will occur for Trump—for his cruelty and failures.  Trump’s presidency will, for many years to come, provide a vast array of abject lessons of failed leadership.  Just when you think he couldn’t screw things up any worse, he consistently surprises us—to the downside.  Clearly, the only thing that has sharpened his mind in the last several weeks is the prospect of jail time.  Unfortunately, this acuity has set him on a more aggressive course of destroying America.

Like many of you, I have been down all the rabbit holes to examine what happens with a contested election (which Bill Barr is pursuing aggressively as I write).  It is ugly, to say the least.  In the wildest paranoid nightmares of our founders, none of them imagined a president could be this horrific.  And while it is possible Trump and Barr will be able to prolong their defeat, I have confidence our collective outrage will produce the landslide we need to bury the Trump administration and its many enablers under an impenetrable pile of rubble.  On January 20, 2021, the next America will begin.

For decades upon decades, Americans have met crisis after crisis and have succeeded in lurching, chaotically forward, to a more perfect union.  We will never achieve perfection; that much is certain.  But the promise of a better future always resides in the striving.  Is it really worse today than when Washington and his too-few troops froze their asses off to cross the Delaware River to confront Hessian forces, who were sure to kill them and crush the revolution?  Or, when Lincoln—addled by depression—quickly pivoted to fund the construction of the transcontinental railroad to the west fearing the South and the Union were lost?  Or, when the country had more soup lines and Hoovervilles than McDonalds and McMansions, and Hitler’s reign of unspeakable horrors descended upon the world?

It always seems worse in the present—as if we are special in our suffering—but is it? The simple truth is this: chaos, corruption, and dishonesty—the touchstones of Donald Trump—were never sustainable.  Nightmares end. He is a monstrous stain on the presidency of the United States, but we are on the brink of expelling him and his sycophants forever.  (Stay well Joe and Kamala.)

We have choices and our time for choosing is approaching.  We will, as we have near the end of each American crisis, emerge with a new answer to the question: What does it mean to be an American?  As Trump trades in his extra-extra-long belly-concealing ties for prison stripes, so too will his toxic conception of “America First” loose its gold-flake luster like a diploma from Trump University.  As with everything he touches or conceives, the substance is little more than bad hair glued to an empty orb.  Bowling balls have more character and competence. At least they know where they are going.  So, what will our answer be?  What will our next identity be?

No longer superpower, at least not in the tradition defined in terms of the Cold War.  Nor do I believe it will be what Obama was pursuing: global stewardship.  “Global” is a bit ambitious given the state of our current union that still has immigrant children locked in cages, supremacists masquerading as law enforcement, and the worst response to Covid-19 anywhere in the world.  Still, we can aspire to something greater even as we clean up Trump’s tempest of terror.  It is time to lift our eyes and assert our will. I propose enlightenment and exceptionalism.

Enlightened exceptionalists (EEs) are more inclined toward reason than faith; toward knowledge rather than beliefs. They borrow the case for reason, science, humanism, and progress from the Age of Enlightenment that preceded the founding of the United States and proceed with a temperament of exceptionalism that holds integrity and virtue as paramount standards of behavior.

For EEs, the Age of Deceit that spanned from the War in Iraq through Trump must be put asunder.  As Americans, EEs believe it is our duty to lead the world through its most difficult challenges, starting with climate change that although a technological challenge, is an even greater economic and political challenge.  The world expects America to lead, and addressing climate change for the benefit of all the world is a fast-track back to American credibility.

For EEs, the American Probity Values of responsible individualism, exemplar exceptionalism, and perfectibility—leaving things better than we found them— must again be the defining standards of Americanism. EEs do not see races, religions, ethnicities or nationalities; they see humans who each are deserving of dignity and respect.  They understand that the lessons of failure pave the way toward success at home and abroad and that America’s greatest strength lies in the unification of a diverse peoples who each have the capacity to make meaningful contributions to the future of  humankind.

EEs believe that E Pluribus Unum—”Out of Many, One”—must once again supplant “In God We Trust” as America’s clarion call of the nation.  They believe in referent power—the kind granted through service rather than imposed through coercion. EEs seek to build bridges rather than walls, but also believe that while at times people must migrate to escape peril, the greatest successes are achieved when people thrive within their own homeland and particular cultures and, moreover, that the burden of climate, economic, and personal insecurities must be addressed within the ethos of reciprocation: wanting for others what we want for ourselves.

EEs believe that while capitalism has proven to be the greatest model of wealth creation ever conceived in history, its endgame that produces high concentrations of wealth have the potential to weaken democracies and liberal institutions allowing the rise of plutocracies and other authoritarian regimes that may, in the end, create widespread conflict placing fundamental human rights and welfare in great jeopardy.  Preserving the benefits of capitalism while affecting the security of democracies and human rights from concentrated wealth is second only to climate change on the EEs list of most pressing issues.

EEs have little interest in having a high profile or participating in social media; they prefer anonymity to celebrity. They are truth-seekers and problem solvers.  They have a plus-sum, win-win mentality.  Finally, EEs are committed to the long-game; short-term gains are always welcome as long as they provide the building blocks to long-term gains creating strategic victories that address a myriad of issues and objectives.  Big problems like climate change and the concentration of wealth are, by definition, big, because they subsume so many other smaller problems and issues.  This is an example of enlightened exceptionalism: embracing empiricism and reason to guide the application of resources toward their highest and best use for the benefit of the many—perhaps all of humankind.  EEs occupy the transcendent center of the American political spectrum; politically engaged but staunchly non-partisan.

Whatever your concept of the next America, this much is clear: your participation is your passport to a better tomorrow.  As Wallace Stegner argued, “culture is like a pyramid to which each of us brings a stone.” Go get your stone.  Our time is nigh.  It is time to dream again.

By |2020-11-02T14:16:20+00:00October 10th, 2020|American Identity, General|0 Comments

The Great Suffering

For the Irish, life is suffering and suffering is life.

In times like these, I am pleased to be blessed with Irish blood that carries antibodies to suffering.  Those of you who know me personally—beyond the words I post here—know that 2020 has been an emotional challenge for me (to say the least).  The trending Twitter hashtag, #IHATE2020 barely begins to address my sentiment.  “Make it stop!” has been my go-to plea as night-terrors penetrate the vulnerability of darkness.  Yet, I know I have it so much better than others who are enduring not just emotional torment, but also suffer physical and financial peril.   Alas, as the Irish proverb goes, “Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright—it’s not the end.”  Sadly, I expect I and we are some distance from the end.  But, there is a way out.

This period of crisis in American history seems to throw us one hand grenade after another.  9/11, the War on Terror, and the Great Recession were plenty.  Unfortunately, we largely met these challenges with deceit and greed, which is probably why we were granted an extra dose of pain.  The current period of Great Suffering that followed, escorted and twisted and amplified by Donald Trump, should provide the requisite shock to force us to reckon with the gradual but certain degradation of American values that took nearly four decades to roost. In 2020, roost turned to ravage.

All of the world’s great religions hold that we should treat each other as we wish to be treated ourselves—the so-called Golden Rule.  However, there is another common tenet of world religions that is equally relevant today: we must fall in order to rise.  As the Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, argued in Falling Upward, “falling, losing, failing, transgression, and sin” are prerequisites to rebirth—to ascension from despair.  In Christian theology, there can be no resurrection until after crucifixion.  He notes that Buddhism observes this phenomenon perhaps more clearly than Christianity when he wrote, “suffering does not solve any problem mechanically as much as it reveals the constant problem that we are to ourselves, and opens up new spaces within us for learning and loving.”  So, may we please let the learning and loving begin?  Please?!

There are many—too many—days I feel helpless to arrest the descent of America into a swirling cauldron of darkness.  I know many of you feel the same.  However, the marathon of malicious narcissism we have endured over the last four years can be over soon, if we do the work of redemption.  The citizens of what once was the greatest country in the world must rise up by rejecting the sinister policies of our president who seeks to destroy our spirit and unity in favor of stroking his fragile ego and lining his family’s pockets with wealth and power.  Enough is enough.

The way out is this: we must share in each other’s suffering if we have any hope of uniting and expelling the evil that is Donald Trump.  We must accept—even embrace—the suffering of victims of violence, of Covid-19, of economic and social injustice.  Their suffering must become ours if we are to rise.  Burdens must be shared to be overcome.  I have become convinced this is the only way forward to unite our country and achieve redemption and renewal.  We must not just stand up for ourselves, we must stand together by injecting compassion and responsibility back into individualism.  Only then will the powers aligned against us—from within our country—be vanquished.

Oh, and vote, damn it, VOTE!

By |2020-09-08T15:04:19+00:00September 1st, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Saving America in the Age of Deceit

On this 105th day of March (or so it seems), we are nearly as close to election day as we are from the start of the pandemic, back when the novel coronavirus was supposedly a problem contained in a wet market in China, until it wasn’t.  To say things are a bit manic in America today is regrettably an understatement.  And while none of us (save perhaps Bill Gates) foresaw the pandemic, the economic, social and political upheaval that also feeds the current state of mania has been building for years.  The cycles of American history nearly guaranteed this moment.

Those of you who have followed my blog for the last ten years know that I warned of the probable rise of wannabe fascists in my post on March 12, 2010 titled, “The Next Neo: Neo-fascism.”  As America slid further in the direction of favoring deceit over character, culminating in the Trump presidency, I decided, in the spring of 2017, to take several threads of research I had been working and melding it into a narrative to explain how we got into this mess and how we can get out of it.  The result is now available at Amazon in both e-book and paperback, Saving America in the Age of Deceit.

Of Saving America in the Age of Deceit, Roger Cohen, columnist of The New York Times wrote,

“At once an incisive history and a guide to national recovery, William Steding’s Saving America in the Age of Deceit is an important book. It traces the American moral collapse that produced Donald Trump with remarkable clarity. Perfectibility became entitlement, exceptionalism turned to hubris, and narcissism supplanted individualism. With a historian’s sweep and a stoic’s determination, Steding traces a path to recovery of the American spirit through restored leadership, responsibility and sense of community. Erudite and readable, this unusual work inspires hope, for individuals and the nation alike.”

What a mensch.

So, please, reach into that purse of excess cash Trump gave us all to stimulate the economy and help support aging writers like me—$8.95 for an e-book or $14.95 for paperback.  Or, just read the last ten-plus years of blogposts at ameritecture.com and you will see many of the threads.  Although every day I face a country and world that seem less recognizable than the previous day, I also have faith in the American spirit and in our humanity.  The day I don’t is when I will enter a psychedelic pharmacology research program as a willing lab rat; or, rather than go fishing, I will stay fishing.  Or, both!

Avalanche Warning

I live in the high country of Colorado, surrounded by the majesty of the San Juan Mountains, which provide a daily dose of beauty and stability in a world racked by appalling loss and relentless uncertainty.  People who live amongst the peaks adopt their stature, which includes a strength of body, heart, and mind absent in much of America. Obesity is as rare here as it is common elsewhere.  Impulse is set aside for deliberation as a necessity; Mother Nature does not tolerate carelessness, as the rest of America and the world are now (hopefully) learning.  We do, however, have a mortal enemy we all appropriately fear: avalanches.  Bears, mountain lions, and even wildfires are no match for the ferocity of an avalanche: the sudden force of tons of snow and ice racing without discretion to destroy everything in its path.  Yes, they are survivable, but that is as probable as snow in July.  If one sets its eyes on you, your last day is that day.

The elements and dynamics of avalanches are fairly simple.  Mass (snow), slope (mountain), and structural weakness (layers of snowfall that do not bond), and a triggering event (wind, sun, additional snow, or an animal like us) are all that are required to let gravity pull a torrent of devastation and death down the mountain.  Once the avalanche settles, the snow, ice, and debris set up like Quickrete on a summer day; an impenetrable mass that will not release its victims until late summer, if ever. While heli-skiing in British Columbia, I have observed wolverines seeking carrion (decaying caribou flesh) trapped in avalanche rubble, while in Colorado black bears often liberate winter’s kill.  It takes a keen nose and powerful claws to find the avalanche bounty.  Life becomes death that nurtures life again—nature’s answer to sustainability in the high country.

This November, a different kind of avalanche may be coming to America—one that could finally realize the consequences of Benjamin Franklin’s warning at the founding of the United States:  I give you “a republic, if you can keep it.”  Not since the Civil War has America come as close as we are today to losing our republic.  The elements of an avalanche are all there.  Mass, in the form of vast military and economic power together with 330 million souls.  Treacherous steep terrain formed by years of erosion due to managerial neglect of everything from social structures to infrastructure.  Weak layers of leadership began accumulating after the Cold War when character and courage were routinely exchanged for selfish impudence.  Then, in 2017, the weakest layer of all—Donald Trump—now lurking under three-plus years of greed and deceit.  All we need is a triggering event and the republic may fall.

As concerned as I am about Covid-19 and the profound damage it continues to inflict on America, the triggering event I fear most is a failed election in November.  A failed election, which we had in the Bush v. Gore presidential race in 2000 (resolved five weeks later on December 12th by the Supreme Court) is traditionally considered an election when the winner cannot be determined by the vote of the people.  But there is another kind of failed election we have not seen in America: one in which a significant percentage of the population do not accept the results and, therefore, refuse to be governed by the victors.  In 2020, I see this as not just possible, I believe it is probable. Among five possibilities, four would produce failure.

The first failure would be if the election were postponed or cancelled.  As bizarre as this seems, both Trump and Jared Kushner have mentioned this as a possibility; it is clearly on the White House white board.  The second possible failure is if Trump wins narrowly.  In this case, it will undoubtedly be suspected that Putin (once again), and or the Trumplican voter-suppression machine, stole the election.  At the national level, there is currently next-to-nothing being done to stop this.  The third case is where Biden wins narrowly.  Trump and the Trumplicans will cry foul and, with attorney general William Barr and the Supreme Court’s help, may attempt to cancel the election while Trump calls on all MAGAs to rise up in arms (as in assault rifles).  If you thought the Trumpster protests to open the country during Coivd-19 were bad, just wait. The fourth possibility—and our only hope for a smooth transition of power—is if Biden wins by a landslide.  The fifth possibility—a Trump landslide—may not qualify as a failed election, but four more years of Trump would also cause the republic to fall.  After three-plus years of Trump, the republic is barely hanging on as it is.

As distracting, isolating, frightening, and devastating as Covid-19 is, there is another crisis looming; one that no vaccine will fix—an avalanche that could crush the republic.  If Americans of character do not recognize the danger (and vote accordingly) the former United States of America, now the Divided States of America, may become the Failed States of America.  In time, we will heal from Covid-19.  Failed republics do not heal.  They result in a pile of carnage neither wolverine nor bear will touch.  Today, we still have an opportunity to save Lincoln’s “last best hope of man on earth.”  The November trigger awaits.  The stakes could not be higher.

By |2020-06-13T15:25:16+00:00May 23rd, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

A More Dangerous Contagion: America’s Pride of Ignorance

Seventy-five years ago this week, America celebrated the defeat of evil: Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.  We emerged from victory as an emergent superpower after deploying 12 million American soldiers around the world and a sense of patriotic duty at home unseen in the history of a young nation.  When historians write the history of this week, the week of May 4, 2020, they may similarly identify it as a proverbial “week that was.”  This week, however, we have finally and perversely embraced a contagion that has remained largely latent—even in the American South—since the end of the American Civil War: a pride of ignorance.

This week’s events were stunning.  It began with a strategic decision by our president.  Yes, actually strategic, although flowing from a river of incompetence, rather than deliberative discourse, that finally breached the dam of decency.  The calculation became clear with his sudden, albeit short-lived, termination of the Coronavirus Task Force; as a nation we are to ignore death in favor of commerce.  The S&P 500 Index has prevailed over the daily toll of death.  Trump and the Trumplicans have placed their electoral bet on increasing the flow of dollars in spite of a raging virus killing thousands every day.  Our dance with the devil has begun.  Grandma can die, we just want a day at the beach.

This week, America locked its lips around Trump’s gaspipe of deceit, allowing the destruction of American character to continue in an intoxicating haze of fear and distraction.  The values that that guided us and kept our backs from breaking through the American Revolution, Civil War and two World Wars, have been flushed down the golden commode in the presidential residence.  Trump’s attack on the EPA is two-thirds complete as the last third of provisions he is intent on destroying are teetering on the edge of a cliff.  Don, Jr. can’t wait to give them a dutiful final shove.  Next, William Barr, gaslight in-hand, wants us to believe that Michael Flynn’s guilty pleas were actually pleas to a crime that doesn’t exist, even while the federal judge presiding, Emmett Sullivan, described Flynn’s crimes in the realm of treason.  Meanwhile, Trump has asked the Supreme Court to cover up his crimes revealed in the Mueller investigation by never lifting the blackouts laid down by Barr’s pen of redaction.  Finally, the CDC’s new coronavirus guidelines will similarly never see the light of day as Trump buried them because of their onerous “prescriptions” (or proscriptions?) that offend the “economy and religion.”  That’s right, the science of public health be damned.

America’s pride of ignorance, which first manifested as a legacy of loss in the South after the Civil War when education and hygiene became stigmatized as practices of an imperial union, is now spreading like wildfire across America, fanned by the belligerent breath of the orange orb in the Oval.  “Open up!” is the cry wrapped in the faux-libertarian selfishness of “live free or die.”  My rights are your death may be a more accurate characterization.  American’s growing sense of narcissism, entitlement, and hubris are no match for the prospect of death.  And it’s not just red states, it is blue as well.  From Georgia to Colorado to California, we are gouging the eyes of science to save commerce and sate our pathos of greed.  In my own county—Ouray County, Colorado—our leaders quickly acceded to the bellowing suffering of hotel owners and Jeep rental outfitters who rely on tourists from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas where the viral curve looks more like the contrails of a rocketship reaching for the stars—all ordered without any consideration of science.  Like many places in America, we set aside testing in favor of ignorance, lest empiricism might hinder our greed.

We have confounded the world, first with our tolerance of the most horrible human being to ever occupy the White House, and now with our heartfelt embrace of ignorance.  We’ve sent allies scrambling to form new alliances, while adversaries lick their chops.  America’s intellectual and moral capital are being squandered before our eyes.  But, at least we get a day at the beach.  Not the perilous beaches of Normandy that assured our safety and freedom, but the luxurious beaches of Laguna where our loathing of discipline and sacrifice can be expressed without the niggling voices of science.

By |2020-05-23T18:39:55+00:00May 8th, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Wanna Get Back to Normal? Think Again.

The gift of Covid-19—yes, gift—is that we have been given an opportunity to, in Thomas Paine’s words, “begin the world over again.”  Okay, maybe not the world, but America.  We all want to be unshackled from our isolation and social distancing; that much is obvious.  However, we must also take stock of the myriad of weaknesses and fatal flaws that have been revealed and amplified by Covid-19, and seize the moment to affect change before we settle too far back into business as usual. Trump and the Trumplicans would like nothing more than for us to demur once we are set free, and to be so full of gratitude for simply being able to hug our friends again, and sit at our favorite table in our favorite restaurant, that we allow the status quo to resume.  However, as American patriots who have now witnessed the horror of a broken healthcare system, the extraordinary cost of incompetent and deceitful leadership in the executive branch, and the economic toll on millions of Americans held captive in an economy that rewards the very few, the time is now for a transformative makeover.

The status quo enjoys a powerful gravitational pull, so it won’t be easy.  During the Covid-19 crisis in my own community, I implored our elected leaders to, well, lead.  Unfortunately, as is all-too-common in times of crisis, they have locked their focus on the flames closest to their feet—staring at the tops of their shoes—rather than lift their eyes toward the horizon.  They are anxious and scared and retreat quickly behind bureaucratic veils to justify doing nothing.  But, one of the first lessons of crisis management is to seek reliable information and cast your eyes where you would like to go—in the distance—to get ahead of the threat in a proactive fashion rather than remaining stuck in reflexive reaction.  As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who knew a thing or two about crises, argued, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something!”  A do-nothing strategy only assures a fate beyond your control—it is a wager on luck.  It takes courage, but the best leaders have the capacity to make the tough choices to master the elements of crises rather than become victims of circumstance, while others remain lost in their anxieties, addled by imagined risks and unimaginative thinking.

To affect change on a large scale, we must similarly first lift our eyes and visualize a new America.  Let me illustrate with two oppositional news reports from the future, January 20, 2025.  You decide which you prefer.

January 20, 2025, Washington D.C.

It was a crisp and cold day that welcomed the midday inauguration of Kamala Harris as the 47th president of the United States.  Throngs of people packed the mall from the steps of the Capitol to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as the oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Barack Obama.  The regional administrators of public goods, appointed by President Biden after his election in 2020 to cabinet-level positions in the newly formed North American Alliance for Security, Healthcare, Transportation and Commerce, including Gavin Newsom of the Western Region, Jared Polis of the Intermountain West, Beto O’Rourke of the Southwest, Pete Buttigieg of the Midwest, Andrew Cuomo of the Northeast, Andrew Wang of the Mid-Atlantic, Stacey Abrams of the Southeast and Justin Trudeau of Canada surrounded the new president.  The alliance, designed to narrow the focus of the federal government to the management of its core responsibilities, was part of a package of reforms to move more authority and resources to the state and local level while effectively opening the border with Canada.  Biden’s attorney general, Andrew McCabe, missed the event as the “designated survivor” of the administration although his work to bring former President Trump, his family, and a number of former Trump cabinet members to justice for tax evasion, tax fraud, money laundering, crimes against the state, and crimes against humanity continued to produce “below-the-fold” newspaper coverage.  In her first address as president, Harris acknowledged that “while the long nightmare of the Trump presidency and the Covid-19 pandemic is largely behind us, healing would be incomplete—lessons might otherwise be missed—until and when total and comprehensive justice has been rendered.”  The largest inaugural crowd since the swearing in of Barack Obama in 2008 filled the mall with both cheers and tears.  The American Dream was, once again, alive.

Or:

January 20, 2025, Washington D.C.

It was a crisp and cold day in Washington D.C., but the inauguration-cum-coronation of Ivanka Trump as the 46th president was moved into the rotunda of the Capitol to accommodate the use of the throne her father installed during his second term, and to assure the safety and security of Her Royal Highness from the masked marauding malcontents that roamed the city armed with little more than their viral shed.  The “Trump vaccine,” owned by the Trump Organization, that had proved largely ineffective in treating Covid-19 and Covid-21, was the only treatment allowed in the United States under Trump’s first executive order following his second inaugural.  The approximately 100 million Americans who fled the United States in 2021 to seek refuge from disease and the raging impulses of the 45th president, left behind 250 million lost souls who continued to suffer disease, poverty, and toxic levels of lead, mercury, nitrous oxide and benzine; evidence of America’s new role as the last fossil fuel producing nation in the world.  Cormac McCarthy’s nightmare, The Road, has become an American reality.  Trump’s “culture czar,” William Barr presided over the coronation as he now oversaw both the executive and judicial branches of the government.  “God’s law,” as interpreted and enforced principally by Barr, had effectively replaced the Constitution as the law of the land.  Jared Kushner’s drafting of supporting laws, statutes, and codes had succeeded in relegating Congress as little more than a social club of old MAGA standouts like Richard Spencer of the White Nationalist Party.  The social media scions, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey loaded their platforms, Facebook and Twitter, with glamorous photos of Ivanka with a brilliant tiara of diamonds, sapphires and rubies in celebration of her ascension to the throne which, once and for all, dealt a final blow to the American Dream.

It’s your choice, America.  Where do you want to go?  Both stories may seem far-fetched today, but are they?  (Remember where we were just four years ago.)

By |2020-05-02T15:42:11+00:00April 18th, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

How We Can Win: Understanding the Physics of Viral Contagions

Defeating Covid-19 and returning to a world we once again recognize may have less to do with biology and epidemiology and more with physics.  To be clear, viruses have unique and at times confounding characteristics that can be very difficult to assess, especially as they continually mutate, playing a biological game of hide and seek.  We must further acknowledge that our scientific and medical community is doing everything it can, motivated by both public policy supports and economic incentives, to introduce vaccines and therapeutic treatments to defeat Covid-19.  But, victory over this insidious disease will come sooner if we focus on what we can affect today—the physics of Covid-19—that include two principal factors: the density and flow of human beings.

Humans play two viral roles: hosts and vectors.  We host the virus as its vessel of life and we transmit the virus as its method of transportation.  Without access to our warm nurturing and mobile bodies, it dies.  There are, therefore, two and only two elements of physics we must interrupt to defeat Covid-19: the density and flow of humans.  And, as is often the case, the data tells the story.  Look at the data and the maps they illustrate and the big numbers and big red blobs confirm the hypothesis: places with both high density and rapid flows of humans are hit the hardest, like New York City.  Meanwhile, the Dakotas appear as if they are sitting this pandemic out.  Admittedly, some of this gap in viral incidents can still be blamed on a lack of testing, but that gap is shrinking as more testing occurs.  In my own county of Ouray, Colorado, our commissioners and public health officials continue to tout “no confirmed tests in the county!,” which amounts to little more than a head-in-the-sand proclamation due to a lack of testing.  It’s an easy claim when one’s eyes are shut that dangerously lulls the community into a false sense of immunity and careless behaviors.  As humans, we are hosts and vectors just as humans are in large cities.  But, what we have going for us is a lack of density and flow.

In an attempt to gain more materiel support for New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo asserted, watch out America, “We are your future.”  As welcome as Cuomo’s veracity and tenacity are when compared to our president, his assertion is false.  Few places in the United States have the density and flow of humans that the New York metropolitan area does.  The New York City metropolitan area has around 24 million people in 3,450 square miles, or 7,000 people per square mile.  By comparison, the State of Texas has around 28 million people occupying 268,597 square miles, or 104 people per square mile.  New York City then has 67 times higher population density than Texas and, understandably, has (currently) 32 times more confirmed Covid-19 cases.  To get a sense of flow, historically Texas has 255 million visitors while New York City has 65 million, or 4x more visitors in Texas.  This flow multiple in Texas is, however, spread over a vastly larger geographic area, which partially explains a less than 4x adjustment to expected viral infections in Texas.  Density and flow must be considered together, as a dynamic duo of physical impacts.  But, it does (along with levels of current testing and medical interventions—much higher in New York City than Texas) help explain why there are (only) 32x more cases than the 67x suggested by the density data alone.  I recognize this back-of-the-napkin analysis will be cringe-worthy to some epidemiologists who would argue for much deeper analysis, but they might also recognize that the availability and quality of data today does not yet exist to satisfy their desire for a broader and deeper plunge.  Regardless, we know what we need to know to guide public policy and personal behaviors: keep our distance and stay in place.

Colorado has done a fairly admirable job of affecting density and flow.  With less than a quarter the population of New York City or Texas, density is less of a problem in Colorado.  Looking at the state map of Covid-19, the axis of incidents follows density and flow, from Denver west along I-70 to several ski resorts, and north and south from Denver along I-25, a major commercial corridor and the unfortunate venue of a bridge tournament a few weeks ago in Colorado Springs that created a Covid-19 hotspot.  Colorado Governor Polis was absolutely right to shut down ski resorts on March 15th; in hindsight, he should have done it sooner.  Eagle County, home to Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts, is second only to Denver in Covid-19 cases.  Flow (of snowbound tourists) matters too.  Moving forward, notwithstanding damaging economic effects, or the prospect of a scientific and/or medical breakthrough, we must do everything we can to reduce both the density and flow of humans.

I understand we all want to get back to social interactions and freely going wherever we desire.  Lately, our president is making noise that he wants our wealth and his poll numbers back where they were in February, and is suggesting we will be able to return to our active selves by Easter, but doing so prior to seeing data that confirms viral transmission and death rates have both ebbed and are in retreat is a foolish violation of the physical realities that confront us.  Economic activity, which (at least as of today) requires both the density and flow of humans will increase both the velocity of money and the virus.  Releasing our bonds of probity would sacrifice any flattening of the curve we have thus far sacrificed for, and put us back where we were, on a steep ascent to death and further economic destruction.  If we want to get out of this sooner than later—if we desire the summer of 2020 to be similar to 2019—we must have the discipline to take our medicine, as distasteful and disruptive as it is.  Discipline will end this crisis; social, economic, and political greed may produce years of peril rather than months.

It’s going to get tougher rather than easier for the foreseeable future, but we must honor the challenge we face with both fortitude and compassion.

By |2020-04-02T20:30:40+00:00March 25th, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Will Staying Apart Bring Us Together?

The irony of “social distancing” is that we may finally reunite as a nation.

The spite and abject selfishness of those who have worked so hard to divide us has proven toxic in our time of pandemic crisis.  The institutions and social safety nets that were built during and following our last crisis—the Great Depression and World War II—have been systematically dismantled since the end of the Cold War, first by the Tea Party and now by Trump and the Trumplicans.  Trump’s “very stable genius” appears to be as phony as his spray-on Orangu-tan.  I cannot decide between “appalling” and “despicable” as the best adjectives to describe his performance in the Covid-19 pandemic, but the results are certainly catastrophic.  His self-awarded grade of “10” is both laughable and extremely dangerous.  Delusion reigns in the White House while people are losing their livelihoods and lives.  If there is a hell, Trump needs to take his throne there, sooner rather than later.

When presidential historians finally unearth all the documents related to the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, I suspect they will find there was a concerted effort to delay testing for Covid-19 in the United States because, as Trump himself put it, he did not want to see “rising numbers” that might hurt his reelection campaign.  Forget the fact that early testing would have provided critical intelligence to thwart what we now have, a pandemic, Trump opted to preserve his poll numbers rather than preserve our lives.  Further, we need to be aware that he will undoubtedly instruct his Diabolical Department, headed by the reptilian Stephen Miller, to look for every way possible to use the pandemic to manipulate the election process—including attempting to delay or cancel the presidential election in November—to keep him in power.  Trump clearly cares more about being a full two-term president than he does preventing the deaths of thousands—perhaps even millions—of Americans.

As we keep our distance from each other, we must find a virtual way to come together.  Earlier in Trump’s presidency, efforts at unification were aimed at preserving our democracy and the American Dream.  In the last few weeks, the stakes have become much higher.  We now face a president who is literally trading our lives for his ego.  All of us, regardless of party affiliation, must summon our strength, wisdom, and compassion and come together (virtually for now) to defeat both the virus and Trump.  In November 2016, we traded the audacity of hope for mendacity and hate.  In a “letter to my children,” published on November 9, 2016 at www.ameritecture.com, I wrote,

So, what to do? First, focus on your own physical, psychological, economic, and intellectual strength. Protect and strengthen those four cornerposts. Second, focus on the well-being of your family and friends. Their welfare is your direct responsibility. Finally, get politically active and organized. Your generation has more voters today than mine. The reality, however, is that we vote and too many of your peers ignore this solemn duty. Do not allow my generation to continue to damage America. You have the power. Do not squander it through apathy or neglect. In the end, we all—individually and collectively—are responsible for Trump and what happens next.

Inject the above call to action with steroids and jet fuel today and we may have a fighting chance at ending this nightmare.  But, we can only succeed together.  Yes, we must keep our distance to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 outbreak, while coming closer together than this nation has been since it faced the fascists of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito.  It is not just about our way of life anymore; it is a battle for our very existence.  We must stick together and look out for each other today, or face the collapse of both America and world order.  This is the challenge.  We must prevail.

By |2020-03-25T18:11:51+00:00March 18th, 2020|Donald Trump|0 Comments
Go to Top