I never quite imagined I would find myself citing George W. Bush in any pursuit of wisdom. His vacuous intellect and dangerous judgments seemed at the time to express fully America’s own incapacities to choose wisely. But at least he could read and chose to delegate the bullying to Cheney. At least we could anticipate the failure of the guiding ideology and foresee the poor quality of judgements. Some of us really did know what would happen if we went along with such tragic failures.
When we elected Obama he encouraged our complaisance because the majority felt safe with his abilities to judge, even when we deeply disagreed with policies. We could have at least sufficient confidence in his genuine Intelligence. The majority, that is. What the minority of Americans were thinking we need not discuss further at the moment. Bigotry is too banal and too All-American to warrant digression. Disease has its own politics since it invariably comes hardest to those most systemically oppressed.
The need for informed judgment has never been more evident no matter how choices look in retrospect. We are, of course, always making judgments because there is no way to choose without them. But it is possible to understand how poor judgments are made when facts demand only to be acknowledged rather than derived. If we need only acknowledge what is fact then foreseeable consequences invite further judgment about the quality of judgments made.
To say that we could have foreseen a pandemic is too much. To say that we could have done more to stave off the consequences of pandemic needs to be said again again. That we were bound to meet with real crisis during the Trump era requires no degree in history. Trump did not cause the disease but Trump and his supporters endanger us further.
In a comparison worth considering, we should have seen 9/11 coming because many did and raised the specter before that fateful day. I remember vividly saying to myself that the only thing worse will be the judgments made by our government, particularly Bush’s government. Tragic stupidity notwithstanding, we did indeed see pandemic coming, raised alarms, and knew we’d elected a government in which all facts were going to be dismissed or ignored. We knew he wasn’t up to it, not just that he would make calamitous errors of judgment. He is not capable of judgment.
W. said he was going to insure the 9/11 terrorists would end up in “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies,” beside “fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism.” Now we must again discard lies in favor of facts because without a factual baseline we will only become more sick and many more will die. But we must also not forget the consequences of judgments, those not even attempted and the eventual judgments so inept and dangerous we must consider further perils.
The very source of the next judgment is as much the danger as the disease.
Trump has lived a life of bluff and bullying, which we have to admit has served him well. People are as gullible as they are culpable for willing complicities and indulgences. Some will say they took a gamble, that they were bluffing too. Now we see how pathetic and fateful such a standard of judgment can be.
Assessing terrorists we can conjure motives and be wrong. We can reduce them to caricatures and feel better about ourselves. But the pandemic’s facts refuse any bluff and cannot be bullied, which means that Trump simply has nothing left. He will only hold the next rally using the pretext of information. He will bluff again figuring it has always worked to his advantage. Will it?
When we bluff we mean to deceive for benefit—our own or another’s. When we bully we mean to use coercion to induce change and invariably fail the future for perceived short term gain. When these are the criteria for choosing what comes next we forsake not only the facts but even the semblance of decency. This failure falls as much on his Fox Nation as it does on him.
We must endure the bluff and the bully for now because we have no other choice. Be assured that his sycophants and stooges, those who would profit on our pain and take advantage without any conscience, want there to be no other choice ahead. But this we must not permit.
We may not have gotten the alternative we might have preferred to thwart the imbecilic anarchy that is before us. But the greater danger is to fail to rise to the occasion in which judgment demands we consider again how judgments are made. The value of the bluff has at last shown its truest limitations. The depravity of the bully has never been clearer. The bluffing and the bullying cannot be allowed to continue. We will have one more chance to save ourselves from our own fakery and complacencies. What will we do with the facts?