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