Villain of the Year: Not Trump Per Se, But His Anima
How Neoliberalism is Literally killing US
Dear Readers: Due to a decided lack of imagination and dwindling energy, we scaled back our year end ambitions and did our own version of 2021 Year in Review instead of the multi-factorial analysis and Republican strategy exegesis we had planned. Still, worth the read. Glad you’re here with us. Best, Mark and Corey.
Introduction. It has become clear that plutocrats are increasingly well off, and the 10% they pull behind them in their wake and use for cover are doing just fine. But the other 90% of us are worse off from a relative standpoint. More alarmingly, the 90% are also increasingly worse off not just in comparison to those at the top, but also from a historical baseline in terms of physical and mental health, financial health and security, and equal justice. We’ll see this quantified later in the article in terms of life expectancy, suicide rates, substance abuse and other statistics.
Our choice for “Villain of the Year,” and the focus of this piece, is Neoliberalism. Variously classified as a political philosophy, ideology, secular religion, and political theology – neoliberalism is indeed all of those things. It is a “meta-meme” doing the heavy lift for authoritarians, totalitarians, racists, narcissists, psychopaths and miscreants alike. It animates the modern American right and serves to justify, teleologically, current injustice and market externalities as righteous and/or temporary. Ironically, in this as in many other areas neoliberalism bears a close resemblance to Soviet Communism. In our analysis, it is also the organizing principle for a vicious systems cycle that is worsening the quality of life for most people globally, potentially rendering the planet uninhabitable for our successors, and making a mockery of the hard work and sacrifices of 7500 generations of human beings.
Neoliberalism isn’t the only villain, nor is it the cause of all of our ills. But as organizing principle of a vicious cycle, it is a contributing and/or accelerating cause of all negative trends in America, and by extension, much of the world. Here are some facts and statistics that collectively paint an ugly picture of trends influenced, if not totally driven, by neoliberalism.
Recent Internal U.S. Effects:
“Alaska experiences record-high temperature for December, Kodiak Airport recorded 65 degrees and beat its previous daily record by 20 degrees, surpassing the 45-degree record reading last set on Dec. 26, 1984, by leaps and bounds. Even more remarkable is that the same 65-degree reading would have set a record for November, January, February and March, too; those months haven’t seen readings above 59, 54, 56 and 57 degrees, respectively. The previous December record was 56 degrees, set on Dec. 22, 1984,” Washington Post, 12/29/2021.
Neoliberalism didn’t ‘cause’ global warming, or pollution, but it enables mindsets to flourish that both exacerbate them and prevent solutions from emerging. Weak minds are easily moved by strategic messaging, from supporting the seemingly reasonable concepts of laissez faire economics and libertarianism, to a position where the market will eventually take care of such “externalities,” to the next articulation that “these things are not caused by human activity anyway,” to the final absurdity that it’s not actually even occurring. The kicker is that the economy itself would grow faster and create more cash for the people endorsing neoliberalism if we actually addressed climate change and pollution more rigorously.
“The 2019 Global Health Index concluded that although “no country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics,” the U.S. scored highest among all countries in pandemic preparedness. Yet in the Covid-19 outbreaks of Oct 2021, measured in deaths per 100,000 population, the U.S did worse than 30 of the 35 countries defined by the International Monetary Fund as having “advanced economies,” and worse than all but 18 of 184 countries ranked,” Science Magazine, 19 Nov 2021, “Create a Covid-19 Commission” p. 932.
Covid has now killed more Americans than died in any war – including the Civil War – long a marker for carnage – and in a much shorter time. Although war deaths are tragic and often unnecessary, at least there is just cause. There is no just cause for Trump’s criminal neglect of Covid – and in fact he should be prosecuted for manslaughter – regardless of conviction likelihood. The right prosecutor could win the case, and the right jury would convict. He should be tried for every single offense he committed – if it takes eternity. If Hitler had been banned from office (he received a short prison sentence, which he used to propagate fake news) for his coup attempt, we would likely never have had WWII. The risk of losing some cases seems a small price to pay to prevent the demise of American democracy. If we can’t get Trump to die in prison he can die in a courtroom – either way, justice is served.
“As of 2020, nearly one-quarter of U.S. jobs were low-wage, the highest percentage in the developed world.” The American Prospect – “The Great Escape,” David Dayen. This is the greatest economy/country in the world?
“Life expectancy at birth fell to 77 years in 2020, a continued slide in a reliable gauge of Americans’ health as the coronavirus pandemic surged through the country, killing more than 350,000 people, the government reported Wednesday. The average expected life span declined 1.8 years over 2019. That was up from July, when the Biden administration reported provisional results for 2020 that showed a 1.5-year drop.”
“Death rates rose for every age group except children ages 1 to 14, with covid-19 becoming the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The disease caused by the coronavirus was the underlying cause of death for 350,831 people last year — 10.4 percent of the 3,383,729 deaths recorded.”
“Life expectancy had been ticking down in recent years, a troubling trend driven by drug overdose deaths and suicides. But the pandemic has caused much larger declines. The 1.8-year drop was the largest reduction in a single year in more than 75 years,” Washington Post: “U.S. life expectancy fell again in 2020 as the pandemic took a heavy toll,” Larry Berstein Dec 22, 2021.
We assess that this statistic is the single biggest indicator of American decline because it indicates not just despair, but lack of hope for the future. There is no way to reason this stat away, to blame it on liberals. It is meaningful, ugly, incontrovertible. When life expectancy in the Soviet Union and then Russia began falling as Communism ended and oligarchy replaced it, American conservatives blamed it on repressive, authoritarian and non-Democratic government. Will be interesting to see if they attempt to spin the U.S. trend or just ignore it.
“The United States’ population grew by just 0.1 percent in the past year, the lowest rate since the nation’s founding, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Census Bureau — a slowdown in which the coronavirus pandemic had a major role.”
“The country’s population increased by 392,665 in the year ending on July 1, 2021. Some of the reduced rate of growth can be attributed to decreased immigration, reduced fertility and an aging population, trends underway before the pandemic. But the pandemic helped push the rate down to almost flat growth. “We knew it has had a lot of economic impact, a lot of social impact; this shows it has had a big demographic impact that is going to last us for several years,” said William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution.”
“The 2020 census showed the slowest growth rate for any decade since the United States started taking a census, with the exception of the 1930s during the Great Depression. But the coronavirus has exacerbated the trend. More than 800,000 people have died in the United States since the pandemic began, and mortality has also risen among people who had indirect negative health outcomes as a result of the pandemic.” Washington Post, “U.S. population growth hits record low, slowed by pandemic,” Dec 21, 2012, Tara Bahrampour.
This is the twin finding to reduced life expectancy – signaling loss of hope and confidence in the country. Americans are ground down by the combination of the mythical expectations on individuals to succeed and the imperatives of neoliberalism. And rather than fighting back against the illogic of the culture, they’re killing themselves through overeating, unresolved stress, substance abuse, swallowed rage. The energy we need to fight back against injustice is instead being tragically internalized -- changing this dynamic is how we win.
Finally, ripped from today’s headlines: “Tesla has opened a new showroom in the capital of Xinjiang, a region at the heart of years-long campaign by Chinese authorities of repression and assimilation against the Uyghur people.” The Guardian, “Tesla criticised for opening showroom in Xinjiang despite human rights abuses” Helen Davidson, Jan 4, 2022. Really? And we’re supposed to worship Elon Musk?
Longer term internal U.S. effects of Neoliberalism
Crime closure rates are consistently dropping – murder closure rates hit a new record low almost every year – even with forensics and favorable judicial circumstances. In fact, all relevant measures of law enforcement performance are trending down – meaning we not only get cops murdering brown people with impunity, but decreasing return on our ever-increasing investment in law enforcement! I’ve worked in and with several U.S. Government Departments and Agencies, including Law Enforcement. While I respect the commitment of most serving officers, Law Enforcement is a poorly performed function with insufficient oversight and limited accountability. It is the ultimate “self-licking ice cream cone,” as we said in Government.
“Defund the Police” is an understandable, if unfortunate, liberal energy vector, because what we really need is effective, equitable law enforcement. No police or poorly functioning law enforcement are not our only options.
The following quotes are taken from the Hartmann Report: “How far down the road towards fascism,” Thom Hartmann, Oct 12. Thom thanks for your great work.
“The Supreme Court explicitly legalized political bribery in decisions in 1976 and 1978, doubling down with Citizens United in 2010.” The Supreme Court should have been thoroughly de-legitimized with this ruling alone – but is passed by largely unnoticed except to right wing lobbyists and Republican mega donors, and unaddressed by the public and Congress. That Democratic Presidents and Congressional majorities have not prioritized new legislation nullifying the ruling tells you all you need to know about their ultimate motivations and incentives.
“President Bush authorized extrajudicial murder, kidnapping and torture of non-citizens in a war” whose official rationale was debunked in year one but lasted seven years (the length of official combat operations), restarted three years later after the cessation of combat operations, and in fact continues today. Both Iraq Wars were about oil, fossil fuels being neoliberalism’s central economic commodity. Neoliberals and Neocons had to go to great lengths to find spurious justifications for the vast expenditures in blood and treasure – but they were more than up to the task because this is essentially what their supporters exist to do – perpetuate myth, obscure reality, reward the powerful.
“President Obama authorized and carried out the first “legal” assassination of an American citizen on foreign soil.” Look, I’m all for killing the bad guys, I am an Army Veteran, but a U.S. citizen has the right to a trial. I used to do this kind of work (targeting the bad guys) – if you can drop a missile on someone you can capture them – it’s tougher, but in the case of a citizen, we should go the extra mile. Neoliberalism forces such coarsening of the public spirit even among liberals because it forces them to posture themselves as tough on crime and terrorists – and nothing is tougher than a drone strike, right?
“Repeated radical tax cuts shifted tens of trillions of dollars (in today’s money) from the working class to the top 1 percent, a shift so thorough that the top 1 percent today own more wealth than the entire American middle class (RAND recently estimated the upward transfer at approximately $50 Trillion).” Romney was accurate when he noted that 49% of less well-off Americans end up paying no Federal income tax annually. He conveniently failed to note that at least 55 (more than 10% of the Fortune 500) of the largest U.S. corporations paid no Federal Corporate Income taxes in 2021, and that the richest Americans often pay either nothing or less than 10% of their earnings – and usually nothing at all on their accumulated wealth.
“The Electoral College loophole in our Constitution allowed two Republicans to become president even though they lost the elections of 2000 and 2016; they used that opportunity to stack our courts, particularly the Supreme Court, with hard-right cranks.” The Electoral College is not a permanent, fixed condition of our polity – it is a dangerous authoritarian-exploitable loophole than can be fixed.
“President Reagan ordered the DOJ and FTC to stop enforcing our anti-trust laws and Clinton signed a law allowing virtually unlimited consolidation of our media so today hard-right poison spills out of three cable television networks, over 200 TV stations, 1500 radio stations in English and an estimated 200 in Spanish (the fastest-growing part of the rightwing ecosystem that’s almost entirely unnoticed by the Democratic Party).” Consolidation of media by right wing media companies (Sinclair, et al) and libertarian (yes, I’m being generous) social media firms have the same effect here is it did/does under totalitarian regimes – but flies under the radar in the U.S. because it is made to look like an inevitable outcome of neoliberal economic rationalization. As the George Wills of the world say: “who’s stopping a liberal analog to Sinclair Broadcasting? Sinclair is simply following a path open to any business.”
The difference is that Sinclair is not simply a business, it is an agent of the right’s ecosystem operating with the specific intent to subvert the Constitution and undermine our form of government. If there is no law being broken anywhere in this process, I’ll eat my hat! If there are one or more laws being broken, why is Sinclair not being prosecuted?
“Reversing Congress’ assertion in the 1930s that unions had legal protections, the Supreme Court and Ronald Reagan declared war on working-class people so effectively that today only about 6 percent of American workers in the non-government economy have such protections.” Germany has great unions, a great economy, a great society (not perfect, but much better than ours. I lived there six years and have studied comparative government since college). Hell, it absorbed the highly ineffective East German economy (adding 25% to it population in one fell swoop) without skipping a beat.
“A movement of armed militias denying the authority of the US government has declared war on liberal democracy so completely that they led an assault on the US Capitol and were within minutes of assassinating the Vice President and Speaker of the House.” And only the foot soldiers have been accountable. WTF! We didn’t try Privates and Sergeants for war crimes after World War II, we prosecuted Generals and Ministers. That’s how you get change. No country has changed more in history in a short time period – and for the better – than Germany and Japan – and we started that ball moving for them. Suddenly half the U.S. has decided that the Nazis and Japanese Imperialists were right all along, and that we should emulate them!
“The Republican Party has, almost without exception, embraced the idea that elections can and should be rigged to their advantage, passing over 30 laws in 19 states to do just that. The problem is not that they might want to do this, the problem is that too few are appropriately outraged and mobilized to address it.”
“Multiple Republican-controlled states have decriminalized killing people on our public streets by driving cars into crowds of protestors.” This is beneath a great country, and further proof that we aren’t one.
“Voting rights legislation is being blocked not only by every single Republican in the Senate but two bought-off Democrats as well.” Once you accepted Citizens United and allowed Members of Congress to trade stocks you accepted this inevitable outcome. Pelosi is wrong about stock trading, but: 1. She got rich off it (all long-serving Congresspeople and Senators see their net worth expand exponentially while in office despite only earning about $200,000 per year) and her financiers don’t want to see this happen because this very method is how they “influence” their Senators and Representatives.
“An entire generation of students are saddled with crippling debt never before seen in American history.” Only professionals with protected long-term revenue streams can outrun current average debt levels – and they form a small percentage of borrowers. This is in reality all about the debt industry, not helping deserving individuals get an education. But it appears to students that they only way they can get ahead is to finance their schooling and climb the ladder mercilessly – and debt keeps them lashed to the mast of neoliberalism.
“Over 40 percent of Medicare has been privatized through the “Medicare Advantage” scam while an estimated one million American families will go bankrupt this year just because somebody in their family got sick.” European democracies have fixed this problem with smaller economies than ours – we just don’t care enough to do so, because neoliberalism equates caring with being a sucker.
“Fewer than a quarter of all high school graduates have taken even a single civics class, leaving two generations since Reagan unaware of how a democratic republic is supposed to function.” How is this possible? With all the mandatory teaching and testing how is this left out? One must assume it is purposeful. When one looks at entire Congressional districts that see Madison Cawthorne, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan and Devin Nunez as their best choice to represent them, it is easy to see both the effects and intent of this educational policy.
“Donald Trump nakedly and brazenly lied to the American people literally every day of his presidency and continues to do so with impunity.” We give him a platform to do so – especially the press, because it is profitable to do so. The press is supposed to function as an “estate” in our society, placing its role and responsibilities above business imperatives. It is not doing so, and paying the price in terms of lost prestige and influence.
“Multiple members of Congress participate in an open act of sedition and, so far, their only consequence has been re-election and media stardom.” Isn’t it long past time to stop affording additional rights and fewer responsibilities to our elected officials? My initial professional experience was in the Army, where the leader ate last, slept less, accepted ultimate responsibility for everything that happened or failed to happen, and lived by the principle of selfless service. Why do we accept so much less – in some cases the antithesis of this – from our elected representatives?
“In an eerie echo of how Hitler used the widow of a man killed by police when they tried to overthrow the government of Bavaria in 1923, Trump is now turning a woman killed by police during the 1/6 coup attempt into a martyr.” Trump’s propaganda on this point doesn’t fool anybody – but it does serve to illustrate the fact that all totalitarian movements share common, predictable approaches – they telegraph their punches. Which makes it all the more unfathomable that we continually express surprise at the next thing Republicans do.
“The Republican Party has embraced dictatorial foreign governments manipulating our electorate, presidents making millions of their office, and oligarchy in the USA.” This is sedition and treason, it is prosecutable, and it must be prosecuted. Or we must face the fact that we have already accepted oligarchy as our de facto form of government.
“A 37-year-old billionaire singlehandedly controls the world’s largest single source of news and information while, a whistleblower asserts, subordinating human rights, democracy and common decency to profit.” As much as I detest Zuckerberg, this one’s on us. Get off the platform – I did five years ago -- with only positive effects. If you’re still on it, you’re a chump and a hypocrite both – and aiding and abetting totalitarianism.
“The US Supreme Court initiated a historic constitutional crisis by allowing the Texas vigilante abortion law to stand in defiance of its own Roe v Wade decision,” Hartmann Report: How far down the road towards fascism,” Thom Hartmann, Oct 12.
We previously wrote extensively on the need to stop deferring to the Supreme Court – they have abrogated their rights to deference by failing to execute their responsibilities faithfully. A nation cannot survive by propping up failed institutions at the expense of justice – that is one practice that clearly marks failed governments of all types throughout history. We don’t work for institutions – we design and lead them – and then they work for us. When they no longer ‘work for us,’ we redesign them – or are consigned to the dustbin of history.
A few select global neoliberalism Effects
“Global routine immunization rates in 2020 dropped to levels last seen in 2005. This could well derail efforts to eliminate polio and result in a resurgence of measles. 1.3 million fewer people with TB were treated in 2020 than 2019. HIV testing declined by 22% in 2020,” Science Magazine, 26 Nov 2021 “Vax the World,” P. 1031.
“69,000 – estimated increase in global malaria deaths compared to 2019 – 70% of them attributed to pandemic disruptions,” Science Magazine,10 dec 2021, “By the numbers.”
“Thwaites Glacier, an icesheet the size of Florida is driven by newly detected fissures and is likely to break apart in the next five years or so. Thwaites occupies a deep basin into which neighboring glaciers would flow, its demise could eventually lead to the loss of the entire West Antarctic Icesheet, which locks up 3.3 meters of global sea level rise,” Science Magazine, 17 Dec 2021, “Key Antarctic Ice Shelf is within Years of Failure,” p. 1420.
“The recycling rate has stagnated at only 9% of all plastics produced globally, or only 14% of plastic packaging,” Science Magazine, 29 oct 2021 “Polymer design for the Circular Economy,” p. 540.
Why is this happening now?
Well, it’s always been tough for the little people, but system effects, especially network effects, are making it worse. All the talk about access to information and technology leveling the playing field was wishful thinking. Plutocrats are leveraging their power, money, and access to power centers and technology to purposely generate deleterious network effects – such as the spread of misinformation through social media – in a manner that was not possible until quite recently. They are deliberately amplifying what economists term “externalities” - previously considered the negative side effects of capitalism and now revealed as purposeful components of neoliberalism.
Toxic Myths are also a key feature of the American culture. Myth #1. – American is a religious, specifically Christian, country. Sorry, America is not a Christian country; it isn’t by any means a religious country in the classic definition of the word. Our one true, and truly national, religion, is neoliberalism. As one of our Presidents said in a public speech: “After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.” President Calvin Coolidge, 1925 Speech.
It’s what they practice, not what they preach, that characterizes a people, right?
14 “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James, 2:14-16, King James Version.
The relatively high (but rapidly declining, I should note) American religious affiliation numbers are also misleading. Muscular Christianity, the Prosperity Gospel, and Evangelicalism now dominate U.S. Protestantism, and these so-called theologies and movements are as far from Christ as it is possible to get. They operate with a level of hypocrisy that would have shamed the Pharisees. In fairness, 65% of Roman Catholics (I was raised Catholic but am now lapsed) voted for Trump, and the majority are still supporting (financially and loyally) priests who abuse their children and suppress women. Jesus, Mary and Joseph (I’m also mostly Irish and that’s a legitimate, non-blasphemous Irish Catholic phrase), not to mention St. Augustine, St. Francis, Dorothy Day and John Kennedy -- have got to be turning over in their graves at both of these things. Bottom line: both Evangelicalism and Catholicism in America have become thoroughly corrupted by neoliberalism and are now firmly sided with the forces of reaction. And both bow down to and are animated by the secular God of neoliberalism, while paying lip service to Christianity much like Communists did with Marxism-Leninism.
Myth #2. – the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. See the stats above that disprove this theory. We aren’t even the best country in North America! We just have a lot of money and military power -- and from the neoliberal perspective, that’s all that matters and all that needs measuring to maintain the myth.
Finally, there’s willful blindness.
Some people don’t want to see reality clearly. They would have to admit they’re chumps, and Republicans would rather be chumps than change -- there’s not much reasoning with such folks and they don’t mind being hypocritical – hypocrisy being the Ur-value and common trait of neoliberalism, Republicans, modern Conservatives, White Supremacists, Evangelicals and Catholics alike.
For others, it’s working for them – them being the top 10%.
For others yet, they believe it will eventually work for them, or their children, or their children’s children. Hope springs eternal, delusion is hope on steroids.
What happens next?
Untreated, it gets worse. Republican Strategy -- keep going in same direction until you meet opposition – is working. Here’s what they’ll try to do when they retake Congress and/or White House: eliminate social security – they’ll do it gradually starting with 18-year olds; roll back abortion rights; eliminate Title 9, reverse multiple Constitutional amendments (at least #s 12, 14, 15, 17, 22, 23, 24, and 27); pass more draconian laws curtailing civil liberties such as right of assembly; spend even more money on law enforcement, courts and prisons; outlaw unions; defund public schools; outlaw languages other than English -- first for employees, then everywhere but the home; restrict immigration to those who can pay large sums and/or come from non shithole countries.
Continuing: leave NATO; create multiple NARC programs w/incentives; make the tax code more inequitable; politicize the military and government agencies by increasing the number of appointees and allowing them to burrow in; establish direct government control of the banking system to favor R’s and coerce liberals; pass laws making officeholders immune from prosecution while in office and from anything they did while in office; tort “reform” drastically limiting individual citizen rights to sue as well as class actions; restrict emigration (you will be able to go but you have to leave your money here, applies to individuals and corporations); all the while pretending we have still have a democracy so the press and liberals have cover for their inactivity.
Where do we end up without reversing the vicious cycle? Some horrible hybrid of Mexico and Russia, a national equivalent of a “Red Giant” star, still powerful and dangerous but inexorably headed to decline and irrelevance. A “shithole country,” so to speak.
These are not fanciful or unduly apocalyptic predictions -- we’ve seen them validated historically, modeled them as logical outcomes of Republican strategy and current trends, and seen the policies noted proposed by think tanks and critical right ecosystem actors.
What will likely be the initial liberal response to all this? More of the same. The Democratic Party will continue to flail, the press will straddle the fence as usual, white men will show the same cowardice and reluctance to engage as they always have. Those that can afford to will move to Canada or Europe; the rest will slowly get coopted.
The Way Back from the Precipice – There will be no angels seeking their wings, no cavalry, no Deus ex Machina, no charismatic leader, no Mr. Tambourine Man, and no George Bailey -- coming to save us. It’s more about Mary Bailey – no existential despair, no fame-seeking, just a solid American using her good old pluck and Yankee ingenuity - multiplied by the tens of thousands. Yes, more than likely, women, people of color and youth will save us --if we are to be saved. They will come together in a new movement centered on justice, and over a 75-year period we’ll get back on the path to greatness as a nation.
Why will it be hard? Four in ten Americans consider themselves losers in the Social Darwinism construct that is modern America -- driven by a neoliberalism that is not near being a spent force, and that is fueled by the largest amount of cash ever accumulated. A neoliberalism they nonetheless support because they are so bereft of critical reasoning skills and emotional maturity that they’d rather screw themselves over even more than look in the mirror and admit the ugly truth.
They feel they are double losers in this world – first, by comparative underachievement, second by being white and still underachieving despite the advantages. This phenomenon will take 75 years to completely eliminate – we modeled it as a three-generation effort. In that time, the right only has to win once, because its amorality will permit it to institute societal changes that preclude meaningful counter-challenge short of revolution. On the other hand, the left has to win every pitched battle over that 75-year period. Make no mistake, this is an asymmetric fight that favors the right.
The deep American spirit I grew up believing was limitless and evergreen has been worn down like prairie topsoil by neoliberalism and toxic myths – just in the course of my lifetime. Without being able to draw deeply from that well, I sometimes grow so weary from the fight that I can’t get my work done. Maybe you are affected the same way. This is no way to live and we shouldn’t accept it.
There is yet cause for hope.
On Christmas Eve our family was out trolling for Christmas decorations (and free snacks!) and came across this scene. An Orlando suburban couple is determined to bring focus on the Covid tragedy and spent 34 days building this light display – one light for each American victim, unfortunately requiring the installation of over 800,000 lights. I was overwhelmed with a combination of grief at the needless deaths whose total now exceeds that from the Civil War, and gratitude that Americans like this courageous couple -- and the members of the many numerous progressive movements -- are still fighting the good fight.