Tuesday, our nation crossed a tragic threshold as the number of deaths from coronavirus passed the 100,000 mark. But instead of taking a supportive stand on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Republican Party has launched a culture war against people who wear protective gear like masks.
On May 24, a weekend in which we honor those who gave their lives in service to our country, a 50-year-old Freehold Township, New Jersey man named George Falcone was shopping in a Wegman’s market without a mask and standing too close to a worker. When he was asked to keep a distance, he leaned in, coughed on the employee and told her he had coronavirus.
This amoral and reprehensible behavior is not isolated. The same day, Marissa Barrera, a Senate staffer, was taking a walk while wearing a mask when a woman “purposefully spit on me,” Barrera wrote on Twitter. “Going home to shower…and possibly die.”
All of this is laid at the feet of President Donald Trump, who has completely abrogated his responsibility to protect our nation and sowed deadly division among the electorate. There was not a single reason to turn safety during a pandemic into a wedge issue, but here we are.
At a White House press conference on Tuesday, Trump mocked Reuters reporter Jeff Mason for not removing his mask at the pool microphone, telling Mason he was being “politically correct.” Trump’s own CDC recommends that people wear masks and maintain safe distances, and this fulminating fountain of narcissism and hate makes fun of people for trying to stay safe.
This behavior gives a pass to both Fox News’ Brit Hume and ABC’s Terry Moran to question whether Joe Biden looks presidential while wearing a mask. Biden looks exactly like a 77-year-old man who, as a member of an at-risk demographic, is protecting himself; by providing an example, he looks exactly like a leader.
OpinionFrom George Lang, our lead opinion columnist
Trump is a bully; it is his most prominent personality trait, and his toxic masculinity is proving to be literally toxic. I would normally say that it is his choice to put himself in mortal danger, but every time Trump downplays the dangers of the virus, he puts his followers’ lives on the line. People will die because Trump used them as cannon fodder in a culture war.
Nothing can justify Trump’s behavior toward those who take safety measures nor his attitude toward the people who have died from COVID-19. As we reached the 100,000 body count this week, Trump was completely checked out, visiting Trump National Golf Course in Virginia and lumbering on the edges of the rough like Sasquatch.
He simply does not care, because no one Trump cares about has contracted coronavirus, and by that, I mean Trump has not contracted coronavirus.
Gov. Kevin Stitt, Trump’s proxy in Oklahoma, has perpetuated this attitude by mouth-breathing at business openings, vetoing mail-in voting legislation and lying prostrate at the feet of Elon Musk, a techno-villain who threw a social media fit because Gov. Gavin Newsom of California would not ease workplace restrictions.
Musk is now insisting he will close Tesla’s factory in Fremont and that Tulsa is on a shortlist for a new location. Stitt is rolling out the red-pilled carpet because he hates regulation almost as much as Musk hates it, but Stitt is being played by the electric car magnate. In the Texas Hill Country, Musk can enjoy all the regulation hostility Oklahoma has to offer combined with the blue state culture he and his wife crave, and it would be naive to think Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has not given that exact pitch.
Of course, I want businesses to come to Oklahoma, but we should not attract those businesses simply because we are a state that values unfettered commerce over the welfare of our citizens. This is the Libertarian Valhalla that Stitt is trying to sell Musk, a place where our Green Country rivers flow with effluvia and what residents call “horse snot algae” because our politicians are too chicken to stand up to Tyson. It is a place where Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general turned Trump Environmental Protection Agency chief, used his influence to stymie court actions against the poultry giant.
Now, as Trump ignores the deaths from coronavirus while issuing executive orders deregulating industry as a way to ease corporate fiscal pains, his noxious policies flow downhill like the chicken feces polluting eastern Oklahoma. Trump’s rhetoric against masks and social distancing result in people from our region not believing what doctors advise. They throw giant bacchanals at Lake of the Ozarks and climb over one another at biohazardous bars in Midtown.
And all the while, Trump will never care about these people who elected him president. Double the number of dead and he will still be at Trump National, chunking one shot after another as his supporters spit and cough in the name of freedom.
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