VACCINATING OUR WAY TO SALVATION
With America in the grips of a ravaging pandemic, a corrupt loser narcissist still at the helm, and unmasked “freedom” fighters meandering among us, there is so much to do and so much opposition to doing it. It remains utterly inexplicable how uncoordinated and erratic the national response continues to be to the spectacle of increased disease and death. Half the population is trying to do its best, while the other half seems determined to undermine the impact of that effort.
Meanwhile, the presidential election and its aftermath has seen political intrigue and political immorality play out before our eyes to detract from any effort at an effective plan to confront the economic and social costs of the pandemic. While this is yet another scarlet stain on America in crisis, it also serves to render less visible the extent to which the pandemic has further exacerbated the historic failure of the nation to achieve some measure of domestic equality and real progress toward a more perfect union. In some perverse way, the pandemic and the political paralysis have put the progress genie back in the bottle.
For today, “progress” is being breathlessly measured by winning a race to the cure. Amid all the talk of a return to “normal” that is just around the corner, children that were going to bed hungry in “normal” times have now been joined by way too many who weren’t going to bed hungry before. The media parade of grey-haired Mr. Roger’s* lookalike doctors offering feel-good futuristic homilies would be truly funny if it weren’t so tragic. Keep your holiday eyes on these guys as they assure us that all we have to do is hang on through Christmas, and they will deliver the cure to a grateful nation waiting anxiously to shop again.
Time will tell if whatever vaccines are being touted today will ever meet the ultimate challenge of ending the pandemic. In the US, we have so far been unable to meet the lesser challenges of providing readily available testing and sufficient personal protective equipment to meet public and professional needs. While this is largely due to the absence of a national pandemic plan from the Trump administration and reliance on the fifty-state solution that has no place in meeting 21st century national or global challenges, the simple arrival of the Biden administration will not miraculously correct any of this.
More importantly, as America likely stumbles its way toward more effectively confronting the coronavirus pandemic, the “return to normal” mantra is likely to overtake any serious attempt to define a better normal. So those hungry children will likely stay hungry.
This brings us neatly back to the notion that there is so much to do and so much opposition to doing it. First, of course, and fully expected is that a morally bankrupt Republican Party will only double down on its opposition to real progress toward that more perfect union, clinging to a strategy that continues to appeal to large swaths of white America. Biden is likely to become the new Obama. This time the perceived threat will be creeping socialism instead of scary diversity. But in the right-wing echo chamber the impact will be the same – kill it before it poisons you.
Yet, perhaps the most pernicious enemy will be the enemy within. No, not the progressive and activist wing of the Democratic Party, but that same dizzy notion that we are all in this together and that surely if we put aside our differences, there will be enough common ground to realize a better America for all. I hate to say it, but that is bullshit. Obama believed it and lived it to the detriment of the country and those so in need of a better “normal.” I do not know why, but Biden seems likely to follow the same discredited path. It is a now well-worn path that has contributed to decades of national failure.
Biden can believe in that path all he wants, but he will get no further than Obama did. There simply is no path to a national reconciliation in today’s America, unless reconciliation means nothing more than capitulation to those who have already paved their way to their own gated communities.
So what can be done? First, President-Elect Biden should spell out in clear and unequivocal terms what his vision is for America. Not how he is going to get there, but the vision itself. With that in hand, those with a different vision will make their voices heard, including not only the right-wing troglodytes, but those with a different vision on Biden’s political left. Then armed with his vision and in the full view of his critics, President Biden will have to get to work to realize his vision.
I may not like parts of that vision, particularly any return to an aggressive international fight for the “democracy” of others at the point of a gun. On the domestic front, however, there is so much to do that almost any Biden vision will have plenty for all on the left to engage with and support.
The list is long and often recited – universal access to meaningful healthcare, increased support for public education and affordable housing, real policing and criminal justice reform, a full-throated recognition of the national disease that is systemic racism, aggressive measures to address income inequality, comprehensive initiatives to reduce gun violence and disarm the public, and regulatory frameworks that confront corporate greed, reduce pollution, and promote clean energy alternatives. Carefully targeted infrastructure projects are also critical.
Whatever elements of that list that are elements of President Biden’s vision should receive ample support from progressives on the left. However, each and every one of them is certain to be opposed by the Republican Party and their even more extreme cave-dwelling comrades.
Much has been said about a fight for the soul of America. More needs to be said about actually finding that soul and then nurturing it to strength. To do so, President Biden and his administration will need the armor to fend off those with neither conscience nor moral foundation. Then, they will need the compassion and the strength to lead those who can be led on a collective journey to simply make America a nation that recognizes its riches and uses them to enrich its own community and those in need around the globe.
I can write the speeches, but I have seen way too much of the failed promises to believe in them. This time, it would be nice to be wrong. Maybe this time, with so much disease and death in our midst and the task so daunting, Americans can come together to fulfill the nation’s promise. Maybe right now this “great” nation can come together to vaccinate itself, vaccinate others, and even save its soul.