Political Apathy is Unacceptable

I sent a few of my Facebook contacts an invitation to my page and didn’t think about it again until one of those invitees sent me a message to tell me that he wasn’t going to my page because he has “zero interest in politics”. Before the 2016 elections, I too thought of politics as something that other people cared about, despite voting the Democratic ticket starting with Jimmy Carter in 1976. I got most of my information from watching local and national news on the ABC affiliate WPVI out of Philadelphia along with listening to KYW 1060, the AM all-news-and-traffic radio station. All things considered, I got enough accurate information to know which party had my best interests at heart.

Today, I have no concept of how anyone with skin in the game (like my 61 year old diabetic smoking friend) can be indifferent about politics. This election is for all the chips, because if Trump and the Republicans are not soundly defeated and removed from power, we will be living in an authoritarian dictatorship during all future Trump terms. I want my friend will read this one post in the hopes of inspiring him to participate in the democracy that has been so good to both him and his family by voting for Joe Biden and the Democrats down ticket. I’m going to refer to my friend as “Billie” (not his real name).

Billie, I read your message declining my invitation to my Facebook page and was disappointed that you have no interest in politics. I don’t believe that’s true; I think that there are a multitude of places where your life, health, financial well-being and future comfort are directly and inextricably intertwined with the outcomes of elections, such as right now, in the middle of the worst pandemic in over a century. If the federal government was being led by a capable, competent, empathetic and caring leader who placed the good of the country over all else, the awesome power of the office of the President would have done everything to contain and control this virus, issuing national orders for staying home, social distancing and mask wearing while also putting a robust, nationwide testing and contact tracing system in place to find everyone spreading the virus and limit the spread. Instead, we have a person so incapable of ever admitting he’s made a mistake that he prefers to watch more than 150,000 of our fellow Americans die while he exhibits magical thinking by insisting that the virus will “just disappear”.

The Republicans have been laser-focused since the Affordable Care Act was passed on overturning it and stripping health insurance from millions of Americans while making those of us with preexisting conditions like diabetes, emphysema/COPD and osteoarthritis pay exorbitant premiums if we can even obtain health insurance coverage at all. Trump and his cadre of former fossil fuel executives, Wall Street bankers and right-wing media pundits have used his presidency to roll back rules and regulations to benefit corporate interests at the expense of all the rest of us and the planet. Trump’s delusional belief that he is the holder of all knowledge has made him incapable of accepting input from those in his own government with specialized knowledge of all manner of subjects versus taking the word of assorted hosts on Fox News and OANN. There are millions of Americans out of work because Trump is unable to do his job to put people in positions throughout the federal government with actual experience and skills to handle a crisis like the one we’re living through now. Instead, Trump appoints sycophants who agree that their first priority is to praise the dear leader no matter the reality on the ground, while their second priority is to allow Trump’s corporate donors to run rampant over everyone and everything in their paths.

Billie, you mentioned that your roommate has Covid-19 and that he’s still sharing the house with you. Your diabetes and smoking history make your chances of having a negative outcome if you contract the virus much higher than a healthier individual. The reason you’re in this position right now is because enough people in the right states decided that voting for the most prepared individual in history to run for the presidency wasn’t an option if that person also had a vagina, so they instead voted for the most incapable, incompetent, incurious, inept, undiplomatic and self-serving individual to ever seek the office. A lack of ‘interest’ in the actual issues combined with centuries-old, systemic misogyny led millions of voters to either stay home, vote third party, or actually cast votes for Trump because they thought Hillary was going to win and their individual vote didn’t really matter. Sadly, some 70,000 of those individual votes mattered way more than they should have.

I know you don’t have kids of your own Billie, and I’m sure that affects your attitude about ‘politics’, but your brother does have kids that I’m sure you love like they were your own. Think for a while about the world that will be left to them and their kids, and ask yourself if maybe the things that we’ve been doing to the planet for the last 100 years or so have helped or hurt the environment. I don’t know what the weather has been like in Vegas recently, but I can tell you without qualification that the heat and humidity here in New Jersey has been oppressive and unrelenting. We have always had our hottest days of the year in July and August, but I can’t remember in my lifetime having so many consecutive days of high humidity and high temperatures like the one we’re in the midst of now. Your brother’s offspring will have to deal with the climate disaster that our generation has been particularly loathe to address, given the propensity for the Republicans to claim that some climate ‘scientists’ don’t agree with the 97% of actual scientists that climate change is caused by humans releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. They don’t mention that their ‘scientists’ are actually employed by the fossil fuel industry to spread their bullshit, or that those same fossil fuel companies are full of their political donors.

Billie, I know that Whitey was your grandfather by blood, but you only saw him occasionally. During the ten years that my Mom and I lived with Whitey and my grandmother, I spent every day with him, and I think I can say with some degree of certainty that he was NOT just interested in the Phillies and the Eagles. Whitey knew that politics wasn’t just about the people in Washington; it’s about all of us, and what we want for ourselves and our families as part of a functioning democracy to which we pay taxes for services that said government is supposed to provide to us all when things happen that affect a large swath of us here in the United States. There is no way that Whitey would have remained completely uninformed and uninterested in the damage being done throughout our government and around the world by a lawless, incompetent president and the complicit Republicans. I know that he watched the evening news on a daily basis, because we all watched the evening news together back then, and I used to watch him reading the entire paper – not just the sports section – so I know he had a pretty good idea of what was going on in the government and the world before he exercised his right to vote.

The Republicans’ goal for decades has been to prevent as many people of color as possible from entering the US from anywhere else; had they been successful back in the fifties, it’s quite possible that you and your brother wouldn’t even exist. Your Mom marrying a man from the Philippines back in the fifties was a big deal back then, and I’m sure that your parents were on the receiving end of a lot of racist crap during their marriage. The point is that the people who win elections get to make the rules about who to let in and who to keep out. It is abundantly clear that leaving Republicans in charge of anything related to immigration or equality for all is very much like the fox watching the hen house. Electing a person uniquely unqualified for any of the tasks a US president must address along with keeping Republicans who have not interest in governing or legislating in office leaves all the rest of us subject to Trump’s whims and his inability to ever let any real or perceived insult or negative opinion go without a fight. Trump has never cared at all about the country; he entered the 2016 election in order to get free publicity so that he could start his own cable network; then, the unimaginable happened.

This is NOT the face of a happy person!

Trump didn’t want to win; he’s spent his whole life not working at a job he couldn’t get fired from that he didn’t have to apply for – just like his three older children have done – and the last thing he wanted was an actual job that required him to focus for more time than he ever had to in his entire life on someone other than himself. The look on his face in the photo above says all that and more.

Billie, right now the Republicans in the Senate, after refusing to consider the HEROES Act that the House sent to them May 12th to provide additional stimulus during the pandemic have taken two whole days to ‘legislate’ the Heals Act behind closed doors that gives businesses, hospitals and schools five years of liability protection retroactive to 2019 while cutting the weekly emergency unemployment payments from $600 to $200, because of course Republicans have to insist that it’s the $600 weekly benefit check preventing people from going to work, not the pandemic raging through a country without any plan to stop it or even slow it down. Apparently, these professional politicians don’t understand that the only reason that the “economy” has done as well as it has through the pandemic so far relative to the number of people out of work has been that $600 bonus, which has permitted millions to remain in their homes, buy groceries and other necessities, and keep their heads almost above water. Republicans also fail to see the irony when they indignantly point out that some people are making more money now than when they were working – because of course the answer to that wouldn’t be increasing the pay for those workers, right? The moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and other legal actions due to a lack of payment are going to expire, and who knows how many families will be forced our of their homes in the midst of a pandemic; state and local governments are going to have to significantly reduce services to help their citizens because the HEALS Act includes only funds for schools, although just a tenth of what the House proposed. Student loan deferments are also ignored in the HEALS Act.

The HEROES Act addresses state, local, tribal and territorial governments and provides stimulus funds for them all; along with the HEALS Act, it recommends a second $1,200 stimulus payment to every adult, but that is the only major similarity in the two. The House bill expands paid sick days, family and medical leave, nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, unemployment, and payments to farmers. It also eliminates cost-sharing for Covid-19 testing and treatment in addition to a range of other policies. The bill passed because of the Democrats – only one Republican supported the bill.

Elections have consequences, Billie. An uninformed electorate distracted by social media posts that often have no basis in fact while they avoid any of the actual journalism still available in multiple formats is a large part of how we ended up here. Once upon a time, when it was unthinkable that someone so completely lacking in ability, restraint or a willingness to follow norms and laws could be elected to the highest office in the country, it may have been acceptable to proudly proclaim yourself to have “Zero interest in politics…” The last forty years or so have demonstrated that those among us who have chosen to abdicate their civic responsibility by simply ignoring everything political including refusing to vote is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million. It is unacceptable in the time of viral social media posts and massive disinformation from the president’s Twitter account for anyone eligible to vote to remain on the sidelines, or to stay ignorant of the facts before they cast their votes.

Billie, you owe it to your country, your fellow citizens, and the next generation to take some time out of your life (maybe every time you go outside to smoke) to learn why you should care about these things.

I hope you understand that I’m only telling you this because I have been paying attention to ‘politics’, not because I like them, but because what those people do matters. No one should sit back and let others make the big decisions, because everything that the government does and does not do has an effect on every one of us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the cars we drive, how our homes are built, how efficient our appliances are…. All that and more than I can write in this post are affected by the government, and how much or little you are personally touched by those things is also a function of some part of government. You have no legitimate excuse for remaining uninformed and disinterested in the political landscape while your country literally burns around you.

The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men.

Plato

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Nothing Trump says makes sense, like the claim at an Allentown, PA PPE manufacturer that “testing is over-rated”.  He has been so effectively brain-washed by the propagandists on Fox/state TV that he just blurts out things he hears them say without ever considering that what he’s hearing is not just incorrect, but downright dangerous for his base to hear from the President of the United States.  Of course, he made it clear last week that he doesn’t understand how someone who tested negative could convert to positive after contracting the virus, and maybe he’s saying this because the specific test being used exclusively at the White House, from Abbott, has been found to incorrectly show as negative 40% of the time. He told us the real reason during that speech in Allentown – more testing = more positive cases = Trump loses the election.

We have been taught since we were old enough to understand the concept that, when the President speaks, what he’s saying must be both true and important, so it’s understandable to a point that there are folks around the country who still follow along under this assumption.  However, it is no longer reasonable for anyone to believe a word that leaves Trump’s mouth without first verifying that it’s got some basis in fact and reality.  Otherwise, all that’s happening is further division and confusion of a significant portion of the population that will no doubt lead to illness and death not just in the Trump base, but throughout the entire populace.  His continued lack of shits to give about the country is stunning.

Listening to the testimony of Dr. Bright, formerly the head of BARDA until he was demoted for disagreeing with Trump about hydroxychloroquine (and being proven correct, by the way), I found myself unable to comprehend why those in positions of power simply refused to listen and react in a fashion that reflected the urgency he was so clearly expressing.  How does the head of the Department of Health and Human Services justify his negligence to the families of all the healthcare workers who have died because of insufficient PPE, or after being supplied with foreign-made PPE from factories the US failed to verify were meeting our standards for N95 masks.  Those masks are visibly the same as those made here, but are not sufficient to prevent the virus from being breathed in by those wearing them, leading to healthcare professionals getting sick and dying despite their own attempts to protect themselves.

Yet what did the Republicans in that hearing yesterday keep focusing on?  Hydroxychloroquine, because of course they did, since that is what the right-wing media keeps spouting on about.  There has been reporting that there are some in the White House taking it prophylactically, despite there having been studies stopped because of the deaths of subjects likely due to side effects from its use, since apparently no one involved in such a stupid plan can read.  THERE ARE NO STUDIES THAT SUPPORT THE MAGICAL THINKING THAT HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE CAN CURE OR PREVENT COVID-19!

During this crisis, the federal government with Trump at the head should be laser-focused on following the science by listening to the professionals who actually have a clue, but Trump and the Republicans have no capacity to do that.  Instead, they prefer to follow along behind the dear leader, regurgitating whatever he said last about the situation sans facts/reality.  Trump tries to convince his base that the number of cases and lost lives are going down when the rest of us can see, based on actual numbers, that they are rising throughout much of the country, most notably in those places where Republicans have decided to ‘open up’ all the businesses without any attempts at social distancing or requiring face masks.  Obviously all the fools turning up to rub elbows and share respiratory secretions in enclosed spaces with other brain dead nitwits are unwilling to accept that they are in fact neither immune to the virus nor less likely to die if they catch it in that bar or restaurant from an asymptomatic super spreader.

Instead of Trump focusing solely on the country and making up for the mess he’s so far made of this pandemic, he has now decided to make up a scandal he claims occurred during the previous administration.  Clearly, he doesn’t understand that his repeated attempts to make Obama the bad guy in regards to Michael Flynn’s admitted lying to the FBI is having the opposite effect – reminding us repeatedly what a real president sounds like and does when the fecal matter hits the air moving device.  No one who is outside the right-wing media bubble believes any of Trump’s conspiracy theories, and in fact his total and complete lack of interest in doing something, anything that would actually help us through this pandemic and the economic devastation it’s caused should be enough to push even some in his base to acknowledge his total incompetence and malignant narcissism.  How is it possible for the President to spend so much of his time either on Twitter or watching television?  I don’t spend that much time with the idiot box on, and I’m no longer part of the workforce.  He’s supposed to be doing the work of the American people, not wasting most of his day watching how he’s being covered on television.  What difference does it make, when there are almost 2,000 of us dying every day because of his inability to function in any recognizable way as a leader?

Daily, we are reminded, in big and small ways, that nothing that happens to the rest of us matters to either Trump or the Republicans.  The Republicans in the Senate have made it abundantly clear that making sure we survive not just the virus but the financial devastation we are all feeling isn’t their priority.  They keep refusing to address the upcoming presidential election in order to keep us safe, given the high likelihood that Covid-19 will re-surge in the fall along with the seasonal flu, insisting that mail-in ballots are prone to fraud.  Given that the only cases of mail-in ballot fraud in recent memory was performed by the Republicans, that’s a real hoot. 

While we all focus on staying alive and paying our bills, Trump and Bill Barr are politicizing the Department of Justice in order to help Trump’s friends while simultaneously digging far and wide for anything they can find to use against Trump’s enemies.  We can see you.  There will be time once you’re no longer in office to hold you both accountable for the crimes you’re committing in plain sight, and we will pursue you using all options available.  You will not be allowed to go off to some cushy corporate gig or to start your own television network scot-free. 

I’m lucky – New Jersey allows mail-in ballots without onerous rules that make it harder to than it needs to be, and have utilized it to vote since 2018 because I can.  Republicans refusal to move forward with all mail-in ballots for November due to a mistaken belief that doing so will cause them to lose more of their elections are making it clear that the only thing they care about is remaining in office.  The health of their constituents, which they’ve made their least-important issue with continued attacks on the ACA, is still at the bottom of their list at this unprecedented time in our country.  I fail to comprehend why anyone who is presently being ‘represented’ by a Republican who refuses to address this right now would reelect said person.  Do they have a death wish?  Do they really want more of the last four years?

I sure as hell don’t.