Mocking the beast at our own peril…
It occurs to me that the current COVID-19 outbreak is a clarifying event. It certainly has exposed the president and his administration as incompetent and ineffective. It has also pointed out deficiencies in our medical care delivery.systems and the dimensions of the chasm between the have’s of the nation and the have nots. This only heightens the seriousness and perniciousness of the virus that has afflicted more than a million worldwide, causing nearly 85,000 deaths to date — affecting more than 400,000 Americans, killing over 13,000.
In the United States, the virus has hit at a most opportune time (for the virus) a perfect storm, if you will, due to this moment in our history. Blaming Trump and the present administration may feel good, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The same forces that have helped elect the most unfit president in our history are among those that threaten to make the outbreak in this country as bad or worse than what has occurred in other nations. The illogical anti-scientific and passive measures that have marked the government’s approach translates into a lackadaisical response by too many citizens. Early on, the minimizing of the serious nature of the outbreak was led by forces of ignorance. In our nation’s return to a form of nativism very much like the “Know-Nothing” era of the 1850’s, the refusal to rely on expertise and data has harmed our early intervention attempts, but worse has encouraged certain behaviors which are both counter-productive and dangerous.
The president’s open defiance of medical experts’ suggestions to limit social contact (handshaking) and avoiding large gatherings, and finally, his refusal to support masks as a deterrent to the spread of the virus is tantamount to his early message declaring the virus a hoax. Even as he refused to take any responsibility for the slow rollout of a plan to mitigate the virus spread and provide a protocol for mass testing, the president’s mixed response defied medical advisories and best practices. Republican Senator, John Corwyn posted an ill-advised tweet that suggested that the virus was somehow susceptible to oxymoron and snark. His words are fine, the photo, pure tastelessness. It suggests the jaded response “Oh, I get it!, (moan)” :
Other Republicans used the crisis in an effort to shade political opinion and provide a fig leaf for the president’s mishandling of the COVID-19 spread:
Very good news @realDonaldTrump has enlisted so many great companies to expand & expedite testing for the Chinese coronavirus. @CDCgov plainly hasn’t solved its longstanding bureaucratic failings & must be radically reformed in the future. Our private sector can fill the gap.
Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) March 13, 2020
Apparently, making America great again would be a time-traveling trip back to the Know-Nothing era- a political movement (1854–1857) made obsolete by their eponymous aversion to perception. According to historian Christopher Phillips:
… the Know Nothings displayed three patterns common to all other nativist movements. First is the embrace of nationalism-as seen in the writings of the OSSB (Order of the Star Spangled Banner). Second is religious discrimination: in this case, Protestants against Catholics rather than the more modern day squaring-off of Judeo-Christians against Muslims. Lastly, a working-class identity exerts itself in conjunction with the rhetoric of upper-class political leaders. As historian Elliott J. Gorn writes, “Appeals to ethnic hatreds allowed men whose livelihoods depended on winning elections to sidestep the more complex and politically dangerous divisions of class.”
Smithsonion Magazine, January 26, 2017
Knowing nothing as a virtue didn’t work out for the nativist 19th-century political movement, and it is not working to our benefit in the present. The attitudes of those, like the president and his minions, who make light of the corona-beast may quite literally be whistling past a graveyard of fellow Americans. The beast is real and it is deadly. See China and Italy. Those who don’t learn from the past may be destined to repeat it, but for some, the corollary to the Santayana maxim may now include “if they survive.” Mocking the beast is both silly and unproductive. Belittling the beast-or, worse, allowing it to guest at your favorite country club- can be far more dangerous. It not only imperils you, it has the capacity to endanger us all.
Originally published at https://www.dailykos.com on March 15, 2020.