In my time as a NYC Tour guide I was privileged to meet some interesting folks. My good friend ML who is being featured here as the second guest columnist on The Ledge, is but one of them. He is a former tour guide extraordinaire possessed of both an expansive love for and knowledge of the city. This was originally sent out only to friends of his and it was my honor to receive such consideration. I contacted him and asked his feelings about posting the letter as a guest feature on The Ledge. He considered the request and ultimately consented with some minimal mutually agreed upon edits of the original. As our country stands at a precarious crossroads his passionate and eloquent take on the hopes, fears and confusions many of us are experiencing resonated loudly with me and I wanted to share. I thank him for joining us on The Ledge. Please welcome ML.
Written in Fury and Haste
The time for platitudes is over, and the need for right-minded people’s equivalent of useless “thoughts and prayers” (synonymous with inaction) is past. Moderate “solutions” are futile, the election is less than six months away, and the country is in deep trouble. I truly do not know what can be done. Do you?
I have been outraged by trump’s “actions” since Day One, but as the toll mounts (and mounts)— and I am not only speaking of the virus— the ante has been extended from sort-of amusement to indignation to anger, and a further line has just been crossed. There is no longer an alternative to calling this for what it is… which is, starkly put, murder. And the culprit is not merely trump, but also supportive republicans, inactive democrats, and, frankly and horrifyingly, a large segment of the American populace (which, sadly, includes me).
I have studied this country’s history, and I am aware of its failures and shameful past. But in such an era as now, words can no longer suffice. The future is at stake, and our powerlessness is infuriating. Truth and the rule of law have been so intentionally flouted that they have virtually disappeared. The media and truth in general have been contemptuously ridiculed, ignored, or attacked. “Press briefings” have been eliminated in an effort to render serious media generally extinct. It is not yet helpless, but it is flailing. Ignorance is rampant.
The entire role of the legislature and the division of power has been decimated, and the THIRD arm of government (the judiciary) is being converted into a rubber stamp. Officeholders and honest bureaucrats have been cashiered, inspectors general dismissed, and new nominees for these posts surpass our worst nightmares. Insults and mean-spirited disdain have replaced careful rhetoric and intelligent discourse.
The evisceration of our planet is exemplified by this cabal’s contempt for expertise, best characterized by their posture vis-à-vis the environment, and the slow (and not so slow) aggressive elimination of safety barriers and side rails which has left in its wake frightening and threatening prospects for our children, grandchildren and future generations. Anti-intellectualism has been transformed into a governing principle, a way of life. Thumbing one’s nose at authority is no longer viewed as juvenile but is now rather an accepted and sanctioned platform of national policy.
The trumpist “so what are you going to do about it?” posture has been elevated to the routine. “E Pluribus Unum” has been transformed (and pardon me) to “F#%k you”. People no longer merely stand by and tacitly approve, but think it’s cute, cheer it on and allow themselves to be carried along by it.
I have connected the dots, and it is really not that complicated. The early tax “reforms” clarified that it was a government that exclusively favored the rich and privileged and ignored (or openly opposed) the middleclass or (a quaint term, long-ago forgotten) the working class. Shuffled aside, and in many cases actually killed, are black and brown (and Indian and Asian) individuals and non-“American” (i.e. acceptable, respectable) residents. This prioritization has become acceptable and even a basis for policy. “They” don’t want these people around; they are an annoyance, or worse. The nation would be so much better without ‘em (so Stephen Miller thinks and will make happen).
The most recent diminishment of the coronavirus “task force”, allowing them to only testify before the house of congress most amenable to their policies (the Senate), is a telling illustration that this “force” was never meant to be taken seriously. Its quasi-elimination only underscores its unimportance in administrative policy.
Like many of you, I have a grandchild. He’s now three years old, but in a few years he will be articulate and thoughtful. He will, in effect, write me a letter and simply ask, “How could you have let this happen?” How could a generation that marched for civil rights, stood against the slaughter in southeast Asia, and enabled the discovery of Nixon and his gang’s malfeasance, and the deterioration of the basic values that we learned to cherish have stood by and watched this happen? I find it interesting that while we have retained our ideals, Republicans have given lip service to these principles, and have been exposed as shams.
The muffling of the covid-19 task force and the bungling of this pandemic will result in the deaths of innumerable human beings. We have crossed the line into visible and demonstrable murder. The figurative rule of thumb that trump gave us, wherein he could shoot and kill someone on Fifth Avenue without penalty, has become literal. However, now tens of thousands are in his sights. He has extended his Social Darwinist view of the universe into eliminating the “weak”, “unfit”, “unclean”, “alien”, and other unwanted elements of our friends and colleagues. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s not-often-enough quoted aphorism that ignoring the destruction of Group A (Jews, for example) resulted in the destruction of the next group (gays, Christians, gypsies, what-have-you) and, ultimately all of us, is now absolutely apt. In Vietnam Buddhist monks immolated themselves to (effectively) call attention to that war’s horrors. What will it take here? It is obvious that “voting”, though absolutely critical, will not suffice in exorcising this demon: what more can we, must we, do? I ask this in all sincerity; much is at stake.
ML: The writer of this piece had a long career in book publishing, almost all of it in sales. Completely unrelated to that, he is also widely read. After that publishing career, ML spent a few years as a NYC tour guide, a position for which he was probably better qualified.