Plague Diary 28: The Great MAGA Virus

Does Trump Really Want to Kill Off His Supporters?

With the coronavirus rising again, especially in the Southern states that have formed the core of the president’s base, I seriously wonder if the Donald is trying to kill off his staunchest supporters? While eating lunch, I happened upon an article by Fintan O’Toole in the May 14, 2020 issue of the New York Review of Books entitled “Vector in Chief” from which this quote is excerpted:

We must bear in mind that Trump’s “real people,” the ones who make up his electoral base, are disproportionately prone to the chronic illnesses (“the underlying conditions”) that make Covid-19 more likely to prove fatal. A 2018 Massachusetts General Hospital study of more than three thousand counties in the US reported that

poor public health was significantly associated with the additional Republican presidential votes cast in 2016 over those from 2012. A substantial association was seen between poor health and a switch in political parties in the last [presidential] election.

For every marker of the prevalence of poor health (such as diabetes, obesity, days of illness, and mortality rates), there as a marked shift roward voting for Trump. Trump has acted in relation to Covid-19 like the God who tells the Jews to mark their homes with a sign so that the plague he is inflicting on Egypt will pass by their doors—with the malign twist that he has marked out his own chosen people for special harm.

How ironic! Following the example of their Great White Hope in the Whitest of White Houses, the voters attending his rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix are mostly not masked, and sneezing and coughing and shouting streams of coronavirus throughout the crowd. So far, Trump appears to be immune, but that is helped by the fact that he is a germaphobe who washes his hands incessantly with hand sanitizer.

Politics and Resentment

Robert E. Lee 30¢ Stamp Issue of 1957

My posting the day before yesterday entitled “Bulldozing the Past” ran into some opposition from two old friends of mine. I have a slightly different point of view toward figures of the past such as Robert E. Lee and Christopher Columbus. Both have become, as it were, figures of myth. I have two questions to ask:

  1. How dangerous are these myths today? —and—
  2. How dangerous is it to attempt to bury these myths as if they never existed?

Now I could see wanting to eradicate even the memory of Nazism, the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot, the massacres between to Hutus and Tutsi, the racism of Slobodan Milosevich and Ratko Mladic, and any number of other episodes in the last several hundred years. One does not want to be associated with mass murderers.

Both Columbus and the generals of the Confederacy were associated with death on a large scale. Probably the quote that Lee is most famous for is the following: “It is well that war is so terrible. Otherwise, we would grow too fond of it.” As for Columbus, most of the death that came in his train was from diseases lurking in the Spanish caravels that laid low the native population of the New World by the millions.

The Italians of America, however, revere the memory of Columbus: The Genoan Admiral of the Ocean Sea was one of them. As for the Confederacy, the myths relating to the War Between the States relate to the Lost Cause beliefs that the South was right to secede from the Union. There were decades of resentment prior to the Rebellion as the South tried vainly to balance their slavery-based agrarian culture against the more industrial North. These resentments still abound today, so it is tempting to want to wipe the slate of history clean at several key points.

But didn’t Trump get elected because a number of flyover states felt resentment at being slighted by the Democrats, by the bi-coastal mafia, even by Hillary Clinton, who assumed she didn’t need their votes to win the presidency?

Erasing still active myths is a dangerous business.

 

More Evil Than Trump

Yes, There Are Forces in America Even More Evil

I have friends who think that all that needs to happen for the good times to come again is for President Squid Lips to be ignominiously defeated and face a lifetime of legal actions arising from his grotesque corruption. But there are worse things to fear.

Most particularly, the people who support Trump are still around. These are the Ayn Rand followers, the ignoramuses of Flyover Country, the rich who want government to make them more rich, the racist haters, the sociopathic gun-lovers, and Confederates who refuse to recognize the surrender at Appomattox. Worst of all are the billionaires and millionaires, the heads of corporations whose sole political principle is self-aggrandizement. Even if the Trumpster dies in office from Coronavirus or STDs or just plain rotting from the inside just like Herod, the people who put him in office are still around. People like the “My Pillow” guy or the various criminals who occupy seats in the cabinet, the Barrs, the Mnuchins, the DeVoses.

Whatever happens to Trump, the United States is in for a long fight to protect their voting rights and their livelihoods and—in the case of African-Americans—their lives.

Election day is only a few months away. The Current Occupant will resume his red-hat rallies in Tulsa (scene of a 1921 massacre of blacks) on June 19 (or Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of slaves in Texas). With luck, his cohorts and co-conspirators will dwindle away between now and November—but don’t count on it!

 

 

Down with Twitter!

I Owe This Drawing to Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed

There is something deeply troubling about a President that spends the wee hours of the morning on the shitter while tweeting his unedited dissatisfactions at length. There are two possible solutions:

  1. Get rid of the President.
  2. Get rid of Twitter

If Trump were dipped into hot tar, coated with chicken feathers, and ridden out of Washington on a rail, we probably would not have to cringe at his disruptive Tweets. Ditto if society decided that Twitter as a medium of expression is best allowed to die—unsung and unloved. It would even be better if both options were put into action.

Never before has the United States had a leader whose every written (or even verbal) communication causes nothing but dismay or disgust.

That leads me to an interesting thought. If there were a Trump Presidential Library, what would go into it? There would be the Tweets, of course, and a series of Presidential Proclamations whose principal purpose was to undo the accomplishments of previous administrations. And also, who would pay to visit such a library? I suspect that even the 40% of the population that supports Trump would give such an institution a wide berth. (Bad-asses don’t read.)

The Trump Administration reminds me of the Coronavirus. It’s something I am dead set against, but prefer not to think about.

 

Plague Diary 25: False Dawn

A New Dawn Is Approaching … But Look Out for Storms

Yes, the authorities are gradually releasing us from our long quarantine; but we’re not out of the woods yet. After the 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic, the United States entered into a ten-year period of prosperity, until the Crash of 1929 put the kibosh on that. It would be nice to think that everything will be hunky-dory within a few weeks or so. Fat chance.

Except for one thing: That man in the White House. He was personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, and he is itching to send thousands more into the next world. He continues to be supported of legions of bitter-enders who will support him regardless what he does, because he is one of them—a bona fide bad ass. If Trump should be reelected this November, I think the United States is in for it. In the end, I even think there will be another attempt at secession, and maybe that’s what it’ll take in the long run. The bad-asses will want to set up their own New Revised Confederate States of America.

As I look into the future, I have no pollyanna visions of everything coming together in a great cumbia of toleration. The battle lines are being drawn, and they look pretty hard and fast to me.

 

 

Rights vs “Rats”

End Quarantine Protest in Huntington Beach

They are both the same word, but “rats” (R1) is the Southern Confederate drawl version of “rights” (R2). They do not, however, refer to the same thing. R1 people are likely to insist that this is a free country, meaning they are free to do anything they want, even if it causes harm, like shouting “Fire!” precipitating a riot in a crowded theater. They are free to think that whatever they believe is true, such as that Covid-19 is a lie.

Myself, I consider myself to be an R2 person. I have certain inalienable rights, but these stop short when they cause harm. If I fire an AR-15 automatic rifle into a crowd, the possibility of killing multiple people puts a limit on my “rats.” Likewise, going to a crowded bar, getting coronavirus, and passing the disease on to my friends and relatives, possibly killing several of them, is to my mind a criminal act.

Confederate Prisoners Fighting for Their “Rats”

I first stumbled onto the difference in a scene from the 1993 Ted Turner film Gettysburg, when C. Thomas Howell, playing the part of Lieutenant Thomas Chamberlain, comes across a group of Confederate prisoners and asks them what they were fighting for. He doesn’t quite understand their answer, that it wasn’t for slavery that they were fighting, but for their “rats,” making him wonder why they were talking about vermin. It’s interesting to me that one person’s rights could be seen as another person’s crimes.

I see Trump in a difficult position. The disease is a serious one, and at the same time the economy is in dire straits. On one hand, his return-to-work policy could result in tens of thousands of deaths, especially of those misguided people who believe in him. On the other, it could lose him his presidency if his followers get so an inkling of what is really happening.

 

“Heroes” and “Warriors”

Comrades Brezhnev and Nixon: За здоровье!

Under the rule of Hero of the White Race Donald Jehoshaphat Trump, it is suspiciously reminiscent of the bad old days of the Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. Both rulers are mentally decrepit, yet outwardly pugnacious. To come up to the Brezhnev standard, our Presidente is now using battlefield language. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times:

Donald Trump has described himself as a “wartime president” during the coronavirus crisis, and now he seems to have found his army as he pushes the country to reopen despite the risks.

In recent days, he’s begun describing citizens as “warriors” in the battle against the pandemic and suggested some of those fighters might have to die if that will help boost the economy.

“Will some people be affected? Yes,” he said on a trip to Arizona this week, his first outside of the Washington area in nearly two months. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”

Notice the two medals that Brezhnev is sporting. One of them signifies that he is a Hero of the Soviet Union:

Hero of the Soviet Union Medal

Perhaps Trump needs to send us—in addition to those putative $1,200 checks—a medal signifying that we are Heroes of the Chinese Virus War.

I for one do not wish to be a “hero” or “warrior” as Trump defines it. That could only mean in Trumpspeak that we are losers. It is preferable to the Donald that all the “heroes” and “warriors” die nobly so that he could look good at our collective obsequies.

 

Rintrah Roars

Cover of William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

I find myself coming back to it again and again. Ever since I was a student in college, I regarded William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” one of the greatest poems in the English language. Following is the opening of it, or “The Argument”—very appropriate as we wait for a rare thunderstorm to arrive around midnight.

The Argument

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Once meek, and in a perilous path,
The just man kept his course along
The vale of death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.

Then the perilous path was planted:
And a river and a spring
On every cliff and tomb;
And on the bleached bones
Red clay brought forth.

Till the villain left the paths of ease,
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility,
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam.

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

I love the second last stanza about the just man raging in the wilds. As I despondently view the condition of the Republic under Trump as his brigands, the following quote from the second part of the poem gives me hope:

Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.

From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.

Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

All we could do is grasp the hide of the Tiger that is History and try not to fall off.

 

Dégueulasse

I Don’t Recall Ever Being Satisfied by an Election

I remember being invited out to a homecooked French dinner at my friend Alain’s apartment. I fancied myself as as a proficient speaker of French, so when asked for my opinion of the scrumptious meal, I merely said it was dégueulasse. Oops! Apparently that means “repulsive” or “disgusting.” I was able to talk my way out of that mess, though I did get a few stony looks.

Well, I could say that my opinion of the Super Tuesday election results is a heartfelt dégueulasse. But then, I have never been satisfied when the voters finally speak. This goes back to my first election, in 1968, when rather than vote for Hubert Humphrey after the debacle at the Democratic convention in Chicago, I wrote in the name of Otto Schlumpf, a Franciscan priest who shared my then-Progressive political ideology.

Do I really like any of the four remaining contestants? Probably I like Elizabeth Warren the most, but she is not likely to get nominated. Biden’s problems with speech remind me of either the onset of Alzheimers or a pre-stroke condition known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). I got a TIA myself once when I suddenly found myself babbling incoherently to a co-worker. (I immediately asked the secretary to call an ambulance.) Curiously, Trump has the same problem; only, his supporters will forgive him anything short of raping and murdering an underage girl on the steps of the Capitol Building.

Although I like Bernie Sanders and find he has a sharp mind, I fear that the American voter is too conservative to select either him or Elizabeth Warren.

What is more, all four candidates are in their seventies. I myself am 75. If the final Democratic nominee does not pick a younger vice president, we are doomed to a gerontocracy.

 

 

No-News Booze Cruise

It’s That Time Again

I suspect that one of the reason so many Americans don’t vote is that politics as practiced in these United States is so divisive and utterly ugsome. With the many 24-hour news channels hammering into our brains and all the phone calls and TV ads, we all look forward wistfully to the day after the November elections—provided that we don’t have another 2016 debacle on our hands.

The above cartoon was in today’s Los Angeles Times in Wiley Miller’s underrated “Non Sequitur” comic strip. I laughed as I thought about the endless Democratic debates and the never-ending tweets of our orange-headed troll of a president. Treating our obsession with the news as an info-virus was a stroke of genius.

When I spent election day 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, I thought I was being smart. Instead, learning that Trump won, I seriously considered for a few minutes staying in South America, but I did return to the mess that greeted me when I returned to our borders.

In recent weeks, there are some of my friends with whom I refuse to discuss politics. I just mutter something about endlessly covering “Subject A” and hurriedly trying (not always successfully) to change the subject.