Category Archives: Communications

how we communicate with each other makes a difference

Donald Trump and Pandemic Reality

Fellow citizens, please take note: A President of the United States of America needs to be concerned not with circumstances as he or she would like them to be, but as they really are, and to lead the nation diligently through them.

President Donald Tump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, however, has been far different.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Bob Woodward in February of 2020,  “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Mr. President, it’s not what you like,  but the realities of things as they are, like a coronavirus pandemic. Presidents are in office to lead, not to mislead or dissemble. They can get lots of help from government agencies as well as understanding from fellow Americans.

Despite knowing that the virus was ‘deadly’ and highly contagious, however, Trump often publicly said the opposite, insisting that the virus would go away quickly.

That is so mistaken, the opposite of leadership. A stance like that, in fact, goes far to justify the subtitle of Mary Trump’s book on her Uncle Donald, “How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man”.

Dissembling is always dangerous. But when you are President of the United States, it can have far graver consequences.  Like coping with a pandemic that has so far killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

As the Virus Persists, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’

In a time, like the present, of challenge and peril, wishing will get you nowhere. Patience needs to prevail, and that can mean a grueling wait.

In the U.S., from the White House to countless other locales, impatience seems more the rule. We’ve got to ‘open up’, get back to normal, restore jobs, get on with living sustainably.

The problem is, though, the virus has its own timetable and it’s going to take longer for a vaccine to be available then we sometimes feel we can endure.  Witness, as The Washington Post reports,  the situation that exists in Beirut, Lebanon. 

“Lebanon on Tuesday became the latest country to reimpose restrictions after experiencing a surge of infections,” the Post reports, “almost exactly two weeks after it appeared to have contained the spread of the virus and began easing up. Authorities ordered a four-day, near-complete lockdown to allow officials time to assess the rise in numbers.”

“Authorities” everywhere need to be mindful that virus-based events are currently following their own calendar, and to go with the flow of whatever’s best for people in the short to longer-term. Patience and fortitude are today’s highest behavioral and, indeed, political, values.

In South Korea, The Post adds,  President Moon Jae-in is warning the country to “‘brace for the pandemic’s second wave,’ calling the battle against COVID-19 a ‘prolonged’ fight.” And, alas, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where it all began,  “authorities on Tuesday ordered the testing of all 11 million inhabitants after a cluster of six new infections emerged, five weeks after the city had apparently rid itself of the disease.”

It’s much the same in Germany, “which is widely regarded as the model in Europe of a balanced coronavirus response.” 

Reality these days takes patience, lots of it. In Lebanon, where we began, “authorities have imposed a new four-day lockdown.” Four days only?

 

Tips for the Virus-Wary

Healthline.com has assembled a group of medical experts to discuss the  coronavirus in its present and future contexts. It’s not a happy outlook, but we’d best be aware of what’s ahead.

The first thing is to avoid multiple contacts in crowds and to purchase face masks when they become available. (Drug stores are likely to be out of them more regularly than not.)

Coronavirus is described as “a bullet train without the constraint of train tracks. It is moving very fast in many directions at the same time.” That means the virus will likely be everywhere before much longer. So start taking precautions, say, with your next breath.  If it eases off in a month or two, it’s “likely to recur next fall”. Seriously.

You probably know by now that younger people have a far better chance of   besting the coronavirus than older ones, but that will always be germane.

It’s likely to be 18 months before the U.S. has an effective vaccine for the coronavirus. We could go on, but there’s more first-hand information in the Healthline post. Check it out directly. (And learn how to stop touching your face.)

Downplaying the Corona Virus

The presumptive President of the United States, Donald Trump, says the Democrats are “politicizing” the coronavirus, that it’s “their new hoax” – that’s what he was saying at a rally yesterday in South Carolina. Of course, Trump isn’t our “presumptive” president at all, he’s for real in the role – and that could mean woe is us.

The President, of course, has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the federal response to the virus threat. From Trump’s tone yesterday, Pence shouldn’t have much to do, and we know that’s not the case at all.  The first death from the virus has just been reported in Washington State, And the virus appears to be spreading up and down the West Coast and heading inland.

Scoffing can be taken too far. Defenders of the President say he didn’t call the virus itself a hoax.  But if there were ever a time for choosing one’s words carefully, this is it and Trump spoke rather spitefully.

There are times when Trump’s handling of his nation-leading job seems as much prompted by whimsy as reality, and this is one of them.  We should be expecting more of the President – caution in the face of a health hazard that threatens us all. Yet the corona virus is “the Democrats’ new hoax”. We couldn’t let that one pass by. That wouldn’t be fair to a nation whose apprehension is growing  over the prospect of the virus spreading from coast to coast.

Let’s hope it doesn’t, but let’s not downplay the possibility either.

The Meaning of Fairness

So, just what is “fairness,” what does the term mean? We’re prompted to discuss that because we’ve come upon a website, The Patriot Post, that claims “the word ‘fair’ has become an all-purpose statement of moral superiority tinged with victimhood.”

That’s just not so. To us, fairness means equity, one of the terms The Patriot Post rules out. The term needs to be viewed in whatever context fairness is being considered – even-handed and due regard are synonyms. Fairness isn’t a child’s term of spite.

It’s important that we know our terms, that we have basic agreement on what we’re discussing. Fairness is a kind of moral gauge, L. Sun writes in his 2013 book, The Fairness Instinct. Even-handed treatment is instinctive in young people, until they get to feeling that they’re being crossed up by older people.

We view fairness as the hallmark of civility, a starting place for discussion,  listening and learning. “Maybe there is something to that” ought to be our reaction when we encounter a new point of view, one that merits closer listening, not a spiteful retreat. It’s a word requiring awareness, not hunkering down.

Fairness is thus a term worth burnishing (as in building a website around it). You don’t have to be Robin Hood, not at all, to be mindful of practicing it. “Stop, look and listen,” is how it begins, and it leads to justice and compassion.

Newspapers No Longer at Our Doorsteps

Grinding ever onward, no downward. That’s the fate of America’s newspaper industry, and perhaps the most trusted means of keeping the nation’s people informed. Now  McClatchey, the country’s second-largest newspaper chain, is filing for bankruptcy.

As these dire developments in print journalism continue, start counting the minutes of actual news on the nation’s evening television newscasts. We’d bet they’re declining too. Will it matter so much what actually happens in the nation – its cities and towns – if fewer and fewer people are reliably informed about the daily news?

Some of us used to deliver newspapers to customers’ doorsteps daily and Sunday and felt we were performing a service in doing so. We felt we were helping to hold our communities and, yes, the nation together. (And making some pocket money too.)

Yet here’s the Sacramento Bee, the newspaper that started the McClatchey chain, saying that the Chapter 11 filing will allow it to restructure its debts and, it hopes, “shed much of its pension obligations”. There are “10 pensioners for every single active employee – a reflection of another economic era.” Well, gee, somebody had to gather the news and get those newspapers out. What happens to them now? This is all beginning to sound  pretty ghastly.

And there, on the NiemanLab digital site, the bankruptcy story is accompanied by a YouTube video.

Does it matter what happens in public life if nobody is reading  about it, and barely listening either? Sounds like an information crisis exists, but who is to confirm that’s so?   A teenager on his bicycle hasn’t left that information on your doorstep, and won’t.