Alas, It Didn’t Have to Be This Way

I wrote this yesterday, if it matters, while I was preparing to do our grocery shopping and as I was thinking back to how—until the last few months—I’d never considered a trip to the grocery store to be anything, you know, “special.”

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It’s 9:37 AM. July 18.

By worldometer, the US has reported 142,405 deaths from the coronavirus this year.

By the time I’m done typing this it will be more.

It’s important to remember it didn’t have to be this way. Important to remember that Donald Trump, for the briefest moment, had an actual chance to be great; that for a moment in January or February, Donald Trump could have risen above everything else he’s done to run the country into the ground, and could have driven back the virus that has—instead—stagnated life everywhere across our country. If he had done that, then—despite all the crap he’s rained down on the country to date—I’d guess the people of the US would have placed him on a pedestal.

Not all of us. Not me, anyway. But enough.

Seriously. It wouldn’t have been close.


Of course, alas.

By worldometer, Arizona—my home state, where the Republican Governor has actively fought local governments enacting their own orders, and where cities “opened up” very early and, not-so-oddly, just before Donald Trump arrived for a campaign tour—reported a record 147 deaths today so far. 2,730 over the year. We’re #7 on the list of states most devastated by the virus despite being (I think) the #14 most populous.

It’s important to remember that it didn’t have to be this way.

Important to remember that as early as February Donald Trump could have used his Federal power to do something remarkable, could have taken swift and direct action to stop the virus. Masks? Yes. PPE? Of course. Lock Down? Without a doubt—backed by cash from the government. Testing? Gimme more, more, more of that beautiful, beautiful testing.

Or, as a minimum, he could have taken firm and swift action to buttress the states as they took their own actions. That would have been bad, of course—any leader of complex systems understands that in the moment of dire need 50 different solutions is a clusterfuck that should be avoided if at all possible—but at least that approach is defensible in the highhanded way of federal/states politics. And its result would have been better than the I take no responsibility tack that Donald Trump took instead. The idea of creating a firm foundation for states to leverage would have almost certainly saved a lot of lives.


Of course, alas.

That chance—to be great—is something every American president hopes for even though it comes with the arrival of disaster. That’s what makes a president “great,” after all, right? Rising above disaster. Showing true quality in a time of need. Bush had the chance with 911, and he handled it so well for a brief while that his popularity soared all the way until … well … until the world saw how poorly he handled it in the end. Reagan had his evil empire to push against. Kennedy, too. All of these presidents had flaws because all of them are human. But they had opportunities to rise above and do something important.

Donald Trump had that opportunity right there in his tiny handed grasp.

Really, he did.

He could have risen above. He could have made his politics about leveraging any US resource he needed to save people, putting Democrats into subservient roles and raising the profiles of his Republican senators and governors. Doing this, he would have saved many, many lives and probably would have swept into office for a second term with such a large tailwind that it wouldn’t even have been close.

Then he could have done his press conferences for the next four years clutching a map of the United states all colored up in red, am I right?

Pretty damned close.

It’s 9:51 AM now. 142, 411. Another six people dead.

It’s like this every day. Check the numbers. Count the dead people. In a few more days we will cross the 150,000 mark—which, to give context, will be about two and a half times the number of Americans who were killed or went missing in the Vietnam War. Think about those names as if they fill a big black wall that Donald Trump has built.

Two and a half times the size of the one on the DC Mall.

Or, if you prefer, it’s also about three times as many people as US soldiers who died in combat in World War I. Or about one and a third as many as died of all causes in that war.

We’re not done yet, of course. Models are now suggesting a quarter of a million dead Americans by the end of the year. Maybe more.


So, yes. It’s 10:02 AM. 142,420. Nine more people.

It’s important, as we go about wearing our masks that the President still hasn’t mandated, and as we social distance as best we can, as we limit our trips out or argue with our hardcore right-wing loved ones who don’t seem to give a shit, as we watch hospital workers attempt to bear the brunt force of this inaction on our people, as our friends living paycheck to paycheck try to figure out how to make things happen when that paycheck goes away, and as we contemplate whether we should send kids into classrooms that will almost certainly serve as silent killing fields in this war that the virus is waging on us, that it didn’t have to be this way.


It did not have to be this way. Except, of course, this is Donald Trump we are talking about so, of course, this is how it had to be.

10:13 AM.


Eleven more people.

It’s important, friends. If you’re like me and feel defenseless, like there’s nothing to do but hold on tight and scream inside your heart, well. Come November.

Come November, it’s important to remember it didn’t have to be this way.

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