The View From Rattlesnake Ridge
Ruminations from an Unabashed Optimist, an Environmental Patriot and a Radical Centrist
By WAYNE D. KING, InDepthNH.org
For Want of a Nail . . .
The vilification of whistleblowers may be the nail that lost the kingdom . . .
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of the shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of the horse, the rider was lost;
For want of the rider, the battle was lost;
For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost;
And all from the want of a horseshoe nail.
On my daily Covid-19 walk lately, since I finished Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie,” I have been listening to a podcast called “Ben Franklin’s World” that examines history through the eyes and ideas of various writers and scholars who have written books on everything from the enslavement of American Indians – there were more Indian slaves in New England than African slaves for most of the colonial period – to Paul Revere’s famous ride and why history remembers Revere but neglects William Dawes who also rode that same night, carrying the warning of the British approach.
I never cease to be drawn to the proverbs and quotations that Franklin would insert into Poor Richard’s Almanack over the years it was published. Many of those axioms, in fact, are mistakenly attributed to Franklin even though he was merely passing them along to an eager audience.
Often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, is the parable above, a version of it was included in his Almanack in 1758. “For Want of a Nail,” is a proverb, having numerous variations over several centuries, reminding readers that seemingly unimportant acts of omission or commission can have grave and unforeseen consequences.
During the darkest days of the American Revolution, Franklin often referred to this axiom, because he wanted people to understand the consequences of their actions – however small – in the battle to establish our independence.
Today, it could not be more appropriate to the chaotic Federal response to the Pandemic we are all experiencing and will have major implications for the global economy that will emerge, we hope, from it.
Since taking office Donald Trump has been a train wreck in slow motion. He has systematically violated the law and dismantled the norms of democratic governance, and decency, with the arrogance of an autocrat.
He has dismantled or crippled carefully constructed institutional mechanisms for protecting our environment, and civil and human rights; he has consistently worked to deny Americans their franchise to vote; he has ignored the warnings from the Intelligence Community and the State Department about Russian interference in elections and China’s worldwide efforts to seize the economic mantle of leadership from the United States, and he has coddled tyrants from China and North Korea to Turkey and Brazil.
We have watched this slowly unfolding drama, many of us horrified, praying that we would not face a real crisis before the American people could put him out to pasture . . . where he could bray in the wind and let us get back to the work of rebuilding our democracy. That was not to be.
So now here we are. Having removed many of the nails holding the horseshoe of democracy already, the last six months have been a slow walk toward removal of the final nail.
The Last Nail: Whistleblowers
We all know how Donald Trump feels about whistleblowers. Ever since that fateful phone call with the President of Ukraine the President has repeatedly vilified the whistleblower who brought that call to the attention of the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, kicking off the impeachment of the President. During the last six weeks, he has used the cover of the pandemic to systematically fire anyone who was remotely involved in bringing his actions to the public attention.
He has followed that up with the sacking of a naval commander fighting to save his men from a Corona outbreak on the U.S.S. Roosevelt and most recently a highly qualified physician who had warned of the dangers of Hydroxy-Chloroquine. In doing so he has sent a clear message to those still within his administration that vengeance will be swift and terrible for those who speak out about anything that he sees as a challenge to his authority.
His disdain for those who feel compelled to tell the truth in the face of his constant prevarication, partisanship, and politics has cast a deadly pall over his administration and silenced those fearful of his wrath. We now know that the President was informed of the deadly nature of the approaching pandemic months before he took any action. Those who might have spoken out – many of whom even warned him of the approaching storm months ago – have been so cowed that they were unable to muster the courage to blow the whistle, even when the end result was the unnecessary deaths of thousands of our fellow citizens.
Even the people we trust the most today to level with us, Drs. Birx and Fauchi, have pulled their punches, though I suspect they have been motivated less out of fear of the President than out of fear for us. Fear that they are the only firewall between us and all-out disaster.
Donald Trump has declared himself a “war” president. It gives a whole new meaning to the old adage that “truth is the first victim of war.”
Meanwhile, even as we fight to flatten the curve here in the United States the outlook for the developing world is likely to make the wars, genocides and famines of the past one hundred years look like an outbreak of malaria in Georgia.
Ironically, defunding the World Health Organization will do more harm to the U.S. and our economic allies in the developed nations – especially if and when we get past this crisis. For the past three years, the U.S. has systematically ceded the fastest growing economic markets in the world in Africa, Latin America and Asia by dismantling the State Department and global development initiatives.
Everywhere that we have left a vacuum China has moved in with its Belt and Road initiative. Ostensibly, the Belt and Road initiative is creating Economic Development zones throughout the world, modeled on the old “Silk Road” trading routes. They are capitalizing projects like roads, bridges, railways, airports, and hospitals but creating the infrastructure as loans, not grants, to countries that will likely never be able to pay for them. Along with these physical infrastructure projects they are also creating a digital infrastructure that is far more pernicious, insidious, and statist, with surveillance at its core. This is the worst possible time for America to be looking the other way and alienating ourselves from our allies.
With the Trump administration’s announcement that it intends to abandon its support of the World Health Organization we are giving China a new avenue into global economic leadership in the biotechnology realm. It will come as no surprise if they announce that they will be filling the void by stepping in to rescue the WHO.
If we continue down this road we may find that, as we emerge from this crisis, our economic markets have been lost and a new economic cartel, with China in charge, will have taken over the world order. The last nail has fallen from the shoe. It almost makes taking Trump’s advice about injecting Lysol seem preferable.
The future is not predestined. We can still be the indispensable nation, but time is not on our side. If there is a silver lining to this pandemic it must be that we create a new way forward. We are in the midst of an alien invasion, just as sure as if we were facing little green creatures, and it requires us all pulling in the same direction to redefine a new paradigm, based on humanity, cooperation, respect for one another and our planet. Anyone who thinks we can create that with Donald Trump at the helm is deluding themselves.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work . . . at an appropriate social distance of course.
About Wayne D. King: Wayne King is an author, artist, activist and recovering politician. A three-term State Senator, 1994 Democratic nominee for Governor, now a registered Independent; he is also the former publisher of Heart of New Hampshire Magazine and CEO of MOP Environmental Solutions Inc., and now the host of two Podcasts – The Radical Centrist (www.theradicalcentrist.us) and NH Secrets, Legends and Lore (www.nhsecrets.blogspot.com). His art (www.waynedking.com) is exhibited nationally in galleries and he has published three books of his images and a novel “Sacred Trust” a vicarious, high voltage adventure to stop a private powerline all available on Amazon.com. He now lives in Thornton, New Hampshire at the base of Welch Mountain where he proudly flies both the American and Iroquois Flags. His website is: http://bit.ly/WayneDKing . You can help spread the word by following and supporting him at www.Patreon.com/TheRadicalCentrist .
The Honorable Wayne D. King
22 Orris Rd #F1 – Thornton, NH 03285
PO Box1208 Campton, NH 03223
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