A few years ago, when I found out my mother might have breast cancer, I ran to my bathroom and started dry heaving.
I love that woman fiercely. Her sick humor. Her mannerisms. Being in the kitchen with her. How she knows me in a way like no other.
She did have breast cancer and, as it turns out, it often doesn’t spread as quickly in older women so she came out of it frightened, but OK.
It is with this context that I share (spill) the emotions coursing through me in this pandemic. And it is with this in mind that I beg Fox News to consider the problems it is causing in our country right now.
It was bad enough when the network decided to back Donald Trump to the point of casting suspicion on — to name a few — media, science, and our intelligence community. But the consistent drum beat of doubt around the seriousness of this pandemic, the what-about-ism, the diversions from the facts that have me still hearing ambivalence in my mother’s voice when I call to check in on her and my father, are enraging me.
Let me be clear. I haven’t mentioned the President’s name to my mother once in the last month. We never talk about him. But the topic of him creeps in the back door. Last night she told me she didn’t know what to believe because there was so much out there.
“Mom, just listen to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. And the surgeon general. All agree we need to stay home and be vigilant.”
She pushed back, but I persisted. She has been cautious and staying home and I just want her to continue to do that regardless of the mixed messages. I am so afraid she is going to get sick and die during this pandemic and that every conversation will be our last that I don’t want to fight with her. Same with my father. They’ve been in and out of the hospital a lot the last five years or so.
As a fellow writer, Steve Adams, pointed out in his recent newsletter, “ … if you’re stuck at home, think of how lucky you are to be a writer.” Yes. I have the power of the pen, so guess what? I’m going to use it to vent what I can’t vent to my mother:
Mom, please explain to me how, on March 10, I could be having a conversation with you where every scenario I laid out has come true – stay-at-home orders, climbing death rates, etc. – and yet Fox News and Rush Limbaugh still have you convinced your President is getting a bad rap. I literally put the facts out there and they didn’t in any way resemble what you had been getting from your news sources. And then they all happened. AND YOU ARE NOT QUESTIONING YOUR NEWS SOURCE.
Mom! You’re smart. I know this because you used to take me through my vocabulary lessons like a champ. I got my love of reading from you. Your wit is razor sharp. How is it possible that you have zero critical thinking skills when it comes to this vicious, vacuous cult leader? Are you watching these press briefings where he is touting his own popularity while bodies are piling up in freezers?
This was all bad enough when Trump, with Fox News backing, was simply dismantling good policy, lying as habit, or obstructing justice in the name of his re-election. But this is life and death. He is playing fast and loose with American lives. The diversionary tactic by some Trump supporters has become trying to shame anyone who “makes this political” as if the President isn’t doing that every single day. Uh huh. You’ll be singing a different song when your loved one in Alabama or Georgia dies alone in a packed ICU. Let’s see how long your “leave it to the states” mantra holds up then.
At one point a week or so ago when my mother started lamenting that there were going to be people getting stimulus checks from the government that didn’t deserve them, I winced, but decided to shrug it off. I quickly realized that’s what Fox does, gives its viewers something to be pissed about. It is how the network almost single-handedly caused our immigration issue to become inflamed into an ‘us vs. them’ approach.
As long as it’s not a humanitarian problem, as long as someone is being demonized, they’ll keep watching. They’re fired up. Look at how they smile in that disarming way when they talk about cult leader because they are still as smitten as ever. The hats, the stickers, the Trump 2020 flags, the guns, the crosses.
What do we do with that? I love my parents and I can feel their love for me so strongly. My father will be 89 next week; Mom is 83. About four years ago I learned they are under the spell of a mad man.
Now there’s a pandemic situation unfolding at a rapid rate and he’s driving the train and I am doing my honest-to-God best not to dry heave in my bathroom.