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Columnist John Sheirer: Midterm elections may begin curing nation’s ills

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

I’m typing these words on the morning of New Year’s Eve 2017. Each sentence is punctuated by a coughing fit. Once again, Betsy and I have found ourselves sick during the holiday season, something that has become a pattern in recent years.

The over-the-counter medication we’re taking claims in big type on the front of the box to relieve “headache, fever, sore throat, minor aches and pains, sneezing, runny nose, and cough.” Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.

A quick glance at the back of the medication box reveals in much smaller type — the “fine print,” as it’s called — some potential side effects: severe liver damage, skin reddening, blisters and rash. No thank you, please. Further fine print shows that these pills can cause excitability and drowsiness. Really? Simultaneously? That could make for a fun New Year’s Eve if we weren’t so sick.

We’ve all seen television ads for the promise of various medications: An unfortunate woman/man/child mopes across the cloudy scene, unable to keep up with happy grandchildren/children/friends. The downcast narrator blames everything on some heretofore untreatable and incurable ailment.

Suddenly, the sun breaks through, and our protagonist launches from the bed/couch/bench to stride/run/leap into happy activities — all thanks to the latest miracle drug. “Ask your doctor if ‘Yanoslivator’ is right for you!” the newly joyful narrator crows, knowing that, of course, Yanoslivator is right for you if its marked-up price is covered by your insurance plan.

The next two minutes of the television ad show the delightful frolicking brought about by Yanoslivator. Meanwhile, the narrator dismissively tosses out a lengthy list of Yanoslivator’s side effects, disclaimers, and cautions: “Yanoslivator has caused suicide in laboratory animals. Don’t take Yanoslivator if you breathe air. In rare cases, Yanoslivator will make you chew off your left hand.”

Is all of that Yanoslivator-induced frolicking worth it if you’ve eaten your left hand? That’s up to your insurance carrier.

Donald Trump is the Yanoslivator of politics. His re-election campaign commercials could begin with images of what Trump himself has called “American carnage,” the terrible state of the nation before he took office. Remember the horrors when our previous president spoke in complete sentences, when the Supreme Court ruled we all had equal protection of the laws, when neo-Nazis were embarrassed to march in public?

How could we ever frolic again after such carnage?

Then Trump could stride onto our television screen in his lumpy suit and extra-long necktie. Hallelujah! We’ve all been cured by just one dose of Trump’s Make America Great Again! The wealthy and corporations have been relieved of their odious tax burdens! “America-firsters” no longer have to pretend to like our international allies! We are finally allowed to say “Merry Christmas” again without being instantly drone-bombed by a Muslim president! What sensible American wouldn’t want more of Trump’s delicious snake oil?

As the television ad continues, Trump could lurch from podium to podium, gesticulating with his digitally enlarged hands, as a small voice lists just a few of the side effects, disclaimers, cautions associated with following this incompetent narcissist who would sell all our souls for another five minutes of power:

“MAGA is not valid in the United States of America. For propaganda purposes only. Not intended as a factual statement. Side effects include intense regret, embarrassment, loss of health insurance and increased threat from climate change. Activation requires profound ignorance and intolerant world view and working knowledge of Russian language. Actual benefits limited to corporations and the wealthy. Tiki torches sold separately.”

I may have been naïve enough to think that I wouldn’t get sick this year between Christmas and New Year’s. And I was optimistic enough to think that some weak, over-the-counter pills might relieve my sleepless nights, hacking cough, and hours spent shoveling snow while nursing atomic body aches in every muscle and bone.

But I wasn’t confused enough to ignore Trump’s obvious side effects — not in 2016, not in 2017, and certainly not in 2018.

Actor and comedian Steve Martin once penned a marvelous short story titled, “Side Effects.” The story begins thusly: “Dosage: Take two tablets every six hours for joint pain. Side Effects: This drug may cause joint pain.” There’s not a more appropriate passage in all of American literature to sum up the reign of Trump.

In 2016, some Americans looked at our nation and said, “Hey, let’s elect this Trump guy! He’ll fix everything!” It’s like they had the sniffles and said, “Hey, let’s chug antifreeze! That’ll fix everything!”

Even worse, some Americans are now praising the curative qualities of antifreeze, claiming that Trump has “drained the swamp” even though he’s installed himself as King of the Swamp. They’re claiming that Trump is “making America great again” even though they have no clue what makes America great in the first place.

As the new year dawns, let’s remember that Trump will continue to sicken our country in 2018. The upcoming midterm elections can’t cure everything, but they’re as close to an effective treatment as we have available.

If we don’t resist Trump’s attacks on our nation, and we don’t campaign and vote in the midterm elections, then our side effects will surely include a lingering taste of antifreeze.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent book is “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech.” Find him at JohnSheirer.com.