Lake Travis Trump flotilla sinking an almost perfect metaphor
A calm lake. A beautiful day on the Labor Day weekend. And yet multiple boats sank as Trump supporters showed up for a mass boating event. It’s an almost perfect metaphor for Trump’s American in 2020.
Quick note: thankfully no one appears to be hurt and the damage was limited to property and egos. Some of those egos were undoubtedly substantial, but better a bruised ego than lungs full of water and more mourning.
The picture leading this piece is the iconic image from the event, just as the lone man sitting in a sea of blue seats was the iconic image from Trump’s failed Tulsa rally. The ‘organizers’ promoting the event on Facebook asked people to deck their boats out with as many pro-Trump flags as possible to send a strong message. These people, boat barely visible, expressions of terror on their faces, decked out their foundering boat with flags that included the phrases Make Liberals Sorry Again and Keep America Great.
Let’s explore the symbolism.
First, in a pandemic a very large group of people decide to have a mass social event in contradiction of public health guidance. Pretty clearly a Republican and Trump supporter effort. The partisan split on COVID-19 concerns and safety measures is very well established, and indeed one of the participants in the mass boating event toed the party line, stating that she thought COVID-19 was overblown. There wasn’t clarity in the article I read that she had to be towed by a line back to shore as well, but it’s entirely possible.
Second, a mass of Trump flags and paraphernalia ended up storm tossed on a lake that was made chaotic solely by their presence. There was no storm. This wasn’t a wind-related concern. This was Trump and his supporters creating dangerous conditions and harming each other. This too is symbolic of Trump’s intentional process of playing Jenga with other people’s lives.
Third, the ‘organizers’ of the event suggested safety guidelines that weren’t in accordance with evidence. International guidance for mass boating events is 6 knots or about 7 mph. That’s for lots of boats moving within 30 meters or 100 feet of one another. The ‘organizers’ requested a 10 mph limit but made no attempts to enforce it. Also in contradiction of normal safety guidance, they asked for a mere 10 feet of distance between boats, something else that was unenforced. Safety guidance that doesn’t align with empirical reality and is then not enforced sounds an awful lot like Trump’s COVID-19 response.
Fourth, many participants in the event ignored the lax safety guidance entirely per videos of often large boats moving very quickly around, and often within a handful of feet of each other. Naturally, personal flotation devices were not visible, even as the waves grew higher and higher. Yes, a mass of Trump supporters ignoring very lax safety guidance and endangering themselves and other people is very much a symbol of the Trump administration.
Fifth, the Stars and Stripes beside MAGA flags sinking under water and disappearing is certainly a chilling reminder of the USA’s challenges in 2020. The worst COVID-19 response among rich, developed nations, with close to 200,000 dead as I write this, a likely projection of 410,000 by January 1st, more than all the US soldiers who died in WW II, and a worst case projection of 605,000 deaths, as many as died in the US Civil War. An economy reeling as other economies around the world rebound. 26 million Americans marching for Black Lives Matters while Trump supporters shoot people. Broken international alliances and friendships.
And yet, it’s an imperfect symbolic event. How, you ask, could it become more accurately resonant?
The only people harmed were Trump supporters and the only boats that sank were owned by Trump supporters. If they’d managed to endanger many innocent bystanders and destroy other people’s livelihoods and property, that would have made this analogy truly complete. And Trump’s supporters managed this level of perfection on August 17th. That day saw dozens of Trump supporters run their boats at speed through a no-wake zone in the middle of Portland, Oregon on the Willamette River, swamping a boat containing innocent bystanders enjoying a day on the river, endangering their lives.
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