"Cases, Cases, Cases! If we didn't test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases,"
---Donald J. Trump
Thoughts and prayers
Today is not a day for celebration or self-satisfied karmic “I told you so’s.” The news that the highest levels of our government have been exposed to the coronavirus reveals a travesty of monumental proportions. The portion of the population who has dedicated itself to Donald Trump, and who are fervent followers of his every tweet have discovered what every cult follower eventually learns---they are expendable. Wishing the Trump family and followers a swift recovery should go without saying. Excusing their behavior and the suffering they have caused should be neither appropriate nor a consideration. The virus did what viruses do; it found a willing host.
The White House has conveniently focused on Hope Hicks as the center of the Trump family & friends COVID exposure. That is hardly certain, and I believe, unlikely. It is also irrelevant. The behavior that was required of those who were the closest to him—his staff, family members, political sycophants—required a wanton recklessness. Masks and distancing were politicized to signify disloyalty. The sublimation of thought they exhibit is the one requirement cult leaders must demand in the “Simon Says” culture they demand. It is not enough to believe in their leader’s philosophies, they’re required to emulate his behavior as well. It is a test of their loyalty. In this case, Trump was disloyal to his most ardent followers --maskless and close-quartered--the Hope Hick’s of his world were forced by convention to follow his lead. They knew the risks but assumed them out of misplaced loyalty. Their own risks were made subservient to his. Like the medieval mountebanks who went town to town selling fake elixirs, the Trump elixir was the false security of daily COVID tests and temperature checks. As Trump waded into unmasked dens of rabid followers at open rallies, they were led to believe that he was somehow immune from the virus. As rally goers and Secret Service agents who were charged with his safety tested positive, their discomfiture was the cost they bore to keep him safe and healthy. Their risk was his cavalier recklessness and utter disregard for their wellbeing.
Now the virus that knew no bounds, that attacked regardless of age, race, religion, or philosophy, has shown that it does not respond to false bravado. Donald Trump and those around him have the most dangerous and most lethal of co-morbidities—one that Jim Comey had resisted and that cost him his job---a blind loyalty.
But who was loyal to them? And which of them were truly convinced that there was a “COVID immunity” conferred on them due to their trusting and following Donald Trump? The virus itself is amazingly accomodating. It requires so little to spread its deadly curse. Certainly, it doesn’t need the added help of fools. Donald Trump is the source of his own infection. He took the warnings of medical professionals and the experiences of millions of his own countrymen with the same disregard he takes the presidency. In this case, he has been hoist with his own petard. Sadly, however, the simple Simons who so willingly sacrificed their own health are facing the reality all cultists eventually face---their loyalty is a one-way street. The irony is sometimes mistaken for Karma, but the truth is COVID and Trump are both recruiters of hosts they can devour.
The hoax dispelled
The current predicament the president finds himself in reminds me of a morality drama, like those written by Rod Serling. Serling always introduced his tales with a pithy teaser—a preface that promised a valuable and entertaining lesson. It seems to many of us, we are characters tucked inside one of Serling’s stories set up by a somber narrator with ominous portent:
Narrator: Meet Mr.Donald J Trump, an expert on most everything including con jobs, a brash, dull, and larceny-loaded wheeler-dealer who, when the good lord passed out a a conscience, must have gone for a beer and missed out. His last con was directed at a virus—an inanimate force Trump mistook for a rube. Through the fickle offices of prank-loving Fate, Mr.Trump will be taught the lesson of humility and karmic respect. Trump, and his friends are on a dangerous journey that will lead to the threshold of the Twilight Zone.
--borrowed in spirit from TTZ “The Whole Truth ”, 1961
Serling would love the cavalierish Trump, an anti-hero with so rich a bag of peccadilloes to inspire tales of caution. Spurning the advice of professional medical personnel that the rest of us could only dream of having, the president blithely decided to follow his own uninformed gut instead. His determination that masks were “bad optics, became ritual for some, despite the fact that this was the same gut that recommended injecting bleach and inserting UV light as a medical protocol. Worse, he communicated the need for tribal obeyance among the base of followers, too smitten, too slavish to mask and distance.
COVID has stripped this profligate cultist of his one imponderable superpower — an invulnerability to the virus and common sense. Followers are left to wonder whether they may be next. The risk they bear for the sake of their master is now one they must reconsider. Will they wait for his recovery and will they ever again believe his judgment? Do the 200,000 deaths and 7,000,000 cases convince them that the hoax that was perpetrated was the one he sold to them?
Stranger than fiction
Serling’s epilogue that ended the story “One More Pallbearer” may appear prescient as it aligns with today’s events:
“Mr. Paul Radin, a dealer in fantasy, who sits in the rubble of his own making and imagines that he's the last man on Earth, doomed to a perdition of unutterable loneliness because a practical joke has turned into a nightmare. Mr. Paul Radin, pallbearer at a funeral that he manufactured himself in the Twilight Zone.”
Donald Trump has been taken in by his own hoax---a dangerous one that he demanded we all believe, or else. Those most taken with his spiel are left to wonder, was it worth it? Is he worth it? The virus provides us an obvious answer. The spell is broken.