Gerry Bell: What kind of people do they think we are?

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In 1942, two years after his electrifying "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds we shall never surrender" speech to the British Parliament, Winston Churchill addressed a joint session of the United States Congress. He posed a rhetorical question about the regime in Nazi Germany: "What kind of people do they think we are?"

I could today pose the same question about Donald Trump and his following of allies and enablers. And an easy answer would come to mind. They think we're stupid — easily duped, easily misled, easily divided, easily motivated by hatred and resentment. They think we can be fooled into voting for this sociopath, or that we can be so easily dissuaded that we sit out the election and at least don't vote against him.

Here are their tactics, for all the world to see:

- The Shell Game. Downplay the existential threat of the pandemic by mocking guidelines for social distancing and masks. Equate brazenly selfish and dangerous refusals to comply with brave culture warriors standing up for "patriotism and freedom." Embrace the absurd mathematics that reduced testing will mean reduced cases. And when that doesn't work — when the shell game blows up in their faces with a tsunami coronavirus spike — they opt for

-     Distraction. Never mind the coronavirus, never mind the economy. We must open all the schools. Open up the schools, or I'll cut off your education money! Sure, the kids will get the virus, but in the words of the idiot governor of Missouri, "They'll get over it." But then, as people began to realize that they were playing with the lives of our children in order to retain their political power, they turned to the false flag of

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-     Law and Order. They acknowledge no such thing as peaceful protest; they equate all protesters with "anarchists and antifas." All protesters must be "dominated" by Donald Trump's Homeland Security shock troops, charged with making the country safe for Confederate monuments and Trump's Bible-toting walkabouts. When those Gestapo tactics fail — and they will, with Trump's over-reaching threat to send troops to any city with a "liberal Democrat mayor" — they can always revert to their old standby

-     Hate. Racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, science-denying anti-intellectualism — the whole panoply of the Trump playbook of the last four years. The latest from a local Trumpster city councilman: Black Lives Matter is a "terrorist organization." Anything to distract from the utter failures and lack of values of this dissembling narcissist and his cadre of charlatans. (Actually, I think we're all on to the hate ploy — it's like a nationwide "cognitive test" that we're all acing.)

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But it's not only that they think we're so stupid that we're going to swallow this drivel. They also think that we don't care enough to do anything about it. They think we're just throwaway pawns on their Masters of the Universe game board. They actually think their tactics will work.

They're wrong. The easy answer is incomplete. The real answer lies in Winston Churchill's soaring language of 1942. After his initial query, he asked, "Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson that they and the world will never forget?"

Maybe Donald Trump and his hate base don't realize that. Maybe, as with most self-absorbed cowards and bullies, they're slow learners. So it will not be enough simply to defeat Donald Trump. He must be crushed, humiliated, discarded in the trash. We must send packing as many as we can of his craven enablers in the United States Senate. His base must be taught a lesson they will never forget: They are on the wrong side of history. They cannot divert Martin Luther King's long but inevitable moral arc of the universe. In the final analysis, they are not only way overdrawn in the Bank of Decency, they are bankrupt.

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And they are outnumbered. The crucial factor in this election is this: No matter what, we must persevere. We all must make sure we are registered to vote, and that we have not been disenrolled or deleted by Republican trickery and suppression efforts. If Trump-appointed judges make it difficult or impossible to vote by mail, then we can vote by absentee ballot. If they erect roadblocks for that, we must wear masks and stand in socially-distanced lines to vote in person on Election Day. But no matter what it takes, no matter how many hours we must spend, we must vote to rid ourselves of this horror.

And why? What kind of people are we, really? We are Americans. We are a decent and just people. We are warm and welcoming and generous. While we might like nothing better than to be left alone to enjoy life and the people we love, we understand that, in Abraham Lincoln's words, we are the last best hope of Earth. To borrow from Ted Kennedy's eulogy of his brother, "When we see wrong, we try to right it. When we see suffering, we try to heal it. When we see war, we try to stop it." We are good people.

We are Ronald Reagan's shining city on a hill. And even though that city has been laid siege to in the last four years by those who would divide or destroy it for their own ends, we will not let that happen. Never. No matter how many times or how forcefully we must teach the lesson, we will not allow the city to be torn down, we will not allow the American ideal to be stolen from us.

If we persevere. So this time, vote like your whole life, like the life of your country, depends on it - because it does.

Gerry Bell lives in Shaftsbury.


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