Beep!  Beep!

I am sure men and women throughout history have thought how unique the times they lived in were.  And no doubt their times were extraordinary.  But on this the third anniversary of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where members of the alt-Right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, Klu-Klux-Klansmen, and an assortment of Right-wing militias marched on the streets of an American city and white supremacist James Fields, Jr. deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, an event which our President, himself a racist, a misogynist, and a crypto-fascist, defended by drawing a literal moral equivalence between the white supremacist and anti-semitic marchers and those who protested against them by declaring there were "very fine people on both sides” on live television, I found myself reflecting on some truly remarkable happenings in my lifetime emblematic of our progress as a nation and what is at stake in November’s presidential election.

I have seen a president and a pope resign, I have seen two men, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, inaugurated as President of the United States even though both men received fewer votes than their opponent (Al Gore receiving 543,895 more votes than Bush in 2000, Hillary Clinton receiving almost three million more — 2,868,686 — votes than Trump in 2016), I have seen two presidents impeached and tried for high crimes and misdemeanors in the US Senate, I have seen an openly gay man, a veteran of the US armed forces married to his husband, mount a serious run for the presidential nomination of a major party, I have seen gay men, lesbian women, and transgender people elected to municipal, state, and Federal high office, I have seen three women run to be vice president of the United States, I have seen a black man run for and win the presidency, twice, and I have seen David Bowie and Mick Jagger in the video for “Dancing in the Street.”  That last one… yah, that really happened; somebody filmed it; and we all just let it happen… no one is blameless!

It occurred to me that the years leading up to 2020 America, for all the inequities we suffer today, found us in a far better place than 1966 America (the year I was born).  That said, the last four years don't come close to matching the rate of improvement of the eight before that.  My righteous contempt for Donald Trump is well known; my unshakeable view is that he has hugely damaged the country with his mixture of self-interest and being wrong about literally everything.  But to answer Ronald Reagan’s elegant and compelling question on which he hung his bid for a second term — “are you better off than you were four years ago?” — NO!

Things are so much worse today, whereas in the previous administration, in terms of social justice, they were clearly, if not categorically better, at least improving.  By every conceivable metric, the flaws in American society were, if not completely done away with, taking a massive beating.  Then it all came to a screeching halt.  Implied in Trump's slogan “Make America Great Again” is a belief that it no longer is great, that our progress as a nation wasn’t progress at all.  But American greatness has never been a static state one can arrive at.  It has always been a process.  A process, we used to all agree, that was defined by a belief in "liberty and justice for all.”  That belief was our guiding star, and though political parties and presidential administrations differed on how to follow it, it offered an objective truth we all agreed upon.

Objective truth, according to some philosophers, may always be unattainable as it is affected by our subjective being, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth striving for.  If we all just settle into our mutually ignorant interest groups exchanging comforting half-truths without challenging their premises, as Donald Trump encourages us to do by dividing us along racial, ethnic, and gender lines, then America as we once knew it is over.  No one will know what is really going on, and working out what is really going on has, for most of my lifetime, been the country’s main purpose.  Losing that is a high price to pay for a tax cut or a conservative Supreme Court Justice.

America is not at a crossroads, it is a cartoon coyote running out-of-control toward a cliff.  We voters can see the cliff — think of us like Road Runner watching Wile E. Coyote hurtling toward its edge.  Wile E. picks up speed as each democratic norm passes by like so much scenery, like cartoon trees; Road Runner can see Wile E. rushing to launch himself off the cliff — the point where our nation is dealt a fatal blow by a racist, bigoted, half-witted authoritarian charlatan; but by the time Wile E. realizes this, he’s dangling in midair with nowhere to go but down.  Beep!  Beep!

Wile E. and Road Runner

Save Wile E. and the nation.  Anyone who believes that it would be a good thing to salvage what remains of the American dream of equality and, if possible, to continue our process of becoming a “more perfect union,” should want to see Trump and his unwitting Republican enablers in Congress soundly defeated regardless of party, economic theories, views on abortion, or favorite pizza toppings.  Anyone with a vote should use it accordingly — every such vote is Road Runner's conscience, his sense of right and wrong, jumping in front of Wile E. before he goes over the cliff.  To vote for Trump is to let Wile E. sail over the cliff, dragging his party and the rest of us with him.

Copyright © 2021 — all rights reserved.