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As we continue to adapt to the isolation that social distancing has visited upon us there are many disturbing images that haunt me. Not least among them is the insidious spiked coronavirus magnified and lurking that is displayed after and before television commercial breaks documenting these unfortunate times round the clock.

Enemy Within

On the sillier side is an image I have in my head of Donald Trump, orange-coated face with purplish puffy splotches around the eyeballs, blood red lipstick, and powdered cheeks, dressed in a white sweater, short pleated skirt, white knee-length bobby socks waving pom-poms in front of a stadium packed with social distancing rebels in MAGA hats waving Confederate flags mixed with Don’t Tread On Me replica flags with a caption of Cheerleader-in-Chief. The image is meant to be funny but it is hauntingly pathetic.

The last image that captures too much time on my hands is that of KKK-clad citizens carrying torches, sans masks, marching in front of a State Capitol building, take your pick, carrying placards inscribed with the latest manifesto issued by El Presidente calling on them to Liberate their state and protect their 2nd amendment rights.

Now if these are not disturbing enough, each bears more than a morsel of truth and reality. As I peruse the latest polling information on the upcoming national election Trump’s base remains rock solid in the area around 43-44 percent. In the meantime Joe Biden, legitimately sidelined politically by an unfolding pandemic that continues to claim lives at an alarming pace, gathers important endorsements, including Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Shortly that list will be boosted by Michele Obama, and there is no hesitation among highly qualified potential female running mates to indicate they would accept the opportunity to run with Uncle Joe in a heartbeat, rather than the obligatory nonchalance that usually is offered to such weighty questioning.

Probably most disturbing and dangerous is how geographically and ideologically isolated our nation is at this point, north versus south, east versus west, upper Mid-West versus lower Mid-West, but more prominently urban versus rural and the ever-increasing importance of suburban voters, especially suburban women. Donald Trump and Trump’s cultists thrive on these divisions. The Cheerleader-in-Chief, in high leg-kicking splendor (a truly nauseating prospect), is more than enthusiastic in exploiting these differences and sadly his continued tenure is absolutely dependent upon them. The long-term damage he is doing to the country is incalculable.

What is destroying this nation from within is the extent to which racism has become not only tolerated but with a wink and a nod encouraged by what used to be considered mainstream political leaders.

I have lived in the South, and on both the East and West Coasts, in cities large and small, in rural communities and suburban environments and have witnessed racial discrimination and prejudice in each place. What is destroying this nation from within is the extent to which racism has become not only tolerated but with a wink and a nod encouraged by what used to be considered mainstream political leaders, or at least leaders in what used to be considered mainstream political parties!

We are approaching a crossroad where serious decisions will need to be made as to how we proceed to handle the pandemic. We will either do it together as a nation or we will proceed in a piecemeal fashion that will further accentuate the deep ruptures in our national political landscape, and if rushed may precipitate a violent recurrence in the fall. Yet we have a President who still deep in his heart thinks it is a hoax, is desperately looking for a scape goat, Democrats, Governors, CDC, WHO, China, and is now openly inciting resurrection in states with Governors who are Democrats.

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We are at war with an invisible enemy that attacks unconditionally and without prejudice and requires us to marshal our collective resources to combat it while we develop a knock out punch in the form of a vaccine, and the President, with the petulance of a spoiled child is looking for blame for everything that goes wrong and praise for the few things that may go right.

We find ourselves in a pitched internal battle over priorities: namely, the need to restore a seriously wounded economy versus the need to protect against massive loss of life. In a governmental and political system that thrives on reaching compromise and splitting the difference on controversial issues it is highly unlikely that compromise is an acceptable political or humane solution in this instance. In a macabre sense we are being forced to conduct a cost-benefit analysis pitting how many lives we are willing to sacrifice in order to generate economic growth.

Further, there is a demographic complexion to the costs that are separate and apart from the potential benefits. It is apparent that black and brown Americans are disproportionately at risk of succumbing to the deadly effects of the virus due to the inordinate public health factors that affect those communities. We are now facing another disaster that affects poorer communities first and worst (think back to Hurricane Katrina and the Lower 9th ward in New Orleans, or Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico).

Additionally, the collateral damage to frontline healthcare workers and first responders threatens a public health system that is bending to the point of breaking. If there is even the slightest ray of light at the end of this very dark end long tunnel it just might lead to a reevaluation of the need for the nation to join the 21st century and consider universal healthcare, but we will reserve that discussion for a different time and place once we have conquered the enemy directly in front of us.

Even a cursory examination of this nation’s history will revel that the founders were cognizant of the need and desirability for checks and balances, starting with a form of Federalism that established a central government divided into three branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial), a Congress divided into two separate bodies with differing forms of representative membership (House and Senate), and delineating in The Bill of Rights that powers not expressly delegated to the national government are reserved to the States (10th Amendment).

The nation rebelled against the English throne to establish a nation beholden to its citizens. We fought a bloody Civil War at the cost of 600,000 lives to preserve that nation. We came together as a nation to defeat authoritarian and fascist regimes in World War II. Can one imagine FDR saying that it was up to the 48 states to determine whether to participate in WW II? Of course not.

President Obama taught us we were not Red States or Blue States but rather the United States and we are facing an internal nemesis that threatens to infect us all, regardless of color, creed or religion. And if that was not enough, we all run the risk of sharing the virus with one another, it does not stop at artificial borders. This is a national problem. We are facing a virus that can attack us without our even realizing it and we can become carriers of destruction with neither knowledge nor foresight that we are aiding the enemy.

We need a national strategy, a national effort to aid every citizen, every community, a coordinated and strategic plan that rallies the troops around a common goal and that goal must first and foremost be to protect our citizens from harm. The economy will rebound as markets stabilize. We as a nation must be selfless not selfish by realizing that survival in itself is our most precious commodity.

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Lance Simmens

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