Trump, COVID, and The Ironic American Reality

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Photo courtesy of nymag.com

With more than seven million cases and 200,000 deaths, the United States currently has 31,000 citizens hospitalized with coronavirus including President Donald J. Trump.

While we have not been able to ascertain the president’s condition after he was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last Saturday, we do know his positive diagnosis for COVID-19 has been the most disturbing irony of the past four years.

Since the announcement of the severity of the pandemic, the president has discredited scientists and specialists in what he confessed to journalist Bob Woodward was his way of “avoiding panic.” But in a less naive light, the White House’s political strategy to approach a public health problem with economic concerns has been this administration’s worst bet.

As The New York Times explained, it is unknown when the president might have been infected. However, everything indicates that the moment of contagion could have been related to the White House’s event on September 26, following the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barret to the Supreme Court.

At least seven people who attended the event have tested positive for the coronavirus, six of who, including the first lady, had sat in the front rows of the ceremony that had no social distancing protocols in place.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was in the room with the president as he prepared for the debate last week, was the latest to test positive and fall ill. He was hospitalized on Saturday evening.

Amid contradictory statements by his medical team and the White House staff, the public reaction has been to underscore the privilege enjoyed by an individual who has not only refused to accept the gravity of the pandemic for the rest of the world but who has had in his hands the ability to de-escalate the situation for everyone.

“Farmworkers, postal employees, meatpacking workers, and food service staff didn’t get the choice to skip work,” Julian Castro wrote on Twitter. “They wore masks; social distanced and quarantined to keep their families safe. Many still got sick and relied on the Affordable Care Act for their health coverage.”

“Over 200,000 people have now died while this Administration actively ignores public health guidance and suppresses science,” wrote Rep Ilhan Omar in a statement. “For months, we have been hoping for a simple acknowledgment from the President to hear the words, ‘We will get through this together. And now we only hear those words when it is about him – not the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their lives, and the millions whose families have been touched by it because of his malfeasance.”

The word “irony” falls short of describing what we are seeing in the country.

Unlike the seven million infected in the U.S., including Rep. Omar’s father, who died from the virus, the president and his circle had immediate access to medical care, without any risk of bankruptcy from the bills, losing their job or their home.

The issue is even more laughable when you remember that Donald Trump only paid $750 in taxes over the last few years. Still, he gets the best health care the country has to offer.

And this has nothing to do with whether he’s president or not. This is an issue of rights and opportunity, of profound disparities, and of the imminent risk that his campaign will turn his contagion into a weapon that can turn the election results around in the coming weeks.

Finally, and for those who still doubt the benefits of being a white, cis, and heterosexual male, you need only to look at how powerful platforms like Twitter protect the president differently than they might protect political representatives of color in the country.

In response to the increase in comments on the platform wishing the president dead, Twitter said Friday that publicly wishing someone “death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease” implies the automatic elimination of comments.

For the four progressive Democratic congresswomen known as “The Squad,” the platform’s decision is a slap in the face.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rep. Omar immediately reacted by noting the hypocrisy of the policy, having been victims of death threats in social media since they arrived in Congress.

“Seriously though, this is messed up. The death threats towards us should have been taking more seriously by [Twitter],” Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted in response.

Members of The Squad have often been victims of brutal social media attacks, including posts that have expressed wishes for their deaths, CNN explained, adding how a quick Twitter search of their names followed by “hang for treason” results in tweets from users calling for the deaths of the congresswomen.

Although the platform argued that the policies apply “to everyone, everywhere,” and that accounts are not sanctioned (only messages are deleted), it seems that, again, immediate action is taken only in some cases.

Whatever the outcome in the next few days, the truth is that there is no longer any argument left to disprove the ironic inequality that exists in the United States, where you can be cynical, racist, and despot, and yet the whole system moves to save your life.