Op/Ed

Editorial: After two weeks away, a personal reflection on the news

Not all that long ago you could take a two-week vacation, as a newspaper editor, and not miss that much. It’s not as if the world didn’t keep turning while away from the office, but rather that the world’s stage wasn’t in the constant chaos it is today. 
As on most summer hiking trips, this year we were blissfully without Internet service, or even cell service, for much of the time — having to make a trip of 10 minutes by car to reach suitable places to poach connectivity for those necessary connections to the office and family back home. The absence of that daily news, the silence replacing the constant drumbeat of political angst, was welcome. And yet, it was all the more dramatic to be reintroduced to the headlines on those occasional trips into the nearest town, and even more so when viewed over the last two weeks of August.
Trump causes much of the chaos, of course, for what he perceives to be his personal gain. He thrives in the throes of name-calling, denigrating opponents and conjured enemies, casting himself as the only person qualified to get us out of the mess he has created. It’s an absurd political strategy, yet seems to be effective for the 30-plus percent of his base supporters — those very same folks who treasure the caricature of him muscled up and carrying an AK-47 into battle. (The irony of that image, of course, is that Trump in real life borders on being obese, as defined by percentage of body fat, and that he dodged a military stint by dubiously claiming he had a bone spur; in short, an overweight, out-of-shape Chicken Little.)
Be that as it may, Trump isn’t the only cause of today’s rapid-fire news cycle and the perception of today’s never-ending crises. In just the past few weeks:
• Forest fires sparked by bone-dry conditions in California, Colorado and much of the western United States dominated the news for many westerners. It’s part of a significant change in the climate that has brought what climatologists are calling a “mega-drought” to the Western half of the country, as well as rising temperatures. Death Valley posted the highest temperatures recorded on earth this summer with one recording of 130 degrees F. Neither is Trump’s fault, though he is contributing to the problem by denying the science of climate change and reversing policies that would lessen the worst impacts of a warming planet. By ignoring the obvious, he and the Republican Party are acting in the roles of Dumb and Dumber, adding fuel to the fires already started.
• The inconceivable police shooting of Jacob Blake (seven times in the back) in Kenosha, Wisconsin — another galling instance of unwarranted police brutality against an unarmed black man — rocked the nation’s sensibilities, again, making us all wonder why some of America’s police forces are unable to contain such rogue instances of police abuse. Time and time again. Will some never learn? What will it take to reform the police forces at fault? And yet President Trump would visit Kenosha just this week to continue his race baiting by focusing on the damage done by the protestors of that brutality, while dismissing the actions of the white policeman who shot Blake by suggesting he blew it, just as golfer misses a three-foot putt. To add fuel to the fire, Trump praised and defended the actions of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, and other white vigilantes, as he opened fire with his rifle shooting three and killing two protesters — all the while believing he was acting in a way local police supported. 
Seriously? Those are the thoughts championed by America’s president?
• The continuing crisis of Trump’s failed response to the virus is a daily nightmare for those Americans worried for those family members who have contracted the virus, while the other 320 million Americans are simply mystified that Trump hasn’t seized the political benefit a stronger response would provide. Yet, rather than help solve the problem, he continues to make it worse by turning America’s response into a culture war. Today, he’s on the verge of ignoring Dr. Fauci while supporting a quack who’s suggesting America should push for “herd immunity,” which won’t come until a majority of Americans (another 160 million Americans at the very least) get the virus, and if that happens, the death toll (at 33,000 Americans dead so far per million infected) would be catastrophic. And, yet, Trump is espousing that path for the country — while encouraging rallies in which the very measures of virus containment are shunned in defiance of any respect to the very law and order (a strong state response) he claims to represent.
• On a more political arena, both parties held their nominating conventions. Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were championed as their party’s candidates to lead the country while Trump and his family were coronated to lead the Republican Party. While the Democrats had rousing speeches that spoke to the nation’s better angels and highlighted Trump’s corruption and the threat to the nation’s democracy and constitution if he were re-elected, Trump’s campaign thumbed its nose at the nation’s law, deliberately violated the spirit of the Hatch Act as if that very act of lawlessness was a show of strength to his supporters.
Moreover, while Biden and Harris appealed to calm the protests and violence in some cities rocked by police brutality and protests in support of Black Lives Matter, Trump fanned those very same flames of anger and animosity — and did so with a blatant appeal to white supremacists. It was a shocking development that Americans can only hope will be rejected at the polls.
• To further tarnish America’s standing in the world, and potentially jeopardize American’s health, Trump recently declares he would not have America share in WHO’s (World Healthcare Organization) development of a vaccine for Covid-19, but would have America’s go it alone and not share its research or development with others, or alternatively, not be able to share in the research of other countries if they developed a vaccine first. It was typical Trump: selfish and narcissistic, motivated by greed and power — contrary to the image and the deeds America has cultivated for most of the 20th Century.
Makes you want to pick up your backpack, risk the plane trip (it feels safer than reading the news!) and head out to someplace remote — maybe a trek across Alaska’s Arctic. But wait, isn’t Trump also trying to open the Arctic National Refuge up to oil development? November can’t come soon enough.
Angelo Lynn

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