Smoke and Mirrors in a World of Pain

The wild fires of Western United States are smoking out a huge portion of the country. And the Covid-19 pandemic, under Trump’s criminal abdication of responsibility, has turned our nation’s public health into a deadly hall of mirrors where state-level and federal-level policies reflect each other back and forth in an infinite regression of distorted images leading to stalemate.

Trump’s chaos cannot ever coalesce into an organized national response to beat the coronavirus because Trump breaks things apart.  Fragmentation and division are his default setting.

Even as he built his towers he broke honor and trust, defrauded banks, stiffed his workers, then took the money and ran all the way to the refuge of bankruptcy. He did this every time. He is doing this now with the United States of America.

As wild fires and pandemic boil in the cauldron of our racially- divided America, Trump remains on autopilot:  a robot programmed for the mechanical repetition of a binary repertoire:  cheat and attack.  Cheat and attack.

Every day with Trump in office chokes kindness and cooperation, and brings in hatred and insult, poverty and hunger, ignorance and fear.

Every day with Trump in office means another thousand deaths from Covid, and another thousand cuts into the spirit of America. Trump knows only theft and deception.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!” should be Trump’s epitaph, even if his sordid life of grift and bullying deserves no poetry.

Trump’s “American carnage” is White police killing unarmed Black men every week; it is night after night of national news filled with raging fires gorging equally on tinder and human lives. When smoke clears it unveils the silent and sullen desolation of scorched earth.

Trump’s American carnage is families ravaged by Covid and bereft; without a job and then evicted. It is parents betrayed by the system that took their taxes then tossed them overboard into the sea of poverty without a life jacket: no unemployment help, no housing, no means to feed their kids.  This is Trump’s America and kids can’t go back to school.

The selfishness of a tyrant is a destructive force that equally decimates the living and the dying.

And the dying are legion.

All across the land our ailing, flailing and failing United States is tearing itself apart from within and from without, in a perfect storm of calamity.

But it is in dark times when true leadership can emerge, because anyone can sound good in fair weather.  And it is in dark times that the best impulses in people can unite to change the course of history

Changing history means looking at reality past and present on the basis of fact and evidence. It means recognizing that the force of climate change now coming home to roost is real, and the wild fires are but a preview of what’s in store for the country and the world if we don’t change our ways immediately.

Changing history means being objective about Trump:  He is irremediable.  He showed us this yet again when we learned that back in February he confessed to Bob Woodward his accurate understanding of the new coronavirus’ lethality, contagiousness, and its ability to infect and kill children. And with that knowledge, an ice-cold Trump then went and lied to the American people, causing the deaths of countless thousands whose loss he could have prevented.

Trump’s corruption and cruelty snuff out the life and the opportunity of the much-deserving American working people. These are strong and vital men and women who keep working and remain unseen, mostly unappreciated, and kept at the bottom by non-living wages.

Almost ten percent of the firefighters in California are prison inmates receiving two dollars a day, plus one dollar for every hour they spend in the flames fighting active fires. This arrangement saves the state of California one hundred million dollars a year.  Other states pay them nothing at all.

In their world of forced labor, inmate firefighters can’t quit; they can’t complain; they have no rights; they do as they’re told or risk facing solitary confinement. Even asking a question could put you in solitary.  That means 23 hours a day you’re in a tiny concrete cell by yourself.  One hour a day the guards take you in chains to a chicken-wire cage where you can look at the outside,  pace around and maybe do some pushups.  And then back in you go.

Prison inmates are functional slaves because the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which  officially ended slavery about a hundred and fifty years ago, allowed this exception for convicts. Part of their punishment was to remain slaves.  So prison labor for corporate profit is legal. It is also a sick and twisted industry making obscene profits to the tune of several billion dollars a year: The full-retail sales of goods from penal at no pay is lucrative indeed. There’s over a million productive slaves today in American jails, enriching the rich.  Some things never change.

And here’s the sticky part: Is this employment, or is this rehabilitation?  Is this done for profit or is this done for the inmates’ self-improvement?  These slippery categories make for slippery corporate debates that never get anywhere. Meanwhile, inmates keep churning out products and services, from office furniture to staffing call centers; from military equipment to 3-D modeling; etc.

Microsoft, Walmart, Whole Foods, and dozens of other blue-chip corporate American brands are in on it. Even Victoria Secret uses prisoners to cut off foreign manufacture labels, and replace them with  Made-in-USA tags.

Changing history means recognizing that mass incarceration in the United States is a racial and  fraudulent abomination. It means acknowledging that our neoliberal corporatist system of savage capitalism has deserted the people, the infrastructure, and the state’s obligations to provide all of its citizens with health care, education and housing.

The neoliberal state’s massive default on the common good has resulted in the government dysfunction that has made of Covid-infested America the world’s worst case of the pandemic.

We don’t have to suffer like this, or live in such dishonor  and confusion. We don’t have to be at the mercy of craven thieves who stole the powers of the public office we entrusted to them and  turned it against us.

They’re the pirates we voted to run our ship, and now they’ve killed the crew and can’t sail.  Unless we get rid of them we’ll all go down burning and protesting their smoke and mirrors.