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The unreliable narrator's last conspiracy

It is in this extraordinary moment that our nation seems about to cross a threshold, one in which we ask ourselves, “How much more can we endure?” I often reflect on the words of W.B. Yeats: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” The year was 1918 and a pandemic, known as the Spanish flu, gripped the world and Yeats feared that his pregnant wife, desperately ill, would die.

Like Yeats then, we today stand on a precipice, searching for balance, waiting, hoping. We find ourselves stalked by a relentless virus, while coping with a perfect storm of stressors: food insecurity, joblessness, possible eviction, all while our front-line health care and essential workers deteriorate before our very eyes.

And as December concludes, absent a lifeline from Congress, 12 million Americans will lose their jobless benefits. Countless businesses will close that could have survived. For millions what awaits is a time of awful, beyond anything we, as a nation, have ever endured. For many, these are days framed by loss, depression, anxiety and suicide ideation.

In this moment it feels as if we have been abandoned, not only by the McConnell Senate, but certainly by Trump, who has done two things simultaneously: walked away from the coronavirus (last Friday 226,000 Americans were told they had the virus; 100,000 were hospitalized; 2,000 died) and, in the alternative, has set out to prove to the courts and his 74 million base that he won. The 2020 election was fraudulent, rigged, stolen and represents a massive, multi-state conspiracy by Democrats, Secretaries of State, and election workers. Apparently convincing the MAGA cohort of this alternative fact is not a bridge too far. According to a recent Monmouth University poll, 77 percent of his supporters agree (“Stop the Steal”).

And so, on Saturday, Donald traveled to Valdosta, Georgia, for a political rally, its ostensible purpose to encourage Georgian Republicans to support two senators locked in a run-off with two Democrats. But for Trump it was much more. After weeks cloistered in the White House, he walked slowly across the dais to the podium, a rock star basking in the familiar adulation. He stood stage center and looked out over a massive crowd, stretching in all directions, most maskless, their bare faces symbols of their defiance to the perceived intrusive CDC guidelines.

The Donald was back and they stood ready to flip what had been taken, the reality of vote counts and state certifications ignored. It proved a stunning display, a campaign rally unfolding as if the election had never taken place. Trump began with a long, riffing victory speech, leading with “I won the swing states! I won Wisconsin!” And the crowd chanted, “Fight for Trump!” Leaning in, warming to his theme, he said, “The Democrats can’t win unless they cheat and rob and steal. Dead people voted, ballots were forged. We have the evidence (two videos were shown on a giant screen of alleged election worker irregularities and grainy footage of imagined ballot dumps).

“Fight for the presidency!” he yelled. “We won. Big. Big. And we’ll be going to the Supreme Court very shortly I think you know what the answer’s going to be.

“We got over 74 million plus and they’re trying to convince us that we lost Wait three weeks.” “Stop the steal!” rolled through the audience. Trump answered, “We’re going to (win), you’re going to see that. We won.”

Regarding the pandemic, he did mention the coming vaccine, insisting, again, that we were “Rounding the corner!” The MAGA crowd, standing shoulder to shoulder, the air now a petri dish, clapped and yelled.

Meanwhile, Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, has projected a total of 450,000 virus deaths by the end of February. But first things first: there’s an election to be overturned.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.

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