Op-ed: The fog thickens

Op-ed: The fog thickens June 28, 2020

People seem so confused right now – even more so than usual – about what things are important and what things don’t matter at all, about what actions are a matter of choice and what actions can’t be, about what is reality and what is mere appearance, about which people are what they say they are and which people are bullshitters.

Trump, for instance – Trump is so confused about what is important and what isn’t. There’s a pandemic raging, and getting worse in his country on his watch, while people are losing their jobs, their savings, their futures, their lives – and what is Trump raging about? Statues. You couldn’t make it up. And not just any statues, but statues commissioned and placed to commemorate slavery and its defenders, or genocides, or sometimes both.

Yesterday for instance – as coronavirus infections hit an all-time high – he tweeted:

MANY people in custody, with many others being sought for Vandalization of Federal Property in Lafayette Park. 10 year prison sentences! @FBIWFO

He shared a White House tweet:

President @realDonaldTrump has signed an executive order to ensure anyone that destroys or vandalizes a monument, memorial, or statue is prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Image via Twitter

Complete with photo of him scowling at us while he holds the meaningless “order” upright so that we can admire his huge childish signature. A deadly disease is spreading out of control and he is yapping about statues of highly dubious military “heroes.” The “Federal Property” in Lafayette Park he mentions is a bombastic equestrian statue of Trump’s hero Andrew Jackson, who was a nasty piece of work.

Earlier this week, protesters defaced a statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square outside the White House and tried to topple it, but police pepper-sprayed demonstrators to protect the monument. Jackson was a slaveholder and oversaw the expulsion of Native Americans in which they were forcibly moved further west by the federal government. Roughly 4,000 Cherokees died on that journey, known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Image via YouTube

That guy. Protecting a 3D image of him is so important to Trump that he spends time bragging about it on Twitter instead of talking about things that matter more, to say nothing of doing things that matter more.

But he’s not confused about his own priorities, at least. He knows he has plenty of time to hit the little ball around.

Donald Trump visited one his own private golf courses in Virginia on Saturday as America continued to see fallout from a rapid surge in coronavirus cases and a day after the US president said he would stay in Washington DC to “make sure law and order is enforced” amid ongoing anti-racism protests … The visit comes as the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the US hit an all-time high of 40,000, according to figures released by Johns Hopkins on Friday. Many states are now seeing spikes in the virus with Texas, Florida and Arizona especially badly hit after they reopened their economies – a policy they are now pausing or reversing.

Granted, it’s not confusion alone that causes Trump to rage about statues of genociders and sneak off to the golf course when he should be focusing on the emergencies that are engulfing his country and the world. Granted it’s also to do with his warped nature, his indifference to everyone but himself, his howling moral emptiness…but the confusion doesn’t help.

Way too many people over here are confused enough to think that wearing a mask during the pandemic is a “choice” and must be left to the individual to decide. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is one such befogged boffin, as The Texas Tribune reported on June 16:

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in Texas, an executive order from Abbott bans local governments from imposing fines or criminal penalties on people who don’t wear masks in public. When the order went into effect, orders from counties and cities requiring masks became toothless.

Masks shouldn’t be optional at a time when a deadly pandemic is spreading rapidly and hospitals are being overwhelmed, any more than it should be optional to drive your car in the street as opposed to on the pavement or through the nearest playground. But we are so confused as a people that the whole issue has somehow become one of party politics, which makes zero sense. How is preventing the spread of a lethal disease political? Nobody can explain, but the confusion rages on. The Governor of Florida for instance:

While calls to require residents to wear face masks grow louder amid rising COVID-19 cases, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to maintain his position that mask-wearing should be voluntary.

At a news conference in Miami Friday, DeSantis said people need to abide by local mask-wearing requirements. But that’s as far as the governor was willing to go, as he reiterated a position about personal freedoms.

“This has to be voluntarily because the Constitution is not suspended just because there is a virus,” DeSantis said. “You do have a right to protest, you have a right to go to religious service, all these other things.”

Yes, but you can do those things while wearing a mask; wearing a mask does not prevent you from doing those things. Protests and religious services are just the kinds of settings where you ought to wear a mask, because they involve a lot of up-close contact. How do people manage to be so confused about it?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the joy of tribalism is stronger than the duty of self- and other-preservation. Maybe it’s because getting the virus is potential and later while not wearing the mask is actual and now. Maybe it’s because it’s just so much fun to stick it to the “elitists” and scientists and other annoying experts.

Maybe we should put up an equestrian statue in front of the White House, of a general plastered in medals and wearing a mask.

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