Blood Money

By now you’re aware of the revelations made in Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, based on 18 interviews with Donald Trump, and have probably heard the most damning excerpts from those interviews regarding COVID-19.

That Trump knew how deadly the virus was, and chose to lie about it, claim the virus would magically “disappear,” and that young people were “immune” to it, or that it was the Democrat’s new “hoax,” even as disease spread was filling hospitals to capacity and claiming lives, shouldn’t be a surprise. Anyone who can proudly boast about being able “…kill someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it,” or molest women with impunity, or call Nazis “…very fine people,” or cage children, among other acts too corrupt, depraved, and numerous to cite here, is showing an ethical emptiness that is bottomless. A person like that is capable of anything.

Trump had an obligation to warn the public about COVID-19, and be as clear as he could about those measures the public needed to take to contain it, as soon as he knew. He further had an obligation to test everyone, particularly when he learned that it was possible for asymptomatic carriers to spread the disease. And, he had an obligation to do whatever was necessary to protect healthcare and essential workers, and first responders with the equipment they needed. But he didn’t…

…and here we are, coming up on 200,000 dead, and over 6,000,000 people infected.

Is he to blame for these numbers? Yes. As the tapes demonstrate, he knew in early February, but lied to the public, and then continued to lie as he learned more.

There’s no circle of Hell low enough for him, for the deaths and misery he’s caused.

But then there’s Bob Woodward, who is still an Associate Editor at the Washington Post, and his decision to withhold vital information that could have saved lives.

It takes a colossal ego and staggering degree of greed to choose the allure of book sales over the public’s health and well-being, not just on the part of its author, but the queue of people who had their hands on this material prior to publication, and who never thought to say, “Shouldn’t the public know?”

And it takes a Trumpian moral bankruptcy to shirk one’s responsibility as a journalist, and withhold life-saving information from the public, simply because it furthers his ambitions.

I’m old enough to remember Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting that exposed Nixon’s crimes. And perhaps Woodward was also remembering it—the rush of glory and fame that came with ending a Presidential career, and was desperate to relive it by ending another. But there is a crucial distinction between that time and now. COVID-19 is not the Watergate break-in. People are dying, or facing a lifetime of debilitating medical conditions. With Trump intent on deceiving the public about the truth, Woodward, as a journalist, had a duty to report it.

What an irony that Woodward’s employer bears the subtitle, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Democracy is not all that dies in darkness. Donald Trump may have flicked off the switch illuminating COVID-19 for the American public, but Bob Woodward stood there, and watched him flick it, and did nothing.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

2020

“…in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort….” (From The Republic, Plato)

It’s hard to avoid the irony—the titular year of perfect vision, the unraveling of once reliable norms, political structures, checks and balances, civility in all arenas, the losses of loved ones and heroes to injustice and disease.

And it’s equally hard to avoid the comparison—between that titular year of sudden perfect vision, and the years of blurring and distortion, loss of sight preceding it.

That loss creeps up on us slowly. Colors lose their intensity, fading from brilliant to dull, letters spread into each other across pages and screens as poetry and prose and road signs seem layered with petroleum jelly. For a while, it’s easy to grow accustomed to, and comfortable with changes, a world smearing out of focus, and accommodate them with sharper lenses and adjusted habits. It’s easy to say we can deal with things as they are. We’re not missing anything truly important. We can still make out the big picture.

But then, one day, those street lights that come on at dusk glare at and confuse us, make us misread road signs. Or, the newspaper goes untouched because it’s too taxing to decipher small print. That’s when we realize how much of the big picture we’re not seeing.

I’m getting to that stage with my own vision, which has been on a steady decline for years. And I’ve been through enough cataract surgeries with friends and family to understand how startling sudden clarity can be.

More than one friend has related how shocked she was by her first look at herself after surgery. “I walked by the mirror, not intending to stop, then did a double-take after I caught sight of a strange image moving across the glass. I couldn’t believe the woman’s wrinkled up face was mine.”

For many of us, the severely clouded lenses that enabled our old lives and habits and beliefs have been stripped away, and we aren’t quite sure how to process and respond to the stark and painful clarity of new vision, or function with it. No matter which way we turn, no matter how well we think we’re adjusting, there’s always another flaw, another act of cruelty, corruption, injustice, bigotry, stupidity, selfishness, and there’s always another loss—of a loved one, or hero….

I wish I had words to ease the pain, fury, and helplessness over being assailed with such clarity, the harsh reality it exposes. But all I have is an increasing sense of urgency to more actively care for those I love, impress upon them the necessity of taking care of themselves and their loved ones, paying attention to persistent symptoms, scheduling life-saving tests, looking both ways when crossing the street, wearing a mask…wearing a mask….

That, at least, is a start.

Stay safe. Be well.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

The Home

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 6.03.15 PM

The following is a true story.

It happened in a clothing outlet, one mid-morning in early September.

A mother and teenage daughter were waiting on line. The mother was fifty-ish, probably near, or in the throes of, her changes and looked like someone who paid close attention to her diet and exercised regularly. If she was anything like I was at that age, she was probably at war with her body much of the time and the five extra pounds waiting to glom on to her with every bite of any carbohydrate. From where I stood, however, she was obviously winning as she was trim, and very fit in her skinny jeans and crisply tailored shirt.

If she had gray hairs, they were masked well by strategically placed highlights. Like most women at that age, she had a few lines on her face, but what struck me most was her fatigued expression. As clearly as she adored the girl, I sensed she would rather have been at home reading a good book than shopping.

As space on the conveyor belt cleared, the mother began placing items on it—tee shirts, sweaters, shoes, waiting for the two women ahead of her to pay and leave.

They were also a mother and daughter, but the former—short, elderly, with rounded shoulders and coarse, steel-hued hair—stood aside, steadying herself by holding on to their shopping cart’s handle as the former—close in age to the teenager’s mother—paid for the items.

When all their bags were in the cart, and the sales receipt was in the daughter’s hand, they walked to the exit, the daughter staying close to her mother, who continued to use the cart for support.

The teenage girl’s mother watched the pair leave, and as she stepped up to the register, and took her wallet out of her purse, she gazed into her daughter’s eyes. “Will you take care of me like that when I’m old?”

The girl didn’t miss a beat. “Nope,” she said. “It’s straight to the home for you.”

I suspected she was joking, but her mom didn’t laugh.

©2018 All Rights Reserved