To hear the media tell it, President Donald Trump tried to kill us all yesterday.
In case you missed it, after being cleared to leave by the medical professionals who were caring for him, Trump returned to the White House — his home — on Monday and emerged onto his own outdoor balcony, removed his mask, and waved.
In spite of the fact that Trump was, yet again, a) outside, b) on the premises of his own home, and c) not within six feet (or, from what I could tell, 60 feet) of anyone, the condemnation of Trump was swifter and perhaps more hysterical than usual.
CNN predictably led the pack, with one on-air host actually suggesting that the shot of Trump removing his mask shouldn’t be shown because “that’s going to kill people.”
Actually, it’s not at all clear that CNN led the pack, because some reactions were even more hilariously over-the-top.
This is one of the most despicable scenes in modern American political history. It reveals the depths of his narcissism and sociopathic indifference to human suffering. More than a wildly irresponsible public health message, it’s an act of outright evil. pic.twitter.com/xlmJeyJIFl— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) October 5, 2020
Of course, it goes without saying that diseases — even airborne ones — require proximity for transmission. A person who has COVID-19 (or any other contagious disease) does not just breathe a noxious cloud of disease that disperses infinitely until it finds someone to infect.
There’s a maximum distance that disease-carrying aerosol droplets can travel in the air, and it’s less than 6 feet, which is how we came up with the whole 6-feet-of-social-distancing thing. Which is also why the president standing outside of his own home with no people even in visible range represented literally zero threat to anyone.
Compare, if you will, the contrast with how the president’s behavior was received with the way defiance in the face of literally any other disease would have been received. If a person who has cancer posts that they aren’t going to let fear of cancer dominate their lives, they are rightfully lauded as brave.
Same goes for people who have HIV, or Hepatitis B, or whatever. If you get a disease, even a contagious one, you’re not SUPPOSED to cower in fear of it. You should take reasonable precautions to prevent spreading it to others, yes, but no one is lauded for going inside and hiding indefinitely, as President Trump is apparently now expected to do.
A different set of rules applies, however, to COVID-19. According to the media, you’re supposed to cower in fear of it. Consider the statement that so many have objected to: Trump did not say that you should not fear COVID, or take any precautions regarding COVID whatsoever; rather, he said that you shouldn’t allow fear of COVID to dominate your life.
To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit,” every time you step out your front door, you incur risks. You incur risks that you will die in a car wreck, catch an infectious disease (other than COVID-19), get mugged, or have any number of other terrible things happen to you.
Now, your response to that can be one of three things. One, you can just sit in your house and live in fear — which will probably not extend your life anyway because you’ll soon be dealing with crippling depression and a bevy of health problems that are caused by inactivity. Two, you can completely ignore all dangers and take no precautions at all to protect yourself, which is also not advised. Three, you can determine that you’re going to take reasonable precautions like driving the speed limit, wearing seat belts, and carrying a reasonable means of self-defense, but not let fear of the outside world dominate your life.
The president’s message Monday encouraged Americans to take the third course when it comes to the coronavirus. For all of American history, this has always been considered the laudable course of action.
And let’s be real for a minute: We are never going to rid ourselves of the coronavirus completely. Even after a vaccine is developed, it’s going to remain around and be dangerous to vulnerable populations, much like the flu. No magic pill is coming that is ever going to make this disease vanish from the face of the earth, now that it’s been loosed on the world. We are all going to have to decide whether we will allow fear of it to cripple us indefinitely, or if we will determine that, while we should take reasonable precautions to prevent unnecessary spread of this disease, we won’t let fear of it dominate us.
I don’t agree with everything Trump says, or even most of the things Trump says. But I agree with him 100% on this. And before this year, I couldn’t have imagined anyone disagreeing with the principle.
Sadly, it appears I was wrong.