Illusion And Disillusion
Leonard Zwelling

The first is a lie. It’s the appearance or perception of something that is not. The second is a disappointment. You had expected one thing and got another, usually producing lesser joy. You were disillusioned. I have been thinking about both of these words a lot of late particularly as it applies to how I try to get at the truth. So much around me seems to be an illusion, often purposefully so, particularly by the media determined to bend the facts to tell a story. Once I find out the truth, I am uniformly disillusioned. Aren’t you?

Let’s start with the obvious. This pandemic that we are in and have been for eight months now, is it real? How would you know?

From the screaming on television screens, it appears that the sky is falling. But is it really? Yes, many people in Italy and New York City got sick and the hospital systems where overwhelmed (I believe). That seems real. But—were these mostly older people who should have been protected from exposure? Could they have been protected? When death occurred was it from covid or with it? Yes, 190,000 people in the United States died with a positive test (I guess), but did they really die from the virus? How can we know? Few were probably autopsied and even had they all been, how many had accompanying conditions that might have led to their deaths anyway? Who can say? Does it matter? Of course it does, because the truth about the virulence of this disease is still murky to me. It seems to be more contagious than the flu and certainly appears to be more deadly than the flu in the elderly. But is that enough to shut down the country? Were the economic consequences worth it? On this I am disillusioned not because I think what we did was wrong (I know it was), but because I can’t be sure of what right would have looked like.

Let’s move on. Let’s go to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. First, why are these gatherings OK, while political rallies for Trump were not? I don’t get it. Either they are both a bad idea or they both are fine. I think both were a bad idea until we can be certain of the virulence of the virus. Its contagion is obvious. So how good an idea is a crowd?

Next, don’t tell me that these were all peaceful demonstrations. They clearly were not in Portland and other places and the police didn’t riot. The rioters did. It was a nice try when left-leaning reporters got on television and claimed the demonstrations were peaceful when behind them flames roared. These peaceful protests were also an illusion as many broke out into riots. Don’t be so fast to give the BLM people a pass. If the virus was a threat and gatherings a bad idea, BLM should have stuck to social media not marched in the streets. I don’t think that the outdoor gathering in Sturgis, South Dakota was any worse than a BLM march in a city on the coasts. That one was safe and one was bad is an illusion.

The economic catastrophe that followed the pandemic fury may well turn out to be the product of an illusion as well. My guess is that masks, social distancing and good hand washing might have allowed far more of the economy to stay open rather than shut under the illusion of the coronavirus scourge. Yes, the virus is bad. Yes, a lot of people got sick. But what have been the effects of the lockdowns on the well-being of most Americans? Has it halted the virus’s spread? Not apparently.

And what about those fires in the west? Surely that’s all real. Yes, it is, but was any of it preventable or is this just the product of people living in places they shouldn’t because nature renews itself through destruction in the forest and man has no say in the matter. Those dwelling in the forest may be disillusioned now, but careful attention to California’s climate, its Santa Ana winds, and its dry conditions might have averted the illusion of safety in where people chose to live. The same thing happened in Houston when people built houses in known flood zones.

Do I think climate change is real or an illusion? It’s probably real and assuming it is is the best bet anyway. If it’s real then our attempts to control our contribution to it may avert disaster. If it’s not real, our efforts will be a good idea anyway. Climate change is likely to be contributing to the fires and the flooding and the hurricanes. What ever we can do to stop our contribution to climate change is a good thing to do. No illusion.

Finally, there’s the Woodward book and tapes. I found them fascinating because once again, Donald Trump has proven himself to be the most honest president we ever had until it came to the virus, and then he told Woodward the truth anyway. Trump created the illusion of the virus being mild when he knew it would be bad. He could have been more forthcoming—like he usually is—and probably found a middle path between a complete economic shutdown and reasonable steps to protect the most vulnerable. Instead, he lied about what he knew about the virus and probably made things worse.

On this one I am not disillusioned. When it comes to politicians, the amateurs (like Trump) or the professionals (like Pelosi), I have no expectations of honesty or proper behavior in the Oval Office or in a hair salon.

I don’t mind trying to get over my disillusion. I just wish I could find a way around the media’s constant establishment of illusion. The truth must be out there—somewhere. I am just not sure how to find it. I remain disillusioned.

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