The whim of a sufficiently powerful but lazy, stupid and transactional narcissist can sometimes make or break the world. On the day of Donald Trump’s first public utterance about Covid-19, January 22, 2020, he said, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from Chy-na. It’s going to be just fine.” He might just as easily have been in the mood to be melodramatic. He might have, metaphorically speaking, drawn a circle around the coming pandemic with a Sharpie and decided then and there to make a “thing” out of it, just so long as he was the epicentre of that thing. Who knows?
Instead he decided to understate and minimize the danger of it. Instead he decided to predict that it would be gone by April. Maybe he was worried about the stock market or his ratings. Whatever he was thinking, if he was thinking at all, he zigged when he should have zagged. It was a foregone conclusion that the rabid gaggle of cretins we sometimes more charitably refer to as his base would follow him in lockstep — like a division of Schutzstaffel following Hitler at a Nuremberg rally. His every pronouncement on the topic quickly ossified into Holy Writ.
That was bad news for the world, because now we are all in one hell of a mess. There are now more than 700,000 dead from coronavirus in the United States alone. American deaths comprise 14.82% of all Covid-19 deaths worldwide even though Americans represent only 4.25% of the total population of the world. What’s more, America is home to 9.8 million active Covid cases which is more than all the Covid cases in all the countries of the world — combined.
Let me just say that again in case you missed it. America has more active Covid cases than the rest of the world. Combined. Put another way, 52% of all Covid cases worldwide are American cases. To a large extent you can thank Donald Trump and his cavalier, slipshod, deceitful, mixed message way of dealing with this horrible, deadly disease.
Trump found a way to influence some Americans to approach the outbreak of the worldwide pandemic in a way that is uniquely Trumpian, uniquely wrong. He taught some Americans to disdain and mock people for wearing masks. He ridiculed Joe and Jill Biden for wearing masks out in the open air, as if wearing a mask for a second longer than necessary is some great crime against humanity that should not be tolerated, when in actuality taking masks off too early or not wearing them at all is the real crime, because it’s killing people. He promoted crackpot remedies so quack treatments became a priority over prevention. When he got vaccinated he did so in secret, as if it was something to be ashamed of.
It’s ironic when you stop to think about it. People are being abused for the innocuous act of wearing a mask and getting vaccinated, which harms no one but helps everyone, and sometime next year a million Americans will be dead because many of them didn’t wear a mask and didn’t get vaccinated. It’s an outrageous misapplication of common sense so infuriating it’s almost impossible to believe it can really happen in a world of big-brained, rational mammals. But there it is.
Coronavirus will soon become endemic to the world. Coronavirus is getting more time to mutate because many of us have volunteered to provide it with the necessary time to do so. There is absolutely nothing stopping the virus from becoming, say, 10 times more contagious and 50 times more deadly, aside from our bafflingly persistent good luck.
Another great irony is that virtually all of the anger and outrage and bellicose complaining is coming from the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers responsible for our misery and death, as if it is they and not us who are being put upon. I think we need to start shouting them down. I think we need to start out-complaining them. I think it’s time to make vaccines and the wearing of masks mandatory — and never mind the phoney cries of fascism and counterfeit claims of violations of Constitutional rights.
America is rapidly becoming the world’s Petri dish for coronavirus. The virus is mutating and new variants will continue to appear. Some variants will become vaccine resistant so even more people will die, and some variants could become far more deadly than even the Delta variant.
Not only is all this stupid and preventable, but America is arguably the worst place in the world for it to happen. As the only wealthy nation on earth without free or affordable healthcare for many, the individual costs for caring for the voluntary sick and burying the eager dead will become unconscionable and staggering.
We owe much if not most of our frightful predicament to the world’s most ludicrous man, a man that a bunch of ludicrous people elected president of the United States. It’s beyond belief how stupid some people can be, and some of us reading (and even writing) these words may one day die of their stupidity. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.