When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there, but it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.
-- Comrade Valery Legasov, commenting on the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
Back in January of 2017, I wrote a blog regarding what I called “Confrontational Reality” as it relates to our current president. Toward the end of that piece, I made the following prediction:
… at some point during his presidency, it is virtually certain that Trump will be faced with the kind of emergent situation which challenged the crew of USAir 1549. The difference will be that the impact of whatever action he takes will likely go far beyond the 155 passengers and crew which Sully was entrusted with, conceivably beyond the population of our country and several others.
I will admit not to being much adept at reading tea leaves, chicken entrails, or any other form of divination, but in this case, yours truly appears to have been on to something. That “something,” as you doubtless all already know, is the Coronavirus and its disease designation: COVID-19. We all have been witnesses to the progress of the pandemic, as we also have to our local, state, and federal governments’ responses to it. Mike DeWine surprised the daylights out of me when he shut down Ohio back in mid-March, and as a result, while we’ve had our share of Coronavirus deaths, I’m pretty sure we’re fairly well on the low side as it comes to cases or deaths. Andrew Cuomo has taken a positively horrible situation in New York and busted a gut trying to bring it under control. Personally, I think he deserves considerable kudos for the Herculean efforts he has made. Many other governors and mayors have also stepped up to the plate, acknowledged what needed to be done, and did their best to execute.
And then we come to Donald John Trump. His history on COVID-19 has been out there for all to see. “It’s the Democrats’ new hoax … just one person coming in from China … one day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear,” until finally he had to admit: “This is a pandemic,” but then immediately afterward: “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” Seriously? From there it’s been a tattoo of contradictory words and actions and even worse inactions, whether it’s effectively taking the month of February off from anything that might remotely resemble effective action and promoting hydroxychloroquine as a “game-changer” to undercutting the statements of experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and claiming no responsibility for the uncoordinated and chaotic federal response to the ongoing crisis.
Thirty-four years ago, Valery Legasov was stuck in much the same position that Dr. Fauci is now: trying to speak truth to an authority which had little to no use for it. His confirmed facts ran counter to what the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union wanted to hear: that their RBMK reactors had a serious design flaw which was exacerbated by the test they attempted to run on the Number Four reactor at Chernobyl. That test resulted in the cataclysmic failure and subsequent explosion of that reactor, and it is the reason why anyone who knows the name “Chernobyl” knows it for that horrific event. What they may not know is that it took Legasov’s suicide to force the Soviet Union to take positive action to correct the critical defect in their nuclear power plants.
Now, Fauci and his fellows, along with state governors of both parties are attempting to rein in the biological and sociological fallout from a crisis which the chief executive of this country apparently doesn’t want to confront, himself. Trump has kept his distance, I suspect because this is one circumstance where his game-playing skills simply have no traction. At some level or other, he may recognize that you can’t spin a disease or negotiate with or intimidate a virus, and since he has no real leadership or organizational abilities, any attempt on his part to try to run a national effort to control the pandemic in the United States would only further show off Trump’s glaring ineptitude. Meanwhile, the debt Legasov referred to is being paid in the lives of Americans who might otherwise have been saved, had there been some degree of competency operating in the White House.
That “debt to the truth” is still outstanding, and I wonder what it will take to cover the balance.