We're living in a collapsing tripod of tragedy, each leg of which is shakily holding up the other in an increasingly futile attempt at restoring "normal." The first leg is the virus: Today's USA Covid casualty count is 4.56M cases with 154,000 known deaths. If we take experts at Johns Hopkins and the CDC at their word (not a given these days pending which tribe you're a member of)), the real count is more like 50 million cases, a 10X increase due to the homicidal failure of our Federal leadership (sic) to institute aggressive test and trace policies, nationwide. Twenty-one of our 50 states are reeling from record case loads, overwhelming resource-impoverished hospitals and emergency rooms. Deaths are climbing by the day. Left in its current state, the virus is projected to claim about 400,000 US citizens by the end of the year.
But you wouldn't know it by the reaction in DC. Louis Gohmert, Congressman from Texas and one of the leading Alex Jones, Fox-addled troglodytes of the GOP caucus. He wandered into the Capitol without a mask lo these many months and, my whiskers and paws, wouldn't you know that he came down with Covid? In his infinite wisdom, he blames mask-wearing for becoming infected. Worse, he insisted that his staff not only show up physically for work at the Capitol, but not wear masks at any time. And Gohmert's and Trump's enablers in the GOP, Fox and the Alt-Right lunasphere are extolling the virtues of hydrochloroquine, alien DNA and Demon sperm with straight faces.
The second leg is the economy. By anyone's estimation and objective measure, it's worse than the Depression of the 1930s: 50 million unemployed, hundreds of thousands of small businesses permanently lost and fully 1/3 of our GDP down the drain in a single quarter. You wouldn't know this by watching the stock market take off to Pluto the last three months, or housing prices firm up in the face of potentially millions of mortgage defaults coming down the road.
The third and final leg should be the most sturdy but is the most precarious. The aggressive and specific assault on our democracy and the rule of law. There is so much here and all of it tied to the re-election of the first foreign agent and traitor to occupy the White House. National troops sent into US cities. Voter suppression. Demonization, tear gassing and clubbing of US citizens exercising the First Amendment rights. A president, not only refusing to say if he will honor the results of a legitimate election, but advocating for overthrowing one of the most fundamental Constitutional principles and delaying voting day. Eight unaccountable phone calls to Vladimir Putin in two weeks. Bill Barr stonewalling the Congressional Judiciary Committee, basically telling them to "pound sand" when being rightfully accused of enabling Trump's autocratic putsch.
We are a nation being savaged by elected anarchists, who's boldness and gall overwhelms people who cherish institutions. due process, compromise and common interest--the things that have made America great throughout its history. And they're not the ones with spray paint defacing the courthouse in Portland. They sit in the halls of the US Congress, in state legislators, in the blogosphere and run rampant and unchecked on Facebook. We have tolerated, nurtured and promoted the kind of ignorant rage-based anarchy that has germinated tyranny throughout history. We reap what we have sown.
Tom Nichols, a conservative columnist for USA Today gets it exactly right:
"We long ago became a narcissistic nation whose citizens believe they can become competent in almost any subject by watching enough television and spending enough time on the internet. But I was certain that a true national crisis — a war, a depression, or yes, a pandemic — would snap people back to reality. I was wrong to be so optimistic."
"There is no one more responsible for this particular moment than President Donald Trump, but all he has done is play to a gallery whose seats were already full by the time he ran for office. Trump appealed to a powerful sense of narcissistic grievance among millions of Americans, nurturing it and feeding it. An entire claque of enablers joined in, knowing there was plenty of money to be made feeding this self-centered, anti-social nihilism."
And gets to the crux of the situation we face today:
"Americans who are now driving the pandemic are not sudden skeptics about masks or distancing or expert opinion because of street protests. Some of them reject expertise because of the previous “failures” of experts. This is always one of the reflexive explanations for the refusal to listen to the educated and experienced. Expert failures are real and happen every day, but the people who sullenly refuse to wear a mask during a pandemic are not doing so because the United States failed to find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, or because the housing market crashed in 2008.
Rather, they are doing so because they see endangering others as empowerment, a way of telling people whom they believe look down on them that no one, no matter how smart or accomplished, can tell them what to do. For these people, our national motto is not “In God We Trust” or “E Pluribus Unum,” but rather: “You’re Not the Boss of Me.”
There is a lot written these days about total cultural collapse, which many in the media brought about by spending the past three and a half years trying to normalize the abnormal. It all seemed hyperbolic even a year ago. They, and our elected representatives, gave these people a pass, hewing to tradition and ignoring the possibility that Trump and the GOP really meant what they said. What looks like treason, might actually be treason. Remember the excuse, "don't listen to what he says?" The message has been loud and clear, from Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, Beck and Breitbart. Tear it down. All of it. The wrecking ball is swinging hard, knocking the legs out of what has always been an enlightened and fragile relationship between people and power. We'll just have to see which, if any, of the pillars of our society are left standing.