Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Guest Post: Hate in the Time of Cholera

Margo Howard is a journalist and author, known by
many as
Dear Prudence under Mike Kinsley,
who started
Slate Magazine.
“Cholera” is my name for COVID-19, even though one is bacterial and the other viral. There is, however, a more important difference between our pandemic and all its predecessors than nomenclature. We’ve had the misfortune of a “leader” (that really must be in quotation marks, for obvious reasons) who’s made it more lethal than it had to be; more divisive and more political. As early as the 5th century BC, people in the Ganges River delta wrote about cholera. Then on it went through the ages. No one — until now — has ever tried to put out demonstrably false information about a plague.

A basic tenet taught to children by most parents and, I am reliably informed, nuns, is that, “One should not hate. Doing so damages the vessel more than the object.” I have lived with this belief all of my life — until now. That I’ve made an exception I find astonishing. I remember being glued to the televised Army-McCarthy hearings and feeling disgusted by drunk, old, double-gaited Joe, but I don’t recall hating him; just being revolted by such an obviously opportunistic, destructive, and dishonest Senator playing to a gallery of the gullible.

Donald Trump’s despicable, if not deliberate, approach to COVID-19 has precedent. He is culpable in the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of Americans due to the evisceration of environmental protections. The deregulatory attack against the standards of mercury, soot, and carbon dioxide alone will lead to 245,500 preventable deaths over a ten-year period – a calculation based on EPA staff estimates. This is more than the population of the city of Norfolk, VA., or Boise, ID.

OK. Once you’ve made peace with the fact that there is someone worth hating, you get busy and start imagining (OK, wishing for) certain punitive outcomes. I gave myself permission to inflict imaginary damage on the disastrous and unfit Mr. Trump because a psychiatrist told me years ago that no thoughts or fantasies were unacceptable because they were just … thoughts or fantasies. So, for Trump I have selected an LIS, also known as “pseudocoma,” or “locked-in syndrome.” It is the condition in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally “due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for vertical eye movements and blinking.” (It is the kind of stroke old Joe Kennedy had.) I felt this would be suitably frustrating because it would make his rages impossible … not to mention, of course, that it would end his tweeting.

My second choice would be for a patriotic Secret Service agent to have his gun go off, seemingly by accident, with the bullet striking the president somewhere significant. That is, no kneecap or shin injuries. As motivational speakers put it, “Aim a little higher.” You are certainly welcome to imagine your own choices, because, really, who amongst us does not want to punish evil?

Editor's note: Even the throes of her most vehement disgust, Margo has never encouraged actual mayhem and isn't here, obviously. We hope Google's content algorithms are smart enough to make that distinction, though we have our doubts.