The Plague and the President
There is of course irony, of the cheap, Alanis Morissette sort, of a man so heavily invested in denying the reality and severity of the COVID-19 virus contracting the thing and joining the millions of his fellow Americans who have suffered from it, and risking becoming one of the more than 200,000 who have died from it. It does not escape notice that, like many if not most of those, the president might not have had to suffer this particular calamity if the federal government had not had a shambolic response to the virus, in no small part due to Trump himself being the largest vector of disinformation about it. And of course, the fact that Trump has repeatedly disdained wearing face masks as a protective measure, and repeatedly mocked and criticized Joe Biden for doing so, up to and including at this week’s debate, certainly adds a mordant bite to his diagnosis.
No one deserves to contract a virus which can damage multiple organs, cause lungs to malfunction, require its victims to be hooked up to respirators to keep their bodies alive, and force people to die alone, away from the touch and comfort of family and loved ones, not even a man, who, when confronted with the deaths the virus and his policies regarding it wrought, merely said “It is what it is.” But it’s possible some people might find they have less sympathy for a man who so heavily politicized the national response to this disease, and actively prioritized his own re-election strategy over helping contain the spread of the virus, than they might have for others.
All of this is true. But for me, this is a reminder of a thing that has been true from the beginning, regardless of how much so many, including and indeed primarily Trump himself, thought and wished it otherwise: The virus doesn’t care about your politics. It doesn’t care about your party affiliation, whether you believe in God or not, what your opinions are about science or vaccines, your feelings about what is “masculine” or “alpha” behavior, or whether you think it’s an intrusion on your rights to be told what to put on your face or how to act in a retail establishment, or a school, or anywhere else. It doesn’t care about anything. The only thing it wants is to make more of itself — and it will, when offered the opportunity.
Trump, through his actions, and inaction, has offered the virus that opportunity, over and over again. He’s now done it personally, offering up his own body to its tender predations — and if that was the extent of it, then that would simply be his own karma. Trump is like a man who sees a sign warning against alligators lurking in a swamp as a dare to take a swim, and when the alligators spin him under the water, no one could say he wasn’t warned. Unfortunately, he hasn’t confined his heedlessness to himself. How dare this sign tell us where we can and can’t swim, it’s a liberal plot to take our freedoms! And then suddenly legions are splashing into the swamp, dragging unwilling others with them, to be a feast for the creatures that dwell there. And Trump, chest high in the swampy water, chortles to himself that the signmakers will be blamed for it all, even as the alligators close in on him.
The president is 74 years old and very obviously in less-than-great physical and mental shape; it seems likely he has some of the various comorbidities that exacerbate the severity of the virus. He is fortunate that thanks to his position, he will receive a level of health care that his administration is currently trying to strip from millions of other Americans. For this reason among others, I think it’s possible, indeed, probable, he’ll get through this diagnosis just fine, unlike so many others of his general age and infirmity.
If and when he does, it will be interesting to see how he reacts to having contracted the virus. One would like to hope that it causes him to reassess his previous positions and actions, but I think we all know it won’t. If Trump has a mild case and bounces back, it’ll just be proof to him that he was right all along, and off he’ll go, telling people to come on in, the swamp water’s fine. And in they will go.
It would be karmically disadvantageous to wish on Trump a level of viral severity that makes it sink in, even to him, how bad this disease can get, and how foolish he has been to deny it, as it burned through the country, taking hundreds of thousands with it, and obliging countless more to deal with chronic health issues springing from having contracted it. Rather, I wish him a full and quick recovery, and that with the recovery comes wisdom, knowledge, and a desire to help his fellow Americans — all of them, not just the ones he think might be useful to him.
I acknowledge the latter parts of that are the very definition of wishful thinking. But if they came true despite my doubts, well. That would be ironic.