The Vietnam War was my first experience with death on a mass scale. I remember, in the 60s as a teenager, seeing the reports on TV and in newspapers of hundreds of people, Vietnamese and American, dying each day, day after day. As I learned the truth about why this was happening–US government/corporate efforts to replace French colonialism with a US version—it became harder and harder to do nothing about this monstrous obscenity. Over 50 years later, the activism for peace and justice begun at that time continues for me and many more of my generation.
I thought about all of this a month or more ago as the daily US death toll from the covid-19 virus kept going up and up, now to an astounding 2,000 or so a day, with some predictions that within a month it could be 3,000.
This pandemic wasn’t immediately caused by imperialist plans and desires for military conquest. It was caused by a virus likely first emerging within wild bats in China and eventually spread to humans. But the deeper reality is that this happened because of the inexorable destruction of wildlife habit and deforestation by exploitative corporations, entities part of an economic system, capitalism, all about continual expansion in the search for commodities and the raw materials for products able to be sold for profit.
The huge number of US deaths from covid-19, however, among the highest rates per population in the world, is directly traceable to one man: Donald J. Trump. Mafioso Don was in denial of this deadly virus for many weeks as health experts in the federal government were trying to get him to be vocal about how dangerous it was. As late as February 28 he was describing it as “the Democrats’ new hoax.” A partial chronology of his ignorant and devastating dereliction of duty leading up to the eventual acknowledgement of reality in mid-March can be found here.
The truth is that Trump’s abdication of leadership is responsible for tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths so far. But it’s actually been getting worse over the last couple of weeks. Trump, white supremacist that he is, is openly encouraging his ever-loyal racist base to demonstrate, some carrying automatic rifles, Nazi swastikas and confederate flags, for an end to social distancing, staying at home as much as possible and other public health actions which have prevented this horrible pandemic from being ultra-horrible.
The fact that a disproportionate number of those who have died from covid-19 have been people of color and low-income is a major factor in Trump’s and the Republicans’ currents efforts. To him and many of them, those people just don’t really matter. The race and class dynamics are outrageous.
For those getting sick and their families, especially those getting very sick or dying, this is truly a terrible period in our history. For most of us, the strain, the fear, and the restrictions are emotionally and spiritually very difficult. I have seen friends of mine on social media, sister/brother activists, openly confessing how depressed they are.
What makes it harder is the limits on what we can do about the many injustices and crimes coming along with this pandemic. We can’t come together in massive numbers with our signs and banners to demonstrate, other than in vehicles and maybe bikes, because we believe in general in the measures being taken to protect public health. Mass demonstrations are important to movements, in part to strengthen the morale and spirit of those committed to the cause.
Zoom calls help, but I keep hearing others say, and feeling myself, that though there are good things about Zoom calls, it sure has its limits.
Are there any silver linings to this pandemic time? Yes.
The big one is the further exposure of how wicked and evil Trump and those in positions of power supporting him really are. His poll numbers are not good, especially for a leader in a time of great crisis. Historically, at such a time, poll numbers go up 20-30 points when the President, or a governor or mayor, is acting decisively at a time of crisis or war. This has happened this time around for governors like Cuomo and Murphy in NY and NJ; both have approval ratings in the 70s. Trump’s are down in the mid-40s, pretty much where they’ve been since being elected. In addition, polling indicates that his approval ratings among those over 65, those being hit the hardest by covid-19, are down at least 10% since before it.
For the next six months, getting rid of Trump and as many of his overt supporters as possible is job number one, far and away. However we can do that work, via phone, text, zoom call, social media, car demonstrations, long social distanced demos at least six feet apart, or whatever, it’s priority work. Trump needs to go, as decisively and massively as possible. In addition to attention to our personal needs and other issues we consider important, for me the climate crisis, this is what must keep us focused and relentlessly active until he’s gone.
Ted Glick is the author of the forthcoming Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.