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The Politics of a Pandemic: Only in America

Updated on May 31, 2020

Pandemic or Election 2020?

One would think that a worldwide pandemic might encourage US citizens to band together for support and encouragement during these scary and unprecedented times. Sadly, however, that’s not what has been happening since the coronavirus took hold of our country. The fact that the pandemic has become a political hotbed is disturbing, to say the least.

The fact that this is an election year has been all too evident. For quite a while, President Trump and his diehard Republican followers have been adamant in demanding that we should waste no time in reopening the economy. The unspoken agenda here, of course, is the fact that a thriving economy reflects well on the current President. The liberal -leaning Democrats, on the other hand, have been far more reluctant to “get back to business” because, at least in part, that might reflect well on the President and therefore help get him re-elected. Perhaps both sides need to focus on what would work best to preserve human lives.

A large part of the problem can be attributed to the power of partisan “news” networks: FOX, CNN and MSNBC. Republicans will assert that FOX is the only network that presents “real” news, while the Democrats will contend that CNN and MSNBC are the only networks that feature “the facts”. How is it possible that totally divergent networks reflect the truth? That, of course, is a rhetorical question to which the answer is easy: Not possible (which is why I have chosen not to follow any of those networks.) The next time you watch one of them, take note of how many times they use adjectives when reporting the “news“, and remember this: the overuse of adjectives (e.g., a disgruntled President, a gifted senator) automatically pushes “news” into the realm of “opinion”. What the news media should be doing is presenting “just the facts “ in order to allow the viewer to make up his/her own mind.

Facial Masks- A Conundrum?

Another hot issue ushered in by the pandemic has to do with wearing facial masks. Despite the fact that quite a few medical professionals have made it clear that wearing a mask can save lives, many people have claimed that their “rights” include the right not to wear a mask. As someone recently put it in an opinion column that appeared in my local newspaper, “Are we a nation of cowards with our masks on and our hands out? No!” ( Why then, I wonder, did the Declaration of Independence stipulate that we have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness“? Perhaps we should all take note of which “right“ was listed first: LIFE.) A letter to the editor in the same newspaper suggested that if people are afraid of catching the virus from someone who chooses not to wear a mask, he or she should simply stay home. Really?!

One of the things that I find most disturbing is the way the Trump haters continue to lambast the current president with the same accusations over and over ad infinitum. I do agree that his choice not to wear a mask has not been one of his more brilliant moves and that his refusal to confront the pandemic early on was a big mistake; however, I don’t need to hear about those things constantly on TV, in the newspaper, on Facebook, etc. It’s also disturbing to hear President Trump’s fan base constantly backing some of the questionable things he has chosen to say and do. For example, I have been told that he doesn’t need to wear a mask because he’s been “treated“ and can’t possibly be a carrier of the virus (?) and also that he has every right to shut down Twitter (as he has threatened to do) because Twitter had no ”right” to fact check him. (There’s that r-word again.)

And So It Continues..,

With all of the hate that’s being bandied about, is it any wonder that no one really seems to know what’s going on with COVID-19? I’ve heard it said over and over that businesses need to be opened if the economy is to survive. I’ve also heard it said that if we reopen the economy too quickly, the virus could return with a vengeance. From where I sit, human life trumps (no pun intended ) the economy every time. Believe it or not, I’ve actually been told that if the economy does not rebound soon, many suicides will result (suggesting that we could lose as many people to suicide as would be lost to COVID-19), so we might as well open the economy.

Of course, in any discussion of the pandemic, the naysayers, I. e., the conspiracy theorists, cannot be ignored. These are the people who claim that COVID-19 is some kind of hoax that was designed to a divert attention away from “something” going on in this country that is inherently evil. Obviously, none of these people have known anyone afflicted with the coronavirus. If they had, I would hope that they’d be singing a different tune.

The recent murder of an African-American man in Minneapolis serves to emphasize our need to reflect on the true meaning of UNITED States. We absolutely need to work together to abolish racism in all of its guises. What happened in Minnesota (or Georgia, where a young African-American man was chased and killed, or anywhere else in these United States where racism has been allowed to run rampant) should never happen again...but it will, unless we make a concerted effort to stop it. Following the incident in Minneapolis, it did appear that people in various states were working together when they formed groups that joined in (peacefully) protesting the unconscionable act performed by that former police officer in Minnesota. Their laudable efforts were quickly drowned out, however, by various people (and I use the term ”people” very loosely) who were united only by their goal to loot, set fires, and otherwise cause destruction. ( It only fed fuel to the fire of the political pandemic when the President of the United States threatened to use guns to stop the looting, and his detractors jumped at the chance to demonize him for making that kind of a threat.)

Now What?

So what is the answer? Certainly freedom of speech and opinion are among our inalienable rights, but there must be a way to move politics away from the pandemic in order to confront it with intelligence and civility. Perhaps in addition to promoting social distancing we should encourage political distancing. Maybe then we would be able to see our way through these terrible times more clearly.


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