Driving down the country road that leads to our house, I witnessed a grey squirrel perched on the double-yellow line in the middle of the asphalt. It stopped, twitched its tail a few times, yet neglected to move. Finally, as my vehicle approached at 35 mph, he darted toward the far side of the road and then shot back suddenly in front the car.
This time, I didn’t hit the squirrel. But sadly, I have run over a few squirrels in the past. You can’t tell what they’re going to do sometimes. The situation only gets worse on roads where multiple vehicles are approaching the same squirrel in the middle of the road. The rodent darts one way, then the other. The cars veer to avoid hitting the squirrel and almost run into each other. But so many times, in so many places, the squirrel zips under a vehicle wheel and winds up twitching and half-dead on the road.
I’ve looked hopefully into the rear view mirror on a few occasions to see if the squirrel I ran over got away. You don’t always hear if they were struck or not. I wince recalling the sight of a squirrel writhing in pain back in my lane. It always feels terrible t kill something like that.
Do squirrels deserve it?
Some people might say, “Well, the dumb squirrels deserve it. They shouldn’t live so close to the road.” Okay, bad choices do have consequences. That’s somewhat how evolution works. Squirrels that don’t survive to breed another year do not get to pass on their genes to the next generation. Over time, perhaps we’ll have squirrels that are better at avoiding cars. Perhaps we already do. That’s one aspect of natural selection.About 15 to 25 percent of young squirrels survive during their first year in life. How many die under car wheels is not exactly known. The colloquial answer is sufficient: Plenty.
Squirrels evolved in a world where there were no roads. No traffic. While they evolved as a species 40-50 million years ago, they’ve only had one hundred years to adapt their behavior patterns to speeding cars. Their world revolves around finding food. And while their instincts clearly tell them to avoid something large charging at them, nothing like a two-ton inanimate vehicle was around just two hundred years ago to change their habits.
Avoiding (or courting) trouble
As human beings, we generally suppose we are smarter than squirrels. We supposedly know how to read situations and avoid trouble. If we see something large or threatening charging at us, our ability to reason tells us how to avoid it. The brightest among us know enough to anticipate danger and take measures to protect our own safety. Anti-vaxxers are not that smart.
Somer types of human squirrels choose to deny that trouble exists even when it is bearing down upon them. They might even see other squirrels dying on the road of life and yet still they stand there, twitching their tails like there is no tomorrow. Some arrogantly assume that God will protect them from disease better than medical science.
Behaving squirrelly during the pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of people died from Covid-19 before a vaccine was available to help ward off the threat of death. Those deaths were not their fault. They were in part the fault of a bloated Fox Squirrel of a human being with an orange face and a penchant for barking up the wrong tree.
Fortunately, scientists did anticipate this danger well in advance of the Coronavirus. They’ve been working on cures for Covid and other strains of illness that jump from animal populations to humans. They are smart squirrels whom dumb squirrels like to malign for avoiding the Deadly Highway of Ignorance.
Science works wonders
The science behind the vaccines to fight this virus was years in the making. What remained was to target the vaccine to combat the specific virus we needed to beat. That involved a technological methodology in one of the vaccines that acts by sending a chemical message to the infected cells that sets off an immunity reaction. Pretty genius. Thank God for smart human squirrels who want to keep people from being run over during pandemics.
This wasn’t the last pandemic the world will face. Our anthropogenic intrusion on the wilds of the world is bringing us into closer proximity with a diversity in diseases that once stood out of reach. When those diseases make the jump to people, millions of humans are effectively “in the way.” They are at risk of being run down by Ebola or any number of infections attacking our systems.
Getting vaccinated makes sense even to chipmunks
Smart people know enough to get vaccinated when helpful medicines become available. In areas of North America where people are vaccinated, the death rates caused by Covid plummeted. In fact, Illinois recently had zero deaths from Covid infection, the first day in well over a year where that was the case. Being humble enough to know when an issue is bigger than you are is a real life saver. Even a chipmunk knows that.
But in areas like Missouri where a large population of “Show Me State” occupants still refuse to get vaccinated, people are getting mowed down like herds of squirrels too stubborn to get off the road.
A numbers game
This is a numbers game, you see. The people choosing to ignore the threat of impending disease are like squirrels living next to a road where traffic speeds by every day. They may make it safely across many times, but eventually, they will get hit.
They hear terms like herd immunity and think it means they are invincible in the face of a virus threat. They do so without realizing that a vaccine provides herd immunity if they’d only take the shot and stop believing in squirrelly theories about the government or Bill Gates is intent on sticking chips in their bodies or turning them into magnetic devices somehow.
It takes a squirrel-sized brain to believe in conspiracy theories over proven medicine. That means anti-vaxxers are still standing out in the middle of the Pandemic Highway screaming “We want our freedom! No one can make us get vaccinated!”
Truth is, they have a rather stark choice to make. They can get the vaccine, or risk getting run over by the Mack Truck of Covid. Then, their fuzzy conspiracy tales won’t matter one bit because they’ll be dead.
Let’s hope that reality sinks into everyone’s squirrelly head.
The riots and attack on the US government at the United States Capitol building are proving one thing: America really does need to be concerned about the rise of fascism in this nation.
All summer long during protests against the murder of Black citizens by police were conducted by Black Lives Matter and other social conscience groups. Some of those protests were marked by looting that harmed businesses. That was enough for Trump and his supporters to claim the two responses to police brutality were automatically related.
We can turn to the nation of Spain for perspective on the relationship between protests for social justice and independence. I happened to be in Barcelona on a vacation in 2019 during the weekend when originally peaceful protests turned ugly. The issue in Spain was a call for “self-determination” by citizens of the Catalaonian region. They sought independence from the central government in Spain over issues of taxation. Catalan residents sought to secede from Spain. Right-wing defendants of Spain’s traditional national structure and constitution sought to crack down on the protests.
That’s when things turned sour in Barcelona. As reported on Reuters.com, “Barcelona town hall said 400 garbage containers were set ablaze on Wednesday and estimated that the city had suffered damage totaling more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in two days. Some city residents condemned the rioting. “This doesn’t represent the majority of Catalans, whichever side they are on, be they pro-constitution or pro-independence,” said Joan, a 50-year-old small-business owner.
The political issues in Spain differ from those in America, yet the cycles of protest and governmental crackdowns and pursuant violence on the part of “protestors” is quite similar to patterns in the United States.
As Reuters reported, “Young people draped in Catalan flags congregated peacefully, tossing balls and skipping rope. Later the mood turned ugly, with protesters setting fire to cafe chairs on the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya street at the heart of the tourist district.
Earlier in the day, thousands of students took to the streets, some hurling eggs at police holding riot shields. Marches from around the region are due to converge on Barcelona on Friday and unions have called a general strike for the day.
“It’s not about who is a separatist and who is not – it’s about human rights,” said Aila, a student who declined to give her family name.”
Black Lives Matter and Antifa
That sounds so familiar. Here in America, hundreds of thousands of protestors also sought to stand up for human rights. Their cause was calling attention to the series of Black people shot or suffocated by police. The incident with George Floyd in which an officer put a knee on the man’s neck until he died went viral and served to illuminate the cause of minorities around the world.
But Trump and his supporters appeared unmoved by the calls for change, and protests escalated as a result. Property damage was rampant, and a loosely organized group calling itself Antifa rose to national prominence as Trump sought to place blame for the violence on an enemy he target for derision by his supporters. That meant Trump lumped everyone together in one supposedly “evil” group that he blamed for property damage. But the people seeking social justice weren’t willing to live with that accusation. They persisted in peaceful protests. I witnessed the “rebound effect” of peaceful protestors while visiting Madison, Wisconsin this summer following weeks of unrest. The boarded up businesses were decorated with messages of love and reminders of why the protests were initiated in the first place. That may have been no comfort to businesses affected by the lockdowns, but that effect was not solely the result of protests. There was the scourge of Coronavirus that Trump refused to address. That incalcitrance toward any authority other than his own was the cause of more suffering in the United States than any protest, Antifa or not, could muster. That’s the reality Trump sought to avoid.
The problem with the Trump tactic is that was successful with his supporters and his Republican allies eager to shift blame away from the President by siding with him in the depiction of all protestors as the “common enemy.” That means the original cause of the social justice protestors––justice for Black citizens and change in brutal police tactics––was effectively left behind. That is exactly how Trump likes it. His entire tactic in politics is to distract from the bad things he’s done and/or approved by redirecting blame toward anyone he depicts as the “common enemy.” In that regard, he has quite familiar company in history.
The concept of propaganda
Consider this excerpt from the Nuremberg 1934 rally, in which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels outlines the premise and purpose of propaganda:
“The concept of propaganda has undergone a fundamental transformation, particularly as the result of political practice in Germany. Throughout the world today, people are beginning to see that a modern state, whether democratic or authoritarian, cannot withstand the subterranean forces of anarchy and chaos without propaganda. It is not only a matter of doing the right thing; the people must understand that the right thing is the right thing. Propaganda includes everything that helps the people to realize this.”
He goes on to state, “Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow it to willingly and without internal resistance devote itself to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”
In the case of Donald Trump, that “purpose” in mind is keeping power at all costs. That aligns with his central goal of self-interest. His policies fulfill promises to others that can help him keep power. But his actions aside from that are all about winning and protecting access to power.
That explains his lies to cover up the threat of the pandemic in its early stages. His central goal in presenting information about the Coronavirus was to protect his image going into the 2020 election. To do that, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus and how many people it could possible kill. His interest was in protecting the economy upon which he believed his re-election depended. Yet his selfishness backfired as the virus raged through the American population, threatening to overwhelm hospitals as thousands died from Covid-19. The economy reeled. He raged against the lockdowns proclaimed by state governors as necessary to curb the spread of the disease.
That was Trump’s version of a “protest.” Yet it was his original inaction and refusal to engage the federal government in meaningful distribution of PPE and support for state efforts to conduct testing and reduce infection rates that led to the United States becoming the nation whose citizens were banned from traveling to countries around the world. Trump cynically and ignorantly blamed “testing” as the reason why the infection rates were so high. “If we didn’t do so much testing, there wouldn’t be so many infections,” seemed to be his reasoning.
The confusing mix of disease and outrage
So the summer months were a confusing mix of disease and outrage as American citizens endured the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus even as Trump refused to wear a mask in public and an entire ‘protest’ movement of Anti-Maskers sprung up within his movement. They claimed that wearing masks infringed on their personal freedoms. Men like noted conservative and former presidential candidate Herman Cain refused to wear a mask in public. He contracted Covid-19 and died as a result.
That incident describes the twisted reasoning and dangers of Trumpism.
In the same way, it was Trump sending out federal troops in a fascist show of strength in Portland and other cities that led to increased resistance and more radicalized response in cities across the country. The Trump administration resorted to posting unidentified, heavily armed guards in Washington, D.C. in one of the most fascist demonstrations of governmental secrecy in American history. No one knew who those guards reported to, or what their purpose was other than to serve as a threat that the right to protest at all was under threat.
Then Trump marched across the street in the company of military personnel while flash-bangs and other deterrence methods were aimed at peaceful protestors gathered around a church in Washington. Trump held up a Bible (upside down, it appears) in clear demonstration of the religio-fascist relationship he maintains with zealously bigoted evangelicals calling for outright theocracy in American government.
Trump supporters long to point toward his “policies” as signs of his success the last four years. But even the supposed lists of accomplishments now circulating in defensive memes are rife with contradictions. His supposed Mideast accords are little more than disguised acts of Zionism and anti-Palestinian intrigue. Trump’s forceful collapse of the Iran nuclear control deal is enabling the re-establishment of that nation’s programs. HIs tax cuts did nothing for the middle class while enriching the wealthiest Americans, and his inaction on Coronavirus crushed millions of jobs while Republican Senators and Congressman fought significant relief bills to help everyday Americans. If one were to draft a program to make American lives worse rather than better, there is none better than the lack of platform resolved by the Republican Party and the sycophantic support they’ve granted their Fascist in Chief. The GOP, as I’ve previously written, simply got pimped.
This arc toward fascist takeover of American society was not lost on Trump supporters whose beliefs about American justice were formed and fomented by propaganda spouted by Trump well before the 2020 election even took place. Upon losing, Trump declared the results “fraudulent” and proceeded to carry out 60 fraudulent lawsuits that were in turn rejected by courts on the basis of no evidence to support them.
None of that stopped Trump or his fascist henchman Rudy Giuliani from continuing their attack on democratic processes. Right up to the certification of the Electoral College votes, Trump and Rudy G collared Republican Congressman, Senators, state governors and even election officials. They issued dictates and threats. When all this continued to fail, Trump called his supporters into action in Washington. He directed them to march on the Capitol in hopes that the disruption would delay or cancel the counting of Electoral College votes altogether.
The riotous mob did invade and seek to destroy the Capitol building and its occupants. They came armed with ties in hopes of kidnapping the Vice President or the Speaker of the House. Anyone they regarded as “treasonous” was a potential target. Even those tasked with defending the safety of the Capitol building were subject to fascist fury. A Capitol guard was slaughtered by “protestors” using a fire extinguisher to pound the life out of him.
It’s his own fault, not ours
All of this is inescapably the fault of “President” Donald Trump, whose impeachment for attempts to corrupt the 2020 election were both justified and accurate. So was the Article of Impeachment about obstruction of justice, an action that Trump has taken multiple times and in multiple ways during his administration, all while crying out that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”
But the witch hunt that sprung into life on January 6 was one driven by those who support Trump, and no one else. It bears echoes of the witch hunt conducted by Michigan Trump supporters who first stormed that state’s Capitol building, then conspired to kidnap the state governor.
The witch hunt also burst into murderous flames in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a young kid inflamed by propagandistic rhetoric about the actions of Antifa, and not the cause of their concerns, shot several people to death in what his supporters immediately claimed as an act of “self-defense.”
It won’t be long before Trump makes the same claim for himself, that his supporters were acting in on his behalf, as an act of “self-defense” against the supposedly fraudulent results of the election. That is the Big Lie upon which all of Trumpism now depends. It is one Trump originated even before the 2016 election took place. It is a lie he will likely repeat until his is in his grave. He simply can’t accept the reality that Antifa exists in direct relationship to his fascist persona and the actions it has begotten.
That is the ultimate irony in all of this. Trump supporters refuse to understand that Donald Trump brought this upon America, and upon himself.
That’s what I wrote on a Facebook post in a group calling itself Christians Against Trump. A person in the group was objecting to people crowing about the passing of the conservative businessman and politician, Herman Cain, who died from Covid-19 after attending a Trump rally. He’d boasted about the refusal to wear a mask on his Twitter account.
Cain was making the bold claim that PEOPLE ARE FED UP with wearing masks, yet he’s now dead from contraction of the Coronavirus. One cannot be sure that he caught the deadly bug while sitting in the audience cheering on Trump. But the quid pro quo is compelling nonetheless.
Herman Cain also considered himself a mouthpiece for God. He connected his religion closely to his politics. During his campaign for President in 2012, he made a direct connection between his 9-9-9 tax proposal and his ardent belief in the Almighty. “If 10% is good enough for God,” Cain proclaimed, “9% ought to be good enough for the federal government.”
Given these almost scriptural musings about the nature of life and government, one wonders if Cain understood the fuller meaning of scripture that warns us against putting the Lord our God to the test. (Matthew 4:7)
Going out in public without a mask during a worldwide pandemic seems to be a keen way to put the Lord to the test. Yet it is a popular meme with some religious folks. There is no escaping the fact that Herman Cain tested the power of his faith and it didn’t work out that well for him.
A common sense approach
That’s the problem with banking on religion to protect us from all kinds of evil. God still expects us to use common sense. The Book of Genesis starts out with a test of that sort to warn us against getting too cocky about the support of God in this world. Even after Adam and Eve are told not to take fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, they engage with a legalistic serpent who shows up with a promise that they can be like God, knowing good and evil, if they take matters into their own hands. “You surely will not die,” the Serpent promises them.
But a harsh lesson awaits. The Serpent’s promise is only good in the short term. The deceivingly religious Serpent has tricked Adam and Eve into thinking they have immunity from their own actions. Such is the case, it seems, with Herman Cain and millions of other religious believers who too easily neglect the lessons of their own scripture. While claiming to represent the Will of God, they eagerly take fate into their own hands.
The legacy of Herman Cain
There is more to the conflicted legacy of Herman Cain than his unfortunate death. HIs life as a businessman is depicted as a classic “up by the bootstraps” lesson about corporate perseverance. He rose through the ranks of several fast food companies to bring Godfather’s Pizza to renewed profitability. But when President Clinton pursued a plan to require employers to support health insurance for employees, Cain complained that plan would make it impossible for companies “like mine” to stay in business.
In a textbook example of conservative victimhood, Cain stated “For many, many businesses like mine, the cost of your plan will cause us to eliminate jobs. What will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?”
Two bad choices
That tactic of offering up two seemingly bad choices to defend an ideological premise of conservatism under the banner of capitalism is a classic conservative ploy. What Cain refuses to consider or mention is why employers are even involved in the business of dispensing healthcare in the first place? Conservatives love to ignore such topics, leaving businesses across America responsible for the major headache of paying premiums and managing our healthcare system in the increasingly expensive triage of combatants vying for profitability. These are healthcare insurance companies, healthcare providers and networks, and Big Pharma. All of these lobbies want to protect their own interests, and corporate politicians gain big donations by doing so.
And the rest of America is left living a lie of bad choices. The United States barely ranks in the Top 40 worldwide in terms of quality and affordability of healthcare. So much for American exceptionalism. The fight against the Affordable Care Act was not about constitutional rights or Death Panels or any number of conflated reasons concocted by the Republican Party. It was about the selfish interests of all these profit-pursuing entities trying to slice pieces of meat from the other. And the GOP plays the role of butcher by trying to cut people out of the ranks of the covered.
Herman Cain’s purposefully blind approach to resolving health care needs in America is the entire premise of the Republican Party’s non-plan to protect the health of everyday Americans. For decades, millions of people living outside the bubble of corporate-sponsored health care went without coverage. And worse, those with pre-existing conditions were essentially banned from pools of favorably-priced health insurance even if they tried to buy it on the open market.
The Republican approach to health insurance was, and remains, a death warrant for anyone who works for a man like Herman Cain. So we must ask, how does a supposedly God-fearing Christian man come to a place in life where he aggressively opposes the needs of people who work for him? It turns out scripture has something to say about that too.
That “up-from-the-bootstraps” mentality favored by conservatives is more about selfishness than it is about solutions. It’s the “tough luck” school of thought that Jesus combatted in the religious authorities whose love of tradition moved them to invent laws and rules and restrictions that stood as stumbling blocks for those trying to reach out to God for spiritual sustenance. Instead it became a transactional religion run by people in positions of power and authority who got to call the shots, even to the point of sentencing people to death if they were accused of doing something wrong.
That’s the lifelong lesson of Herman Cain in a nutshell. His supposed love of personal responsibility was actually a politically dismissive ideal that cost him his own life in the end.
But as scripture tells us time and again, God loves irony. It teaches so many lessons.
You know the phrase. “Stupid is as stupid does.” That means even seemingly smart people can believe and do stupid things.
By a factor of 8 to 1 the United States of America is leading the European Union in the number of new cases of Coronavirus. The EU has 445M people and the US only 330M, yet we’re kicking their ass when it comes to spreading a virus that is spread through airborne droplets. For these reasons, health officials recommend that people engage in simple practices such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands and staying away from crowded places like bars, beaches and political rallies.
Stupid by example
But some people are too stubborn and stupid to abide in those simple recommendations. They’re even stupid enough to conflate them as infringements on their personal liberties. And for their example, the can cite none other than the President of the United States, who aggressively refuses to wear a mask in public.
Upward spiral of death
As a result, cases of Coronavirus infections are soaring in multiple states. Deaths are following the upward curve as well. Much of this rise is due to serial stupidity on the part of Americans refusing to abide by the most basic precautions. Many are politicizing the wearing of masks as a government mandate.
Despite the surge in infections, Vice President Mike Pence insisted in late June 2020 that things are looking great and that the virus is abating. Yet even the Governor of Texas admitted that he’d done a stupid thing by allowing people to crowd into bars and other compromising situations.
The Real Problem
But that’s the real problem. A massive number of Americans is unwilling to compromise to protect their own health, or the health of others. So I’ll say it right here, loud and clear. These people are stupid.
Being stupid is traditionally defined as “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” In the case of people whining about wearing masks, they’re the stupidest people of all.
Two kinds of stupid
As we surmise from the definition above, there are two kinds of stupid. There is lack of intelligence, and there is lack of common sense. That’s what “stupid is as stupid does” means. If you let your brain succumb to stupid advice, that makes you stupid. If you’re too dumb to know common sense when you see it, that’s unfortunate, and sometimes tragic.
Stupid and proud of it
At this point, America is overrun by people exhibiting both kinds of this stupidity. Some display their stupidity in claiming that their man Trump has done a “good job so far” on the pandemic. But the EU and the rest of the world figured out how to do far better than the US when it comes to keeping their populations safe. Only the US is stupid enough to continue down a path of stupid behavior and even stupider political support for a massive failure in leadership. People are being stupid and proud of it.
Forrest Gump versus Donald Trump
If we were to compare the relative decision-making capabilities of Forrest Gump with Donald Trump, whose advice would you most likely be inclined to take? The simple man whose love of common sense made him wealthy and loved? Or the conflicted man whose love of himself bankrupted his own company multiple times, led to a $25M fraud against his own University, got impeached for pursuing illegal political gain and denied the threat of a pandemic and continues to pretend it doesn’t exist?
Let’s put it bluntly. Based on everything we know about the corrupt and fatal actions of Donald Trump, anyone who supports the man has to be stupid. That might be a question of basic intellect, or just as likely a case of willful stupidity. Either way, it’s a tragedy for America.