For some people, opinion is a point of view about an issue, while analysis interprets the significance of events or the quality of a policy. Ideally, opinion should be as fact-based as analysis. That’s especially important when the levers of power rely on lies, illusion and propaganda to survive.
So it is with the Covid-19 pandemic. The idea that we’re all in this together offers comfort during a time of pandemic and economic collapse. But the comfort disappears once you realize that our experience over the past several weeks depends largely on who we listen to, where we live, and other factors like gender, race, ethnicity, religion and citizenship. You see how empty the phrase “we’re all in this together” can be.
That moment when Trump acknowledged COVID-19 is real and catastrophic ultimately means nothing. We’re living in a 21st century version of Lord of the Flies, as states are pitted against each other in the quest for personnel, medical supplies and respirators.
Predictably, Trump is making sure his pet states get more medical supplies than they need, while he berates blue states where doctors and nurses are now wearing masks that used to be changed after every patient – several times, sometimes until they fall apart. As a result, these states are resorting to creativity and resourcefulness while Trump indulges in petty polemics.
Those who took COVID-19 seriously are starting to see signs of a flattening curve, but not without facing a 21st century pandemic with the government and supply chain comparable to an under-developed country in the 19th century.
While states like New York, Washington and California are seeing staggering numbers of new diagnoses and staggering death numbers, we still have states claiming low numbers and doing little to prepare for the inevitable onslaught of a virus that is as cruel and as ruthless as Donald Trump.
Of course those states have a low number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 because they also don’t test. Part of that is because gaining access to a test depends on who you know. If you’re Donald Trump, you only need enough curiosity to qualify to be tested. If you’re someone who knows Donald Trump, worships the ground he walks on or donated to his campaign, you merely need to mention your loyalty to dear leader.
If you’re in prison or a Trump-inspired concentration camp, social distancing, soap and hot water are a privilege that other people have. Odds of getting tested are low and the odds of getting treatment are lower still.
If you work at one of these facilities, you probably have what passes for PPE in America. You’re way better off than healthcare providers at the over-flowing hospitals, but there is still no guarantee that you won’t be infected and that you won’t take the virus home to your family and friends.
Those silly restrictions, like being on your death bed or knowing someone who is diagnosed or having recently visited China, are for the little people. If you’re little enough, the diagnosis won’t come in until after you’re dead. If by some lottery’s chance in hell you are still alive when diagnosed and you’re dying, you won’t have family with you during your last moments. You’ll be left to suffocate to death alone, unless you have the good fortune to have an over-worked nurse hero by your side.
In all this, we see the fact that Trump tried to talk us out of seeing: this virus is dangerous and ruthless and doesn’t care about anything except infecting the next pair of lungs. It doesn’t care about your pedigree or if you’re from the mid-West. Contrary to earlier observations, it doesn’t care how old you are. Any open mouth or nostrils will do.
That makes this deadly virus an equalizer. Where equality needs to be the guiding principle, we have instead a president who plays favorites. The best novelists couldn’t come up with a plot like our current reality.
This is why it means nothing that Trump eventually acknowledged COVID-19 is real and dangerous. As we saw, Trump still gonna Trump. When the captain of an aircraft carrier demanded better health protection for his crew, Trump fired him for sending an email over an unsecured server. Of course, we still wonder why Jared, Ivanka and for that matter, Donald Trump have security clearances.
If ever there was a time to stop the petty partisan politics, it’s when we’re in a pandemic with medical supplies and personnel running short.
Many of us want to be in this together, in ways that matter. Helping where help is most needed, sharing resources, knowledge and war stories.
Maybe whoever it was who finally convinced Donald Trump that CODVID-19 really is a thing, could take him to volunteer at an under-equipped and under-staffed New York Hospital – maybe even the one in his old neighborhood. If nothing else, some Americans will get a few pennies of labor from the man who stole the most valuable resource America has – the unity and health and well-being of its people. He might no longer send governors and hospitals on scavenger hunts for precious life-saving equipment.
If there is any justice, today’s Lord of the Flies tribal chief will dishonorably discharge himself.
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.