The European date format, as many of you know, is different from the American. Here in England I didn’t only have to learn to drive on the left side of the road, I also had to remember that, when writing down dates in number format, the day comes before the month. As a result, the two most disastrous dates that occurred in my lifetime had the date 9/11.
I was living in America on September 11th, 2001, when I learned that religious zealots hijacked planes with murderous intent and devastating consequences. That was my first bad 9/11. My second bad 9/11 came when I was living in England on the 9th of November and I awoke to the news that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States.
Comparing the two American calamities isn’t entirely like comparing apples and oranges. Both events were spectacularly bad for the country. Both events ultimately resulted in steep downturns for the American economy. Both events dominated the news for years afterward. Both events were terrorist attacks that ended in the deaths of thousands of Americans.
The election of Donald Trump was a kind of existential terrorist attack. It was promoted by Russia, much of its success could be attributed to Russia, and the result was and remains a Russian victory.
But it wasn’t Russia alone that brought us Donald Trump. There were other necessary and sufficient forces at work, including that created by the cooperation of a weak, ratings-driven mainstream media, the pre-election meddling by the then head of the FBI, the common exploitation of misogynistic hatred for a woman candidate, a malignant assembly of self-righteous third party candidates and the exploitation of anti-science sentiment and gullibility of the religious right.
At the back of all the forces that brought us Donald Trump was ignorance, ignorance of science, ignorance emboldened and misled by conspiracy theories, ignorance in the form of racism and ignorance in the form of blind and unreasoning jingoism. I don’t think most sane Americans would disagree with me if I said that, without ignorance, neither of my bad 9/11 days would have happened.
When you consider that Mike Pence, the man purportedly in charge of the coronavirus task force, makes wearing a mask a political issue instead of one of safety and common sense, and is permitted to get away with it, then you know that ignorance is winning. When you consider that Donald Trump can crow in a tweet and get away with it that “Coronavirus deaths are way down” on the same day that coronavirus killed 2,499 Americans — nearly as many Americans as died on that first 9/11 — then you know that ignorance is the order of the day. When a shocking percentage of Americans can be distracted from the central point of peaceful demonstrations against police murders of unarmed people of color because a small minority of the protesters are violent, then you know that ignorance is the victor.
When ignorance rules a nation, chaos and death follow. Adam Schiff warned us in his summation in the impeachment of Donald Trump that, “Whenever we have departed from the values of our nation we have come to regret it.” Ignorance should not be nor ever has been part of the canon of the values of our nation. We have seen ignorance on the American landscape before, ignorance in the form of an enemy like Osama bin Laden.
Americans have never let ignorance get the final victory. The unlamented corpse of bin Laden is at the bottom of the North Arabian Sea and Al Qaeda is in ruins. Ignorance will not win this time either. Donald Trump and his rule of ignorance is headed for inexorable defeat in November.
Is it too trite to say that our best defense against ignorance is knowledge? Possibly not, because the lesson taught us this time is the knowledge of 127,640 dead Americans as I write this, and it’s a lesson that has still been missed by many, missed by the ignorant. It’s a terrible price to pay. We had to pay it because a man like Donald Trump is president of the United States. Let’s all agree to remove him from that job in November and hand both Donald Trump and the rule of ignorance a just and final defeat. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.