Comatose Patient Awakens to Pandemic and 2020 Election Part III
Final chapter: A Rip van Winkle cautionary tale
This is Part III and final piece. Part I is about a fictional woman, Valerie Jameson, who had been in a coma since late August 2015. She wakes up to find out her children are in college, that Donald Trump is running for re-election and the world is in a pandemic. In Part II, Valerie has a lot to absorb. In this section, Valerie reads more about Trump’s presidency, and ventures forth to the lunchroom.
As a pick-me-up for her mother, Marcy arranged a mini spa day at Steuben Gardens. First, the physical therapist arranged for Valerie to use the therapy pool. Then, Valerie had a soak in the whirlpool. Wrapped in her fluffy bathrobe, Valerie noticed that Marjorie, her stylist, was waiting in the shampoo area with scissors. Marjorie caught her up on five years of celebrity gossip. Feeling like a new person, Marjorie wheeled Valerie to her room. Marcy helped her into a pretty new pair of pajamas and proceeded to give her mother a pedicure.
The next day, Valerie had a little time to read between her physical therapy work and her speech therapy. She started her reading at McSweeneys.net.
Valerie learned that Trump was still insisting on building a wall and not allowing asylum to immigrants. She read that he continued his feud with Senator John McCain. Before her coma, she recalled that he said, “He’ s not a war hero. . . . I like people who weren’t captured.”
Valerie sighed and said to herself, “This from a man who never served.” Valerie’s father and father-in-law both served in WWII. In fact, her father-in-law was only 19 when he fought on Iwo Jima.
Picking up the tablet again, Valerie read that on August 19, 2015, two people in Trump’s base beat a homeless Latino man with a pipe and then urinated on him. The reason they gave was that “all these illegals need to be deported.” Valerie groaned and wondered what had happened to her country.
In her lifetime, Presidents released their tax returns. They also put their businesses into trusts, and, in general, were family men. Many had served in the military. They did not openly boast of sexual prowess. They did not paint Mexicans as criminals and racists. They did not invite Russia and China to interfere in our elections. They also did not threaten to postpone the election while at the same time working to slow down the USPS in a pandemic. They did not ask at a briefing if ingesting bleach could eliminate the virus. Somehow, Trump’s supporters seem immune to logic and medical advice. They claim that wearing a mask infringes on their rights; however, they overlook Trump’s authoritarian efforts to reduce our liberties. There was no White House outcry when we learned about Russia placing bounties for the killing of our soldiers.
Valerie then began to read about what happened at Charlottesville, VA. Ostensibly, the protests were about removing a Confederate statue. Trump downplayed the violence brought about by white-supremacy groups. On April 26, 2019, he said, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” Some of those very fine people came from alt-right groups in 39 states. An estimated 600 alt-right people assembled. They chanted, “ Jews will not replace us! You will not replace us!” One of them drove his vehicle into the crowded street killing Heather Heyer and wounding 19.
There has been a rise in hate crimes. Since Charlottesville, “white supremacists have committed at least 73 murders.” In addition, there have been protests in many cities over police brutality against blacks such as over the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. However, when nonviolent protests broke out in Portland over the murder of George Floyd, Trump framed it as a law and order issue caused by a weak democratic mayor. At his RNC acceptance speech, held in the Rose Garden, he said: “They [Democrats] will pass federal legislation to reduce law enforcement nationwide. They will make every city look like Democrat-run Portland,Oregon.”
Even more worrisome, as the protests continued, unidentified militia groups showed up. Although Trump claims the “fine people on both sides” comment was referring to the good people who simply wanted to preserve a monument, he is more critical of opponents. In a Washington Post editorial, Jennifer Rubin writes, [Trump] “ denies systemic racism and instead paints all protesters as anarchists, socialists and violent extremists. He has refused to condemn police officers who kill unarmed Black men and women or White armed groups engaged in violence. He invited to the Republican National Convention a couple charged with a felony for brandishing weapons at Black Lives Matter marchers.”
Valerie then read about D.C. Mayor Muriel Brown speaking from Black Lives Matter Plaza: “ ‘But while we were peacefully protesting, Donald Trump was plotting,’” Bowser said. “‘He stood in front of one of our most treasured houses of worship and held a Bible for a photo op. He sent troops in camouflage into our streets. He sent tear gas into the air and federal helicopters, too. I knew if he did this to D.C., he would do it to your city or your town.”
God help us if Trump is sending militia to Democratic -run cities. Will I be denied a ventilator or a vaccine because I’m a Democrat? Valerie shivered.
Closing her tablet and massaging her forehead, Valerie was wheeled to the lunchroom to socialize with others.
Millie smiled as Valerie joined them. Irene, Annie, and Nancy continued their conversation. It didn’t seem that anyone was listening to anyone in particular but just seemed eager to talk.
A television on the wall across from Valerie’s seat added to the chatter. Everyone, except Valerie, had chicken, rice, gravy, and overcooked carrots. An attendant served Valerie some broth and Jello. Valerie explained that she was still having trouble swallowing.
As people started to eat, the television interrupted the game show with breaking news. An anchor said, “Good morning. It is September 4, 2020, and we interrupt this broadcast with breaking news. The Atlantic reports President Trump called soldiers who died in WWI ‘losers’ and ‘suckers.’” The reporter quoted Trump as saying it’s a “fake story.”
Valerie choked a bit at the news.
Millie looked at Valerie and said, “It is definitely a fake story. My nephew reads a lot and told me that Trump would never say that.”
Valerie swallowed her thoughts. She remembered Michael’s warning before she spoke out loud. Silently, she thought, “But he did call POW Senator John McCain a ‘loser.’” She coughed slightly, pretending the broth went down the wrong way.
The others nodded in agreement with Millie. The rest of the lunch passed with no conversation.
When Valerie could no longer stomach the Jello, she noticed a familiar face pass by the lunchroom. She said she had a visitor and asked to be taken to her room.
Her friend, Ann, gave her a big hug. She scolded Valerie,“Girl, you have caused a whole lot of worry.”
“Fill me in on the last five years. How is your daughter? Where is she?”
“She is following her dream. She was in Atlanta; now she’s in Oregon.”
“Wow! I’m proud of her.”
“Say, I have a bone to pick with you. The 2020 blueberry season is passed. It has been five years since I’ve had your blueberry pie!”
Valerie gave a deep laugh. “I’ll have to make you one.”
Ann laughed, “As my family would say, ‘ Put your foot into it.’”
On September 17, the same ladies are assembled at the same table for lunch. Most of them seem animated about the latest “Price is Right” question When a news anchor interrupts the show: “A young woman who worked closely with Vice President Pence on the Coronavirus Task Force has revealed that she will vote for Joe Biden in the upcoming election.” According to Olivia Troye, President Trump joked in a meeting that “COVID could be a good thing because he would not have to shake so many disgusting hands.”
When Valerie got back to her room, Marcy was waiting with a wrapped Christmas gift. It took her no time to open and find an exquisite musical snow globe of an idyllic snow scene. A man and a woman are skating. The two women laughed to hear it play, “Joy to the World.”
At that moment, Dr. Schwarz knocked. “Valerie, you can begin a few day trips home as long as family is there. Roy knows how to give you your liquid nourishment. And, if all goes well, the feeding tube will be removed in early December!”
More hugs all around.
“Hurray!” says her daughter. “I get to teach you how to shop online. All of your clothes are too big.”
That night, Valerie played “Joy to the World” and looked forward to resuming her life.
Dear Reader, if you’re like me, you’re probably numb to all the chatter around President Trump. You have probably forgotten much of it. Too much is at stake in our November elections for us not to examine our souls. Clearly, Trump has a base of admirers who think he actually cares about them. I hope each of us looks at his words and actions before casting a vote. The next month will be chaotic. Let’s do our due dilligence, and wear our masks. As Americans, we can show respect for others, even if our current President doesn’t. And, please honor the 200,000 innocents who have died from COVID-19.