Trump’s response to the pandemic has always been dishonest and cruel | Rebecca Solnit | Opinion

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“Everybody was told to wear a mask. Why did the first family and the chief of staff believe that the rules for everybody else didn’t apply to them?” debate host Chris Wallace said on Fox News Sunday, and the answer is obvious. Throughout the pandemic the Trump administration and right-wingers in the US and elsewhere have found that the laws of science are offensive to their sense of impunity and irresponsibility. Their attitude has been “this doesn’t affect me – and I don’t care how it affects you”.

The pandemic focused and intensified the need to recognize the interconnectedness of all things—in this case the way that viruses spread and the responsibility of those in power and each of us to do what we can to limit that spread, and to recognize the consequences that could break our educational system, our economy, and our daily lives and hopes and dreams if we did not take care, of ourselves, each other, and the whole. In other words that we are not separate from each other, and that inseparability is a basis for making decisions on behalf of the common good. But Republicans have long denied this reality.

The contemporary right has one central principle: nothing is really connected to anything else, so no one has any responsibility for anything else, and any attempt to, say, prevent a factory from poisoning a river is an infringement on freedom. They reject the evidence of climate change and other scientific realities on the grounds that it displeases them by undermining their ideology, rather than on the evidence. Freedom as they uphold it is the right to do anything you want with utter disregard for others (and taken to extremes, to believe anything you want, as they have about climate). To smooth over the ways this is amoral requires disassembling cause-and-effect and, ultimately, denying the systemic nature of all things.

In their logic, poverty must be caused by individual failings, not by systematic inequality and obstacles. Gun deaths must be disassociated from the deregulation and proliferation of guns. Taxes are a form of oppression, since no one owes anyone anything. Those who benefit from the system that taxes underwrite – infrastructure, law enforcement, education of workers – deny that their success has anything to do with anything but their own bootstrapping virtue and hard work. Climate change’s underlying message that what we do has longterm planetary consequences outrages their sense of autonomy.

The bias in these notions of freedom is evident in the details – such as the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, rewriting the Title IX regulations so that campus rapists have more protections and their victims less. Despite the rhetoric of freedom and equality of opportunity, it’s always been about preserving both a hierarchy and codifying notions of masculinity. Masks have been a sort of litmus test for all this. If you wore a mask to protect yourself, you admitted that you too were vulnerable. Former Missouri governor and Trump loyalist Mike Huckabee recently declared: “We are the party of the Emancipation Proclamation, not the emasculation proclamation.” If you wore a mask to protect others, you admitted the systemic nature of this disease. You knew that each of our actions can affect others – and took responsibility for others.

Responsibility is caring and caring was cast as emasculating women’s work, and this made clear another underlying idea: it’s men who should not be expected to do anything for others: the absolute freedom and irresponsibility was granted to men in particular. US supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s apparent submission to her husband’s authority is further evidence that this freedom thing is for the guys. Another crisis in the pandemic comes from the fact that, with schools and childcare closed, the added burden at home has fallen disproportionately– or, you could say, unequally – on women, because men have managed to opt out by many means, including tradition and strategic obliviousness and incompetence.

Casting the wearing of masks as a form of infringement on individual liberty made masks the focus of rage, protest, and violation over the last six months, as well as violence, including murder, directed against those trying to enforce masking regulations. That the disease was disproportionately affecting poor and nonwhite people in the US meant that it was easy for these white protesters to imagine the disease as someone else’s problem (as did the fact that it first emerged in urban areas in blue states). Donald J Trump reportedly mocked and discouraged the wearing of masks in the White House. “I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wears a mask, everything disappears,” he said to Chris Wallace in July.

Authoritarianism is always inseparable from ideas of masculinity, and in the Trumpworld version, facts, laws, historical records, and science are another thing to which a real man need not submit. He can have his own version of reality as part of his endless entitlement to freedom, and so Trump spewed out his own version of how this disease worked and what would work in response as medical experts shook their heads. Now this has caught up with him and his staff and the donors, White House employees, and press corps members their recklessness has exposed.

“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” the president tweeted from the hospital amid conflicting reports on his condition. Taking precautions, respecting the dangers, protecting others: these were all now cast as being afraid. The tweet came a day after he willfully exposed Secret Service agents to his disease so he could take a self-promoting joy ride outside the hospital. And a day after 757 people’s lives were lost to a disease whose spread he did so little to prevent. All this discredits not only the Trumpian response to the pandemic, but the ideology that underlies it, which has always been as dishonest as it is cruel.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Trump’s response to the pandemic has always been dishonest and cruel | Rebecca Solnit | Opinion

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