Trump On Steroids, Life On Hold

Is that light at the end of the tunnel? Or is it the crazy train?

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Image by TaylorSmith from Pixabay

And the closer it gets, the more unsettling and surreal life becomes. Even if you avoid the 24-hour news channels it’s impossible to ignore the tension building in the collective consciousness. We’re all under relentless, upwards-ratcheting stress.

Walking out your door has become an exercise in risk management. With contention rather than consensus coming from our national leadership as to how to navigate life in a pandemic, we’re all left on our own to determine what measures, if any, we take to protect ourselves and others. Which also leaves us uncertain as to what we can expect from our neighbors. Can you ask the guy who’s standing too close to you in line to step back or put on his mask, or will that put you in more danger than his possibly Covid-laden breath? People are getting shot out there, after all.

Figuring out whether or not to attend a social gathering or send your child off to in-person classes is a matter of constant calculation, an equation that lacks sufficient information to solve. Without clear guidance, we talk about what we’re “comfortable” with rather than relying on evidence-based, clearly stated rules.

But we’re hardly comfortable. With any of it. The anxiety is unavoidable, and it’s exhausting.

Also in the air: rumors, conspiracy theories, and worries about what winter will bring as we face constrained holidays and a season of being cooped up indoors — invisible and toxic fears, much like virus-laden droplets.

If you live in one of the vast swaths of the West affected by this season’s demonic level of wildfires, your air is further freighted with ash, smoke, and particulate matter — the distillate not just of burned trees and plants, but of melted and vaporized metals, tires, fiberglass, solvents, paint, and every other material that’s gone into the construction of all the homes and businesses that have gone up in flames. You monitor the local Air Quality Index hourly, wondering if it’s safe to take the dog for a walk.

All that helpful advice about handling stress by breathing deeply and/or taking a restorative stroll in nature? Not so helpful these days in fire country.

The news just gets weirder and weirder. My husband and I have spent nine days out of the past eleven living out of suitcases, having evacuated twice as our Napa Valley neighborhood came close to immolation in the Glass Fire that broke out on September 27.

In that amount of time, media attention has ping-ponged from RBG’s passing and the juggernaut of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination as her replacement, to the spectacle of a Covid-stricken Trump being airlifted to Walter Reed while a growing number of his staffers and inner circle test positive for the virus. Wildly divergent reports of his health proceed from his doctor and chief of staff, but we do learn that he’s given remdesivir, the experimental drug Regeneron, and dexamethasone, a powerful steroid, in response to his blood oxygen levels dropping.

The spectacle unfolds: Trump parading around hospital grounds in an SUV so he can absorb the adulation of his fervid admirers while exposing his Secret Service agents to Covid contagion; Trump leaving Walter Reed in defiance of his medical team’s recommendations and performing a bizarre balcony scene at the White House wherein he rips off his face mask.

Trump telling Americans not to fear Covid. Trump claiming to feel 20 years younger. Trump saying it was his “duty” to get Covid. Trump suddenly anxious to spur progress on another federal Covid stimulus package, telling Congress to “work together and get it done!” Days later, Trump calling a halt to stimulus package negotiations.

The next day, Trump reconsidering negotiations after all. Or maybe not. Meanwhile, he declares one of the drugs he was given (it’s still not clear to me which one) a “cure” and says that contracting Covid was “almost a gift from God.” He decides, in defiance of what is known about the virus, that he’s immune. He can’t wait to do more rallies.

Never mind the footage we’ve all seen of crowded, nearly mask-free gatherings in the Rose Garden, from the RNC convention to Amy Coney Barrett’s reception. Never mind Trump deriding Joe Biden for diligently wearing a mask while typically refusing to do so himself. “No matter how good the security, you’re not going to protect yourself from this thing,” Trump said in an interview on October 8. As though there was nothing he could have done to reduce his chances of contracting Covid. “You catch this thing. It’s particles of dust.”

There is some bitter amusement in picturing his staff looking askance at one another, waiting for someone else to correct him (“Um, that would be droplets, Mr. President, not actually dust . . .”). Of course, no one steps forward.

As of this writing, Trump has refused to debate Joe Biden via a virtual format on October 15, saying it’s a waste of his time. Speculation runs wild about what this means for the remaining debates, as well as what Mike Pence puts on his head that is so attractive to flies.

Trump’s attacks on the election process continue. Mitch McConnell steamrolls toward holding Senate Judiciary Committee hearings so Judge Coney Barrett can join the Supreme Court before the election, despite the Senate floor being closed due to an uncertain number of senators testing positive for Covid.

Those of us who are picking up the pieces of our lives or sorting through the rubble of ruined homes will have to carry on without thoughts and prayers from the White House. We seem to have slipped off the POTUS radar. Nor do those in the path of Hurricane Delta, currently barrelling toward Louisiana, appear to cause the Current Occupant any concern. And Lousiana’s not even a blue state.

Denying reality while preparing to subvert an election that’s looking less and less likely to go his way is apparently taking up all the Projector in Chief’s attention, as his aides and staff scurry around him swathed in protective gear, wary of his next roid-fueled outburst. His regular behavior is unpleasant enough.

Like people trapped in a nightmare circus, we long for the bedlam to stop. November 3 is coming — whether it will signal a decision point that brings us to some semblance of certainty if not normalcy, or whether it will be the flashpoint of our ruinous decline remains to be seen. And the suspense is wearing us down.

There’s one hope — a record turnout and a huge, incontestable margin of victory.

It’ll be contested anyway. But it will be a lot harder to overturn the will of the majority if the majority is clear enough and big enough.

If you want to have any influence over what’s coming at us from the end of the tunnel, there’s one thing you must do — no matter how exhausted, frustrated, disgusted, discouraged, or understandably afraid you may feel right now.

Vote. Make a plan, know the procedure in your state, and get it done. Remind everyone you know to cast their ballots.

And then, take a breath — carefully.

Written by

Writer & educator. The Startup, Writing Cooperative, P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, more. Award-winning short fiction. Visit me at www.JanMFlynn.net.

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