“See, you don’t really understand what the man is all about. He’s about holding up the dignity of other people by standing up for their beliefs. You may not agree with him, but that’s because you really don’t understand him. Maybe it’s because you’re too, well, too nice or something in that female or not-so-macho man kind of way. But he just comes out and says it the way it is, see? He’s honest that way. You expect people to have to explain everything. To go over and over things. But Trump just says it the way it is, right now. That’s what real Americans want, and men especially. For the last forty years since Reagan men have been told to shut up and be nice about everything. Men are tired of that, and Trump knows it. And a lot of women too! Look at all the women voting for the President. They’re not complaining when he makes a joke or admits that he likes to have a little fun with the gals, are they? So why do some women get their undies in a bunch about Donald Trump? He loves women! He tells them that all the time! “I love women!” he tells them. “No one respects women more than me!” He says this stuff and all the politically correct people ignore him! That’s the real problem here. People don’t give Donald Trump and men like him the benefit of the doubt! They’re the ones who really, truly respect women. Many of them are Christian men who put their women up on the altar of respect! To put it simple and straight, they take care of their gals, and the gals know it. They like it that way. Men who hold up their end of the bargain as head of the household do it best… if not with money then with strength and values so the women they respect feel valued and protected. This is the way the world works best, and Donald Trump knows this. He lives it. That’s why so many women and men stand by him on all of this political stuff. They know good people when they see it. They have jobs to keep and 401Ks to protect, and Donald Trump keeps his promises. The economy is roaring back from Covid. Just wait and see! When this stolen election stuff is settled, let me tell you…He’s going to get this country going like never before. You may not get that if you’re all caught up in junk about race and women’s rights and gays getting married, but once you stop abortions, the rest of that stuff will all fall into line anyway. Black people won’t be losing babies right and left. Immigrants won’t be dumping babies on us and going back home either, like that DACA stuff let’s them do. You look at Donald Trump. He’s got an immigrant wife who made the most of the American capitalist system. Her background is a little colorful but that just means she’s a liberated women. He doesn’t need to hold her hand all the time because she’s a strong person. Accent and all, but at least she speaks English, which is more than half the immigrants in this country ever do. You ever gone to the driver’s license facilities? They got more languages on the signs than anywhere on earth. That’s not America. That’s not how Donald Trump wants things to run. He wants to Make America Great Again, like it was before all this political correctness and Bill and Hillary Clinton scams. Let me tell you: Trump knew all along Obama was corrupt. That’s why the whole birther thing was spot on. He was right about Obama’s Muslim stuff too. Hussein. Who ever heard of such a name? Same as Saddam, you see? How that works? It shows you right there what was wrong with those eight years. All that smart guy talk and Obamacare lying was just for show. You look at Benghazi and realize that Obama never cared about Americans anywhere on earth. Clinton too. It was all about themselves and locking up money once they got out of office. Now they’re all millionaires, and fake ones at that. Who makes millions selling books? Crooks, that’s who. Not like Trump, who builds things all over the world. Plus those Clintons and Obamas…they’re narcissists. Any psychologist can tell you that. My friend’s a psychologist and he told me that. I see psychology stuff all the time on the Internet. There’s so much of it you can’t even wade through it all. That tells you how bad those people really are. But Trump, his sister or niece or whatever wrote a book about him and it was like water off a duck’s back. Nothing stuck because it wasn’t true. He’s good people, that’s why. Look at how he talks to everyone. It’s not uppity politician talk. He’s like a pastor or something, standing behind the podium. And those reporters? You know what’s wrong with them? They’re all dishonest. Every damned one of them. Looking to lie because they have a pen or a computer and know how to use it. But that doesn’t make them experts on anything. I’ll take Trump’s gut instincts over their gutless journalism stuff any day of the week. Look at how Trump fooled the doctors with that Covid stuff he got. He was back at the White House in days. Reporters were crying and moaning that he wasn’t wearing a mask. They’re the wimps. They couldn’t handle getting the Covid like Trump did. He blew right through it like he was playing through a slow foursome on the golf course. “Outta my way, Covid! I’m playing through!” That’s the kind of man we need to keep in office, not let the election be stolen by some old guy Biden and his sassafras Kamala Harris with her Obama looks and weird-ass background. What is she? Part-Indian, Part Black? And a white husband, right? How messed up is that? Our country wasn’t invented to have people mix up the races and have gays marching around like they own the place. That’s not what the Founding Fathers had in mind at all. If you don’t get that, you don’t get much at all. And you can thank me for explaining it to you. If none of this sinks it, you just have Trump Derangement Syndrome. TDS. I hope this cures you. You’re welcome.”
As a child deeply interested in nature, I studied butterflies and learned dozens of species, taking up birding thanks to the gift of a Peterson Field Guide from a knowing aunt, and spent all the time I could outdoors where the world seemed to offer limitless opportunity to find something new every day.
Yet one warm afternoon I got a bit more nature than I expected. While popping tar bubbles and collecting “Fool’s Gold” bits of pyrite from the gravel on a neighborhood street, I heard a loud buzzing noise over my shoulder and turned to find the biggest wasp I had ever seen descending over my head. It was a cicada killer carrying prey back to its underground nest.
At first, horrified by the size, then fascinated by this massive insect, I watched it land and drag a cicada carcass into a hole in the Pennsylvania clay.
Although I well knew that aspects of nature could be vicious––our own feral cat had proved that to me by dispatching birds and chipmunks multiple times––that encounter with the cicada killer shattered my expectations of how forceful our world could be.
Force of nature
But it didn’t end there. Later in life, I learned that certain kinds of wasps will lay eggs in the bodies of larger caterpillars, whose innards become food for the young of the wasp once they emerge. Parasitoid wasps actually prey on all sorts of other living creatures, with some focusing on aphids, which is why some gardeners welcome the sneaky beasts into their world.
The world is full of predator-prey relationships, many with brutal consequences. Nature usually finds a balance if evolution is left to work its magic. But the human race is known to mess up this equilibrium by introducing entirely new or “invasive” species into an ecosystem. Without any natural predators or systems to keep them in check, these species can run amok, overtaking the natural environment with often devastating force.
We see invasive plant species such as garlic mustard covering woodland floors, shutting out light vital to native wildflowers. Out in the marshes, it is purple loosestrife that propagates like mad. There are also bird species such as European starlings and House sparrows that upon release into North America flourished and flooded the countryside with their aggressive ways.
The latest predatory and somewhat parasitic species to invade the United States is a species of wasp called the Japanese Murder hornet. Specimens of this robust and vicious wasp have been found in the Pacific Northwest, leading some to worry that they might expand across the country and decimate honeybee populations. That problem would only worsen the challenges faced by beekeepers during a period when massive hive die-offs are common, and whose cause is not entirely known.
Whether Murder hornets will make way across the fifty states remains to be seen. One expert quoted in a Business Insider article played down the threat: “It’s not an existential threat to mankind or to the US or to our honeybee industry to have,” Doug Yanega told Business Insider. “Even if they do get established and build a foothold here, the scale of the threat is greatly overblown.”
Another entomologist quoted in the Post-Crescent, a Wisconsin newspaper, noted: “This whole ‘murder hornet’ thing is annoying to entomologists, I think,” Draney said. “It just freaks people out and sort of unnecessarily makes people nervous.”
People are nervous about quite a few threats these days. The invasion of the Coronavirus in America has shut down the economy and cost 30 million people their jobs. The virus is an evolutionary wonder of its own, a “novel” bug that has no predecessor among human beings. That makes it more dangerous to contain because there are no antidotes or antibodies developed to combat the tiny beast. Thus it presents an existential threat to millions of people around the world.
Here in the United States, response to the Coronavirus bug was slow and ponderous. That’s because the main person in charge of pondering the issue is himself a bit of an apex predator and by some reckonings, a parasite of the first and final order.
A real (estate) parasite
Back in the days when Trump was making his way in the New York Real Estate market, he refined his predatory tactics through manipulation of rent controls and valuations, playing up the worth of his properties when it suited his ego and playing them down when it benefited his tax needs.
But his parasitic instincts flared into action when the Real Estate market crash threatened the nation in 2007. As NBC News reported, “Donald Trump counseled Trump University students to take advantage of the housing bubble as an investment opportunity and said, just a year before it burst, that he was “excited” for it to end because of the money he’d make.
“People have been talking about the end of the cycle for 12 years, and I’m excited if it is,’ he told the Globe and Mail in March of 2007. “I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.”
At that time, the housing market was already beginning to decline, and just over a year later the subprime mortgage crisis hit, part of a chain reaction of events that led to the stock market crash of 2008 and cemented the Great Recession.”
Predator and parasite combined
That is Trump the predator and parasite coming together in one devilish creature. The NBC News story originally published in 2016 is all the more revealing now that Trump University was punished for defrauding the students it claimed to educate. Not only was Trump eager to parasitize the economy on which his supposed wealth depends, but he was also sucking money out of people for fake wisdom.
But we’ve long known that Trump knows how to leverage his vicious nature better than most. His television show The Apprentice celebrated his love of dispatching those he considered inferior with the famous phrase, “You’re fired!”
There’s an interesting parallel between the behavior of Donald Trump and the Murder Hornets whose habits include honeybee hive genocide and then carting off the carcasses of its victims to feed to its children. He claims to love chaos and seems happiest when tearing his victims apart. Perhaps the sociopathy of nature really does trickle up the food chain to gain expression in the human race. Supposedly our species is capable of transcending survival of the fittest and its “red in tooth and claw” dynamics. Yet the wars and political battles common to our kind do not suggest we’re all that better than the creatures over whom we claim dominion. That is why so many sociopaths seem to succeed. They appeal to a certain base instinct to dispatch the opposition at any cost. Trump is their Murder Hornet King, the face of domination and revenge.
Political murder hornet
After years of eviscerating victims on The Apprentice, Trump was elected President of the United States and kept playing the same role, only this time the reality show was not semi-scripted. It was live and in-person. So whether the contestant was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who branded Trump a “moron,” or former FBI director James Comey, who did Trump a symbiotic electoral favor by glorifying the trumped-up case against Hillary Clinton and her dreaded emails, Trump went at his mission indiscriminately. Any buzz of disloyalty was sufficient to make Trump go full-on murder hornet.
And when anyone threatens to hold him accountable for his lack of accountability or Tweets designed to sting his perceived opponents to death, Trump claims that it is his natural right to do such things, and nothing anyone says or does can stop him.
The taste of prey
Even after the Mueller team uncovered Russian interference in the 2016 election and turned in multiple indictments people in the President’s close circle, Trump claimed innocence and embarked on a new and horrifically bald-faced attempt to bring foreign influence to bear on American elections. He targeted Joe Biden by coercing the President of Ukraine to conduct an investigation into Hunter Biden. That political murder plot exposed by a whistleblower. There are always guardian bees or ants in nature that are willing to sacrifice themselves to defend the colony.
But Trump loves invasive species, you see. He embraced Wikileaks because it helped him break down the value of laws in the United States, freeing him to flaunt our Constitution and the natural limits of the Executive Office itself.
The invasive coronavirus
This brings us to Trump’s non-response to the invasion of the Coronavirus in America. At some level, Trump likely admired the cunning tactics of the Chinese government that kept the virus secret until it knew what it wanted to do about it. Who knew that a virus living in bats could make the leap over to human beings? Actually, people like Dr. Anthony Fauci and the entire Pandemic Response Team that was told by Trump “You’re fired!” knew quite a bit about the potential problems caused by viruses of that type. Researchers had spent years studying Coronaviruses of many types. Predictions were made that it wasn’t a matter of “if” such a virus would threaten the human population, but “when.”
The fact of the matter is that Trump refused to believe yet desperately feared that his perfect economy could be affected by news of a potential pandemic. The fat caterpillar on which his eyes were trained was getting re-elected in November of 2020. Trump’s goal is to lay his eggs in the American government to the benefit of his progeny; Ivanka, Jared, the Trump boys, and ultimately his nearly invisible son Barron.
Parasite in Chief
Trump is indeed the Parasite In Chief, a predator so cunning and absorbed in his mission that he failed to see that a much smaller parasite was coming up from behind. It laid its eggs as he sat dormant in his brooding complex surrounded by the buzzing sycophants who guard the dark lair from journalists and other such pests. If Trump had his way, he’d fly out and bite off the heads of every reporter he could find.
His popularity with his base is built on such instincts. They view Washington as a brood of termites gnawing away at the foundations of the American household. Trump was elected to be their can of Raid. The more poison he spewed, the more favor he won among those who favor a scorched earth result. Those instincts were verified when Trump claimed at a campaign rally that he could shoot someone and he would still be on top. “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said.
That’s a murder hornet philosophy if there ever was one. Trump is indeed a unique and invasive species in American politics. His symbiotic relationship with Russia includes the parasitic ploy of trusting Russian social media trolls to inject seeds of discontent among the aphids he calls his base. Meanwhile, Trump occupies himself by buzzing around with other murder hornets such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Turkish kingpin Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose political career Trump would dearly love to emulate. As described on Wikipedia: “As a long-standing proponent of changing Turkey’s parliamentary system of government into an executive presidency, Erdoğan formed an alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to establish an executive presidency in 2017, where the changes were accepted in a constitutional referendum.”
King of the Hoppers
That’s the type of power and authority Donald Trump truly craves. Yet his predatory brand of narcissism caused him to focus on his own ego during the one moment when that brand of authority could truly have been his to wield. Trump preeningly tried to brush away the threat of a pandemic, insisting it would disappear “like magic” simply because he willed it to be so.
“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.
His power was so great, he repeatedly Tweeted, that nothing bad could happen to the economy.
The Grand Parasite
On that topic, Trump is also a grand parasite. He did nothing to build to the economy that he inherited from eight years of hard work by President Obama, whose leadership helped the country recover from the Bush-led Great Recession.
Even in the midst of that effort, Obama got blowback from his political opponents when he had the nerve to inform business interests that the government was critical in providing the infrastructure needed for their success.
He stated, “You did not build that” in talking about the nation’s investment in that infrastructure. But conservatives took that to literally mean they had not built their businesses. That’s how selfish people can be when they don’t want to owe anything to anyone.
And that’s the reason Trump got elected. The selfish horde of Americans whose spit and prejudicial spit rained down upon Obama could not stand the idea that a Democrat had saved their asses.
Now Trump has quickly squandered everything that Obama did create. The tariffs imposed by Trump gutted agricultural markets. The tax cuts he favored sent the national deficit soaring. Now his feckless and lazy response to the pandemic has cost millions of American jobs and the nation is headed toward yet another Republican-led recession.
It should be noted that every Republican President from Eisenhower to Trump has trashed the economy enough to cause a recession. That’s the real pandemic in America: Republican economic policy. It sickens the nation every time by infecting the country with the attitude that it is the job of United States citizens to feed and support the rich so that jobs and money can trickle down to the everyday worker.
In that respect, we should consider the plot of the movie A Bug’s Life, in which a nasty King Hopper brings his horde to bear on the ant colony. Their goal is to mercilessly clean out the stores of the ants for their own purposes. Yet the ant colony musters enough courage to resist King Hopper thanks to an oddly liberal batch of circus performers whose act serves as both a distraction and an act of resistance. Their colorful display distracts the grasshopper mob long enough for a band of ants to fly a fake bird down from a tree to scare the daylights out of King Hopper and his deplorable clan.
Yet that’s not the end of the story. When King Hopper sees through the ruse and labels it Fake News, he goes off in mad pursuit to kill the Whistleblower ant that led the charge in standing up to the bullying ways of Hopper and his base. But the ant flees until it arrives at the lair of a hungry bird, who grabs Hopper in its bill and feeds the hapless insect to its beckoning young. What a fitting end that would be for the likes of Donald Trump, the President determined to terrorize a nation into doing his bidding.
There’s a moral to every tale in nature. No one is immune to the forces of natural justice in this universe. Not even those who try so desperately to break its laws and bend the truth to serve selfish objectives.
For the last four decades, highly respected polls surveying opinions about religious beliefs have shown that between 30-40% of Americans embrace a biblically literal worldview. That belief system embraces the idea that the Bible story with its six-day creation narrative with animals and human beings fashioned out of nothing is more credible than the demonstrable cause-and-effect outcomes of material processes.
The resulting worldview of creationism also insists that every living creature but a few were wiped out in a global flood and that even the continents were tossed around like toys in a bathtub.
Those premises form a stubborn bulwark against multiple scientific principles ranging from plate tectonics to the theory of evolution.
One-third of America
So it’s time to stop and think about that: almost one-third of Americans do not accept science and instead embrace an alternate view of reality based on a literal interpretation of an oral tradition drawn from beliefs first formed some six thousand years ago. And by no coincidence, many of those same Americans hold the belief that the earth itself if no more than 6-10,000 years old. Some still believe the earth is flat, that sicknesses are caused by demons and that humans once shared the planet with meat-eating dinosaurs.
So it’s not hard to see why so many Americans fail to see the Coronavirus pandemic through a factually clear lens. It is preferable in their minds to deny science and medical information out of habit and fear that it could corrupt their minds and lead them away from God.
There are entire organizations and even political parties devoted to the propagation and support of the biblically literal worldview. These range from the apologetically driven Moody Bible Institute to the Answers In Genesis “ministry” with its Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, both facilities dedicated to literal depictions of the Book of Genesis and its array of anachronistic characters. It is little more than a cult of denial, but it is enormously popular in a nation where the irony of religious freedom has produced a generation of patently stubborn idiots.
One in three people who walk into those museums buys that information wholesale. They hear it preached to them from pulpits and consume it through multiple media channels from their local radio stations to the megaphone of Fox News, where dog-whistle anti-science rhetoric claiming the falsehoods of science include calculated PR campaigns and scripted attacks on the impacts of climate change and even basic environmental regulations.
The real alarmists
Let’s be blunt: Americans convinced the earth was created in six literal days are incapable of grasping the public relations sophistication of a story such as a piece published on Fox News from the Heartland Institute, who claimed, “Not surprisingly coronavirus alarm has pushed most other issues and concerns out of the news ⎯ much to the dismay of climate alarmists,” said Steve Milloy of the Heartland Institute. “But the alarmists aren’t taking displacement by coronavirus lying down. In fact, many climate alarmists are trying to use coronavirus as a means of advancing their agenda. They are trying to surf it.”
This fearmongering approach is a common tactic that hearkens back to the earliest forms of propaganda employed by the Christian church to keep people in line. The original alarmists were always religious authoritarians. Traditionally it is the threat of life in hell that religion uses to scare people into believing what they’re told, and without question. Today’s religious leaders and politicians have adapted that approach while targeting science as the enemy of God to convince millions of people that even sound medical advice cannot be trusted.
The love of money religiously abided
Toss fears about the economy into the mix and the fearmongering takes on a whole new level of existential threat. It’s easy to scare people with the idea that someone else is trying to take your money. Climate change deniers and now Coronavirus blamers both claim that scientific warnings about these real threats are all about a money grab and/or an excuse for trying to install a worldwide government.
The sick fact is that even our own government is depicted as a threat among those claiming that basic scientific recommendations about disease control and social distancing are an infringement of liberties. That’s how a gang of gun-wielding domestic terrorists wound up inside the Michigan state capitol building demanding a meeting with the Governor. Their version of truth in action was vigilante lawlessness. In one fell swoop, they demonstrated that aggressive denial of science, common sense and rule of law can all be exacted upon society at will. Disturbingly, the President of the United States approved of their actions, instructing the Governor of Michigan to capitulate to their will. Trump knows that to appeal to “his base” he must cater to the most extreme factions with approval or risk having that 30% of cultlike Trump supporters abandon him.
So we can see how the grassroots belief in biblical literalism and its associated denial of science and truth is costing America right now. President Donald Trump openly embraces evangelicals who deny science and even invent or propagate conspiracy theories that direct blame away from their pet President. All the better to avoid the truth that it was incompetency and delay by Trump right here in America that allowed the Coronavirus to get such traction.
True to form and in keeping with the “science of denial” common to biblical literalists, Trump at first refused to acknowledge the threat as real (just like climate change) then downplayed its likely spread (though he was informed on a regular basis of the reality of the threat) and has now turned to claim his response has been a dynamic success, when in fact death projections are now reaching more than 200,000 Americans.
The goal now is to outstrip the failure by reframing “success” through the use of denial to convince willing supporters that Trump and team have done a good job. That means preventing any testimony by actual scientists and medical experts at hearings designed to examine America’s response to the pandemic. Just like the Senate’s denial to allow witness testimony about Trump’s corrupt activities in Ukraine, the Republican goal right now is to bury facts under propaganda. This is fascism at work.
LiveScience.com published a fascinating profile of fascism on its website that describes it this way: “Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York who is widely considered the father of fascism studies, defined fascism as “a form of political practice distinctive to the 20th century that arouses popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda.”
Fascism, socialism and the public good
Of course, the parallel need of any fascist government is to find an enemy upon which to direct its ire, thereby focusing the fears of its constituents on that target rather than allowing the facts of its own authoritarian power grab to be known. So the Trump regime and its allies are conveniently trotting out “socialism” as that enemy by depicting social programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and even the US Post Office as socialistically repressive forms of government that must be eradicated. Of course, Trump also eliminated the Pandemic Response Team in 2018 in order to eliminate costs. This is where belief in a vastly reduced government can have real costs.
As documented on Reuters.com: “In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Beth Cameron, former Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense in the NSC, wrote, “When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact.
“Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19” ( here ).”
The habits and patterns of denial are so comparable between Trump and the 30-40% of Americans that deny science it is entirely logical to place blame for the spread of Coronavirus on the one-third of the American public that embraces anachronism over science in the modern age. That is proof that biblical literalism is both bad theology and an irresponsible belief system. What God in heaven or on earth would have us choose to disregard or ignore information valuable to the protection of human welfare and even the entire planet? That is a God reduced instead to the petty aims of human selfishness. That is the sin of which Jesus accused the religious authorities of his day, who demanded respect for their country club lifestyle while people suffered in the streets.
These days it is inexcusable to embrace corrupt traditions such as Biblical literalism because it is so easy to find out the facts and know better. Instead, we are being forced to live in an age of lies, misinformation, propaganda and outright fascist attempts to undermine truth in favor of political and religious power in America.
That is the real and original pandemic of untruth with which we’re trying to contend today. Those brutes on the steps of the Michigan capitol are just one illustration of its effects. The other is the painted face and combover lies of a President who can’t face the fact that he’s a fraud, an incompetent, and a bully. That brand of evil threatens to kill us all.
None of us sees behind the veil of what Trump truly values. I have spoken with people that gained an audience with the man, and his personal interactions with them were both kind and considerate. That suggests there is something more to Trump than his public persona and political style. Perhaps his supporters sense this aspect of their president. So it demands a closer look at what drives the popularity of Make America Great Again.
His brand of brightly-hued optimism appeals to millions of Americans eager for some sort of renewal in this country. These also tend to be people aggravated by the complexity of life as it has evolved in the American republic. Trump’s slogan Make America Great Again proposes to eliminate the complexity of life by reducing the American experiment to simple actions; cutting taxes, ending illegal immigration, stopping abortion, eliminating financial and environmental regulation and putting religion at the forefront of national policy. Does that cover pretty much of what MAGA fans want to see happen?
The Trump mantra really isn’t more complicated than that. His simplicity is his message. One could just as easily change the Trump slogan to Make Aggravation Go Away and achieve the same objectives. A big chunk of the American electorate craves simplicity. They’re sick of having to think about complex issues such as the lives of transgender people. They’re tired of hearing Spanish rather than English spoken in public places. They’re believers in old-school industries such as coal and oil because they harken to a time before the complexities of air pollution, acid rain, and climate change challenged the status quo. There must be a simpler way. Trump appeals to that manner of thinking.
But first, let’s make the aggravations go away.
Make Aggravation Go Away is a powerful message also to people whose vision of America does not require accommodation of any sort. That means Christians should not have to think about Muslim traditions or put up with people saying Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. That cultural issue alone has aggravated Christians for a decade or so, coaxed on by Fox News chryons pitching the “War On Christmas.”
Make Aggravation Go Away has roots stretching way back to the Confederate cause in which states’ rights were the big issue, but mostly that was a cloak for the right to keep slaves. Indeed, that was the cause of ‘liberty’ back then. Liberty for white Christians quoting scripture to justify selfish aims while treating people of other races as property. It’s hard to read that sentence and grasp that people once truly believed that. Yet that’s what America most needs to do. Come to grips with its own conflicted traditions.
The Civil War was fought over that aggravation. There are still some Americans that wave the Confederate flag as a sign that their aggrieved state has never been recognized.
Tracing these historical grievances from the past to present helps to explain why protestors are now gathering to “liberate” their states from Stay At Home orders issued by their governors. Responding to the pandemic has been an aggravation, which is defined as “an intensification of a negative quality or aspect.” The threat of disease is never a joyful situation. Being encouraged or required to retreat from public life is another layer of aggravation. Those orders are being treated as an infringement on personal rights by protestors who want to Make Aggravation Go Away.
Not that simple
The problem with that belief system is that life isn’t always that simple. Trump’s eagerness to prevent any outside influence from impinging on his prized economy is what directly led to the infection rate getting a head start on the nation’s ability to respond. By trying to simplify the Coronavirus threat to a sound bite and a promise that it would “go away, like magic,” Trump put millions of people’s lives at risk, and tens of thousands have indeed died.
And yet his supporters still seek to simplify the complexities of Covid-19 with even more disturbing sound bites. So desperate are some supporters to protect Trump they have projected blame for the pandemic away from Trump to a more convenient and horrifically simplied target for their ire, Dr. Anthony Fauci. The Fire Fauci meme swept across the Internet with all the resonance and credulity of the Lock Her Up chants aimed at Hillary Clinton. Again, it’s all about Making Aggravation Go Away. Fauci is an aggravation because he’s a medical professional speaking in terms of science, that complex source of often bad news that stands in direct opposition to Trump’s vacuous brand of gut-instinct optimism.
That’s the kind analysis. A more honest approach would be to say that Trump acted stupidly by ignoring clear warnings that a pandemic was brewing overseas and that it would not be confined to arrival just from China. Fauci accurately predicted it would arrive through other channels, yet Trump desperately tried to simplify the threat by calling it the Chinese Virus. That was a clear attempt to politicize the problem with a nationalistic, effectively racist approach to directing blame away from himself. Trump aggressively failed the leadership test of recognizing a genuine threat to our national interests. That is how he approaches every problem he faces. He fails, then bails, and finally assails. It’s all about blaming others. That’s the simplest way to avoid responsibility. But to Trump, it is an art form.
As a result of Trump’s recklessness, our national interests are now bogged in a swamp of economic doldrums wrought by the need to shut down our service economy to prevent rampant spread of the Coronavirus. That requirement has cost millions of jobs and Americans are suffering, big time. The Trump response has been cynical at best. At one point he proudly promised to send Americans what he called a “big, fat check” amounting to about $1200 for most households. And then, Trump held up the distribution of those checks to make sure his name appeared on them.
Big money goes elsewhere
Meanwhile, billions have been snarfed up big money interests all too eager to accept the graft intended for “small business.” That includes Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, whose company gladly embraced more than $800M from the stimulus program. At what point did nepotism become a complete non-issue in this country? How ironic it is that Republicans love to point fingers at the supposed graft of Hunter Biden overseas while Trump’s children blatantly leverage their proximity to the seat of power to pad their present and future interests with promises of profit?
In advance of that flush money going out, Trump promised oversight of the stimulus package to Democrats, then snatched it away after the bill was passed. Of course, his supporters love him for things like that, because it’s just another example of Making Aggravation Go Away.
After all, it was Democrats in Congress that sought to hold Trump accountable for his criminality in seeking to coerce Ukraine into announcing an investigation into his now-confirmed political rival, Joe Biden. The goal of Trump’s digging around in Ukraine was to cast aspersions on Vice President Joe Biden by framing his son Hunter as a symbol of supposed corruption on the part of that family. Those accusations were why Trump’s so-called ‘personal attorney’ Rudy Giuliani spent months mucking around in Ukraine only to turn up nothing substantial. Granted, Hunter Biden does not sound like a prize pupil when it comes to judicious use of family influence or reputation. At one point, neither George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy were paradigms of personal virtue. Even Trump could be forgiven his past transgressions if he weren’t so ardently bent on creating new ones.
Impeachment doesn’t stick
Congress ultimately impeached Trump inaccordance with massive lines of evidence pointing back to Trump’s “perfect” phone call as perfectly corrupt. But the Republican-led Senate made the aggravation go away by refusing to conduct anything approaching an actual trial with testimony and witnesses. Instead, they simply broke the oath to do that and acquitted Trump even while several in the Senate admitted that Trump had done wrong. Once that aggravation was gone, along with the Mueller Report, Trump proceeded on his merry way of mocking his critics and calling everything with which he disagrees Fake News. That’s another tactic for making aggravations go away. Call them fake, or a hoax, and Trump supporters gobble it up like candy.
We don’t even know if Trumpism will allow his removal during a normal election if such a thing exists anymore. By many reports, the Russians are still playing games in the hinterlands of the Internet, posing as Americans and creating fake news sites to pump out pro-Trump and anti-Biden propaganda to divide Americans even further.
But it’s not the Russians that are the real problem. It is the Make Aggravation Go Away attitudes of everyday Americans caught up in the authoritarian, nearly fascist call to defeat all those who aggravate the president in any way. This worldview is further fueled by a religious culture that for decades has attacked all that contradicts its scriptural orthodoxy. As a result nearly 40% of Americans embrace the literalistic, anti-science worldview of creationism that reduces the origins of all nature and humanity to the level of a childhood bedtime story. This is the brand of low information that has turned America into a backwater swamp of anti-intellectual populism.
No wonder so many Americans want to Fire Fauci, a medical professional who embraces actual germ theory and the evolutionary insights upon which it depends. And no wonder so many Americans want to “liberate” their state from medical strictures designed to prevent the spread of a quickly evolving virus.
In fact, Coronavirus symbolizes all the complexities that Trump supporters and their evangelical partners love to hate. In many ways, it is the aggravation to end all aggravations, a perfectly unseen enemy that propagates itself through invisible droplets and forces us to wear masks. It looks and feels like the ultimate liberal conspiracy. And if you can’t shoot it with a gun or crush it like a beer can, it surely must be some sort of Democrat conspiracy to block the ideal world Trump wants to lead us to.
Just Make Aggravation Go Away. That is the dog-whistle call of those protestors toting guns, waving both Confederate and American flags and revealing the swastika instincts of depicting The Other as the ultimate irritation in life. That’s how Hitler convinced so many that the Jews were the aggravation vexing the nation. But that brand of thinking can be applied to any other label and it still works. Immigrants. Gays. Liberals. Muslims. Tree-Huggers. Mexicans. Blacks. Indians. The list goes on forever if you let it. A nation built around eliminating aggravations is not a nation, but something else entirely.
It is evil.
The Coronavirus pandemic is not just a medical and cultural threat. It is also a lesson in theology. The idea that human beings are “specially created” beings that stand apart from the rest of nature has been blown asunder, and forever, by the fact that this virus and many thousands of others are threats to human existence and known to jump from the rest of the animal world to infect us.
So much for the creationist contention that God spares human beings from such humble roots. Our gut bacteria was already proof that we’re biologically dependent and derived from the raw stuff of creation. But this novel disease has put an all-new face on the fact that human beings share our guts and DNA with every other living thing on earth.
Denial still rules
Yet despite this biological threat to human health, there are Christians in strong denial of the dangers posed by Covid-19, the deadly disease caused by the novel Coronavirus. Some pastors have openly defied governmental orders not to assemble due to the risk of spreading the disease. Others claim that their religious freedom is being restricted by orders not to hold public gatherings. Perhaps the belief is that people sitting together in prayer are immune to the disease? But given clear evidence that church is no protection from the disease, it is legitimate to ask if pastors and other religious leaders really care if their congregations live or die? Cynics have questioned whether some of these pastors care more about the contents of the collection plate than the lives of the people in their pews.
It is far more likely that it is the idea of giving up some aspect of religious authority that makes pastors so defiant toward the public safety recommendations issued by government, medical or scientific sources. Among all the perceived threats to orthodoxy, it is religious authority itself to which its advocates so ardently cling and become anxious, angry and resentful when challenged.
John the Baptist and Jesus both dealt with that problem in the religious authorities of their day. Martin Luther later challenged the Catholic Church over its imposition of indulgences and today’s selfish televangelists rake in millions of dollars in tithes and offerings but when a public crisis hits, their voices suddenly go silent, their church doors close, and they look for ways to blame those they hate for the crisis.
But most just hide behind the protection of their personal mansions until it is safe to come out again. In other words, they are theological hypocrites who couldn’t give a rat’s ass or a bat’s wing about the lives of people on whom they depend for their wealth.
Special creation indeed
Perhaps these religious leaders really are encouraged to flaunt scientific and medical advice based on the biblically literal notion that human beings are “specially created” and somehow immune to a deadly disease that reputedly sprung from the flesh of bat. Instead, creationists console themselves with the biblically literal notion that God molded human flesh out of dust from the earth, and that we have nothing much to do with all that DNA and genetics stuff that connects us to the rest of the world. That’s the worldview of theological hacks like Ken Ham, progenitor of the Answers In Genesiswebsite and its expensive temples constructed to cater to his ego, the Creation Museumand The Ark Encounter.
Supposedly these websites and facilities provide answers to all of life’s pressing questions about the origins of life, including ‘science’ in the name of God. Yet during this Coronavirus pandemic not a word of insight, advice or practical solutions emanate from the likes of Ken Ham and his ham-handed assemblage of quitter scientists. They are all theological and scientific frauds hiding behind a grand excuse to make money on the creationist schtick.
Anachronism and crisis
And people die because anachronistic beliefs have nothing to offer us in the face of a medical crisis. Thoughts and prayers do nothing, or else people would be indeed huddled in churches rather than dying in overcrowded hospitals. Medicine and science works because it depends on knowledge from the theory of evolution to determine how viruses mutate, replicate and transmit from one living thing to another. It takes an idiot to choose wishful thinking over medical cures for disease. Creationism is a deadly worldview.
It is only an egotistically naive desire to feel better than the rest of nature that drives creationists to such selfish extremes. But the Coronavirus isn’t choosy about who it infects or how well they survive. It only does what it was designed to do, mutate and move on. In that respect, it seems like a heartless invention of God to create such killers. If that’s how it works, it is the religiously literal that have the most to answer for, not those who understand that the human condition is an evolutionary function just like everything else in the universe.
“How is your 401K doing?”
That five-word challenge has been the battle cry of Trump supporters for the last three years. It is the ultimate “ends justifies the means” statement on what being a citizen of the United States is supposedly about.
It is also selfish and shallow as hell to think that the only pertinent thing about life is the near-term state of the economy. We all know how economics works. The markets go up and stay up for a while, then they go down again. These trends occur in cycles and none of the ups and downs have ever proven to be permanent.
The last time the economic markets experienced a “correction” was in the 2007-2009 period as President George W. Bush left office and President Barack H. Obama became President of the United States. The economy recovered slowly and modestly at first under Obama’s watch. Then it solidified and set a course on which the economy has sailed during three years under President Donald J. Trump.
The last three years of Obama’s term actually showed stronger job increases and economic growth rates than the Trump era. Yet somehow people who support Trump love to claim that their guy is the one who made America great again.
The sad fact is that Trump and the GOP aggressively hinted that economic growth in the wake of broad-based tax cuts might reach the 6% range. That brand of white-hot growth never materialized. The result has been a projected increase in the national deficit of $8.3 trillion, ironic considering that Trump also promised to eliminate the national debt in eight years.
That hasn’t stopped Trump supporters from trumpeting the supposedly superior state of the Trump economy. But fractures in the market-based belief quickly appeared when global supply chains ground to a standstill as the Coronavirus epidemic started killing people.
Trump is clearly panicked about his economic perch.
In response, his administration moved to censor press conferences and control messaging by funneling all Coronavirus news through Vice President Mike Pence. That act alone is evidence of the selfish style of management for which the Trump presidency has become known.
It also showed up in his impeachable actions in trying to coerce the nation of Ukraine to conduct an investigation of his perceived political rival Joe Biden. Trump used governmental resources to pursue the selfish ambitions of his re-election. One of the President’s lawyers even had the gall to claim that such selfish actions were in the nation’s best interests because anything the President does automatically qualifies in that category.
Those selfish instincts seem to be greatly admired by Trump supporters whose cheering attendance at his rallies borders on cult worship. And speaking of worship, even Christian evangelicals have chosen to excuse Trump’s inherently selfish nature with the self-serving claim that “God works with flawed people.”
It’s all part of the same Selfishism that insists on dismissing facts in favor of self-serving ideology. On the religious front, that practice has a long tradition as a faith once built on disciples going two-by-two into the world to spread the Good News consolidated under Roman power. In turn, it became a force of persecution, legalism, support of slavery and even genocide. All these were done in the name of tradition and for selfish reasons.
That’s how we got where we are today. The market system known as Capitalism rewards the selfish behavior of the powerful when left unchecked by any sort of social contract. That’s why the United States of America implemented the New Deal in the wake of the Great Depression. It was a recognition that Selfishism is the most destructive force of all in this world.
So claims that America is a “Christian Nation” in law or spirit have proven wrong time and again by those claiming to be Christian. Nothing in the ideology of Donald Trump is remotely Christian in the earnest sense of the word. Yet many Christians have the gall to claim that Trump was literally installed by God to carry out his selfish whims, and that is precisely what they are. Trump is an opportunist and a demonstrated fraud when it comes to his business dealings. Even his own University was proven to be fraudulent, and so was his own foundation. Both were corrupted by his selfish desire to leverage his name without giving value back and to siphon money given for charitable purposes into his own coffers.
Selfishism is what Trumpism is all about.
The United States of America will collapse as a democracy and a republic if the selfish instincts of people claiming to be dispossessed while embracing and preaching the doctrine of prejudice, bigotry and getting rich at all costs that Donald Trump espouses in more than dog-whistle fashion. He selfishly flaunts those values while mocking the free press for pointing out his lies and ridiculing responsible politicians for trying to hold him accountable.
He was impeached, but he is not contrite. It is telling that the faction of religious believers who love to blame America’s ills on gays or abortion or science are silent on the fact that the Coronavirus has emerged from the ether to threaten the autocratic stability of a President so concerned about himself that he can’t even admit that people are dying under his watch. Selfishism is the ultimate killer in this world, and it deserves its own political moniker. Sooner, rather than later.