Friday Reads: Even First Ladies Get the BluesPosted: August 7, 2020
Good Day Sky Dancers!
I continue to wake and wonder what fresh hell awaits us today. There’s a lot of it but I’m finding some comfort in Michelle Obama’s openness about her mild depression in her new podcasts. I would really like to return to the day and age where there was less yelling and incoherent sentences and a lot more humanly shared experience. Empathetic people get the blues while witnessing human suffering. This is from E.
The former first lady spurred concern from supporters this week after mentioning in a new episode of her eponymous podcast that she is “dealing with some form of low-grade depression” as a result of these historic times.
However, a day later, she addressed the worry about her head on with a message directly to fans via social media. “I just wanted to check in with you all because a lot of you have been checking in on me after hearing this week’s podcast. First things first—I’m doing just fine,” she assured on Instagram. “There’s no reason to worry about me.”
As Obama elaborated, her concern is with frontline workers, Black Lives Matter activists and families making decisions about school amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Like I said in that conversation with @Michele__Norris, I’m thinking about the folks out there risking themselves for the rest of us—the doctors and nurses and essential workers of all kinds,” she explained. “I’m thinking about the teachers and students and parents who are just trying to figure out school for the fall. I’m thinking about the people out there protesting and organizing for a little more justice in our country.”
Obama also took a moment to comfort anyone who is struggling with how things are presently—because times are indeed hard.
“The idea that what this country is going through shouldn’t have any effect on us—that we all should just feel OK all the time—that just doesn’t feel real to me,” she wrote. “So I hope you all are allowing yourselves to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.”
“I hope you’re listening to yourselves and taking a moment to reflect on everything that’s coming at us,” Obama encouraged, “and what you might be able to do about it.”
As the public figure concluded, Obama left readers with one last suggestion. “And to all of you who’ve reached out—thank you,” she said. “I hope you’re also reaching out to all those you’re closest with, not just with a text, but maybe with a call or a video chat. Don’t be afraid to offer them a shoulder to lean on, or to ask for one yourself. Love you all.”
These are the words in her podcast that drew strong empathy from me.
“These are not…fulfilling times spiritually, so I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression,” she shared, “not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting. So, I’ve had to kind of give myself that—those days, those moments.”
I keep saying it but these are wretched times. Nothing feels normal about any of this. Susan Glasser–writing for the New Yorker–describes this President’s lack of vision and priorities. Clearly, he’s interested in only ego stroking attention and grifting. Actually doing his job or thinking about it isn’t particularly interesting to him. His short attention span and inability to think outside of his visceral needs shows how uniquely unsuitable he is for his job.
It was not supposed to be a trick question, or even all that tricky. For any other candidate, it would have been the softest of softballs, the slowest of pitches. But when the Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt asked Donald Trump the other morning, “Mr. President, what is your second-term agenda? What are your top priorities?,” his inability to answer was one of the most revealing moments of his reëlection campaign so far. “I want to take where we left,” Trump said. “We were better than we were ever,” he added, wistfully conjuring the booming pre-pandemic America of his fantasies, where everybody had a job and the stock market was great. Facing uncontrolled death from the coronavirus and an economy that is cratering because of it, Trump is desperate for a do-over. Other than that, he had pretty much nothing to say about why he should be elected to a second term, although he took more than three hundred words to say it. The bottom line seemed to be that Trump is promising four more years of “jobs” and of stopping U.S. allies, especially Germany, from “ripping us off.” And that’s it.
This painful exchange, which even the Fox hosts eventually cut off, after a few cringe-inducing minutes, was little noted among the many whoppers, distortions, and outrages offered up by Trump this week. It wasn’t even the big news out of that particular Fox interview, the coverage of which rightfully focussed on the President’s absurd claims that the coronavirus is just “going away” and that schools should reopen because children are “almost immune” to covid-19. Throughout the week, Trump’s near-delusional state about the pandemic has been on awkward display, most notably in his instant classic of an interview with the Axios journalist Jonathan Swan, whose simple but skeptical queries about the virus revealed a President unable to comprehend basic facts about the public-health crisis or devise a national plan for combatting it. “It is what it is,” Trump told Swan, when asked about the large, and growing, American death toll—a line that may well go down as one of his most chillingly callous.
But Trump’s struggle to answer such an important and straightforward question about what he would do in a second term should not be overlooked, because it goes to the heart of why his campaign— and the country that he nominally governs—is in such trouble. As an incumbent, Trump is certainly in a bind: he can hardly campaign on his record, when the United States is in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and close to a hundred and sixty thousand Americans are dead of the coronavirus. There’s only so much blame that Trump can deflect; this is a catastrophe that happened on his watch, and—no matter how many times he calls it the “China virus” or warns Americans that Joe Biden will turn the country into a godless hellscape—he knows it.
Trump’s vapid answer is more than a reflection of a political-messaging dilemma—it’s a sign of decline, both in terms of the President’s ability to respond cogently to a simple query and as a warning for American democracy, given that such a large segment of the electorate apparently finds it acceptable to support a leader whose only campaign selling point is himself. Is Trump’s inability to come up with something to say about the next four years a reflection of the fact that even he thinks he is going to lose? Perhaps, but it’s also a measure of how far Trump has descended into full “l’état, c’est moi”-ism. Running for reëlection without offering even a hint of a program is a sure indicator of at least aspirational authoritarianism.
Still, watching polls and interviews with former Hair Furor devotees does give me hope that we my eventually be rid of him. This is from Prevail: “The Great Escape: Donald John Trump’s Exit Strategy. Where does the President go from here?” It’s written by Greg Olear.
A thousand Americans are dying of the novel coronavirus every day. Volume Five of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report is due for release any day now. Senators, Congressmen, and emeritus members of the intelligence community have stopped pulling punches and are sounding the alarms. Cy Vance announced that his investigation is wider than originally thought, and likely includes tax fraud; the New York Times reported that Deutsche Bank has already turned over Trump’s financial documents to prosecutors. The vaunted economy is falling along with the president’s poll numbers. And the presumptive guy in charge gave the most unflattering interview of all time ever, unequivocally exposing himself as a complete and total moron:
Even the Trump people know they can’t win the election without banana-republic-level fuckery, as the indefatigable historian Heather Cox Richardson writes:
No one is pretending that Trump is going to win the popular vote. He’s not even trying to. He’s doubling down on the culture wars that excite his base in the hopes of getting them to turn out in strong numbers, most recently by sending federal law enforcement officers into cities led by Democrats in order to create images of what looks like rioting, to enable him to set himself up as defending “law and order.”
At the same time, he and his supporters in the Republican Party are working to guarantee an undercount of votes for his opponent by attacking mail-in voting, shutting down polling places, kicking people off voter rolls, undercutting the United States Postal Service, and even, perhaps, by permitting a wave of evictions that will make it significantly harder for displaced people to vote.
It is notable that, as a country, we are not talking about policies or winning majorities. We are talking about how Trump can win by gaming the Electoral College, or by cheating.
Even so, enthusiasm for cheating to keep a low-IQ mobster in office seems to be on the wane, even among Republicans, who must be sick of the guy. There have been many cracks in the facade these last few weeks. Sure, Bill Barr is boss at torpedoing investigations, but he can only do so much—and as Lincoln’s Bible pointed out during his embarrassing House hearing, the AG is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is:
(Sidenote: Being not nearly as smart as one thinks one is is the prevailing character trait of everyone involved with this White House. Other than, you know, pure uncut greed).
So, like, now what? Where does Trump go from here?
We’ll know more by the end of the month. The Republican National Convention is scheduled for August 24-27. Whether it’s in Charlotte, Jacksonville, the South Lawn of the White House (illegally, but whatevs), or the back nine of Bedminster, that’s the moment when Republicans will certify the Trump/Pence ticket—or not certify it.
The Republican National Committee, chaired by the ever-mendacious Ronna Romney McDaniel, decided to eschew a proper primary process, likely fearing that some dark horse candidate, perhaps Ronna’s own Uncle Mitt, would prevail. Last week came the curious report that the convention would be closed to the press. While that original announcement has been walked back, it brought up the obvious question: Why would the RNC opt to go dark at the precise moment when it should want every TV channel in the country broadcasting its propaganda program?
This question is answered by the Corona Virus epidemic Trump enabled and created through out the country. Go read the entire biting essay. Oh, and my answer to his question is this: Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not Collect $200.
Emily Stewart of Vox tries to understand antimaskers by letting them explain themselves. Yes, it’s that basket of deplorables again.
In recent weeks, I spoke with nearly a dozen people who consider themselves anti-mask to find out just that. What I discovered is that there is certainly a broad spectrum of reasons — some find wearing a mask annoying or just aren’t convinced they work, and others have gone down a rabbit hole of conspiracies that often involve vaccines, Big Pharma, YouTube, and Bill Gates. One man told me he wears a mask when he goes to the store to be polite. A woman got kicked out of a Menards store for refusing to wear a mask amid what she calls the “Covid scam garbage.”
But there are also many commonalities. Most people I talked to noted government officials’ confusing messaging on masks in the pandemic’s early days. They insist that they’re not conspiracy theorists and that they don’t believe the coronavirus is a hoax, but many also expressed doubts about the growing body of scientific knowledge around the virus, opting for cherry-picked and unverified sources of information found on social media rather than traditional news sources. They often said they weren’t political but acknowledged they leaned right.
Most claimed not to know anyone who had contracted Covid-19 or died of it, and when I told them I did, the responses were the same: How old were they? Did they have preexisting conditions? They know their position is unpopular, and most spoke on condition of anonymity and will be referred to only by their first names. Amy told me people are “not very nice about this.”
The mask debate is complex. As much as it’s about science, health, and risk, it’s also about empathy. If someone doesn’t personally know anyone who died from Covid-19, does it mean those lives don’t matter? Are older and immunocompromised people disposable? Does one person’s right to ignore public health advice really trump someone else’s right to live?
“Death is happening in these wards where even family members can’t visit their loved ones when they’re sick with Covid, so the death and the severity of this disease are really invisible to the public,” said Kumi Smith, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota who studies infectious diseases.
It leads some people to brush the issue aside.
So, again, I empathize with Michelle Obama and know exactly where she’s at since I’ve struggled with this ever since Trump took office and fucked the country over royally.
Today’s art is from Picasso’s blue period. That would be 1901-1904.
And here’s some Blues.
Be Kind and gentle yourselves and others. Try to relax and stay in the moment and do what you love to do. Check in we love you and worry about you.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?