I wrote this early 2020 before covid infected 6 million Americans and killed 180,000; before the economic crash and before the 2020 election became a brain-dead demolition derby.
I was born during the Korean Conflict, but was too young by a long shot to understand that situation.
The first world crisis that truly scared me to death was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The news film of U.S. and Soviet ships facing off during the blockade, the loud and angry talk, and the fear that some idiot was going to push a button and launch a nuclear missile – that was all real.
I was old enough to know that 90 miles was not very far and to know how stupid it felt crouching under a wooden desk to protect me from nuclear fallout.
Then the Sixties – the Southern war for civil and voting rights, the Kennedy assassinations, then Martin Luther King; Vietnam, urban riots, Watergate, Sept. 11, the Mideast wars, and now Trump and the dismantling of our institutions and Constitution in front of our eyes.
One party sticks their collective fingers in their ears shouting “La, La, La”, while the other party rolls out a line of children trying to divide the sand in the sandbox.
We are a nation seeking that one cleansing moment that never comes.
What tripped this off was an online comment by a Republican party operative crowing about a new challenger to a sitting Democratic member of Congress; they were thrilled to have the chance to turn a blue seat red.
Why so thrilled to send to Washington another cowardly thumb-sucking Republican who will cheer as a power-mad president dismantles the standards and institutions that made your cushy life possible?
While thinking about this piece I recalled two events I covered as a newspaper reporter.
One was the lawsuit filed by police officers to remove the police chief, whose alcoholism was affecting his job performance and perhaps public safety.
They didn’t win the lawsuit, but the town did take steps to offer the chief help.
Speaking at the time with a substance abuse counselor, she said that everyone in that town was an enabler.
I thought about that comment when I had to write the story about his death. Everyone I spoke with talked around the actual cause, just as they had when he was alive. He drank himself to death. And I know that is not a clinical diagnosis, but I wondered after that what might have happened if during his life, if someone had put the social niceties and the respect for his title aside, and said that out loud.
But the truth hurts.
And so it is with Trump, a drunk-with-power man laughing in the face of our history, our laws, our lives, just because it makes him feel good.
And so his enablers stand cheering, while I suspect that inside their shrunken souls they are scared to death that he will do the unthinkable when it might be happening now before their very eyes.
The other event that came to mind was this: Last year’s widespread outbreak of Hazardous Algae Blooms that affected dozens of New Jersey lakes.
One of the worst was at Lake Hopatcong, a thriving residential and recreational community. The lake was empty nearly all summer as the cyanobacteria that causes the blooms turned the lake water green and potentially hazardous.
Oh, the hand wringing.
And now, as we live though another warmer-than-usual winter (one potential element in the bacteria growth that caused the HABs) the politicians are promising money and studies and programs to stop the pollution that has been entering the lake for decades while we all stood politely by.
Applaud the better-late-than-never action.
And now, in late 2020, those efforts are paying off. Projects targeting specific causes of lake pollution are being installed. Lake Hopatcong is much cleaner this year that last. Some things work.
But I wonder whether it even matters, now the president has declared that clean water rules in place for decades are null and void.
Did our brave politicians raise their objections to such madness?
Did any of them say, “That is wrong, Mr. President?”
When does it become too much? When do you realize this madness will finally engulf you as well?
We can fix the politics.
We can vote the idiots out of office.
But there are not enough face masks and water filters and rain gardens to turn back the poison the politics have unleashed.
The chainsaws of greed and indifference are cutting away the pillars of this great, and imperfect nation.