Fires, a hurricane, rampant illness, 200,000 dead. A would-be-in-any-other-administration scandal. The loss of a national hero. Sedition. And a concerted effort to rewrite American history.
It was just another week.
The West Coast remained ablaze and a deadly hurricane tore through the South, submerging large portions of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Smoke from the fires in the West reached the East Coast and Europe.¹ Pensacola, Florida received an astounding four months of rain in four hours while winds of 105 miles per hour caused widespread damage.² The West on fire, deadly storms, derechos and record-breaking heat. The World Meteorological Association may even run out of names for additional hurricanes this year.³ How long can climate change be denied?
The confirmed number of COVID-19 cases reached 6.8 million. We have lost more than 200,000 souls and counting,⁴ with upwards of 410,000 deaths projected by the end of the year.⁵ Millions remain unemployed, many without employer-provided health insurance. Millions of children are hungry. Communities of color and of lower-income people continued to be hit hardest by the coronavirus, with no financial relief in sight from Congress. The director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, testified before Congress that masks may be more effective in coronavirus protection and prevention than an eventual vaccine — a learned, fact-based, if sobering statement that was immediately refuted by the president, who claimed that Dr. Redfield was “confused” and may have perjured himself.⁶ No wonder many of the president’s fans choose to eschew masks.
In an unrelated story, it was reported last week that the U.S. Secret Service, the agency charged with protecting the president, the vice president, and their families, has been charged $1.1 million by Trump businesses during his presidency for rooms for its agents at Trump properties — some that were closed due to the pandemic.⁷ In any other administration in which the president profited because of his position and in which his business billed the government for rooms unavailable for use, this would be a scandal of massive proportions. In this administration, it was just another Thursday.
And then there was the death late last week of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg due to complications from cancer. She was a tireless champion of women’s rights. The second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Lovingly referred to as Notorious RBG, Ginsberg made extraordinary contributions to our nation. She was a force, a beacon, a warrior for equal rights. Somehow fittingly, she died on Erev Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, a period of the year reserved for the deaths of the truly righteous. She will be missed and long remembered for her intellect, strength and courage. Despite her stature, she was a true giant.
If the week was not sufficiently eventful, the president, on national television from the White House, blamed blue states for increasing the country’s death rates. He stated that if “you take the blue states out” of the COVID-19 calculation, the United States would be far more competitive with other countries.⁸ Without blue states, he said “we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level.” This may be one of the most vile, ignorant, insensitive, self-serving statements ever made by someone elected to serve this nation.
Overlooking his arithmetic errors, his inability to determine which of two numbers is larger than the other, his profoundly flawed assumptions — beginning with the fact that the top 5 states in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths are states with the largest populations and include Texas (at #2) and Florida (at #3),⁹ which, the last time we looked, were both red states — and the absolute revolting nature of his claim, might he have been attempting to communicate a different, more diabolical message? That, perhaps, blue states do not belong in the country? That these Socialist-led, Radical Left states are dragging the rest of the nation down, that they are threatening America and do not deserve to be part of the union? We know of the president’s disdain for states with Democratic governors and his interest in defunding “anarchistic,” “lawless” cities with Democratic mayors like New York, Washington, D.C., Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland.¹⁰ We know that his personal lawyer, Attorney General William Barr, is considering leveling sedition charges against violent protesters and the mayors of Portland and Seattle.¹¹ (‘Sedition’ is defined as ‘conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.’¹² In other words, treason.) We know, too, that Barr considers a shelter-in-place order to combat the coronavirus, often seen in Democratic-led cities and states, as a historic intrusion on civil liberties, surpassed only by slavery.¹³ Yes, slavery.
For the president, it has always been about red states and blue states, with blue states receiving the bulk of his scorn and consistently less Federal support.¹⁴ For him, it has always been about making the country great again, without an operational definition of ‘greatness.’ Taken together, as he tries to redraw the country into two warring territories, might that explain why the president is single-handedly attempting to rewrite the history of the nation, a rewrite designed to appeal to those unwilling to accept the true impact of slavery? A rewrite that will purposefully drive a damning, intensely-emotional wedge between red and blue states? A rewrite that might forever render our dark history ‘fake’?
In the last few weeks alone, the president has:
- Prohibited the Federal government from conducting any diversity training referencing ‘white privilege,’¹⁵ as he considers such training “anti-American propaganda.”¹⁶
- Launched an investigation to determine if California public schools were using the New York Times’ 1619 Project curriculum. The Pulitzer Prize-winning program reframes American history around the date of August 1619, when the first slave ship landed on America’s shores. The president considers the curriculum “un-American” and has threatened to cut education funding to states using it.¹⁷
- Accused Democrats and educators of attempting a “liberal indoctrination of America’s youth” by undermining “the nobility of the American character” via “alternate views” of the nation’s history. Rather than teach about slavery, he called for “patriotic education” and “pro-American curriculum.”¹⁸
- Distributed on White House letterhead the following email, captured verbatim, to millions of Americans:
President Trump: ‘Our youth will be taught to love America with all of their heart’
President Trump is fighting each day against the left’s attempts to indoctrinate our children with a radical, misleading, and unpatriotic story of America.
Divisive and distorted histories of our country — everything from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States to The New York Times’ 1619 Project — seek to erase America’s tradition of liberty, free expression, and self-determination from memory.
For too long, the left has been winning that fight. For example, even though the 1619 Project has been criticized as inaccurate by multiple prominent historians, it already has been quietly disseminated in 4,500 classrooms across the United States.¹⁹
- And proposed that $5 billion from a proposed sale of TikTok go to creating a fund to “educate people” about the “real history of our country — the real history, not the fake history.”²⁰ He didn’t define what the ‘real history’ of the country is, but it is safe to assume that white supremacy will be a defining focus.
Just like COVID-19 deaths, the president must believe that if you ignore or downplay slavery and its continued profoundly negative influence on our society, then maybe you can claim that the country never embraced the buying, selling, owning and enslaving of human beings. And if slavery can be overlooked, believing instead that our country has always championed ‘liberty, free expression and self-determination,’ as stated in his email above, then what’s all the fuss about Black Lives Matter? Maybe it’s another anti-American act of sedition.
Like I said at the top, it was just another week.
The real fear is that the divisiveness, the open hostility toward specific states, the whitewashing of our history, and the prevention of educational programs attempting to teach the truth about the lasting role slavery has had on our nation will intensify significantly as we approach election day, November 3. We will be increasingly pitted against each other, forced into our ‘tribes,’ and labeled as ‘radical left’ or lauded as ‘patriots.’ It will not be about the presidency nor, for that matter, about the country; it will be about him. And it will not end after the election, as ‘losing’ is a mere inconvenience for this administration. As is the law. We face one of the most horrifying times in our nation’s history, since the administration has shown that it will do anything to remain in power. Undermining confidence in voting, impairing the ability to vote by mail by dismantling the postal service, actively preventing people from voting in person — it’s all child’s play for this administration. Look for an attempt to delay or cancel the election, possibly due to widespread rioting, the beginning of a civil war or, simply, an invalidation of the results. They are the mob, a very powerful one, and we are its victims. They have at their disposal the vast resources of the presidency, the guns and Fox News, a potentially lethal combination.
The only defense we have, like wearing a mask to protect ourselves and those around us, is to vote. If you can, vote now. If not, be prepared to vote at your earliest opportunity. Make certain that your voice is heard. Because it is decidedly not about blue states or red states. It is about honoring our past, recognizing its impact on our lives and on the lives of those who are direct descendants of slavery, and building, together, a unified democratic country that provides freedom and equality for all. Because Black lives do matter, as does the truth about our history.
* * * * * *
To my Jewish sisters and brothers: L’shana Tovah. As it is written somewhere in the Talmud, and I paraphrase from the ancient Hebrew, “If last year sucked, make the next one better.” May the New Year be much, much better.
⁴ As of 9:00 p.m., ET, September 20; https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-us-maps-and-cases/ These data are from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the control of the White House, so who knows?
¹² New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 2010.
¹⁹ The White House, email@example.com, September 17, 2020.