Our short memories could be our undoing

Even before the pandemic, our collective memory was short. Americans excel at a certain lack of recollection and wishful thinking, rather than using memory and critical thought to assess and analyze situations. It’s why we never really move the needle on racism or any other core injustices that are central to our identity.

It most certainly is why we are starting to see an uptick at this current stage of the pandemic—after we have all been told that it is safe to unmask, despite any solid evidence beyond the masterful wordplay and manipulations by the folks in charge.

And it’s not new. 

Less than a year ago, the Biden Administration declared a premature victory over COVID, only for the nation to be introduced to the roaming band of variants. While these newcomers haven’t rendered our vaccines useless, those vaccines are now less of a defense against getting infected. They now will protect us against serious illness and possibly death. Of course, that says nothing for the 10% to 40% of those who may be impacted by long COVID, but why quibble? The point is, we have been told that it is time to get back to living like 2019 and the majority of us are doing just that and well, COVID is again on the rise. 

Increasingly, those of us who are still masking and hanging back to see how this great return to life plays out are viewed with suspicion and treated like aspiring conspiracy theorists. No, we just remember every step of the last two years, including the early days and the missteps along the way. 

The thing is, most people are overwhelmed and memories are short, so if they are told things by official people—or people who appear to be official—people don’t question it. Especially if it fits their paradigm or their desires. How the hell do you think the cult of Trump came to be? 

As I have said before, I remember my white, liberal friends insisting that there was no way Trump would win. I wasn’t too sure. He offered a lot of people what they wanted. I am also convinced that the only reason we are not suffering under our second Trump term is because Trump bungled the COVID response. But have no fear, Trump has his eye on 2024 and unless he’s locked up in a federal penitentiary for trying to overthrow the government or felled by one too many Big Macs, I wouldn’t count him out. And, if we want to get a gauge of things to come, let’s look at my current state, Maine. 

There is a saying here that as Maine goes, so goes the nation. Well, we had the imitation Trump as governor before America got the real Trump as President. Paul LePage was a harbinger of what was to come for the United States as a whole. He was the test run and for those not in the know, LePage is back, or at least making a strong showing to come back for another shot at the governorship. Yes, Paul LePage, Maine’s 74th governor, who served two terms in office and retired to Florida, has returned to Maine to seek another stint. The same Paul LePage whose vile antics regularly made the national news and who single-handedly is responsible for elevating this blog to national recognition. 

Not only has he returned, but he’s trying a softer approach to increase his chances to come back to power. The same governor who was famous for his vitriol against immigrants, Black people, and basically anyone who wasn’t white is now singing a new tune. The same guy who sought to block aid to asylum seekers and who was on record for saying undocumented people were bringing infectious disease to us (when they most certainly were not) now says he loves immigrants. This new Paul says he wants to work to fix immigration laws so that we can welcome more to our state. Hell, he’s even championing the idea that asylum seekers should be allowed to work sooner rather than waiting for the immigration process to play out.

Excuse me! Where is the man who had a binder full of drug dealers? Almost all of whom he claimed were Black. Is this not the man who told us mythical Black men named  D-Money, Smoothy and Shifty were coming up to Maine to impregnate Maine’s delicate white women? Isn’t this the same man who told the Maine NAACP to “kiss his butt.”?

But wait for it. It gets even better, the Maine GOP has also apparently had a change of heart towards immigrants and just opened a multicultural center in Portland (our largest and most diverse city in the state), in its most racially diverse neighborhood. A neighborhood that, incidentally, I represent on the Charter Commission for the city.

Not only is it a multicultural center, the center will offer voter education and mobilization, along with job training, immigration assistance, and language services. Based on local media reports, there are already members of the immigrant community who are getting involved with the center, which is most certainly within their purview. 

While people are most certainly capable of change, there has been no acknowledgement of the very real harm that was created during his two terms. So, I wouldn’t even begin to consider that this is anything more than a stunt—for votes and to fill shortages in the work force. The problem is, in a country that values civility and appearance over truth, it’s a stunt that could pay off. I am sure there were many Mainers who were turned off by LePage’s antics before, who in this current climate might actually like this “nicer” Paul. 

We know that millions chose Trump over Clinton, not because they liked the man or even thought he was competent for the job, but because they wanted something new. Because heaven forbid you vote for competence and boring. Nope, that’s not how the people work. Which is why, unlike some in Maine, I am not willing to say that Paul LePage has no chance of winning. I think memories are short enough and people are just fatigued enough that it is entirely within the realm of possibility that he could win this fall’s gubernatorial race. Should that happen, it would behoove the entire nation to take stock and realize a Trump 2024 return might not be too far-fetched. 

At the end of the day, in the United States, for every positive step ahead we take, we also take two steps back due to our unwillingness to confront the beast of white supremacy that is the underlying foundation of this nation. Our first Black president gave way to our first openly white supremacist president. So, with the confirmation of Kantaji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, I fully expect another racial fallout in this country. So pay attention to Maine this election and remember, what happens here in Maine may tell us a lot about what’s about to happen across the country.

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