Memorial Day: Reflections on Sacrifice

Today is Memorial Day.

Today we honor and mourn the more than one million Americans who died while serving in the US armed forces. Today we pause to reflect on them and their service. They remind us that sometimes the welfare of our nation requires sacrifice. Sometimes, it requires the ultimate sacrifice.

It’s a fact that as members of a society we are sometimes called on to make sacrifices for the good of our fellow citizens. And doing so is noble noble and patriotic. That’s the reason for this holiday; that’s the reason for the parades and the flag waving. And that’s the reason that (under normal circumstances) we have this day off from work: to allow us to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by others on our behalf.

Because that’s the American way. And not only during times of war, but always. Surely so: after every national tragedy or natural disaster, we’re fed hours of news footage of Americans pitching in and helping one another: filling sandbags, making donations, digging out, coming together.

And now, millions of Americans across the country are being asked to make a similar sacrifice to protect and defend their fellow citizens. We are being asked to stay home. To forego the BBQ or a day at the beach. And an extreme sacrifice: to wear a piece of cloth over our nose and mouth when we go out in public.

It’s hard to fathom the audacity of a society that would ask so much of its citizens.

Indeed, in an upending of everything we’ve been taught about what is required of us as Americans, we are now being told that in being asked to wear a mask out of concern for our neighbors, our rights are being irretrievably infringed upon. Can one think of anything more infringing than a face mask? Certainly not being asked to button on a uniform, strap on a weapon, and fight and die in a foreign land.

Remember when Americans believed that with rights come responsibilities? That Freedom isn’t Free? How did the Republican party (and for sure, this pre-dates the Trump Republican party) manage to make such a mockery of the concept of shared sacrifice? of caring for our neighbors and putting others ahead of ourselves? When did thinking about the welfare of our fellow Americans become such an infringement on our God-given rights? When did looking out for others become so un-patriotic?

On this day of reflection, I’m reflecting on what seems to be a new era of selfishness that I see growing in this country. It’s a sad day indeed.

File Under “Dishonesty”: Presidential Love

Last week we learned that world leaders all think that Donald Trump is doing a great job handling this pandemic. “I spoke with Angela Merkel today, I spoke with Prime Minister Abe of Japan; I spoke with many of the leaders over the last four or five days. And so many of them, almost all of them — I would say all of them, not everyone would want to admit it — but they all view us as the world leader, and they’re following us.” That was a bit of a surprise to a lot of people, including the world leaders themselves. Because they don’t actually think that.

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File Under “Hypocrisy”: Guns Are Scary

On Wednesday, the Michigan state legislature cancelled sessions until next week. Why? Because guns are scary. Specifically, guns wielded by angry protesters. And that’s exactly what showed up at Michigan’s capitol building on Thursday. Dozens of conservative protesters descended on the state capitol to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order.

Not surprisingly, the majority of Michigan’s legislators didn’t want to be in the way of the protesters who were exercising their freedoms. Another word for in “the way” is “crosshairs.”

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File Under “Innuendo”: Obamagate

This week we learned that Barack Obama committed many crimes. Which crimes? Obvious crimes. Disgraceful crimes. Crimes that shouldn’t be allowed to happen again. So many crimes, in fact, and of such great magnitude that they deserve their own designation: Obamagate. And that’s how you know they happened. And that they were bad. Because they don’t just put -gate onto anything.

Insinuator-in-Chief
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File Under “Dishonesty”: the Game Plan

On Monday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell informed America that the reason the Trump administration’s response to the current health “situation” has been so dismal is not actually due to any fault of the Trump administration. Rather it is the fault of the Obama administration for failing to adequately prepare them for it. “[C]learly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this,” McConnell said.

This is a pretty big whopper, even by current whopper standards.

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File Under “Hypocrisy”: No Test For You!

On Sunday, Donald Trump said “our country has to go back to being our country again. . . We have to go back to work.”

He also said, “You have people who are not going to stand for this and I understand that very well.” By which he meant “If you kill someone who is trying to keep you from your job, preventing you from eating at Old Country Buffet, or forcing you to wear a face mask, I will call you a very fine person and may even pay your legal bills.”

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Whistling In the Wind

Last week’s news was filled with reports that Trump was told back in January of the potential spread of the new coronavirus in the US and that millions of lives would be in peril unless he took immediate action to keep Americans home. Which, of course, he didn’t. Instead, he downplayed the threat and told us that everything was under control. Which, of course, it wasn’t. Unbelievably, in March when he finally admitted that this was serious stuff, he seemed “baffled” (according to his associates) by how events had played out. He said “no one could have predicted” such an epidemic. Which, of course, plenty of people did. These news reports were accompanied by logical, factual, unassailable evidence in the form of emails, memos, and quotes from administration officials as well as analysis of the results of his failure to act.

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A Country’s Greatest National Asset

What do you say to people who tell you that universal health care doesn’t work? What do you say when people tell you that private insurance and for-profit health care is the best alternative?

What do you say when they argue that systems like Britain’s NHS (National Health Service) or Canada’s public system are inefficient, unsustainable, produce substandard results, and that people hate it?

What do you say? You say this:

Britain’s Prime Minister thanks the NHS for saving his life, calling it his country’s “greatest national asset.”

If anything positive can come of this terrible COVID pandemic, let it be that the United States has finally learned that universal health care works. Every person deserves health care. Universal coverage is the only morally acceptable solution.

Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

Chuck Todd wasn’t mincing words last week when he suggested that Donald Trump has blood on his hands. Lots of people are making the case that the responsibility for many of the American deaths from COVID-19 can be laid directly at the feet of Donald Trump. And not in an esoteric “the buck stops here” kind of way.

Of course, no one is blaming him for the virus, but Trump’s actions delayed and weakened our country’s response in the early days of the epidemic. His lies and incompetence caused many (including some state and local officials) to question and even flout the advice of the medical community. He has failed to competently use the power of the federal government in a coordinated and effective way, leaving states to fend for themselves; it certainly hasn’t helped that he’s made federal assistance to states contingent on governors kissing his butt. Trump’s early characterization of the virus as a hoax, his administration’s slow response to news of the growing threat, and his public downplaying of the severity of the situation, all coupled with his daily barrage of lies, exaggerations, and misinformation have made a deadly situation deadlier than it had to be.

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Invisibility Doomed Elizabeth Warren

Ever since Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential primary run, there’s been a deluge of articles analyzing what went wrong with her campaign. After all, on paper at least, Warren was the ideal Democratic candidate for 2020: brilliant, capable, experienced, compassionate, and female. She had real policies for fixing many of the problems that plague hard working Americans. She had a plan for everything. And after the near-miss in 2016, America seemed ready to put a smart, capable, qualified woman in the White House.

Political analysts looked everywhere for the reason Warren never placed higher than third in any primary — why she didn’t even win her home state of Massachusetts. Some argued she was doomed out of the gate by the mishandling of her claim of Native American ancestry and by allowing Trump to bait her into taking a DNA test. Others argued it was her public feud with Bernie Sanders over whether or not he told her that a woman couldn’t be elected president. One analysis laid the blame squarely at the feet of her chief campaign strategist Joe Rospars for softening her edges and trying to hide her image as a fighter, arguably her most compelling quality.

But most pundits came to the conclusion that, just like in 2016, the true reason for Elizabeth Warren’s failure was that we just don’t like women. Call it sexism, misogyny, testimonial injustice, or a double standard, the only logical explanation for why, in a campaign that began with a historically diverse field of candidates, the putative Democratic nominee for president in 2020 is an old white man.

But it wasn’t sexism that sank Warren’s campaign. Or Amy Klobuchar’s. Or even Hillary Clinton’s. It was invisibility. Elizabeth Warren’s problem isn’t that she’s a woman per se; it’s that she’s a middle-aged woman. And in our society, middle-aged women are simply invisible.

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