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kallend

Pity for the USA

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Here is a brilliant Op-Ed From Irish Times writer, Fintan O’Toole.

April 25, 2020

THE WORLD HAS LOVED, HATED AND ENVIED THE U.S. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE PITY IT

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted ... like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

Abject surrender
What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.

In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

Fertile ground
But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.

And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

You can follow Fintan O’Toole @fotoole on twitter.

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1 hour ago, kallend said:


 

 

Here is a brilliant Op-Ed From Irish Times writer, Fintan O’Toole.

April 25, 2020

THE WORLD HAS LOVED, HATED AND ENVIED THE U.S. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE PITY IT

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted ... like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

Abject surrender
What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.

In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

Fertile ground
But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.

And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

You can follow Fintan O’Toole @fotoole on twitter.

Just outstanding. Thank you John.

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23 minutes ago, airdvr said:

What are you guys going to do for another 4 1/2 years?  They'll have to open up another forum

Laugh as the pillars of conservatism crumble one by one. 

Pro-life? Clearly gone

Fiscal conservatism? Long gone

Love the military? That's a laugh.

Seriously...what do you guys stand for anymore?  

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(edited)
37 minutes ago, tonyhays said:

Laugh as the pillars of conservatism crumble one by one. 

Pro-life? Clearly gone

Fiscal conservatism? Long gone

Love the military? That's a laugh.

Seriously...what do you guys stand for anymore?  

Not seeing a whole lot of laughing...

The moment Hillary Clinton was forced to give up her dream

Edited by airdvr

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On point, the developed world looks upon the US under the trump regime. In trepidation as if a friend had become a alcoholic. His life spiraling out of control, going down with no bottom in sight. "They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV."

You want to turn it off. Slap it into consciousness. Instead every day a new horror of a friend in despair shows its ugly reality.

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5 hours ago, tonyhays said:

Pro-life? Clearly gone

I first heard this a few years ago, and it is even more obviously true today:

Republicans care about your life...right up until the moment of your birth; After that, you're on your own.

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The US has been particularly good at marketing itself and presenting a beautiful, idealised (and also fake) image of itself to the world...  It has done so through things like film and celebrity culture, and by selling this notion of the American Dream...  It has promised success and possibility to *anyone* who is creative and/or hard-working...  

But underneath this facade lies an underbelly of race, gender, social inequality/discrimination...  

The Trump regime has in many ways held a mirror to American society and served to show the world a more realistic picture of America, warts and all...  But make no mistake...  Just because people didn't "see" it, doesn't mean these problems are new.  In fact, the problems have been festering and worstening for a very long time.

I remember very well when people were talking about the fall of the American Empire during the Bush (Jr) administration (and probably before as well).  There is talk of this again, but just as no one is immune to a fall from grace, so could the US pick themselves up and rise up from the rubble...  It's anyone's guess.  We are all watching in a mixture of awe and horror.

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2 hours ago, Nataly said:

The US has been particularly good at marketing itself and presenting a beautiful, idealised (and also fake) image of itself to the world...  ...  It's anyone's guess.  We are all watching in a mixture of awe and horror.

Well I agree substantially. The hyper-partizan nature of media and politics exposes every wart. Other countries are worse. None of which are G-7. But incessant flag-waving, boasting and self aggrandizations by trump and others. Has resulted in ridicule and even pity by the rest of the world.

Absent trump the warts will begin to fade. But a lack of protections, health care, environmental considerations and income inequality. Will present jet-stream headwinds for a US ascent to its rightful place.

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6 hours ago, tonyhays said:

So.... essentially "owning the libtards" is the only thing conservatives care about?

Good chat. 

I don't use the word libtard.  To me it's progressive left.  When the left thinks skippy the wonder dog would be a more fitting replacement I stop worrying about them at all.

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11 minutes ago, airdvr said:

I don't use the word libtard.  To me it's progressive left.  When the left thinks skippy the wonder dog would be a more fitting replacement I stop worrying about them at all.

To be fair, though - look where "Anyone but Hillary" got us . . .

It was also the fringe right that also had that "skippy the wonderdog" mentality 3.5 years ago

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14 minutes ago, airdvr said:

I don't use the word libtard.  To me it's progressive left.  When the left thinks skippy the wonder dog would be a more fitting replacement I stop worrying about them at all.

As the bringer of "skippy the wonder dog" to SC, if you consider me to be "progressive left," that must make the really left-types wackos. Because, frankly, I'm not that far left.

Wendy P.

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left and right really do not exist.  i am not politically affiliated, but mainly because i refuse to be labeled.  i vote democrat mainly, and in wv (a republican wonderland of absentee landowners and extraction industry nightmares, hell, we sued the epa!) it is clear to see how they destroyed the state and continue to do so.  they all but removed the severance tax in one of the poorest states in the union while one corridor grosses a billion dollars a week, and that is just one 30 mile stretch!  i have a die hard republican friend in co, and last time i visited, we had a great discussion.  he is in a democratic controlled state and is lamenting about how they are attacking his personal freedoms and interfering where they have no business.  thing is, he can sink a well and actually drink the water, maybe because of the dems who are bolstering rather than suing the epa. 

the surprising thing is, whenever we talk about what we want for the country, we almost without fail list the same exact things.  the only way that makes any kind of sense is if it were a circle, not a flat line.  that is where everyone keeps messing up, and the folks in charge keep perpetuating the myth.  keeping us, the people, divided and fighting is the only way they can justify having the system.  i feel that we are moving toward a complete revision of the system, and it should only take about 10 more years to get there.  we need five parties, not two.  that is the only way that anything can be fixed without sweeping reform that will not be allowed.  when that happens, we can all be confident that fairness is instilled where it never was intended.  the constitution is nothing more than a compromise, and it never was intended to do anything except unify the nation.  to see this is true, one has to look no further than the bill of rights.  any document intended to actually help the people would have had these rights baked in, rather than coming as an after thought, and had hamilton not fought for them, we would not have any rights as citizens. 

crazy what you can learn when you stop listening to "experts" and start researching things for yourself.

 

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crazy what you can learn when you stop listening to "experts" and start researching things for yourself.

As long as your research isn't from sources that you know will agree with your preconception. That's what happens with all these current keyboard rangers. Google shows them what they want to see, because those are the ads they click on, so their theory was right. Kind of like an eighth-grade science project. (I used to judge middle school science fair -- their theory was always right, no matter how they had to torture the results -- I pretty much automatically graded up for someone who admitted that they might have been wrong).

Wendy P.

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25 minutes ago, sfzombie13 said:

left and right really do not exist.  i am not politically affiliated, but mainly because i refuse to be labeled.  i vote democrat mainly, and in wv (a republican wonderland of absentee landowners and extraction industry nightmares, hell, we sued the epa!) it is clear to see how they destroyed the state and continue to do so.  they all but removed the severance tax in one of the poorest states in the union while one corridor grosses a billion dollars a week, and that is just one 30 mile stretch!  i have a die hard republican friend in co, and last time i visited, we had a great discussion.  he is in a democratic controlled state and is lamenting about how they are attacking his personal freedoms and interfering where they have no business.  thing is, he can sink a well and actually drink the water, maybe because of the dems who are bolstering rather than suing the epa. 

 

 

If you look a little deeper you'll find most of the damage to WV was done in the name of Robert Byrd.  His name is plastered over all sorts of buildings there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Byrd

 

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2 hours ago, airdvr said:

I don't use the word libtard.  To me it's progressive left.  When the left thinks skippy the wonder dog would be a more fitting replacement I stop worrying about them at all.

And when the right thinks an accused rapist, admitted sexual assaulter and known con-man is the best choice - then I realize that they are part of the problem.

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5 minutes ago, airdvr said:

If you look a little deeper you'll find most of the damage to WV was done in the name of Robert Byrd.  His name is plastered over all sorts of buildings there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Byrd

 

i live here and grew up here.  he was the only reason we have as much as we do.  racist bastard that he was, he made up for it in the later years. 

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