The US is being ravaged by COVID-19, devastating fires, economic and education crises, and more — but nearly half the country doesn’t believe it
We’ve been led to believe that there are two realities in the United States. In one reality, a deadly virus has spread exponentially, infecting 6.7 million people, killing nearly 200,000, and completely upending life as we know it.
In this reality, the US government has not only failed the American people, it’s actually made the problem worse — starting with President Donald Trump. In this reality, legendary journalist Bob Woodward conducted 18 interviews with the President in which Trump displays a surprisingly keen grasp of the severity of COVID-19, and then openly says he intends to downplay it publicly — a promise he has more than kept.
In this reality, schools — and education generally — are being completely disrupted, exposing a threadbare US social system that does little to support working families. One in six children in the US live in poverty, and millions of them rely on school for regular meals, shelter, and even safety. It’s easy to say, ‘work and study from home’, but doing those things in practice is something else entirely.
In this reality, the entire west coast of the US is on fire and we are seeing the very real consequences of our inaction on climate change. Fifty million people are engulfed in an ash-filled haze that is dangerous enough on its own without adding potential complications from COVID-19 infections. Tens of millions of acres could burn in the end, and beyond the destroyed homes, displaced people, and economic consequences, there will surely be long-term health effects for millions.
In this reality, heavily-armed Right-wing vigilante groups are organising on social media and acting as de facto police, conducting patrols, attacking protesters, and even killing people. This behaviour has been encouraged by the President and his supporters for the last four years; stoking white nationalism has been a hallmark of the Trump administration, and we’re paying the price. Gun sales in the US are at record highs, and this is in a country that is already awash in guns — it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
These are the facts, and this is the state of things in the United States.
The fact is that there are no ‘two realities’ in this country. There is one reality, and there is a sizable and seemingly-unwavering group of people unable or unwilling to accept it for what it is. That will not stop the day after the November election. Conspiracy theories are rampant, and groups like QAnon have an absolutely shocking number of believers. There’s a good chance that the elections will produce conspiracy-theory supporting members of Congress, and even the President has given breath to them.
These are not problems that will be solved by voting Trump out of office, but it’s undeniable that it is absolutely crucial to do so to get that process started. The next 50 days may very well set the tone for the next 50 years.
It’s clear that President Trump will do what he does best, he will escalate. Thus far, a depressingly large share of Republicans continue to support him, despite the damage he’s doing to any hope the party had of resembling an inclusive party. Despite the lies, mismanagement, disinformation, and division, they stick by him.
They are able to stick by them because of the information environment he has fostered — one that says you don’t need a mask at a rally with thousands of other people; one that says the US economy is in great shape; one that says the police are justified in their violence against people of colour; one that says climate change is ‘fake news’.
The importance of this election cannot be understated. To every Republican who has continued to support this administration through all I have just four words for you: Come get your boy.
Sree Sreenivasan is Marshall Loeb Visiting Professor of Digital Innovation at Stony Brook Journalism School in New York, and cofounder of Digimentors, a social, digital and virtual events consultancy. Twitter: @sree. Views are personal.(Look out for Sree Sreenivasan’s take on the upcoming US presidential elections every fortnight.)