Talking to a friend last week about the twin crises of Afghanistan and the delta variant, I attempted something of a joke. “Biden’s honeymoon is over,” I said. My friend responded, “That’s the understatement of the year.” Then he added, “This sh*t has got to end.”
The “sh*t” referenced is not likely to go away anytime soon. It’s like the “heat cap” that gripped the Northwest. In our case it’s not heat. Rather it’s a blanket of doubts. America is losing confidence in President Biden; in our ability to conquer the coronavirus; and in America’s role in the world. We are also undergoing a valuable but painful national self-reexamination of our history that is shaking our foundation as we attempt to reconcile ourselves to centuries of racism and injustice.
Our blanket of doubt is giving us a dose of humility–perhaps punishment for hubris and stupidity.
The botched Afghanistan exit continues to get headlines. Over the weekend, a firefight broke out at the Kabul airport. Questions remain on how many more people can be evacuated before August 31, the deadline originally announced by Biden, and one the Taliban refuses to renegotiate.
And then there is the chorus of naysayers, most, but not all, Republicans who appear to welcome an opportunity to kick Biden while he’s down. I’ve heard him called senile, incompetent, a puppet, and stupid. Disturbingly, some who want to defend him indicate he is not senile but only suffers from bad judgment.
Many Democrats hope that the most troubling images of the Kabul evacuation—a man falling off the landing gear of a C-17 transport plane in mid air is the most vivid example—will fade with time. I’m not so sure. That image will remind me for a long time that the logistics could and should have been handled better. An NBC poll released Tuesday shows that only 25 percent of Americans believe Biden handled the situation appropriately.
Then there is the issue of what happens after the Americans are completely gone from Afghanistan. Will there be a horror show of women being stoned to death for not wearing burqas, schools closing, and “collaborators” being executed? Is it possible that America will be blamed for letting these things happen? If so, it will contribute to our national self-doubt, as well as to Biden’s woes.
We also are in the midst of a resurgence of the pandemic. More than 42,000 people have now died in Florida alone, and hospitals throughout the South are unable to handle more patients. Why did this happen? Who is to blame for so many Americans refusing to get vaccinated? Is there another variant of the virus waiting to emerge, perhaps one worse than the delta variant?
All those things challenge the image of an all-powerful America, a nation that never encountered a problem or an enemy that it couldn’t overcome. That belief, for some of us, is also being tested because of “Critical Race Theory,” sometimes referred to as “CRT.” Simply put, CRT is a fresh, more accurate way to look at U.S. History, as well as how our laws were written and enforced.
Through the lens of CRT, America as a nation is re-examining our history and accepting that slavery and racism played much larger roles in getting us to where we are today than we might be ready to accept. That perception is progress. We should applaud it if it moves the country forward in terms of racial, social, and economic justice. But the process of getting there is difficult. CRT involves admitting that some of our national heroes weren’t so heroic. It also serves as yet another contributor to our blanket of doubt.
Other situations are also lowering our spirits. Evidence of climate change, as well as a realization of how hard it will be to address it, has prompted some of us to worry about whether we have the national will to do what is necessary to stop it. As my friend commented to me last week, “How many hurricanes, fires, and floods will it take?”
Lest anyone conclude that I view our national situation as hopeless, remember that the economy is improving; the FDA just approved the Pfizer vaccine (which should encourage more people to get vaccinated); and that the worst is hopefully behind us in Afghanistan. If all this is so, we can hope that the Biden presidency gets back on track; that Democrats and Republicans find a way to pass an infrastructure bill; and that this week’s heat wave is a short one.
With God’s help and with each of us making an honest effort to address these pressing issues, better days are ahead.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and occasionally goldendoodles