That moment when you step back from yourself and realize every cell and fiber in your body is a gusting scream of fury and fear so encompassing that you are thrumming on a subharmonic level, yet simultaneously you are so quiescent that the purring cat asleep on your chest has no idea of your condition — that is my personal resting face today.
There are cruise ships stacked up off the coast of Florida filled with sick people and corpses: 808 guests and 583 crew on the good ship Rotterdam, 442 guests and 603 crew on the Zaandam. Neither Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, nor the Republican president of the United States, Donald Trump, seem to know what to do about it.
“Trump on Tuesday night said he had planned to discuss the situation with DeSantis,” reported CNN. “‘People are dying on the ship, or at least very sick, but they are dying on the ship,’ Trump said. ‘So, I’m going to do what is right.’” As of this morning, those ships remain outside U.S. waters, waiting for the word.
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Those ships, and those trapped people, are a metaphor for what the entire state of Florida — indeed, whole swaths of “Red State America” — are on the verge of experiencing, thanks entirely to an expeditious virus and the Republican hucksters who helped it spread. Thus far, COVID-19 has spent its wrath in places like New York, Seattle and Detroit. The storm is now coming to the farther reaches, to Fox News, to the doorstep of Trump’s most devout adherents, and it will be a horror when it happens.
“A review of hundreds of hours of programming and social media traffic from Jan. 1 through mid-March, when the White House started urging people to stay home and limit their exposure to others — shows that doubt, cynicism and misinformation about the virus took root among many of Mr. Trump’s boosters in the right-wing media as the number of confirmed cases in the United States grew,” reports The New York Times.
Here is the present truth: A doctor can go on Fox News, speak basic and elemental facts about the coronavirus pandemic and become an immediate folk hero not for what he said, but for where he said it. Rishi Desai went on the mothership of right-wing folderol — live, no less — and lit into the Trump administration’s ongoing failure to get COVID-19 testing up and running on a national level. It was a moment of pure astonishment, a shard of light cracking the clouds.
Meanwhile, the core personality of that pestiferous network — Sean Hannity — can almost simultaneously spend an entire broadcast melting down at critics who correctly point out that he and his co-workers have been lying their own loyal viewers into early graves because protecting Trump is more important than protecting people in Florida, or anywhere else.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, of course, but if I don’t say it out loud, my head will become a pillar of fire and that purring cat will run screaming. Never in history have two organizations — Fox and the GOP — been more utterly devoted to destroying their own foundations, and it is a dismal thing to encompass.
Fox News and the Republican Party exist today because of older white people who live in rural and suburban places. If you had sat down last December and hatched a plan specifically calculated to damage that sector of the populace, you could not have done better than Fox and the GOP have through their defense of Trump and their simple greedy negligence. COVID-19 is almost perfectly designed to attack older Americans, and still the Republican governor of Florida balks at protecting his aged population, because doing so might make Trump look bad.
We are told by the minute and the hour that ours is a divided nation, that conservatives hate liberals and vice versa, and that nary the twain shall meet unless it is at the point of bayonets. Yet my shoulders today are so tense you could use them as a whetstone because — just as I am terrified for older and immunosuppressed people everywhere — I am terrified for Florida, for “Red State America,” for the millions of people who are going to suffer and die because they trusted this president.
My heart is shattered at the thought of what is to come. I wish most devoutly that it was going to be different than it is, but that is futility. All of us — Red States and Blue States — are on the verge of bearing witness to a bloodletting that will leave us on our knees. It did not have to be this way, and I can’t stop weeping.