2020 Hindsight

“Someday we’ll look back and this will all seem funny.” — Bruce Springsteen, “Rosalita”

I don’t know how many lookback years it will take. At my advanced age there are fewer years to look ahead than in 1973 when Springsteen first sang those words. It’s been four years since Donald J Trump got elected and nobody’s laughing yet. Except Vladimir Putin.

This year has been one long snipe hunt. The covid-19 pandemic practically knocked the world off its orbit. Police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor ignited demonstrations for social justice and inspired conversations about race long overdue. On top of all this frustration bands of criminals looted and torched small businesses. And gangsters assuming the police are reeling from their own worst practices prowl the streets carjacking citizens and spraying bullets all over the city. City council leaders rouse radicals calling to defund the police at a time when nobody knows what that means, it sounds cool if extortionary, and citizens question whether and how to police itself without law officers. People are unemployed, my son included. The economy is hanging by its toes. Schools out. Mother nature has fostered forest fires, typhoons, floods and massive meltings of polar ice aggravated by human-catalyzed global warming. Looking back, all this would be difficult enough to parse without the pandemic.

Mixing up the messaging instead of making sense, the whole time President Trump lied and lied and lied. Not just the biblical three times and cue the rooster, but continuously and incessantly. He says it was for our own good, so we would not panic. Distruth, confusion, unbelief, misinformation and utter bazzfazz encryptified what could have been — and should have been — a simple unifying theme based on science and reason. Instead he blew it off as a hoax and we the people got hoaxed by Trump.

Recall another fable, the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Mindful that wolves are considered somewhat sacred here in Minnesota, in this fable the Wolf is a menacing force. The role of the Boy is to cry out and warn the citizens of menacing danger. In this version Donny Boy cries nothing. Sheep, goats, cows, pets are devoured and the Boy says nothing. Even denies it. Don’t fear the Wolf. No Wolf here. In the Boy Who Cried Wolf the Boy cries fake Wolf so many times the citizens no longer believe him. In this reversal version the Boy loses all credibility and is discharged of duty, ignored, circumvented, mocked by the citizens and left stranded in the wilderness alone. In both fables the Wolf ends up devouring the Boy.

This situation is not hilarious.

Looking back, as we memoirists do, we see the cavalcade of revelations about this narcissist flooded the market from Day One. This year alone books of revelations compile volumes exceeding most histories and biographies composed decades, even centuries after the events and personalities. Since high summer, mere months, we have read from accounts by John Bolton, Michael Cohen, Mary Trump and Bob Woodward. An article in the Atlantic pictures him calling fallen soldiers suckers and losers. The New York Times revealed he is a failed businessman and a tax flout. If nothing else this covidian year we have been swamped by the saga of an authoritarian bigot assembling his own Deep Down State as insidious as any created by John Le Carre.

Then last week as if fated from the stars, or God as he would tell it, Trump came down with covid-19. Hospitalized. Treated. Goes for a joyride up and down the boulevard to thumb-up his fans. He looked pathetic like a deposed tyrant slinking into exile, then changing his mind and ordering a U turn. After three days he rose again, in Marine 1, choreographing his resurrection to suck up the entire network news half hour, climaxing at just about 6 o’clock with a fool’s hardy ascent of the White House staircase to pose, remove his mask, salute his chopper and pose between the flagged columns on the balcony like a fuhrer before marching into the building. Not satisfied how it felt, he went out to the balcony to pose again and reshoot the scene through his re-entry to the White House. Let’s say from what I’ve seen he’s no Leni Riefenstahl. His self-directed propaganda videos are crude, bald-faced fantasies fooling only fools. Trump’s Chumps.

The man is clearly struggling to stay alive. Deliberately shot from a distance, no close ups, his body language is labored and practiced. Censored. Look closely how his cosmetics cake around his puffy eyes. He fights a slouch. He breathes like he’s fighting indigestion. His suit and tie and managed hair belie his twitches. On the balcony alone between the pillars he pictured himself in all his glory as he stripped off his mask. His face is very angry, his jowls tense. His eyes and his voice convey madness, not crazy like a fox but crazy as a hyena. His suit and tie is his uniform. He stood on the balcony at twilight killing the network news time posturing for cameras as a living fuhrer.

Trump’s monkey boy doctor, posed in a white coat out front of Walter Reed hospital with flanks of other guys in white coats all looking like a ghost chorus line of Jersey Boys, gives press conferences without any facts about the patient-in-chief’s condition. No fever stats, oxygenation counts, x-ray or scan results. No official word when Trump last tested negative or first really tested positive.

thanks Jim

This matters because Trump debated Joe Biden in a closed auditorium within three days of admitting to testing positive for covid-19. The weekend prior to the debate he hosted a garden party at the White House to present his nominee for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s open Supreme Court seat. The event has now become famous as a superspreader of the virus and calls into question the basic judgement of the nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, to attend and participate in such an event flouting masks and social distancing and every mitigating effort to stop the coronavirus. So many Trump VIPs came down with it the event became synonymous with the White House’s failure to guide the country the past nine months. What’s more, Trump held a rally in Duluth, Minnesota the night after the debate, where his top aide Hope Hicks fell ill with symptoms — the first of more than twenty White House personnel. Even more, Trump met with Minnesota GOP party VIPs and donors in private in the Twin Cities hours before the Duluth rally. And the next day he met with more backers and donors at his New Jersey golf club mere hours before admitting he tested positive.

09/26/2020 Getty Images

Dr Conley, Trump’s monkey boy, without supplying any vital statistics to support Trump’s treatment at hospital, announced that Trump was being administered remdesivir, a therapeutic experimental drug, another experimental therapeutic monoclonal antibody cocktail drug, and a dexamethasone steroid to jump up his immune system. Asked why no specific readings of Trump’s tests have been made public, Conley said, “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.”

What the hell does that mean? How does public information steer the course of illness?

He’s back in the White House. Inhabiting the Oval Office, as signified by the full dress Marine guarding the outer door. Sending tweets at record levels. Ranting like no tomorrow. Bragging he’s cured. Learned a lesson, he said. Don’t fear the Reaper. He said he took curative drugs, not therapeutic ones, but he didn’t need them, he would have got well without them but he wants to supply them to every American. He says he thinks he might be immune, he doesn’t know. He says he knows Kamala Harris is a communist, which is a sure sign he’s at his wits end, the last refuge of a Bircher and McCarthyist is to j’accuse an opponent of being not just socialist but communist — I’m surprised he hasn’t nicknamed her Kommie or The Kamassar and yet I have to realize he really isn’t that smart. That stuff goes over with the wink-wink doggie whistle crowd and it seems perhaps he’s a blessing for flushing turds like the Proud Boys and Wolverine Watchmen out of the woods and put on display where decent people can see who they are so they can decide as mature, reasonable people whether they want their children to learn anything from them.

Most people’s most recent impressions of Donald Trump recall the raging bully of debate night when he backed himself into a corner on overtime TV declining to denounce white supremacy. As I’ve described, his contrived visual appearances along with audio transcripts of his call-ins to Fox TV are not just not fooling anybody but reveal perversely the irony of reinforcing the 90 minute episode of Trump making his last impression of his best impression, a confessed liar and cheat who expects to get away with it.

As tales unfold, a cohort of militia conspirators got busted for organizing a plan to abduct (adultnap) the governor of Michigan and seize control of the state. This news both shocks you with fear and reassures you and Donald Trump that plans like these are doomed to fail in the USA and any fool notion that a bunch of jackboot yahoo warriors will come rushing to the White House lawn to liberate the presidency when Trump loses the election best be dreamed in a whisky jag and a dime novel.

High society will not look kindly to him and his clan if US Marshals have to frog march the scion out the back door. And yet, the way things are going with this guy he may literally die in office. And Dr Fauci will be miles away with a perfect alibi.

Should Trump survive the election without dying of covid or stroke, he has to be unelected. Overwhelmingly. Fair and square. Free and fair. Vote so you can look back and say you did the right thing. Vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Year 2020 is in its final quarter. Technically the entire year transpired in the shadow of covid-19. It started with promise. Trump had been impeached, revealing but a furtive glimpse of what is laid plain about him now. The Democrats put up an array of talents vying for the honor of going against Trump this fall. The campaign looked as if it might be fun. Few would argue against the economy was rockin’. My family planned a vacation to Estes Park, Colorado. It was barely February when there was a vibe in the air something bad was coming. Pandemic. Pandemia. Pandemique. Love in the Time of Corona. Lockdowns. Flatten the Curve. Fear and loathing at Home Depot. We’re all in this together.

Most memorably Donald J Trump said it would go away and disappear like a miracle. People believed him, took no precautions and people went away and disappeared like mirages. Over 212,000 dead in America in just seven months.

Every existential decision in life became entwined and calculated towards deference to covid-19. One of Trump’s belated covidian awakenings is to not let the pandemic dominate your life. He’s somebody who has never made his own bed, washed his own laundry, cleaned his own kitchen or dressed his own wounds. In a perfect world perhaps his glamorous playboy image enthralls the fantasies of wannabe tycoons. To me his followers resemble chicks who write love letters to killers in the slammer. In the picture of how this world really works the pandemic has more than magnified how we see ourselves, each other, what we do for a living, the world we live. We realize Donald Trump doesn’t know what it’s like to be us any more than we should want to be like him. We would like access to the best covidian medical attention, like he gets, but none of us should want to be callow, crass and cowardly to attain it. He sues to the Supreme Court to strip away your Obamacare instead, maybe your last strand of health care in this pandemic. Mike Pence said the other night rebutting Kamala Harris that the American People have borne the brunt of sacrifice from this pandemic, as if to prove what she was trying to say. The cheap bastards in the White House are chiseling regular citizens and small businesses who need relief but prioritizing bail money to the airline industry — crying about creeping socialism in one breath and begging to bail out corporations too big to fail who hold customers and workers hostage.

The people crushing the post office. People suppressing the vote in Texas and Wisconsin. People driving up the covid infection rate in South Dakota.

Pay no more attention to the man behind the curtain. He is not a wizard. He’s not even a real fuhrer. He’s a pathetic lame duck dictator undone by hubris and lucky — we are all lucky — to live in a country which really believes its Constitution and swears by peaceful transfer of power.

As he rants his way out on State TV think about all you know about this guy and keep in mind that was Trump and this is Trump on Steroids. He’s on dexamethasone, what Major League Baseball would call a performance enhancing drug. It can have psycho side effects. He may be addicted. He may have to fire his monkey boy doctor for trying to cut off his supply.

Year 2021 is coming soon. We all face forward with expectation that all this sacrifice will pay off and we will be better. For the moment as we evaluate what we’ve gone through as individuals and a nation, we don’t have to glance backwards very far to see what we could have, should have, would have done. Even without the pandemic to focus our attention we have issues. Maxine the Vaccine will come out shortly, in various brands and flavors, and gradually immunity will spread, and with that normality in its mutated forms. As my friend Jim says, this too shall pass.

We can go back to mundane political things like bonding bills. We can go forward to all the imaginings of work, school, law that people thought about while furloughed or working from home. We need to look forward to the aftermath — we need to because we have no choice. First we need catharsis.

Meantime, wear masks. Keep social distance. Mind the indoor ventilation. Wash hands.

Keep reading. Be patient. Think about love. Write letters. Don’t listen to all your Shakira songs in one sitting.

We need to reckon with Donald Trump and simply unelect him. It will be over.

Remember the line from that song by Al Wilson he used to recite at his campaign rallies in 2016, “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

Photo by David B Keeffe


One thought on “2020 Hindsight”

  1. Above and beyond my expectations of your writing. Expectations garnered from a lifetime of privilege … the privilege of knowing you since childhood.

    Such an eloquent time capsule my friend. From one who lives at George Floyd ground zero in this most perfect of all storms we are living through.

    I am honored to have you use my photo image as … not an exclamation point to follow your writing but, an ellipsis perhaps?

    Much love my brother.
    Buffalo … Hah!!!


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