How did this happen? How did we come to be in this place? Why are we so unprepared to deal with this?
An old grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, and compassion. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”
The reason America is so woefully unprepared to fight COVID-19 is white America has historically and regularly chosen to feed the evil wolf. Donald Trump isn’t an accident or an anomaly. He is a direct result of a conscious decision by a majority of white Americans to elect and unconditionally support him as president of the United States.
Normally, the cost for maintaining white privilege is paid by black, brown and yellow people – white people get the benefit, we get the bill. This time will be a lot different, because global pandemics don’t recognize ethnic or racial distinctions. They’re totally democratic – ask the Prince of Wales.
In my adult lifetime there have been four Republican presidents besides Trump: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. I didn’t vote for any of them because their philosophical view of the role of government was diametrically opposed to mine. But game recognizes game, and my policy opposition doesn’t affect my political judgement of their presidencies.
Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush were two of the best-prepared, most-qualified men ever to be elected president of the United States. Ronald Reagan is a member of the elite class of American transformational presidents. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt, he redefined the American political paradigm; he defined how politics has been practiced in the United States for the last 40 years. George W. Bush was an average, serviceable American president.
Whether you politically or philosophically opposed them, you couldn’t question their basic fitness to hold the office.
There are two prerequisites for public leadership that will always determine how the person performs: intelligence and character. Of the two, character is the most important. Donald Trump’s active ignorance and complete lack of character made him obviously unfit to be president from day one. His abject failure in this moment was not only predictable but inevitable.
So how did someone so obviously unfit become president? Two reasons: white male privilege and racial anxiety. Only a rich white man could be this ignorant and incompetent and be promoted to this level. The transformational demographic and cultural changes the United States has undergone in the last 50 years, along with global economic changes, created a fear of losing white privilege that led a majority of white Americans to support Trump.
What does this have to do with COVID-19?
Christian minister and author John Pavlovitz answered the question this way: “The president didn’t create this virus, but he ignored it, joked about it, weaponized it. He is culpable for the chaos and the unnecessary illness and, yes, the unnecessary deaths because of it – and his supporters are too. This is the human cost of the MAGA cult of delusion”
It’s this deadly combination of white male privilege and white racial insecurity that will make the human cost of this pandemic higher than it had to be. Arguably for first time in American history, white lives will literally be lost and economically destroyed because of white racism.
All chickens eventually come home to roost. Here’s what one of the most privileged white men in American history, Thomas Jefferson, had to say about that in “Notes on the State of Virginia”: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”