What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, I was days away from my vaccination appointment. Then, the vaccinations looked like the ticket back to a more normal life, going out to bars and restaurants, and seeing people you didn’t live with. But that was before the Delta and Omicron variants.
The lack of a fully vaccinated population was also a problem. Today, there are once again hopeful signs the pandemic may be ending. There are also ominous clouds on the horizon with the BA.2 Omicron variant looming. Even without a new COVID wave, however, America is not going back to the way things were.
That unvaccinated segment of the population may pose a problem for ending the pandemic, but they seem to be an even greater risk of disease to American Democracy. These MAGA Trumplicans are enthralled by authoritarian power, typically siding with Vladimir Putin in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As annoying as the phrase “new Normal” is, I’m afraid we’re stuck with it until more Americans can reclaim some traditional values. Values that can be found in an earlier version of Americans. Not in the ill-defined Trumpy Make America Great Again way. But in a specific Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe sort of way. A Humphrey Bogart fast-talking-hustler style. America will be greater (again, or otherwise) when more Americans can identify with Rick Blaine than Major Heinrich Strasser.
The portrayal of Americans in the movies some 80 years ago were people with an inherent sense of fairplay, an idealism joined with skepticism. Despite the racism and barely acknowledged class issues of the day, these idealized Americans were united, and if you’re an American, you’re one of the good guys and not falling for anyone’s bullshit.
Today, that earlier, healthy skepticism has been replaced by an unhealthy cynicism. This cynical tribalism has elevated power over fairness. You can see this in the fight over voting rights. The movie version of an “American hero” has shifted from Casablanca’s Rick Blaine to Dirty Harry.
Being a skeptic means calling bullshit on Trump’s bullshit. Being a cynic means believing everyone is a liar, but at least Trump is your liar. This cynicism is the path to fascism. It is time to rediscover old-fashioned American values and fight the creeping fascism that is threatening American democracy, so begin some beautiful friendships and get all those friends out to vote, and get their shots. If we all do that, we can get past the pandemic and reverse the typical mid-term election trend and overwhelm GOP voter suppression efforts to clean things up in Washington.
While you may not have a foggy airfield to walk across when forming those beautiful friendships, perhaps an Old-fashioned cocktail will help. From Sother Teague’s I’m Just Here for the Drinks, the classic Old-fashioned is:
1 dash Angostura Bitters
2 oz Rye
1 Spoon Demerara or cane syrup
Add the first three ingredients to an old-fashioned glass, add a large lump of ice and stir to combine. Garnish with the lemon twist.