Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

7 August

One Man’s Truth: OK, I’ll Bite. What If Trump Wins?

by Jon Katz

Someone e-mailed me the other day and asked me what I thought would happen if President Trump won re-election this November.

I didn’t know what to say.

I spend enough time trying to figure out what is happening today without peering into a crystal ball about the future, which is not knowable.

In all my life, I’ve never met, heard, or read anyone who foretold the future accurately as it unfolded. Every day I see and do things no one ever imagined, including writing this piece on this blog in this way on this miraculous machine.

The same day I got the e-mail, a good friend sent me a piece in Rolling Stone Magazine, where I used to work, by the Canadian Anthropologist Wade Davis.

It was a powerful piece of writing called “The Unraveling of America” about how pandemics can change the culture of a country or even of the world.

This pandemic, he writes, is signaling the end of the American moment.

It made me think more deeply than I had about what would happen to America if Trump won on November 3rd. As I’ve written, I don’t believe that will happen, but I also haven’t given much thought to what would happen if it did happen.

People are nervous enough as it is.

Davis made me think, which is the highest compliment I can pay a writer.

Here is an  excerpt of what Davis said about America at this point in time:

In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.

For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. For more than two centuries, reported the Irish Times, “the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.” As American doctors and nurses eagerly awaited emergency airlifts of basic supplies from China, the hinge of history opened to the Asian century.”

This morning, I saw a video on youtube about two young Africa-American ballerinas, Kennedy George, and Ava Holloway, of Richmond, Va.

They have been dancing, along with other black dancers in front of the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, Va., now a focal point for singers, dancers, artists while they wait for the state to tear it down.

The videos of the dancing and singing and graffiti made me realize what it is I love so much about America – it’s diversity, energy, tribalism – and most of all, the country’s astonishing and almost superhuman ability to re-invent and re-define itself.

My idea about some of these confederate statues wasn’t to tear them all down – art should not be burned anymore than books – but use them as learning tools, a way for young blacks and all Americans to re-define the American experience of slavery, and also try to come to terms with it in a healthier way than we have so far been able to do.

This is just what Kennedy George and Ava Holloway are doing.

They are turning that statue, and it’s hateful legacy around, making instead into a celebration of hard work, truth, creativity, and change.

I see this as a better use of Robert E. Lee’s statue than tearing it down and turning it to rubble. We can’t change the past; we can be honest about it and learn from it.

All the photos of the girls dancing – shared all over the country –  has changed their lives, and they talked about their dancing with humility and joy. Finally, one said to an interviewer, “great things are happening in the world now, things are changing. It’s time to catch the train.”

That’s my anthem for 2020. Catch the train.

It’s not time to tremble or tremble or moan, to complain or argue. There is a big train heading toward us, and I want to catch the train, not lie down in the tracks.

I loved the spirit of these two young women, perhaps because I feel the same thing they feel. I’m sure they have a lot to whine and complain about; almost everyone I know or read about is lamenting one thing or another.

They are the future, not me, or Robert E. Lee, or even Donald Trump. He is, in every way, the ghost of our troubled past.

The young get to make of it what they wish. I loved their joy at finally, and after many years of struggle, being able to buy ballerina slippers of color, rather than spending days polishing the white slippers, the only ones they could buy.

Since there were hardly any black ballerinas, no one thought to make black slippers.

That has changed. Small things often tell us a lot more than big and loud things and big mouths.

We started as a nation of pioneers and revolutionaries (and slave owners), we seem to be devolving into a land of harried and angry self-centered whiners and finger-pointers.

I thought the spirit of these two teenagers is the true American spirit, stirring after generations of indifference and greed. They could easily be sour, they are full of joy.

There are some things I do know about the immediate future.

One is that the election will hard for many people to endure. It will be full of ups and downs, alarms, warnings, fears, ugly attacks and lies, and more violations of norms, conventions, and even fundamental rights.

It will get a lot closer than it is now, you can bank on it.

Those of you who care will be challenged and tested in new, painful, and disturbing ways. I can take it; fear doesn’t kill; it just paralyzes and blinds. If you can’t bear it, don’t watch it.

Everything I know and have learned tells me that it’s Trump’s era that is over, not America’s. I also know that Trumpism will not die with the President; it now has a life of its own. One battle at a time.

And as Churchill told his frightened people, he had nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears.  They rose to it, I will try to do the same.

There are a lot of battles ahead. I’m not into the gloom, but I’m not going to lie either.

One shudders to think of what it will mean to the world if Americans in November,” wrote Professor Davis, “knowing all that they do, elect to keep such a man in political power. But even should Trump be resoundingly defeated, it’s not at all clear that such a profoundly polarized nation will be able to find a way forward. For better or for worse, America has had its time.”

I read Professor Davis’s fascinating piece at a sitting; I couldn’t put it down.

I don’t see the world quite the way he does right now. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing for the American Era he celebrates to be over.

We have been at war almost all of my life. China has not been at war since 1970. We are the largest builder and supplier of arms in the world while our infrastructure crumbles, and our social nets are under attack, and poor people get poorer, and homelessness mushrooms in greater numbers than we can handle.

We have, in so many ways, become greedy, selfish, and willfully ignorant people, turning on science, the poor,  a secular government, a working government, the vulnerable, and the refugees.

Americans are stressed, medicated, forced to scramble every day of their lives for the most basic and increasingly out of reach things – health care, child care, some money in the bank, a free education.

We hate every political system that offers a better and safer life than ours. We would rather dread socialism than give our children health care.

Maybe a new kind of American era wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

Our poor are getting weaker and more pressured all the time, and our rich are getting richer.

The planet is getting warmer and warmer while we jeer and worry about our IRA’s. When one percent of the people own 40 percent of the wealth, and more than half the country doesn’t have $400 in the bank,  perhaps this is an era that needs to end.

I don’t think I would mourn the end of America’s “exceptionalism” in the way Professor Davis does; it could well make the world a safer and more rational place. It might even save the world, for all that I know.

I think this is the era of Kennedy George and Ava Halloway, of black and white and yellow women, of young people sick of all the fighting and cruelty, the bigotry, and the violence. It may also be the time for angry old white men, who have made a dreadful mess of the world, to get out of the way.

It is always the young who decide the fate of culture and the world. That’s only fair, it’s their world. I won’t live to see it. I can’t claim to know what they will do.

It will not be up to me, or people like me, or people as old as me.

Nor should it be. I am not the future.

My wish is that I have the grace and wisdom to cheer on the George’s and Halloway’s of the world, to stand wave from the sidelines, as all of that Trump-era poison and energy is unleashed and liberated in a different way.

That’s my vision for the future, we are each entitled to our own.

We can only judge the leader we have, not the one coming down the road.  Anyone who tells you what is going to happen is talking to himself in the mirror.

Look at how this sad and broken man has changed our country, why couldn’t a healthy, compassionate and honest one change it even more?

Honestly, that is what I believe. If Donald Trump should be re-elected, the idea of America will inevitably be damaged in profound and unfathomable ways. I don’t think anything is permanent, and I don’t believe the world would come to an end.

What if what will happen if Trump wins is what has always happened?

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will shrink from the service of his or her country, but he or she that stands by it then will deserve the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

You won’t find Kennedy George and Ava Halloway moping in November, no matter who wins or loses. They will be out dancing around that statute, ringing in a different world.

I don’t believe America, which I love, is the be-all and end-all of our world in 2020. Maybe we will have to take some of those billions of weapons dollars and build some bridges instead.

Maybe the corporate barons of our country will have to give some of their gold to the people who work for them. Perhaps the people who run the country will call up our better angels and help save the world. Maybe every child who is sick can see a doctor who can help. Maybe every kid who wants to go to college can.

The future could be amazing.

America makes a good target for the learned and thoughtful of the world. As powerful as we are, we are a young country, and it might just be that Donald Trump and the pandemic he can’t see are, in some sad way, just what we needed to wake ourselves up.

If he should win, the run will rise, my life will go on, and so will yours.

I see him as a bad idea run wild, a tiger escaped from his cage, eating everything he can get his teeth on. Sooner or later, he will be stopped. He’s older than I am, for God’s sake.

I also see him as Donald Trump 101, he sure has taught me a lot about government and empathy.

I have never accepted the idea that Donald Trump is smart enough,  sane enough, strong enough, or savvy enough to bring down our nation or reduce it to a pitiful laughing stock.

I believe he has come to awaken us to what it means to live in freedom and treat one another in a humane and civil way. Sometimes you can’t appreciate something until you lose it or see it in danger.

Professor Davis, I loved your piece, honestly,  and recommend it highly. But I see November as the beginning of a better, kinder, and more just era for America, I can let the other America go.

As for the future, I intend to Catch That Train. I can’t wait to see where it’s heading.


7 August

Barn Mural, Inns And Pandemics

by Jon Katz

We got back from our one-night birthday celebration in Vermont today, it was a lovely, quiet, peaceful time. The inn only accepts a few people and all of us eat outside at widely spaced tables.

There were 14 guests at the inn, on weekends twice as many.

There is no maid service and payment is arranged in advance. When we checked in, we filled out a lengthy healthy department form about any symptoms or trips.

The inn checked the county where we lived to make sure the coronavirus diagnosis count was below 5 percent (in our county, it’s below one percent.)

When we left, we just left the keys in the room as instructed, left the door open, and got into our car. While we were moved about the inn, we were asked to wear masks all the time except when we were eating.

I live on a farm, social distancing is the norm in our community. I find I miss the small social interactions with people – greetings at the front desk, staff who will stop to chat.

I take these restrictions seriously. I know I am risking, and I surely know I don’t want to harm anyone else. The things being asked of me are simple and small, the consequences of not doing them very big.

It is painful to see the ignorance and the rage on the loose in our country. It is also uplifting to see how many people are caring for and about one another and trying to do the right thing.

Human beings are not simple creatures. American human beings seem especially complicated.

Everyone in the inn, including the wait staff, wore masks all the time. We ate breakfast indoors this morning, there was only one other couple in the room.

The food was excellent, last night and tonight. The staff all knew it was a birthday visit, but nobody came and sang to me or gave me a cake with a candle, which I appreciated.

The innkeeper wished me a happy birthday as we passed in the lobby.

The atmosphere was unusual, but not tense. Everyone had a sense of humor about the restrictions and protections. I certainly won’t complain or balk about them, I appreciate them and I am eager to stay well and infect no one.

Maria is giving my birthday gift tomorrow, but I got a peek at it – a beautiful blue ceramic bowl I can use for the gourmet popcorn I like to make. Maria is the best gift I will ever receive.

This weekend, I am thinking of all the parents and teachers who have difficult decisions to make. I wish them (and the Bishop Maginn High School kids) well.

We have helped to make them as safe as possible and bought every single thing the state health department or the CDC has recommended.

In a sense, this brief trip was the new normal.

On our morning walk, I saw this arresting mural of shorn sheep (we both thought they were goats but were told otherwise)  leaving a barn. I liked the originality of it.

7 August

Maria’s “Naked Athena” Magnets On Etsy

by Jon Katz

Some of you may remember Jen, a sex worker in her 30’s in Portland Oregon who startled much of the world by lying down naked in a yoga position in front of combat-clad federal agents while they fired rubber bullets at her feet and drew blood.

Maria just put her Naked Athena magnets up on her Etsy shop, they are 3×4 each and cost $6 plus $1 shipping for one or more. A portion of each sale – $2 – will be donated to Black Lives Matter.

Maria’s increasingly popular magnets have joined her potholders and hanging pieces and collage as new forms of expressing both her art and her values.

The demonstrators and moms in Portland won a significant victory over federal intrusion into their city, but at a high price in violence on both sides.

Scores of agents were injured by flying objects, explosives and laser beams and hundreds of protesters were gassed, hit with rubber bullets and batons, kicked or arrested by agents ordered into Portland by Donald Trump to “dominate” the city and save it from Democrats and mysterious and anonymous anarchists.

It was an awful idea to send those agents into a city where they were not wanted or needed. Trump was politicizing the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, I was uplifted by the mostly peaceful response of the protesters.

The media gave “Naked Athena” that name, but her real name is Jen, and she said she took off her clothes and lay down in front of a phalanx of federal police in camos and Star Wars helmets.

She wanted to show the agents that she was human, as were they.

It was an ugly conflict all around, and disturbing to many beyond Portland. More than 40 of the demonstrators were arrested, some by agents driving around in unmarked cars who refused to identify themselves.

It was a profoundly dangerous confrontation between U.S. citizens and Homeland Security elite forces.

The militarization of government agents was frightening, and so was the physical violence directed at them.  Jen and the moms and the other protesters won, and in the process, gave democracy a boost.

I heard Jen on a podcast and was impressed. She said she just wanted to make the point that the agents firing bullets at her were human, and so was she, beneath all of the gear.

One of the bullets drew blood and she pointed to the agent who fired so he would know what he did.

She was then ignored, and not arrested. It took a lot of courage and poise to do that. She surprised herself by taking her clothes off but said she had no regrets.

Maria was touched by Jen’s story and is selling magnets (originally sketched on her corona kimono, a work in progress recording life under the pandemic.

You can see her Etsy Shop here.

 These are the details for seeing and buying a magnet,  from Maria:

My Naked Athena Magnets are 3″x4″ and are for sale in my Etsy Shop.   You can buy them here. They’re $6 each + $1 shipping for one or more. I’ll be donating $2 from the sale of each magnet to Black Lives Matter. 

6 August

One Man’s Truth: Trump’s New Victory Plan: Defeat

by Jon Katz

People are asking in 2020 what Ronald Reagan urged them to ask in 1980: it is considered the greatest campaign question of all time: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?

How many people do you know who will say yes? That’s the same question that is at the heart of the 2020 Presidential election.

I’m off for a one-night birthday celebration in a room in a Vermont Inn that the movie star Paul Newman loved when he stayed there.  Maria and I had a one-night honeymoon there.

Ulysses Grant slept in the next room, and so did Daniel Webster.  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s favorite room was just down the hall. It’s a good place to ponder politics (or not).

I thought I’d just explain this frantic moment in politics briefly before I left. This is the problem with ego; you think you are needed.

The presidential election has entered a new and semi-final phase, one that is perhaps the tensest and most unsettling, but which is still unlikely to alter the outcome.

Trump is the wolf caught in the trap now, he’s chewing his own leg off to get out of it, or anybody else’s.

Every day, we have a President who sets out to tear the country apart a little more each day so that he can, one way or another, not have to lead it.

The center is holding.

I’ll do my best, but if you want to know what’s happening, buy Mary Trump’s new book. She nailed it.  This is the story of a little man trapped in a very big place.

President Trump has made it clear he will do anything to win re-election except one essential thing –  work hard to convince moderate, undecided, and Democratic voters to vote for him. His primary weapon is talking, not organization.

He clearly has no appetite for the frustrating and gritty work of leadership – stopping the pandemic, listening to African-Americans, growing his base, actually working to restore the economy.

Trump believes in his own greatness and his own destiny. He makes his own truth and stays within it.

He smells danger but can’t believe in it for long. In his mind, he will be saved. He has always been saved.

I think the new plan is just to freak everybody out until they melt or flee or give up.

In America, the leader of the world’s most powerful country, a President can make his own truth.

There are lots of people who believe whatever a President says. And there are a lot of people who don’t. It makes for a schizophrenic country.

And right now, the real leader of our nation is a pandemic virus, which tells its own truth, and has Donald Trump powerless and at its mercy.

It’s important to understand that all of these controversies and distractions from the President are contrived, not genuine. He is not preparing to win; he is preparing to lose.

He does not believe the post office should be shut down; he does not think there is runaway mail fraud, he does not think the election should be move, he does not believe the pandemic is a minor distraction, about to go away.

He, of all people, knows better.

This bizarre duality is confusing. Most successful autocrats believe in their own cause. Trump really doesn’t have a cause beyond been praised as great and loved. His tragedy is that he can never be loved enough.

This is a broken man who just can’t bear to lose, mostly because no one ever let him. A good thing for parents to study if they have any nerves left in November.

When military planes detect radar closing in on their positions, they release metal strips sometimes called chaff, paper, and aluminum and other material shot into the air to fool the radar and send missiles off course.

This is Trump’s strategy for survival.

He tosses off so much chaff every single day that nobody can even remember what the truth is for long. He fights so many battles on so many fronts that nobody can focus on any of them long enough.

One thing he has done is to stun the Republican party like a python stuns a rabbit with venom, he has thrown all of the normal checks and balances off balance.

He makes it easy on his supporters: every bad or critical thing anyone says about him anywhere in the world is fake. He can do no wrong, make no mistakes, knows everything. He can only be wronged.

He is a comfortable leader to follow or not to follow, depending on who you are and how you think.

To follow him, it’s best not to think at all. To stop him, thinking, rather than quivering, is necessary.

Yes, his contempt for democratic values is upsetting, but that doesn’t mean it is working. There’s the tricky thing about lies. If you overdo it, they stop working and work against you.

As of now, he is far behind and slipping. I live in the present, not the future. I see an awakening of democracy, not it’s demise.

I also see the rise of an aroused, determined,  more compassionate, and just America. Trump can only think on one track. The Army he has raised against himself think on many.

And thanks mostly to our economy-killing pandemic, and the great sacrifice made by George Floyd, and the millions of people who cherish our democracy, I see no way he can win now.

You may not choose or dare to believe it, that is your choice.

That is the bottom line for today, for all the sturm and drang and hysteria.

The President is not campaigning on his policies or plans or battling for victory. He’s campaigning on trying to destroy an election he can’t win.

It’s true, he might take a good chunk of the country with him when he falls, but it’s a big country, and he can’t get all of it. Nobody said freedom was easy.

Donald Trump is original in that he working almost exclusively on the perimeter of the election – paralyzing the post office, creating suspicion about voting fraud, fighting for confederate statues, invading Portland, and keeping his loyal base- and his growing enemies list –  in a state of arousal and outrage.

He won’t be facing real reporters anymore; they are suddenly on to him and seem less inclined to let those lies slide. Everywhere he goes, he is being called out for lying and evasion.

Wishful thinking is a disorder, not a strategy for victory.

In a sense, he is avoiding a traditional campaign altogether, hoping instead to discredit it so wholly that the pandemic will be simply be survived by many and forgotten – it is what it is.

After that, the economy will re-open over the dead bodies of lots of black and brown and old people. And it will leave anger and grievance and pain it its wake. There is no lying away that.

People are asking what Ronald Reagan asked them to ask in 1980: it is considered the greatest campaign question of all time: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?

How many people in America beyond the one percent can answer yes to that?

Then, his millions of smitten followers will push him to glory. That’s the plan, for today at least.

His one effort to reach beyond his base – interviews with Chris Wallace of Fox News and Jonathan Swan of HBO’s Axios, were disastrous for him. He has already returned to the cozy confines of Fox And Friends, where he promptly declared that children couldn’t catch the coronavirus.

Trump’s overall strategy, as chaotic as it is,  is taking shape now.

Rather than attack the pandemic itself, which is complicated and costly and the greatest obstacle to his re-election, he is going after the people who take it seriously.

That includes Dr. Fauci and the doctors and health specialists from the CDC, along with Democratic Governors and mayors who have been urging a greater response.

Trump’s response to trouble is consistent – he starts dropping distraction grenades on the eager reporters around him – they never tire of distraction grenades, they make for great ratings – lies wantonly and without shame and personally attacks anyone person, place, state, or thing that challenges his narrative or presents a new and different one.

Because no one has ever done this in a presidential election before, journalists and opponents are still scrambling to figure out how to deal with it. There are so many of these grenades, some of them stick, and few people in our country have long memories or attention spans.

The post office assault is a perfect example of how far Trump will go to try to win, or at least to discredit and hobble the election if he loses.

He is setting himself up to be able to tell his followers that the election was fraudulent. If the election is close, he might even try to get the Supreme Court to bail him out as they did George Bush when he ran against Al Gore.

In a divided country, all elections are close. The more muddled and chaotic, the bigger target.

It’s a long shot, but it’s a shot. Right now, it’s his only shot.

It’s important to remember that Trump doesn’t care about mail fraud any more than he cares about the pandemic or Dr. Fauci or postal workers or old ladies getting their social security checks or the safety of teachers and students.

He doesn’t work that way. It’s not about what he feels or what is right. It’s about how it looks.

What he cares about it is a last-ditch effort to save his re-election and remove any obstacle to it – like Dr. Fauci. Or closed schools. Our laws requiring masks.  Or shutdowns of any kind.

Or failing that, to somehow come out a winner, even in defeat. He knows how to do that, he’s done it all of his life.

What makes Dr. Fauci threatening for Trump is that he is so widely trusted and respected. CEO’s and Wall Street investors listen to him; he is much more credible than the President.

Trump is especially jealous of Dr. Fauci. He is everything he isn’t and can’t be.

He’s experienced, much loved, accomplished, respected. He hasn’t risen on bullshit and lies but on honesty, good faith, and hard work. He is the very biological opposite of the President, a reminder of what Donald Trump is not. Of course, he hates him.

And imagine how Trump himself must feel, so much of his life is a lie, I shudder to think of trying to keep track of all those lies.

Dr. Fauci is the leading infectious disease expert in the world, he gets invited to throw out the first baseball of the season, and he is trusted, something our President has never managed to be until he ran for President and surprised the world by drawing so many unsuspecting and devoted followers.

But what he doesn’t have is what Dr. Fauci has in spades – legitimacy.

Donald Trump is unfit to be President and is in miles over his head. Nothing in his life has prepared him for this, he has none of the best people around to help him navigate.

Some people don’t see his illegitimacy, others forget it, but Trump never forgets it. It shows up in every interview, tweet, and increasingly desperate press conference.

He is a frightened little man trapped in a Presidents’s body. People don’t like me.

When I fell apart, I remember telling a therapist that I felt like a five-year-old boy with a book contract and a 90-acre farm with dogs, sheep, and goats.

That’s what Mary Trump says her uncle feels like (times 1,000), and that’s what I know he feels like. You can only love him with blinders on.,

It’s one of the great ironies of Trump is that he has nothing but contempt for the people who love him the most. None of the people in those MAGA hats could get near Mar-A-Largo or set foot on those fancy golf courses.

Almost everything he does screws and betrays them.

The people whose approval he most seeks and has always wrought  – the intellectuals, academics, the anchors, reporters, the socialites, the pundits despise him.

And he has to despise them as well to avoid looking human and needy and insecure. I sometimes think every single thing he does is all about payback, about giving the finger to the swells and snoots who were entertained by him but refused ever to take him seriously.

They are taking him seriously now.

Trump’s troll Army – his bands of  Twitter-based white nationalists, angry white working-class supporters, and gun lovers are known for going after his critics or perceived enemies – they call it doxing.

This ranges from Robo death treats to the Internet-based practice of researching and publicly broadcasting private or identifying information about an individual or organization.

When Trump criticizes someone or tweets unkindly about them, they will be instantly targeted by what people call his Troll Army. He doesn’t ever need to ask, he just tweets once or twice.

Dr. Fauci, his wife, and three daughters have all been “doxed” and had their lives threatened to the point that he requested and received a security detail comprised of U.S. Marshall’s.

Trump has his online goon squad, and they know what they are supposed to do. In our time, there are all kinds of ways to frighten and intimidate people without coming near them.

They are the ones who listen for dog whistles.

Trump would like Dr. Fauci to resign or just to shut up; he is a significant obstacle in the way of the President’s campaign to convince the American public that the threat from the virus is small or exaggerated, mostly by Democrats.

They are dishonest and corrupt, they just want to harm his re-election campaign. I’ve met people who believe the entire pandemic is an invention of Nancy Pelosi.

Trump has always gotten people to believe his lies; there are hundreds if not millions of Americans who now believe the virus was a hoax, and it will go away momentarily.

Okay, so why attack the post office? A primer, it’s becoming imperative.

The U.S. Postal service, like most American businesses, is suffering from sharply declining demand due to coronavirus crisis. Congress has been officially informed it will run out of funds in September without federal assistance.

When Congress created the postal service, it was never expected to be profitable, but an essential and dependable structure of communication within the new union.

Donald Trump is hostile to the idea of a postal bailout. Ideological conservatives have long argued for the privatization of mail; they don’t like big government (except for Homeland Security crisis teams).

The President has also complained repeatedly about what he calls a “sweetheart” deal on Amazon shipping.

Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, which is critical of the President and which he has targeted as a source of “fake news.”

Trump is believed to have blocked a multi-dollar Pentagon contract Amazon was expected to receive as a punishment to Bezos and the Post.

Two things have intensified the controversy over the future of the post office, which has also seen declines in first-class mail delivery due to the Internet and the rise of e-mail and texting.

One is the appointment of Louis DeJoy, a friend and major donor to the Trump campaign and an arch-conservative, as Postmaster General. He immediately announced “major operational changes” to the USPS that workers say will slow down the mail delivery.

This curtailing of postal service would come just weeks before the presidential election. Trump, critics say, wants to make mail delivery slower and less reliable so that the election will be further tarnished.

Many states are switching to mail-in balloting – just like Absentee Voting. Trump seems to dislike any idea that will make it easier for people to vote.

The hidden agenda behind this is race.

African-Americans and Latinos are believed to get discouraged from voting of rules and procedures change. Voter suppression of minorities has once again become a huge political issue in states led by Republican governors and legislatures.

The fewer blacks and Latinos and poor people vote – those are the ones easiest to disqualify from voting – the better the odds in a close race.

In the 2016 Georgia governor’s race, more than 40,000 African Americans were disqualified because of new ID requirements and the closing of hundreds of poll stations in minority neighbors.

Stacy Abrams, an African-American lawyer who ran for governor, says she might have won the race of those votes had been counted. A total of 55,000 votes defeated her.

If mail-in ballots can’t be sorted and delivered quickly and efficiently by the postal service, there will be all sorts of legal and other challenges and delays. It might take weeks before all the votes are tallied.

This would reinforce Trump’s inevitable claim that the election was somehow rigged (even though he seems to be the Chief Rigger), and if it got to court, perhaps he could find some friendly judges.

Again, a long shot, but a chance.

The tricky thing to discern about Trump is that he doesn’t seem to have any sincere ideological or other opinions about the things he attacks or challenges. He is profoundly transactional. His core value appears to be that he comes first, in all things, a reliable symptom of narcissism.

He lives in a series of concentric bubbles; the first is his; the second is the people immediately around him; the third is the biggest bubble of all, the people who live in tweet and media land with him.

Extreme conservatives seem to be the ultimate source and inspiration for almost all of his policies. He does what they – and Evangelical Christians – want him to do every time.

He is also unrelentingly vengeful.

So in going after the post office, he pleases some conservatives, makes a mail-in election more difficult, threatens Bezos’s deal with the USPS, and continues to prepare himself and his followers with an excuse for the bruising defeat he is expected to take.

Just another grievance at the hands of the leftists and Democrats.

It may seem insane to his detractors, but it makes perfect sense to his followers. We all live in bubbles in one sense – what, after all, is the left and the right? – , some are just bigger and more isolated than others

If you live in Trump’s world, everything is going to plan. If you live in a world of science, data, and common sense, the world has gone mad.

That is the source of the great schism tearing at the country.

I can’t tell other people what to think. I am committed only to saying what I think.

This is going to be a messy few months, full of provocation, disruption, and lies. The Trump campaign has become the toilet bowl of American politics.

You can’t argue with it or reason with it. All you can do is flush.

5 August

My Life: Tests!

by Jon Katz

I’m going to be 73 years old on Saturday, and I’m okay with that. Maria is taking me to an inn for one night tomorrow, and I’ll be back bloviating Friday morning.

Some of you know what 73 means is. It means doctors, tests, pills. Growing older means an increasing engagement with doctors, tests, health insurance, and pharmacies.

And it means being healthy and focused and productive, thanks to all of those things. A former boss – a corporate bean counter –  e-mailed me a couple of months ago when he found me on Facebook: “Katz,” he said, “I just stumbled across your blog. I think its great, I just wonder that nobody ran you over with a truck by now.”

Same to you, I said, old voices rising up mysteriously in my head. I plan to be around for a good while.

But tests are impossible to avoid: the body is always changing.

When you’re my age, and you have diabetes and heart disease and have had open-heart surgery, any discomfort or even slight change leads to tests – in my case, two or three different ones.

I always think a bit before I pick up the phone.

This is not an emergency, and nobody is suggesting this is serious or life-threatening. But I have been working pretty hard, and this isn’t the most peaceful time in American history.

Somebody once said that when you are in your 70’s, the body has begun the process of falling apart. You just want to slow it down. It’s like a chess match, it makes a move, and you make a move.

The process never really stops; it just gets bigger and more complex.

I rarely discuss my health.

?This can mean that people begin to ask how you feel, not how you are. And how’s your health, rather than how’s your life? And messages pile up, offering good wishes and condolences as if one is in need of pity and concern.

For many people, health is the currency of getting older, the universal language of the elderly. That is not true of me. And I’ve arranged for Maria to shove me into a raging stream in January if it ever becomes true.

No problem, she said.

When I started my blog 13 years ago, I promised to be open and honest, not because I’m saintly, but because I would like to be a better person than I was. Maybe a little saintly.

I’m not there yet.

I am better than I was and certainly more honest and authentic – I think working on my blog almost every day has helped me in that way.

There are two or three things I fear about writing about my health (or my dogs). Health candor always brings out the best and the worst of the Internet. Amateur doctors and diagnosticians, worry,  mothering, unwanted sob stories, and let-me-tell-you-what- happened to Aunt Louise or Uncle Harry.

There are also sorrowful e-mails, text messages from strangers and links to healers and miracle docs, and yes, plenty of amateur diagnoses.

And yes, tips, cures, what mother did, and what’s wrong with modern medicine. The thing I most hate – which would be worse than any health problem – would be to be worried about and defined not by who I am, but by what my test results are showing.

I don’t believe worrying about someone is the same thing as loving them.

I think love is what Thomas Merton described: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love to be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our image. If in loving them, we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

I balance this concern with my pledge – and desire – to share my life. That, I think, more than anything, is why my blog is thriving and has not only survived but grown and expanded in many ways.

I learned that you make honesty a habit, it will become one. I cannot tell you that I’ve never told a lie, but I can tell you it’s been a good long time.

At this point, I can’t be comfortable if I am not honest here, this blog is my living memoir, my great work, and perhaps my last work. (I plan to be around a good long while.)

Today, I went to Saratoga to have an ultrasound done.  Nothing to do with my heart.

Next week I am taking some tests for my heart, it’s been a while, and I’ve had some pain and discomfort that is new.

It just needs to be checked out.

They are doing their job, and I am doing mine. My cardiologist praised me to the skies for calling her.

The tests will not interrupt my work, my writing on the blog, my photos, or my political column “One Man’s Truth.”

That is important to me, and I am happy to see, to other people also.

But enough skipping around. Next week, some nuclear scanning and an echocardiogram, not my first dance with either.

With heart stuff, there is always one good indicator: if they are really apprehensive, there is no dithering or stop and go. You just get ordered to go to the hospital this very minute.

One of the nurses said she was pleased that I was going away for a couple of days, be sure and bring my nitroglycerin (which I have never taken.) Nobody’s in a particular rush.

I plan to be both honest and productive. So see you Friday, and I can always feel the many good wishes sent my way. They do matter. But please, no need to diagnose me. Thanks.

I’ll share what I can and what I know. It’s up to me to be healthy and to take care of myself.

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