Maps and Ground



“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity in a phone interview. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

Upon reading these words in the Washington Post of March 27, I immediately thought of Dr. Gordon Livingston’s small gem of a book. In Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, Livingston shares thirty truths of life that he has learned over his varied career. The first truth is: “If the map doesn’t agree with the ground, the map is wrong.” He goes on to tell how he learned this “profound truth.” As a young lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division, he is attempting to orient himself on  a field problem at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. As he studies the map, his platoon sergeant, “a veteran of many junior offices” asked, “You figure out where we are, lieutenant?” Livingston replies that according to the map a hill should be visible, but he doesn’t see a hill. “Sir,” the sergeant replies, “if the map don’t agree with the ground, then the map is wrong.” Livingston admits to realizing that he “had just heard a profound truth.”

Reading not only Trump’s words quoted above, but the entire interview with Hannity, I wished that Trump would follow the sergeant’s truth. But like a young officer standing in a field, he is confused by what he sees and what he wants. Trump’s map does not show what is before his eyes. His map shows him a lush, green meadow of money instead of the starkness of an epidemic.  He refuses to believe the ground–the mayors, governors, and other local civic leaders who  are begging him for help to battle the pandemic they face in their towns, cities, and states.

Trump and his enablers, officials and citizens alike, are endangering lives. Before the pandemic, they were people I agreed with on some issues, but mostly I did not follow their beliefs. Yet, I have experienced administrations and senators before that I objected to and know that they will eventually go away. However, this administration is different because it and its policies now threaten the health of so many of us.

Because Trump, Pence, Birx, and all the others who stand each day and ramble on by giving false hope, making false statements, and ignoring the ground—the truth before them, they have created a situation that endangers our country. To say that any local elected leader is exaggerating their needs threatens our republic.

Denying the ground will not correct the map. Truths numbered 19 and 20 in Dr. Livingston’s jewel of a book  are especially worthy for Trump and his group to follow: “We flee from the truth in vain,” and “It’s a poor idea to lie to oneself.” Throw your map away, Mr. President, and ask for professional guides like Dr. Fauci to help you-and us-navigate this wasteland we face.



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