"America will change when enough Americans no longer
accept leaders who lie--even those of their own party."
- Larry Kummer
"Denial is not a river in Egypt. It is a swamp in America."
- Maria Vandegrift
During the Coronavirus lockdown, life has gotten strangely spiritual. As the pandemic spreads, the invisible virus that has caused so much anxiety and chaos has imbued the word Corona with an increasingly menacing connotation, belying its etiology in science and the arts. The dictionary defines it as the circle of light around a luminous object, such as the halo visible during a solar eclipse. In 17th century art, a corona was depicted as a crown of light around the heads of saints and other sacred beings. In ancient Greek literature the word refers to the golden light that radiates above the heads of gods and military heroes. But for most Americans today, instead of raising consciousness to higher realms of truth and beauty, Corona provokes eerie feelings of existential pain induced by the empty shelves at grocery stores, nearly deserted streets, closed schools, churches, and businesses and the overarching anxiety provoked by radically altered perceptions of what existence on earth is really all about. The name of the current mutation, or novel of the virus, COVID-19, may be less poetic than Corona, but the cold, clinical acronym aptly reflects the dire health risks posed by the virus, as well as the bleak social and economic landscape it has created worldwide.
"God is apparently trying to get our attention," exclaimed a woman to her friend ahead of me in line at the drugstore recently. The idea of a God that intervenes in the affairs of men tends to be a common refrain in tough times and this ordeal is no exception. "Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world," wrote C. S. Lewis in his classic Mere Christianity, and sage Ajahn Jummien, in an Inquiring Mind interview said "The Dharma often grows most deeply in the soil of difficulty . . . All of our difficult experiences in life are Heavenly messengers . . . They come to teach us."
If there is a lesson and perhaps even a silver lining in the dark cloud of COVID-19, perhaps it's how the virus has forced us to question all the everyday patterns in our lives that we previously took for granted. In addition to highlighting the preciousness of toilet paper and paper towels, the pandemic brought into sharp focus this country's many dysfunctional arrangements with reality, especially the for-profit healthcare system that millions of Americans don't even have access to, the predatory crony-capitalist ethos that's destroying the natural environment, and an economy that benefits the rich one percent of the population at the rest of society's expense. The blessing hidden in the dark cloud of COVID-19 is the truth that's been revealed for all to see. For those who "have eyes to see, let them see," is a good spiritual maxim in these difficult times. Lawrence Wright in his New Yorker magazine piece Crosswords, a deep interview with medical historian Gianna Pomata, points out, "Like wars and depressions, a pandemic offers an X-ray of society, allowing us to see all the broken places."
As former president Donald Trump incessantly said, "Nobody has ever seen anything like it." Well, of course, just about everybody has now seen America's "broken places" and awareness of the drift toward fascism is growing every day thanks to the antics of the deranged captain Trump who nearly ran the ship of state aground. Politics has always been plagued by grifters and racketeers, especially among our so-called public servants who tend to serve money and power for the most part, rather than truth and justice. Over a century ago their game plan was described by Boies Penrose, a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. "I believe in a division of labor," he said. "You send us to Congress, we pass laws under which you make money and out of your profits, you further contribute to our campaign funds to send us back again to pass more laws to enable you to make more money." Today, as Ralph Nader points out in his indispensable book Breaking Through Power, ninety-eight percent of the members of Congress are bought and paid for, just as Penrose described. "From the standpoint of a democratic society," Nader writes, "both oligarchy and plutocracy are inherently unjust and corrupt." Things are so bad that voting for either a Democrat or a Republican in our two-party elections is a vote that's wasted from a democratic perspective. What professor Sheldon Wolin called the Democratic Party's long standing "inauthentic opposition" to power, the media's reluctance to challenge the fascist policies of the Trump administration and the failure of Republicans to defend the Constitution ahead of politics in the impeachment process, proves the point.
There are many other examples. The Congress and its vast bureaucracy, including the military/industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about, has knowingly deceived the public for years about important matters and continues to do so with impunity. For almost four years we've had a President who lied just about every time he opened his mouth. The fealty of the Republicans to this pathological liar has been astonishing, but then so is the failure of the Democrats to impeach George W. Bush for the preemptive illegal war in Iraq (a war crime). And we must not forget the failure of the legislative branch to impeach Obama for expanding the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Yemen and for signing into law Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act which overturned the Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits the use of military as a domestic police force. And what about the failure of Congress to challenge the move to place the entire country under NSA surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment? Both parties have consistently failed to challenge infringements of presidential powers and breaches of the public trust. The Democrats impeached Trump for soliciting foreign contributions and bribery, but failed to mention his infringements of the Appointments Clause that requires naming public officials with congressional consent, the Due Process Clause, the Treaty Clause, the Declare War clause, the Emoluments Clauses, the Appropriations Clause and many other egregious transgressions against the Constitution, a document all of these public servants took an oath to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic.
What's been revealed by the crisis so far hasn't brought any alternative mandates for change into clear focus yet, but hope abounds. In addition to exposing the nation's lack of competent leadership, the pandemic also has the potential to serve as an agent of political unification and democratic renewal. Such miracles will have to be accomplished through grass roots civil disobedience, however, since the vision outlined by Joe Biden in his acceptance speech as the Democratic nominee for President in Wilmington, Delaware on August 20 didn't amount to much beyond an airy address ridden with platitudes and trite rhetoric. As a counter force to the angry, divisive presidency of Donald Trump, Biden mostly offered empty promises. He talked of "extraordinary possibilities . . . a chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite . . . a path of hope and light and a future made in America." It all sounded wonderful, but in the final analysis there was little in the way of reality-based specifics. Nor was there any detailed discussion of economic policy, which is problematical given Biden's corporatist record. As Norman Solomon bluntly states the case on Truthdig.com, "Biden has a media image that exudes down-to-earth caring and advocacy for regular folks. But his actual record is a very different story."
Evan Osnos presents the evidence in his excellent New Yorker magazine profile Man in the Middle: "In the Senate, Biden accrued a record that, to today's progressives, resembles the counts of an indictment." To Wit: "Overseeing the confirmation hearings of the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, he failed to insure that Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment were fairly and fully examined," writes Osnos. "He voted for the deregulation of Wall Street, the Defense of Marriage Act, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the war in Iraq . . . Nothing in Biden's record has dogged him more than his role in drafting the 1994 crime bill, the most sweeping legislation of its kind in American history. The bill contributed to the problems of mass incarceration by creating a federal 'three strikes' law, encouraging longer jail terms, and granting billions of dollars to states to build more prisons."
Biden also allied himself with segregationists in the fight against busing, and worked assiduously to smooth the legislative way for cuts to Social Security and Medicare and promoted legal measures friendly to credit-card companies and big banks. It's also noteworthy that one of Biden's fundraisers is David Cohen, principle lobbyist for Comcast, arguably America's most hated monopoly and a company that supports fascist policies such as ending net neutrality and repealing broadband privacy protections. So, for progressives, the former Vice President is a big problem since a Biden election offers no relief from the economic oppression of plutocratic corporatism. As Green Party activist David McCorquodale points out, "I know even former Greens who feel Biden's election is crucial, because it booted Trump out. But Trump has succeeded in moving the bars a bit more in the continual evolution toward an Imperial Presidency. Biden won't give those powers back, nor will any corporatist president. It's brought a sigh of relief for civility, but Biden's election might buy the corporatists more time to make things even worse. Meanwhile, is there any way to put the fascist impulses that Trump unleashed back into the bottle?"
Heather Cox Richardson shared her concerns about the issue of authoritarianism raised by McCorquodale on her August 30, 2020, Substack blog, Letters from an American. "Scholars have seen worrisome signs all along," she posted. "Trump has dismissed nonpartisan career officials and replaced them with loyalists. He has fired the independent inspectors general. He denies Congress's right and duty to investigate members of the Executive Branch. He has used the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement officers of the Executive Branch as a private army. He has packed the courts. He has used the government to advance the interests of himself and his family, which he has installed into government positions. He has solicited help from foreign governments to get reelected. And he and his cronies tried to undermine our election by preemptively saying the Democrats were committing fraud and by slowing down mail service when voters need to be able to mail in their ballots."
In exposing the fascist tactics of the Trump administration and the erosion of democratic values in America's corrupt two-party corporate system, the Coronavirus pandemic is surely an epiphany, a sudden, striking event that has brought the juggernaut of global capitalism to a grinding halt. And like pandemics in the past, it has also initiated a collective, intuitive realization that new arrangements in the affairs of mankind must be made if we are to survive. We can choose to ignore the lessons illuminated by the event and proceed with our usual greedy and bankrupt ideas until the next crisis, or we can grasp the new reality that's being disclosed and chart a new course for the future.
"After many decades of truancy, when our markets and politics and pop culture valorized extreme egoism," writes Eric Liu in The Atlantic, "COVID-19 has offered us a crash course in civic character. The pandemic is forcing Americans to choose, very visibly, whether to live like citizens or like sociopaths. Citizens see in systems, while sociopaths see only themselves; citizens defer short-term gratification for long-term benefit, while sociopaths flip the sequence."
The arrival of COVID-19, one of those "Heavenly Messengers" mentioned by Ajahn Jummien, has exposed the sociopaths running the country and the moral rot driving their neoliberal, survival-of-the-fittest credo expressed in former President Trump's vile response to the nation about the virus, an initial stance more concerned with the health of the stock market and his own financial interests rather than the nation's security. The Tweeter-in-Chief's lack of empathy was reflected in his public communications style, his "habit of filtering American politics through the prism of American entertainment," as The Atlantic's Megan Garber describes it. "Like a lot of Hollywood stars, he chose Twitter as his primary communications vehicle, one that exploits its user base to promote products and mine user data." It is a message platform that Lewes, Delaware-based media analyst Sandy Piper characterized as "another feature of America's demented celebrity culture."
Trump's preference for mindless media set the tone for his tweets ever since he took office. Even his formal White House briefings reflected his administration's egregious lack of empathy and respect for the truth. Trump's eagerness to encourage protests against social-distancing guidelines in order to get the economy going is a case in point, a reckless plan of action that put millions of lives at risk. Democratic strategist Brad Bannon stated in The Guardian on April 21 that the president's message in his daily press briefings seemed to be motivated by concerns for his re-election bid rather than the welfare of his fellow Americans. "The reality is Trump was too late to recognize the crisis, and he was too early in wishing it away," he concluded.
Despite the irrefutable scientific evidence, for many weeks Trump stubbornly dismissed the Coronavirus as a hoax and a conspiracy perpetrated by the Democrats. Worst yet, he blamed America's governors for delays in responding to the crisis and implied that the shortage of medical supplies was the fault of hospital staff who were involved in stealing masks and ventilators. He also lied about the number of test kits that were available in an effort to create his own reality about the situation, often hurling threats at reporters, especially women, who dared to question him. The damage to America's standing in the international community because of Trump's dishonesty and abusive ineptitude moved Harvard University professor of International Relations Stephen Walt to call the president's behavior "a failure of character unparalleled in US history."
Former Vice President and now President-elect Joe Biden, the man chosen by the Democrats to end Donald Trump's pathological presidency, put it mildly when he weighed in on the issue last April, noting "The virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration." The Financial Times newspaper was more specific, pointing out how the President "played down the seriousness of the pandemic . . . providing misleading information." When the Coronavirus pandemic arose in China, Donald Trump predicted that it would have little or no impact on the U.S., but the virus didn't miraculously disappear as the president imagined and Americans began dying in droves. Citing Trump's "eccentric and terrifying quackery," The New Yorker magazine's Steve Coll stated "the case the President made for an economic revival against the advice of scientists was morally odious." Trump's response to health officials who advised against plans to shorten social distancing rules, according to Coll, was to lash out "at the 'Lame Stream Media' . . . calling the press . . . the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in hope that it will be detrimental to my election success."
Trump's egregious mendacity and incompetence in dealing with the crisis has been, in Atlantic columnist Peter Wehner's words,"head snapping." Wehner, a lifelong Republican and contributing writer to the magazine issued this prescient warning about Trump back in 2016. "Mr. Trump's virulent combination of ignorance, emotional instability, demagogy, solipsism and vindictiveness would do more than result in a failed presidency; it could very well lead to a national catastrophe. The prospect of Donald Trump as Commander in Chief should send a chill down the spine of every American." One such American is actor Robert DiNiro who stated on CNN, "This guy shouldn't be president. Period." Meanwhile, comedian Jimmy Kimmel, another citizen in need of spinal chill relief said, "We have a crazy person running our country, and not only that, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll, all five top Democratic candidates are polling ahead of him." Other categories polling ahead of Trump, Kimmel also noted, included bedbugs, Honey Boo-Boo and genital herpes.
Trump's inability to tell the truth, earning him the sobriquet Dishonest Don, was a great source of mirth and it's true that a lot of the loony stuff he tweeted and said aloud at briefings was grist for the entertainment mills. The problem is, Trump's lies led to deadly serious consequences, as the coronavirus pandemic illustrates. With Trump in the White House, Robert DiNiro told Stephen Colbert, "Is like living in an abusive household. You don't know what crazy thing is going to happen next. He's a fake president; he calls everything fake because he knows he's fake." As the Washington Post published on April 3, 2020, "In 1,170 days, president Trump has made over 18,000 false or misleading claims." That number of Trump's lies rose to over 30,000 by the election, including whoppers in what CNN called "the most dishonest speech of his presidency" delivered on Thursday November 5, on the verge of likely defeat by Joe Biden. Meanwhile, the number of American deaths due to COVID-19 surpassed 230,000, a statistic Trump insanely deemed a measure of the excellent job he did managing the pandemic. The US, with four percent of the global population, has suffered 25 percent of COVID-19 deaths and millions Americans have been infected.
"Urging Americans to plow headfirst into a deadly crisis that is racking up horrific numbers of dead is an unprecedented abdication of presidential leadership," Richardson noted in a previous blog post, "Trump is doubling down on the idea that the United States must simply reopen, and take the resulting deaths as a cost of doing business." This was another contentious policy of a president who thought it was OK to scrap environmental policies already in place to produce clean energy and reduce air pollution. The White House's then resident sociopath also favored rolling back legal protections for endangered species, increasing logging on public lands, dropping climate change from the list of national security threats, and diminishing the prosecuting power of the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Taken together," Peter Wehner writes in his March 7, 2020 Atlantic column, "This is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests." David Frum, also writing in The Atlantic, challenged Trump's continual refusal to take responsibility for his lies and his administration's poor management of the crisis. "That the pandemic occurred is not Trump's fault," Frum wrote. "The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump's fault." In a recent Guardian newspaper interview, professor Noam Chomsky struck a particularly somber note in the chorus of indictments of the president when he said that Trump is culpable in the deaths of thousands of Americans because of his decision to cut funding for healthcare and infectious disease research in order to benefit wealthy corporations. "That's something that Trump has been doing every year of his term, cutting back more . . . to make sure that the population is as vulnerable as he can make it, that it can suffer as much as possible, but will of course increase profits for his primary constituents in wealth and corporate power."
Meanwhile, Fox News and other sycophantic elements of the media shamelessly helped Trump in his efforts to deflect blame. Just prior to the election the president brazenly congratulated himself in public for doing a great job, awarding himself a "ten," while the real credit for confronting the crisis honestly and effectively belongs to the nation's healthcare workers, scientists, food service employees and other critical personnel out on the front lines of the pandemic, people of integrity dedicated to the common good, working selflessly and courageously to get the pandemic under control. Their efforts are the valued expressions of democratic unity that New Yorkers celebrate at seven o'clock every evening when, as David Remick documents in The New Yorker magazine, "In many neighborhoods across the city, cheering breaks out the way it would when the Yankees clinched another World Series title. It spills from the stoops and sidewalks, from apartment windows and roof tops, for all the nurses, orderlies, doctors, EMTs--everyone who cannot shelter in place and continues to go about healing the people of the city . . . we're cheering everyone who makes it possible for the city to avoid the myriad conceivable shortfalls and collapses: grocery clerks and ambulance drivers; sanitation workers; pharmacists and mail carriers; truckers, cops, and firemen."
The cheering in the streets of the Big Apple, the American city hardest hit by the pandemic, is a salient example of how the Coronavirus has raised awareness of what Martin Luther King, Jr., called "the inter-related structure of reality," wherein "all men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." If there is indeed a silver lining in this medical emergency, it's the peaceful working people united in community action, especially with a wanna be fascist sociopath like Trump in the White House, a man journalist Chris Hedges called "America's version of Caligula." In the end, Trump's destiny was decided by King's "network of mutuality" in the form of the American electorate and on November 3, 2020, his presidency "miraculously disappeared" as he often predicted would be the fate of the coronavirus. Trump and his family were evicted from the White House by a substantial majority in what pundits called the most important election in American history. His defeat was preceded by a mental meltdown after he contracted the virus, blaming his infection on the families of fallen US service members with whom he attended an event. During his recovery, his behavior was erratic, angry and chaotic, indicative of problems with the steroids he was taking. In a disturbing interview at the time with Rush Limbaugh in reference to Iran, the Coronavirus in Chief stated that America's nuclear is all tippy top now . . . if you fuck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we're gonna do things to you that have never been done before." Trump's behavior drew widespread public reaction including political historian Matthew Dallek's comment that America faced a "surreal situation" with a president that ignored health guidelines, calling such behavior "a recipe for . . . dystopia."
"It's ironic that in forcing people to isolate socially," says Maria Vandegrift, a Hockessin, Delaware resident, "the pandemic has brought the nation together by inspiring intense collective scrutiny of the egregious economic inequality in this country and clarified the need for a revolution in the way society is organized in favor of the rich. Maybe now, the one percenters will finally realize that without worker bees, there's no honey."
It's doubtful that they will if history is any gauge of how the leisure class will behave concerning the common good. Unless there's a miracle, the kleptocrats running the show will continue to extract the honey in the usual predatory ways until the crony capitalist system devours itself. Meanwhile, the politics of the Coronavirus pandemic boils down to a blame game. The elite pundits and comedians blame Trump, presenting a plethora of evidence which the Republicans and their media sycophants deny as they in turn blame the Democrats. Meanwhile the American people yearning for an open, transparent government run on democratic principles watched in horror as Trump used the presidency to capitalize on his personal brand, in brazen violation of the Emoluments clause in the Constitution. His agenda also included a campaign to undo the remaining provisions of FDR's New Deal that gave all Americans, not just the rich, the opportunity to prosper in the years after World War Two. Trump also went on a tear to reduce the financial responsibility of Big Business via tax laws (with a lot of help from Democrats) and expand the reach of the military/industrial
establishment for the benefit of his crony capitalist war profiteers.
"The crisis has shown definitely that Trump's presidency is not an aberration," wrote Fintan O'Toole in the April 25, 2020 Irish Times.
"It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind
it . . . There are very powerful interests who demand 'freedom' in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy." O'Toole's comment provoked the Green Party's David McCorquodale to warn "because so little is known about the virus, people are looking to the 'authorities' for direction, which leads back to the same old power structure that's always in place. In fact, the leaders of many countries are using the crisis to intensify their grip on power, raising the danger that the outcome will be a more authoritarian world." This is precisely what happened with Trump, who became a symbol of the populist reaction against the political corruption that was well established long before he arrived on the scene. As Chris Hedges colorfully states the case, "Trump isn't the problem, he's the puss coming out of the wound." And as James Howard Kunstler points out on his blog ClusterfuckNation.com, "This age of battling narratives tends to conceal the broken consensus behind it. What's gone is a broad social agreement that there are certain fundamental realities and the codes of conduct that follow from them."
The "consensus behind it" alluded to by Kunstler has been deliberately broken by neoliberal political maneuvers to weaken democracy, a process that got underway with a vengeance during the Reagan administration with assaults on unions, campaigns to eliminate Social Security, privatize the Postal Service, defund free education whilst piling debt on students, insane policies to staff regulatory agencies with people from the industries they're supposed to regulate and rigging the electoral process in favor of Big Business. In short, the social trust established by FDR's New Deal is being destroyed in order to privatize the public realm for the exclusive benefit of the wealthy via the aforementioned strategies along with absurd laws such as Citizens United, an egregious perversion of morality that views money as free speech and grants corporations more rights than human beings.
The tyranny of money in politics is anathema to democracy and the vision of the Good Life as outlined by the nation's founders, which is why getting money out of the picture should be at the top of the legislative agenda. But in our plutocratic, anti-democratic government, enriching the top one percent and impoverishing the 99% is the primary goal. Today, America has the worst economic inequality in history, a situation created by neoliberal bankers and corporations motivated by the Vile Maxim--all for themselves and nothing for the common good.
Ever since tobacco industry lawyer Lewis Powell's 1971 memo to the US Chamber of Commerce urging big business forces to fight back against activists like Ralph Nader and wage class war on American democracy, neoliberals have redesigned the economy in favor of financial institutions and monopolies. The result has been a forty percent increase in corporate profit margins and a corroding decrease in American workers' share of the wealth. What's more, as Noam Chomsky points out, these elite Big Business kleptocrats have cast an ugly policy shadow across the nation with management systems explicitly designed to increase worker insecurity, diminish virtues of empathy and compassion and shift the burden of taxes to the precariat as much as possible while reducing or eliminating taxes for the rich. To keep the populace in line, they strive to manufacture consent with propaganda aimed at distracting people with materialism and the inane spectacle of celebrity culture.
The whole nauseating process is thoroughly documented in Ralph Nader's indispensable book Breaking Through Power, an in-depth analysis replete with examples "that demonstrate the corporate subversion and sabotage of democracy." Nader explains in great detail the numerous ways the system favors corporate plutocrats at everyone else's expense. He cites the corporatist takeover of public resources for private gain, including the public airwaves that have been commercialized without regard to "public convenience, interest or necessity," as the 1934 Federal Communications Act requires. He also examines the neoliberal attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and automobile safety standards and documents the relentless exploitation of natural public resources for corporate profit, the ruination
of America's educational system and the corruption of the judicial system that has culminated in the antics of Attorney General William Barr who apparently saw himself as Donald Trump's personal lawyer rather than the guardian of the rule of law for the whole nation. Also in the spotlight are the abuses of the military/industrial /congressional establishment that consumes more than half of America's budget dollars, the egregious global rackets like NAFTA that exploit low-wage workers in the so-called third world as well the sub rosa machinations of the IMF, World Bank and WTO that enrich the CEOs of the multinational corporate giants. Nader explains how they avoid taxes and evade responsibility for the harm they cause to people and the environment.
"Their arrangement allows them to have it both ways," writes Nader, "the advantages of our country without the responsibility of contributing to the nation's upkeep and security." Nader further notes that Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, found that"Every dollar in taxes companies avoid by using tax havens must be balanced by higher taxes paid by other Americans, cuts to government programs, or increased federal debt."
America has become a vast, chaotic "gangster empire," as author Robert Harris characterized Rome in its decline. In ecological terms we have reached the "overshoot" point described by William Catton where the natural resource "carrying capacity deficit" of the planet imperils our very survival. Unfettered capitalism, the driving force of global consumerism, a pathological economic system "by which the living is converted into the dead," as Derrick Jensen describes it, must be dismantled. Resistance is a necessity, not an option, if we are to survive. In the face of these harsh realities, Paul Street poses the most relevant question of our time in his important book They Rule; The 1% VS. Democracy. "What might and should be done in the interest of restoring or introducing democracy to the United States and saving civilization from catastrophe?"
In Ralph Nader's view, "Expectation levels--what Abraham Lincoln called the all important 'public sentiment'--need to change in order to win back control of society from the One Percenters and the corporations that will continue to contaminate the Earth until it is poisoned, let it warm until it is barren and also will lie until they are caught and brought to justice." We have the tools we need to do the job if we're willing to make the effort to reclaim them. "Lincoln's 'public sentiment,'" says Nader, "is the ignition switch for change."
"Undermined as it has been by decades of deregulation and privatization," Nader points out, "democracy still exists in the United States, and its participatory and egalitarian mechanisms for civil rights, social change, and justice remain our best tools for confronting the power structure and changing it." He presents several inspiring examples of individuals who led efforts to empower democracy, including his story about writer Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, "Arguably the big oil, gas and coal companies' biggest nightmare." Under McKibben's direction, 350.org's global climate action event, what CNN called "the most widespread day of political activity in the planet's history," got the message across that the threshold level of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere is three hundred and fifty parts per million. Although CO2 levels now exceed three hundred and eighty parts per million, a number projected to reach four hundred and fifty ppm by 2035, McKibben and company believe it can be reduced below 350 ppm by phasing out coal-burning plants, planting trees on a massive scale and ramping up alternative energy technologies. The 350.org movement is a powerful example of Nadar's contention that, "It is the initiatives of deeply caring, regular people that provide the firmament for our democracy." Nader emphasizes throughout the book that we have the power granted us by the Constitution to take the necessary initiatives now. "Small acts," said Howard Zinn, "when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world."
Journalist Chris Hedges, author of The Death of the Liberal Class; America: The Farewell Tour, and many other great books says this country is a tinder box waiting for the spark that sets things off. The economic crisis caused by the pandemic has shone a piercing light on the corruption of America's plutocratic economy, a predatory racket managed by a corporate class of grifters and kleptocrats for the exclusive benefit of a few hundred people who don't feel any empathy whatsoever for the vast majority of Americans who live pay check to pay check. As the crisis deepens, it seems more and more likely that the masses will react to the many injustices, hopefully in the form of non-violent, nationwide strikes that will bring the machinery of the oligarchy and America's neoliberal economy rigged for the rich to a screeching halt. The upshot for a society lacking the rule of law and well established democratic civic norms will not be pretty. In addition to Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution, also in the spotlight for the looming confrontation is Cassandra, the goddess who foretold the fall of Troy, but was not believed, now manifested in the person of Pulitzer prize winning journalist Laurie Garrett, who predicted the coronavirus crisis in her best-selling 1994 book The Coming Plague.
In a recent NewYorkTimes interview with Frank Bruni, Garrett envisioned that "If the wealthy having gotten somehow wealthier off this pandemic by hedging, by shorting, by doing all the nasty things that they do, and we come out of our rabbit holes and realize, 'Oh, my God, it's not just that everyone I love is unemployed or underemployed and can't make their maintenance or their mortgage payments or their rent payments, but now all of a sudden those jerks that were flying around in private helicopters are now flying on private personal jets and they own an island that they can go to and they don't care whether or not our streets are safe,' then I think we could have a massive political disruption . . . Just as we come out of our holes and see what 25 percent unemployment looks like, we may also see what collective rage looks like."
"The longer we pretend this dystopian world is not imminent, the more unprepared and disempowered we will be," writes Chris Hedges. "The ruling elites' goal is to keep us entertained, frightened and passive while they build draconian structures of oppression grounded in this dark reality. It is up to us to pit power against power, ours against theirs. Even if we cannot alter the larger culture, we can at least create self-sustaining enclaves where we can approximate freedom. We can keep alive the burning embers of a world based on mutual aid rather than mutual exploitation and this, given what lies in front of us, will be a victory."
David McCorquodale at the Occupy Delaware protest 2012
Add another Trumpian lie to a long, growing list.
Trumpians at a September rally in Delaware glorified their candidate as a brave warrior riding on a tank with an assault rifle in hand. The "Defund the Media" sign in the photo above should read "Defund Trump Propaganda." Trump was a draft dodger during the Vietnam war and this "bullshit" picture dishonors every veteran and active duty member of the nation's armed forces. According to The Atlantic, Trump has repeatedly called Americans who died in war "losers" and "suckers," and insists that "wounded veterans be kept out of military parades." The White House denies the allegations, but numerous sources with first-hand knowledge verify the accuracy of the report. "If you don't respect our troops, you cannot lead them," then Democratic nominee Joe Biden said in response to Trump's disrespectful comments.
One Trumpian I discussed the issue with dismissed his leader's lies as no big deal. "Why does it matter? All presidents lie." In response I quoted Heather Cox Richardson because she has addressed the matter of Trump's dishonesty with such sanity, clarity and authority, virtues derived from the perspective of history she brings to all issues of import. "I write a lot about the philosophy of living in a fact-based reality," she wrote on her September 12, 2020, Substack blog, Letters from An American, "explaining the Enlightenment idea that we can move society forward only by evaluating fact-based arguments. Replacing facts with fiction means that as a society we cannot accurately evaluate new information, and then shape policy according to solid evidence. You cannot make good decisions about your life or future if someone keeps you in the dark about what is really going on, any more than you can make good business decisions if your partner is secretly cooking the books."
That's precisely what Trump is doing and it matters because, regardless of who inhabits the White House, such subterfuge undermines We The Peoples' constitutional rights "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, advance the domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
April and Bruce Hubbard at the Occupy protest in Wilmington, Delaware.