Tom Friedman isn’t one of my favorite New York Times columnists; I usually find him either tendentious or self-congratulatory. But he’s growing on me.
I especially liked his column last Wednesday, in which he suggested a slogan/bumper sticker for the Biden campaign:“Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.”
As Friedman writes, not only are these values held by most Americans, they are in dramatic contrast to Trump. (I’m pretty sure Trump doesn’t have anything we would call “values”–and I have never seen him display anything remotely resembling respect for anyone or anything..Even self-respect would be an improvement.)
Disdain for science is seen in Trump’s antagonism to fact, evidence and reality. It’s bad enough when his contempt for facts involves lying about crowd sizes or windmills causing cancer, infuriating when it involves denial of climate change– but with the advent of Covid-19, it poses an even more immediate threat.
But his disdain for science has become fatal, as we’re seeing in this widening pandemic. Trump has gone from offering quack remedies, like disinfectant, ultraviolet light and hydroxychloroquine, to mocking people, including Biden, for adopting the easiest and most scientifically proven method for limiting the spread of the coronavirus: wearing a face mask.
Trump doesn’t simply reject science. He’s lost whatever grip he ever had on elementary logic. Friedman echoes the astonishment so many of us expressed when our Commander-in-Chief–the purported leader of the free world–opined that we have more cases of Coronavirus because we test for it.
Think about that: Stop testing. Then we’ll have no knowledge. Then we’ll have no numbers. Then we’ll have no virus. Why didn’t I think of that?
Stop testing people for drunken driving, and then we’ll have no more drunken drivers. Stop arresting people for shootings, and then the crime rate will go down.
And if we didn’t have pregnancy tests, voila! Population control…
Then there’s the little matter of respecting Mother Nature.
Trump’s lack of respect for nature may be a political asset for him with his base, but it’s been a disaster for the country. …
Respect for nature also means understanding that we live on a hard rock called planet Earth with a thin cover of oceans and topsoil, enveloped by a thin layer of atmosphere. Abuse that soil, junk up those oceans with plastics, distort that atmospheric blanket and we will likely (further) destroy the perfect Garden of Eden that has been the basis of all human civilization.
According to National Geographic, the Russian Arctic has been having an extended heat wave that drove temperatures north of the Arctic Circle to 100.4 degrees F on June 20–the official first day of summer. (I can’t imagine what that will do to all the structures that have been built on the Arctic’s permafrost…)
The Trump administration has rolled back close to 100 environmental regulations–and has failed or refused to enforce a number of others. The administration reserves its “respect” for the bottom lines of fossil fuel and chemical companies that are operating with impunity as the planet heats and widely-used chemicals are found to be lethal.
Respect for other people? Can we even remember the civility, decorum and good manners of the Obama-Biden administration?
Respect each other? That’s not so easy in the midst of our other pandemic — a pandemic of incivility. You cannot exaggerate the impact on the whole civic culture of having a president who has elevated name-calling, denigration and lying to a central feature of his presidency, amplified by the White House.
Friedman acknowledges that there are multiple sources of disrespectful behavior–especially the algorithms of social media platforms–but he notes that restoring interpersonal respect will require two things: a president who every day models respect rather than denigration, and citizens who actually listen to each other. Right now, we have neither.
Respect for science. Respect for nature. Respect for each other.
I like that.