Last fall, before the bottom fell out of America, we surveyed the state of our nation’s rapid decline, and the time it would take to recover.
It was really a survey of our nation’s government. The country as a whole, well, we’d muddle along as always, perhaps worse off than before, but substantially unchanged.
We were adorable in our implicit optimism. As bad as things were, we had no fucking clue how bad they could get.
Saturday night, shots were fired in Louisville.
This is not something unusual in America. Shots Were Fired is Dog Bites Man here. It still makes the news — If It Bleeds, It Leads — but shots were also fired at a warehouse in Northern California, and it really takes twenty fatalities to get noticed these days. Shots Were Fired isn’t news as such. Tell us something we haven’t heard.
In Louisville, Shots Were Fired into a crowd. A crowd of protesters. A crowd protesting the police murder of Breonna Taylor, who, it depressing goes without saying these days, was Black.
Even that’s not news. Shots Were Fired a couple weeks ago as well, in New Mexico, into another crowd of protesters, this crowd protesting the statue of a Spanish conquistador. That’s two, at least that we’ve heard of. Three is a trend. Three is news. Which makes four old news. You get used to it.
America is collapsing, has collapsed, in ways that sometimes make news, in others that have become a dull ache. This week’s unemployment statistics are as dreary as the week before, and weeks before that. For those whose employment conferred the benefit of health insurance, that’s gone too, at a moment when the government is asking the Supreme Court to abolish the alternative, in the middle of a pandemic, and hey, did you see that million-dollar hospital bill for covid care?
Probably not. It made the rounds, but everything’s been a deluge for years now. We’re drowning in shit, and people still ask why a particular turd doesn’t get more notice.
The point of our survey last fall was that the implosion of our government would take a good ten years to repair, that it wasn’t just the crew running the shitshow, but the deep consequences of their determined malfeasance, nationally and internationally. Institutions aren’t built in a day, but it takes only a few years to tear them down. The coming decade would be our last hope of doing anything substantial about global warming, and we were putting ourselves in the worst position possible to cope.
Worst. Last fall. God, we were adorable.
Where we stand now, well, we really don’t know, do we? The consequences still haven’t played out. The event itself is still happening. People are still losing jobs. People are still dying — 128,161, as we write. The pandemic is still spreading. The government is still doing the least it can do to manage it. We’re still looking at seven months of things getting worse, should we be so lucky, and months beyond that to even begin doing something about it — whatever it is next January 20.
FDR had to wait until March to begin doing something about his calamity. Inauguration Day has been moved up since then. And while his Hundred Days have been celebrated in history, they didn’t end the Depression. That took the industrialization required to wage a world war, years later. But they did provide hope that someone, somewhere, was finally doing something about it.
The Hundred Days made a nice story. We like stories. Stories get us through dark nights.
We don’t have that story, not right now, and maybe not next January. The story we’d like to tell ourselves is that The American People will see the error of their ways and throw out the rascals this November, but The American People didn’t put the rascals there in the first place. What we politely call the popular vote is what the Founders called the consent of the governed — in the Declaration of Independence, no less — and any government that lacks that consent is tyranny.
Y’know, like this one. And the Senate. And the hundreds of federal judges and Supreme Court justices the despotic President has nominated and despotic Senate has confirmed.
And even then, working with the tyranny we have, looking at the polls as they stand, there’s no guarantee we’ll get a breather in November, because governments — plural — are doing their damndest to exclude citizens who might vote against them. That was a worry during the adorably optimistic months of last year. It’s a horrorshow now, given all the exciting additional opportunities to deny people the franchise.
We’re a war-torn country, the devastation not entirely visible, but still playing out. It’s not even a new war, really. We’ve been fighting this one since 1861.