By Perry Diaz
When California and some other states declare stay-at-home orders in mid-March, the people who were scared to death of contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) welcomed it. Images of hundreds of body bags put on refrigerated trailers are something that Americans are not used to seeing. And as the casualty climbed exponentially within a two-week period in March, majority of Americans chose to comply with the stay-at-home orders and religiously stayed home praying. Suddenly streets were cleared of cars and pedestrians. Downtowns became ghost towns. Nobody dared venture out of home. Restaurants, movie houses, and gyms were empty. Churches were empty even on Sundays. Some businesses allowed their employees to work at home. Schools were closed. By mid-April, more than 700,000 Americans came down of the virus and over 40,000 died. That in a nutshell is what America has become.
A month later, the casualty numbers seemed to have reached a plateau. However, hospitalizations and deaths were still increasing by the thousands. And the only good thing was that the same number of people recovered and went home. And that’s what kept the curve on a plateau give a semblance of normalcy, which is not the case.
Then on April 17, President Donald Trump went berserk with his tweets! That night, he tweeted three messages. . He tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” “LIBERATE MINNESOTA,” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege.” The reaction from Trump’s rightwing militias was spontaneous. To them it’s a call to arms. Yes, rightwing militias have been agitating ever since the House of Representatives impeached Trump. His acquittal by the Senate stopped the rightwing extremists from going further into civil disobedience. However, crowds of militia members armed with assault rifles carrying American flags and the yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” Tea Party banner, demonstrated in front of state capitols protesting the restrictions imposed by their governors’ stay-home orders.
The following day, anti-restriction protests erupted in Texas, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and other states. Indeed, the protest is growing like wildfire across the country.
The protests don’t bode well for the country. It’s dividing the country into two groups: the pro-Trump anti-restriction group and the Stay-at-home group. So far the Stay-at-home group is numerically more than the pro-Trump activists. However, the Stay-at-home group is silent and unorganized. They’re staying home because of fear of the virus, which is tantamount to a death wish if you’re infected. One placard held by a demonstrator says it all: “FREEDOM OVER FEAR.”
It is expected that protests will grow bigger as the election gets nearer, thanks to Trump’ encouragement who had said that he agreed with the protesters’ demands that the economy should reopen. And Trump is using his daily briefings as bully pulpit to spread his anti-restriction propaganda.
“These are people expressing their views,” Trump told reporters. “I see where they are and I see the way they’re working. They seem to be very responsible people to me, but they’ve been treated a little bit rough.”
Finally, Trump found the key to his reelection campaign; which is to simply pander to his voter base by throwing red meat to them. A few days ago he signed an executive order banning immigration for 60 days, claiming that he wants to give jobs to American citizens only. That would certainly make his Make America Great Again (MAGA) followers rise in approval.
The protests remind me of the Tea Party movement a decade ago. With the tension between public health and economic reopening increasing in the coming days, the notion of civil unrest is a possibility. This time around the Tea Party and their rightwing allies are supporting incumbent president Trump against a reinvigorated Democratic Party. But fate is playing into Trump’s hand. Behind in the polls, Trump trails Democrat Joe Biden right now. However, Trump is making false claims and brazen lies to push himself ahead of Biden.
With social distancing in play, Trump and Biden cannot hold campaign rallies. All campaigning has been in deep freeze, which is a disadvantage to Biden. But Trump saw an opportunity to overshadow Biden by running his coronavirus daily briefings like campaign rallies.
But true to his penchant for lying, Trump was caught flatfooted numerous times making false claims and telling lies. A case in point was during his daily briefing on April 22, when it was mentioned that U.S. officials are preparing to battle two bad viruses circulating at the same time as the COVID-19 outbreak runs into the flu season next fall and winter.
A tense moment came when the headline of a newspaper’s story says: “CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating.” Trump called that headline “ridiculous” and “fake news.”
But Trump tried to downplay it, saying: “The coronavirus may not come at all.” However, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “There will be coronavirus in the fall,” which obviously contradicted Trump’s statement. That took a lot of courage from Fauci who is not intimidated to contradict his boss for the sake of the truth.
The following day, a bizarre moment happened when Trump floated the preposterous idea that ultraviolet (UV) light, heat and humidity are detrimental to COVID-19. He then suggested that UV light be used to zap the virus, saying: “Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way,” which make one wonder: how is it going to be done? UV light works on skins or surfaces, not internal organs.
He then suggested injecting disinfectants into the lungs to treat the deadly respiratory illness. Task force members were shocked at what Trump was saying. While Trump was speaking, Dr. Deborah Birx was caught on camera looking dejected. She then smirked briefly and looked down with hands nervously clasped and stiffened back into her chair. Poor Deborah. I wonder what went through her mind? Mindful not to offend Trump, she must have thought, “This idiot is a loose cannon!” But she kept her silence. But her body language said it all.
Fortunately, Dr. Fauci was absent at the briefing; otherwise, I could just hear him screaming, “No, no, Mr. President, you’re going to kill people by injecting disinfectants into their lungs!” Incidentally, the manufacturer of Lysol, a disinfectant spray and cleaning product, issued a statement warning against any internal use after Trump suggested that people could get an ”injection” of “the disinfectant that knocks coronavirus out in a minute.”
With the general election only six months away, Trump is digging his own political grave. Americans might turn a blind eye on Trump’s grandstanding and endless self-praises, but they would not elect him to another four-year term simply because he has demonstrated that he has a short fuse, ready to run amok at the slightest provocation. It’s his Achilles’ heel and it could break his chances to be reelected, which is already in the cards due to mythomania, an excessive or abnormal propensity for lying and exaggerating. Who wants a mythomaniac in the White House?
And this is when he’d resort to mobilizing his rightwing militia supporters to foment civil unrest. Armed marauders would be deployed to conservative communities to terrorize voters. Calls for cancellation of the general elections due to the coronavirus pandemic will be made. Right now, about 40% (which is roughly the same percentage of Republicans) of voters want to postpone or cancel the November 3 election. And guess who would remain as president? The question is: Will the majority of the American people condone such an act?