Quote: A lie can travel halfway round the world while truth is putting on its shows (Mark Twain, aptly enough, attrib falsely per Fred Shapiro, Freakonomics, 4.07.11)
In the news: Why People Who Hate Trump Stick with Him (Sarah Longwell, The Atlantic,10.19.20).
In context: America seems more divided than ever in the 2020 transition but it’s never been more united. The pandemonium created by Trump in wake of his electoral loss was initiated by the campaign fervor that brought out a record number of voters of both parties in 2020. The only upside to Covid in Trump’s hands was that the 50 US states became neighbors where they had been strangers to each other before then.
The Covid pandemi hit America on the two coasts, liberal bastions bearing little relevance to the vast majority populating the great stretch of the country in between. That mass of states held little nuance in the popular American conception. They blended into generalizations like the Midwest, South and Sunbelt. With the Trump presidency the states began their emergence as distinct personalities.
Symbolically enough, red and blue were already their distinguishing traits. The color attributions foreshadowed the coming integration of national elements when an East Coast Republican renegade swept up the electoral college votes in the traditionally Democratic Midwest. Over the first three years with Trump at the helm, both localized unity and opposition overall hardened in tune with Trump policies.
Trump won the Midwest with promises that failed to deliver. Jobs heralded as returning were hyped with a few early successes while actual jobs dried up and factories closed. Deluded solid Midwesterners howled along with neighbors whose farms were decimated by Trump trade wars. Covered by the much maligned media, the plight of those states took on human faces that reflected the impact of promised tax cuts went iinto the pockets of the wealthy. with a token pittance tossed to them
Trump’s public boast to friends that he had made them a lot of money went barely noted until the corporate tax cuts failed to trickle down into jobs. By then, the Southern border states were coming into high relief over fallout from the Wall and the Trump Immigration policy.
Catchy as campaign slogans, the “Wall’ and “tough on immigrants” cants were total duds in practice. The Wall was an ecological and neighborhood disaster. The anti-immigrant policy ended up in images of fathers ripped from families and children torn from parents, sobbing forlornly in cages. The nation as a whole was incensed over the Hispanics victims.
Attention on Hispanics in the Trump era began a national process of differentiating that large and varied segment of the population. Their backgrounds and current locations became features. The unfolding horror of children separated from parents for the sole purpose of enforcing a policy fueled the national outrage The assault on human decency transcended differences and opened the floodgates onto grasping the magnitude of the cruelty involved in racial injustice.
The empathic element of that complex issue in a country of immigrants adjusting to a globalizing world splintered the country into near-even halves. Levels of capacity to empathize became a unifying element.
Way back in about 500 b.c. Confucius outlined the three paths to wisdom. Those were contemplation, the noblest; imitation, the easiest; and experience, the bitterest.
As a product of all three paths, empathy has played a major role in the Trump response to Covid. It has also served as a fulcrum for the social ramifications of that response, which has led simultaaneously to dividing and unifying the country.
By Confucian standards, Donald Trump would not be a wise man. He has admitted that he does not contemplate. Boasting that he knows more than “the generals” and declaring doctors “morons” who don’t know anything, he obviously has found no one worth imitating. By all accounts, his experience has been limited to wheedling money out of others. In short, by Confucian standards, he would be devoid of empathy, perhaps an enviable trait to those overburdened even before Covid.
Those already embittered by disappointment with life might well choose Trump as a carefree hero to emulate. The bond between the unhappy and their fantasy incarnate was strong. When Covid hit like a cold shower of reality, the country went into the paradox of uniting by splintering.
The Trump response to the messy Covid disruption of plans was two-fold. One was to ignore it and the other was to use it as a rally cry to supporters. The ensuing whiplash was a centrifuge culling out parts of society at large.
Uncertainty, isolation, fear and social stratification led to social unrest. Yes, all were affected by Covid but most were more so than the affluent. Social injustice took front stage headed by mainstream media and brough. into question by conservative alternate streams. When winnowed down, however, instances of social injustice came to a captive audience and were supercharged by the horrific George Floyd event that swept the world.
By then, Covid was also rampaging worldwide. The Trump response to both those situations fused the racial and social components of government irrevocably.
In the long months since the pandmic hit, Trump has emerged as a man with no interest in people. His concern was limited to products they made, namely the stock market and a re-election pool. Betraying no hint of empathy, he coasted through the pandemic with pot-shot quick fix tips that muddled control efforts. Racial protests called out his condemnation of far left agitators
Through it all, the large majority saw the failure of his lead. A large minority held that he was doing fine and no one could have done better. The situation was beyond his control.
Not since the Middle Ages has a virus been seen as intractable.. Taming pathogens has been a major focus of science ever since the Black Death. Successes were obvious, with smallpox and polio just two of countless diseases tamed. Donald Trump, however, managed to convince a large minority of Americans to regress and let him allow Covid to run its course.
The paradox of unity in fragmentation can be attributed to the response of states to the Trump lead. With both Covid and social unrest, states followed Trump cues when the heads of those states were allied with Trump. The citizens of those states at all levels were split along majority and minority lines.
On the way to US election 2020 after the onset of Covid, poll numbers of both candidates dovetailed with updates on Covid, news about natural disasters, racial protests, protests about masks and alarms about supply shortages, unemployment and stimulus stalemates. Not muddled enough, Trump threw shade about mail-in voting and vote fraud. Then came the Postal Service scandal and short-cut of the Census. Through it all, while the minority and majority ration held, most Americans came to reflect that these larger issues had a direct effect on their lives.
The wild west of the loosely regulated information age brought that realization to the American public from polarized axes, including mainstream, left, right and free-wheeling social media. Personal bias selected the source and facts were drowned in coverage of the response. That is where Donald Trump, speaking from the presidential pulpit, threw the country into a frenzy that united America beneath the extremes.
Despite their alarming presence in American society, ultra-extremists such as Qanon and militias are a minimal part of the population. Their danger comes from their dark ardor and, of course, the heavy arms some brandish outside legal standards. Presently, they are also transcendent with the presidential seal of approval. Overall, however, the large majority of Americans are well-intentioned. They are also willing to be reasonable, to a sliding-scale extent.
Like all cultures, America has its traditions. Independence is a big part of the American Zeitgeist. An affection for the rebel is a sideline of that cultural strand and it played a role in the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President. After rou years of Donald Trump, America voted decisively for Joe Biden despite all the hurdles tossed out from the presidential pulpit to thwart a fair election.
US election 2020 brought Americans back to unity after four yaers of being torn asunder by the unscrupulous rebel elected four years earlier. The proof was in the aftermath.
After the Trump election, four years of protests ensued. After the Biden election, celebrations went up not only in America but the world over.
Since the election, Donald Trump has driven home the degree of absurdity in his being President of the United States. The greatest democracy in the world has been headed by a full-blown demagogue who now refuses to cede power to a fairly elected successor and instead brings frivolous lawsuits and purges law-abiders before leaving office.
Worst of all, Trump is hell-bent on obstructing the path of his successor bursting to tame the pandmic ravaging the country under Trump. Though the intransigence is maddening, America continues to unite beneath strong differences through logic, a cousin of the empathy that is a Biden hallmark.
As empathy is a product of the three Confucian paths to wisdom, so is logic. Thinking about the plight of others, emulating a leader and experiencing first hand the result of raging pandenic, America is growing wise. And whatever Trump supporters said in defense of supporting him, not one ever said they wanted their children to be just like him.