By Gene Lyons
One of the few good things that’s happened during the coronavirus pandemic is that we’ve learned how many capable governors and mayors there are across America, of both political parties, who have stepped in to mitigate the terrible harm caused by Boss Trump’s ignorance and impulsivity.
If the man had a particle of honor, or of shame, he would resign and spare a wounded and grieving nation the degrading spectacle that his re-election campaign is certain to be. But he has none, so he won’t.
Instead, he goes on television (almost) every afternoon to boast and complain about his enemies, imagined and real. My personal favorite was the time he blamed Barack Obama for the lack of coronavirus test kits – a disease that didn’t exist until late 2019, three years into the Trump regime.
“No, I don’t take responsibility at all,” he said.
Later, he put his foppish son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge. Anybody seen Jared lately? Reckon what he’s been up to?
More recently, courtesy of The Washington Post, we learned that the President’s Daily Briefing books last January and February contained urgent warnings against the pandemic’s spread. The Chinese government, Trump would have learned had he bothered to read them, was suppressing evidence of danger. Sometimes, I wonder if he CAN actually read them.
No, Trump didn’t cause this accursed plague. But if he would just shut up and step aside ...
OK, that’s enough of that.
Something else we’ve learned is who does the essential work keeping us going through tough times. And it’s definitely not newspaper columnists.
Historian Heather Cox Richardson has put it this way: “We are surrounded by ordinary people who are giving themselves to serve others: bus drivers, delivery people, airline workers, grocery store clerks, post office workers, line cooks, police officers, food producers, social workers, janitorial staff, tradespeople, teachers, child care providers, farm workers, utility maintenance professionals, health care workers, servicemen and women, nurses, doctors.
“Their dedication deserves our profound thanks. It also proves that the great strength of America remains where it has always been: in ordinary Americans, setting their shoulders to accomplish the task before them.”
It’s impossible not to be moved by the spectacle of nurses and EMS attendants migrating from places like Arkansas to risk their lives in New York’s overwhelmed hospitals. Truthfully, this country is so much better than its broken political system, where there are supposed to be “blue states” and “red states” locked in eternal strife.
But it’s the people whose work can’t be done sitting home in front of a computer, and who can’t afford not to show up, whose contributions that we sometimes forget to acknowledge.
Even in ordinary times, it’s the air conditioning tech who comes to your rescue on a 98-degree Sunday afternoon, and the guy under your house during a plumbing emergency, who deserve more respect than they get.
Me, I suppose I’d qualify as what Boss Trump’s spiritual godfather George Wallace called a “pointy-headed intellectual.”
However, having grown up in a family where I was the one playing ball and reading storybooks while more practical-minded kin were learning how to adjust timing chains or rewire electrical circuits, I’ve tried to keep it real.
No, they couldn’t do my job. But I surely couldn’t do theirs. Nobody really needs gracefully written essays at 4 a.m., although they might need their car towed. Or, God forbid, a cop or an ambulance. Ever had a house fire? I have. I’ve occasionally reminded the smugger sorts of college kids that without somebody to keep the water running, the sewers working and to haul away the garbage, there could be no civilization.
So me, I put on my little mask and head out to the grocery store at intervals, preferably during a rainstorm. The woman who checks me out will have been standing at her register for hours. I remember to thank her. We also order takeout from local restaurants, and tip generously. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Meanwhile, up in Washington, I see where Mitch McConnell has sensed an opportunity to get his hat handed to him by Nancy Pelosi yet again. The Senate majority leader has suggested that states and local governments declare bankruptcy rather than expect federal budgetary assistance – “Blue State Bailouts,” staffers called them.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got right in McConnell’s face. “Don’t say state and local,” he advised. “Say what the state and local governments fund: police, fire, teachers, hospital workers.”
You know, the people who keep the country running.
Boss Trump made noises similar to McConnell’s, singling out Illinois. The Chicago Sun-Times responded pungently: “Illinois receives only 42 cents in federal funds for every dollar it sends to Washington. Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky gets $1.49 back in federal funds for every dollar it sends. Illinois gives while Kentucky takes.”
This is another unnecessary fight that the Trumpists can’t win.