Nearly 200,000 Americans are dead from a virus that didn’t just “go away.” A thousand more die every day.

Another Black man was shot by police, this time with seven bullets in his back. The streets swarm with legitimate protesters and opportunistic vandals, a 17-year-old would-be militia boy has shot three Kenosha protesters with an assault rifle, killing two, and a member of a pro-Trump “caravan” was shot and killed in a Portland confrontation.

Gulf lowlands lie flattened under the winds and waters of two hurricanes.

Lightning fires ravage tinder-dry California forests.

And in Washington what was once the party of Lincoln has gathered to renominate Donald Trump.

President Trump denies that any protesters are legitimate, dismissing them uniformly as anarchists and arsonists. With his usual relish he’s offered “federal law enforcement” and vowed he won’t allow “lawlessness on American streets,” even as he stokes its flames. He faults Democrats for weakness and takes credit for the intervention by Wisconsin’s National Guard even though the Guard was activated by Wisconsin’s Democratic governor. He’s warned we can expect “looting, arson,” and “violence” if Joe Biden becomes president, ignoring the fact that the looting, arson and violence he’s complaining about are happening while Donald Trump is president.

Trump has promised federal aid to the hurricane victims, though the FEMA dollars he’s talking about are the same FEMA dollars his fanfared executive order already committed to pandemic unemployment relief. Given that this storm tore through red states, he didn’t treat its victims with the derision he reserved for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. This time he didn’t toss paper towel rolls at desperate Americans.

As for the fires, he’s again drawn on his expertise and absurdly blamed California for failing to sweep its forests.

The Leader who held court on the South Lawn stage proclaimed four years ago, “I alone can fix it.”

That’s not how a republic is supposed to work.

He hasn’t fixed it.

He’s made it, and us, worse.

Back before American COVID-19 cases were counted in millions, he opposed allowing sick Americans off a cruise ship, declaring “I don’t need to have the (coronavirus) numbers double.” He’s repeatedly and falsely complained that our national case count is high because we test so much, and he publicly acknowledged that he told his people to “slow the testing down, please.”

The CDC has long recommended testing all individuals who’ve come in contact with COVID-infected patients, whether or not those individuals show symptoms because asymptomatic individuals can spread the disease. Last week the agency revised its policy and recommended testing only individuals with symptoms. The CDC has since further muddied its testing policy, but the new standard will both make it more difficult to trace and prevent the spread of the disease, and reduce the reported case count.

More people will be sick, but the numbers will appear lower.

We don’t have time to record here every lie the President told in his acceptance speech. He didn’t always oppose the Iraq war. He hasn’t secured energy independence. Barack Obama didn’t spy on his campaign and get caught. Joe Biden has no plan to repeal the Second Amendment or to tear down the border wall, little of which has actually been built.

Trump hasn’t done more for African-Americans than any President since Lincoln. Convalescent plasma won’t save “thousands and thousands of lives.” With 25 million Americans unemployed, he hasn’t created the “strongest economy” in history.

He brags that he turns down his presidential salary, but he neglects to mention his weekend excursions to Trump golf resorts, averaging more than three million dollars a weekend, and how much of that taxpayer money winds up in Trump coffers.

He claims to support coverage for pre-existing conditions, but he’s currently in court suing to abolish coverage for pre-existing conditions.

He charges Biden with nepotism and corruption while his own daughter and her husband serve as his senior advisors, and his sons run his business, from which he still profits.

He castigates Biden for inviting China into the World Trade Organization while he himself presses to readmit Putin to the G8.

He advocates faithfulness to the rule of law while he pardons political cronies, all of whom pleaded guilty or were convicted by juries.

Last week these lies and hypocrisies stained national shrines. Yes, they violated the Hatch Act, the law that prohibits political activity by government workers on government grounds, but I’ve grown accustomed to lawbreaking by Trump and his vassals, just as I’ve grown to expect that otherwise devout law-and-order disciples will let him get away with it.

But when I saw the giant Trump-Pence video lawn signs, first at Fort McHenry, where American soldiers huddled all night under bombs and rockets, and then at the White House itself, I thought about what I’d say if someone planted a candidate’s lawn sign in my yard here at home.

Mr. President, you were duly elected and therefore entitled to live at the White House for four years. But those 18 acres, that yard and that house, are mine every bit as much as they’re yours. Nor do they belong to your supporters more than to your opponents. They belong to us all as Americans.

I doubt you understand this, any more than you understand what it means to be president.

Please get your signs out of my yard.


Peter Berger has taught English and history for 30 years. Poor Elijah would be pleased to answer letters addressed to him in care of the editor.

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