Fintan O’Toole is one of Ireland’s many national treasures, a great writer who stands out in a country where great writing would be almost ordinary were it not so revered.
In today’s Irish Times, O’Toole writes:
The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
O’Toole goes on:
Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.
The “protests”? O’Toole has that one nailed, too:
Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder. And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks.
And in the end:
And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.
As I commented below, I feel constrained from adding to O’Toole’s words: This would be like a high school ballplayer taking the field with Mike Trout. That being said, this column hits especially hard with me. I’ve lived over a year of my life in Ireland. I love the country and respect the Irish people.
In my experience, the Irish do not particularly envy or hate or love America. But they do have an affection for us: The ones I know have either been here or want to visit. They laugh off our foibles except for the ones that mystify — our gun fetish baffles them, for instance. George W. Bush was roundly despised for disrespecting traditional Irish neutrality and using Shannon Airport as a pass-through for troops on the way to Iraq. At the same time, I can’t imagine any Irish person being anything but hospitable to a soldier: They see the human being in danger, no matter how misguided the leadership.
So, O’Toole’s column hits home because I know his pity is genuine at a personal level, and I’m not used to feeling felt sorry for.