Flinching at the News

Terry H. Schwadron

July 3, 2020

It is true that the news has taken on a decidedly morose cast, a nearly constant flow now of disappointments in the public trust that makes many just want to turn away to look at flowers or children at play or something a lot more uplifting.

Weirdly to me, at least, many blame the media for reflecting what our officials actually do or say — or worse, pointing out that the actions and statements may contradict protocol or even existing law, as is the job of news groups to do.

Even when it is good news– as in the recent court-ordered release of 124 immigrant children being held in border facilities — it comes wrapped in reasoning that bends the mind. The reason for the releases by July 17 is because of coronavirus contagion risk, and has nothing to do with locking up children. And, of course, the order does not apply to the parents of those children, making the releases, well, raising more questions about where they go.

And often, news just is taking on the coloring of the nation’s deepening culture wars, making it hard to distinguish what is true, what is truly important, what signals more than a blip in countrywide attitudes. It has become rote for Donald Trump to dismiss serious issues, as in the reports that Russians were bribing Afghan militiamen to target Americans, as a “hoax” whenever he thinks the news reflects poorly on him.

The facts of coronavirus spread in the face of American impatience and selfishness for gatherings without masks and physical distancing are continuously disappointing just because the medical issues here are giving way to political reinterpretations. Suddenly, Republican leaders in Congress are claiming that they favored masks all along, despite their recorded statements, and even Trump says he is for masks — for all but himself.

But while we’re arguing, even fighting, about whether masks violate Constitutional rights, God’s designs for humans or the Rules of Personal Convenience, it turns out that the Trump administration has loosened the rules for insurers to cover the cost of coronavirus testing.

Throughout all of it, what we hear from Donald Trump is happy talk. Everything is fine, even as coronavirus deaths soar again, streets are filled with protest over policing and rights, and there are not enough jobs to go around.

The White House must think we all are idiots.

Happiness? Not My Job.

It seems futile to believe that it is government’s job to make us feel better about ourselves. Still, we’re doing the morose dance ourselves.

Deciding to paint city streets with Black Lives Matter makes a great many people feel a satisfaction about acknowledging a real and difficult problem with systemic racism, but immediately incenses another part of the divide.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions over several days seem to split the country’s reaction — despite the fact that narrowly crafted decisions about workplace protections for LGBTQ citizens or stopping an absurd Louisiana law that would leave a single abortion clinic in the state seemed to favor one side of the divide and other decisions upholding federal death penalties and requiring public aid to be shared with parochial schools favoring the other.

Indeed, there are calls in Congress to be yet more politically sensitive in picking judges because conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the LGBTQ decision majority ruling about the law rather than along partisan lines.

It should be that we all are upset when Donald Trump abruptly removes yet another inspector general, this time for the Department of Transportation, who was overseeing an investigation of favoritism by Secretary Elaine Chao benefiting her husband Senator Mitch McConnell’s political prospects. But, of course, we are not.

The June jobs report released this week was ballyhooed for adding 4.8 million jobs, but in the same weeks those same actual reports show that millions filed new claims for unemployment, pay was reduced across the board and we face closing down businesses re-opened but turned into coronavirus petri dishes.

Deciding What Matters

It feels as if we should create a list — for ourselves as well as for the country — on What Matters Most, and try to stick with it.

At least we should be able to agree on the questions if not the actual strategies.

Can’t we agree that equality before the law needs work if we still see the everyday reports of institutionalized racism? Can’t we see that keeping a health system, particularly in the midst of a pandemic, is more important than political advantage? Jobs ought to be on that list, along with automation, dealing with climate change, providing an effective education system. Sure, individual choice — so long as that extends to abortion too.

I want a government that works without me having to worry everyday about whether the president is reading intelligence reports, without concern about whether its agents are spending all day long figuring out how to favor business over consumers, about whether everything that happens is subject to reinterpretation according to culture wars.

Indeed, I didn’t sign up to be a culture warrior. The daily White House menu is just making me one.

Dear White House, I am not an idiot.





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