[OPINION] Signs of desperation

There are so many things happening in America – shocking, scary, funny, ridiculous, unbelievable – that the usual single-topic format of Street Talk would be inadequate. We are, thus, breaking a pattern of over three decades of column writing by discussing several hot topics in this piece:


This is a German term that literally means taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. An English equivalent would be, “Serves him right!”

I first saw schadenfreude used in a news report on the COVID-19 affliction of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. The report suggested that it served Trump right to be afflicted by the virus, after he called it “a hoax,” then kept assuring the country that it would “miraculously go away” once the warm season set in, ignored guidelines of the Center for Disease Control such as wearing a mask and social distancing, taunted those who wore a mask, withheld information about the seriousness of the plague, and failed to act promptly to protect the country from the pandemic. This has resulted in over 214,000 deaths and over 7 million afflicted in the US…and counting. The U.S. has the highest coronavirus affliction and mortality rate of any country in the world.

However, I don’t think it is right to take pleasure in a fellow human being’s misery, especially with an illness as deadly as coronavirus. Thus, instead of saying schadenfreude to Trump, the First Lady and the White House staffers, let us wish them a speedy recovery – at the same time, let us ask them to set an example for everyone by following the guidelines for keeping the virus under control.

In this regard, I was incensed the other night when Tucker Carlson of Fox News sneered that the mortality rate “was only one percent” of the number of afflicted persons. He dismissed 214,000 deaths as insignificant.

I didn’t think that I would ever witness such a despicable disregard for the worth of human life! I hope Carlson does not suffer the same pain felt by the families of those who have died, by losing his own family members to the plague.

But, though it is un-Christian, if Carlson himself were to be downed by the virus, I would be compelled to say, schadenfruede!

Homicidal negligence

Legendary Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein (who, with fellow reporter Bob Woodward blew the lid off the Watergate scandal that ended the Nixon presidency) has accused Trump of “homicidal negligence” for risking the health and the lives of others – his supporters, donors, administration officials, security detail, and the White House help – by persisting in moving at close quarters with them without a mask and in spite of testing positive for the virus.

To date, several White House officials and at least three Republican Senators have been infected. Yet Trump has continued to act irresponsibly, urging everyone to defy the virus and not to allow it to “dominate” their lives. What he has heartlessly overlooked is that no one else enjoys the medical resources and attention that he gets. It’s like telling everyone to leap out of a plane when he alone has a parachute.

And speaking of White House help, some of them are Filipinos, while nearly all are minorities, particularly Latinos and African Americans. If they are afflicted by the virus, they will not have the benefit of the medical attention that the Trumps are getting. It is truly cruel for Trump to tell them not to fear the virus or allow it to dominate their lives.

Stand back and stand by In the course of the debate with Joe Biden, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was willing to condemn white supremacists. Trump hedged but finally said, ostensibly to a group called Proud Boys, “Stand back and stand by!”

Far from taking Trump’s words as a condemnation, the white supremacists have printed Trump’s statement on t-shirts, using it as a slogan and a call to arms.

Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists, even referring to them as “good people,” has motivated and encouraged them to threaten violence against minorities and peaceful protestors.

One group has just been busted by the FBI in the course of a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The group also planned to attack the State House and take over the government. Mercifully, the FBI learned about the plot early and managed to infiltrate the group and arrest the leaders.

But the danger may still be hovering over the country like a Sword of Damocles. It is feared that other right-wing militias may attempt an uprising should Trump be defeated. Of course, the military and the police will surely stop them in their tracks. Thankfully, in spite of Trump’s dictatorial fantasies, America is not yet a banana republic or a Russian or North Korean satellite.

Make sure to vote, and vote early

At any rate, it is imperative that every citizen should vote. Trump has been claiming, without any basis, that the Democrats are rigging the election and that this is the only way he can lose – this, in spite of polls that show him trailing Biden in most of the States, including those in which Trump won against Hillary Clinton. The latest polls show Biden enjoying a comfortable lead even in the battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.

As of the latest count, Biden appears to have crossed and gotten well past the magic number of 270 electoral votes needed to be declared the winner.

But it is clear that Trump will not accept defeat, if he can help it.

Philippine-style elections

We are familiar with Philippine-style elections where voters are terrorized by private armies and by the police and the military. We may not see that kind of electoral violence in the U.S. but Trump and his fanatics may resort to other dirty tricks to win, like voter suppression and disenfranchisement.

Come to think of it, violence may not be out of the question.

As a last resort, Trump and his supporters may try to rig the electoral votes by appointing Republican partisans to sit as electors.

Because of COVID-19, millions of voters have opted for mail-in ballots. Trump has been deliberately creating doubts about the integrity of mail-in ballots, in spite of the fact that he and the First Lady have also asked for mail-in ballots. Without any basis, he has claimed that millions of fake ballots will be sent out to prostitute the election. On the basis of a trumped-up claim, Trump has threatened to contest the election results, should he lose, and bring the matter before the Supreme Court.

Trump has also publicly expressed the hope that the conservative justices in the High Court, particularly those he appointed, including Judge Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, will support his threatened electoral protest and vote to make him win.

Blatant abuse of the justice system

It would be a tragedy if the High Court is ever used as a tool of a would-be president-for-life. Nonetheless, I have faith that the Supreme Court justices will not allow themselves to be used as a tool to inflict an injustice on the country.

At any rate, I don’t think the freedom-loving people of the United States will allow such a blatant abuse of the American system of justice. I hate to imagine what would happen if Trump resorts to the dirty tricks that his idols in Russia, China and North Korea have applied to remain perpetually in office. It could be bloody.

But it is feared that Trump may be desperate enough to try anything to win. According to one of Trump’s sons, if his dad loses, they may spend time behind bars.

No wonder Trump has begun to show signs of desperation.

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