2020 Vision

Note: This blog was written before the events of January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters, incited for many weeks including that morning by the president, invaded the halls of Congress, and brought to a halt the joint session that had convened according to the U.S. Constitution to count and declare the vote of the Electoral College, naming Joe Biden and Kamela Harris the next president and vice president of the nation.

This past year, our eyes have seen no glory, much less any coming of the Lord. Instead, we have witnessed possibly the darkest days in the history of our nation since the Civil War.

In less time than the year just ended, more than 20,000,000 Americans were infected by a pandemic killing almost 350,000 of our people despite warnings of its onset. Even with the hope of vaccines putting an end to this disease, both of these horrifying numbers will continue to dramatically increase for months to come, a result of the criminal dereliction of duty if not the depraved indifference of the president of the United States and the galactic hypocrisy of his enablers. His staggering self-centeredness, utter lack of empathy and demented detachment from reality have engendered a national health catastrophe and concurrent financial disaster for tens of millions out of work, sinking into poverty, facing lives of hunger and homelessness.

We have endured a president refusing to acknowledge the dangers of this disease, refusing to provide anything even vaguely approaching leadership, refusing to organize and apply the resources of our government against the pandemic. Worse yet, he refused to personally practice or promote even the most basic health precautions. On the contrary, he continued to encourage ignoring the advice of our medical and scientific experts even as we saw increasing sickness and death every day. By denying the need for sensible, easily implemented changes in personal behavior, and cynically conflating them with an attack on individual liberty, he has made as many as 100 million people his mindless accomplices in spreading the devastation of this deadly disease.

And if that was not enough, with America newly responding to the terrifying injustice of racial discrimination past and present, he continues to defend those who treasonously tried to tear this nation apart in the name of slavery and those who march to the immorality of white supremacy.

At least we will have ended this presidency of arguably the most corrupt person ever to occupy the White House even as he insanely seeks to undo his defeat, regurgitating a torrent of lies and crackpot conspiracy fantasies, followed by a coterie of feckless Republican senators and representatives committing overt acts of sedition by attacking the very core of our democracy. We will have rid our nation and the world of an American president who watched television half the day and tweeted madness half the night. We will have finished four years of a morally bankrupt president, caring about no one other than himself, a president whose ignorance, incompetence and inhumanity finally led us into national disaster.

And while the rancorous divisions that define our body politic began well before this president, he exacerbated them to what may be a point of no return from utter dysfunction if a new administration fails to lead us back to some overarching sense of national cohesion and purpose, a prospect this president will no doubt continue to obstruct in every way he can long after his term of office ends.

Historians will possibly offer a less polemic view of what seems to me a country at the edge of an existential cliff. Perhaps in the context of distance and the perspective of a wider scope of time, this moment will appear less perilous and more like part of the ebb and flow of what can otherwise be defined as human progress, a process of improving life on earth when reviewed over centuries. However, looking at it with dispassion while living through the insanity of current events requires considerable mental gymnastics. It starts with turning a blind eye to today’s realities. It means looking away from chaos with an eye toward an idealism hopefully anchored by practical possibilities rather than wishful thinking.

It requires both the political left and the right to step back from their respective brinks of extremism. We need to turn away from the lecturing of the left, fostered by the arrogance of socialists who historically substitute simple-minded academic theory for actually listening to the problems and needs of the emotionally and economically disaffected. At the same time, we need to reject the abject greed of laissez-faire capitalists and knee-jerk patriots of the right, blathering about every socially responsible government regulation being an assault on their personal liberty. We need to re-anchor our culture somewhere in the middle ground between the philosophies of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand or the politics of Fidel Castro and Rand Paul.

First, we must ensure that we put this pandemic behind us by supporting and relying on our scientific and medical communities to guide our healthcare decisions. We must see they get everything they need to care for those who fall ill even as vaccines offer a way to end the pandemic. We must spare no effort or expense to distribute and apply the vaccines equitably to America and the world at large.

We must harness the talent and experience of our best economic and financial minds to promote the return of the lost businesses, lost jobs and lost income that support our lives and families. We don’t have to make the false choice between our health and our economy. We can recover both, but not if we argue faux ideologies with death and despair at our doorstep.

And while relief from the pandemic comes first, the time is nonetheless long overdue to finally come face-to-face with the reality of racism in America. As a matter of principle, it is a violation of the words of God and our Constitution. It is an assault on our future. It is a denial of what should be the heart and soul of our nation. In practice, racism saps our strength, drains our spirit and undermines our leadership role in the world upon which our safety and security depend. Even with the mightiest military in history, we cannot go it alone. We must once again join and lead the world to a place where people are treated with greater fairness, where people can live in safety, where people can enjoy our cherished promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But to do so, we must have our own house in order.

We cannot end racism just by protesting or even by passing more laws. Racism is a reprehensible state of mind that will not be changed by legislation alone. We cannot pass laws about how people should think and feel. Racism must ultimately be ended by moral leadership, by compassionate choices and by education based on truth, not myth. We can no longer wait to deal with racism that happens every day in acts of social and economic discrimination and at its worst, criminal acts of violence including murder. This can no longer be tolerated. We can no longer turn blind eyes, deaf ears and callous minds to the everyday victims of racism. The perpetrators must be prosecuted no matter who they are.

As a nation, we must preach and teach racial equality as a moral imperative and fight acts of racism as a matter of justice. Denying the systemic foundation of racism in America denies history. We were born a racist nation and I fear that disease will fester in us until we can look at a person of color and see first the person, not the color.

Certainly no end to racism can be achieved by any one president and unfortunately not by just getting rid of a racist president. Ending racism must be led by every president and every member of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our federal and state governments. It must be promoted by leaders of business, labor, religious and secular education, all of which will take time but must begin with renewed commitment. That in turn must start now with law enforcement reforms. While we must have and must support law enforcement by law-abiding officers, we must never again defend or pardon criminals with badges acting with hatred and toward people of color.

I wish I could believe that if America can get through this health crisis, get the economy growing again, and begin a real end to racial discrimination, everything will be fine. The truth is I think these crises are only the beginning for us getting things right.

Even before today’s economic meltdown of lost jobs and family income, we heard a president constantly bragging that things were booming. But not for too many millions of Americans. Too many couldn’t find jobs they had trained for. Too many couldn’t find work that would earn a living wage. Too many had to work more than one job just to make ends meet. Too many had to endure jobs that brought no satisfaction, no sense of dignity. And too many families struggled to bring up kids because both parents had to work just to get through the week. All that was bad enough. But today, tens of millions of jobs have been lost and a huge proportion of them will not come back. We may recoup our GNP, but we face an ongoing challenge in reconstituting our work force, providing the opportunity and ability for people to earn a living wage with jobs they actually want to do.

Even today, as our people endure unthinkable sickness and death, we have one of our two political parties committed to repealing affordable healthcare, trying to take health insurance away from millions who finally have it for the first time in their lives. We’ve just had a president who has been the greatest threat in history to our national health. And he has left us a cohort that will work tooth-and-nail to prevent our country from offering health care that will work for everyone.

And let us not forget the aid and comfort given by this president to climate change deniers while violent storms and raging fires destroy homes, towns and millions of acres of our lands … a president who denies the science that shows us the degradation of our environment … a president who instead promotes fuels that pollute our atmosphere, chemicals that poison our water, and anti-environment policies that benefit himself and his golfing buddies at the expense of the rest of us. America must again provide global leadership in creating sustainable energy that will save our children and future generations from the very real threats of climate change.

It may seem like a luxury in the face of today’s life-and-death struggles, but our leadership in all aspects of life must encourage a body politic that truly cares about the quality of life that our country stands for and that all of us have a right to enjoy … a citizenry that honestly lives and breathes the idea that we are all created equal and are all entitled to equal opportunity and equal justice under the law … a people governed by fairness, not favoritism. Fairness in law enforcement that is above all, color blind; fairness in a criminal justice system that doesn’t fill our prisons with draconian and discriminatory convictions; fairness in our tax laws, not fake reforms that favor only the wealthiest who should be contributing more to the country that made their lifestyles possible; fairness in education not just bought with money and influence but education that affords every American the learning that creates their opportunities for better lives; fairness in keeping the government out of our bedrooms; fairness in women earning equal pay for equal jobs and in making decisions that should be their own, guided by their own sense of morality; fairness in ensuring social security which has been earned and paid for by lifetimes of work; fairness in immigration that doesn’t discriminate against people of color, nationalities or religions, that doesn’t use walls, barbed wire and kids in cages as policy. Legal and sensible immigration has enhanced our well-being since we became a nation. In fact, it’s how we grew as a nation. I truly believe that immigration reform is not so complicated when fairness, common sense and good will lead the way.

It is still possible to nurture and re-build the belief in America’s future as a nation of laws, where no one is above the law; a nation that encourages and supports all its people; a nation whose governmental leadership lives up to its oath to preserve, protect and defend its Constitution. We have suffered a president who qualifies in none of the above — a president who flouted our laws and our values, who corrupted the power of his office to pardon not people unjustly convicted or sentenced but murderers, thieves, perjurers, and a cadre of con men, most all of whom either confessed or were found guilty through overwhelming evidence of their criminality; a president who slandered our independent judges and free press, who seethed with contempt at our founding fathers’ idea of accountability in which the White House, the Congress and the courts watch over each other. We have had a president who encouraged racial and religious discrimination; a president who undermined the quality of American life by inciting greater division in every aspect of our lives; a president who corrupted his office to empower and enrich himself; a president who insulted our allies and catered to dictators and murderers, and who practically destroyed our standing and influence around the world. Until this president, it was literally unimaginable that such things could be said about an American president. But that is where he and his cohort have brought us. We have followed Donald Trump to the nadir of our nation’s history. We may not have another chance to start the hard climb back.

But in just the act of rejecting him, I believe we have taken the essential first step toward addressing our problems — from meeting and defeating racism to rebuilding and growing an economy that can offer financial security to all; from curing the pandemic, to filling the potholes on our roads; from re-building our infrastructure and our industry, to giving our disadvantaged the help they need to fend for themselves; from making education a pathway to success for all, to managing sensible immigration; from ensuring security for our elderly, to expanding opportunities for our youth; from making healthcare a basic right for everyone to guaranteeing our communities’ safety and protecting our individual freedom. There is nothing that should stop us if we put our historic strengths to the task. With the determination of our will, with the ingenuity of our innovation, with the power of our productivity and with the re-commitment to “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” there is nothing that should prevent us from fulfilling our pledge of allegiance to “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Hopefully, January 20, 2021 will be the beginning of seeing our nation and the world moving toward a far better place than our 2020 vision has shown us. But if I am wrong (and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time) and we fail to take meaningful steps back from our political precipice, then there won’t be much point in blogging (or ranting) about it further (assuming there is a point to it at all).

Note: Vance Jones, a CNN commentator, offered perceptive insight on the events of January 6, suggesting that the Trump mob’s actions against the Congress heralded either an end or a beginning – an act so egregious as to bring an historical end to the corruption of the Trump administration or a beginning of the final chapter in the history of the United States in which we sink into further division and chaos and from which we cannot recover. I believe it is the former. Trump has brought us to rock bottom in so horrific a manner that it will hopefully provoke enough among even his most cynical supporters to re-think and renounce their complicity. We shall soon enough see.