“I'm viewing our great citizens of this country to a certain extent, and to a large extent, as warriors. The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors,” President Donald Trump, May 5.
President Trump wants to portray himself as a wartime president battling COVID-19, with all Americans as his warriors. One problem is that Trump seems determined to undermine our best weapon, the simple mask.
I recently read a comment from a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He described the cold, the pain, the terror of knowing that at any minute he could be killed. He endured this because he knew we had to defeat the Germans.
He then said that if he had been given the choice of wearing a mask to win the war or lying in a ditch getting shot at, he would gladly have chosen the mask. He would have joyfully made such a small sacrifice, knowing it would save lives. Millions of soldiers would have agreed with him.
Masks are the front-line weapon to fight coronavirus. We wear masks out of respect for one another. My mask protects you; your mask protects me. It’s been estimated that universal mask wearing could save more than 115,000 lives by the end of the year. (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington)
Instead of being a wartime president, leading Americans in an organized battle against this deadly virus, Trump himself is acting as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. He holds large rallies where his followers crowd together, most with no masks. He mocks those who wear masks, although all reputable health experts say this is the easiest way to slow down the virus.
Because of Trump’s twisted views, many Americans refuse to wear a mask. They claim wearing a mask restricts their personal liberty, putting their personal liberty over the life and health of everyone around them. Some people say, Well, if you are afraid of people who don’t wear a mask, then stay home. What they are saying is that their right to be selfish is more important than my health and life and my right to conduct my business as I need to.
Many of these people also say they follow Jesus. What would Jesus have said about wearing masks? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
St. Paul expanded on this: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14) It’s pretty clear.
Trump belittles the seriousness of COVID-19 by comparing it to flu, even though more people have died of COVID-19 in the last nine months than died of flu in the last five years combined. He’s indifferent to the long-lasting effects of this disease.
Trump also seems to have decided that older Americans are disposable “nobodies.” On Sept. 21, he said, “It affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems.....But it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing.” (CBS News, Sept. 22, 2020)
I’m in that group, and so is Trump. I’m sure Trump doesn’t think he’s a disposable “nobody,” but apparently the rest of us older Americans are, along with over 220,941 dead Americans, including four deaths in Churchill County, and 8 million infected Americans.
Trump rarely mentions those who have died. He appears to have no empathy for the pain and terror people have suffered with this disease. Since he survived, with the best health care in the world, he implies that those who did die were weak. His awareness of the struggles of regular Americans seems non-existent.
Trump has called Americans “warriors” against this disease. Warriors are trained to defeat the enemy. They are given effective weapons. They don’t walk up to the enemy and say, “I dare you to shoot me.” But that’s what those who refuse to wear masks, social distance, and so on, are saying. They are daring the disease to attack them; by doing so, they put all of us in danger too.
So, how goes the battle? Cases are spiking dangerously. Health care systems are becoming overwhelmed. And our so-called Commander-in-Chief is AWOL. If we continue like this, we will lose this war.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.