The Profound Hopelessness of the Present Moment
In the grim darkness of the immediate present, there is only despair
(Warning: people struggling with depression and/or suicidal ideation may want to avoid reading this article)
Let’s not kid ourselves. We’re pretty f****d aren’t we?
Where to begin…how about a run-down of the present moment we’re in?
It is October in the year of our Dark Lord 2020. At this time there are more than 220,000 Americans that have died from the novel Coronavirus-19 and we’re adding roughly 1,000 Americans a day to the pool of victims losing their lives to this illness. There has been a total of 36,000,000 worldwide Covid-19 cases and more than 1,100,000 deaths globally. This pandemic and the resulting mitigation policies that were rolled out to combat the virus have resulted in an economy that is teetering on the brink, threatening the country and the world with the worst economic downturn since the great depression. Record breaking forest fires magnified by record breaking temperatures have been tearing through the West, displacing many thousands of Americans, destroying towns, killing countless animals and suffocating many millions of Americans in seemingly never-ending blankets of smoke. A rising tide of neo-fascism lead by a dangerously narcissistic president is taking the country hostage, emboldening an increasingly militarized and racist policing and criminal justice system with the fascistic “law and order” mantra. In all of this the only hope we have on the horizon is an impotent, blithering neoliberal incrementalist that participated in the decades of United States federal policy-making and governance that landed us in this moment of calamity to begin with. It is not looking good.
Let’s drag our spirit over the coals and look at the coronavirus situation first. For those of us in the US, we really have no idea where this ends and what the final COVID-19 numbers will be. Are we through the worst of it or are we sitting at the base of a second wave that will dwarf the original victim count, similar to the development and course of the Spanish Flu?
If it wasn’t bad enough that our family members, neighbors, friends and acquaintances are dying in large numbers, unleashing widespread pain and suffering around the country — the pandemic itself has become deeply politicized by an increasingly radicalized right-wing and their leader Donald Trump.
During the writing of this very article, a story has broken into the national headlines about a group of white nationalist militia men that were plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan and depose the Michigan state government because of it’s C-19 safety measures (I know, that was weeks ago. I’m lazy, cut me a break). Ultimately the men were arrested by the FBI before they could carry out their terrorist acts, but the event serves as yet another point of evidence indicating the hyper radicalization of Trump’s base of support.
If the rising tide of neo-fascism was not bad enough, then there is the economic anxiety and potential economic depression looming on the horizon that has resulted from a bumbling and disjointed United States coronavirus response. The national leadership of the U.S. has abdicated it’s responsibility to create, lead and enforce a national pandemic response. Trump has said plainly and made it clear — the responsibility for a pandemic response falls on individual states and their governor. Donald Trump said as much in several statements earlier this year and in May his Health and Human Services department put out a measly 81 page national guideline plan for a pandemic response. The plan made it clear that the responsibility for testing and tracing falls on the states. If that wasn’t bad enough- Trump pulled funding for testing and tracing from the Centers for Disease Control, the primary institution tasked with national pandemic responses.
So where does this unwillingness to lead a national response come from? Anyone with their head on straight and a firm understanding of national politics knows the answer to this question. Trump is caught between a rock and a hard place — on the one hand you have the very obvious reality that Trump is indeed supposed to be leading a national response to protect the nation from this deadly virus (like every other developed and modern nation on earth), but on the other hand you have the reality that Trump’s base, who he is exclusively interested in signaling to and who have been deeply radicalized against any form of federal action for decades by reactionary media outlets, would react harshly and violently to a national lock-down and federally lead testing — causing his favoribility among his base to tank. To put it bluntly — Trump refuses to lead a national pandemic response because it would tank his favoribility among his base, ensuring that he would not be re-elected. Trump has let more than 200,000 Americans die because he (falsely) believed it would help his re-election.
While the delusional narcissist clown-in-chief allows a viral pandemic to cull hundreds of thousands of human lives for political games, where are the rest of us left?
While many COVID-affected nations have already full re-opened their countries and their economies due to effective national coronavirus response plans, the disjointed response in the United States has created a sort of Franken-economy. Many democratic lead states have remained in either full or semi-lockdown, dramatically reducing COVID numbers when compared to their Republican counterparts, which has had the undesirable effect of contributing to mass unemployment. On the other side of that coin are the Republican states which have steamrolled ahead with re-opening. This callous decision to sacrifice human lives to the capitalist-borg has lead to Republican states seeing widespread COVID outbreaks as virtually every single worst-hit state is dominated by Republican state governance.
While there are multiple ways in which Trump did not realize that his reckless decision to not lead a national pandemic response would come back to bite him, there is one particularly morbid and direct way that I believe he gravely miscalculated. Trump’s base of support comes from older voters. Coronavirus has the highest morbidity rates among older victims. Red states, following Trump’s lead, have chosen to abandon safety measures and treat the virus as a “hoax” as their dear leader has told them for months that it is, leading to viral outbreaks as I have demonstrated above. The result of this particularly toxic and detestable assortment of ideology and rhetoric, can, will and is leading to the deaths of thousands of Trump’s most loyal supporters. That will absolutely have real world electoral effects in swing/battleground states as there are physically and literally fewer Trump supporters in the country — because they are being killed by this deadly virus — because Trump abandoned them…for a poorly calculated political ploy.
So in all of this bleakness, what is the silver lining? Who or what, or where is our hope? Where is our Gandalf coming down the mountain with the Rohirrim and the breaking sunlight? Nowhere. There is none. There will not be any. Our absolute best hope is that a moderate Republican, Joe Biden, backed by his network of private capital and private equity, can convince enough people that he’s not as bad as a smooth brained narcissistic fascist (an incredibly low bar) in order to vote out the leader of an increasingly violent reactionary movement. In this outcome, the *best* potential outcome, the potential for the worst outcome is born.
Let me explain. I think I can say with a fair degree of confidence that whenever we’re talking politics, the worst potential outcome in any situation is for widespread violence and bloodshed — essentially civil war, or at least widespread armed conflict. If Donald Trump wins re-election, it will be an absolute disaster for the planet, for racial minorities, for American democracy and for virtually all life on earth given the administration’s climate policies. While liberals and leftists will protest and there may be isolated pockets of political violence and unrest — the potential for civil war and/or widespread armed conflict and bloodshed in the event of Trump’s reelection remains low. This is the second least desirable outcome. The most undesirable outcome — widespread armed conflict or civil war becomes the most likely in the event that Biden wins the general election, which I say again with a strong sigh and deep resignation is the most desirable outcome.
The right-wing base in this country, which is well known to be associated with a network of thousands of heavily armed and increasingly radicalized far-right militia groups, can and will jump at any word that Donald Trump gives to take up arms and “do something” about the presidency being “stolen” from him. Does that claim seem wild-eyed and hyperbolic to you? Why? How much have you personally really been paying attention to Donald Trump’s rhetoric over the last few years? Were you paying attention in September when Donald refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power in a White House press briefing and said the following?
“We’re gonna have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Reporter — “Will you commit to a peaceful transferal of power?”
“Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer frankly there will be a continuation.”
Of course his comments came after months of a concerted GOP effort to sow mistrust and fear about the integrity and reliability of the United States Postal Service and of American democracy itself, while simultaneously the administration quietly attempted to make changes to the USPS that were blocked by a federal judge.
So the stage is set in the minds of the increasingly sycophantic MAGA movement. Donald Trump is a secret Bruce Wayne-style freedom fighting super hero, waging a secret war against the “deep state” (yes, millions of his devout followers actually believes some version of this). But, that “deep state” which controls the post office and the democrats, have concocted the ultimate nefarious plan to steal the election…
…Trump has spent months telling tens of thousands of rally attendees, and TV audiences, that if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the election it will virtually be the end of the American way of life as we know it. That it would signify an authoritarian-Communist takeover of the country and that everyone’s lives and neighborhoods would be in jeopardy. I have been around politics for a minute. I have heard politicians say some wacky things about their opposition. Never in my life time have I heard a major party’s presidential candidate talk like that and never have I ever read or heard about major party presidential candidates wielding such dangerous, violent and irresponsible language at their political opposition — at least in American history.
Put yourself in the mind of a good-faith, low information and low education Donald Trump supporter. Put yourself in the mind of someone that legitimately and genuinely believes Donald is a comic book billionaire superhero that is waging a secret war against a global cabal that wants to take away your freedom and that if Donald Trump loses the election it means a communist takeover is imminent and the American way of life is over. If you legitimately and actually believe that narrative what choice would you have but to take up arms and try to spark a civil war to prevent the loss of your life, freedom, and the American way of life? That is the situation we could find ourselves in if Donald loses the election, which is the best possible and most comforting outcome for the United States and the planet. Yeah the situation is quite shit.
I wish I had something reassuring, comforting or even mildly amusing to end this with - I don’t. I am not going to lie to you and tell you that everything is going to be okay. It probably won’t be. Even if Joe Biden wins the election and there is no resulting civil war, all we are looking at is a temporary reduction in political tensions and a “return to normal” that will see us hurdling towards planetary destruction and mass extinction while our leaders and institutions only symbolically gesture to do something about it. We will still see people of color murdered in the streets by civil servants whose salaries are paid by the people they’re murdering, in increasingly unjust, horrific and public ways. We will still sit idly by and watch as the middle class shrinks, the underclasses grow, and the percentage of national wealth created each year goes more and more towards the wealthiest among us.
All I have to say in the face of this moment is impotent, ineffectual. Draw your loved ones near you. Keep the fire and light inside you alive. Expand your circle. Strengthen the connections and bonds in your circle. Look out for the weakest and most voiceless in your communities. Donate to mutual aid networks if you can afford to. Vote for Joe Biden…fuck.
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