We Are Better Than This

Stephen Rockwell • 2 June 2018
Featured 0 comments
6 likes

Week after week, Trump depraves the basic norms of our democracy and human decency. 

Our smaller example happened on Friday when Trump tweeted out ahead of the employment numbers suggesting they were positive.  There are of course, laws against doing so, but this also breaks a fundamental norm about the independence of the data and the departments that collect it. If the data becomes politicized, we will have less trust in the data.  This is what a conspiracy theory President wants.  If you can't trust the numbers and the government that produces them or the law enforcement agencies, that you will have to put your trust in him.  Dictatorships start with these kind of obfuscations of reality that create fear. 

The truth is that if any other President would have done a preview of the employment numbers, the news would have covered it as a major scandal and Congress would have launched an investigation with at least a hand slap admonishment that said don't do it again.  The systems would have fought to protect the norm necessary for a functioning democracy.  For Trump, it was Friday morning quickly to be eclipsed by further news on his starting a trade war with our allies and more foreign policy schizophrenia with an announcement that the North Korea summit was still on.  Even with phrenetic schizophrenia of this President, we must make sure that any undermining of basic norms of our democracy go challenged fully.  It is exhausting for sure, but I fear our failure to challenge is institutionalizing Trump's disparagement of what we need to function as a democratic republic. 

And yet this tweet is nothing compared to the news that barely made the news this week.  The number of deaths in Puerto Rico was seventy times the number originally reported.  4,756 of our fellow citizens died making the hurricane Maria the worst national disaster in our history.  We know Trump's emergency management skills amount to throwing paper towel rolls at victims and that there are still Puerto Ricans without power 8 months later, but the Harvard University study that determined this new death toll is staggering to comprehend.  A hurricane on US territory lead to more deaths that 9/11. 

Activists have rightfully questioned, "where is the outrage?"  Certainly, Hurricane Katrina awakened the nation's conscience about how racial disparities showed themselves in a natural disaster.  George W. Bush was widely ridiculed for his poor management of the disaster and support of his ineffective FEMA chief “Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.” Except he wasn't and the country let both of them know it.  Brownie didn't last long and Katrina began the long slide of Bush's approval numbers into Sarah Palin territory.  Just 13 years ago, we were better than this.  We've got to be be better than this now and hold folks accountable for poor management of our government for a function that must be done well in a world where climate change ensures the frequency and severity of natural disasters to only increase.  

___

We are Better Than This.  And this is only getter better to the degree that we resist the degradation of our democratic norms and that we fight growing injustice. 

 Resistance is a marathon, a test of our civic endurance, requiring ongoing sacrifices from all of us.  50 years after his death, I'm reminded that Bobby Kennedy let us know that sacrifice is usually not one act of heroism  but rather a sustained, laborious set of daily and weekly struggles necessary to make the change we want to see in the world.  

We come from a people who were willing to sacrifice their comfort and willing to endure the scorn of their peers in the fight for Independence, against slavery, for women's suffrage, for basic worker rights, for civil rights, for the environment and health care.    We have reached one of those moments in our history again.  We can't sit idly by but rather participate fully in our resistance and build a newer world based on justice, then peace.