Guest columnist Jena Schwartz: I will not go gently

  • President Donald Trump speaks during an event to sign a proclamation in honor of World Nurses Day, in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Washington. AP

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

I recently glanced at FOX and Breitbart home pages out of curiosity, and in some ways, a sense of civic responsibility. The headlines unquestionably herald Trump as heroic and emphasize things like “faith and freedom” and Americans being great (again), not to mention holding China’s feet to the fire for causing this pandemic.

With each passing day, my fears that we are heading straight for a full-on dictatorship deepen. Moment after moment after moment, Trump’s actions have been illegal, undemocratic, unchecked and unstoppable. What is to stop him from calling off the election in November, citing the pandemic as reason enough?

Moreover, it feels less and less far-fetched that some deep, dark conspiracy is behind all of this, and Trump is simply the frontman for things we know nothing about; it may prove to be the cause of death to the postal service, and the ultimate way to consolidate power and prove that he and only he can “save America.” But which America is he saving? The one for the wealthiest and whitest.

Maybe I sound like I’m going off the deep end here, but I don’t think so. The water has been getting hotter since day one of Trump’s presidency, and the blatant, flagrant actions and lack of actions in regard to pandemic preparedness over the past months and years can’t possibly be a coincidence.

They knew this was coming. The government knew and did nothing to help the country prepare to minimize the devastating impact on human life and to the economy we’re seeing now. The conservative news outlets would have readers believe Trump “did everything he could” before COVID-19 reached our shores. We know otherwise.

For years now, I have wondered: When would a war erupt on or come to American soil, something that would unilaterally shut everything down and irrevocably change life as we know it? I have tried to picture it, not in a morbid way, but in a way that felt inevitable if impossible to imagine.

Here we are. Where will be in six months or 60?

While none of us knows, one thing is clear: This administration does not care about the health and humanity of our nation. This is not news, but the display we are currently seeing is chilling and foreboding. As borders between nations and in some cases even between states tighten, as hospitals literally beg for help and supplies and rely more and more on state leadership and the generosity of private citizens, nonprofits, and civilians, as the pandemic gives xenophobes fodder for spewing hateful rhetoric, the myth of American greatness gasps and sputters.

One of the best outcomes I can possibly conjure to this crisis is that the myth dies, once and for all. That enough Americans see the truth of our country for what it is — a patchwork of wildly inconsistent, unequal, unjust and unsustainable realities that sacrifice people of color, the working class, the poor, and the uninsured again and again to the furnaces of capitalistic greed and racial superiority.

What happens next is the great unknown. Bernie supporters must find their way to voting for Biden, whether they have to hold their noses to do it or not. To stand on principle at this point is not an option. It may not be the dream, but without getting Trump out of office, this nightmare will only grow more horrific.

Right now, for those of us sheltering in place, we are doing our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That is crucial. And also crucial is acknowledging and doing everything in our power to stop the virus of fascism that has infected not only our government but millions of everyday Americans who turn to conservative news outlets for their daily dose of propaganda.

I don’t know how, only that I will keep speaking out in the only ways I know how — by writing and by not going gently into an ever-darkening future.

Jena Schwartz is from Amherst.