“A descent into a lip-blubbering, self-destructive idiocy,” says Eugene Robinson, writing in The Washington Post. That’s how he fears our great nation ends. “How dumb can a nation get and still survive?” We now have lost more than 700,000 people to COVID-19 — most of them vaccine deniers. And that doesn’t include those “long-haulers” who didn’t die, but have suffered damaged organs, lifetime disabilities and loss of limbs. Compare that to our losses in World War II: 286,959.

Ours is the only country in the world where people refuse to get vaccinated. The rest of the world is desperate for the vaccine, but in this country vaccination has become a political football. Why?

Vaccination should not be a political statement. People should not be refusing vaccination because their great leader, Comrade Donald Trump told them to. He so indoctrinated his base that they now refuse to get vaccinated, even as he has changed his tune. They have gone so deep down the rabbit hole that they would be embarrassed to change their direction now.

Our Congress also quarrels about the debt ceiling, even though House members and U.S. senators all know it has to be raised because our twice-impeached, one-term former president raised our national debt into the stratosphere. Still, the Senate, which likes to refer to itself as the world’s greatest deliberative body, quarrels over raising the debt ceiling, risking default on our debt and economic chaos all over the world.

We want to be number one, the leader of the modern world, but we allow our representatives to act like a bunch of bickering children. It’s political tribalism at its worst, divorced from fact and reason. And we continue to be assaulted by the braying of our former president that the election was stolen. Trump knows he lost, but he continues to stoke his base with his Big Lie, and his base is too stupid to recognize it’s a hoax and he’s a fraud. Sixty-three court cases and multiple audits and recounts have confirmed over and over: Trump lost.

We are finally out of Afghanistan, a deep money pit costing us and the rest of our allies fortunes upon fortunes. Afghanistan was another Republican boondoggle, begun by George Bush in his mad search for weapons of mass destruction — a hunt that finally became a search for weapons of mass distraction as we sought a way to justify the pointless action after we killed Osama bin Laden. We told ourselves we were staying there to free and educate women and girls, but at what cost? Three hundred million dollars a day, and as soon as Trump freed 5,000 Taliban fighters in his meeting with the Taliban at Davo, they knew we were pulling out. The Taliban went on the attack, with 5,000 of their fighters freed, and Afghan cities fell like dominoes.

Neither our military leaders nor the Afghan military thought they would ever be able to keep the Taliban at bay without us. Finally, President Joe Biden took the bold step of getting us out, after we had spent more than $2.4 trillion and lost 2,500 lives. Imagine how much good that money could have done in this country.

And now the Republicans want to kill Biden’s infrastructure and social reform bills because the programs don’t fund their pet projects, namely making the rich richer. Trump continues to hold sway with Republicans who don’t have enough courage to stand up to him, even though privately many of them say they wish he would bow out of party politics and ride off into the sunset.

The Editorial Board of the St Louis Post-Dispatch says that, “History will harshly judge Trump’s coup attempt, and those who defend it.” By extension, those who continue to kowtow to him, knowing he is a clear and present danger to our democracy. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order that bans vaccine mandates by any entity in Texas, amid the ongoing pandemic and increasing numbers of cases resulting from the delta variant.

Rick Shenkman, founder of George Washington University’s History News Network, says, “McCarthyism — sure. Racism — of course. Xenophobia — duh. Misogyny — yes. America had it all. But a mass cult built around an old man known for lying and grifting? Didn’t see that happening. Nor did I anticipate that tens of millions would refuse a free vaccine that could save others’ lives —and their own. History had convinced me that Americans wouldn’t elect a wild demagogue and wouldn’t stand by him after it was proven (over and over again) that he lies to them. History was wrong.”

Many of us share his incredulity — and embarrassment. We are embarrassed to recognize that so many otherwise normal, intelligent Americans would fall for the liar-in-chief who was our former president. The refusal by some of the supporters of the former president to protect themselves and the country against the COVID-19 virus and its delta offspring is inexplicable, particularly given that these same people who publicly deny the protection afforded by the vaccine have already been vaccinated themselves. The liar-in-chief encouraged his supporters right over the cliff, while he, of course, stood by the side watching. He and his family had been vaccinated long ago.

How dumb can a nation get and still survive?

Martha Johnson is a resident of Elizabeth City.