The thin plastic tube sprouting from a vein in my biceps leads straight to my heart — the anterior vena cava — and I dump antibiotics into it twice a day from little science fiction-y rubbery globes. How I got a staphylococcus infection in my spine remains a mystery, even to my excellent doctors and nurses, but take it from me that spending three weeks on one’s back gives a guy plenty of time to think.
Pardon an old poet for carrying a metaphor perhaps a bit farther than it can walk on its own, but, like Richard II, I have been studying how I may compare this body where I dwell unto the world: And for because the world is populous, and here is not a creature but myself, I cannot do it: yet I’ll hammer it out.
Millions of people carry staphylococcus bacteria on their skin and it never does them a bit of harm, though dozens of forms of the insidious germ can cause a welter of serious diseases. It’s when the staph gets inside you that you’re in trouble. That’s why our national government is in such a miserable condition.
Our country has carried around the germs of bigotry, hypocrisy, corruption, religious zealotry, and de facto bribery disguised as public works, since its formation. I’ve seen it in the flesh my whole life, which dates back to the middle of the previous century. Yet we’ve managed to carry on despite this, without, perhaps, inflicting more harm upon the world than we make up for in good works — because we’ve borne these diseases upon the skin of the nation: the general populace, and our private institutions.
But now the germs have entered the highest levels of government — and our nation has become deathly sick.
Look: If a giant U.S. corporation decides to dole out favors to officials in Saudi Arabia to sell them a few billion dollars of nuclear equipment, that’s one thing; if a hotelier wants to grease wheels in Russia to get some action, that’s business as usual. But when the president of the United States does it, that’s an infected government — a disease.
The bigotry, hypocrisy, corruption and lies that characterize the Trump White House have done their work in Congress for two years. Add personal and institutional cowardice and you’ve described the 115th Congress.
Rabble-rousing zealots have been stirring up discontent in our country from the Salem witch trials through the Ku Klux Klan: pitting communities against defenseless women, stoking race against race, religion against religion, neighbor against neighbor. But these were private citizens. Never have figures at the highest reaches of government so fastidiously, relentlessly, dishonestly and continuously stoked hatred and fear among neighbors since Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare two generations ago.
I’m not a dewy-eyed Romantic. I do not believe the human race will ever overcome our least appealing traits. It’s hard enough for one human being to do it.
In a land of 325 million you’re bound to find hypocrites, millions of liars and bigots of one stripe or another. Yet assuming that most citizens retain some elements of simple human decency, most nations can stand it. But when those traits enter into the heart of government — as has happened here — the nation becomes sick.
I’ve got strong medicine entering my heart to keep me alive. Our nation needs some strong medicine injected into Congress and the White House. The germs will always be with us. But let’s keep them away from our heart.