Our nation is consumed with concerns over the coronavirus, as we should be. In relentless pursuit of its victims, it has crippled the nation’s economy, and now taken more lives than all those who died during the Vietnam War. Soon it will be 100,000. However, despite the horrific events of this pandemic, there is another national disaster that we ignore at our own peril: what is happening to our country under the Trump administration.
It seems as though we have developed a national immunity to reason, as we passively accept the degrading of some of our most cherished and honored institutions. It will be to our everlasting regret if we turn a blind eye to the incompetency, nepotism, and cronyism that have so far characterized this administration.
And it’s not just our national institutions under attack. Mr. Trump roundly criticized NATO, the World Health Organization, and sought to undermine the United Nations, a favorite whipping boy of the right. Add to this his attacks on the Paris Accords on climate change, the World Bank, and other international organizations. We should not casually dismiss these attacks, but recognize them for what they are: deliberate and determined attempts to dismantle our participation in international affairs, and weaken global cooperation. This is driven by myopic nationalism and the promotion of the wacky idea of “American exceptionalism,” a code for isolationism from the rest of the world.
The absence of responsible leadership at the top is appalling. Mr. Trump’s unfitness for office is demonstrated daily, and so few in the nation seem to be paying attention. His constant belittling of the press is a calculated strategy to deflect criticism of his actions, and sow mistrust of professional journalism. In the past 3-1/2 years we seem to have become lulled into accepting what in the past would have been seen as egregious and reprehensible behavior on the part of the occupant of the White House.
Reflecting his administration’s bungling of the national response to the pandemic, Mr. Trump recently visited a company in Arizona that makes masks. Despite the almost universal recommendations from health care experts here and around the world to wear masks for our own protection and the protection of others around us, Mr. Trump declined to wear one on his factory tour. He repeated this in a visit to a plant in Pennsylvania.
When asked by reporters afterwards about this decision, he has stated, that he “didn’t want to send the wrong message.” WHAT? This, less than three weeks after having suggested that ingesting, or being injected with commercial disinfectants might work as a treatment against the coronavirus. When quizzed by reporters about what might have prompted a significant spike in calls to poison control centers around country, he replied with a straight face: “I have no idea.” This was the same response given when physical attacks on Chinese-American and Asian-American citizens occurred, following his persistent reference to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus.” When asked about the probable connection between his public remarks and these racist attacks on U.S. citizens, he again insisted there was no correlation.
But words have consequences.
Just recently, Mr. Trump conducted a “Town Hall Meeting” inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he was interviewed by two reporters from Fox News. The irony of this can scarcely be exaggerated: Mr. Trump, who has a documented history of at least 16,000 outright lies and misstatements since his election (Washington Post), sitting in front of the statue of perhaps the greatest U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln. A president whose nickname is Honest Abe! Disgraceful hardly begins to describe Mr. Trump’s behavior.
Mr. Trump’s interview in this hallowed setting is a virtual desecration of our national memorial, the same memorial where singer Marian Anderson, denied permission in 1939 by the Daughters of the American Revolution to perform at Constitution Hall because she was African-American, gave a memorable concert of historical significance.
Furthermore, under this administration the Environmental Protection Agency has been emasculated, weakening Clean Air and Clean Water regulations and emission standards. The nation’s health care watchdog, the Centers for Disease Control, has been stymied in its efforts to educate the public about the coronavirus, and provide advice to the states on virus mitigation and control measures.
Attempting to shield his actions from scrutiny, he has shamelessly sacked a number of federal “whistleblowers,” whose job of oversight it is to keep the government on the straight and narrow. This is intolerable for Mr. Trump.
Under the direction of Attorney General William Barr, the Justice Department has become a tool of the Trump administration, blatantly working to subvert justice, for transparently political reasons. (See: Michael Flynn.)
Mr. Trump repeatedly makes false claims about the “dangers” of mail-in voting, without a shred of evidence, further undermining the democratic process in his administration’s shameful attempts to limit voter participation in the electoral process. In the meantime, he continues his endless imbecilic and infantile tweets.
Thomas Paine said long ago, “These are the times that try men’s souls”. But we must have faith that this too shall pass.
The question is how long it will take to repair the damage done by Mr. Trump, and restore a sense of national decency, social and economic justice, and mutual respect among all Americans.