The still-potent remnants of a dying hurricane rumbled up from the south on Tuesday night and landed a big wet haymaker on my little corner of the northern woods. Electricity, phones — land and cell — and internet were gone with the crash of falling trees and the howl of a humid wind, and for about 40 hours it was the 19th century around here.
For someone in the RIGHT NOW news biz, this was an unnatural state of affairs, but there was little I could do; I had to drive 25 minutes over broken branches and around closed roads, in fact, to find a signal so I could email my boss and tell her there was little I could do. My deadlines would have to hang fire until the utility workers put Humpty back together again, which they did, and in fine style. That kind of work is an especially hard hustle around here, as most of the power lines run through the woods. Downed lines and bears, o my.
The silence that descended once the storm passed was otherworldly. No braying TV in the corner, no phone beeping alerts for new messages and email, no news input of any kind, and for 40 sweet hours, no new Donald Trump horrors to encompass. For the first time in over five years, I was not getting lashed about in the maelstrom of Trumpian mayhem that my line of work has become. I didn’t know how exhausted and horrified I really was until the screaming stopped, and I was able, finally, to be still.
I saw a few things in that stillness that are probably obvious to others, but when your cerebral cortex is plugged directly into the Niagara Falls of news data that never, ever stops, a big-picture perspective can be elusive.
It has never been clearer to me just how deliberate all of this is. Not COVID-19 itself, but the manner in which Trump and his people have reacted to it. This is many light-years beyond mere incompetence, and even farther beyond anything that resembles cruel indifference. Men like White House adviser Stephen Miller are rolling out their most vivid fascist fantasies as the body count rises, and they are playing Trump like a badly tuned cello to do it.
Take COVID testing and the census, for one example. Aside from masks and social distancing, a rigorous national testing regimen is the only way the country will be able to get a handle on this thing absent an effective vaccine.
It is a week into August, and that national testing regimen still hasn’t come to pass because Donald Trump doesn’t want it to. His gibberish arguments that testing is counterproductive are the stuff of nightmares and very possibly illegal in their official neglect, but behind it all is a simple truth: He does not want testing because he does not want the country to know how sick it is. It is the information he fears most.
This is the same deliberate thinking that has led the Trump administration to trash the census process. As with COVID testing, it is the forthcoming knowledge Trump and his allies fear. They don’t want to know how Black the country really is, how Latinx, how anything but white, how young, how poor. Knowing this would rattle the underpinnings of the white power structure in the U.S., and so that information collection must be thwarted.
The census and COVID testing have failed in spectacular fashion, and neither collapse is due to incompetence or indifference. Both have been wrecked to benefit those in power, to help them stay in power. It is cruel, but it is no accident.
The question as ever with these brigands: cui bono? Who benefits?
This way of being has trickled down to local governments across the country, because if the president does it, so can they. Recently, a student at North Paulding High School, just west of Atlanta, snapped a photo of a hallway in his school packed shoulder-to-shoulder with students. The photo — an appalling example of how COVID safety measures are being ignored in the rush to reopen schools — went viral.
Rather than speak to the conditions captured in the photo, the school administrators threatened the student body. “Anything that’s going on social media that’s negative or alike without permission, photography, that’s video or anything, there will be consequences,” was the announcement at North Paulding High.
Inconvenient data? Make sure it never sees the light of day, even if you have to twist some arms to do it.
The Republican-controlled Senate went home today after once again failing to come up with a compromise stimulus package to help the millions of people whose lives are falling apart around them because of the pandemic. There is still no emergency unemployment benefit even as 1.2 million new unemployment claims were announced this morning.
One of the many looming side effects of mass unemployment is the potential for mass evictions. The longer Congress waits to help people who are about to lose their homes, the more likely it is that a terrifying number of people will be put out on the street.
Losing your home or being forced to move makes it much harder to vote — the change of address, perhaps no address at all, could leave many people unable to cast a ballot in November.
Cui bono? At this point, you don’t even have to ask.
That storm knocked down some trees, but around here, it sure let in the light.