Morning in America

The last week has been a gut-wrenching process for every single person with significant stakes in the political machinery of this country, from black women (who can now become Vice President) to people in the hospital waiting for a friend or relative to recover from COVID to Hispanic folks in border cities who lived in fear that ICE/Gestapo agents would ship their children off to concentration camps. And now, we can all breathe a little easier. And, if you voted for Donald, here’s the good news, you can breathe a little easier, too. Here’s the thing about increasing justice, fairness, and opportunity; you can not do it for a select few, it’s very much an all-or-nothing deal. I can’t demand universal healthcare access and affordable housing, and then turn around say, “but only for me and my friends.” That runs contrary to the word “universal.”

Last night was a good night — not a great night (there’s still no clear lead in the Senate)(and, although most of my favorite Congresscritters are still in office, I’m not hopeful that they’ll all suddenly become inspired to draft an Equal Rights Amendment or create a New Deal type of housing/employment program) — but a good night. Most commentators discussed the presidential election as a referendum on Donald, or the GOP, or even the Tea Party. It wasn’t. It was a referendum on fascism. I realize I’m coming close to invoking Godwin’s Law, but, for four years, we had a vitriolic, incompetent, strongman-wannabe who claimed neoNazis were good people; scary, black people were invading the suburbs; and that women should be barefoot, in the kitchen, and pregnant (okay, so Donald never actually said that in public, but the beauty of systemic prejudice is, you don’t have to loudly announce your prejudices, you just turn up a few key funding dials here and there), and that religion is a political weapon to be used against anyone who disagrees with you. This was, mark my words, a referendum on fascism. And fascism was fired. Oh, and we will have a black woman as Vice President in a few months, America, you’re welcome.

Let’s talk about graphic novels about ancient Greece for a moment. Stick with me. Everyone in the world has heard of 300. Which is an inherently fascist take on an historical event because it leaves out some critical historic truths, such as the fact that Sparta was a slave state in which the slaves outnumbered the Spartans, there was a weird, state-enforced system of homosexuality amongst soldiers (this is true, and it’s too weird and complex to even begin to explain, so just go watch the 10-hour historical documentary), and that women actually held more power in Sparta than in most other city-states in Greece at the time. That’s all reductionist, but true. It was also left on the cutting floor of 300, and might have lead to a more-textured, educated appreciation and warning about the city state (in its disdain for the sciences and engineering, Sparta was eventually rendered an obsolete, irrelevant power that was subsumed by rival empires). In its current form, 300 delivers a fascist fantasy of macho abs and obviously-phallic spears triumphing over those Asian hordes from Persia. Alecos Papadatos’s book, Democracy, details the early development of Athenian democracy, and posits that self-determination and justice were the inevitable evolution of all societies. Here’s the kicker, though; this week, America showed the world that Papadatos’s interpretation of history is the correct one, even if it’s not always a linear process. We put to bed Putin’s dream of a weakened, chaotic West ripe for neofeudalism. And black women — God bless ’em — showed the good ol’ boys of Georgia that hard work and perseverance in this country still counts for more than befriending the Sheriff.

If there’s one thing we should all have learned in the last four years, it’s that fascism is like cancer, in that there are never any permanent victories, just periods of remission. And, just like ringing the bell at the end of radiation therapy, no one who rings it is under any illusions; the easy part is over, the real work begins now. But, and this is a crucial part, we, as a nation, actually can now start that long, difficult, but necessary work of building our country into a more just, verdant, fair, and truly free society; if things had gone the other way, the metaphorical discussion would be focused on making us comfortable.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has announced that he will announce a national COVID task force on Monday — that’s not even two days away from this piece. We can begin to heal and get down to the real work of repairing the nation’s damaged foundation of systemic inequality. And, again, if you’re a good ol’ boy in Georgia, that means more justice and opportunity for you, too. Donald’s administration was characterized by overt fascist tendencies, malice, cruelty, ineptitude, and a willingness to sacrifice the most-vulnerable members of society to the gaping maw of greed and power. Biden’s message this week was astonishingly and refreshingly presidential; “No American will be left behind.” Before we get down to the work at hand, let us pause and look to people who will do the hard, thankless work of ensuring that democracies survive the harshest winters; folks like Stacey Abrams and countless others who worked to ensure everyone who was eligible to vote could actually vote; Barbara Cegavske who refused to declare Nevada’s vote before it was counted; and countless others who worked in a million little ways to ensure that the system worked as it legally should. We may not know the names of everyone who worked to ensure the safety, accuracy, and validity of this election, but you were all critical in ensuring the country took a step back from that cliff of fascism.

And, as we all work to maintain the safety and validity of this American Experiment, let us not forget another great American’s warning for all of us;

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere



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Patrick Koske-McBride

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”