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Calm During the Storm

Look one direction and there’s turmoil and upheaval. Look another and there’s official incompetence and almost comical dysfunction. There are flames to the west of us, tempest waves and gale-force winds to the south. The heartland mourns another farmer suicide, another shuttered storefront, another idled factory, another school closing, another small town dying, another urban center decaying, another renter evicted, another homeowner foreclosed. Tent cities—modern-day Hoovervilles—dot the landscape. On high, there is callous disregard for this human suffering.

Standing over the wreckage are immaculately groomed, stylishly dressed, abundantly compensated dignitaries who turn positively indignant over any suggestion that maybe a helping hand could be offered to the struggling. They see red over talk of guaranteeing every American access to health care. To them, that is an extreme step that is part of a radical agenda that includes bold action to prevent climate catastrophe. Medicare for All and the Green New Deal are their bogeymen.

There’s nothing extreme or radical about addressing health insecurity with Medicare For All or environmental insanity with a Green New Deal. Economic inequality to the point where three billionaires own more than half of all Americans combined is extreme. Spending trillions of dollars on endless wars overseas is radical.

Downplaying a public health emergency or ignoring it altogether is extreme negligence. Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and Marinette are now among the 20 U.S. metro areas with the greatest number of positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people. The Green Bay Packers announced that fans would not be allowed to attend home games indefinitely, citing the rampant community spread of the coronavirus. While the Packers felt compelled to take one for the team and forego ticket sales, Wisconsin’s do-nothing legislature remains in hiding, not having met in over five months. This is radical indifference.

Speaking of extremists, here we sit, not far from the Columbia County village of Cambria where a band of white supremacist vigilantes evidently were training and making preparations to overthrow Michigan’s government in hopes of starting a civil war before their plot was foiled by state and federal law enforcement. At least 13 appeared to be in on it. Criminal complaints allege some of them conspired to kidnap the state’s governor, bring her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin and try her for “treason.” Others in the group allegedly were looking to blow up bridges and gun down police officers to advance their aims.

Now that is extreme, that is radical, that is the single greatest terrorist threat to our country, that is fascism rising, that is civil society under siege.

In this anxiety producing moment, with this kind of madness unleashed, getting truly serious about looking out for each other’s health and welfare and taking care of the planet we all call home are the most calming, stabilizing actions we could possibly take right now.

Mike McCabe


October 13, 2020