Americans do not like to take good advice. If someone tells us to wear a mask we get all rebellious and say ‘make me.’ We demonstrate to open up the economy even if the health risks are pretty great. And yet we get all cultish about Donald Trump and are able to ignore an ever-growing heap of evidence which suggests that he is bad for America. Trying to prove that Trump is not benefitting his own followers meets with stubborn disbelief and does not shake the convictions of the Trumpers who say things like ‘but, our guns’ and ‘but, the economy.’
Trump’s followers seem able to ignore the damage that COVID19 has done to our economy and insist that all that is not Trump’s fault, and that if what happened did not happen the economy would still be booming. What if Trump had taken the coronavirus seriously in January or even February? What if he had taken the same precautions as other nations, especially stocking up on proper supplies so that people who were not in healthcare positions would feel that there were plenty of masks to go around. By failing to address the virus, Trump does have to take responsibility for the economy. But why can’t Trumpers see this?
Is our entire nation suffering from bipolar disorder? How can so many Americans hold these two opposing positions at the same time? Of course, because Trump telegraphs how his people are to behave they do not see their actions as contradictory. Because they do not accept that their lockstep love of a very tarnished man is unnatural, or that their unquestioning loyalty to a man who is destroying the way we govern seems like a form of mass hypnotism, they don’t understand why other Americans and citizens of nations around the globe are astonished to observe what is happening in America. It is too serious to dismiss with an affectionate and slightly annoyed thought like ‘those crazy Americans.’ I believe that global reactions are more in the form of shock and worry that America instability will spread, a very bad reaction given all of the issues the world is faced with in these fraught times. It was 100 degrees in Siberia yesterday! The entire world is at the mercy of a virus right now. An American politics teetering on the brink of fascism is not the cherry on the sundae, it is perhaps the last straw.
Trump, in his white supremacist state-of-denial, has noticed that this virus affects mostly seniors and minorities. Since these two groups are not ‘popular’ with his followers they do not need to be protected. Yes, Trump is a senior citizen, but he believes he is too important to die of a virus and he is too manly to adopt any protections against it. He also, as a narcissist, would never want his face covered. And because he does not wear a mask, he expects his followers to vote with their bare faces, to show their Trump-love, and that they even place this love above their self-love and the love of their families – besides they are mostly white and not in nursing homes and therefore are not at risk. It is looking like masks are our best protection against the spread of the virus so what are we to think of a President who tells his most loyal voters to defy this health directive?
Clearly America, and the world, could not afford to shut down our economies forever. But we were learning some interesting things from this temporary virus fix. One is that shutting down, although it felt like an existential mistake, really worked to suppress the pandemic. Another lesson is that perhaps the world will keep ticking along even if it is not being forced into a state of perpetual economic boom. Another lesson says that more family time, less hamster wheel, frantic socializing, child activity scheduling might help us experience a better quality of life. I’m sure some families imploded, but most did not. Our fear and grief also generated a bonanza of sweetness. Our sense of community was enhanced even as social distancing made that goal seem less possible. Will any of these lessons stick? Not if we keep the gung-ho corporate power structure we have. Not if Trump keeps trashing regulations and turning the economy into our reason to be. Does the economy serve the people, or do the people serve the economy?
All the bipolar behavior of the Trump set serves one goal – to keep Trump in office, to help him win the election by making his Trump Troops seem brave and special and free thinking; while all the while they are acting as if they are programmed Trump robots who cannot even perceive how contradictory their behaviors actually are. Why aren’t these Americans upset that Berman was fired by Trump (although now William Barr is taking the blame). (Aren’t toadies great?) It is almost pathological that this set of Americans can just blow off Trump’s unwillingness to allow any oversight as a ‘nothingburger’, similar to their reaction to wearing masks to protect themselves and their families. However bipolar their behavior I cannot accept that all of these Americans favor destroying our republic. How can they possibly still believe that Trump is making America great again?