Saturday, January 16, 2021

Quarantine, Week 44: The Last of the Trump Era


 Yeah, it seems to have taken forever, and it should have ended repeatedly over the years as we lost track of impeachable acts, but the end is nigh.  Certainly, Trump can and will do damage in the next week.  How much?  I don't know.  Certainly pardons.  In terms of executive orders and the like, that stuff can be reversed.  Long-term appointments to various boards?  Already done, alas.  I don't know how those folks can be removed.  But everything Trump has done lately has cemented his role as leader of the GOP since I have come to call them the Party of Bad Faith.

When I refer to Trump as the worst President of my lifetime, folks can push back saying that either Nixon or GWBush were worst, mostly due to the body count of non-Americans.  Nixon via Cambodia "competes well" with Bush and the death toll in and near Iraq.  I get that.  However, US leadership in previous pandemics prevented untold numbers of deaths (counterfactuals are hard to measure), and the absence of US leadership has meant that hundreds of thousands of folks outside of the US may have paid a price that could have been avoided.  It is certainly the case that Trump is responsible for more unnecessary American deaths than any President since ... Jefferson Davis?  By acting slowly, by politicizing masks, by gutting government, by resisting science, Trump has caused this pandemic to be worse than it had to be.  Yes, lots of countries are failing to contain the virus, but the US has failed worse than most despite having much capability.  

And all of this is before addressing the fact that Trump has done more to divide the US and sow the seeds of insurrection and terrorism than any President since the end of Reconstruction.  No President has refused to leave office quite like Trump nor has any American president generated a personality cult that now commits violence against not just those that have been the main targets (women, Jews, Black Americans, Latinos, Muslims) but also those who are supposed to be allies--cops.  

Trump will be gone the next time I write one of these quarantine updates, but Trumpism will be here for quite some time.  Those given permission to be vocally and violently racist, misogynist, Islamophobic anti-semitic, and anti-democratic will not go away quickly or peacefully.  I wrote on twitter this week that we are in the midst of another counter-insurgency campaign against white supremacy in the US.  One was fought in the 1990s, but we didn't think of it as such as it was considered to be a law enforcement effort against criminals.  This time, their ideology of hate has gotten much more play, thanks to Fox, Sinclair, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and is a lot less fringe.  So, the FBI and other federal agencies will be fighting against white supremacy with fewer allies at their backs, far more friendly seas for the terrorists, and much infiltration.  It is going to be a tough fight, one that we can win, but next week will not solve the divisions in the US.  The Republican Party is still giving aid and comfort to those who seek to end American democracy.  Indeed, the GOP has been seeking a number of paths in that direction.  Will it correct itself?  I have far more faith in the FBI than I do in the GOP, and I am worried about the FBI.

Still, some relief is on its way.  I don't know how much of Biden's COVID relief package will make it through Congress intact, but the basic planning that has been done and the level of competence of the new team will dramatically improve the vaccination rollout, the efforts to contain the disease, and, well, all other policies.  The exits of Azar, DeVos, Pompeo, and the rest of the Arsonists will provide much relief just on their own, not to mention the very decent, smart people that will be taking their places.  Things will get better.  It didn't have to be this way and didn't have to be this bad, but we have reached the bottom finally.  

My heart goes out to those who live in DC, to those who wanted to travel to DC to celebrate the accomplishment of their hard work--bring the Democrats back to the White House.  Instead, DC is locked down, and the inauguration will simply not be much of a party.  I hope my friends in DC can get their groceries and such in the next week without too much hassle.  I can't fault the National Guard and the rest too much--the white supremacists vowed to come back on January 19th.  Better to have too many troops than too few next week.  I am hoping that the town can return to some degree of normalcy.  Of course, that will take some investigations to find out what went wrong, lots of worry to remove those from the police forces and military who abetted the effort, and, yes, some sanctions of those in the House and Senate who encouraged and helped the insurrectionists.  None of this will be easy, but it will be necessary.

The new beginning has already started on the personal front.  My two courses met for the first time this past week. I am teaching the PhD dissertation proposal workshop and an MA class in civil-military relations.  The former is much bigger than usual as we have more survivors from the 1.5 years of grad school (fewer folks had problems with the comprehensive exams) and we have a handful of folks from last semester who are not quite done revising their proposals.  I have to figure something out, because it is hard to workshop 12-13 projects at a time, especially online.  The Civ-Mil class--well, I spent too much time arguing why it is relevant--tis pretty obvious these days.  The students have a variety of interests and backgrounds, so we should have good discussions.  Because of the pandemic, I am changing how I teach it.  Instead of three hours of seminar, it will be 30 minutes of Steve video lectures sometime before the class, 45 minutes of discussion, a break, and then 45 minutes of discussion.  I just can't imagine sustaining three hours of conversation while all of us stare at screens.   I also reduced the reading load a bit, as it is harder to get work done in a pandemic, and added the meme of the week assignment.  

We are getting a dump of snow today so I may actually use my snowshoes appropriately.  Last week, I took them for a hike on a nature trail, and everyone (lots of folks were out) looked at me as if I were strange.  Why? Because the path had been beaten down--there was no need for snowshoes.  So, I will have to find less beaten trails if I want to use them.  Or I can just hike on the nature trails with my snowshoes on my back until I find paths to take.  The cross country skiing continues to be, um, oy.  Too much like skating, not enough like downhill skiing.  I remain committed thanks to my investment of $$.  But I will probably only do one or the other this weekend, rather than my new habit of doing one each weekend day.   And now that the big grant application is done, I may do a bit more of that stuff in the middle of the week.  I have been treadmilling all along. But some outdoor exercise mid-week might be nice.

And what am I watching while I treadmill?  Lately, I have been rewatching the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  This week I started re-watching Black Panther, and I am reminded how special Chadwick Boseman was.  What a loss.  I am getting close to the end of Phase Three--just an infinity war or two and a couple of movies.  I will have to figure out what to watch next, although a couple of Canadian sitcoms have been recommended to me.  So, that might be a good change of pace.

And we could also use a change of pace after the slog of the past year/four years.  Be well and stay at home.





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