Trump Meets COVID-19 and America is “A Loser”
“Because we can choose.” This is Bill McKibben’s inscription in my signed copy of Falter, his most recent book on climate change. It was his tentative message of hope that I gleaned from his book talk in May of 2019 at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont, a year, and seemingly a lifetime ago. Yesterday, I remembered his words as I saw these messages: Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Hopeful on our local, shuttered theater, the Flynn Center. These are other invitations “we can choose” to act on in the midst of a pandemic. Or not.
Imagine how different American morale, including social and mental health climates, would be if our country’s leadership generated thoughtful, science-based actions, and compassionate unifying messages? Or if the federal government invited us to see the mutual opportunity of COVID-19, to work together and care about each other, as some state governors have? What if the federal leadership outlined and modeled collective, pro-active steps to address COVID-19 — and climate change — another serious threat to human health and existence, now and going forward? What would the United States look like then? Or the economy?
But this approach would require a collective vision, a critical respect for evolving knowledge and history, emotional intelligence, and compassion, all gestures and qualities that are not compatible with narcissism and/or short-term profiteering at any and all costs. Instead, we have the Emperor-Lying Buffoon as a leader, not a Wise Visionary, and we die in body and spirit a little more each day because of it. Literally.
Paradox exists in everything and is rife in this moment. Trump was (and continues to be) primarily concerned about the pandemic’s impact on the economy and reacted with denial and mis-direction, especially from January into March when an aggressive, nationally coordinated response was essential. He hoped his rambling rhetoric, such as: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,” would be enough to prevent his greatest fear — volatility and losses on Wall Street — his other golden throne.
Had Trump accepted, versus ignored, the briefings’ forewarnings on COVID-19, and mobilized the country to prepare pragmatically and psychologically, it would have allowed for a proactive response, similar to other global models. Ironically, this could have lessened the economic fall-out, increased pandemic-related manufacturing, science and tech employment, and resulted in fewer infection rates and deaths. Instead, he and we are learning a deadly lesson every day: viruses are immune to denial, hyperbole, mis-direction, and lies, Trump’s skill sets. On May 2nd, with approximately 64,900 Americans dead, we are left to address the ongoing toll and lack of preparedness from Trump’s brand of “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
So what does personal accountability look like right now as an American citizen? This question has been living in the shadows since 9/11 with our federal commitment to permanent wars and seeping bloodshed on foreign soils. It has also been living in synchronicity with a capitalistic economy that has become increasingly predatory and rapacious. Like it or not, we are observing what happens when a democracy has become so deeply twisted into an oligarchy, with high tech propaganda to incite, misdirect, and divide the citizenry with siloing algorithms, that the electoral process mono-crops puppets of corporate influence, not true representatives of the electorate.
Trump or Biden, albeit different flavors, the stripes of corporate influence will still reign. Citizens are left scared, confused, angry, sad, and turned against each other, courtesy of Trump and both political parties’ finger-pointing and gridlock dysfunction. As the government pivots back to “opening the economy,” it is acceptable to our national leaders that a portion of Americans will be sacrificed for the economy. (As of May 4th, according to the New York Times, 3,000 deaths a day are anticipated by June 1st.) Clearly, we do not “have this under control.” However, the government’s message is stunningly clear, and similar to our inaction related to mass shootings: political gain and profits matter more than people.
Ain’t that America? Right now?
In the current tilt-a-world, it’s hard to tell what’s up or down anymore. Or how anyone or any group decides what a healthy, short or long-term, collective vision for America looks like.
However, on this spring day when the sun is shining and the Dogwood trees are dressed in pink blossoms, Bill McKibben’s and the Flynn Center’s messages offer a combined reminder of human goodness:
Because we can choose.