By Jacob Derin
Everything about the President’s COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent treatment is emblematic of the Trump era. From the recklessness, which caused it, to the selfishness he displayed in its aftermath, this event has been the last four years in microcosm.
Last Thursday night, the diagnosis was announced via Twitter, creating chaos and confusion. Questions soon arose about the severity of his illness and who else in the President’s orbit may have been infected by him, including those present at last week’s disastrous debate.
Then, in true Trump fashion, he emerged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to drive past supporters and show off his resilience and strength, pointlessly endangering the Secret Service agents in the car with him.
And throughout the course of his illness, Trump has attempted to present an image of strength, even as his experimental treatments seem to indicate he may have been much sicker than he would like to admit.
And, at the end of it all came the message everyone who knows anything about Trump was expecting: “Don’t be afraid of Covid.” It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was actually the lesson he learned from his experience.
Of course, it’s equally likely that he said this solely to shore up the larger-than-life image he so desperately wants to cultivate for himself, one which would be tarnished if he displayed a moment of vulnerability.
Trump’s focus during this whole affair has been solely on himself, seemingly without a moment’s thought as to how his actions may affect others.
He contracted the virus because of his contempt for the common sense guidelines laid out by medical experts. It hardly helps that this contempt seems to have rubbed off on the people with whom he spends most of his time.
Even after his positive test, he engaged in reckless behavior that endangered those around him, released piecemeal and misleading information, and now seeks to use this event to bolster his continuing narrative that concerns about COVID-19 are overblown.
This is a pattern that has recurred throughout the Trump years and has marked the Administration’s response to pretty much every major crisis with which it has been faced.
At every turn, Trump has sought to use the apparatus of government to safeguard his own reputation, wealth and power. Nothing has been more important to him than these.
Widespread resistance to mask use and social distancing are no surprise in a nation that chose Trump as its proxy. This is the toxic form of individualism that he embodies, and which his supporters have enthusiastically adopted.
“America First,” aside from its historical connotations, all too easily becomes “me first.” In order to overcome this crisis, we need a unified nation, willing to make sacrifices and listen to scientific authority. At every turn, this president has done his best to undermine both.
In the age of social distancing, when we must be physically separated from each other, it has never been more important for Americans to have competent leadership to bring them together, tell them the truth and not pointlessly divide them.
This is the time to be afraid of COVID-19. Until we have leaders who acknowledge this truth, we must impose a different kind of quarantine on the President. Along with COVID-19, he must not be allowed to spread the disease of misinformation.
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