I’m afraid. No, in truth, I’m scared.
Please don’t take those words - or the ones to follow - as a rant. They are not so intended.
I’m 84-years-old. Born and raised in the Northwest. I’m a Protestant - veteran of a hot war - a cancer survivor. I’ve enjoyed some successes in life and overcome my share of grief and setbacks. While life has not always been great, it’s always been good.
I’ve been involved both directly in politics and on the fringes. I’ve watched good people - and some not so good people - pass through Congress and the White House in their normal terms of elective office. Though there have been occasional bumps in the road - a war or two - one presidential resignation - some flare-ups of overheated and overrated political egos - my life has never really been directly affected. Until now.
We’ve heard our misbegotten president hint that, if he loses the November election, there may not be the usual, peaceful transfer of office from one administration to the next. I’ve listened to him repeatedly claim the election will be a fraud, “fixed,” run by Democrats, and that legitimate mail-in voting is both “illegal” and “unlawful.” They aren’t. He’s threatened to use our own government against us, tear-gassed people lawfully assembled in our streets, overseen violence by his supporters and, in ways both open and subtle, used many government buildings and other public venues for his own enrichment.
He’s seen by millions as a pariah, masquerading as “leader” of the nation. When attending a solemn, official ceremony, he’s booed and heckled by a crowd of mourners. He’s openly jeered at other public appearances. He’s been asked not to visit certain cities and states. He is, to many people, a fraud, a crook, someone whose stolen millions of dollars from government and private sector activities.
No president, in memory, has talked so openly about having more than the Constitutionally allowed two terms in office. None has told millions of his supporters he’s somehow “entitled” to a third term because, he claims, he’s “been so badly treated.” As if respect unearned has automatically been denied.
I’ve never seen so many elected members of a political party swim silently through a river of malfeasance with none openly resisting such egregious behavior by a president. The Senate’s Republicans - and the House’s 154 of the same party - have given a “pass” to a man who’s violated our Constitution, broken many of our laws and openly operated as a wrecking ball damaging government institutions and undermining public confidence and respect for governance. A “pass.”
Now he, and the heretofore silent Republican Senators, are trying to quickly shift the judicial and philosophical balance of the U.S. Supreme Court. A shift that could result in depriving 30-40 million Americans of health care. A shift that could overthrow previous black-letter law allowing women to be in charge of their own bodies and their own reproductive systems. A shift that could destroy the necessary balance of legal parity necessary to assure equality under our laws.
If that happens, and if Democrats sweep both Houses of Congress and the White House in the upcoming election, there’s already talk of adding two new members to the present nine justices to re-balance conservative-versus-liberal thought. Whether that’s the right and proper thing to do is an open question.
Then there’s the virus. COVID-19. The current president and his political minions have turned what necessarily should be a medical issue into a political one. In the process, they’ve sown confusion, lies and half-truths into millions of minds. Deliberate medical procedures, such as vaccine development and testing, have been subjected to political posturing that directly affects all of us. The virus - and how we deal with it - means life and death for the nation.
No one can say we don’t live in fear of being infected. But, because of the political lies and perversions, millions of Americans are not treating the issue as one that brings the possibility of death. They’re continuing to live as though the coronavirus doesn’t exist. It does. And their way of life threatens all of us. So do the anti-vaxxers who won’t take a medicine that could save their lives. Most of us know friends and family members who’ve died or been infected. For some victims, recovery may mean a lifetime of health problems.
Our new “normal” - whatever that turns out to be - is a long way away. The virus has us sheltering in our homes, changing our entire economy, putting some 50-million Americans out of work, changing the way we travel, eliminating congregate worship for all faiths, altering our lives in ways we haven’t fully realized. And, in truth, has changed people’s lives in all nations.
Now, researchers tell us coronavirus is morphing, becoming new stains we must identify and conquer. So, will we ever have a meaningful and effective vaccine against this menace? Or, will we continue to live our lives in fear, hiding behind our masks, maintaining our separations from family and friends as new versions of COVID-19 confront the medical world?
After a long life, normal has disappeared. The retirement to leisurely live out our last years has gone. Much of what we’ve expected - planned for - has disappeared. The confines of our home have become the new, smaller world.
So, I, and many like me, are frightened. Afraid. Yes, scared.
On one hand, the virus has made us fearful. It’s an unseen but ever-present factor in all we do. We can’t see the unseen threat to our lives. We’ve got no lasting defense. Our freedom to move about, to travel, to join together in community, to use the market places - even to worship together - all have been curtailed or denied.
On the other, we’re watching unparalleled attacks on our system of government - on the institutions created to serve our collective needs. We’re seeing an intimidated national political party cave in to the whims of a wannabe dictator by ignoring their oaths to God to “protect and defend” our Constitution. And a large population unwilling to listen to truth or educate themselves with facts.
We know much of our national security has either been gutted or ignored. We’re witnessing laws and regulations meant to protect us and our environment destroyed in the name of private economic gain. We’re watching politicians devoid of intellectual integrity become fodder for a president also devoid of both. We’re seeing an uncontrolled - and uncontrollable - president attempting to change our national political structure into something autocratic and personally controlled.
For those of us who’ve lived long lives within the familiar boundaries of citizenship, respectability, and regard for a well-coordinated national government, these are frightening times. What could happen to our beloved country in the next 120 days or so is a specter unlike any we’ve ever faced.
I don’t feel alone or isolated in my fear. And I am afraid. Very afraid.