The last thing any of us should want is the president becoming some kind of QAnon martyr. Other than that, however, I reserve the right to feel however I want to feel about the president and his wife coming down with a case of Covid-19. My life and your life have been turned upside down—and we’re the lucky ones. Some of us are out of work. Some of us are getting sick or sicker. Some have buried mothers, uncles, cousins and sons. All of us have felt the empurpled rage of being lied to endlessly.
I’m writing this in a co-working space where I have to sign in every day (for contact tracing purposes), where I have to disinfect my desk every day, and where I have to wear a mask every day. I don’t shake hands anymore. I don’t hug anymore. My family’s income is rockier because universities are reeling and arts nonprofits are walking dead. We don’t invite friends over anymore. We are not invited over anymore. Our fourth-grader can’t go to school physically. She has to zoom into class six and half hours a day. She often curses the pandemic, painfully reminding her mother and me how powerless we are. My mother-in-law—more mother than my mother—is overcoming Covid. She’s asymptomatic, so far, thank God. Thank God. Thank God.
All of the above is a picture of good fortune by comparison. Nearly 213,000 Americans are never coming back, per Worldometer. More than 7.5 million more are infected. The economy will not return to normal until the new coronavirus is contained, and given how bad things are right now, it’s not going to be contained for a long, long time. One in four working-age Americans has filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Times. That’s 40,000,000 people. Public spaces have been turned into hot zones—churches, synagogues and mosques, theaters and concert halls, museums and nightclubs, restaurants and bars, sporting arenas, any place indoors where more than 20 people gather. Revenues are drying up, businesses going under, dignity being lost.
Amid all this, we’re bracing ourselves for bloodshed made inevitable when a president won’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power—when he refuses to condemn white-power vigilante groups, indeed orders them to “stand back and stand by,” and when he repeatedly extorts the American republic, saying “either I win or something real bad happens.” Amid all this, he repeatedly blames the sick and the dead for being sick and dead, or tells us we’re making up all this suffering, that it’s a hoax by the fake news trying to make him look bad, and that everything is for real super-duper jim-dandy.
That’s why I reserve the right to feel however I want to feel about the president’s health. The insult added to injury is too profound for me to tolerate exhortations by otherwise well-meaning people that no one say he had it coming to him. Let’s be clear: Donald Trump had it coming. The president deserves to get sick. He deserves to suffer for all the suffering he has caused millions of people knowing full well that millions of people were going to suffer. He lied, and he lied, and he lied, because nothing is more important than his desiccated fetish for winning, which isn’t winning at all. It’s the wounded pride of an empty man who can afford to deny for a lifetime he’s weak. This is the same man who mocked the disabled, women, people of color, Black people, anyone he considers beneath him, even people of integrity and honor doing the noble work of public service and trying to prevent the spread of a lethal virus. This is the same president who kidnapped babes-in-arms, banned Muslims, insulted war heroes, and pretended he was a big-shot when in reality he’s up to his eyeballs in debt. Why should I avoid taking a little pleasure in seeing what comes around going around?
That said, I hope he makes a full recovery. (I will not say the same for the hundreds of degenerates who have enabled him, turned an opportunistic blind eye, or tried grabbing as much as they can while they can; they all deserve the worst of the fate awaiting them.) I hope the president makes a full recovery. Too many Americans already believe the coronavirus plays a role in a conspiracy by radical leftists, under the influence of an international cabal of rich Jews, to prey on children sexually, even drink their blood, in an effort to bring down Donald Trump. It’s one thing to say he should suffer. It’s another to want him dead. If you thought Trumpism would be with us long after Election Day, wait till the president is a sainted martyr for the heavily armed white Christian nationalists prepared to sacrifice themselves—and who are already sacrificing themselves to the pandemic—to save “the real America.”
Most of all, I hope he makes a full recovery so voters can sit in judgment of him, so a majority of the people can stuff democratic consequences into his orange face, and so law and order with justice can be administered in the name of God and country.
John Stoehr is the editor and publisher of the Editorial Board, a newsletter about politics in plain English for normal people and the common good. He’s a visiting assistant professor of public policy at Wesleyan University, a fellow at the Yale Journalism Initiative, a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly, and a contributing editor for Religion Dispatches.