This is the fifth “essay”—or perhaps it’s a “pastiche” or “montage”—in a series on the pandemic, which started in response to the arrival of SARS-CoV-2, and expanded to address racism, climate change, mass society, and the 2020 Presidential Election. The afflictions of Donald Trump’s presidency have turned out to be a hegemonic topic.
Four months into the project seems like a good point for a brief reprise. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Why do more?
When overloaded with information, numbed minds tend to wander and shutdown. Depressing circumstances invite retreat to more comforting realms of reality, but escape brings with it consequences. An accurate picture of what’s going on is lost to the person. Learning stops. Responses ossify into trite truisms and rote dismissals. Conclusions lose legitimacy. Reality turns unreal.
This prospect cautions writer and reader alike. If the writer foregoes writing—believing everything of importance already said—he forsakes watching, noting, seeing, and thinking as well. The shutdown writer can no longer know what he thinks because he is no longer describing and explaining what he sees to other people. Similarly, the know-it-all reader loses grounded thoughts in the decision to avoid revisiting them.
To conclude, I should continue to write about the pandemic for my own good, and because I like writing. The reader should read (not my words, but thoughtful writing) in order to recurrently evaluate his knowledge and conclusions.
Since, in proceeding forward I have run out of words with “ble” endings to modulate pandemic—ramble, shamble, scramble, and gamble, I drop the “b,” keep the “le,” and continue the series with Pandemic Jangle.
If the above analysis has merit, prompting writers like me to keep writing—does truth emerge out of the writing? Not that I can see. Not from me. Truth hangs around in the scenery. What I do in my pandemic series is point, note, record, recall, group, enumerate, organize, relate, inquire, and caution. Also, I conjecture, complain, emote, and whine! It feels like the notebook of a scared but alert and hopeful wanderer. Truth would help if I could find it, but in order to find and use it, more wanderers are needed to do the writing. Truth seeking is a community enterprise. Notetakers and historians keep the libraries and museums open. I think so. It could be true.
There is one recently discovered “truth” worthy of special note. It is that writing necessarily becomes painting in these overdramatic times. So much is happening and it’s all connected. Linearity and cause-effect thinking go out the window. Instead, “X” number of news blurbs with text are posted at meaningful points on a page. This is done intuitively. The whole is a montage, a pastiche of sorts. It’s also what’s called a “take,” an arch opinion on the “situation.” When you’ve compiled as many blurbs as you can handle, you write at the bottom: “that’s the picture today.” Watch any cable news channel and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll see it done. That in general is what I do in these blogs.
As a writer, I should just say on this new topic, philosophies have opposites, leave it at that, and get on with talking about what happens when world views split. As an educator, though, I can’t resist an antecedent presumption. People are often confused and their thoughts jangled; opposed philosophies may coexist for decades without much mental discomfort. I struggle to complete simple syllogisms, but I get through the day despite the fault until something big and important intervenes, something like a pandemic.
I’ve been expecting a type of event to occur and recur as the COVID-19 pandemic wears ever more torturously on people’s minds. People have different risks and stakes. There are reasons to put personal interests ahead of collective interests. Community is difficult to maintain. Individual interest is powerful.
The event I have been expecting can be called philosophical purification. Minds untangle and some pure orthodoxy gushes forth. In such a case, a person going forward chooses between previously co-existing conflicting philosophies. One philosophy wins out; the other is ditched.
This happened recently to Pastor and up-until-then good citizen Todd Bell of the Cavalry Baptist church of Sanford, Maine. Bell had presided on August 7 at a sixty-five person, no masks, close quarters, wedding and reception at Big Moose Inn near Millinocket, Maine. One-hundred and seventy-seven infections and seven deaths have sprung from the event to date, with multi-site outbreaks at the York County Jail, the pastor’s home church in Sanford, and at a nursing home in Madison where the deaths occurred. The jail and church are hundreds of miles south of where the wedding was held. What we have here is a super spreader event hitting multiple locations.
Reverend Bell, as might be expected, came in for criticism. Attendees at the wedding exceeded the allowable limit by fifteen, and his church services at Calvary Baptist aren’t following public health guidelines. Disease is spreading; ten parishioners have tested positive. Stop and desist! Right?
Nope. Unchastened, Rev. Bell takes the opposite stand. He draws a line in the sand. Church services will continue, masks are voluntary. Freedom is that precious to God’s children, he explains. Bell feels himself victimized in a “culture war.” He will stand tall. He “will obey God over men.”
There you have the case purified: in all cases where rules imposed on him as a citizen by public authorities conflict with rules imposed on him by God, he will choose God. Others may make the opposite choice, citizenship on earth over a place in heaven. Bell will stand Godly, for all eternity.
Are there other antipodal choices coming down the pike from the pandemic? Yes, I think so. Faith is well poised to cancel belief in science. Other big ones are: Democracy or autocracy? Freedom or domination? Multi-racial society or white supremacy? Patriarchy or gender equality? We’ll have to see how it goes!
Ask a Librarian
I’ve become super alert to another type of weird psychic event happening in malfunctioning minds. This one seems to be increasing in frequency over the course of the pandemic. The phenomena I’m speaking of can be observed on Facebook and on other sites where Internet trolls fish. I call it “the truth announcement.” Here’s an example. An image of a Center for Disease Control (CDC) document is “shared” online. It reports that people who died of COVID-19 had other disease conditions too. These conditions are listed on the death certificate. Presto, my “friend” makes a truth announcement: “the numbers of deaths attributed to COVID-19 are grossly over-inflated. Most died from diseases other than COVID. Go figure!” A commenter responds: “Dead right! Hoax! Fake news!”
Here’s another instance. an email arrives from a relative marked “Alert. Read immediately!” (referring to a blurb under a picture of a man with a stethoscope). The truth announcement follows: “They’ve found a cure for COVID! It’s on TV. Trump just announced it. It’s called hydroxychloroquine.”
Minds are dying in these serial truth announcements. It would be better if the mailer had just said: I like Trump and take his advice. That would be true. But about this larger gullibility—which renders the enthusiast ever more deceived—can anything be done about that? I have an apt dirty word answer. When growing up in the no nonsense city of Somerville, Massachusetts in the 1950s, my huddle of friends curtailed each other’s incredulous stories sharply. We’d say “Cut the shit!” If you bullshit, we’d say “Cut the shit!” In my opinion, that’s a fit response to habitual Internet truth announcers.
But I’m older now, so I forgo meanness and bad language and respond pragmatically: “Ask your local librarian about this!” Ask a librarian.
If you want to meet some fine clean-living fellows, try this highly reliable method. Be incensed by the senseless killing of a black man in your area. Exercise your constitutional right to assemble and peacefully protest in the style of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Do this for several days. Thousands of others, similarly incensed, protest with you. A rock gets thrown somewhere; a fire is set; there’s some looting. Unacceptable. Mostly, it’s a huge peaceful protest demanding justice.
Then, on the fourth night, walking quietly out of the shadows, emerging from the cornfield like the fabled baseball team of yore, a small, band of young, ivory skinned young men arrive to see if they can be of help. You greet them: where are you guys from? why are you here? Their leader modestly explains they have come to help keep the peace. They’re from away, yes, but what is distance and cost when your country needs you. They’re quiet, river runs deep, nose to the grindstone types of guys. They’re hard workers of course. They love their country, sing its anthem, and salute its flag. They love trucks. In their mind, they are patriots worthy of the minutemen of Lexington lore. They fancy themselves the real America, the silent majority.
You tease them to get a response. “But guys, why the long guns? why the weaponry? You could set up shop on Anzio beachhead with that kind of equipment. I wanted to see if they knew their World War II history. I couldn’t tell.“Self defense,” I am told, as if that should be obvious. “These types of anarchist protests can get out of hand fast.” OMG, he must be thinking of Sacco and Vanzetti! He instructs me about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, and well regulated militia, of which theirs is one. Do they have a name? Not yet. “Warriors for Order” is a possibility. I don’t know, I said. What’s the issue? Will you issue orders?
“There are good people on both sides,” I tell him, and recommend serious self examination. “In this market, you have to protect your brand. There are those out there who want to call you fascists!” He laughed. “That would be Antifa. We’re on to them. They’re starting fires in Oregon. Proud Boys are standing back and standing by.”
What nice fellas. They only want peaceful towns and are willing to shoot to bring that about. George Floyd’s name didn’t come up. I wish I’d asked whether he thought Black Lives Matter?
In Pandemic Scramble, I puzzled over a strange attitude I’d developed during the pandemic. I felt it in my stomach. I felt it behind my eyes. What was it? Where did it come from? I didn’t know. I decided to accept it as an invitation to write. I then refined that decision into promises to point out truth, be reasonable, and remain sane!
I’ve had further insight about this attitude. I’ve decided it involves a heightened alertness, a kind of super-immediacy. It moves me to assess scenes as safe or dangerous, familiar or strange, peopled by folks on my side and folks on the other side. Do I have my mask? Does he have his? Will he keep his distance? Is she going to protest? Will he make a fuss? Why the big rush? Why the sullenness? Whose packing? In short, something hidden feels at stake in every encounter, something awful seems probable.
This kind of two-sided, something’s at stake, by-the-look-of-your-face, event assessment, and heightened expectation, is new to me, and probably to you. Encounters governed by civility normally feel comfortable and easy, and thus routine. They do not any more. The COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election are two obvious causes of this attitude, but they are only temporary. Two entrenched sources are more important. The first is the style of discourse preferred on Internet social media platforms. The second is the hegemony of cable news networks. Snarky verbal wrestling matches on mundane issues are the preferred discourse style on social media. The cable news networks reinforce this debate and debase modality and add to it an incessant immediacy of their own making. “Happening right now” is the shtick. News is “breaking” at the speed of light on both sides of every commercial. Complain all you want about pseudo events and fake news—and you’ll be justified—but the domination of the twenty-four hour cable news cycle over us is the prime disaster, our enduring source of mental defilement and ossification.
In The Image, Daniel Borstin, while explaining how news came to be a product manufactured through pseudo-events, recalls how news was experienced in the typical mid-western farm town when the telegraph first came through. News was then ‘little,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘late.’ We could be so lucky! We’ll see how it all turns out!
Help Me Out
Please take a look at this Facebook posting from a “friend” and see what you think. I’d describe him as highly skilled, successful, well loved, widely respected, and financially stable. He has a great family and seems to be enjoying an active, well-earned retirement. But here he is telling the world he’s alone, neglected, under attack (from unspecified sources?), innocent, angry, fed up, ready to roar, and looking for friends. I know he likes Trump. I don’t, but I like him a lot nevertheless. I wouldn’t unfriend him, and I’m not inclined to respond, but this paean to the silently victimized patriot shook me? Please help me out.
Facebook message posted by friend
“Everyone can have their own opinion & believe what they choose to believe. It’s America. Not everyone is the same. But I know I’m not alone in my beliefs that what is happening now is insanity. Mask up. Don’t gather. Hide in your house. Defund the police….They say we are the silent majority. I’m not going to be. We get no air time. We don’t burn things down or tear things up. We don’t hurt others. We go to work and support our families. We love America! We want to protect the unborn. We salute the flag, always. We sing when “The Star Spangled Banner” plays. We respect law enforcement, appreciate them and obey the law. We appreciate the military. We are the very backbone of this country. We believe all lives matter because that is what we learned from reading the Bible & watching our parents. We treat everyone with respect no matter what color their skin is.
But they want us to be invisible! Let’s be heard! It’s time to start making some noise #SayItLoud
Copy and paste to your page if you believe! I want to see who is with me!!”
Quite a document. He cloaks himself in all the virtues: defends free speech, is patriotic, salutes flag, honors the military, sings national anthem, is God fearing, attends church, is law-abiding, loves family, treats people as equals, and loves life. And yet, as you say, he feels alone, under attack, neglected, and wants to be heard. (He sounds like you when you enthusiastically took on the burden of the typical “atomized individual” victimized by “mass society!” Isn’t that what you said in Pandemic Scramble?) Maybe his powerlessness is yours! Maybe it’s mine! Maybe it’s ours!
In his isolation and solitude he nevertheless intuits the existence of grand company, the “silent majority.” By the way, that’s from Nixon’s days. I believe Pat Buchanan, then a speechwriter, wrote that for Spiro Agnew. It’s a weird idea that fits pandemic times well: Alone together! Loners unite! Why am I sensing this is a privileged white guy, a woe-is-me Trumpster? I wonder who the “they” are in “they want us to be invisible.”
Perhaps he’s just racist. The Black Lives Matter movement seems to be upsetting him. Then too, masks and social distancing have riled him up. Everyone on the planet should be social distancing and wearing masks, so he can’t expect victim points for that. After awhile you just want to say: “Come on! “Cut the shit!”
Come to think of it, Will, the content of the letter doesn’t sound like the man you described. I’ll bet you five bucks he didn’t write it. Yup, I’m almost certain. He got the blurb and went for the copy and paste bit. I suppose you could ask him whether he’s the author. If he’s not, he might want to consider whether he’s being trolled by the Trump Campaign or the Russians. The only possible product of copy and paste is a list of probable Trump voters compiled under a hashtag. Some silent majority that would be! Your friend can expect a whole lot of donation and vote requests, and perhaps an invitation to a rally where masks are optional.
Yes, I’m convinced, he’s not the writer. I really like the idea that the two of you are equally powerless atomized stiffs on opposite ends of the political spectrum. You’re puppets of corporate media elites. Serves you both right. Me too, I guess.
Hope this helps. Let me know what you decide.
What you say is interesting. And disturbing! Screw you! I’m just going to move on without saying a word. I’ve got problems enough of my own. Good luck to him and to you. Powerlessness is palpable. I’ll put the story in my blog. We’ll see how that goes!
Megafires have been burning apocalyptically up and down the West Coast, in California, Oregon, and Washington, with smoke covering not only states but trailing across the nation and around the globe. Five million acres of forests have already been incinerated.
Climate change is the major contributor. It’s simple really: one or two degrees hotter planet, drought, drier forests, more fires, earlier starts, longer seasons, and higher winds. Ask your local librarian.
President Trump doesn’t agree. Climate change is a hoax. The cause is poor forest management. Bad forest management in blue states is the culprit. They should be cleaning out the dead trees. Never mind that a large chunk of the land is federal property.
Meanwhile, exhausted fire crews are having their work made harder by nuisance calls to 911 from QAnon-sters. They tell dispatchers that Antifa soldiers are in the area setting fires. Authorities appeal to the public to quit the conspiracy theorizing, stop the calls, and stay real. It’s more than a nuisance; it puts firefighters at risk.
Hearing rumors of Antifa invaders—and wanting to be of help—local citizens with rifles at the ready scope out rural areas to protect the land from invaders. They haven’t given themselves a name yet. We’ll just have to see how it all turns out.
“Antifa,” by the way, stands for “anti-fascist.” They protest against far-right, white supremacist groups at rallies like Charlottesville. The movement started in Europe on the belief that Hitler and the Nazi Party could have been stopped if confronted early enough in the 1920s and 30s and fought in the streets. Somehow, Antifa has gotten the impression that fascism might be gaining traction in America. Where are they getting that idea from? They believe in guns; some are violent. Most of their protests have been peaceful. They are amorphous. You’re likely to find them whenever far-right groups rally, but they’re not known to be forest dwellers. None have been found in the woods with matches.
The myth of Antifa has spellbound President Trump and Attorney General William Barr. Antifa is a much loved enemy of theirs. QAnon-sters and the “good people” in racist rallies are friends. Antifa, they say, is everywhere, threatening even suburban Republican women, but are most immediately destructive in Blue States and cities with “weak” Democrat mayors. The mayors supposedly tolerate and coddle them. The President wants to “dominate.”
Christopher Wray, Director of the FBI, testifies that far-right, white supremacist militia groups are by far the greatest internal threat to the nation. Trump and Barr downplay that danger and drumbeat Antifa, Antifa, Antifa. When offered the chance to repudiate white supremacy and white supremacist groups in his first debate with Joe Biden, he would not, and said “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! . . . somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left.”
The President makes me shutter when he mutters: “We’ll see how it all turns out!”
Bodies require open arteries for good circulation. In our body politic, Evangelicalism supplies much of the bad cholesterol clogging the arteries of American democracy. The movement is associated with:
slavery and secession——white supremacy——shamelessly marketing personal salvation——preferring heaven to planet earth——downplaying the social gospel and good works——attacking a woman’s right to choose——transfiguring Christianity into nationalism and faux patriotism—— rebranding the freedom exercised by plantation owners over slaves and their households into an inalienable right——penetrating and infecting the philosophy and policies of the Republican Party——conjuring rogues into a silent “moral majority”—— using the airwaves to compile fortunes by trolling lonely souls under the meme “televangelism”—— inventing the “prosperity gospel”—— poo-pooing science——supplying scary end of times stories for QAnon——blessing the presidency of Donald J. Trump—and making mask wearing controversial in church and on the streets.
Evangelicalism is muddling up reasonable responses to all our pandemics. Consider the record.
- In 1841, Reverend Thornton Stringfellow, pastor of Stevensburg Baptist Church, in Culpeper County, Virginia, publishes “A Brief Examination of Scripture Testimony on the Institution of Slavery.” His conclusion: “The guardianship and control of the black race, by the white, is an indispensable Christian duty, to which we must look, if we would secure the well-being of both races.” He calls upon the “Southern Section as a whole” to take up this vital Christian work. (Faust, Ideology of Slavery, 1981, III)
- In 1845, Southern Baptists, with Reverend Stringfellow voting in the affirmative, break away from their American Baptist brethren over abolitionism and slavery. Southern Baptists find abolitionism abhorrent and slavery compatible with Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is formed. Today it has fourteen and a half million members and fifty thousand congregations. They are in the forefront of the American evangelicalism movement.
- In 1971, Jerry Falwell Sr. establishes Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. During the 1950s and 1960s, Falwell, then Pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch, had opposed the civil rights efforts of John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. and resisted racial desegregation of public school systems. The word “liberty,” in this context, recalls the great plantation days of yore and lore as much as it does the American Revolution.
- In 1979, Jerry Falwell Sr. organizes the “Moral Majority,”a political action group formed to further a conservative and religious agenda, including the allowance of prayer in schools and strict laws against abortion. The IRS had issued a ruling in 1978 that stripped tax-exempt status from all-white private schools formed in the South in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Falwell had founded such a school. Organizing Moral Majority was his political response.
- In 2012, Jerry Falwell Jr., successor to Falwell Sr. as Chancellor and President of Liberty University, arranges for the University to award Donald J. Trump an honorary degree. In the same year, Jerry Jr. and wife Becky—multi-millionaire celebrities by then— are trying out sex with the Fontainebleau Hotel pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, with whom they subsequently set up a lucrative real estate deal. Their relationship, just recently exposed, had been going on for eight years. Somewhere in those years, Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer, provides his services to Falwell Jr. in burying an embarrassing photo. Trump and Falwell apparently know each other very well.
- In 2016, Falwell Jr. surprises the world by endorsing Donald J. Trump for President of the United States over Ted Cruz, thus throwing the weight of the evangelical movement behind Trump’s candidacy.
- In 2017, Kevin Jones and Jarvis J Williams publish Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention (B&H Publishing Group, ISBN 9781433643354) They explain: “The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a historical stain. The SBC once affirmed slavery and openly opposed and condemned abolitionists. . . . A profound divide between the white majority and the black and brown minority still exists.”
- In 2020, Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, after the killing of George Floyd and the mass protests that followed, find an urgent need to “rebrand” the Convention. Their racist past is now known to the public. The name “Great Commission Baptists” is put forward for consideration as a possible alternative.
- Following Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, a cluster of super-star evangelical pastors and televangelists gather regularly in the Oval office to lay on hands and pray for the President.
- In 2017, President Trump appoints Jerry Falwell Jr. to head up the White House Task Force on Reforming the U.S. Higher Education System. Betsy DeVos, another evangelical Christian, is appointed to head the Department of Education. These two evangelical leaders are tasked with reforming all of American education, pre-school through graduate school, private and public.
- In 2020, Roger Stone, after criminal conviction and pardon, becomes a born again Christian through the spiritual agency of Franklin Graham. Franklin is Billy Graham’s son, another famous minister and televangelist. Graham is a member of the Oval Office prayer group.
- In 2020, Jerry Falwell, Jr. resigns as Chancellor and President of Liberty University, and exits in disgrace with a ten million dollar severance package.
- In 2020, Reverend Todd Bell, pastor of the Cavalry Baptist church of Sanford, Maine presides at a sixty-five person, no masks, close quarters, wedding and reception, setting off a super-spreader event resulting in one-hundred and seventy-seven infections and seven deaths at three dispersed locations. Citing the preciousness of freedom to God’s children, the southern trained Reverend Bell rejects criticism and public health guidance. In the future, as in the past, Bell “will obey God over men.”
This section concludes with a column written by John Pavlovitz for the Milwaukee Independent on January 27, 2018. It takes the form of a letter to white evangelicals and is presented in totality here.
John Pavlovitz, Milwaukee Independent, Jan 27, 2018
Dear White Evangelicals,
I need to tell you something: People have had it with you. They’re done. They want nothing to do with you any longer, and here’s why:
They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy. For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity. They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character — all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.
And through it all, Christians — you never once suggested that God placed him where he was, you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family, you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities, you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance, you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy, your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership, your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him, you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.
You violently opposed him at every single turn — without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him. And yet today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth — that the mind boggles.
And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold. With him, you suddenly find religion. With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution. With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission. With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart. With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement. With him, you see only Providence.
And white Evangelical, all those people who have had it with you — see it all clearly. They recognize the toxic source of your duality. They see that pigmentation and party are your sole religion.
They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus. They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself. They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it. They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus, not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.
And I know you don’t realize it but you are digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition. Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power — but you’ve lost a whole lot more. You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness. You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation. You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness. You’ve lost the plot. And most of all you’ve lost your soul.
I know it’s likely you’ll dismiss these words. The fact that you’ve even made your bed with such malevolence, shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you.
But I had to at least try and reach you. It’s what Jesus would do. Maybe you need to read what he said again — if he still matters to you.
The Trump administration is trashing science at every turn—on the pandemic, fires, storms, environmental protection, and climate change. The President has appointed his own expert, Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist, to counter the fact-based advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, an epidemiologist, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. Dr.Atlas’s apparent job is to give the advice the President wants to hear (e.g. Masks and social distancing aren’t all that necessary; vaccines are the panacea).
There is irony here. Science is the only ideology that can defeat the virus and the only ideology that could help us address climate change and planet degradation. And science is the only route to a conquering vaccine and effective therapeutics. Yet, the President prefers his intuition to science.
White racism is deeply entrenched. The absurd non-resolution of the Breonna Taylor case reprises the non-results in the Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown killings, and so many more. Police are protected beyond reach and reason even when culpability is obvious
The general key to understanding the depth of white racism is shamefully simple. I know, I’m one. White liberals are easily spooked; they fear black neighborhoods as unreasonably as do avowed racists. It takes practically nothing in the way of black misbehavior for liberals to insist that police do their jobs. The “job” in the unspoken contract is for police to “supervise” and “control” black neighborhoods. Whites of all stripes demand it. That’s why police power is so routinely defended and justice denied.
An interesting case in Oregon makes hidden white racism visible. George Floyd is dead and Josie Stanfield, a young woman in her twenties, organizes a Black Lives Matter protest in her hometown of Prineville, Oregon. Prineville has ten thousand residents, with around hundred African American citizens. Stanfield had been targeted in high school for being black, so she knew personally what she was protesting against. Still, nothing much had happened in Prineville to draw attention to race until Stanfield’s activism. The general attitude toward her quickly became—and I embellish for effect—What are you doing? Why are you embarrassing us? Why are you bringing this unwanted publicity? Stop! This is not a racist town. Then all hell breaks loose. Accusations back and forth. Mad police chief. Counter protesters. Social media displays. Armed militia.
Small towns without a history of conflict presume that racism doesn’t exist. Theirs is a wonderful town where people are treated right, not like in the terrible cities! When a black person says otherwise, she is the cause of racism and gets severely censored. That is the racism. It doesn’t occur to the offended that the absence of having to think about race is itself a bonus privilege of white supremacy.
President Trump is embracing white supremacy, police action, vigilantes, and citizen militia more often as the campaign proceeds. The whiff and stench of racism is redolent. His supporters express fealty to him even as years of hypocritical Republican party ideology peel away into the dust pile of history. Racism is and has been the backbone of the Republican Party since President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Solid South” Democrats from Reconstruction days, of which Johnson was their leader, jumped ship to the Republican Party at that point and “the southern strategy” was born. Barry Goldwater’s campaign effected the shift. The chickens are coming back to roost now. Race is Trump’s core issue. It’s the reason supporters joined him. The stinking bait of “Birtherism” attracted racists to him as smartly as Tomcat attracts rats to a trap.
The affinity of evangelicalism to the Republican Party— with its soft racist underbelly—also supports this conclusion.
Speaking of rats, the Portland Maine Sunday telegram for September 27th reports that rats are migrating to human neighborhoods now that many of the city’s restaurants are shutdown. Rats need to eat too.
The rodents haven’t arrived in my neighborhood yet, but the turkeys have, I counted twenty-four recently on an adjacent lawn. There’s a general pattern here. As human traffic changes with the pandemic, animals and other living organism adjust and dance along. I can’t even imagine the animal migrations that must be underway in the fire zones out west. Nature watching promises to get even more interesting from now on. A friend of mine has been nursing a hummingbird back to health in Colorado. The animal hospitals are under pressure too.
The COVID-19 pandemic is aero-bombing along at a rapid rate. At this moment, Worldometer is reporting 33,630,004 infections and 1,007,887 deaths around the globe. Europe has a new fall surge underway. Israel is back on lockdown with an average 7000 cases a day, and India is hellish, with an eye popping 87,000 new cases a day over the past week.
Here in the United States, back to school, back to college, and back to football migrations are elevating the high infection and death rates of the summer even higher, to be topped off at some higher plateau, with flu season and a second wave of the virus approaching. At this moment, Johns Hopkins’ is reporting 7,156,562 infections and 205,161 deaths. Over 41,000 new cases and 1,112 deaths were reported for September 23rd alone. If this day is representative, 110,000 more Americans will die before New Years Day, bringing the total to around 310,000 deaths for the year. Sadly, this may prove an underestimate.
Still, no plan, no coordinated national attack on the virus. President Trump overlooks the pandemic as if it’s over. He speaks of having “turned the corner,” “doing fine,” and imminent vaccines. He claims the virus is not a threat to children (knowing full well they can transmit the disease) and downplays the danger to adults excepting elders who are already sick anyhow. He holds daily campaign rallies, a month before the election, with closely packed crowds. Masks are optional. While our situation may get worse—if more schools and colleges are forced to send their students home—it feels as if people are willing to tolerate a 40,000 infections a day average. Sadly, the numbers may get a lot higher if the virus really gets out of control.
Then There’s This
In a blockbuster story in the September 28th issue of the New York Times, it’s reported that President Trump paid no federal income taxes in eleven of the eighteen years they studied. In his first year as president, 2017, he paid $750. Many of his businesses lost large amounts of money, which he used to offset income, thus lowering his taxes to zero. He apparently owes hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that will soon come due. He may need the presidency to keep himself afloat financially and stay out of jail. Whatever the case, every taxpayer in the nation can say in disgust: I pay more taxes than the president does.
Perhaps this is one reason President Trump is unwilling to commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. The avowed problem is voting by mail during the pandemic. But voting by mail is beyond necessary; it’s reasonable, advised, and legal. There is no real problem. The President wants everyone to vote in person on November 3rd, to count up the votes immediately and declare him the victor by midnight. Since that is unlikely to happen, he concludes the system is corrupt and rigged against him. So the President says “ We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” and “take appropriate action.” It sounds like he intends to sue if he loses and take it all the way to the Supreme Court. Why otherwise would he be in a such a rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before election day?
Trump is unable to accept losing. He’s a winner! He’s not going to leave the Presidency. He’ll stay by hook or by crook, whatever it takes. We’ll just have to wait with everybody else to see how it all turns out!
This post started with a discussion of writing. Two often heard recommendations to ending a piece of writing are: end with a conclusion, and be hopeful. November 3rd will come and a safe and effective vaccine will likely be available next year, but nothing else I’ve been talking about is likely to end. There is no conclusion. And as for progress, who am I to say. By my age the politics of hope are day to day and deeply personal.
Other recommendations for ending include predict, prognosticate, prophecy. No, those won’t do. I’ll try poetry.
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Will Callender, Jr. ©
October 1, 2020
Issue Order Order IsbyWill Callender, Jr.October 1, 2020Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good