Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Michael Abrahams | Trump’s American idiocy show

Published:Monday | October 5, 2020 | 12:11 AM
Donald Trump
Donald Trump

“Don’t wanna be an American idiot

Don’t want a nation under the new media

Hey can you hear the sound of hysteria?

The subliminal mind-f*** America.”

The year is 2004. I sing along as I listen to the song American Idiot, from the Grammy-winning album of the same name, by the American rock band Green Day. The track was written during the presidency of George W. Bush and expressed the band’s anger with the political situation in the country at the time. However, in 2020, the song is still relevant. In fact, lead singer of Green Day Billie Joe Armstrong, while performing the song at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas last year, replaced the line “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda” with “I’m not a part of a MAGA agenda”.

It amazes me that a country could elect such an ignoramus, one whose knowledge of even his own country is astoundingly poor, with his utterances betraying his ignorance of America’s history, geography, and Constitution. For example, he claimed that Canadians burnt down the White House in the War of 1812 (not true), that the Constitution gives him the right to do “whatever I want as president” (it does not), and that he was building a “beautiful border wall” between “Colorado and Mexico” (Colorado is 1,113 miles away from Mexico).

Ignorance is one thing, but when combined with arrogance, selfishness, recklessness and a lack of empathy, the mixture gives rise to a lethal cocktail, as we are now seeing with his handling of COVID-19 in his country, culminating with him and the First Lady now contracting the infection. We are now in the midst of a global pandemic. It was inevitable that the novel coronavirus would breach the borders of the United States of America. However, the country contributes to only four per cent of the world’s population, while accounting for more than 20 per cent of deaths from the infection. When such a glaring disparity takes place under his watch, at least some of the blame must lie with him. But he refuses to take any responsibility. Indeed, he stated last month, “This is nobody’s fault but China.”

GLARING MISSTEPS

But Trump’s missteps and misinformation are glaring. On January 22, 2020, he said, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” On February 2 he declared, “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China”, and stated on February 26 that “This is a flu. This is like a flu.”However, during a private, taped interview with respected journalist Bob Woodward on April 7, but made public on September 9, Trump admitted, “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu ... .This is deadly stuff.” Yes. He misled the American public.

And his reckless behaviour continued. Early in April, he announced he would not be wearing a mask, even though guidelines issued by medical experts recommended that all Americans wear one in public. By this time, there was a growing consensus among scientists that universal mask wearing, along with handwashing/sanitising, proper respiratory hygiene, and physical distancing, was an essential step in controlling the spread of the virus. However, Trump’s refusal to wear a mask empowered anti-maskers, placing the populace at risk.

His stubborn refusal reeks of ignorance and selfishness. The main reason for wearing a mask is to protect others around you in case you have the virus. Many who carry and spread it are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, and do not even realise they are infected. Even as recently as the presidential debate, he mocked his opponent Joe Biden, by saying, “I don’t wear a mask like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away… and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

ALARMING

It is alarming that during a pandemic, the leader of country makes little or no effort to understand the offending organism or the science behind fighting it. In April, he said, “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute”, then asked,“And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?”

Subsequently, during an ABC News town hall session in September, Trump said, “You’ll develop, like, a herd mentality. It’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen.” He was likely referring to ‘herd immunity’, which occurs when enough of a population is immune to a disease to the extent that its transmission is interrupted. But Trump’s remarks were unfortunate on two levels. First, he got the name of the process wrong. Second, health experts have cautioned against this approach in the absence of a vaccine because it could cause a significant increase in deaths.

And the carelessness extends to his family. At the first presidential debate in Cleveland, First Lady Melania Trump, as well as his children and several of their guests, violated safety protocols by taking off their masks while being seated in a live studio audience. According to debate moderator Chris Wallace, when an official from the Cleveland Clinic, which co-hosted the debate, offered members of the president’s entourage masks, in case they did not have any, “they waved them away”.

Trump’s utterances have placed those whose safety he has been entrusted with in peril. Now, his behaviour has put his own life, and those who have been in close contact with him, at risk as well.

Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, social commentator and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.