About Bruce McDonald

I was an Air Force pilot, then an international subcontract negotiator for an aircraft manufacturer. After a fulfilling career in industry I asked the question, "What next?" The answer, for my wife and me together, was the Peace Corps. As it always does, the Peace Corps enriched our lives beyond measure. "A Breeze in Bulgaria" tells the story.

The Value of Hatred

I read an article in our local newspaper, headlined “Stop the malicious, divisive hatred of Trump during this unprecedented pandemic.” It’s here, if you want to read it. It will probably make you mad. If it doesn’t then most of the comments from readers will make you mad. It didn’t make me mad. It got me to thinking about some of my friends, some of my dearest friends, who have been overcome and controlled by blinding hate. They cannot think of the President of the United States without being immersed in a burning, seething rage. I have other friends whose rage centers upon the former President. He’s out of office, but the hatred burns just as hot.

President Donald Trump is accompanied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, during a tour at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Sure, Trump actively pursued the fiction that it would all go away as the virus started to spread, because if it took hold it would hurt him politically. Sure, he locked the door on Chinese immigration, “after the burglar was already in the house.” (Remember though, how he was criticized as racist for doing that at all, rather than for doing it too late. Damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.) Sure, he said that he had no responsibility. Sure, he chose to blame China, the World Health Organization, the White House Pandemic Office after he dismantled it, the former President, and then later the governors, the medical establishment, and anybody else in sight. He does stuff like that, Haven’t you come to expect it? He’s a jackass. But hate? What good does that do? Who does it hurt? Weren’t you in church when they covered that?

Did you read that article, by the way, the one I mentioned at the top? Never mind, here’s the heart of it:

He may be suffering from narcissism and adult attention deficit disorder. But the nonstop, vicious, hatred of the president, during a time of national crisis, is simply wrong.

I am reminded of the “Not My President” people. Not your President. Who, then, is? Denial has consequences, almost invariably destructive. Hatred as a motivation works out badly for all desired outcomes except destruction. Destruction, in this case, of our system of government from the top down. You want to talk about blame? You want to lay it on Trump, that incompetent, bloviating, self-centered Toddler-in-Chief? Hate him for his incompetence and for what he is? If you satisfy yourself by doing that you’re stuck in a dead-end alley. Hating him won’t make things better. Here, more from the article:

Dr. Anthony Fauci and President George W. Bush, among others warned about it in 2005. Bill Gates gave a stern warning in 2015. Such an event would require massive stockpiles of protective gear, ventilators, and ICU beds. It would take years to accumulate this stuff. Yet despite the warnings, for decades no president, no congress, no governor, or mayor did much of anything at all to prepare for it. By the same token, the governing boards of our nation’s roughly 6,100 hospitals failed to prepare for it. It caught us all off-guard, but certainly not unaware of the distinct possibility of its arrival. There was no way that in a span of a month or two Trump, or anyone else, could have made up for those years of inaction.

In January, February and into early March Dr. Fauci and other experts were assuring us that the “the risk is low.” Trump believed him, and so did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who as late as February 24 was urging San Franciscans, to come to Chinatown and that “everything is fine here.” No one, not even Fauci, had a crystal ball.

Will it ever be possible for our tortured system of government to return to being functional? It must. Surely this aberration hasn’t made the ideals impossible: the ideals of a free people living in a democracy, working and living together, being productive in industry and congenial in leisure. It can never work if we are separated from each other by hate. Hate won’t fix it.

When I started writing in this space a few years ago my focus was on Eastern Europe, and Bulgaria in particular. Well, our topics have drifted through an epoch of change, and shifted inexorably back home. We’ve talked about refugees (a lot), and racism, the Greek economy, Crimea, capitalism and democracy, and threw in some poems too. If you’re curious about Bulgaria though, I can tell you that they’re “past the peak” on the Covid thing. So is, famously with their near-eradication of it, New Zealand. (You can google “coronavirus statistics by country” and get a little interactive chart.) In terms of new cases per day, Taiwan is down to about zero, as is Japan. Hong Kong is pretty much over it, though heaven knows they’ve got enough other problems now.

What do these countries have in common? I think a big part of their success is that they have a disciplined population. Here in the Land of the Free, people don’t line up quite so readily when the government starts barking orders. That Freedom thing, you know… it’s a real conundrum. In the effort that it took to win World War II (as told in rose-colored retrospect) Americans pulled together in a way that we can’t imagine now. They worked together, toward a common goal.

Hate won’t move us in that direction, not one small step. Working for good, hatred has no value. None.

Kindness

I met Piper Beatty through a shared connection with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, an organization that has been saving lives for decades. She has since added a new last name and initials, becoming Piper Beatty Welsh, J.D., M.P.A. She is a highly respected advocate for CF research, and a survivor of that disease and cancer, as well as lung transplants. Now, since COVID-19 is ravaging the world, and we are all essential in defeating it, of course she has joined that effort too.

What can kindness do for you?

Piper wrote this essay as a post on Facebook, and I asked her if I could share it. It ties in with an article that had been on my mind recently, which will be a good read after absorbing what Piper has to say on the subject. There is a link to it following Piper’s article. 1

Guest Blog Article by Piper Beatty Welsh

I think all of us are (at our own pace) coming to grips with the fact that this coronavirus pandemic is going to be a phase of life rather than an open-and-shut experience. Our national imagery about this to date has been warlike: here is the enemy, now go win the battle. And now, 4 months into 2020 and 2 months into known and acknowledged US community spread, we are most likely about to embark on a national reimagining. Some changes (like the gradual relaxing of stay-at-home orders and reopening of public spaces) may be short(er)-term goals. Others (like a return to “normal” for things like assisted living centers or huge public celebrations, and maybe even international travel) may well feel much more drawn out. And some (increased awareness of infection control?) may even last forever. Right now we just don’t know.

This is going to be frustrating. It is going to feel too slow for some, too fast for others. It is going to be uncomfortable. It may cause pain and heartache beyond what has already happened. It may bring new opportunities for joy. One thing is for certain:

It NEEDS to be kind.

Friends, we have a national election in less than 9 months. Even in the best of times, 2020 was probably going to feel divided. I am urging those I love not to put aside their political convictions (anyone who knows me knows I would never), but to not let these things stand in the way of genuine empathy for our fellow human beings during an already uncertain time. Ask yourself seriously: is my saying this going to contribute to real, productive dialogue and is it important to say right now? I can’t answer those for you, and I wouldn’t presume to try, but I am going to try and hold myself and my own comments to that standard.

We can love each other through an awful lot, I promise. And to the extent we cannot, I hope to God we can still be kind.

All This Trouble, for Nothing!

It’s crazy, don’t you think? Crazy! All this drama, everybody being told to stay home, the economy crashing all around us… all this trouble for nothing! It’s a conspiracy, to increase government control of our lives. It’s an outrage!

Can you believe it? Some people actually think this way. It’s an outrage, all right. It’s an outrage to flout quarantine orders, an outrage to go out and try to live a normal life as if nothing has gone wrong. Something has gone terribly wrong. But I agree with one little piece of that made-up rant at the top of my essay here. It’s all for nothing. At best, it’s all for nothing. If everyone followed all the rules and maintained the required quarantine, took sanitary measures and didn’t touch their own face after touching anything else, nothing would happen. The progression of the disease would be stopped, or slowed to a pace that could be managed.


HANDS Wash them often
ELBOW Cough into it
FACE Don’t touch it
SPACE Keep safe distance
HOME Stay if you can

This isn’t news. We know this stuff. Well, you and I do. It’s simply stated but hard to do, at least hard to do thoroughly, completely, every time. But is it all for nothing? Is there no point in going to all this trouble ruining our routines, ruining our comfort, and to a significant degree ruining our lives?

Photo: NBC News

I don’t think anyone reading here really needs convincing, or if they do it would be hopeless for me to try. I thought this perspective, though, would be worth sharing. It came to me via my Hausman family brother Jim.

Emily Landon, the chief infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine, took the lectern after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who on Friday afternoon announced that the state would undergo a stay-at-home order for 2½ weeks starting Saturday evening.

“The healthy and optimistic among us will doom the vulnerable,” Landon said. She acknowledged that restrictions like a shelter-in-place may end up feeling “extreme” and “anticlimactic” — and that’s the point.

“It’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix from your couch. But if we do this right, nothing happens,” Landon said. “A successful shelter-in-place means you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing, and you’d be right: Because nothing means that nothing happened to your family. And that’s what we’re going for here.” 1

I am reminded of the Y2K problem. It was a problem that went away. It came to nothing. You might be too young to remember, but approaching the year 2000 computer scientists raised the alarm that since the advent of computers, dates had been stored with only two digits. When the year rolled, no computer way down in its primal innards would understand it was not the year 1900. Every computer-driven process that was supposed to advance by a day, on that day, would melt down, blow up, or at best just quit. Powerplants would fail, cars would stop, everything from home computers to coffee pot timers would be rendered useless. For years, working up to a crescendo nearing the fearsome date, scientist, programmers, engineers, and technology managers of all kinds worked to identify problems and rewire the innermost electronic brains of everything that could conceivably fail due to the Y2K fault. The world waited with bated breath as the year 2000 started creeping around the world. The dam held. New Year celebrations were fully lit by splendid electric lights that kept on working. Everybody who wanted to drink champagne, blow horns, and kiss each other did just that.

Many people had thought — and the result seemed to confirm their thoughts — that all that effort was wasted. See, it was nothing! They were convinced it had all been a big hoax. Nothing happened! All that worry, we knew it was BS all along. Nothing happened.

Nothing. We want all this trouble to come to nothing.