For the Want of a Nail

Richard III.

Riichard III. Begner (according to signature on bottom left, first name illegible) [Public domain]

So what if Donald Trump doctored a picture with a Sharpie? So what if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) instructed its scientists not to contradict Trump in his assertion that Alabama was indeed threatened by hurricane Dorian when he claimed it was? This was a trivial action by a vain and stupid man and a frightened response by timid bureaucrats, that is all. We have more important things to worry about. Look at the Bahamas. Look at Ocracoke. Hell, look at the Afghanistan negotiations.

So what? Not even Trump’s supporters expect him to know what he is talking about or even to tell the truth. They liked the character he played on TV and decided they’d like to see it in the White House. They are fine with incompetence–as long as it looks right and gives them the show they want.

So what?

For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was  lost. For want of the horse, the rider was lost. For want of the rider, the battle was lost.

Little things can make a big difference. Little bit of paper, hanging chads, led to the excuses five Supreme Court justices could make in order to elect George W. Bush president.

But that’s not all.

We have a president today,  and have known this for a long time, who we can’t trust on anything. He won’t even admit the most trivial mistake, even trying to justify it by altering a map. Sure, nobody really believed Alabama faced danger from Dorian, but Trump said it had been–so the reality had to be changed. Now, we can no longer trust NOAA.

Our leaders have lied to us in the past. Of course they have. Remember those Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq? Every administration has been accused of lying–and has lied.

None of them, though, has lied as stupidly and blatantly as this. No other president has then tried to make his lie true by changing a map by himself. The next step, lying to support the president? Yes, that has happened–and it will again. Some people put their bosses and their own careers over the needs of their community or, in this case, country. That’s not going to change, though they know that doing so endangers us all.

Knowing this, we can’t afford to just laugh at Trump and his clownish antics on a stage he will never be ready for. His little ‘mistakes’ (though that Sharpie lie is certainly no mistake) can’t be passed off (though they shouldn’t be) the way Joe Biden wants us to do with his. You can’t, even if you like Trump, simply say he meant well or that this really doesn’t matter.

For he did not mean well, and that matters.

Trump’s inclusion of Alabama in his televised remarks was trivial, and he was corrected almost immediately by the National Weather Service. Now, the NWS is facing rebuke for having told the truth. That matters. In a time of chaotic weather patterns, we all need to be able to rely on what we hear from governmental weather experts. Now, because it is more important to support the president than to protect the people, we can’t.

People like to point out the parallels between what is going on now and the attitude toward truth in George Orwell’s 1984. And they should. But no one listens; it all seems too hyperbolic and, besides, we’ve heard it all before.

So what if Trump makes mistakes? What harm is there in it?

The harm stems from the fact that he cannot admit mistakes and leads a government so cowed by him that its functionaries, instead of acting quickly to ameliorate the situation (as the NWS tried to do), act to make his mistakes–and lies–look true.

These lies, when we accept them as true, can inch larger,  as this one has, and can end up killing us. They haven’t yet, thank goodness, bu that’s the so-what.

Remember this: “That nail in the horseshoe isn’t needed, sir. Just be on your way.”