In my semi-retirement years I work part-time at an assisted-living senior center. Almost all the residents there are past the driving age, so I drive them to their appointments. Before the COVID-19 era I also drove groups of them to outings in the residence’s bus. But we do, in fact, live in a new, dramatically different era. Now, I rarely drive any of them anywhere. Instead, my workdays now consist primarily of helping the housekeeping crew daily disinfect the premises. Everyone at the facility is dedicated to keeping our precious seniors as safe and healthy as possible at their age.
That sentiment seems not to be shared by our president and many of his followers. Many, such as Texas’ Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, have suggested that for the sake of the economy, Americans need to get back to work; social-distancing needs to end sooner rather than later. If doing so means more senior citizens—the highest risk group in this COVID-19 era—die as a result, well, they should be willing to take that risk for the sake of their grandchildren.
That might sound noble—especially because Patrick and his messiah, the president, are seniors. But the two of them—as well as most of the other Trumpists making the back-to-work pleas—have the means to isolate themselves comfortably for as long as the virus continues to plague us. The residents in the center where I work do not have that luxury. If the virus were to find its way into our facility, every one of the 80 or so residents would be in grave danger. For that matter, so would all the employees, me especially, as, at 65, I am the oldest employee there.
To Trump, Patrick, and all those other wealthy so-called conservatives who can sequester themselves from most of the dangers average folks face, those run-of-the-mill seniors might seem like nothing more than numbers. But to those of us who serve them daily, they’re like family. On average, we lose about one of them per month, and each time we do, I feel it at a gut level, and not just because I’ll be where they are in a couple decades.
President Trump’s largest base of loyal backers is made up of white evangelicals who proclaim themselves to be “pro-life” based primarily on their opposition to abortion. In the past, most of those who adamantly opposed abortion also opposed euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide because they claimed ending human lives either at the beginning or end is immoral. But now, with Trump, Patrick, and several Fox commentators proclaiming their willingness to sacrifice the elderly for the sake of the economy, will white evangelicals—disproportionately elderly themselves—continue to slavishly follow along? If their cult leader directs them, metaphorically, to drink the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, will they obey?
If Trump and his wealthy, influential, corporate-controlled colleagues succeed in persuading their cultish followers to defy municipal and state regulations requiring social distancing, the majority of the resultant deaths will be primarily elderly folks. But elderly folks have families and friends. When 2.2 million Americans die from a virus that could have been fought much earlier and much more aggressively, the friends and family members of those 2.2 million Americans should—and likely will—remember the president who said the following about this deadly disease:
- Feb. 26: “We’re very close to a vaccine.” Wrong, not even close.
- Feb. 26: The current number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is “going very substantially down, not up.” Ridiculously wrong.
- Feb. 26: He claimed that the death rate for the common flu is higher than for COVID-19. Wrong.
- Feb. 28: “And this is their [Democrats’] new hoax. But you know, we did something that’s been pretty amazing. We’re 15 people [cases of coronavirus infection] in this massive country.”
- March 6: “Anyone who wants a test can get a test.” Wrong.
- March 11: Trump said health insurance industry leaders had agreed to “waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments.” Wrong.
- March 24: “I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter.”
- Worst of all: Nearly two months after the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the States, the nation still has not begun widespread testing. Certainly, President Trump is not responsible for the arrival of the virus in the United States. Nor, obviously, is he responsible for manufacturing the test kits. But he is responsible for setting the tone in the nation’s efforts to combat the disease. As shown above, he’s failed miserably at that.
Trump and friends are pushing for business as usual because they believe a booming economy will get Trump re-elected, along with returning a Republican majority to both houses of Congress. That’s a pipe dream—a dangerous delusion. Trump and friends are willing to risk millions of Americans—mostly elderly—in their effort to retain political power.
Families and friends of those sacrificed millions must remember that in November.