America believes, perhaps because of our history, that freedom is our most cherished quality. Maybe because of violent beginnings, our independence has long been interpreted to mean “freedom from tyranny,” as opposed to “freedom from want.” That is, when we obsess over the need to be free, we assume ourselves victims of some fast-approaching enemy that we can ultimately defeat with brute force, but the idea that we should also be free from threats to our health or threats to our economy is only a concern when those threats are deemed to be the result of foreign agents.
That’s precisely why you see leaders referring to the coronavirus as a so-called “Chinese virus.” When Trump says he closed our borders from China early on, it’s important to note that the border was not actually closed even though the media consistently allows Trump to perpetuate this lie.
In actuality, anyone with an American passport was allowed to arrive from China, as if Americans re-entering were somehow immune because of their nationality. This lie also pretends the virus wasn’t already here, as there were already nine confirmed cases in the United States when Trump shut foreign nationals out, and we now know that for every one case, 12 to 18 people can be infected by that particular individual. That means there were as many as 162 people who could have contracted coronavirus from the first group of nine, which is almost one million cases after just three more replications of the virus. So, too, there were countless asymptomatic cases that were floating around major cities long before the administration pretended to take action.
This need to blame foreigners for the replication of the virus is a matter of political convenience. It’s an attempt to say, “Look the other way!” Meanwhile, as we fester in our anger over anyone but our own politicians, we’re more prone to ignore the following:
Trump was briefed about the outbreak and what it could become as early as the beginning of the year. Despite these briefings Trump continued to hold rallies in Miami, Toledo, Milwaukee, Wildwood, Des Moines, Manchester, Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Charleston, and Charlotte–the last of which was held as recently as the beginning of March when global cases were approaching 100,000. As recently as mid-March Trump has been spending much of his time amid the outbreak playing golf, doing so on at least six separate times after the CDC issued a warning about the virus in January. Worse, on multiple occasions throughout the last few months, Trump seriously downplayed the virus, assuring Americans in late January, “We have it totally under control. It is going to be just fine.” Then, in early February, he added, “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” and in late February he said it would soon be down to zero or be a miracle and disappear. This all culminated in the end of February when he called it an outright “hoax” the Democrats were using to steal the election. Then, Trump later denied having ever downplayed the virus, as did Mike Pence. At each and every step, as the virus was exploding across the states, Trump’s denial of its severity only seemed to have doubled down.
This administration functions under the assumption that everything the president does must be regarded as perfect, because the president believes himself to be perfect, and it will lie and gaslight repeatedly not because they expect you to believe the lie but because they expect you to become too tired to continue to care. That, my friends, is one of the most basic tools in the fascist playbook.
This particular one played out at one point when Trump even referred to the coronavirus testing as perfect, and then immediately referenced the transcript of his call with Ukraine–the one that contained the quid pro quo for which he was impeached–adding that testing was perfect “like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. This was not a perfect as that, but pretty good.”
This is one of the more interesting statements, in my opinion, for several reasons. First, Trump doesn’t separate criticism of his response to coronavirus with criticism of his response to anything else he does. Why would anyone criticize him, he surmises, when his response has been nothing but perfect even if he knows this to be false.
Perhaps more troubling, though, is that we know Trump’s “letter” was, in fact, not perfect. To the contrary, the letter made abundantly clear that Trump was using the desperation of an ally facing uncertain death at the hands of Russia’s tight grip to demand the announcement of a bogus investigation into Trump’s political opponent, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
To put that another way, if the letter is, according to Trump, as perfect as the testing, should we assume the testing is an absolute disaster, too?
Well, it is. In fact, here in New Jersey, Quest Diagnostics was recently backlogged by as many as 160,000 tests. That might explain why, when I’ve called to get a test, I’ve been told my symptoms weren’t severe enough or told that they hope to have faster testing available soon. Add in the fact that the tests have not been accurate and the absolute disaster does, indeed, seem quite damning. Worse, Trump has pushed yet another lie about them, as early as the first week of March saying that “Anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” No, Mr. President, you lie.
Of course, there might be the temptation to argue that any politician would have botched this pandemic because, as Trump likes to say often, no one could have predicted such a terrible outcome. I’ll admit: I’m almost tempted to acknowledge this is a real possibility. But when you consider Obama’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, you’re suddenly reminded that real leadership saves lives.
That is, whether you love or hate him, Obama’s response to Ebola was to act swiftly. His administration directed “more than 3,000 DOD, CDC, USAID, and other U.S. health officials to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to assist with response efforts as part of a 10,000-person U.S.-backed civilian response.” They constructed treatment centers, trained thousands of local health care workers and worked to identify travelers coming into the U.S. to stop them before entering. As a result, Obama succeeded in stopping Ebola–which appears to have been deadlier than coronavirus–from ever spreading throughout the United States.
Thanks Obama. No, really, thank you. I’m alive, at least for now.
Since Ebola likely has a lower replication rate–i.e., it’s R0 number is two–I don’t think it would be fair to say that Obama could have stopped the spread of coronavirus entirely. But, one need look no further than South Korea, where 183 have died as I write this, or Tawain with only five deaths. Even though you might expect both to have a large number of cases and deaths given their proximity to China, the quick response of these countries seems to have significantly mitigated the disaster and saved thousands of lives in each.
It’s important to remember how Obama responded to a potential pandemic not only to see what real leadership looks like because so much of Trump’s time in office has been spent trying to undo what Obama did. Despite their numerous efforts to make sure you forgot it, in the spring of 2018, Trump got rid of the pandemic response team Obama assembled to fight Ebola. He also later fired the CDC epidemiologist who was stationed in Beijing and whose job it was to help China detect and fight against any outbreak it was facing. When the outbreak actually began, Trump’s Health and Human Services department sent in federal workers to help Americans who had been in China but did so without any protective gear, in what could only be regarded as a colossally stupid move. And, to date, Trump’s proposed budget, still slashes CDC funding. The Republican dream to make government smaller and smaller is apparently a death sentence.
Meanwhile, Trump’s refusal to use the Defense Production Act to force companies to make ventilators and other personal protective equipment amid this crisis could spell disaster for hospitals. In a capitalistic twist from hell, states are having to outbid one another in the fight to purchase ventilators, and Jared Kushner–who originally advised Trump that the virus was “more a threat to public confidence and markets, than to public health” and even encouraged opening America up by Easter is now running a “shadow taskforce” that apparently competes with the advice coming from Drs. Fauci and Birx and is hoarding the federal government’s last ventilators arguing the government’s emergency supplies do not belong to the states. “It’s supposed to be our stockpile,” he argues, though never clarifying who is meant by “our.” One wonders whether ventilators will be given over to red states, or battleground states, in preparation for the election.
Either way, with estimates suggesting there could be 31 patients for every one ventilator that’s available, the shear ineptitude translates into doctors having to use a points system to decide who lives and who dies, and the range of how many could die runs anywhere from below 100,000 to as many as 2 million. This all comes amid people dying after they have taken drugs they thought Trump was touting as a cure, against FDA and CDC recommendations, as well as people gathering to hold “coronavirus parties,” or to attend church in large gatherings that will likely only add to the death tolls. The Republicans finally got the “death panels” they told you Obamacare would create, though I wonder if they realized they would be killing off their own voters.
Suffice to say, stupidity is killing us, and as much as some part of me wants to chalk it up as some kind of massive Darwin award, more than our own stupidity doing us in, we are being murdered by the gross negligence of our leaders in power.
Likely fearing retribution over Trump’s threats, Democrats seem not to want to politicize a pandemic, and while that’s admirable, it may be costly. We all know, if coronavirus (or something like it) had killed even four Americans under Obama’s watch, Republicans would have called for his impeachment and used language that questioned whether he or Hillary had allowed or even wanted Americans to die; we know this because that’s exactly what they did with Benghazi.
Where is the righteous anger–or even a peep for that matter–of the Democrats as Americans are being slaughtered by this Republican virus? We are confined to our homes, losing our jobs, watching the great American collapse, and meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of our fellow patriots–and perhaps eventually ourselves–could succumb, yes, to the virus but also to the involuntary homicide committed by the ruling party. Their negligence isn’t just gross, it’s criminal. Their response isn’t just feckless, it’s deserving of time served–a public service from behind bars.
Insurrection has been the answer to far less done to a people. So as Americans, who so often love to tout some patriotic fervor and a willingness to fight tyranny at all costs, we may soon discover that the true tyranny was not some foreign agent who crept in seeking to do us harm but was, instead, ourselves and our leaders who saw our deaths as the moment to play golf, make millions off our backs as they traded on inside knowledge, all of them determined to get away with deceiving us to our own deaths.
What they don’t know is that we are watching vigilantly their every move, their every lie; we are counting, with deep sadness, every death they caused which we will not allow ourselves to forget. And when we bend the moral arc of the universe back to where it belongs, they will discover it has become a long-pointed blade, honed against the whetstone of our graves.