“Am I crazy, or are they crazy? Could I be right, and Harvard and all these CDC guys be wrong? Yeah, because they’re all conventional. They don’t talk about how you can keep yourself from getting sick … Why don’t you just not get it [the coronavirus]? Why don’t you just stay healthy?”
Crises can make or break a leader. The 1979-81 Iran Hostage fiasco decimated Jimmy Carter’s final year in office and assuredly caused him to lose his 1980 reelection bid. The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing helped secure Bill Clinton’s image as a stalwart president. The Hurricane Katrina debacle, on the other hand, proved George W. Bush was incompetent and ineffective as Commander-in-Chief.
The current COVID-19 scourge is Donald Trump’s national crisis. It could be the savior of his presidency; the one element that ensures his place in the pantheon of great world leaders. Or it could be his death knell; the catastrophic event which will equate him with failure, except his most devoted followers. As things appear now, it’s turning into the latter.
Yesterday, March 26, Trump signed a roughly USD 2.2 trillion stimulus package unanimously passed by the U.S. Congress. Because the COVID-19 mess has created a new set of “social distancing” protocols aimed at subverting the virus’ spread, a large number of Americans have suddenly found themselves jobless. Restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, and tattoo parlors have been forced to shut down. History will determine if that achieved its intended goals. But, as of March 26, the number of jobless claims set a record at 3.3 million. Who would’ve thought an invisible microbe could wreak such havoc?
Amidst this cataclysm, our dear leader, Donald Trump, has openly considered easing restrictions to the practices of social distancing. Earlier this week, he suggested the U.S. could return to normal by Easter. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said. That’s akin to the captain of the Titanic shouting, “Pool party!”
It’s almost painful to watch Trump and his band of clueless minions pretend this crisis will obey a presidential command. Many conservatives tried to explain George W. Bush’s pathetic handling of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco by claiming his adversaries wanted him to stop the storm from terrorizing the Gulf Coast. I heard a few actually say that aloud! And I had the pleasure of telling them, ‘No. The issue was RESPONDING to the hurricane!’ Bush and the Republican Party were quick to declare war on Iraq in 2003. But, when a REAL threat emerges, they failed miserably.
If anything, the start of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. some forty years ago proved how dangerous social conservatism can be to a health crisis. Admittedly, thousands of people didn’t come down with HIV in a matter of days, as with the COVID-19 virus. But the reality is that national policy should never be based on individual predilections or religious ideology. Every time people make health-based decisions on their own personal religious beliefs, people die. Every single time!
But the AIDS epidemic showed that a slow federal response to a health concern can be lethal. I’m watching the COVID-19 pandemic unfold here in the U.S. in stark realism. As of March 27, the U.S. has achieved the dubious distinction of the most number of COVID-19 cases in the world. Meaning we’ve now surpassed China and Italy. Trump always declared America is #1 – and what do you know?! The old bastard has finally been proven right!
I really don’t want to see Donald Trump fail in this entire imbroglio. It’s not good to wish your national leader stumble and falter as a national crisis of any kind grips the nation. But, thus far, Trump has shown no real leadership, with the exception of the aforementioned stimulus package.
It doesn’t need to be this way for him – or for anyone. This could be his golden moment to prove he’s an authentic leader, not the failed businessman / tax cheat others claim he really is. Every country’s leader is forced to confront a national emergency of some kind or another. It just comes with the territory. The U.S. presidency, in this case, is not school a crossing guard-type of position. It requires more fortitude and clarity than most jobs, when in fact, the presidency is not a standard job. It’s more of a calling – kind of like human rights work, or teaching.
As I view it in this moment of national surrealism, Donald Trump is not listening to the tragic sounds of that call.
Outside of China, Italy has mysteriously and sadly become an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 35,000 documented infections and more than 3,000 deaths, health and government officials in one of the most uniquely European nations are embroiled in the worst health crisis in decades.
Yet, amidst the heartbreak and carnage, something beautiful, extraordinary and unexpected has occurred: dolphins and swans have returned to the famed canals of Venice; the ancient city of dreamers and lovers. Because of its popularity, this beloved community has had to endure trash and pollution in its waterways. But nationwide lockdowns have allowed the Venetian canals to refresh themselves. In a Facebook group, “Venezia Pulita” (“Clean Venice”), locals are sharing pictures of the city’s water looking unbelievably clean.
Now dolphins and swans – two of nature’s most heralded and mystical creatures – have innocently made their way back into Venice. It’s a bright spot in a world consumed with illness and tragedy.
At a press conference on March 19 about the spreading COVID-19 flu, as Faux-President Donald Trump read from notes on the podium, a Washington Post photographer managed to take a photo of a page on which the term “corona” had been crossed out and replaced with “Chinese”. Trump had already used the word “Chinese” to describe the virus; later saying, “It’s not racist at all. It comes from China, that’s why.”
Yes, the virus originated in China, but sadly, the pandemic also has spawned hate crimes against Asian-Americans. It’s not uncommon for certain groups to fall victim to violence perpetrated by others in response to particular crises. At the start of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s, gay men and even some lesbian women found themselves targeted for violence; usually by people who would have used any excuse to attack anyway. Periodically, over the past several years, many Hispanics – including The Chief – have fallen victim to violence perpetrated by others over illegal immigration.
The current situation for people of Asian extraction is that we have a billionaire Republican, failed business tycoon, former reality TV star masquerading as the American president who has already proven he’s not above using racist tropes to communicate his point.
“This might be easy for you, Senator, but you’re not a server losing wages, a single mom losing her job to stay home with her kids, or one of 5 million Texans without insurance. I’m glad you’re ending your long weekend and hope you’ll pass the legislation they need QUICKLY.”
“They’ve redefined family for the first time in a federal – in a piece of federal legislation, to include committed relationships. The problem with that is it’s really hard to define a committed relationship, and it’s really hard to define anything related to that.”
– Rep. Andy Biggs, on a radio program produced by the conservative Christian group Family Research Council.