Probabilities of Change

Illustration by Becky Grant

“We can’t make a bad decision. Frankly, this is no time to act stupidly. Period. I don’t know how else to say it.”

– Gov. Andrew Cuomo

By the time this weekend article is posted, our president’s advice to internalize light as a remedy and/or inject or swallow disinfectant to eradicate the virus as effectively inside your body as on household surfaces may have begun a long slide to his departure from the American stage. He may reappear as a Fox friend.

I think we should keep repeating this presidential advice right up until November.

If this most recent medical directive from our “very stable genius” doesn’t eradicate his chances of winning a second term, there is a very high probability that he will gift us with more such idiocies, so idiotic as to be pathological, but not in an endearing madness sense like Alice’s Mad Hatter. Of course, he’s something of a mad Napoleon to be netted, but what defense has all those who make excuses for him and who chastise us from misapprehending this stable genius’s words?

During the crisis itself, our NOW, we are being led by a president who has successfully replaced reasonable approaches with his own self-declared genius. He escaped chargeable offenses Mueller listed, as well as the strong case the House made for an impeachment resulting in conviction. Our estimable legacy press has had all its reportage debunked as “fake news” including a clear recording of his lies and misrepresentations (16, 241). His quite clear Mafioso-like revenge against those who cross him has not aroused Evangelicals to anger.

Up to the point of Covi-19’s emergence, which he clairvoyantly saw as marking the end of his presidency and so denied its presence, Donald J. Trump had put all opposition out of commission. Four more years would give him even more time to enjoy the sweetness of revenge on those who dared to cross him.

We now have a president who pitches his campaign in stirring up the passions and mocking not only the authority of reason itself but those who have its credentials, inside and outside government.

Donald Trump is not the first to tap into this reservoir of suspicion regarding “authorities of knowing,” but he’s the first to take advantage of a parallel development, namely, the self-authorizing of one’s own opinions, taken to be better than reasoning, which social media enables. He’s the first to equate his “gut knowing” with the expertise of the medical profession, although we have been softened to believe that his as well as our own narrative is as good as anyone else’s in an age when making a case and developing an argument are comparable to spinning a story.

Having vanquished reason and its methodologies, Trump has been free to campaign and run a country on gut feelings and appeals to the passions du jour. He’s been spot on in identifying what those changing fires might be and keeping them on the burn. He’s had help [remove McConnell and Trump unravels] creating a government and a country “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Not exactly nothing. If reason has any voice, the argument could be made that the Signifier, Trump, is mad, and so the source of the rottenness in the land.

The Coronavirus pandemic is not an impeachment challenge loaded with facts, evidence, witnesses making a case, or a Robert Mueller special counsel investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 elections, or a New York Times article detailing Trump’s denial and delay in responding to pandemic.

The virus is neither rational nor irrational, neither a creation of passion nor reason. It’s not part of the Deep State, doesn’t hang around with “Shifty” Schiff, or “Crazy” Nancy Pelosi, or “Half-wit” Gov. Whitmer. It can’t be told to shut up at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing. In short, our President has knocked reasoning out of the ring and is left to fight this pandemic with an arsenal of browbeating tactics that don’t work against a virus.

More deadly to Trump’s tactics, however, is the fact that he can’t target it on Twitter with the usual viral firecrackers to his supporters. What he has tweeted are some “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” commands that he’ll regret if too many revolts against “shelter in place” doctors’ orders and thus send the death count climbing. A month from now it may be that some or many who have mistaken this pandemic moment as a challenge to the exercising of their personal freedom may have found a final liberation from this mortal coil.

It is certainly as foolish as posing the virus as such a challenge as assuming, as President Trump obviously does half the time, that he can mock and ridicule the virus into cowardly submission.

You can’t hate the virus the way you hate the illegals sneaking into the country or already here and taking your job. You can’t recall it as now the cry goes out among that small crowd in front of the Lansing capital to recall Gov. Whitmer. You can’t put it in jail the way Hillary should have, in the view of one faction, been jailed. You can’t bring the virus up on treason charges the way Trump advocated they should be brought against the House for bringing an impeachment case against him.

It is true that you can confuse and confound the responses to the pandemic, but you cannot confuse and confound the virus itself, not in any way other than perhaps the microbiological.

Such an approach, that is, confusing the public’s understanding of this mortal threat, would not be to the president’s benefit.

Churning the mosh pit of the mass psyche may obscure, for instance, a clear case of abuse of power and obstruction of the Congress, so that facts and evidence appear to be conspiracy hoaxes, but the virus course is not a political entanglement. Jonathan Turley will not get a chance to defend Trump against that course.

The Coronavirus does not care if blame for its existence is put on Liberals, the House of Representatives, China, Iran, Kim Jong Un, the Deep State, the Bidens, the Clintons, Obama or FDR. Trump the deceiving trickster has no trick to fight what he faces. All the rancorous feelings he stokes in his myrmidons cannot stop the virus advance that epidemiologists tell us has a tidal movement, high and low, low and high. Making stupid or mad decisions when the tide is low will darken our future.

There is a high probability that a continued display of madness in the time of pandemic will pull the president’s fans away from him. Those genius associates of our president who have injected or swallowed disinfectant or found some way in their basements to bring “light inside the body” will be gone, and only the president is there to be voted in for another four years to continue his deal making with the virus.

There is even a higher probability that the virus surely will end Trump’s political future because there is really no Trump tactic to fight fear, only to generate it, as in fear of those caravans on the border, or a socialist in the White House, or Obama taking your guns away.

I don’t think we will ever know that he could have been dispelled, like a wicked curse, with something less death dealing than the Coronavirus. When you consider this mad charlatan’s success in rallying so many Americans to him, the submission of so many to the advance of his mania, and a kind of parasite instinct in feeding on the weak places of our millennial America mass psyche, you are left thinking that only a pandemic could have eradicated him.


We should know by now that it’s not in Trump’s nature to be reasonable outside his own pathological frame of what is reasonable. But it’s fair to say that reasonable approaches to anything have been on the back burner in American society for a long time.

Everything we have observed in crises in the past as matters we swear up and down MUST change, have not been changed. The historical record shows us this. We have a long history of learning nothing from our crises and our wars, the one exception being FDR’s National Recovery Act response to the Great Depression. Messaging against that rationality proceeded until Reagan’s response to the long, deep recession of the 1970’s was Voodoo economics, the beginning of compounding money in the silos of the rich, reverse moralizing wages, unions, government regulations and assistance to the not rich.

To those who see this division of wealth and the power that comes with it replaced post-pandemic with a sense that “we’re all in this together” and so, the entrenched fractures of wealth divide vanish as in a Disney movie, I only note that capital has thrown labor out of the ring, has flourished under Trump, and owns the Republican Party of Profit Making and so will probably easily co-opt and profit from this spirit of a brave new world wherein we’ve all learned to share toilet paper, not to hoard food, and to wear a mask for the sake of our fellow Americans.

More optimistically and less facetiously, we have gone through a season in which Bernie Sanders and others focused our attention on an obscene wealth divide which previously wasn’t ever considered a matter to be corrected or remedied or adjusted. What the pandemic shows us is that the wealthy experience the pandemic in their way and the wage earner in a totally opposite way. True, both face a possible death, but the wage earner forced back to work, the wage earner who is a deliverer and not a recipient of packages, is dealing with a different pandemic. While the wealthy escape to beaches and mountain retreats, others try to find six feet of distance between themselves in two rooms. Death is a stronger probability with the poor than with the rich.

We entered this pandemic with the future of those already at the bottom of the wealth ladder destined to die in greater numbers than those at the top. Whether we open to business slowly or too quickly, that destiny is written. It’s not the owners, the CEO’s, the shareholders that need to go back to work. The necessity is, as it always has been, a necessity of survival that the wage earner faces.

Whether pre-pandemic or post-pandemic, there are a number of people positioned to get their way who want to continue on that way without deep, structural change, the kind in our own time offered by Bernie Sanders, Greta Thunberg, Elizabeth Warren, AOC, Sherrod Brown, Cornell West, Noam Chomsky, Richard Wolff, Thomas Frank, and all those who now should be questioning our response to pandemic, rather than reporters, print, TV and online, who report but do not interpret toward convincing understanding. That intellectual class is absent in the U.S. from the popular stage. Money finds no profit in them.

Black lives matter, as do working class lives and the lives of poor people and crop pickers and every wage owner, but they just don’t amount to as much as those who have spectacular amounts of money that “never sleeps.” If there wasn’t so much concentrated wealth on one end and a beleaguered, diminishing amount in the middle and on the other end, power might be more equitably distributed.

If making money is all that a society wants to do, then power rests with those who have the tool, that is money, for making money. If, however, a society is all about what Bernie or AOC or Greta described, then money must be made and used within those goals.

At his moment if Amazon had been nationalized, the 24 billion that Jeff Bezos has made because this pandemic forces captives at home online to shop would be available for PPE. Those producing such products should be held to prices not exceeding a 10% profit, online and offline, while hoarding can be stopped by limits set online and offline. Why bail out a privatized airline industry that has accommodated the wealthy grandly while treating 80% of the population like cattle? Why put the distribution of pandemic relief funds in the hands of banks and not government, banks who, as in 2008, treated themselves grandly? Why hasn’t a new NRA been immediately instituted but instead vicious competitiveness for survival supplies left to rule?

What those last sentences make us realize is that we are very far from directing our country away from profit if what we are now has emerged from profit making in almost all enterprises and domains. To restructure deeply we would have to already be restructured deeply in our own minds.

And here we meet defenses against such.

We protect ourselves from facing the singlemindedness of our American exceptionalism by citing the noble words of our Constitution, words that protect us from facing what goes on in our globalized, financialized, market efficiency economics and what has resulted.

If indeed we wish to “promote the general Welfare,” we would be highly suspicious of an economics that axiomatically does precisely the opposite, which is to promote the welfare of only a few.

If we wished to “establish justice,” we recognize that, by definition, justice cannot exist where equitableness is eroded by power divisions, themselves created by wealth division.

If we wished to “ensure domestic Tranquility,” we would hardly support either an economics that ensures a sense of failure in many and a sense of victory in a few or a politics that foments enmity, distrust and fear in order secure power built on such.

What comes to my mind at this pandemic moment is H.G. Wells’ novel, War of the Worlds, in which invading Martians are killed by Earth’s viruses, to which they had no immunity, “slain, ” as Wells wrote, “after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.”

While it’s an easy matter to see that Donald J. Trump is a virus that has invaded our democracy and ironically a virus will remove him, it’s darker and more tragic to think that if our planet had a voice we could all hear, our planet that has shown signs of wonderful recuperation during this reprieve from our human activity and productions, we ourselves would be the invaders.

Joseph Phillip Natoli’s The New Utrecht Avenue novel trilogy is on sale at Amazon. Time is the Fire ended what began with Get Ready to Run and Between Dog & Wolf. Humour noire with counterpunches. .