The clock is ticking and the seconds are painfully going by slowly. Very soon, or already, the number of deaths in the United States as a result of the coronavirus has breached the 1,00,000 mark, a so-called milestone that America and Americans wished had not taken place even in their wildest dreams.
But while well-meaning people in that country and the world over are in deep anguish and sorrow, a seemingly insensitive administration led by Donald Trump is going about as if there has been no tragedy; and at times even shamelessly blaming the political opposition for the state of affairs. A US $25-trillion economy is tottering, a health system is in deep trouble and some 75 million kids are not even sure if there is anything going to be called schools, colleges, and universities in the near future.
In the midst of the pandemic, Donald Trump is out playing golf in his course in Virginia — after all, is not exercising good for you, he poses, even as he throws to winds all norms of precaution such as social distancing or wearing masks.
And the weak kneed in his administration, by way of his close advisors, also follow their leader, most certainly fearing his wrath if he ever caught them with a mask on. Worse, the American media has reported that in response to a question from a Senator, the Department of Veterans Affairs has admitted that it has administered the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to around 1,300 Veterans infected with the virus and who are in the last stages of their lives.
The drug is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in the fight against COVID-19; and it is feared that the drug is harmful as it brings with it heart complications and risk to life. Trump swears by the HCQ and recently admitted that he himself has been taking the tablet as a preventive measure against the coronavirus.
In a tragedy like the COVID-19, the numbers game makes it even more numbing. The first casualty was registered in the United States in the first week of February, and in less than three months, the number of dead surpassed all of American soldiers killed in the decade-long Vietnam war, which was 58,220.
And with a number of 1,00,000 on the radar screen, that would bring it close to all American soldiers who died in World War One, Korean War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan put together.
If the sight of body bags coming home during the Vietnam war rattled Presidents like Johnson and Nixon, the fact that so many are succumbing to the coronavirus in red and blue states of America does not seem to matter to President Trump at all, who is convinced that the numbers are high only because of increased testing—if you did not test, you would not know; and if by chance you die, you could have died as a result of a car accident on the way to school or work!
The comments of President Trump—whether because of ignorance or arrogance—have not gone unnoticed in the media, where commentators and analysts have ripped him to pieces, raked him over the coals and called him names like idiot, fool, moron, and imbecile; not that any of these characterizations are going to have Trump lose a wink of sleep.
In his characteristic way, the man in the Oval Office has gone about in a two-pronged fashion: ratcheted up the rhetoric against China and accusing his Presidential opponent Joseph Biden as being a handyman of Beijing; and starting an imaginary scandal called Obamagate where dozens of officials during the Democratic President’s final days were involved in digging up dirt on Trump’s first National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s Russia connections.
In an elections season, a politician like Trump would not hesitate to use a cemetery that bears testimony of the pandemic for political gain. Frequently, Trump has been making the point that but for his administration’s intervention, the death toll would have been far higher. In the same breath, his minions have been saying that the coronavirus itself is a figment of imagination or a scare tactics of a frightened opposition that would include the media and that the death toll statistics are highly exaggerated or inflated.
For a person who has no use for the media, Trump would have been hardly touched by the fine gesture of The New York Times to print the names of 1,000 persons who died as a result of the virus in the front page, not for the sake of publicity but to drive home the somber mood of the nation.
So far, the only thing that Trump has not said is that the names printed by The New York Times are “fake names”, given his obsession with the word “fake”.
The entire world is in a war against a virus where the jury is still out on the precise nature of source and origin. However, throughout the globe, serious efforts are on by nations, individually and collectively, to find a vaccine or antidote to a killer that has taken down generations and in different ways.
The resilience of America being what it is, the country will soon come out of this crisis. In an elections season in America, the coronavirus could well be hotly debated, for politicians cannot be expected to remember what the legendary John Wayne said once, “Talk low, talk slow and don’t talk too much.”
(The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations.)
(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal.)