News reports are forecasting a second wave of covid-19 infections in the U.S. this fall and winter, due in part to the insistence by President Trump and his Republican supporters on reopening schools and businesses. While other advanced nations of the world have brought the pandemic under control, the U.S. has not. There has been no federal program, launched at the national level, to combat the virus. Instead, President Trump and the Republicans have urged us to resume normal life and get businesses going again so that Trump can brag about the excellent economy on his watch as a way to persuade more people to vote for him in November. The first wave of the coronavirus hasn’t yet played out, but already a new one is coming soon.
How bad will it be? We don’t know. If Americans embrace masks, social distancing, and avoidance of crowds and internal gatherings, we could keep the second wave to a lower level of damage than the first wave is now inflicting. I think that’s unlikely. Too many Americans feel that their rights to free expression and freedom of action are abridged by having to wear masks and not touch others. Others see disease prevention actions as political support for the left. I would remind them that the rules of health are for the purpose of saving lives. The survival of my neighbor obviates free speech or political preference.
In the midst of this struggle, Trump has undermined and humiliated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, forcing them to become what the Washington Post calls “campaign stage props.”
As we approach 180,000 deaths from the pandemic, Trump is once again still putting his personal interests ahead of the good of the nation and survival of its citizens. Why do Americans tolerate such behavior?
Picking up where I left off yesterday, the news this morning is rife with reports on falsehoods that filled the last day of the Republican convention last night, capped by a Trump speech. This morning’s Washington Post lead editorial is titled “A litany of fictions.” Reporter Dan Balz notes that “Trump’s convention stands out for its brazen defiance of the facts.” Reports from broadcast news echo the same refrain. Truth is being forsaken in the interest of reelecting Trump.
Quite aside from the politics of the current situation, the Republicans are doing grave damage to themselves and, more importantly, to the country. To favor lies over truth is to invite disaster. The pattern of autocrats of history has been to use distortion and denial of the truth as weapons to seize power. Does no one see the parallel between Hitler’s rise and what Trump is pursuing at the moment? Trump apparently intends to dismiss the election results as “rigged.” He has toyed publicly with refusing to leave the presidency if he is defeated in the election.
Wake up, America. Genuine disaster could lie ahead.
In following the news of the Republican convention, I’m struck again by the falsity. The Guardian headlined its report on the GOP gathering as “Republican convention delivers whirlwind of lies great and small.” Speaker after speaker misrepresented the facts about Trump and what his administration has done.
This morning’s Washington Post’s lead editorial it titled “False Charges.” It details the smear campaign against Joe Biden launched at the Republican convention. The speakers accused Biden of misdeeds in terms long ago proven to be false.
That comes on the heels of Trump’s unparalleled record of lies. The Washington Post Fact Checker maintains a running list of the false or misleading statements Trump has made. By mid-July, it was already over 20,000.
Doesn’t anybody care? What kind of a nation have we become when one of the two major political parties touts proven lies to establish itself as the preferred representative of the American people?
Have we really come to this?
On Sunday, the Washington Post published the first of a series of editorials “on the damage President Trump has caused — and the danger he would pose in a second term.” It’s titled, “A second Trump term might injure the democratic experiment beyond recovery.”
The “democratic experiment” means the establishment of the American nation, the United States, by the founders to enshrine democracy and freedom of choice as its underlying principle. At the time of the U.S.’s creation, no other nation had ever been so formed. Would it work?
Abundant historical evidence shows that the experiment has worked very well if not perfectly. Complete fulfillment of the principle of democracy was undermined from the beginning by the nation’s acceptance of slavery. That ended with the civil war, but racial prejudice has continued to erode democracy and still does so today. With every decade, we make progress. The experiment has been working. Until now.
The Post editorial lists the worst of Trump’s crimes and condemns his Republican supporters for their failure to take action to stop him. The editorial concludes, “These are high crimes and misdemeanors, as the Framers of the Constitution understood the term. But this time it is up to us, the American people, to remove Mr. Trump from office.”
I believe that Biden will defeat Trump in November by historical margins. I pray that I am right. The organization Vote Vets, a group of American military veterans, regularly refers to the president as “Traitor Trump.” They’re right. Trump has betrayed us. My greatest concern is that he might refuse to leave the presidency when he is defeated in the election. He has expressed his unwillingness to say whether he would give up his power. His retention of the presidency would be fascism writ large.
And so we stand warned. Will the Republicans finally face up to Trump? Or will they contribute to their own destruction by going along with Trump’s crimes? The evidence I see in the Republican National Convention, now underway, is that they will continue their complicity. If they do, the GOP as we know it will cease to exist in 2021.
Continuing my paean to myself as the unchallenged champion of sleep:
I read constantly when I’m not writing—I still love learning. My favorite spot for reading is a lounge chair in my sunroom. If sleep overcomes me, I allow myself a fifteen-minute nap. My brain somehow keeps track of the time and wakens me when my time is up.
I sleep every afternoon for an hour, and I usually get nine hours sleep every night. I luxuriate in a life that allows me to sleep as much as I want, whenever I want.
I don’t know anyone who enjoys sleep as much as I do. I don’t know anyone who is as good at it as I am. I may not be the master of my soul—Post-Traumatic Stress Injury from my time in combat in Vietnam prevents that—but I am the master of sleep. No one can outsleep me.
The pace of my life took a toll over time. At the end of the last semester of my senior year of college, I collapsed from exhaustion. I was in Cowell Hospital at graduation time, close enough to the amphitheatre that I could hear the graduation ceremony. I graduated a semester late without a ceremony.
That was my first diagnosed bout of exhaustion.
In my thirties, I enrolled in graduate school at the George Washington University. I wanted to go on learning. The university admitted me provisionally because my undergraduate grades were poor. When I began taking classes, I found out I wasn’t so dumb after all. I outperformed all my fellow students, pulling down straight A’s all the way through to the dissertation and doctorate.
But I was working full time at the National Security Agency (NSA) and taking care of my family—eventually four children—and I overdid it. Doctors diagnosed me again with exhaustion.
The third case of exhaustion came during the fall of Saigon. I lost count of the days and nights my two communicators and I went without sleep and, toward the end, without food, before we were finally evacuated under fire. This time doctors told me I had amoebic dysentery, ear damage from the shelling, and pneumonia due to inadequate diet, insufficient sleep, and muscle fatigue.
So I learned to cherish sleep. I taught myself early to sleep every chance I got, even for fifteen minutes, even sitting up. As a friend gratuitously pointed out to me some time ago, I regularly fall asleep in the shower. Now that I am retired and a full-time author, I enjoy sleep more than I have at any other time of my life.
These days I’m sleeping more than usual. I often get nine hours of sleep at night and then take an hour’s nap in the afternoon. I’m sleeping a lot because I can. With the pandemic lockdown keeping me isolated at home, I have plenty of time for rest.
My enjoyment of sleep these days reminded me of a series of blog posts from several years ago. So I present them here as a rerun with only slight editing to bring them up to date:
I am the unchallenged master of sleep. I can sleep at any time of the day no matter where I am.
It started in my childhood. My mother was an alcoholic, my father in prison. Sometimes I had nothing to eat. By age eight, I was out earning money so that I could at least buy a candy bar or a dinner roll if there was no food at home. From then through the end of high school, I always had a job. I delivered newspapers, worked as a pharmacy delivery boy, stocked shelves in a department store. After I got my driver’s license at sixteen, I most often worked in gas stations, pumping gas, greasing cars, and cleaning. Sleep was a luxury I couldn’t always afford.
Then came college. The tuition at UC Berkeley in the 1950s was just short of sixty dollars a semester, an amount I was able to accumulate by fasting and hoarding. I worked twenty hours a week while attending classes to support myself. I usually found a job in restaurants. Sometimes I washed dishes; sometimes I waited tables; once in a while I acted as a chef’s helper. I specialized in restaurant work because I got free meals.
I had long since learned how to go without sleep. I had to attend classes, study, and work. I found I could push myself beyond what I thought were my limits. My undergraduate college grades were below average. That met my expectations. High school advisors had warned me that I wasn’t intelligent to go college. But I was determined to do it anyway. I loved learning, and I wanted to escape from poverty.
A friend just sent me a video titled “It is what it is.” Those words are used as the title of a song sung throughout the video. The words are set to the melody of the old Doris Day song, “Que sera, sera” (“Whatever will be, will be”).
“It is what it is” are the words of President Trump when asked about his reaction to the high death toll of the coronavirus pandemic. He had already proclaimed that he would not accept responsibility for pandemic and in fact has done nothing to combat it. As a result, while other nations have coped with the disease and brought down their death tolls, the U.S. has, as of this morning, suffered 5,713,776 infections and 177,834 deaths.
My understanding of the phrase, “It is what it is” is that it means “That’s how things are. There’s nothing you can do to change it.” That makes it the equivalent of the sentence GIs used during the Vietnam war, “There it is.” It’s the verbal way of throwing up your hands in despair.
But of course much could have been done to combat the pandemic. Had the federal government moved quickly to increase testing, require masks, insist on social distancing, and track the disease, by now the pandemic would be under control. Instead, new infection peaks are expected.
This is not a casual matter to me personally. As an older man with a history of lung cancer, I would likely die if I contracted the disease. To me, the refusal of Trump and his Republican backers to take action is a direct threat to my life.
So the video pinning guilt on Trump for his lack of action hit home. I hope it goes viral.
In the process of working through my own biases, I contemplated the profound evil of slavery. For the first time, I thought through what it means to treat another human being as inanimate property to be bought or sold. I reflected on the practice of taking a child away from its mother to be sold at auction. I considered that breaking up families for profit was normal and acceptable practice. And I came to understand for the first time that treating people as less than human—that is, race prejudice—had its roots in slavery.
What shocks me the most is the depth of the evil inherent in slavery. I’m beginning to understand that slavery is only possible when the enslavers refuse to see the humanity in the enslaved. And from that perception comes the racial bias that is still with us today.
We have serious work ahead of us to repair our nation.
After graduating from college, I enlisted in the army to go to language school to learn Chinese. A natural linguist, I had already taught myself French and Italian, studied Latin in high school, and taken German in college. Chinese fascinated me. But the army, in its wisdom, chose to teach me not Chinese but Vietnamese, a language I had never heard of. That choice shaped my life.
In the army and later as a National Security Agency (NSA) civilian in Vietnam, I worked as an equal with men of all races and backgrounds. I learned teamwork and the value of work partners. I came to understand that my Irish-English heritage made me different from but no better than anybody else. What counted was not race but ability and willingness to work hard.
Somehow along the way, I did manage to become inculcated with unconscious bias. Throughout my life, I was never aware that I was prejudiced until this year when racial bias became the focus of national attention. I was shocked to discover within myself hidden assumptions about blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. These people, I unconsciously imagined, were unlikely to be as intelligent or well-educated as I am. I made no such assumptions about whites. It turned out that my parents had achieved their goal of planting prejudice in my soul.
Fortunately, a bias discovered is a bias disarmed. I’m now able at the conscious level to root out false assumptions. It will take some work, but I’ll do it.