It would be very easy to criticize President Donald Trump’s handling of COVID-19, particularly after he continued to downplay the virus even after contracting it at the start of the month. It would be easier still to mention the president’s claim that his diagnosis was “a blessing from God”, even though he knew that this “blessing” killed 210,000 Americans already.
One could even mention his refusal to take responsibility for hosting a super-spreader event that to date has exposed over 200 individuals to COVID-19.
Yes, it’s very easy to say “Trump sucks” right now, but those who follow him view him as akin to a god, one who can do no wrong because he always has a plan. So instead of examining the doctrine and its author, let’s look at the followers and their interpretation of the word of Trump.
Firstly, we must remember that we are always talking about people; the 210,000 dead Americans were fellow people, each and every one. The president himself is a person, no matter how much one disagrees with his policy or personality. His followers are also people, individuals who each believe he is the right man to lead this nation to greatness.
In other words, we are all people, and as such, none of us deserves COVID-19. We must show each and every person compassion in this time, even if they do not return the compassion to us.
We must also realize the extent to which the president’s supporters follow his example. When Donald Trump says that those who wear masks are only doing so to show their disapproval in him, his supporters rally to his side, criticizing those who wear masks for “political reasons”.
For example, one Trader Joe’s patron believed she had the right to not wear a mask in the store. When asked politely to wear a mask or leave, she cited what she believed to be her “federal rights” by shouting, “You’re f**king Democratic pigs! All of you!” before being escorted from the premises.
On a more serious note, the President’s remarks have also had fatal consequences.
“My dad was a healthy 65-year old,” said Kristin Urquiza, the daughter of a Trump supporter who died of COVID-19. “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.”
While both of those examples are very different in many ways, they are identical in one: someone believed that masks – and by extension COVID-19 – were political tools used by the enemies of President Trump. The consequences for both were severe: the shopper was mocked on public television during "The Daily Show’s" “Pandemmys” event, while the father ultimately lost his life.
Personally, I don’t wish any harm on the President. With two parents who are self-isolating because of factors that would make them more likely than me to die of COVID-19, this disease is not something I would wish on anyone. Additionally, as someone who is biracial, bisexual and agnostic, I’m not at all eager to see Vice President Mike Pence become the 46th President of the United States.
What I am eager to see is a change away from the mindset that masks are a political tool. As I said before, we must always remember that people who think differently from us are still people, and that masks and COVID-19 protocols are designed to keep other people safe. It’s not about politics at all.
We must hold ourselves accountable to the same standards to which we hold others. If we expect others to treat us as people, we must do the same to them, which means not deriving joy from their suffering. Again, no one deserves to be infected with COVID-19.
If we refuse to see treat others with the compassion they deserve by refusing to see COVID-19 as the global threat that it is, the dystopian reality of 2020 will continue. The reality is that COVID should never have become as widespread as it has. While one can point to President Trump’s downplaying of the virus in order to “prevent a panic”, the fact of the matter is that we are in the situation we are in because people listened to his lies.
Again, it would be easy to complain about the president, easier to blame him for the economic downturn and easiest of all to pin the deaths of 210,000 dead Americans on him. But Trump didn’t kill 210,000 Americans. COVID-19 did.
Even with an election right around the corner, let’s remember who our real enemy is. The greatest threat to the survival of humanity is not an elephant or a donkey, but a virus which has already killed more than one million people worldwide.