The End of Everything...or Not
The media and many political elites are warning me to prepare for pretty much the end of everything. But the life I lead seems to be going along on its usual pedestrian path. Is it possible that the impending doom highlighted by the media does not accurately reflect reality for most of us?
My wife subscribes to the Washington Post. Her early morning routine includes exercise; a cup of coffee; and sitting at the breakfast table, reading the paper. When she is finished, and only then, am I allowed see what the Post has to say about today's world.
A recent edition was particularly threatening. Headlines screamed: "Shutdown standoff to stretch past Christmas." "Congress Fails to Compromise." "Trump reportedly asked advisers about his power to fire Fed chair." "After Mattis's departure, era of containing Trump is over." "Delving into the probable effects of the impasse." "How Russia finally won the Cold War." "A recession is coming. Trump will make it so much worse."
Too, too much to bear. Back to bed and under the covers? Except I am not seeing the chaos the Washington Post describes with increasing intensity.
Last November, I was able to vote. We vote at a nearby church. There was a long line, all ages, races, and political persuasions, based on the large number of people holding either Republican or Democratic sample ballots . Neighbors manned the polling place, checking IDs and asking our name and address. Everything seemed to go smoothly. Perhaps the "agents of vote suppression" were on a coffee break. After voting, our tradition is to go to IHOP for pancakes. Somehow, we were able to get there – have a car, can get reasonably priced gas for that car, can still afford inexpensive pancakes. The place was crowded. No school that day. Families with kids filled the tables. Somehow, with all the impending chaos, they too had made it to IHOP.
A grocery store opened near us. The county replaced the dirt path along a busy street with a new sidewalk. We can leave the car at home and walk to the store. Prices are good. They have a nice bakery and helpful employees with new jobs. We run into our neighbors checking out the new store. We catch up on this and that. Trump chaos does not come up.
My wife walks several miles each day. On one of her walks, she tripped on something, fell, and landed on her face and hand. After finishing her route, she came home to say we needed to go to the emergency room. It was open, welcoming, helpful, and efficient. A quick X-ray confirmed two broken bones in her hand. A temporary cast, a referral to an orthopedist, and we were on our way back home. We have used this facility before on weekends and late at night. Sometimes there is a longer wait, but it is well staffed and provides excellent care. Is this the last remaining island of care not yet overwhelmed by the Washington Post-described, Trump-caused chaos? Or is it possible that most Americans get pretty good health care?
The nurse taking care of my wife had been in the Marines for nine years – a Humvee-driver and ordnance disposal specialist. She and her husband, also a Marine, wanted to start a family, so they left the military. She went to nursing school, got a job at the emergency room, now has three young children, and plans to teach nursing in the future. She was bright, optimistic, helpful, considerate, and thorough, and she appeared to be enjoying the challenges of life – clearly an exceptional person, and a better representation of capable, hardworking Americans than the apocalyptic Hieronymus Bosch vision painted daily by the Washington Post.
The same newspaper in editorials and columns warns us that democracy is teetering on the edge of the abyss, threatened by the forces of authoritarianism and, oddly, populism. I keep looking for signs here locally. So far, I have been able to read what I want, go where I want, worship or not as I want, vote as I want, order something made in China, and attend a concert performed by a visiting orchestra from Russia. As far as I know, government officials are not lurking in my bushes, following me on the highway (except for that speeding ticket), or listening in on phone calls to my daughters. When neighbors tell a joke about Trump, they don't suddenly disappear.
I don't think the reporters, editors, and publisher of the Washington Post live in some alternate universe that has gone berserk. But they write as if they did. Their frantic obsession grows in sync with their disconnect from my reality. My guess is, I am not alone.