By The Dawn’s Early Light
And the virus’ red glare,
Its bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That the truth was still there
And so, this little novelty virus of ours has mingled and danced in the Rose Garden.
At least this is one of the contentions: that Trump and Melania contracted Covid-19 at a super-spreader event that also introduced Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s new candidate for the Supreme Court. It was a celebratory reception on the White House lawn, where many of the Republican Party’s political elite rubbed shoulder-to-shoulder, and without masks.
I learnt the news as I awoke Friday, in a riddle which was quickly unpacked. A Melbourne friend posted ‘YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW’. It was her caps that held most interest, and I searched the comments to understand what she might mean. Just then, a friend in Sydney confirmed the news, which kicked off some rapid speculation between us, time-stamped at 06:36, Irish Standard Time…
It was a lot to take in, before coffee. I found it interesting that the Mad Hatter Of Manhattan-turned-politician had so neatly schooled us in conspiracy. Our first impulse was to doubt the veracity of what we were reading.
This past decade has been a conspiracy of fakery and confusion in the public sphere, with Trump as corrupter-in-chief. Can you imagine if your own life was lived in such a manner? If aggression and suspicion were the armoury of our daily routine? That a declaration of No milk in the fridge! or Fresh mice in the attic! were greeted with doubt and derision? It would not fly. No home could operate like that. Go get the damned milk. Go hire a rat-catcher.
The news was still cooking in my brain. I impulsively wanted to speak to my friend in New York. But wait. He’s asleep.
I had this vision of America slumbering, switching over in the bed, unaware of the latest dangerous, crazy-making drama that would greet it before ever the toast gets eaten.
It felt strange to know its news before America knew its news.
Just this week a Cornell University study pinned 38% of all of US misinformation regarding Covid-19 squarely on Trump’s shoulders. The president’s diminishing, quixotic rant against the virus, which now may pull his presidency apart, has been a square assault on science. The Cornell study cited eleven themes of conspiracy and deception from Trump, but one towered over all others: that miracle cures are available for Covid [and in the presence of the miraculous, the virus is really nothing much at all].
Trump, beneath the bluster, is a man of Galilean certainty. Many believe he’s an idiot who happened to the presidency through foolery, bullying and a divisive opponent in 2016. I’m less dismissive. I think he acts in these ways, with a razor-sharp understanding of what is in his best interests to boot. He is a man of primal strategic clarity.
The American president cares little if Covid wreaks havoc on human lives, but he sure does care if it screws his chances of re-election. Corona denial and fanciful miracle cures were necessary for his survival. They have been part of his re-election plan since January 2020.
But now, in a move of irony and some pathos, Trump must rely only on the scientists, and only on science. And, of course, he will. Because no country elects a dead man.
Last night’s news is that President Trump is headed to a military hospital. If Boris’ coronic adventures are anything to go by, the tone of the press releases in the coming days will be unremittingly positive, even if the leader is in a 50:50 wrestle with death. Especially in jeopardy, truth is pummelled.
In my fever thought-experiments this March, when the virus kicked off in earnest, I would amuse myself with a scenario that Trump caught the virus and died. And alas, because of Covid restrictions, no one but Melania was allowed go to the funeral.
The American president, mourned by one. What an end.
But this is not how I think really. It’s not how I feel now.
I want the first man and woman of the White House to get well soon. I want them to return fighting fit, to live a new day. Sickness is a force of change, not just for the president but also for his electorate.
What will emerge in the new dawn’s early light is unknowable. Let us wait, and let us see.