In 2019, former Prime Minister Theresa May resigned from office. She came to power post-Brexit after David Cameron decided not the deal with the outcome of the referendum he held. This was an unfavorable situation for a PM to inherit. In her resignation speech, she got emotional. On a news segment shortly after, a news anchor asked journalist Owen Jones why he did not feel sorry for her. This was his response.
To him, those people – poor, black, homeless, disabled, or simply not in power – are not worthy of thought. Having sympathy for people in power is a human reaction because they are the most human. Having sympathy for the powerless is inhuman and too political because they are less human.
According to this mode of thinking, they are so much less human that even when the powerful do harm to the powerless – life-altering, or life-ending harm – they still owe the powerful deference.
The popular notion of what is acceptable civil discourse will almost always fall down these lines. Perhaps the most on the nose example being Ellen’s “Be Kind” notion that applies to George Bush, but not the people he ok’d the torture of. The centrist understanding of “civility” protects the powerful from being made uncomfortable by the blood on their hands. When being civil or kind to people who do harm, you are choosing a side. It’s the wrong one.
So is it ok to laugh that Trump tested positive? Of course it is.
This is the case, not just because of the problem with “civility” outlined above. The situation Trump is in goes beyond that. Not only has he done harm and therefore we should not take his side by choosing civility, his predicament is a direct result of the very harm he has caused.
In the United States, over 210,000 people have died of COVID. The United States has the highest death rate in the world. As of 2019, the country has a recorded population of 328.2million. China has the highest population in the world (1.42 billion) and is where the virus started. It is 32 places behind the U.S in deaths with just over four and a half thousand. Brazil has the second-highest death rate, but almost 70,000 fewer deaths. The high rate of deaths in the United States in no way inevitable.
Donald Trump was wildly negligentand sometimes seemingly deliberately counter-productive in the fight against coronavirus. He publicly downplayed the virus for months and referred to it as a hoax by the Democrats. States were allowed to re-open early. He publicly prioritized the economy over preventing the spread. On Twitter, he called on his supporters to join, sometimes armed, mask-less protests against shelter-in-place orders. Herman Cain died after he caught the virus at one of Trump’s massive indoor rallies that he held against all advice. He said no to a USPS plan to provide every American with five reusable masks. The day before the public was informed on his diagnoses, he was at the debate mocking Joe Biden for abiding by CDC guidelines and wearing masks.
It is because of the president’s actions and rhetoric that so many have died of the virus. Hundreds of thousands of powerless people have died. If civility means choosing a side, taking Trump’s side is the obvious incorrect choice.
It is incredibly funny that Donald Trump has the virus. Laugh as much as you like.