By now you have already heard the news. If you haven’t heard, President Trump announced last night that he and Melania have tested positive for COVID-19. It seems that Hope Hicks had tested positive and had traveled with them. The first family will be under quarantine for at least ten days and probably more on the order of two weeks.
Today is one of those peel back the curtain kind of moments. I wanted to run through my immediate emotions and what I am feeling overall. Maybe we will talk about what we should be feeling and what it means when we aren’t feeling those things.
Obviously, the first overwhelming thought is one of shock. I haven’t had anyone in my family (knocks on wood) test positive yet. I haven’t had any close friends test positive. I had one former coworker that passed away due to complications from COVID, but he was more of an acquittance. So, anytime a celebrity or famous person gets it, it becomes that much more real.
I’ve mentioned schaudenfreude before and I definitely felt a wave of that within the first few minutes. Here is a guy that downplayed the virus. Often refuses to wear masks and seems to want to force the economy and American life back to normal. Serves him right. Many people would call this poetic justice. English teachers would call it irony.
However, I don’t wish him ill will. I don’t want anyone to die or even suffer from something like this. So, the overwhelming feeling now is one of guilt and sadness. Mind you, I’m not really sad that he’s sick. I’m more sad and feel guilty that I’m not sad. I know I should be. My faith and my ethics demand me to be empathetic and to treat everyone with compassion and dignity whether I like them or not.
Then, I made the mistake of perusing social media. I’ve snoozed many of my conservative friends out of self-preservation. It is hard to watch what is going on just on its own merits. It’s ten-fold when you consider that other people come away seeing something completely different. It’s like we are tuned into completely different channels.
I didn’t read the comments. I just checked out the likes, laughters, and other emojis. I counted one sad face on a post that had over 150 emoji responses. A third of them were laughing emojis. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Most of them were simple thumbs up. Let’s consider that. We are giving a collective thumbs up on one side of the political debate for a guy being sick.
I made a comment on one post yesterday that Joe Biden was the far better human. I stand by that statement 1000 percent even in light of today’s news. However, a friend took me to task for judging Trump. We aren’t supposed to do that as Christians. The defense I gave was mostly genuine but obviously fell short of the mark for him. My response is that I am judging character for the purposes of deciding who to vote for. I’m not deciding his fate with God. All that being said, I realize how my statement comes off. The fact that I still stand behind it while agreeing with the general principle is probably as telling as the statement itself.
In the short term, this probably cancels the last two debates and depending on Mike Pence’s exposure could cancel the vice presidential debate as well. Trump obviously won’t be able to do rallies for at least two weeks if not longer. Who knows how this effects the race. My suspicion is it really won’t make a difference at all. People have already largely made up their minds.
In the long term this is just incredibly sad. Someone has lived on this planet for 74 years and when his own mortality is threatened there is a large segment of the population responding with a combination of shrugs and laughter. How sad is that? How sad is it that when someone dies no one sheds a tear? How sad is that when someone gets sick we have a large segment of the population rejoicing? It’s sad on so many levels.
It’s sad first for that individual. He has lived such a toxic life that you wonder just how sad even his family will be. Something tells me that some of them if not all of them will be breathing a sigh of relief. He will have left them all that he could ever leave them: his money. Outside of his family, even many of his supporters probably don’t love him or even like him. It’s truly a Dickensonian moment when you realize you have lived an entire life and no one truly loves you for who you are.
The other sad part is clearly on us. What have we become? Have we become so cruel and so crass that someone else getting sick means we’ve won? I definitely get it. After all, it was one of my initial emotional responses. Yet, it is where we are at. Part of healing comes from acknowledging that we are broken. If we can’t feel empathy or even sympathy for someone we don’t like we are truly broken. God knows how we can become whole again.