Post #38 - Message to Trump, We're Not Your Fodder
It hasn't been a great week. I don't know of anyone who thinks that it has been, except for Trump who expressed his pleasure at his own efforts again last night to keep the potential death toll under 100,000 — a number that we all know now is useless and seriously under-reported — that and the erections he gets on the podium every time someone uses the word "models," which is several times a night.
Contrast that with Andrew Cuomo whose consistent message is that every life is precious.
As for me, well, I've been sick all week and I can't seem to shake it. I'm sure it's not CV, which is both good and bad news; good because as the new ventilator-assignment guidelines indicate, I'm on the list of people who don't get one when the inevitable shortage occurs because the numbers tell them that a 65-year old with heart trouble isn't going to make it anyway. And if it's not CV, and if my inability to walk up our hill without stopping for air isn't related to a sinus infection but some kind of new blockage, going to the cardiologist or the hospital isn't an option because of the potential for infection.
It's a strange feeling to go to sleep at night, not being sure you'll wake up in the morning. It's a relief waking up and in my haze, looking around to check if my grandmother isn't floating by, and when she isn't, realizing I am still on this planet to live another day. It would be great to see her again and finally get her great recipe for rugelach — this time I'll write it down — but not yet.
To the president, people like me are a number, but worse than that, we're the sacrificial lambs, the people who will die in acceptable numbers that he can tout to insure his reelection. If it was just him, it would be easier, but it's not. Every day his pet jesters go on Fox and parrot the same line, that he is a great leader who will keep our numbers down to "only" 200,000 at the most.
(I wonder what Boris Johnson thinks about that today as he lays in his hospital room, no doubt with a tube coming out of his mouth after he laughed at those who thought England should actually do something to prevent the spread of covid-19).
It's an empty feeling that the president thinks you're expendable, or worse your death can be a stepping stone for his political and financial benefit. It got me to thinking about some of the people I've known in my life, something I do often these days, but this was different. I thought about those I knew who were combat soldiers, all of whom knew what it was like to be human fodder.
Four immediately come to mind.
I met Ralph Taylor when he was 107 or 108. He was the last surviving member of the Rough Riders who went up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt who rode the legend of his heroism right into the White House. Ralph told me he the others in his platoon were all nearly killed because the dilettante Roosevelt had no idea what he was doing and doled out ammunition that emitted black smoke. This resulted in them being picked off one after another because it let the enemy shooters pinpoint their location exactly. He guffawed at the image of Roosevelt leading a charge up the hill on his horse. "If I say one thing before I die, it's this," he declared, as he struggled to his feet in his Florida livingroom, "we left all the horses in Tampa. He never road a horse up that hill."
My parents' best friend Phil was in the infantry during World War II. He landed in France on D-Day plus one. He was a teenager. The next day was his first day in combat. It was also his last. They were told to surround a house occupied German soldiers and take it. His combat career lasted all of one minute before his hip was shot out. He suffered in pain the rest of his life. He told me he beat the average lifespan of an infantry soldier in combat by about five times the average. They were kids who died in a war whose seeds were planted even before World War I. Two wars that killed millions because of stupid, fucking, greedy world rulers.
Bill Reuben was wounded twice in Belgium. He was furious in 1985 when Reagan went to the SS cemetary in Bitburg cemetary and while laying a wreath uttered some bullshit about what united the Germans and the American soldiers was their battle against evil. Bill said he remembered being in the hospital in 1945 and hearing the American traitor known as Lord Haw Haw on the radio, intoning to the allied soldiers that it was madness that the two sides were slaughtering each other while not understanding that their real enemy was Russia, the country that lost some 20 million people to the Nazis. Lord Haw Haw was hung for treason in 1946. Bill said bitterly, "I don't know any discernible difference between the certifiably traitorous message I heard broadcast from Germany in 1945 and what was delivered by Reagan at Bitburg."
Then there was David Clyne. Going back to the revolution, David's working class family had always gone to war for this country. They were expected to answer the call and they did, without questioning it. When he turned 18 during the Vietnam War, he was expected to as well, and he did as he was told. As an infantrymen in the jungles, he was wounded three times. Sitting in a a Jersey City tenement apartment he heated only by an open stove door, he told me that while he was in the hospital, he began to read about the history of the war and began to understand the cynicism behind it. He became involved in Vietnam Veterans Against the War and was an activist the rest of his life.
The rest of his life. He saw so much death that he never got over it. When he got home, he began drinking and using drugs. By the time he straightened himself out, it was too late. He died in 2005, from the AIDS-related virus.
What did they and the others I knew all have in common, besides being marvelous individuals who were such great company? They all had a deep distrust of authority and hated that someone else, whether it was a general, lieutenant or a politician, somehow benefited from their suffering.
I sit at my desk, safe so far, stewing in anger as I watch Trump extol his "numbers" with his experts nodding behind him like so many bobblehead dolls on a shelf. And while I'm clearly one of the statistics Trump has in mind ,whose death he will point to as being part of a group that if not for him could have been much larger, I'm still one of the fortunate ones. Every day, people go continue to go to work sometimes because they can't afford not to, some because they're dedicated to seeing the sick through this, and just like Ralph, Bill, David and Phil, they're basically fodder for someone to step on to climb to the top of the heap.