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Prepare for the Worst Until This Circus Is Canceled
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Watching Donald Trump’s pandemic briefings is insufferable. The President is often argumentative and dispenses information that is superfluous and often dangerous. During his March 19 briefing, he first promoted the antimalarial drug hydroxychlorquine as a potential cure for COVID-19. By the next week, over 101,000 posts about the drug had appeared on Facebook, and by late March, there were hundreds of thousands of tweets about it per hour. Donald Trump is effective when using his bully pulpit.

There is no scientific evidence that hydroxychlorquine, a medication used by those with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, is effective against the coronavirus. In fact, scientists in Brazil cut short a trial when it showed this drug and its close relative, chloroquine, could adversely affect the heart. Hospitals in Sweden and American cardiology groups cautioned doctors these drugs could be harmful to those with existing heart problems.

Despite those warnings, in his April 4 briefing, the President was cavalier when he said, “What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it.” An Arizona man, heeding Trump’s advice, died when he ingested chloroquine phosphate, a drug that sounds like chloroquine, but is used to clean fish tanks. Lives are lost when people take the advice of someone with no medical background, including the President of the United States.

At his April 23 briefing, the President came up with another cure: injecting ourselves with disinfectants. These are effective in destroying COVID-19 on surfaces and countertops. But taken internally, they are toxic. His suggestion stunned the scientific community. Given the weight of his office, doctors and the makers of Lysol and Clorox warned the public against consuming bleach and other cleaning agents. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency received over 100 calls about this in the hours and days after Trump’s statement. Even more alarming, the New York Daily News reported the city’s Poison Control Center fielded over 30 calls the day after Trump’s comments from people who had taken Lysol, bleach, or other household cleaners.

The outcry was so great, Trump walked back his recommendations the next day: “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.” For the record, he offered his remedy with no prompting by reporters. But, what can one expect from a man who believes he has an innate understanding of medical science. The President has become the 21st century version of our 19th century snake oil salesman.

Mistrust of science and rational thought have always been part of the American zeitgeist. Scientific facts are often suspect, even when friends and relatives are sick and dying. Anti-intellectualism places education below the self-made man or woman. Donald Trump’s election is only the latest example of its resilience. Unquestioning followers reject any serious analysis of Trump’s temperament and beliefs, including their effects on social and scientific questions such as income inequality and climate change. Bias and emotion take precedence over inquisitive and unbiased reasoning. We often associate these positions with the under-educated and with religious groups, the historical base of the Republican Party. But they can also come from the left as with anti-vaxxers who claim vaccines cause autism.

Their interpretation of our Constitutional rights reinforce their belief that individual choice is more important than the greater good: “I don’t have to self-quarantine if I don’t want to. If you chose to, that’s up to you.” They see no connection between their actions as silent virus carriers and spreading disease to others. And they fail to see the hypocrisy between demanding their right to choose how to act during this pandemic and their objections to others’ right to choose, whether it’s to have an abortion or to marry your same-sex partner. There is no critical thinking.

Like the fervor of partisan politics, the coronavirus pandemic has once again revealed these fissures in American society. Self-interest is at odds with a communal one. To fix this, it’s important to remember Americans share a collective purpose and future. From this shared purpose, questioning our own needs with those of others can lead to discourse. But we must be curious enough to begin this process. Doing so engenders tolerance and respect for others’ beliefs. These are the seeds of the greater good.

I hate Donald Trump’s indifference and arrogance. But, he is not entirely to blame for the present state of our union. Both the Democrat and Republican Parties have ignored the poor and the working class for years. Yes, the GOP has been the most egregious of late. But if we are to survive this, all of this, together, our leaders must put their personal agendas aside for our greater good. I’d like to think this pandemic, affecting all of us whether we are rich or poor, men or women, gay or straight, young or old, or white or brown, will make us see not just our shared experiences as Americans, but as humans. But it won’t be easy to erase the differences that divide us. Our history is proof of that.

Peddling unproven cures for the coronavirus is reckless. Thinking critically might mean the difference between life and death. After three and a half years of the Trump presidency, Donald Trump’s principal motivation is clear: his self-interest. I have no hope he will change. While I’m often shocked by his behavior, I’m never surprised. I’m fighting for the greater good now. But I’m also preparing for the worst until Trump’s circus is cancelled.

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