What happens to America when euphemism supplants truth?

James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 poster is a call to action for Americans during World War I: The allegorical female figure Columbia, symbolizing the United States, reclines against a flour-sack pillow, asleep while the smoke of battle billows behind her; her Phrygian cap and gown of stars and stripes further the freedom and liberty symbolism.

To the Editor:

What will happen when America has a dictator?

“It Can’t Happen Here,” the 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel, foreshadows Donald Trump’s authoritarian appeal:

“It is the presidential election of 1936. America has just elected Berzelius Windrip to the presidency, and his popularity gives way as his fascist policies to turn the U.S. into a totalitarian state as he strives to cleanse America of welfare cheats, promiscuity, crime and liberal media …

“He was an actor of genius. There was no more overwhelming actor on the stage, in the motion pictures, nor even in the pulpit. He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an aching lover, and in between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts — figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.”

In this time of a global pandemic, it is paramount to rely on science, data, and facts to guide us. Science deniers argue the opposite. They embrace their ignorance and propagate conspiracy theories. Without insight, they make death threats against the world’s leading experts on infectious disease who scramble to find a cure and save lives. This includes Dr. Anthony Fauci.

For years, mainstream media has scrutinized President Donald Trump’s actions and words. An administration marked by incompetence, the time is past for calling for “empathy” and modeling of appropriate behavior. His false and misleading statements pitting health against economic recovery has impeded a national response to the most dire health crisis in 100 years.

Beware the most dangerous man in America: an angry master manipulator who employs half-truths and flowery words to couch ugly facts and rationalize away his real agenda of unfettered power. Like other habitual liars, he is charismatic, narcissistic, and controlling. He uses derogatory phrases to demonize his perceived enemies. Epithets like “Obamagate” have no basis in fact.

His appeal is related to his ability to use disinformation to “twist” a person’s perception of reality without their knowing it. Conjuring up “distorted” images and feelings in a person’s mind can cause them to respond emotionally and against reason.

What happens to America when euphemism supplants truth?

The purging of independent government watchdogs; flaunting of the rule of law; blurring the separation of powers of the three co-equal branches of government; chipping away at the right to political opposition. Corruption and amorality replace honesty and integrity.

Sowing fear and dissention incites white supremacists and high-testosterone followers to intimidation and violence against immigrants and black, brown, and Asian people.

Frontline health workers get accolades but are denied personal protective gear. Thousands of meat-plant workers are infected but forced to work for low wages in dangerous conditions. The virus spreads through vulnerable long-term care facilities like wildfire.

Since March 4, more than 90,000 Americans have been killed by COVID-19. “Collateral damage” is an accepted fact of life.

When will this nightmare end?

I am reminded of a poem I wrote in ninth grade, “Dreams,” published in Kaleidoscope, the literary magazine of Monroe High School in Rochester, New York:

The nightmare suddenly looms before us,

So dark, fearful, and unknown.

Bringing unearthly shrieks and horrible howls

Of monsters that menace us

With gnashing fangs and cavernous jaws,

Threatening to devour us, whale-like,

Making a coward’s retreat with

Consciousness and dawn.

Wake up, America! Civilization calls every man, woman, and child! 

Never lose your ability to be outraged!

Rosemary Christoff Dolan 



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