This is the fourth in a series on the pandemic. It examines the intersection of the spread of COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the presidential campaign leading up to election day on November 3, 2020. The three previous essays are Pandemic Ramble, Pandemic Shamble, and Pandemic Scramble. I call this one Pandemic Gamble. These four essays succeed each other and share a common form and spirit. They also interweave. This essay mostly examines the effects of pandemic forces on the individual person. That’s convenient, because I get to talk about myself that way. The same goes for you. I get to talk directly to you as you commune only with yourself. Both you and I can make guesses about other people’s conversations with themselves as we observe from afar.
The COVID-9 pandemic affects people in a common way. As a universal phenomenon, the virus:
- threatens every member: Each can be infected. Each can get sick. Each could die.
- transforms every member into a threat: Each can transmit. Each can spread infection.
- revamps human bonds: Proximity threatens; distance calms. Friends become wary associates. Protected strangers are welcome company. Warm groups imperil; cold isolation preserves.
- requires the refitting of places into safe zones: Protective bubbles are required for homes, workplaces, and public venues.
- crosses boundaries.
- is ubiquitous, omnipresent.
- Is invisible to naked eye.
Thus described, the pandemic constitutes a global existential crisis. Because the same conditions apply, individual and group responses can be compared.
Zones of Action
While we all function within a common existential context, disagreement is likely. Non compliance is more than a possibility; it’s an option. For every zone of action—street, home, roadway, workplace, building, restaurant, venue—it can be expected that:
- Most people will demand protection against the spread of the virus.
- Protection will have to come first from government: local, state, regional, national, and international.
- Public health rules and standards will have to be issued.
- Public health regimens will depend upon rates of infection, spread, hospitalization, and death from the disease. These numbers will be tracked on a wave curve delimited by zero points on either end. At the apex of infections, total shutdown, with home quarantine, will be required. At its tail end, economies will be fully opened and normal activity resumed. Normality will thereafter be maintained by test, track, and isolate regimens.
- Universal, devastating effects will occur when shutdown is required. Significant devastation and tragic deaths will occurs everywhere on the curve until the virus is brought under control.
- People are free to comply or resist public health guidance. Since the virus is invisible, people can act as if the situation is “normal,” and continue on as “usual.”
- Resistors, out of self respect and a concern for public opinion, are likely to fabricate justifications for their noncompliance. They will want to be thought of as “good people” acting on “high motives.” They might question “constitutionality,” claim an inalienable right, declare individual freedom, request religious exception, and find government action illegal.
- Political conflict and frequent litigation will ensue.
- Science fights pandemics in behalf of people. Science is the warrior. Epidemiology does the population tracking and wave analytics. Medicine provides treatment and therapeutics. Virologists research the virus and seek interventions and vaccines.
- Religion counters pandemic by calming the fearful, downplaying the finality of death, offering hope, and advocating faith.
- Some religionists downplay science on theological grounds and debunk public health guidance, therapeutics, and vaccines.
- In zones where significant religious and political complaints retard compliance with science and public health guidance, viruses will prove hard to contain and control. Pandemics thereby endure.
Living in existential crisis could become “normal” until an efficacious vaccine is developed.
- “Mass society” was a popular idea when I entered graduate school in 1958. C. Wright Mills’ books, particularly The Power Elite (1956), and Arthur Vidich and Joseph Bensman’s Small Town in Mass Society (1958) were two important texts at the time. Students were asked to fashion a concept of mass society for class discussion. Mine, following C. Wright Mills, went something like this:
- Emergence of corporate oligopolies in every domain of economic life.
- Media domination by a few large conglomerates.
- Emergence of a military–industrial complex (President Eisenhower’s warning to the nation upon exiting office).
- Relegation of Congress and the Presidency to second levels of power in comparison with corporate elites.
- Merging and flattening of a three or four class social system into a homogenous mass.
- Isolation of individual person as a target for corporate advertisement.
- Incessant, one way, communication from corporate elites to masses of atomized individuals.
- Marketing, advertisement, and propaganda as favored forms of communication in politics, civic education and commerce.
- The loss of democratic processes in mass communication.
- The replacement of “publics,” “citizens,” and rational public opinion by “masses” and irrational slogans.
Mass society is not talked about much these days. I rarely hear the term used. Why was it such a big deal in the sixties? Why is it neglected today? I suspect the answer is twofold:
- It actually happened! It all came true! We live in mass society today!
- Worse has happened since. Look at the structures and technologies that have been added on to embellish mass society. There’s the personal computer, smart phone, The Internet, browsers, Google, Mail, Messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the other social media platforms. There’s Amazon. There’s Zoom. And there are numerous, larger, richer, more sophisticated and omnivorous oligopolies. There are international media conglomerates hovering over the globe. There’s 24 hour cable news.
There are those who will say that these near speed of light electronic entities have done the opposite of destroy individualism, community, and democracy. They’ve restored freedom, given identity and voice to the individual, prompted the coalescence of publics, facilitated the shaping and gathering of public opinion, passed power back to the citizen and the people, and given democracy a rebirth.
What would you say? Have the electronic wizardry of the mass consumption state led more to democracy or senseless consumerism? I experience myself most often as the isolated, atomized individual of sixties yore now systematically, targeted, surveilled, messaged, suckered, and manipulated by hidden corporate persuaders. I feel like a fish caught in successive fishing derbies. One derby ends, two new ones begin. Fending off unwanted messages has become a major life activity for me and something of an art form.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no different. I befriend and like and emoji as many people and images as the guy in Peoria. People, particularly family and friends, are delightful. Videos are ubiquitous and sensational. I’m a YouTube junkie! Nevertheless, the rush and crush of mass society hovers overhead. Big brother watches and listens. Smart algorithms rule.
How might mass society and pandemic existentialism intermingle? I experience both, as you must too; they are omnipresent and simultaneous. There must be chemistry between them, probably different for everyone. As for me:
- When I’m being super cautious and stay indoors to avoid COVID-19, which is what I do most of the time, I sit at the computer and go online.
- I start with the mail. Thirteen new ones: five campaign solicitations; a funny cartoon from my cousin; a teleconference invitation; movie recommendations for tonight from Netflix; ads for unneeded products, etc. I thank my cousin and delete the rest. Oops, two new emails show up. Hell with it, I’ll leave them for later.
- I check in on Facebook. A new friend request from someone I don’t know. M sends an inspiring poem. I like H’s adoption of a stray cat. L sends images from a reunion. I like those too. J likes the Wall Street Journal. D has climbed a mountain.
- I check in on CNN to learn of obscenities du Jour.
- I check my messages and voicemails: a prescription is ready at CVS; the rest is junk.
- I look in on YouTube. Algorithms feed back videos of the types I’ve been watching. I watch a Sarah Cooper reenactment of a President Trump talk. I check out a recap of the Formula I Grand Prix race in England. Sam Harris has a new pod cast.
- I close the computer and walk down to pick up the real mail. I take a mask in case there is anyone at the mail kiosk. It is all requests for money, most from sources to which we’ve recently contributed. I put it all in the recycle bin.
- I send off an email to our Maine Senators and Representatives to request support for the Post Office. I call one of the Senators and left a message. I get emails back thanking me for mine.
And, as the Kurt Vonnegut character in his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five was wont to say, and probably for the same reason—boredom and the wasting of time—“and so it goes!”
It feels like mass society out there to me. It feels like I’m playing ping pong with mail. Success is zapping the delete button and getting the wasted paper back to the dump for recycling? Otherwise, I hunker down in the bubble.
Conventions and Other Pseudo Events
I enjoyed the Democratic National Convention. The national anthem sung by kids from all over the country, each from home, was a highlight. I also enjoyed the major addresses and nomination speeches. Brayden Harrington and Jacquelyn Brittany offered courageous and convincing testimony to Joe Biden’s kindness. President Obama’s speech, labeled by the historian David Blight a Jeremiad in the tradition of Frederick Douglas, was riveting as well as historic. Michele Obama’s speech was targeted and hard hitting. The tone of decency, kindness, and respect was a welcome relief. Viewers were reminded of our nation’s ideals and of people’s basic decency. All that, and Kamala Harris, the first African American and Indian-American vice-presidential candidate in American history, a tested politician, and a woman.
Despite the good will, the convention was, in truth, a pseudo-event. Historian and former Librarian of Congress, Daniel J. Boorstin, coined that phrase in his book, The Image. It means that no real convention happened. It was a fake convention in “mass society.” The non-event succeeded by gathering together and concerting the voices of isolated politicians social distancing in far-flung bubbles, an achievement of brilliant technological wizardry. This was single source, top-down programming at its best. The staff of the Democratic Party, chaired by Tom Perez, organized, story-boarded, engineered, and produced the four day extravaganza as a prime time media event. The shared values and visions expressed—of kindness, leadership, vision, friendship, family, community, civic participation, democracy—are intended sentiments and hoped for outcomes from the programming. Getting the party faithful to vote is the big task.
The Republican party got to use the same tricks for four days the following week. Wow, was that worth waiting for! Nepotism prevailed and celebrated the nepotist. An opposite world was conjured. A liefest. Abuses of the Hatch Act were seen. Also, the sacrilegious use of The White House for campaign events. Joe Biden was revealed to be an anarchist, leftist stooge, a deep state mouthpiece for Bernie Sanders. Carnage in the street was declared as marchers reprised The March on Washington of 1963 in which Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech.” The RNC convention was the more traditional of the two; it had real events in Charlotte and Washington. The President’s gala acceptance speech before a tightly packed, unmasked crowd of fifteen hundred gave the nation yet another lesson on how to diss science and spread COVID-19.
The conventions are examples of what I referred to earlier as the “intermingling” of “mass society” and “pandemic existentialism.” Professional sports leagues provide other examples. Major league baseball and MLS soccer are pathetic examples; the teams play in sad, empty stadiums. Formula One racing is more satisfying aesthetically, because properly masked people can be seen in pit stop slots and garages. There is something human to watch besides the drivers and cars. The Indianapolis 500 didn’t work as well; the empty grandstands dominated the cars.
The National Basketball Association is far and away the most interesting intermingling pseudo-event around. They built a huge bubble on an old Disney property in Orlando and moved their teams, the whole damn league, inside. The NBA successfully finished the season there and are playing the playoffs now. They test everyone for the virus everyday. The players are essentially prisoners domiciled by contract in a top of the line prison. The basketball is great, and the inside leisure too, but permission is needed to leave. No COVID-19 inside so far! Applause is piped in, flashing electronic team symbols criss-cross walls, and cell phone images of individual fans fill the virtual seats. Teams pretend they are playing “home” and “away” games. The television audiences have been large. It works and the money is coming in.
Problem and Problem Solved
In Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23rd, Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man described as a good samaritan intervening to stop a fight, was shot in the back seven times by a white policeman, one of a team investigating the scene. Blake was trying to get in his car at the time. His children were inside watching. In addition to Black Lives Matter protests, the event set off two nights of rioting in which a car dealership was torched and two protesters shot by a Trump acolyte who had brought his long gun to help the police! Blake’s shooting—he is in the hospital fighting for his life—is only the latest demonstration that systematic racism exists in the United States and police violence against black people is its routine face.
On the other side of the ledger, something remarkable happened in the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) reinvention of itself in Orlando after COVID-19 had shut the league down. They resolved to address the problem of racism as a league, and reopened in the bubble behind the Black Lives Matter banner. They also sewed social justice words on player uniforms. These words include “Say Their Names,” “Vote,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Justice,” “Peace,” “Equality,” “Freedom,” “Enough,” Power to the People,” “Justice Now,” “Say Her Name,” “Liberation,” “See Us,” “Sí Se Puede” (“Yes We Can”), “Hear Us,” and “Respect Us.” Each player chooses a word from the allowable list to appear above his name on the back of the uniform.
The good news is that the NBA and most professional leagues no longer tolerate racism. Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, now says that Colin Kaepernick had it right. Even finer, the teams and leagues are now official advocates for social justice. Not long ago they were offenders and resisters. Leagues and teams now promise their constituencies that they will operate internally as tolerant just societies. All of this is huge. Racism will be no more in their sports.
Maybe, we’ll see. We should be suspicious of top-down corporate decision-making wherever we see it in mass society. Someone—owner, player, fan, or all three—may be targets of manipulation. We can be sure that Adam Silver and his people designed, engineered, choreographed, and produced this new look as a top-down enterprise and engineered its consent and implementation. That’s the same process Tom Perez and his staff used to produce the Democratic Convention. Hopefully, we’re not stuck with just another money-making pseudo-event. Hopefully, the people involved actually mean it. We’ll see.
After the above was written, the Milwaukee Bucks cancelled their scheduled playoff game with the Orlando Magic to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake. Doc Rivers, Head Coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, LeBron James, and others have spoken powerfully on the subject since. Other game cancellations in the NBA and other leagues were announced. Despite my cynicism, The NBA really is proving that Black Lives Matters; it’s apparently not just economics with them.
I had an insight about basketball and perception listening to LeBron James reprise the shooting of Blake. He saw multiple times in the video when a different decision would have prevented the shooting. Exactly so. Basketball is difficult. It takes years to learn how to put the ball in the basket. James routinely makes five or six decisions in milli-seconds whenever he has the ball, and as a result the ball usually goes in the basket. Criminality is obvious in the famous police shootings we’ve witnessed recently. It shouldn’t take a long investigation to charge the shooters with their crimes. While thorough investigation is mandatory, the “wait for the investigation” mantra is a copout, an all too familiar ploy in the apparatus of white supremacy. If police on the street were as practiced in maximizing options as LeBron James is in a basketball game, there would be fewer killings.
Michel Foucault noted in Madness and Civilization (1961) that illness resides in no particular action or feeling. Conversely, anything we do or feel turns into madness if done too long, repeated beyond reason. Repetition builds habit. Perseverance is virtuous. That’s true enough. But, repeat anything excessively—beyond community standards and understanding—and you’re mad!
I hate to use my mother as an example, but she believed in education, survived the incident in question, beat the nursing home system to which she was condemned, and returned to independence and assisted living at Gorham House, where, as related in Pandemic Scramble, Beryl Hunt was able to benefit from Ruby’s recollections in her reporting for The Lincoln County News! I’m so proud of her! Ruby Hodgkins Callender lived a satisfying life in assisted living until her death at age ninety-seven.
At the age of ninety-four, though, Ruby was hospitalized with what turned out to be an electrolyte imbalance problem, and in deep trouble for several weeks. At some point, a psychiatric consult had to be called in. Ruby was doing a remarkable thing. She told a fictive story over and over again. It corresponded to no reality anyone recognized. It was like listening to a recording played interminably. The story took about two minutes to tell; it could have been 500 words long. She told it word for word, over and over again, for several days. This was madness. Then, it stopped, and she was sane again.
I’ve been thinking about my mother’s bout of madness as I listen to President Trump answer questions on the economy, COVID-19, personal responsibility, infections, deaths, tests, progress, vaccines, and protesters in the streets. His answers to such questions are well-grooved. He says much the same thing over and over. Some of it fails to square with reality. Some of it is flat-out lie. He seems to be enacting these riffs unerringly, like tapes. His retelling of the story of the best economy “ever” that he built and lost to COVID-19 emotes authentic grief. He’s clearly in mourning. That economy is gone now, but the President hasn’t got over it. He replays the tale whenever prompted. He sounds mad.
Most politicians, it should be noted in fairness to Trump, work from talking points and stay on message by repeating phrases and slogans ad nauseam. That is maddening enough. Yet, President Trump seems to be crossing a line other politicians don’t when he tells his pet stories, usually as impulsive digressions. The President appears, in Foucault’s metaphor, to be losing the light of the day by carrying dread far into the darkness of night. This is apparent more in his storytelling than in his “tweets.”
President and Base
President Trump enjoys an almost alchemical bond with “his base.” He has bragged “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” He thinks he can get away with just about anything he wants. My work supports his confidence. I compiled a list in 2016 of sixty-three ways in which Donald J. Trump was unqualified to be President of the United States. Another critic had listed one hundred and fifty disqualifications. Donald Trump received over sixty-two million votes in 2016 and won despite severe criticism like mine. He is supported by near forty percent of the electorate today.
Some Trump voters have defected. They are not a monolithic block. A considerable number of defectors showed up in ads and testimonials for Vice-President Biden at the Democratic National Convention. Trump voters, we can assume, are like the rest, passionate and patriotic.
How, I wonder, are members of the loyal Trump fan base, the devoted rally goers, reacting to his recent sharp turn to the right? Two outcomes are evident to me: a picture of Trump’s true character is being revealed, the essence of the man; and, parallel with this, a boomerang image reflecting unflatteringly back on his most zealous followers is dogging them. Recent actions—defaming Kamala Harris, dismissing COVID-19, overlooking the death toll from the disease, tilting toward white supremacy, defending police unconditionally, denying institutional racism, suppressing the vote, and messing with the Post Office—converge to sculpt a sharp-edged figure of Donald J. Trump. The image is grotesque. He shows himself to be paranoid, conspiratorial, dictatorial, self-enthralled, unhappy, unhinged, angry, sullen, accusatorial, revengeful, and mean. The faithful voter can’t run fast enough to escape the image. Their essence is revealed as surely as his. If this new Trump is the “real” Trump, people will think I’m like him. I might as well hang my gargoyle beside his up in the gallery of the grotesque.
Absent a decision to bail out on President Trump, what kind of mindset, policy principles, and political forms are Trump’s base followers forced to share with this stripped down version of Trump? My answer is:
- A mindset of slight, victimhood, resentment, anger, and disdain.
- Policy principles driven by racism, nativism, and misogyny.
- Political forms driven by euro-white nationalism, patriarchy, autocracy, plutocracy, and fascism.
If the portrait is true and the comparison apt, voters are offered a timely context for self-reflection before casting their votes.
Take a good look at yourself. Take a good look at what is happening all around.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, tell it true, tell us all!
Explaining the Inexplicable
The public is befuddled by a set of Donald Trump’s behaviors. These include lying, conspiracy theorizing, fear mongering, fake news labeling, hoax calling, science trashing, creepy religiosity, and embrace of the cult QAnon. All are strange. Some like lying and conspiracy theorizing seem politically stupid. Yet, when examined together as a group, a relationship emerges, and a fact becomes obvious. These proclivities of Donald Trump’s respond to a deeply-felt, existential angst: that life is bad, the future worse, and reality is therefore intolerable! Two words from his Inaugural address in 2017 betray his dark mood: “carnage,” as an image of the state of cities. “ravage” as an image of what other countries are doing to the United States. We’re being ravaged. Around us is carnage.
Trump is not a happy man. This is perhaps the most interesting and important fact about him. He doesn’t smile. He doesn’t tell jokes. He can’t laugh at himself. He’s easily offended. Enemies abound. He complains. He scowls. He whines. He’s the victim. He has grievances. He’s restless. He is dark.
An equally important fact is joined with Trump’s unhappiness, his extraordinary success. Trump has everything others say they want. He is enviable. He’s been a success in three domains—business, television, and politics. He has achieved a version of “the American Dream” big time. Wealth, beautiful wives, stunning family, security, golf courses, properties all over the world, a fleet of planes, leisure galore, international life style, his own tower, and President of the United States. He’s also a captivating speaker. His professional success and performance skills have made him attractive to the public and got him elected President. Yet, poor man, he’s unhappy, incurably miserable.
Since success and unhappiness are opposites, and form an unlikely pair, jarring hypothetical conclusions follow. Success isn’t what it is cracked up to be! The American Dream makes people sick. Materialism leads to joylessness. Ambition despoils soul. Happiness can’t be pursued. Despair follows success! While clever syntheses such as these may contain some wisdom, digression runs the risk of missing the point. The point not to miss is that Trump voters were attracted from the start, and are still today, by both his success and his existential unhappiness. They dream with envy of his life style, but they share his deep resentment. Theirs is a union of the terminally aggrieved.
Notice what happens to your mind, to say nothing of soul, if you fervently believe that today is terrible, the future worse, and reality intolerable. Happy days are ipso facto behind you, gone, past. You’re obliged to find a scenario that would be great if it had happened, but didn’t happen, so there’s no there to have happen “again.” What you have to say isn’t true. The disappointment is yours but you’ll have to fake it as being ours. History is not going to help. Facts won’t assist. Scholars won’t prove your case. Daily news will point elsewhere and argue otherwise. What’s the result? You’re going to have to manufacture your own facts and fabricate a world. You’re going to have to make it all up!
What do you do? How are you going to make your views stick? You will lie. You will deny. You will shout “hoax.” You will discredit science. You will complain of “fake news.” You will deny history. You will find conspiracies at play. You will unearth enemies. You will try magic. You will find quasi-religious justification. You will consult seers and wizards. You will join cults. In short, you will concoct a past, recast it as an enviable future, mobilize a cast of supernatural helpers, act upon your phantasies as best you’re able, declare victories, and act as miserable as possible in transit. You will remind yourself: you’re the victim; you’re the neglected; you’re the aggrieved.
Trump’s conduct, seen in this light, makes psychological sense.
What is the despair that Trump and his followers so fervently feel? They seem to miss the days when white men ruled. They want to reclaim the freedom and authority held previously only by plantation owners over their slaves and households in the antebellum south. The “great” days are none other than the days of “The Great Lost Cause” rued by secessionists after the loss of the war and the liberation of slaves. Now every disgruntled white male in every region of the country reclaims this “absolute” freedom under a MAGA banner. The “Great” referenced in”Great Lost Cause” is identical to the “Great” on the MAGA hat.
Labor Day Pre-cap
As Labor Day approaches, the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, global warming, and the presidential election are intersecting in explosive ways:
- California is on fire, multiple hurricanes with flooding are slamming the Gulf Coast, glaciers are melting faster than expected, species are disappearing, and once in a century storms are showing up somewhere on earth a couple times a year.
- COVID-19 is cruising unabated across the planet. The global number of infections at the end of August stands at 25,453,950, with 851,681 deaths. India’s statistics are particularly appalling with more than half a million new cases just last week. They are poised to jump over Brazil into second place behind the United States. Worldometer reports 6,180,371 Infections in the United States for this date with 187,365 deaths. The nation is responsible for 24.3% of the cases and 22% of the deaths worldwide.
- President Trump acts as if COVID-19 is behind us, gone away, praises himself for its control, blames others for its devastation and death, denies all responsibility for failures, fabricates misleading statistics, and has no national plan to fight the virus. Social distancing and mask guidelines aren’t mandated. Trump routinely subverts the public health recommendations of his own experts. No wonder our performance is so tragic.
- Back to school we go. Few like their options, particularly parents and teachers. Creative uses of outside spaces are predicted. The New York Times is tracking COVID-19 statistics in higher education institutions for the first time. Some leagues have shut down fall sports programs. Early counts of infection are discouraging: 26,000 plus cases in 750 institutions. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) leads the way with 972 cases. People would like the schools to reopen, of course, but they also suspect that circumstances will not turn out kindly for them.
- Congress, particularly the Senate, looks totally dysfunctional. While the House passed the so-called “Heroes Act” back in May, the Senate has not been able to negotiate a comparable COVID-19 relief package. They’ve said they might be willing to spend a billion dollars in contrast to the House’s three plus billion projection, but wouldn’t be able to compromise on two billion. Senators have left Washington for the summer, some to campaign for re-election. Money to states and cities to reimburse costs for fighting the virus is the avowed sticking point. City mayors are too often Democrats!
- Without a relief package, homelessness, food lines, evictions, and foreclosures are surging. Unemployment is near all time high. Restaurants and small businesses are shutting their doors for good. Storefronts and offices sit empty. People are suffering and going broke. Many are losing the ability to pay bills. The economy is in recession. Help doesn’t look to be coming soon.
- Americans are losing trust in their government: Departments of Justice, Environmental Protection, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State are among the most distrusted. The FBI and the National Security Council are too. President Trump’s misuse of authority is the cause. His efforts to use the Post Office to determine the election in his favor is the most egregious action. Doubt also has been cast upon the CDC for watering down school opening guidelines, and the FDA for giving the go-ahead to unproven drugs.
- Democracy is under attack in the United States and in Hungary, Poland, Hong Kong, and Belarus. The Senate Intelligence committee released its long expected report on Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election. The surprise was to find that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians and were in the loop on the release of stolen DNC emails by Wikileaks. Intelligence also indicates that Russians are intervening in the 2020 election in behalf of Trump. The President is uninterested.
- The Republican Party has apparently decided to run on a white supremacy and law and order platform. They will back police unconditionally even in the face of a spate of police shootings of unarmed black people, and in opposition to Black Lives Matter protests. Sounding these themes, Mark and Patricia McCloskey were invited to speak at the convention. They are the couple from Saint Louis who face indictment for pointing rifles from their driveway at peaceful protesters who happened to be passing their house. Their participation was particularly atrocious and risible.
- The Republican Party is Trump’s party now. According to stories in the Washington Post, the party is efficiently commingling money with the Trump Campaign and the Trump Family business. Spates of Trump family members spoke as advocates for Trump at the convention. Money is flowing back and forth between the three treasuries for services rendered. The President also had the gall to suggest that Ivanka might be a worthy successor to him. He also opined that twelve years might be the optimal length of his term of office.
- On Tuesday, August 25th, seventeen year old Kyle Rittenhouse, armed with an AR-15, arrived from nearby Antioch, Illinois, to help overworked police manage three days of protest and violence stemming from the police shooting of Aaron Blake. Rittenhouse ended up shooting three people himself, two of whom died, and is charged with homicide. Incredibly, Fox News host Tucker Carlson and frequent guest Anne Coulter nevertheless found Rittenhouse’s actions more than understandable, almost laudatory. Rittenhouse had attended a Trump rally and was an admirer of the president.
- Soon after, a caravan of vehicles with Trump and MAGA insignia showed up with weapons to counter protest Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland Oregon. One of them, a member of “Patriot Prayer” group got killed in the process. An investigation is underway to determine the circumstances.
- Donald Trump is apparently okay with friendly far-right militias and vigilantes coming into American cities to contest Black Lives Matter protests. Fox News hosts don’t shudder at the prospect either. While these vigilantes and private militias are actually homegrown terrorist organizations and should be treated as such, they are being invited, welcomed, and defended. They may be expected to instigate violence and produce chaos.
- Donald Trump lacks one of the tools Hitler had from the beginning, armed troops to exert force on his instructions. Trump, to fill the void, first tried to use the military in Lafayette Square, with Chief of Staff Milley in fatigues and Defense Secretary Espy by his side, this for a photo-op of Trump the Christian with a Bible. They recanted. General Mattis intervened and stopped the practice. The military promised last week that they would not engage in election activities of any kind. They plan to sit the election out. So then Trump dispatched a nameless, unidentifiable cadre of troops from the Department of Homeland Security “to protect federal property” in Portland, Oregon, the scene of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. The mayor and governor protested and got the troops out. Trump threatened to repeat the move in other cities governed by Democrat Mayors. Now, he is trying a third move. Friendly militias are given their cue to enter the urban scene. President Trump, it seems obvious, wants to dominate the Black Lives Matter protests and impose some form of martial law in major cities.
- President Trump is unwilling to guarantee he will leave office if defeated. He says the election is rigged and that voting by mail is sure to be fraudulent.
- One thing seems clear. Trump intends to stay in office indefinitely, no matter what. He will use any means to do so. All his efforts are intended to realize that result.
The election is our next, best chance to intervene. My advice is to focus on the election. Focus on voting and on helping other people vote. Put other matters on hold. Following public health guidelines, even the fight against COVID-19 can wait.
Will Callender, Jr. ©
September 1, 2020
Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good