President-elect Joe Biden just announced his picks for his advisors and people are already complaining. They are not happy that he chose known pols, people who were in the Obama government. Americans are moaning about the swamp being recreated. Honey, (sorry, now that I have white hair everyone calls me honey, just returning the favor) we have been to the swamp and these people weren’t there. Anyway, when the Democrats decided to stay at the moderate end of the spectrum clearly we were going to see folks who knew what our government used to look like and could help resurrect it.
Biden already has a far less friendly Congress than we could have wished for. He cannot really afford to pull people out of either the Senate or the House unless he is sure they are in a safe district. It is also possible that once things are right side up again these people will be able to move left, or Biden can adopt a fluid style that will allow him to plug in the right people as needed. He knows that he must govern as far to the left of moderate as he can because of the pressing concerns about climate change and education, the pandemic and the economy. He also knows that you don’t lock up the bank just when money needs to flow.
Suddenly everyone is worried about China, and Russia, and Iran and even Israel because of Trump’s interesting and passive-aggressive transactions occurring at this very moment. Isn’t it better to trust a career foreign relations guy than Trump’s ‘burgerific’ gut. Can’t we at least wait until we see if the inauguration goes off without a hitch? Can’t we take a moment and breathe, outdoors in an isolated space, at how far we have come already. We are faced with an existential need to spend money and our own soulful desire to tamp down consumerism, along with empty pockets. Can we give the economy the lift it needs in this quarter? It looks like the economy is in our hands right now, those hands that have been washed raw. Will an artificial act like turning the page on a calendar change our reality?
This may be our chance to see if the Democrats are just the Republicans Lite, as so many say they are, or if they can pave a path to a future that looks nothing like the last four years. The obstructionism may be still make it too difficult to accomplish very much at all. This is why Georgia is the center of the political universe right now. So, I am willing to shut up about Biden’s cabinet/advisor picks until after those first 100 days at least. In terms of the economy I’m afraid I will not be of much use in rescuing it. I like Capitalism that isn’t rapacious, that doesn’t insist on keeping toxic politicians in office so that money can continue to roll in from fossil fuels to line the pockets of the wealthy. Kamala is certainly a comforting presence. Our new government has so much work to do.
Ron Chernow has written biographies of historical figures such as Hamilton, Grant, and now George Washington, in Washington: A Life. Of course there are many biographies of these men, but his biographies are particularly valuable because Chernow has access to such a complete library of Washington papers and letters. Chernow has a talent for making material that could be dense and pedantic interesting and engrossing. He does not keep himself out of his writing. Whatever he concludes about these great men as he studies their documents informs his opinion of who they are and he shares that view with readers. Lucky is the age that has a chief biographer like Ron Chernow, although, of course, he has his critics.
In these days when we are so immersed in the roots of our nation, and whether we should try to be originalists and channel what the founders meant when they wrote our Constitution, in particular, and the Federalist papers which followed, or whether we should deal with the Constitution as we have lived with it and changed it, it seems appropriate to go back and study the roots of our nation. Although this book tells the story of our beginnings it does not necessarily help with our twenty-first century dilemmas regarding the Constitution. We do learn that political parties were not a part of our founders republic but they developed almost as soon as the government first convened under George Washington’s guidance as our first President.
The George Washington that Chernow presents us with is both heroic and human, with all his own flaws, often overshadowed by his assets. He paints a picture of a man with passions that he keep firmly under control. Washington is ambitious but not aggressively so, he is vain and often oversteps his finances to keep up his style. He is a Southerner who keeps slaves although he also professes to hate the practice. He loves owning property and he has a number of farms, or plantations. He has 200 slaves of his own and some as a dower from his wife, Martha. He could downsize his farming operations, which suffer terrible loses from his long absences and from bad soil and bad weather, but he could never imagine changing the lifestyle that he feels offers him privilege and social standing. He’s not comfortable with owning slaves but he cannot see a way to maintain a life without them. He does free them in his will but he cannot free the slaves that belong to Martha. Abolition was already an issue and Washington only scraped by without much pushback because he lead the Revolutionary War and we won it. He became a hero, recognized and celebrated everywhere, which is apparently not as much fun as it sounds. After the war people stopped in at Mount Vernon all the time and he extended hospitality and often feed and provided beds for favored guests. Washington worried constantly about money but he lived like a wealthy man.
Washington lost a lot of income during the eight years of the war. He started the war with rough men who were ragged troops. But he came to feel for his men and they for him. He knew that they suffered without proper uniforms or even proper clothing for the weather, without enough food, in winter shelters they had to build themselves and he often suffered with them, although not to the same extent. The colonies never sent enough money to support the soldiers and they had high expectations of the outcomes. These soldiers eventually became a regimented army. There were both black and white soldiers. Washington took no pay as Commander of the Revolutionary Army. He had to appoint relatives to oversee his farms and he always longed to go home but he felt so strongly about the need to be a free country that he persevered although often criticized as lacking in military strategy. Considering the trials of his army it is a wonder that America happened at all.
After Washington was persuaded to be the first President things were at first productive but soon the split between North and South became apparent. The Northerners were known as the Federalists, led by Hamilton, and the Southerners as the Republicans, led by John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Although Washington was from the South, the programs designed by Hamilton for financing the new nation made sense to Washington even as they alienated the Republicans. The Republicans did not want strong central government because they were frightened that it would become a monarchy. Washington did want strong central government because he worried about fights between the colonies/states. Republicans did not like the idea of a central bank, but Washington feared that the new nation would always be in arrears without it. This did not just amount to squabbles in the legislature. There arose a press that was vehemently opposed to Washington. He served a second term when implored to do so, but it was a rough one.
It will be hard to leave the Father of our Nation and move on as I have spent so much time with him. Usually after I read such a long book I like to choose a few lighter books, some amuse bouche. What will serve as a chaser to Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life I have not yet decided, but here I have only scratched the surface of the Washington depicted in Chernow’s book. Washington did not help much with the writing of the Constitution but he had clear ideas about how he felt it should be implemented. How different our nation might be now if Thomas Jefferson had been our first president we will never know. Washington set up the practical, everyday working bones of our government with his first Congress and Cabinet and that got the government off to a sound beginning.
We wait. America holds its collective breath while ballots are counted – with a few exceptions. The President, as usual, cannot sit still. He doesn’t believe in breaks unless he is golfing. He is trying to stop states from counting mail-in votes. This typically sinister move could be backed up by courts stuffed full of right-wing judges. In this one way I am like Trump. I could not pass the marshmallow test either most likely. But this time I can wait.
And I notice Trump’s troops have a new assignment. Instead of insisting that states open up, they now are insisting that states stop counting votes, as per Trump’s order. They are insinuating themselves into the premises where votes are being counted and intimidating workers. This cannot be considered a legal protest. How much more serious will this situation get? Regardless of who wins, America is not done with our reactionary/progressive split.
Another demonstration insists that we count every vote. Which group seems to be on the side of our constitutional government? Hint: your choice should not be a matter of ideology.
Mitch McConnell lives to serve another 6 years in the Senate. Why? That Mitch McConnell is like a cat, a mean hissy cat with nine lives. I can only hope that he ends up as the leader of the minority. We may have to work around the government if it is still deadlocked. We may have to each pick an organization with a goal that we think is important and put all our energies there this year.
Lindsay Graham does not deserve his seat either but his backers must be very powerful indeed. And wealthy. America is still for sale to the highest bidder. Considering the subtle trolling I have been getting on Linkedin.com, of all places, after reading Blowout by Rachel Maddow, an exposé of the oil and gas business, fossil fuel barons are very, very worried. They have been throwing engineers and oil men at me, pretending to flirt. When one leaves another asks to join my network. What they would do if I agreed, I do not know. But it may just be a sign of why these ancient and horrible men keep getting elected.
Donald Trump won in 2020 and again in 2024. At 77 many did not believe he could be reelected but the voting machinations of the Evangelical Council held and Trump was elected again in 2028 at the age of 82. The Council formed in 1972, but was only named as an official Council to the President in 2021. You could still vote against Trump in an election, votes were still tabulated, but the vote totals reported in the media were ‘fake’ news and the electoral college math was fudged.
Most of the work done by the Evangelical Council in terms of figuring out election math and creating an extremely effective ground game was done before the 2016 election, but the numbers kept working for Trump and the Republicans.
After 2016 it became impossible for a Democrat to win. Democrats could not use the tactics developed by Republicans. They found broadcasting propaganda distasteful. People’s taste for right wing Talk Radio and Fox news made mainstream media sound staid and ‘fake’ even before President Trump ‘upped’ the drama.
Democrats believed that the founders were wise to try to keep religion out of government and did not back a theocracy, even if in name only. Given the diversity of religions practiced by those who tended to vote for Democrats there was no religious council on the left to stamp candidates with the ‘imprimatur’ of God. Democrats tended to want to speak the truth to Americans while Republicans had no qualms about saying one thing and doing another, making promises they had no intention of trying to keep.
Doug Waller headed up the Evangelical Council, whose members were pulled from at least eight influential Evangelical organizations with names like Family Research Center and American Policy Institute. The mission of these groups was to lift up white Christians as the true Americans and fight for turning old resentments into policy, like schools that are empowered to teach Creationism, states that allowed no abortions, and an immigration policy which ruled that only people whose roots were in Europe could be admitted to the United States as potential citizens. Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Kevin McCarthy were also members of the oversight body known as the Evangelical Council and they were avid Trump backers, not because they loved the man but because he had an uncanny knack for sheer political razzle-dazzle and survival of the greediest.
By 2028 Democrats were barely represented in Washington. Huge losses in 2022, 2024, and 2026 had driven the Democratic Party underground. Joe Biden, that old moderate, won the popular vote in 2020 but the strangle-hold the Republicans had on the Electoral College also held, and Trump was inaugurated, although proceedings more closely resembled a coronation, right down to the ermine tips along the lapels of a black plush jacket. Melania looked regal and annoyed in sable. It was a very cold day. They rode in a horse-drawn coach, no walking to solidify their solidarity with the common folk. Trump announced that he planned to build a more formidable White House, a virtual Trump palace to commemorate his second term mandate. It promised to be a modern Versailles. As Washington held bad memories for Trump the US Capital was being moved to Florida. Congress would remain in Washington, DC as would the rest of the government.
Trump always gets revenge on those who oppose his will. New York State, Washington State, Oregon, and California were turned into prison states
Chapter OneIn the New York Prison State, 2028
Mo Samuels, Drew Morgan, and Hannah Finegold met at the Samuel’s farm in deepest winter. The farm slept around them, although greenhouses still had to be tended every day. The wood stove in the second barn, was giving off heat from a fire that had been well-fed since early in the day. This was a favorite meeting place in wintry Syracuse because it was easy to heat. These neighbors had been friends since childhood. They remembered the now broken United States of America, divided into the Confederated States of America and Blue States of America in the years since Trump’s reelections in 2020 and 2024 and then for life. These young adults and their parents were now rebels who had to live a private life that was separate from their public lives.
No conversation could betray the Rebellion. All BSA citizens knew that privacy did not exist. Conversation had to center around everyday life, planning to feed and clothe everyone, keep people and animals well, make sure that medical care, however primitive, was available to everyone. Survival, once New Yorkers were deprived of shipments from the ports in NYC, the ports along Lake Ontario and the clandestine aid from Canada, was absolutely the main focus of this Blue State. There were other Blue States, lined up along the West Coast. Coordinating rebel strategies took ingenuity and courage. Rebels when caught were tortured and killed, to reinforce the ruthlessness of the CSA under the Trumps. Some people just simply disappeared.
Mo tapped his watch and started pulling on his insulated work boots which required tender-loving care because they probably could not be replaced any time soon. The other two also reluctantly stepped away from the stove and began to pull on puffy Thrift store coats and scarves and their own boots. They banked the fire and opened the barn door on to gently falling snow, a scene of deceptive beauty, given how dangerous cold could be to warm-blooded humans. They moved to the big barn to saddle the horses shared by their families and set off for the Center.
At the Center there would be a potluck supper today, early since the days were short. The families would gather to eat and make plans for spring planting. Plumbers or people with repair skills would connect with those who needed their services. After dinner there might be a game or karaoke.
But every citizen who was a member of the Rebellion knew that this Center, established on the campus of what was once Syracuse University, had expansive underground and very modern secret facilities well-guarded by the Rebellion forces who swore that they would make America whole again.
Mo, Drew, and Hannah were junior members of the Resistance, but age did not determine membership. In fact, the computer skills of these young people who had lived in the old America and who now lived in the new America were often superior to those of their seniors who did not grow up basically suckled on the internet. Of course, the internet was used by the CSA for surveillance so internet use by the Rebellion was not straightforward. And although for the most part Silicon Valley on the West Coast was controlled by the Confederated States (Red States) some of those fabled geniuses pretended to serve the CSA while actually aiding the Rebels. They had used their skills to create an internet that was not accessible from the World Wide Web, which only answered to the codes the Rebels used. But this separate internet left traces that would cause suspicion if heavily used so the youngest rebels used chat rooms on old school internet games and coded language to communicate with the remnants of the USA.
After dinner these three young Resistance members once again donned their outdoor winter gear and headed out of the Center. But they did not go home or even back to the small barn at the Samuel’s farm. They went to see the horses and then, if you were watching them, they just disappeared leaving only their horses fed for the night. Inside the stables was an elevator that carried the trio down into the bowels below the old university to the computer center, to the futuristic, clean room corridors of one of the New York State Rebellion headquarters. They hung up the puffy coats, set aside the boots to dry and manned their computers. It was four hours earlier in California, Washington State and Seattle but even if it was the middle of the night someone would be there to communicate with. Now Mo became Samwise, Drew became Whaler, and Hannah became Goldie as they joined the West Coast crew in the game. Beast was the head of the California group which had five young people all well-known from the games they played with the New Yorkers.
There were rebels stranded in the CSA who had to live according to Red State rules even more carefully than the Rebels. They had to bury their true natures deep, but they played an essential role as scouts. The Rebels could talk to the scouts in the games, a tactic that had worked so far. What would XM6 have to say tonight? But XM6 never came online. He did leave a coded message, however. “We got trouble,” was the gist of it. They sent out the search code, “Marco.” No one said “Polo.”
Beast sent to Wizard (Mo’s father) a code 404, the code for a document that was not found. Even in the command center verbal conversation was discouraged. It was hard to know if the CSA would be alerted or if a Red State Spy had bugged the center. “Check the list?” Samwise asked on the chat screen. “List, game over,” Wizard sent. “TO (time out), then, we wait,” Beast confirmed. The rebels stayed in the game and idly chatted but all the while they silently wondered how much the scout string had been compromised. Were they arrested? Were they dead?
To the Trump family, who now ruled in the Red States (the Confederated States of America – deliberately derivative), New York, California, Washington and Oregon were all prison states, although they refused to see themselves that way. These supposed prisoners saw themselves as the Blue States of America, the Underground, the Resistance, dedicated to restoring the Republic; the United States of America. They also saw themselves as Patriots, although the designation had been coopted by the right-wing.
Donald J. Trump, the patriarch was too old to govern, but not to rule. Now in his 80’s he was treated by those around him as a King, a Lord, and he considered the CSA to belong to him as his branded kingdom. He still ranted and raged, but not very often as excesses sent him to his sickbed for days or weeks at a time. So, for the most part, the Confederated States of America were governed by a surprisingly domineering Melania, and by Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr., Eric, and Baron. The House of Representatives had been disbanded and the Senate was powerless, a rubber stamp. The Trumps and the Senators considered themselves Patriots, although any connection to America’s founders had been broken as the Constitution was reinterpreted and finally rewritten in a Constitutional Convention of Red States in 2023.
The CSA had a few very simple priorities as a nation-state. Everyone not in government must work, except married women. There are no safety nets for anyone (except the Trumps, the millionaires and the billionaires). The CSA is a Christian nation, all schools are church schools, no other religious observances (including head scarves) are allowed, everyone must attend a Baptist Church every Sunday unless there is a medical reason. The CSA is a nation where white citizens of European extraction are the ruling class; regardless of how many minorities live in the CSA they cannot hold office and they cannot vote. They must work for whatever wage their employer wishes to pay.
If you don’t work you don’t eat. If your employer doesn’t pay enough to feed you then you must work a second job, or a third job. There are no entitlements. There is no health care. Charities teach first aid and how to care for contagious family members. There are no sick days. You must stay home if you are too sick to work, but you will not be paid. Trumps Troops, loosely organized or well-organized militias, kept an eye on state and local officials. Follow Trump rules or die. Militias cannot take over homes of white citizens or loot from them, but in all other cases all bets are off.
Since there is no immigration white females marry or face discrimination, and they are expected to have babies – one baby after another. Big white families are lifted up as icons of patriotism. Minority communities tend to be truer communities with people helping each other out with childcare, food, and medical care. There tends to be more spontaneity and warmth in minority communities but also life is a daily struggle and downtime is scarce. Contraception is free and so is abortion in minority neighborhoods. Reproduction is discouraged. Minorities can work in white households but otherwise separation is mandated; equal is never a goal. Anyone can have a small business but only whites can buy from white businesses and vice versa. Segregation is back, shameless and blatant.
Scouts were citizens of the CSA who were appalled by the Trump family and their Conservative allies but elected to stay in place and feed information to the Rebellion. Some scouts were white and some weren’t. Some scouts were Rebels who the Underground sent back into the CSA because they volunteered and had useful skills. Anyone in the Resistance might be sent in to scout for a while and then get smuggled back out. The Resistance wanted to know the numbers and locations of the various militia groups, what regular army and police forces were loyal to the Trumps and what weapons they were stockpiling. They would use these numbers in their plans to “reunite” the states, meaning restore America to its legal boundaries. Civil War was brewing, but the Rebels were not quite ready for insurrection.
Chapter Two.California Prison State
Hector Chavez is Beast. He’s the leader of a group of five young Californians who have been longtime friends like their counterparts in NY. Hector is a computer beast because he grew up in the small Silicon Valley town of Davis, California. Silicon Valley is not part of the California prison state – it is a protectorate of the CSA. Kids in Silicon Valley grew up dreaming of becoming the new Steve Jobs, or even Zuckerberg. Hector was a coding genius and he could build his own computer from parts. But he still had to abide by the rules of the Rebellion which meant the Rebel-band (R-band) offshoot of the web could only be used sparingly. He communicated in the games just like every young resistance person did.
Duran Estavez is Hector’s best friend but all five of these young members of the Rebellion went to public school together. When their school became a private theological academy, they were homeschooled with the help of materials provided by the Underground. They had no modern underground headquarters like the one in NYS. They met in hidden rooms behind the wine cellar at the Yang vineyards, rooms that were essentially SCIF’s, made invisible to Red State ‘prison guards’ by some very advanced computer skills, learned when many of the Underground Resistance were employed by Apple or Google. Duran’s screen name is Condor.
Joe and China Yang, brother and sister, more friends from public school days and from sports activities, were members of this young resistance ‘cell’. Their family had been in California for many years, even, perhaps, more than a century. Joe called himself Chink on the internet. As a brother-sister pair they were very close, only a year apart in age. They worked in the family business daily now that they were done with formal schooling. China Yang was studying medicine in the Underground University – a long process since the Underground had to lay low at times. The medicine she was learning was strong on facts and anatomy, short on practice with modern medical technology. Screen name – Doc227
Joanna Harvey, the last member of this group, reads as white-suburban-middle-class as anyone you could find in a prison state. She could easily pass for any Red Stator, but she would certainly have to keep her passion for equal rights hidden. She was hoping to be sent in as a scout. In any operation she could be a ‘surface dweller’ because she fit in demographically, but her Californian mannerisms and accent needed work. She had a very good, very fake Apple employee ID that might explain her habitual California girl persona. Joanna was a dancer, but most of all she was a painter and a good one. She knew her way around computers and especially knew the graphics programs where others might not excel. Once a woman in the CSA married and had a child, she was no longer welcome in a career. Joanna, as a young single, could apply for jobs and expect to be hired. She could also expect a lot of perhaps unwelcome attentions from men in the workplace since the CSA was a male dominated society. And she had better not get pregnant because abortion was a criminal offense. Screen name – Picasso101
California is never buried in snow and the Yang family owns a vineyard which supplies wine to elite members of the CSA, funneling some money back into the business, helping Davis families survive, and contributing to the privately managed investment account belonging to clandestine members of the BSA. No puffy coats here, not quite such a survivalist vibe, but it is more difficult to hide what you are doing when it is always so easy to get around.
People need a valid reason to go into a SCIF, even if the building is not labeled as such. The building itself must be bigger than the safe room and it must have a purpose so that it is expected that residents will go there. The other SCIF in Davis is disguised as an arts center. Residents can join a band there, or a dance group, or take art classes, or just work in any of the studios. The entrance to the SCIF is hidden away and you need a code to enter this room which is where the computers are kept and where you can go to take classes from the Underground University. Some of the SCIF premises, as mentioned before, are actually underground behind the wine cellar at the Yang vineyard.
When Chavez (Beast) got the message at the same time that NY did, the other four members of his group were not in the game. Before he left the “Pit” as this computer node was affectionately known, he left a message for the others. ‘Polo missing,’ it said. Joanna wandered in from an art class at the art center and saw the message. She also saw that there had been no other messages after the TO, but she checked into the game with NY anyway and played along in case they were being surveilled. ‘It’s very hard to learn to keep all your activism a secret, to mention it to no one, to not often even get a chance to have a conversation that wasn’t coded with her closest friends,’ Joanna mused after she died for the third time and the screen said game over. The screen invited her to play again and she said yes. ‘What could have happened out there in the CSA?’ she thought as she twisted a long strand of perfectly straight blonde hair. She noticed it was almost 4:30. She had to go home to help with dinner. Picasso101 AFK she typed, swished that long blonde hair over her shoulder and exited the Pit. But she would have a hard time waiting until she would be able to go back online again to hear about any updates.
Chapter Three. Washington State Prison, 2028
Washington State is another of the blue states that Trump liked to focus some of his vengeful energy against. It was one of the first states to have cases of the novel coronavirus but fortunately did not get dragged into the PPE/ventilator wars with Washington, DC. They had the virus under control by the time it became clear that hospitals would not have enough protection for doctors, nurses and staff when the virus peaked. So, Washington State did not have to beg the federal government or hear the message that states would have to find their own resources.
But Amazon and Microsoft were both located in Washington State and Trump both lusted after and threatened to break up any large tech companies whose profits gave them too much social media presence and too much power. Trump, of course loved successful businesses and courted CEO’s but when a business crossed over into media and negative comments were allowed to stand, the unfairness of it all overcame his admiration.
Still when the prison states were declared there were those rich tech companies strung out like jewels along the West Coast, more enticing than even gold plumbing or the reception hall of the Saudi Kings. Trump made sure to stay connected to all the key tech industries and they were not considered part of the prison states which made them part of the CSA, subject to CSA control and surveillance. The tech companies were no longer free. They had to act as Trump toadies or die. Clearly the tech companies had every reason to take on an invisible role within the Resistance.
Trump also took over the ports of San Francisco and Seattle and all of the goods bought from and sold to Asia and beyond. Once again businessmen had to become farmers and the entire quality of life became more primitive. Washington State lost a century of modern growth and style in just the 8 years since it became an unofficial and then an official prison state. This was more or less true for all the Blue States on Trump’s enemies list. Vancouver offered some assistance to the Underground but the Canadian government which ostensibly was staying out of below-the-border chaos.
With all the cheap minority labor and no unions to object Elon Musk, now a Trump fan, hired thousands of minority workers to build a high speed hyperloop train that ran between San Francisco and Colorado and Seattle and Colorado. It was a joint public-private project and it happened because Trump wanted it to happen. How did Musk conquer the Rockies? It was achieved in the manner of the Intercontinental Railroad without any worker protections and with many disabled or dead workers. Always good for a nation to have an expendable non-white population group, something nations have believed since civilization began. Now goods and people were zoomed right out of or into California and Washington State in a quick hurry. If you were a prisoner you did not want to be aboard that train. It did not bode well for your future.
Chantel Maxim was actually named Maxima Chan Zuckerberg. She happened to be in Washington State staying with her Aunt Donna who had fled California at her brother’s strong urging. Chantel was a charmer with her dark curls and dimples. But Chantel was only thirteen years old; too young to be a member of the Underground. However, the girl could code and she was practically born knowing computer social messaging, gaming, and marketing. Her father had invented a private messaging site for family only with an encryption code that no one else had tipped to yet. Although Chantel could not be sent into the CSA she was allowed to enter the large secret Underground rooms that the Rebellion used under Amazon. She loved old tech the best and knew all the old school games. Screen name: Max75
Since Chantel was so young she was always accompanied by her bodyguard, who did not look like a bodyguard and was only 17, not much older than Chantel. Paul Spaulding and Chantel were a great pair. They went everywhere together always deep in conversation, but at such a low level of volume that it was difficult to overhear them.
Paul’s parents worked at Microsoft but were fired and sent out into the prison state to find new jobs because of left-leaning accounts they had designed and their work with Democratic politics. So, they learned to tend their own garden, as did most residents of Washington State. Fortunately, everything in Washington, especially near Seattle, practically grew itself. Fishing was also still an accepted prison industry and so there was plenty of fish to eat. Spaulding was a handsome young black man, muscular and fit, who also grew up attached to a computer. The youth part of this cell was small but very talented. Spaulding liked Superman: Screen name Clark 1113
Chapter Four.Where is XM6?
Games favored by the Rebellion included Pac Man, Space Invaders, All the Mario’s but especially Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario World, Frogger, Zork, Donkey Kong, Myst, the Sims, Oregon Trail, Tetris, Civilization II, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Half Life 2. Thank goodness for their connections to the wizards of tech. At the moment they were playing Civilization II. Chantel refused to leave the game until a message came through from XM6. Eventually the word ‘safe’ appeared in the chat. A while later someone started a biology discussion in which they used the combo ‘cell compromised.’ Then came ‘tell mom I will see her soon.’
There was a silent celebration in the NY Underground, in the Pit, and deep under Amazon, arms raised, dancing, hugging. People checked out of the game according to a prearranged order, a few rebels at a time, and went carefully home.
Since Henry Samuels, a senior organizer and Mo’s father, was in the game with the younger members in the NY center he was already aware of what the Scout network passed along. Actually, the resistance, the Rebellion, was pretty much done with the scouting stage. It was time for action. Actually, the Rebellion was always unsure what to call itself because the name Patriots was already taken by the enemies of everything the Republic stood for. So, they called themselves the Rebellion, the Resistance, the Rebels, any name you wished to use (except Patriots) for those who wanted to put an end to this Trump-branded, twisted, white supremacist, fake theocratic version of America, reunite the nation, restore the original US Constitution, and toughen it up so that authoritarianism would find it more difficult to take root in America.
“We give you a Republic, if you can keep it,” said the founders. Well we blew that. Could we reboot the Republic – The United States of America 2.0)? Henry thought again it was definitely time to be done with the scout stage. The Rebellion had the counts, they knew the rates of production, they could predict what the CSA had available. The problem was that what they had available was formidable. Reminiscent of Star Wars, ‘how could a rag tag band of rebels’ hope to beat the Red States when Blue State rebels were far outnumbered. The CSA had the unpredictable Trump Troops, made up of police, the military, and home-grown militias to overcome – and these Red States also had nukes and the nuclear codes (would they use them?).
It was time to find a way to get the leaders of the Rebellion together and come up with a plan to break out of these prison states and free the ‘liberals’ so hated by all those who loved the Trumps. There had been much speculation about how a prolonged planning session could take place safely. Was there any way to meet secretly in person? Did any of their connections with technology geeks who were under the thumb of the CSA but also were members of the resistance have programs like the old Zoom program for video conferencing that could not be hacked, perhaps by the same hacker/s who compromised the Scout cell. Although private encrypted conversations had taken place, no actual plan had been decided upon. Henry knew that it was time for the BSA to take some risks. But which risks would offer the best chances for success with the fewest casualties?
“Well isn’t that the dilemma of every leader since the beginning of time,” Henry thought. He had been a professor and was now a farmer. How had this fallen to him? But he had taken control as the CSA clamped down on NY and turned it into this prison state. He had been proactively aware of Trump’s hostility and he had planned, along with a compliant university administration, the Center and the underground command center that was accomplished without fanfare or stacks of paperwork. By taking charge of the survival of Syracuse residents he had become the leader of the NYS Rebellion by default. But he had help. There were other New Yorkers who had agreed to accept his leadership and who served under him as a second tier of leadership. And there were leaders on the West Coast too who would have to be consulted.
The Rebellion tried not to use leaders who were too well known because their movements were watched too closely. They also liked to include some younger members because of their talents with technology and because they were not so fearful of innovation. Henry Samuels represented Syracuse, NY and he did not take his son Mo along with him. Someone had to stay at home to cover for him and take care of the family business. Hannah could not really hide her Jewish roots and she would be at risk of discrimination and hate speech and even violence so she stayed protected in the community. That left ‘Whaler’ Drew Morgan to be included in the leadership council meeting. Drew was never an academic although he loved to read; he was a natural engineer and a practical problem solver. And he did not really have any ambition to be a leader, which made him even more valuable. He had a reputation for being silent, but fierce when action was called for.
Three people represented Albany, two each from Rochester and Buffalo, one from Watertown, one from Binghamton. That put the delegation from NY at nine. California was sending the ‘Beast’ Hector Chavez, the lovely and intelligent mom of Joe and China Yang, the owner of the Yang vineyards, Lily Yang along with eight others so the California delegation had ten members. Washington State could not send Chantel, of course but they sent two ex-Amazon department heads.
Oregon, which no one had heard much about sent the father of twin boys who worked the computers in the Oregon underground, which was not literally underground. On the surface the Oxford boys seemed like a pair of hipster doofuses. They knew all the newest social media news and slang. They loved rap music and especially early rap and they knew the words: Tupac and Nas were their boys. But they lived in a state where Intel was made and they were also computer geeks, much admired for their programming skills and their grasp of early computer games and software. The rebels had often found it helpful to hide out in the past.
Their dad John Oxford would be included in the meetings and so would his sons, Theo ‘Heart00’ Oxford and Nathan ‘Dog832’ Oxford. There were misgivings about these last two, but under those ditzy exteriors were some very inventive minds. That made a ‘war’ council that consisted of twenty-four members from widely separated geographic areas in four prison states. Just figuring out how to meet, either in person or online was a thorny problem requiring careful thought. If they were caught it would take out some of their best leaders and tip off an already paranoid CSA that there was, indeed, an organized resistance movement.
Chapter Five. Debriefing
Before Henry Samuels could decide how his council would meet the hacked scouts started rolling back into their home states through the underground, which was only sometimes actually underground, but the Rebellion was not opposed to the use of sewers and drainage pipes when times were dry and the infrastructure was big enough. The scouts would have to be debriefed and that would have to take precedence. Initial messages from the scouts, however cryptic, suggested that there was information that could help the council with their action plans.
The Rebellion did have access to a Global Satellite that was not supposed to be online yet, but friends of the rebels with skills had activated that GSAT. The Rebellion could send longer messages in Morse Code or even double-coded with Morse Code plus a short-term code pad.
What the scouts reported was an undercurrent of deep unrest in the Confederated States of America among two groups: women and minorities. Some women did not mind being good little submissive wives and mothers, but many women had held responsible and interesting, perhaps even powerful positions, before the formation of the CSA. However, women had no access to guns and they were often pretty closely monitored because men knew they were not all committed to submission, or to motherhood for the purpose of repopulating the white race. From past experience though, it is clear that women do not always require lethal weapons to wreak havoc.
Minorities were now faced with institutionalized segregation, geographic confinement, and forced low-wage employment, and were policed by Trump Troops, militia members, who had none of the discipline of regular military troops. Most minorities worked in white households or yards, but they could not own cars. ID’s were recorded when they boarded shuttles and again when they returned home.
So, good news and bad news from the ‘scouts:’ the Rebellion was horribly outnumbered and out gunned. It had proven impossible to plumb the loyalty of the police, the military or the Trump Troops who seemed to present a solid Red obstacle to either peaceful or violent change. The scouts were unable to guess if any of the enforcers would switch teams in the event of actual attacks by the rebels. But small forces with human rights as their platform also had succeeded against enormous odds many times before. Or was that only in fiction? Henry Samuels had to believe it had some basis in reality.
The scouts saved what they learned in interviews with people living in the CSA whenever they could get someone to speak with them. Scouts sent their notes through the GSAT feed in Morse Code, using their personal code pad and the notes were recorded automatically in the rebel centers. There were no names attached, just codes.
CM12 tells us about Anna living in Atlanta. She says, “I am a mom of five and a Christian and I was always Pro-life, so I should be a happy woman, but I sort of resent being turned into a baby factory, although I love my kids. I am convinced that whites should not become a minority group in America so I see the need to boost the birth rate. But I find myself bored. I am not valued as a thinking person. I have a fairly supportive husband who is good to all of us and even helps with dishes once in a while. He used to walk the floor with the babies patting them and talking to them. But I am more than happy with five children and I don’t like being pushed to have more. And Chuck works for long hours. I guess this isn’t how I thought my life would turn out.”
FM89 talked to Harvey in Florida and also to Brenda. Harvey is a 30-year-old black man living in Sanford, Florida and Brenda is a Hispanic-Cuban mixed-race woman living in the Miami ghetto. Harvey is a gardener who works for two well-to-do white families. He likes his job because the people his employers know almost nothing about plants so they leave him alone as long as he shows up on time and never leaves early. He is also allowed a truck with this job and does not have to rely on public transit or have to walk to his job as many other of his neighbors do. He had earned a degree in liberal arts and had begun law school but could not afford to move near a black college. Black migration involved getting a pass and was expensive. A black person could not attend a white university. He would only be allowed to practice law within the minority community and only if the case involved only minority persons. He learned to garden and minded his own business. He was in love but there were penalties to face if minority relationships produced children. There were few children’s voices to be heard around Sanford.
Brenda tells FM89 that she used to love America and think Miami was the best place on Earth. Miami was hot; so colorful, so full of love and fun, music and good food. But America now turned a hostile face to Hispanics, Cubans and all mixed-race minorities. Jobs were tiring and paid low wages. No one smiled these days or sang. There were penalties if you had a child – birth control was free and mandatory. Even to move was practically impossible. Where could you go? The same rules governed minorities all over the Confederated States of America. People even whispered about escaping back to Cuba or to South America. The streets were flooded with water after every rainstorm and the minority community was given the parts of Miami that flooded most. Houses had to have a second floor and everyone had to live upstairs away from dampness, mold and mildew. Brenda hated her life these days and longed to change it.
UM4 interviewed Tracy in Idaho. She’s single and white so she is allowed to work until she is 25. Then she must marry or she will be assigned a husband. But Idaho is an oil and gas state and the men are typical American men who exhibit male herd traits such as spewing sexual innuendo, even invading personal space with ogling and random touching – copping a feel if they get a chance. It you let some of these guys get you alone rape is a real possibility. Tracy was shocked at how small women’s lives were in the CSA, how few rights women had and how little there was to look forward to. She hoped to fall in love or attract a promising husband but there were few options. There were lots of men, but hardly any good men in the energy business. Find an engineer she was advised by her fellow female workers. Tracy hoped she was pretty enough to find one soon.
GM12 – subject of interview – Alex, is a black man, 40 years old living in an inner-city black neighborhood in Atlanta. Before Georgia in the USA became Georgia in the CSA Alex owned a very popular BBQ restaurant. He was allowed to keep his business but he could only serve the minority community. “Living as a black person in the CSA is terrifying,” says Alex, “You never feel safe. People get killed and terrorized every day. Do not ever relax your vigilance. I lived in Atlanta all my life and loved it, but I cannot love this Atlanta. Fortunately, I already had two sons before Atlanta entered childless apartheid. They are my company and the source of my greatest fears.”
PM88 interviews Cass in Illinois. Cass is a white woman in her 70’s and she’s a COVID19 widow. She has to work and since she has no special skills she is working in a factory on a production line. There is no such thing as Social Security or Medicare or even Medicaid in the CSA. If you can move you are expected to work. She and her husband had a house and there was some insurance money, but her husband was in the ICU for a long time and the government seized the money to pay for his medical care. She had a small nest egg but not enough to live on for long. It often helped her make ends meet. She liked the people she worked with but had to live in the dormitory space provided by the company and privacy did not come with the territory. Cass would have liked her coworkers better if she didn’t have to live with them. Long gone were the plans she and her husband had for an interesting retirement, perhaps spent traveling. She did not have any political leanings at all, although her husband loved Donald Trump, but she used to be proud to be an American and she didn’t feel that way anymore.
GM12 who covers Georgia and South Carolina gets to interview Ellen living in Charleston. Ellen is a tiny thin woman, very well-dressed, watching a pair of girls play in the local park. She looks exhausted and unhappy and there is the tail end of a black eye if GM12 is not mistaken. She says one of the girls opened a door and it hit her in the face but clearly she is a battered wife. It makes sense that a society that places no value on women and gives men almost unlimited power is bound to give domestic violence free rein. Ellen would not offer any honest appraisal of life in the CSA and the interviewer would not ask her to. She was too frightened to speak about anything beyond empty pleasantries. Nothing GM12 could do about Ellen right now.
LM10 interviewed Trey in a minority town in Louisiana near New Orleans. Trey made sure that they were alone and kept checking that every few minutes. The family next door to him, friends of his, had been terrorized by the KKK which supposedly did not exist just the night before and he did not want to attract any attention. His friend Lester was taken away. It was rumored that Mei Lin was pregnant. Someone else came by the next day to take Mei Lin away. Ten minutes was all that Trey was willing to give.
First Trump left the approach to the novel coronavirus up to the states. States were competing for PPE’s and ordering secret shipments to be hidden away in undisclosed locations. A fifty-state approach left us with these waves of virus as different states have been peaking at different times. Then he ignored the only things that work against this virus – masks and social distancing and he made it almost patriotic not to wear a mask or stay home or get testing. He made it about ‘freedom.’ “Liberate Michigan,” he declared in a tweet.
People seem very concerned about bars. They want their bars back. They want their sports back. They think that so few people die from this virus that we should just ignore it and go about our business, which is mainly about the economy (and pleasure and bingeing). We seem to be a nation of hedonists, out for instant gratification. Life is short. Carpe diem. Perhaps shorter than you know with this ‘herd mentality’ approach.
But think about how quickly China and other countries sidelined this virus and did get back to business. Of course, China is an authoritarian state. They could force people into quarantine and they did. They could contact trace and if you didn’t like it the other option was jail. America cannot do these things and thank goodness for that. But a concerted campaign, calling on people’s commonsense desire to open up the economy and their patriotism might have had the same effect if our President could inspire Americans in this way. However, he can’t and he won’t.
Clearly many of us believe that if we did our due diligence for a month; if Congress subsidized the economy for that month; if we all wore masks, kept our distance and sacrificed those crowd pleasures we love so much, then we could drop that curve down very low. Then the economy could open back up without this ghoulish bargain with life and death. If we all cooperated with contact tracing and quarantining and we were assured that we would not lose our jobs could we get it all back in pretty short order as other places have managed to do? Or will they have a new wave of the virus regardless of their careful health practices? It’s a risk. Whatever way we approach this there are risks.
So, what would you choose? Are you the go with herd immunity and keep the society open, just go about your life as if the virus did not even exist type?
Or are you the — take one month and get really serious about this, buckle down and do our due diligence with financial support from our federal government to stomp on those rising curves, and then stick to the health directives as we reopen — type? Perhaps we would be able to reopen completely if we made this a patriotic war to save our entire way of life; a voluntary war, but with all the social coercion of the stop smoking campaigns.
What would you want to do if you were President? What would you like to see this President do?
America has watched this battle for control of the Supreme Court for at least the last decade. Every time someone said that the court was in play for Republicans, that they wanted to own the Supreme Court, people with plenty of chops and oodles of historical political perspective disagreed. The Court is not political they would say. Americas have always revered the Supreme Court, although not always the decisions of the high court. We used to at least want to feel that our Supremes were above politics.
However, a number of things have happened to disabuse us of that notion. The confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas with the disrespectful treatment of Anita Hill reminded women that men were firmly in charge. Clarence Thomas’s hearing was contentious and a preview of the incivility in store in our politics. After that things evened out a bit with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan proving that the rabid movement to turn the court to the right was not yet in full swing. The problem the GOP had was that the full pathway designed to keep a minority party in power had not been finalized. Citizens United (2010) gave away the game. Corporations (like those owned by the Koch brothers) could contribute unlimited money to election candidates without revealing the source of the money. Huge win for Republicans. The drumbeat to move the Court to the right got stronger. In 2016 McConnell blocked Obama’s nomination of Merrick Gardner. But Obama was a popular president and he had added two women to the court during his two terms, both leaning left, but not extreme.
Republicans appear to have gotten desperate since Trump was elected. They know that they are a minority party. They have resorted to tactics that are less than savory and that walk all over Constitutional lines. The Court overturned the preclearance section of the voting rights act. This has allowed many creative attempts to suppress Democratic voters, a clear violation of the intent of the voting rights act as many Democratic voters are African American. These actions have echoed the strategies white slaveowners used on freed slaves to prevent them from voting – poll taxes, making polling places scarce for black folks – requiring literacy tests, except now they tried to require voter ID’s and not allow students to vote from college, and vet fewer, harder to reach polling places, thus stirring up racial tensions. Now Republicans have moved on, with the help of Trump, to undermining the US Mail, inviting Trump fans (including militia members) to become ersatz “poll watchers,” and demonizing mail-in voting.
So, when the Republicans decided to fill the seat on the Supreme Court with a haste that bordered on disrespect for longtime, well-loved Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only 30 days out from an election, they suddenly and brazenly decided to not only nominate a new justice but approve her. They grinned and did this even after telling Obama that they would not put his nominee, Merrick Garland through the system because March was too close to the election in November of 2016. They have held on to the US Senate for way to long. It has given them a ridiculous sense of entitlement and they enjoy flaunting their power. For the most part they have used their power to block everything except stuffing the courts with Conservatives. And they are thrilled with themselves and crowing. They obviously don’t feel that they have had too much winning.
So that brings us to the hearings this week on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Another woman on the Supreme Court should make women feel like celebrating. But, although she won’t tell us anything about how she will rule on any topic, we can read her body language, we can read the difference between the way she responds when Democrats are interviewing her and when Republicans are apologizing for the way Democrats are interviewing her, and when Republicans are heaping praise on her ability to raise seven children and practice law as a law clerk for Justice Alito and then as a judge (for only 3 years). She makes Republican (and Evangelical) men sigh, so brilliant, so submissive, so much the antithesis of feminism. But, we women who do not wish to move backwards in time, are not convinced that she will be an advocate of the rights of women, which now need to support working women. (She actually seems a bit creepy.)
What led me to say creepy? Barrett refused to answer questions about the Constitution and implied that the entire document was open to interpretation by the Court. To her, nothing counted as settled law except Marbury v Madison and Brown v The Board of Education.
Ever since the pill, and Roe v Wade, women have understood that there was strong opposition and that it was based in religion. We wanted to feel that our hard-won rights, along with that boost from science, were safe, because our nation is supposed to keep religion out of our government, but the opposition has grown more and more powerful. Peaceful protest wouldn’t suffice. Even more violent, terrorizing behaviors did not suffice. Republicans and Evangelicals began to believe that the only way to make America a “moral” nation according to their apprehension of morality, was to organize a coup. And in case they lost the Presidency they would have at least accomplished a coup in the courts where judges have lifetime appointments.
We saw the proliferation of think tanks, institutes, committees, organized into a web of wealthy Americans who agreed with the Koch brothers. We saw the bonding of Catholics and Evangelicals. We saw the push to put prayer back in schools, to post the 10 Commandments in the halls of government, and to teach Creationism instead of evolution. Trump made promises to Evangelicals and he intends to keep them, not because he is a believer, but because he believes helping fill that seat on the court with a Conservative will keep him in office if the election is close enough to be referred to the courts as we saw in Bush v Gore. He thinks that the fix is in and that even if he loses the popular vote he will win the electoral college. Amy Coney Barrett, at the top of the list from the right-wing Federalist Society, is his backup plan. But after watching her careful responses, which offered little or no verbal information but plenty of nonverbal clues, the practically inevitable confirmation of Amy to the Supreme Court is deeply depressing if you are a woman in America, or indeed, if you use the ACA for your health care. If we don’t win this election in 2020 America disappears from the world stage and becomes something that seemed obsolete. America becomes a theocratic autocracy. Men continue to exercise dominance and the glass ceiling turns into another wall.
In case you think this is based on old information you need to read the article from The Washington Post with video from reporters who were in the room where it happened:
I tend to see myself as a proud “libtard” but being the target of such language, meant to wound and belittle, ala Trump’s nicknames (Hillary was nasty; Kamala is a monster), set me to wondering when Liberal became a dirty word. After the Civil War, my reading tells me, southerners wanted to be known as Conservatives. After World War II, all Americans were members of the “liberal world order” bringing Capitalism and free trade to Europe to oppose Communism, which scared everyone almost as much as Nazism should have. Liberals shared a belief in free markets, free trade and limited government, individual rights (both civil and human), capitalism, democracy, secularism, and internationalism.
But at home the liberal/conservative divide was already widening and the words had a whole different meaning at the national level. FDR’s New Deal turned those twin Conservative goals of term limits and balanced budgets on end and the term Liberal started its march towards “hold your nose” territory. Limited government had a huge setback. Conservatives must have thought this would be temporary.
The Great Society put the kibosh on any Conservative dreams that they would be able to cut the size of government any time soon. Then along came that Conservative hero, Ronald Reagan who said, “Government is not the answer to the problem. Government is the problem.” And here is how we got to our pitched battle about whether government should be small, with no social safety net or public schools or public health care; or whether a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” can ignore the way its citizens are affected by the vagaries of the marketplace or the diseases that flesh is heir to.
Clarence Page, writing in the Chicago Tribune quoted his Uncle James who countered Reagan’s words by saying, “Government ought to help people. You got a problem with that?” I don’t have a problem with that.” These two men sort of sum up this one difference between Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to the size of government. I stand with Uncle James. Of course our forefathers were not true champions of the common man, they were designing a government for landowners and educated elites. Still, they said what they said, and today we see that our democracy/republic was a true gift that evolved to speak to all Americans. Will the gift make it to its three hundredth birthday? We’ll see.
So what turned being a Liberal into such a negative, reviled by all, a label intended to injure, like any other epithet? Some lay it at the feet of those rabid right-wing radio talk show hosts and they certainly put a lot of effort and time into demonizing liberals (who are, even as speak, morphing into left-wing extremists). The image of Liberals is being created by the very Conservatives who revile them.
“Relative to polls in the 1990s, Republicans are now much more likely to say poor people have it easy, while Democrats are less likely to say so. Conservatives are also more likely to say that environmental regulations are costing the US too many jobs. Liberals now seem less convinced that peace can be achieved through military strength than they were decades ago.”
“John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, a free-market-loving conservative think tank, wouldn’t mind being called the dreaded L-word — liberal.
But only in the 18th century, Thomas Jefferson sense of this time-worn political label. Back then, liberalism meant embracing laissez-faire economics and free trade; science-based enlightenment; democracy and the supreme rights of the individual; and religion without state sponsorship.
“And that raises the following questions: Do the terms liberal and conservative, in use for centuries in Europe and the Americas, still have much meaning? Or should these polar opposites be thrown into the bone yard of long-dead labels of political doctrine or party, there to join terms such as monarchist, prohibitionist, Federalist, Whig or Know-Nothing?”
“And Saunders isn’t the only Democrat who considers liberal to be a dirty word. Left-wing Democrats are also running away from the label, preferring to call themselves “progressive,” another term from America’s political past.”
From where I sit it is entirely possible that the “liberal world order” did itself in by not having a plan of action in case of success. Once the USSR fell and Russia and Asia became Capitalist dictatorships apparently no one foresaw that our corporations would desert us for cheaper labor and new markets. Conservatives found their scapegoats among the Liberal Democrats and blamed labor unions and environmental regulations and Talk Radio made it stick, ginned up the anger of the displaced workers. But Conservatives definitely had a hand in the Great Migration of our factories.
And now, under Trump’s tender ministrations, Liberals are becoming enemies of the state, antifa extremists, foes of law and order who will turn the suburbs into what our inner cities, according to Trump, seem to have become, as opposed to signs of equal opportunity and upward mobility. Liberals are not the ones with the long guns appearing in a city near you, but Trump loves to make his opponents guilty of the things that are done in his name. Trump has, though, proved to be equally injurious to the Conservative label as to the Liberal label. If Trump is what is now known as a Conservative many traditional Conservatives want no part of it, although they are hoping to come out the other end with their pre-Trump ideology intact. Many of us would be very surprised if they are able to pull that off.
Will these two terms we have tossed about for decades, with their newly evolved connotations, become tarnished beyond use or will they signal a real war beyond the ideological war we are experiencing right now? I have to believe that Americans will not take up arms against each other once again. But things are getting pretty hot up in here.
On September 28. 2014 the Ebola Virus presented a threat to the world and looked like it would be a pandemic but proper steps were taken to expel the virus from America, although Africa has continued to see periodic infections. That was the first time I wrote about Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, written in another time. It seems even more relevant now.
The Ebola virus seemed like a nightmare – a modern nightmare that connected back to a past that we have read about but have never really experienced (although the polio epidemic gave us a taste). The descriptions of Ebola, its symptoms and its deadly effects, its spread, the seeming inevitability that it could spread further and cost more and more lives; the threat that it would decimate families, cities, and even countries brings to mind that awful word “plague” which we relate to the Middle Ages, before people knew about microscopic creatures called germs. Reading about the plague in history books gave us the information, the bare facts, but movies and fiction have given us the true horrors of the plague; of living with the nearly sure knowledge that every day could be your last.
When a family member sickened with plague-like symptoms did you dare care for them as people normally care for people they love when they are ill? If you took the dare, did what you felt was your duty as a human being anyway because your love or your conscience was too strong to walk away, did you resign yourself to death in order to do your sick room tasks properly?
Now we have a much more deeply concerning novel coronavirus which we have labeled COVID19 in case we have to differentiate it from future viruses. This particular virus came out of Asia and subsequently out of Europe. Africa has been spared much of the spread this time around, unlike with Ebola where Africa was hit hard.
I remember reading The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe, whose stories, while beyond dark, always feature some of our most human weaknesses. In this particular story the nobles, upon learning that a plague known as The Red Death (because people died bleeding) was nearing their neighborhood, provisioned a walled castle as if for a siege and they held a continuous masked ball while The Red Death raged around them. Little did they know that The Red Death was already in there with them; one of the masked guests, spreading toxins while they all danced. When the plague passed by and the villagers opened the castle everyone inside was dead.
This hits very close to home. The White House was supposed to be the safe castle to which the rich and powerful retreated. Rather than hold a continuous masked ball, which in this case might have protected everyone, these privileged people decided to forgo the masks that science recommended. These people do not live in medieval times. They live in the age of science and technology, the twenty-first century. But the highest power in the land does not believe science knows more than his own judgement, which is based on, as far as we can tell, nothing. This is not the plague and we assume that all these folks will not end up dead. Will they end up chastened and ready to treat the virus that is still raging by backing the doctors and scientists, or will they still make wearing the best protection, a mask, a protest statement about liberty, the freedom to get sick and possibly die? Ordinary citizens do not have access to the treatments the President of the land has been given. Their health care may not cover all of the treatments they receive if they get really sick. If you can’t hide in the castle, (whoops, the White House) where can you hide?
There is still a message for us in this medieval tale. Isolation could be dangerous although social distancing is helpful. If we turn America into one big castle and we all party away and ignore what happens elsewhere something will zap us and we will not see it coming. In this case our leaders did see it coming but chose to “downplay” it and we see how well that has worked. Heeding our humanitarian good angel might seem counter-intuitive, but it also might be the correct path to take. We obviously wish that three tough objectives could be met immediately 1) get that medicine that seems so promising approved, manufactured, and delivered really fast, 2) bring the rest of the nations on our planet up to modern standards of cleanliness, preparedness, and awareness of ways to combat contagion from any source – plant, insect, animal, or human 3) end poverty (that Global Initiative to End Poverty is looking pretty good right now, isn’t it).
We are certainly a ways from meeting all three of these objectives, but this is probably not yet the “big one”, the global pandemic that could kill off an enormous percentage of the world’s population, although this is a bit too close for comfort. And if you are thinking that “culling the herd” might be a good thing, remember that any one of us, even you, could be in the group that is afflicted and dies.
Hopefully if we can learn to stop epidemics while they are relatively small we can avoid ever having to face the disease that brings the true ‘Global Pandemic’, the threat we thought we had left back in the Middle Ages. Our 45th President, now in the hospital with the virus he pooh-poohed, did not make any of the correct moves that would have lessened the effects of this virus. It affected too many people and brought our whole society to a standstill. We need to do better against this virus. Perhaps we need to take the steps that will help us stop future infections in their tracks out of the hands of those who run the risk of being drunk on power. There needs to be a health agency that can even override a President, although that will also have its risks. Are we so flawed that we contain the true seeds of our own demise?
Joe Scarborough, on Morning Joe this Friday morning, asked some prominent Conservatives what they think will become of Conservative thought once represented by the Republican Party. I have come to have little respect for conservative ideas which are all form and little substance. Conservatives have tried to sell America on limited government, free markets, and on becoming a nation with a growing population that refuses to raise taxes. While these ideas came from the work of Friedrich Hayek who wrote his economic doctrine at the same time as Keynes, we have had opportunities to see how Hayek’s theories have failed to produce the results he claimed we would benefit from.
Hayek’s proposals became Conservative talking points: limited government, free markets, low taxes, policy choices we have been bombarded with for far too long. Scarborough, George Will, David Brooks, David Frum and a long list of Conservatives are in mourning because an uncouth man is accomplishing their policies, a man who does not have their pedigree or even any understanding of conservatism. Interesting how Trump’s nods to fascism have brought America closer to conservatism than all the private schools and religious schools, all the effete academia of our nation’s top Conservatives (thinkers who do not govern). Hayek’s most famous book has the title The Road to Serfdom in which he contends that the reliance of ordinary citizens on assistance from their government will turn them into serfs.
These Conservative arguments brought fascism into our lives along with limited government, free markets, and low taxes. Is fascism an inevitable outcome of conservatism or is this just the aberration of one narcissistic, egomaniacal, paranoid man? The clearest picture I got of fascism I got from Elena Ferrante’s trilogy about Naples, Italy. Fascism hates liberalism, it hates protest, it hates labor unions. Conservatism agrees with fascism in these matters except for the baseball bats. Conservatives prefer to use elitism, money, and power to control bottom-up attempts to compete. They label these attempts by we the people to find our own power base liberalism, and they set Conservatives against a set of humanist policies which they loudly proclaim to be harmful to the government they envision. Their government is a top-down, hopefully beneficent government managed by educated elites which they believe offers the best economic program for America.
But the Conservatives married Racism aka White Supremacy. And the Conservatives married Christianity, although our founders, who had close ties with Britain, a nation torn apart by the religious machinations of Henry VIII and the Anglican revolution, wanted freedom of religion. Now Conservatives are reaping the repercussions of these choices and they have attracted the services of a Fascist enforcer. Conservatives married corporations and wealth inequality. Conservatives married fossil fuels and a denial of the damage being done to the planet. Despite all of these bad marriages Conservatives still demand that America accept them as symbols of moral virtue and high ideals.
If a true Conservative like the revered Ronald Reagan had been in charge of the COVID19 pandemic would he have applied the principles of limited government, small government, to tackling this threat to social and economic order in the same ways that Trump has? Would he have had to resort to a national response instead of forcing states with far fewer resources to handle this national emergency in 50 different ways? Would Reagan have worn a mask as an example to the people of the efficacy of adopting this barrier in order to support the health of the nation? Would Ronald Reagan have adhered to policies that seem ridiculous in a nation of millions, or would he have had to set those policies aside to be the leader the moment demanded?
Reagan still knew how to compromise. Trump, Barr, Mitch McConnell are drowning in their purity and so is America. Is it even purity or just greed – greed for power and money, a passionate need to bleed the last dregs of profit from an energy structure that we must change, or we will die with our smoke stacks still releasing deadly CO2 into our fragile atmosphere? America has an addiction that is every bit as damaging as cigarette smoking was to individuals. We are destroying the lungs of the world. Would Reagan have denied science because it did not agree with his dogma? Would Reagan have ended immigration even before the pandemic? I don’t know the answer any more than anyone can, but Reagan was not a purist. He responded to reality. If the principles of Conservatism have to be compromised over and over again in response to actual events wouldn’t that suggest that Conservatism is a philosophical approach to government that is impractical and inflexible, that does not see we the people as real or important, but rather as expendable and interchangeable. Conservatism has shown us where it leads and it is not to a moral high ground; it leads to the moral bankruptcy of 45.
I am always labelled a liberal, and although I do not hate the term I do not define myself that way. I think of myself as a humanist, who believes a society should benefit everyone and not just the wealthy and well-educated. I do not see workers as serfs, although Hayek contended that serfdom would be the end result of liberalism. It appears to me that Conservatism is far more likely to produce a two class society consisting of aristocrats and serfs. Good luck with providing for everyone in a system that takes us back to societies that had no middle class, no merchants. As for my feelings I would like to see an end to the current incarnation of conservatism. Conservatives are doing much more than keeping their eyes on America’s bottom line; they are trying to claw us back to a society that is already obsolete and their policies are hurting America and Americans, not helping. Whether or not we have benefits like subsidized health care or a safety net for workers in a changing market place are no longer options we can keep or discard. These are now just the basics of our society. We need to stabilize these programs and move on to what our new economy will look like and how we will fuel it, how we will shape technology to our advantage as opposed to allowing it to create cyborgs to replace us. ( a nod to Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari).
How do we learn to cooperate globally if we can’t even make decisions that will affect our nation right now? Does there have to be a paradoxical structure to our politics? Does the existence of a “liberal” require the existence of a “conservative”? Will liberals drive the society off a cliff without the guidance of conservatives? If every yin has to have a yang what new duality could we invent that would be more useful than this conservative/liberal split that divides us right now?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg died tonight. She has been the most amazing example for us all on how to work through all life’s obstacles. We have watched her fights with cancer, her surgeries, her refusal to quit. We should at least take a few moments to mourn the passing of this great Supreme Court Justice and humanitarian. After we mourn then we can howl at the fate that took her 46 days from the 2020 election. She tried so hard to make that marker. Rest in peace, RBG. You have the kind of legacy that many will envy.
Mitch McConnell, of course, did not waste a single second on grief. He made it very clear that he intended to appoint someone to the Court before the election. Forty-five days will be a record for picking a new Justice and getting the nominee confirmed. There are no niceties in today’s GOP. They have a goal to steal the US government and they are laser focused on that goal. I guess the grim reaper does not want any mourning, any ceremony. I bet he crowed when he heard the sad news.
Women and children should shed salty tears because they have the most to lose. The ACA will go down. There will be no public health care plan. There will be no protection for preexisting conditions. Many people will go back to being uninsured. This will be a terrible backward move for America. Roe v Wade is very likely to be overturned. Trump seems to have the devil’s own luck and he will be thrilled. We are in such big trouble
Will we allow Mitch McConnell to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with no muss and no fuss? That would be a betrayal of RBG’s brave fight. At this late hour people are gathering in front of the Supreme Court to mourn. Oh how you will be missed Justice Ginsburg.
Is this a sign? Let’s not go there. Soon we will have Biden and Harris.