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Enough of Russia! There’s an Epidemic of Despair in the US

Photo by thierry hermann | CC BY 2.0

Photo by thierry hermann | CC BY 2.0

If the left is waiting for Donald Trump to be impeached by the Republican Congress, then we need to take a collective deep breath and be ready to wait until hell freezes over. Trump-Russia ties are all the rage on nightly news programs and in the print media. The pontificating is almost without end. And it’s the liberal commentators who seem to be giving the issue the most emphasis on their nightly programs.

James S. Henry gets to the heart of the matter on The Reality News Network in “Why Further Revelations on Trump’s Russian Connection Might Fail to Bring Him Down” (March 24, 2017). Henry, an economist, attorney, and investigative journalist put it this way:

I think there’s a risk that the U.S. center-left is basically obsessed with this story and is looking for kind of a magic bullet solution to the Trump administration. That’s going to distract us from going back to work doing the kind of organizing at the grassroots level that’s necessary for the 2018 elections. We need to fight and get ready for all of the issues that are on the table… with respect to climate change, Obamacare, the social programs that are being stripped, the outrageous increases in the defense budget.

James S. Henry got it right! This obsession over Trump’s and Trump’s advisers’ connections both before and after the 2016 election to Vladimir Putin and Putin’s lapdog oligarchs is keeping those on the left focused on issues that won’t add up to a hill of beans save some nonexistent photo or video of Donald Trump literally in bed with someone. And even that wouldn’t do all that much damage given the words and audacious actions by Trump that are already known. People were beaten up at Trump campaign rallies and that didn’t do much to sway his base and, it may even have garnered him more support. He refers to women with the degrading word  “pussy,” and he gets a lion’s share of a segment of the vote of white women. He talks about an O.K. Corral scenario on Fifth Avenue and he still gets elected! He gets pummeled on healthcare and his base conducts extremely small but sometimes violent rallies around the country.

If readers really want to see some compromising information about interference in elections around the world, then a brief journey into U.S. direct interference in democratic elections would fill volumes, in fact it’s an alphabet soup of interventions of both electoral and military kinds (“The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere,” The Washington Post, October 2016). Interventions in Chile, Iran, Iraq, and Vietnam come to mind with disastrous and lethal human consequences.

This is not 1974 and there aren’t tapes from the Oval Office that pointed a damning finger at Richard Nixon for his part in covering up the break-in at Watergate office complex. And there isn’t a Congress that has just recently come out of an unpopular war with hundreds of thousands of people who have taken big risks in heroically fighting the power of the government over several years.

Back on the ground and grounded in reality, The Washington Post reports in “New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans” (March 23, 2017), that suicide rates among both white working-class men and women have skyrocketed since the late 1990s and dwarfs the suicide rate among people from other industrialized countries. The two Princeton University researchers who conducted the study point to “family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity, and other pathologies,” for the worsening suicide epidemic in the U.S. And this is the electoral cohort who gave Trump his Electoral College victory and propelled him in a losing alliance with the extreme right in Congress in their failed attempt to take healthcare benefits away from this voter base. Besides the terror of despair that can cause people to turn to suicide, it seems that this base of disaffected people are crying out for social, political, and economic remedies that will bring them back to health and well-being in the wealthiest society on Earth. Digging up dirt, both real and imagined, on Vladimir Putin isn’t going to accomplish anything and will serve to keep us occupied while the far right tries and succeeds in getting away with murder of one type or another.

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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