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Make America great again. Sorry, no do-overs

Nov. 3 has arrived. It feels, strangely, like the end of something, an exhausting journey over, no matter the outcome. By way of reflecting on all that has transpired — the corruption, norms abandoned, the incompetent response to the pandemic — I glanced through my notebooks, a reminiscence of sorts, and so I include below my impressions, phrases and metaphors, some written in the margins, others mere fragments of head-shaking reactions.

To begin, one of my favorites, while observing the willful chaos that has defined Trump and his administration, is “down the rabbit hole,” followed by a parenthetical quotation from Lewis Carroll: “What I tell you three times is true.” Rinse and then repeat the words “hoax,” “witch hunt” and “fake news” (aka, don’t believe your lying eyes or ears).

During one of Trump’s COVID-19 briefings I wrote: “Bleach for what ails you. What have you got to lose?”

Almost from the get-go I have judged the Republicans to be complicit in this administration’s malfeasance and I often used the words “Faustian bargain” when trying to understand their passive betrayal of our democracy.

How to comprehend Trump’s “zero tolerance policy”? Between 2017 and 2018, more than 3,000 children were taken from their families and housed in cages. The parents, without exception, were prosecuted for illegally entering the U.S. and jailed. Of the 1,000 children separated from their families in 2017, 545 remain in the U.S., but have not been reunited with their families who were deported. At the time of separation, some were mere infants, still breast-feeding. Those parents who have been located (by NGOs) in their countries of origin are confronted with a breathtaking “Sophie’s Choice.” The Nuremberg defense by this administration will never justify what has been done to these vulnerable people.

I’ve often written the word “mendacity” while listening to Trump riff from the rally podium. I soon concluded that if given a choice between truth and a lie he would embrace the lie. And the “big lie,” still being told, is about COVID-19. Trump knew that the virus was lethal. Yet he called it a Democrat (sic) hoax, then the flu, and now, in this moment, he gaslights the nation, insisting that we have “turned the corner” (last Friday there were 98,583 cases reported and more than 232,000 Americans have died).

And there’s this: trending of late in the White House is the Darwinian theory called “herd immunity.” The proffer is that some 224 million Americans must contract the virus and recover (ignore long haulers) and thereby develop herd immunity. Of course, the collateral damage would, by most estimates, be 1.5 to 2.5 million deaths. And not to forget the devastation that would be visited upon our health care system.

At some point during this pandemic I began writing down the word “efficacious,” referring to a mask and a bar of soap until a vaccine is found.

In my notes I often made reference to “the base,” aka “the trump tribe,” who have interested me endlessly. I live on one side of the island. They live on the other. And clearly they worship at the shrine of “alternative facts,” their embrace of all things Trump extraordinarily puzzling.

And then there’s the word “decency,” which I naively thought would matter in this election. I guess we’ll see.

To conclude, consider two of my favorites: “the red mirage” and “the blue shift.” Here’s how election night just might play out: the first wave of votes to come in will be the “red mirage,” giving the Republicans an early lead. Trump, defiant, declares victory, backed by a phalanx of lawyers and supporters. However, given the massive, pandemic mail-in-ballots, plus early voting, the “blue drift” (aka “wave”) slowly follows, which Trump declares is fraudulent and an attempt by the Democrats to steal the election. Here we go. Chaos ensues. “Stand by.”

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.

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