Bearing Witness

A very few of us now living lived through The Great Depression; only a very few more of us lived through WWII; some more than that of us lived through the Korean War; more yet of us lived through the Vietnam Era; and so it goes up until now. All of us now living may have thought of the possibility of seeing another war, pestilence, the disaster of Climate Change, … , may have even thought of the possibility of experiencing a pandemic; but who amongst us thought of witnessing the concurrence of a Trump presidency and this once in a century level COVID-19 Pandemic? In the past five years, each of us have witnessed a lifetime of history. These past five years have been equal several normal lifetimes.

On January 6, 2021, the unthinkable nearly happened. On that day in infamy, our venerated constitution barely survived to live another day. We are not out of those dark woods yet; our democracy is still very much on the block. A majority of one of our two political parties has chosen one-man rule over democracy; has joined the Trump cult. Of course, this didn’t just happen over night; fully one-fifth of those of us alive today have gotten to watch most of this unfold. Few, if any, of those one-fifth of us understood at any point what was going on during this time. Thus it was that Trump came as a shock to us, to the world. In the 20/20 of hindsight, it shouldn’t have. Enough was known. — How We Got Here

Now, here we are. Now, one of our two major political parties has, has for quite awhile, given up on democratic government. Now, and formally since at least 2009, the Republican Party has become the party of outrage, the anti-government party, the obstructionist party, the party of the mean and small-minded. Has become a party that would impose this meanness and small-mindedness on the Nation. This party that was not so long ago a valid and equal partner in governance has become the party of the mean and small-minded; the party led by the vile, venal, despicable, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. This now, our now, is a now with roots reaching back to the 1970s, to the 1870s, the 1770s, and beyond. A national now with one of its two a parties that, with very few exceptions, sends only the mean small-minded to both houses of Congress. A party that is long since bereft of ideas. Replace Obama Care? Hell, this lot is incapable of doing anything other than getting in the way of progress. A party that sends us representatives whose allegiances are not to any oath taken nor to the Constitution, but are to Trump. Representatives that are indeed representative of the mean small-minded people in the states that sent them. The party that just gave its stamp of approval to an insurrection, an attempt to overthrow a duly elected government, an attempt to end democracy; on the orders of Trump who had just been impeached for a second time, just been voted out of office. The party that colluded with Trump for the past four years is the same party that continues to pledge fealty to Trump at every opportunity.

Ours is a now with a media so blind they will not see. Will not see the differences between the likes of an ignorant, mean, small-minded, obstructionist, anti-government Senator; and an intelligent, diligent, and caring Senator seeking to form a more perfect union. Will not see the differences between an ignorant, indignant, loud mouthed, scoundrel, Representative; and an enlightened, thoughtful, patriotic one. Will not see a lie as a lie and a fact as a fact; doesn’t care to make the distinction. A media that doesn’t dare talk about proportionality; may not even want to know what it means. A media without the slightest idea of what is really going on, now; doesn’t care to know. A media that would script the news. These are the good guys in media. The bad guys include Fox News, a full and most constant partner in this descent of the Republican Party into a heap of worthless trash; and Facebook, an extremely irresponsible and powerful social media enterprise captained by a small-minded, extremely greedy, person missing a moral compass.

We have seen, front-row, the whole world has watched, our Nation fail spectacularly at coping with a pandemic. We have seen, front-row, leaders, the likes of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, seek to use economics as a weapon to force our poorest into going back to work when it was known that it was unsafe to do so; do so while refusing to take the steps necessary to make the workplace more safe. We watched as the Federal Government abdicated its responsibility for coping with this epic pandemic; leaving it up to the states. We have watched a year in which red-state governor after red-state governor sacrificed their State’s citizens in droves on the altars of economic and religious dogma; whilst doing little or nothing to protect them; instead, offering only mumbled cultural platitudes and banalities. We have watched front-row as more than 500,000 Americans have died in less than a year; the greatest majority of whom shouldn’t have. For months on end now, from our front-row seats, we have watched, sheep-like, this happening. In November 2020, given the chance, a majority of us demanded that Trump be held responsible for all those unnecessary deaths, for the harm he had done the Nation; seven-million more of us than the seventy-four-million Americans who said that what Trump, McConnell, et al, did and didn’t do was fine with them.

We have watched front-row as Trump co-opted the Justice Department, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services (including the NIH, the CDC, OSHA, …), Homeland Security, the USPS, …; we have watched America the Land of the Free and Home of The Brave become America of the lost spine, the home of heavily armed right-wing militias. Who would have ever thought it possible?

While our political system has failed us miserably of late, our, and the world’s, scientists has stepped forward and saved us from a much worse disaster. We have seen science perform spectacularly, and do so even as science deniers sought to take control of our government. We have watched front-row as science did stay focused, did get a grip on the behavior and nature of the COVID-19 virus, and did make that information public; all in the face of, in spite of, Trump using the Office of The President to spread lies and disinformation about the pandemic on a daily basis; in spite of his co-opting of the CDC and NIH.

We have witnessed front-row the science of blurred photos of DNA strands, of fruit flies labs of the 50s and 60s, of the new CRISPR technology, respond to the pandemic with highly effective, all new, mRNA vaccines. Not in years, but in months! Now, we get to witness the results; good, and, possibly, bad.

We have been witness to people adapting to the pandemic, to the science of the virus, by wearing mask and taking other precautions. From an awkward, disorganized, reluctant beginning fraught with political lies and B.S., to a Minot, North Dakota where, when their politicians failed them so miserably, the citizens took the necessary precautionary measures on their own. From a time when too many weren’t wearing a mask and social distancing, to one where almost everyone is. We watched as some of us didn’t adapt; greatly increasing the probability of their own and of those of their fellow travelers becoming infected, possibly dying. We watched as too many of us have chosen to follow Trump, not the science.

Some amongst us don’t like change, find adaptation very difficult. All around, and often, we hear the call for a return to normalcy, to the way things used to be. Pandemics do have a way of disrupting normalcy, don’t do normal. We have learned, or should have by now, is that we must adapt in order to survive. We have seen how our adapting, though far less than enough, has made a huge difference.

We have watched our leaders, because of a blind allegiance to dogma, or to Trump; use any excuse to make the same mistakes over and over, mistakes that have already cost too many thousands their lives. Exposing again the failings of our political system to provide us the quality of leadership the times demand. We’ve little reason to expect a big change anytime soon.