In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.
There are many stages of a pandemic and apparently one of these is called the divisive stage. I sense it coming already in Li’l old Ireland. Patience is wearing thin and the understandable frustrations are bubbling close to the surface, as it looks like we are about to get our lockdown extended. It is 2 months now to the day, since our first diagnosed case here and over 1100 people have sadly died.
This is a small country and we have done reasonably well, to have kept an overwhelming surge to our health system at bay. Maybe the problem to some extent, is that people can be quite selfish and they just see numbers, not the close family members who have passed without a proper send off. 1100 seems small when compared to global numbers. Sadly in a country this size it is not. Only 3,600 people died in the 30 years of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. I apologise for the only, but over 1,100 have died in 2 months. Still the majority of us are keeping the ship sailing and doing our best to follow the rules for the sake of our whole community.
More worrying is what’s happening across the water in a country that while it is relatively young as a nation state, is starting to sound older by the day. I know many Americans have a difficulty with liberalism, which they identify as basically socialism if not almost communism for some on the extreme right, and that still remains a word that evokes a cultural, visceral response.
It is largely due to the cold war antics of both sides creating fear and waging global puppet wars especially post WW2. What is odd therefore, is how America seems to be afraid to speak about the Stalinist utterances from their own president. The press being the enemy of the people is straight out of Stalin’s playbook, suppression of truth and dissemination of state sponsored spin on a daily basis, are all reminiscent of the former Soviet Union. I’m surprised there aren’t giant pictures of Trump in every major city like there were in other dictatorships. I know I exaggerate but leave me some licence and forgive me for my sins.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As a multi genre writer, I have yet to dip my toe into Dystopia but I wonder if the Dystopian novel might not be in trouble. Look around? Like I say it’s not my traditional genre but when the world is in the state it’s in now, how bad can things get? Maybe I’ll have a go at it, only, and apologies to my family and friends in America, I have to pick on a setting and at the minute it’s just the obvious choice. Let’s fast forward a few months.
We enter the world of U.S. elections in November 2020 and Sleepy Joe has apparently become the favourite given the rest of the country are in their bedrooms as well. The Covid-19 pandemic has resurged in the Autumn (or should I say Fall – oh the trouble we International writer’s have) and desperate to gain in the polls, Don has tried and failed to improve his polling, resulting in increasingly crazy conspiracy theories being spun from the Whitehouse. The elections take place and lo and behold, Joe wipes the floor with Donald with a greater than imagined majority, as more and more Americans just want rid of the increasingly despotic and erratic leader.
But a man so obsessed with power, simply can’t’ imagine conceding such a massive loss. It is unimaginable for him to say he was wrong, or that he has lost to anyone, let alone a man that over the months he characterised more and more as a loser. The only solution is to declare that it’s a fake result. The election has been stolen from him through a number of conspiracies and he insists on something he cannot have, a re-run. In the run up to Joe’s inauguration in January, Don invigorates his still strong base of supporters, the do or die type, and calls for them to liberate their states. Gangs of armed militia, repeatedly protest in states still believing every word from the man they cannot believe is ever wrong. Sound familiar? Is this too soon?
Alright, I’m not writing a novel here but you get the idea, a beaten man, unable to hand over power generates momentum for a break-up of the Union. It is nothing short of civil war. Now don’t get me wrong this might sound familiar if you’ve read Margaret Atwood’s splendid The Handmaid’s Tale, but I can’t help it that Margaret thinks like me. Perhaps we are all plagiarists. There was a time when such a notion would have been unimaginable, but as extreme as it seems, is such a thing really that unimaginable now?
It is weird how a young country has gone from strength to strength in just a couple of centuries and from a once envied state, it has now and very quickly descended into the country most pitied. All the while, there is a man at the helm shouting “Lets make America great again.” A man with such a narcissistic approach to everything, a person incapable of yielding the floor and capable of telling one bare faced lie after another to achieve his goal, is not now, nor never was suited for high office.
That America has been seen to try to assert pressure by what looks to the rest of the world like ugly bullying and threats, simply isolates the country from other nations that once allied themselves to an America they trusted in the past. To lie, bully and renege on promises, to insult those world leaders who once respected the office of the American President, was never a good idea. To feign friendship with enemies of the state, only to go back to hating them at the drop of a hat, then to try and pretend to be friends again when it suits, is adolescent at best.
The lack of maturity embodied in the President of a country that styled itself successfully at one time as leader of the free world, has diminished all things American to the rest of the world, and it should not reflect on the good people of America upon whom he has unleashed his nonsensical polices daily. Unfortunately, it does.
My politics carry no bias in this matter. I am not American and who the leader of that country is only impacts on me in terms of business and economy. The problem for America at the moment is that the man in charge is so vain, that he can only live in a world where he is always right and can never admit to a mistake. I can say for certain our government in Ireland, have made a bucket load of mistakes and will continue to do so. But what government or leader hasn’t? You can’t think of any leaders like that? Here’s a few hints for you, Kim Jong-Un, Hitler, Stalin. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s no Hitler, as far as I know, Hitler had a plan.
There is a hole in the old door of St Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin, with an interesting story. In 1492 two feuding families, the Butlers and the Fitzgeralds, ended up fighting over who should become Lord Deputy. The Butlers took refuge in the Cathedral and when Gerald Fitzgerald cut a whole in the church door then subsequently put his hand through to offer it in friendship, he risked getting it cut off with a sword. Instead, the symbolism was recognised and they shook hands to end the dispute. This is where the term ‘chancing your arm’ comes from.
When this is all over the United States of America’s light will be at best, an ember in the fire of the pandemic, but largely because the man in charge of the fire was too busy on twitter to keep the fire lighting. Bringing their country back is not simply a matter of rebuilding the economy. It is about finding a leader who respects their constituents and looks outward to re-join the world of diplomacy and proper commerce. It will depend on social solutions never contemplated, much as it will here in Ireland.
We have to change our ways, but we are a country that has learned from being on its knees. I know that here in Ireland, we will find our way back to normal, perhaps a new normal, but that’s part of the secret, being able to adapt. Perhaps I should share the secret. Remember my story about the Butlers and the Fitzgeralds? Hold out your hand not your sword and you will be helped to get back on your feet. Let’s hope when this is all over, we have survived with a new understanding of what community means in a global sense. I fear worse may yet be to come for many. May you all stay safe wherever you are, and my dystopian tale be nothing more than that…
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