2001-2021: From Crisis to Unity to Hope to Cruelty

September 11, 2001 was a pristine day across North America. Cool, crisp, and above all, crystal clear. The kind of blue sky no color palette can replicate. Conditions pilots yearn for.

I awoke just before dawn in the “Holidome” Holiday Inn in Salina, Kansas, in one of those 1970s-style hotels where each room faces a cavernous atrium for easy access to everything from shuffleboard to an indoor pool that permeates every molecule of air in the hotel with the stench of chlorine. I had landed the night before at the Salina Municipal Airport in a Bell Helicopter 206L with my co-pilot, Dennis Lang, after attending a family funeral in South Dakota. We were en route back to Dallas, Texas when the world, or at least America’s view of the world and its role in it, changed in the span of a little more than an hour. What I didn’t know at the time was that this date would also come to mark the beginning of the end of the American empire. America’s “unipolar moment” of unmatched power (as international relations scholars have called it) would subsequently be squandered in fits of accelerating hubris, deceit, and within two decades, cruelty.

After a barely edible breakfast served by a surly waitress in the atrium of the inn, Dennis and I took a shuttle to the airport arriving just as American flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. The flight from Boston to Los Angeles cleaved the tower leaving a near-perfect image of the fuselage and its wingspan. Weeks later I learned that of the three people I knew who lost their lives that day, two were on that plane and the other was killed as a result of it turning the floors above its impact into an unsurvivable inferno. Years later I wept, standing before their names carved into the smooth black granite of the 9/11 memorial. Like every non-terrorist who perished that day, they were among the innocents; young men with families and full lives ahead of them. All I suffered was a scarred soul; twenty years later the pain lingers. We managed to receive a clearance for takeoff just as United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. I pulled all the power that helicopter had and headed into those pristine skies with only one thought in mind: get home.

To stay informed in the cockpit, we listened to Peter Jennings on ABC radio as we calculated our course, airspeed, and fuel levels in a long shot attempt to make it to Dallas in one hop. Jennings, who had given up smoking some years before, relapsed under the stress of 9/11 and started smoking again. He died of lung cancer four years later. Shortly after we cleared Salina to the south, the feared but expected order came from Kansas City Center Control: “all aircraft land immediately nearest airport.” As clear as that instruction was, we considered it as any helicopter pilot might, with equal parts of indignation and arrogance. Surely, we thought, that order is only meant for airplanes. We decided to keep going; low, fast, and outside of controlled airspace to see how close we could get to Dallas. As we came abeam Wichita, Kansas, Dennis said, “Uh oh, take a look to the east at ten o’clock.” Two stealth bombers were departing McConnell Air Force Base accompanied by four fighter jets. As they swept into the sky, they looked like two giant stingrays stalked by small dark pilot fish. It was time to talk to the tower in Wichita.

Given its geographic position in the center of the United States, and distance from any other airport of significant size, Wichita was being slammed by requests to land by aircraft from all over the world that were flying across the continent to faraway destinations. The woman in the tower who responded to my call was impressively calm and efficient during what had to be the busiest day in her career and in the history of the airport. She ordered, “November one-alpha-hotel, turn left heading zero-niner-zero and make approach to taxiway following Super-80 on final and in front of the Airbus turning final.” Following a rather acrobatic landing, necessary to avoid the wake turbulence produced by larger aircraft, I scrambled to get a rental car and hotel room while Dennis secured the helicopter. The last planes that landed that morning in Wichita were parked at the ends of the runway. Every square foot of pavement—including tarmacs and taxiways—was covered with aircraft.

Dennis and I checked into the Red Roof Inn adjacent to the airport along with other stunned travelers and flight crews who all had the same two questions on their minds: what in the hell just happened and, most especially, when can we get back out of here? Despite all the uncertainty and fear that were descending like a cloud bank on an otherwise beautiful day, the hotel remained eerily quiet save the drone of CNN emanating from every TV day and night. But, that first night of our unintended sequestration, the paper-thin walls proved no match for the sounds that still haunt my memory: the mournful sobs of flight attendants who realized how brutally those who served their final flights that morning had died—throats slashed with boxcutters by terrorists looking forward to the seventy-two virgins they had been promised in their twisted jihadist version of heaven. It took a couple of days, but Dennis—a cunning gnome of the skies—finagled the first clearance to depart Wichita after the events of September 11th. I am not sure what he said to air traffic control, but I hope most of it was true. We made it as far as Ardmore, Oklahoma, when we were ordered to land again. There was no way air traffic control was going to allow us to penetrate the airspace of Dallas-Fort Worth. To get home, we rented the only vehicle we could find, a van with two seats in front and none in back. It smelled like its prior usage had been for human trafficking, but it got us home.

For those of you who remember the days that followed, the most pervasive emotion was fear. The fear of where will they strike next? As I came to understand after interviewing several Bush administration officials years later, that fear nearly paralyzed the administration; they were determined to circumvent any further attacks on America and Americans throughout the world. To their credit, they largely succeeded.  I remember thinking twice about attending a high school football game at Aubrey High School in North Texas for fear a bomb would be detonated by al-Qaeda below the grandstands. (That’s what a few days locked down in Wichita will do to your mind.) That was the first time self-isolation seemed like the best strategy; something we all have learned to practice during the pandemic.

Fear became a powerful unifier, which seems somewhat quaint today as we have subsequently seen fear used as a powerful divider. But, united we stood. Never before or since have so many American flags been purchased and flown from virtually anywhere one could find to hoist the stars and stripes. Not the modified American flags people display today that represent their political tribe, just the red-white-and blue Old Glory. Recruiting centers for our military were swamped with new applicants who wanted to exact their own measure of revenge on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. With the exception of a few ignorant bigots who attacked mosques in America, most simply rallied around the flag; but, eventually, fear-driven patriotism waned and anger kicked in. Then, hubris. We were, after all, the world’s lone superpower and the Bush-Cheney administration wanted to display that power in the most devastating manner possible. Consideration of the national interest and the attendant discipline to pursue well-defined objectives—the hallmark of George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy—were thrown out the window in favor of reckless revenge promoted mostly by men who had never seen a battlefield in uniform.

Lest we forget, Operation Desert Storm conducted by Bush 41 that removed Saddam Hussein from Kuwait was executed after Hussein had ignored sanctions of the United Nations, and after an international coalition had been formed and the operation had been authorized by Congress. Combat lasted just six weeks and American casualties numbered 148. Saddam Hussein retreated to his palace in Baghdad and Kuwait was freed. Compare that to the thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent over the last twenty years in Iraq and Afghanistan only to finally leave—just days ago—with little to nothing to claim as our winnings. Biden is getting the blame and the Bush-Cheney folks are mostly mute. But these days, the truth is buried under a mountain of deceits. We have become extraordinarily skilled at collective self-deception. Perhaps because the truth is just too embarrassing and painful to bear.

As the Bush 43 administration drew to a close in 2008, and the economy was being crushed by many ill-considered deregulations in our financial markets, a tall, skinny, lanky young man from Illinois—who cast himself as the next Lincoln from the same state—raised his hand to become the 44th president of the United States. Barack Hussein Obama, born of a white mother and black father, had the cojones to believe that Americans would put a black man with a funny name in the White House while a white woman named Hillary—of the Clinton Democratic Party dynasty—claimed it was her turn. What on earth could he have been thinking, or smoking? However, one of the things a person of Obama’s rather challenging profile learn is that to succeed in life, you must lead with fists clenched knowing you are going to get knocked down—over and over—but that if you keep getting back up, eventually those with more advantaged backgrounds will move out of the way as they succumb to a weakness of resolve born from their many entitlements.

To be clear, Obama didn’t exactly come from nowhere. He had killed it with his address four years prior at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Delegates and political kingmakers were awestruck at the state senator from Illinois. In his speech, he began by connecting with audiences in the arena and at home by presenting himself as evidence that in America anything is possible—that he would not be speaking as the convention’s keynote speaker if America was not a place where dreams could come true. In so doing, he gave us access to our own dreams and possibilities and, moreover, he personified hope. He called this “the true genius of America—a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles.” After years of fear and anger following 9/11, hope was ascendent once again, purveyed by a curious and unlikely messenger.

In March 2008, in one of his best speeches among many great speeches, Obama addressed the proverbial elephant in American politics and culture: the color of his skin. It was prompted by criticism of his association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago who had given many fiery sermons on race relations in America that later caused John McCain’s running mate from Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin, to accuse Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” Obama confronted “black anger” and “white resentment” so effectively that it reminded me of when John F. Kennedy confronted criticism of his Catholicism in an address in Houston to protestant ministers in 1960. Once again, Obama’s hope-based rhetoric and intentional linkage of himself to Abraham Lincoln turned a political sinkhole for his campaign into a springboard.

In his remarks titled, “A More Perfect Union,” he reminded us that our Constitution—while failing to directly correct the stain of “this nation’s original sin of slavery” at the time of its adoption—allowed room for “Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part … to narrow the gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.” This was classic Obama, weaving both realism and idealism together to bring a calm clarity to his message while never slipping into the blame and shame game so prevalent—then and today— among those who intend to advance a progressive agenda. He never allowed his anger to subvert his higher aim: hope. His hope endured, but the change he promised to accompany it—the prospect of being a transformative president—would run into a juggernaut of thinly veiled racism that could not stomach a black man in the White House led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who made clear he would do everything in his power to assure Obama was “a one-term president.”

At the time of Obama’s election, I was living in Texas where, with the exception a couple of years spent in Washington D.C., I had resided since 1982. In my years there prior to his election, I had rarely witnessed overt racism. I expected it having been warned of southern dispositions prior to moving there from Seattle, but besides the institutional racism that was endemic throughout the United States, I rarely saw anything approaching racial conflict between whites and blacks. That changed once Obama became president. The “N” word, which was never used by anyone in my presence prior to his election, started to creep into otherwise normal conversations, used by folks I had known for years.

As Obama neared the end of his first term, racist bumper stickers started to appear on several cars in the Dallas area and stars and bars flags (aka Confederate flags) were hung in the rear windows of many pickup trucks and semi tractors. In the carpool line at my daughter’s private Episcopal school, a mother in a Cadillac Escalade had a bumper sticker with a black stick figure sodomizing a white stick figure with the phrase “Are we really going to take it this way for four more years?” printed below the illustration. Another popular bumper sticker signaled the melding of evangelicalism with racism in its citation of Psalms 109:8, “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership” as a signal to Christians to rid the country of the scourge of Obama. By the newly antagonized white Christian nationalists this became known as “the Obama prayer.” Change did come, but it wasn’t the kind of change Obama had in mind. It was a shift from hope to cruelty, ushered in most aggressively by a self-proclaimed tycoon from New York City: Donald J. Trump.

Trump had learned his racism at the knee of his father and at the counsel of his father’s attorney, Roy Cohn (former aid to the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin). As real estate developers in New York, their racism was economically based. They equated people of color—any color—to be bad for business. But “the Donald,” as he liked to be called, saw a new path for his racism: to promote himself as a political great white hope. His angle: call to question the authenticity of Obama’s citizenship—so called birtherism. Trump’s incessant attempts to disqualify Obama’s presidency in this manner also gave rise to his favorite technique to discredit others and project deceits throughout his own presidency. The “Well, you know, many people are saying … ” this or that in an attempt to affect uncertainty and cast aspersions. It is a cheap middle-school grade rhetorical trick, but also proved to be very effective as he conveyed 30,573 false or misleading claims during his presidency—roughly 80% of everything that left his (public) mouth from 2017-2021.

The Cruelty is the Point, a recent book by Adam Serwer, chronicles the legacy of the Donald J. Trump presidency as it illustrates through this lens of cruelty the innumerable inhumane acts by Trump and his acolytes like Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, Greg Abbott, Josh Hawley, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, and so forth. Immigration, healthcare, climate change, education, abortion, human and civil rights—regardless of the issue, the Trump modality always includes some form of cruelty. As Serwer argues, cruelty not only satisfies the male adolescent desire to dominate others, it is a powerful binding agent between like-minded people. As a community, Trump supporters rejoice “in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.” A man whose claims—from his education to his wealth—that are routinely recognized as fraud once the facts are known, finds comfort and validation in his capacity to hurt others. This is the Trump legacy, but it does not have to be ours.

As Americans, our day of reckoning is upon us. It is not coming; it is here.

Osama bin Laden presented us with a crisis on 9/11. Every crisis is a test. How we respond to the crisis is the real test. In the face of the 9/11 attacks we—at first—united due to our collective fear. But then, fear gave way to anger and ultimately hubris. An unchecked power, as the United States was in the early 2000s, is a danger to everyone, but most especially to itself. Empires are seldom defeated by a greater power; they almost always defeat themselves. We were offered a reprieve by the presidency of Barack Obama—a chance to return to the high road of virtue and integrity. To revisit the ideals of our founders who saw America as a beacon of hope formed in spite of our sins and transgressions; the greatest of which was slavery. But we allowed the racism that made that sin possible to be reborn and worse: we allowed its basis in cruelty to metastasize throughout our culture.

Today, the world looks upon America as a pathetic shell of its former greatness. They do so with a mix of scorn and fear as they look at the option of a world dominated by China. No, not Russia, China. An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal recently characterized the state of our union as the “Golden Age of Stupidity.” I observe what I have written about elsewhere—what I have called “a pride of ignorance”—spreading from its origins in the South like the delta variant from coast to coast and from border to border. Frankly, it frightens me beyond words. I keep thinking—hoping—that a bright political star will rise again, or a technological innovation will vanquish the threat of climate change, or some other providential stroke of luck will save us.  However, such good fortune rarely visits unworthy people.

If you read these posts regularly, you know that I try to nudge, cajole, and even beg people to summon their better selves. Unfortunately, nearly everywhere I look today, I see cruelty, stupidity, greed, sloth, and systemic failures. These are not the behaviors of a superpower. They are evidence of an empire slipping into a slow-burn descent into irrelevance. Most Americans are in denial, or turning an apathetic blind eye or, like the proverbial frog in the pot of soon-to-be boiling water, think how lovely it is that the water is warming. Too few of us are behaving like we deserve to call ourselves Americans in the manner of those who founded, developed, and were responsible stewards of American power. Our fate may simply be to stand by and watch the pot boil; to let the providence of Nature decide who survives.

By |2021-09-18T14:55:34+00:00September 5th, 2021|American Identity, General|0 Comments

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
Go to Top