Out activist Mary L. Trump gathered women experts and stakeholders from various sectors of society to discuss the impact that her uncle is having on the most treasured institutions in the U.S., ranging from law to arts to health care.
“The current administration has systematically dismantled our trust and faith in all aspects of society and the institutions of which it is comprised. We have lost faith in the justice system, in health care, in the safety of a potential COVID vaccine, in the post office, and, in many instances, in our leaders and in each other,” Dr. Trump, a clinical psychologist, said during a Zoom press conference today. “I wanted key experts explain the impact of these degradations to the American people and to point out why it’s so important for us to reverse course.”
Broadway and film legend Patti LuPone, one of the participants in the Zoom conference, said, choking back tears, that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all parts of American life, and one of the most disregarded is the toll it has taken on the arts communities of which she is proud member.
“Across the country stages are dark, theaters are empty, and audiences aren’t coming back anytime soon. Nearly two-thirds of arts workers in the U.S. have lost their job due to this pandemic and the Trump administration has done absolutely nothing to protect one of our nation’s most precious assets and the people who bring it to life. We risk losing them forever,” an emotional LuPone warned.
Dr. Trump and other experts also discussed the impact of her uncle’s administration on COVID-19 and health care, first amendment rights, journalism, criminal justice, and mental health.
Noted science journalist Laurie Garrett, who predicted the current plague in her first book almost 20 years ago, and who has been a prominent fixture of news programs, talk shows, and news columns about the administration’s failures, addressed what she foresaw and foresees.
“Donald Trump’s primary mission has been to destroy what right-wing Republicans call ‘the administrative and regulatory State,” Garrett explained. “By hacking away at the jobs and activities of agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, the Trump administration has rendered millions vulnerable to COVID-19 and other diseases and left the nation to fend off a pandemic without any national plan, limited federal workforce, and ineptitude. The result: officially 226,864 Americans have died of COVID-19. The undercount is of some 80,000 excess deaths, bringing the likely total to about 300,000 deceased. The epidemic is out of control in nearly every state in the nation.”
Frequent COVID-19 television analyst Dr. Kavita Patel, who served as a senior advisor in the Obama administration, echoed Garrett’s disturbing picture of the Trump administration’s ineptitude in addressing the virus. “The devastation to the American people is obvious by our rising cases and deaths with COVID-19, along with staggering levels of unemployment and food insecurity, but the attacks on medicine and science will undermine us for generations to come unless change happens imminently.”
The health and vitality of our First Amendment rights have also been attacked by the president and his communications team. Anne Champion, a First Amendment lawyer, said, “From Sean Spicer’s lies about inauguration crowd sizes to the death of the White House press briefing under Sarah Sanders, to Kayleigh McEnany’s immediately broken promise never to lie to the press, the White House Press Office is a microcosm of the dysfunction of the Trump administration, perverting its vital mission to keep the public informed about the workings of government into a platform to abuse the press and spread propaganda. For the first time in her life, Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes received death threats after her interview with Trump. So many have, and this is unprecedented and unacceptable."
MSNBC analyst and American civil rights activist Maya Wiley spoke about how justice is “…protection for the people, not the plaything of the powerful.” She said that the Department of Justice, once the nation's protector of rights and prosecutor of those in power, has become Trump’s personal defense department.
“From trying to protect him from the defamation lawsuit of a woman who has said he raped her, to endangering the lives of people protesting against police violence in Lafayette Park so he could have a photo op, to arguing that the government could deny immigrant children basic humane conditions — even toothpaste and soap — in its custody. As things stand, Trump demands a coronation and he is having the Justice Department roll out the red carpet.”
To that end, American historian and scholar on fascism and authoritarian leaders Ruth Ben-Ghiat said that Donald Trump's goals for a second term would be to continue to destroy American democracy “…so he can maintain himself and his family in power indefinitely, avoiding prosecution for his crimes. It is vital that we understand the costs of reelecting this dangerous and destructive individual."
Finally, Rutgers University Denise Hien, who also spoke, perhaps had the most ominous and most lasting effect of the Trump years, said, “As a nation, we are only just beginning to understand the full impact on our collective mental health from the damaging/failed policies and practices of the current administration on coronavirus, immigration, race relations and more,” warned Dr. Hien.
“Psychological trauma occurs when we are unable to cope with a distressing event or series of events that threaten to overwhelm our sense of self and ability to function. We know that millions of Americans are at risk for the 'long haul' of trauma; manifestations include substance use and other behavioral addictions, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.”
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.