Editorial: To wear or not to wear...
So much of the essence of Trump’s three years in office can be summed up with his recent politicization of wearing a mask during this Covid-19 pandemic.
He started down this rabbit hole by initially refusing to wear a mask because, as he said to folks close to him, it made him look weak and it reinforced the extent and severity of the pandemic. Trump, of course, had initially denied the pandemic would be a threat to this country and delayed taking action for eight critical weeks. Squandering those critical weeks and failing to adequately stockpile needed medical supplies have condemned the country to the worst health outbreak in the world and has sent the nation’s economy into a nosedive.
It’s little wonder that Trump will do almost anything to try to mitigate the pandemic’s crushing blow to the nation’s economy and to the 100,000-plus Americans who have died from the virus. It will soon be the third most deadly event in the nation’s 224-year history, surpassing the death toll of World War I in just the fourth month of the pandemic.
But as serious a crisis as this pandemic is, Trump has managed to divert the nation’s attention away from the economic and health care crisis we face to a petty fight over whether to wear a mask or not.
Just this week Trump challenged a reporter to take off his mask to ask a question and when the reporter refused he derisibly insinuated that the reporter chose not to because it was “politically correct” rather than because it was the smarter, health-conscious act to take. He also chided former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for wearing masks during a Memorial Day celebration, while he chose not to. Petty, annoying, schoolyard antics to be sure, but then again, that’s Trump.
Fortunately, other leaders around the country, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a prominent Republican, have been more responsible. Wearing a mask is “about loving your fellow human being,” DeWine said, as he discouraged fellow Ohioans from letting masks become a political flashpoint. “You are not wearing it so much for yourself as you are wearing it for that person that you will come in contact with,” he said.
But here we are, three months into this pandemic, and the hot debate in this country this week is whether we should or shouldn’t wear a mask and what political statement that makes. As former president Ronald Reagan would have said: “There he goes again.” Trump has made mask wearing a partisan issue — dividing the country, pitting Americans against each other in a brawl spiraling downward to the sewers of our collective soul.
That is Trump’s peculiar talent.
Name an issue and Trump will have made it a partisan fight, bringing out the worst in each other, diverting energy and effort away from resolution and problem-solving and into a campaign statement that resonates with his fact-phobic followers.
Such is the state of politics, and governance, in Trump’s America.