The Truth on COVID-19 is Ugly and the Lies are Deadly

On March 19th, the gutless depravity of failed leadership found a new poster-boy. Republican Senator Richard Burr was found to have sold off his stock in what he knew would be losing value (hotels, travel industry) before the stock market started crashing from the pandemic COVID-19 while simultaneously toeing Donald Trump’s line that everything was fine. He provided warning to his rich constituents, but set the rest of the public up.

On St. Paddy’s Day Trump finally reached a point of inflection following his attempts at deflection—from declaring a “hoax,” and “bad flu” he finally admitted we have a very serious pandemic, dishonestly saying: “This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” The malfeasant lies are having a measurable impact, Republicans are taking the pandemic less seriously than Democrats unless those Republicans can profit off it.

A friend of mine wrote to me from Bergamo, Italy, and also sent a photo of military trucks, he said were there to bring “dozens and dozens of coffins from Bergamo to other crematoriums in other regions because the local one is not able to bear the workload caused by coronavirus.”

Meanwhile, Trump supporters I know are still blaming “the Media,” with some of them lining up to buy guns or bragging about being ready as, “[t]he person with the most ammo wins.”

From the first we heard about coronavirus, Trump has suppressed testing because testing reveals a much more accurate count of how many are infected. You may have experienced what thousands of others have, which is extraordinary difficulty in getting tested, even when you are symptomatic.

It is one thing to lie about the size of his inauguration crowd—are you going to believe Trump or your lying eyes?—but it’s life and death for all of us when he exaggerates, misleads, and outright lies about all aspects of this public health emergency, from false claims about “wonder drugs” to lies about Google being the answer to Navy medical ships and on and on. Of Donald Trump’s dangerous lies Rachel Maddow suggested “all of us should stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it’s gonna cost lives;” she’s right, he needs to be censored. Or, preferably, he should be relieved of duty immediately as he worsens this outbreak daily by his falsehoods.

It hits close to home when you see people you know suffering. But it slices so much deeper when the betrayal is clear. The lies we have been told served selfish purposes. Trump denies all responsibility and instead claims he’s doing a superlative job, but he failed and failed and failed. Now they want to buy our gratitude with a check for $1,000 or so. Yeah, our health would be better.

This needs to be a wake up call. The people cannot continue to permit such corruption. The people should turn to the real leaders—the mayors and governors across the country who are putting citizens’ lives ahead of self or stock-market. There are many life-saving efforts underway and people who are getting the deadly truth are adapting to the challenges of our time.

This is also the time to embrace the larger struggle. The public has taken the risks for elites’ private profit for too long. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies making significant margins while quality of life and life expectancy diminish. Lobbyists and special interests are able to finance the campaigns of the representatives who are tasked with overseeing and legislating them. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision effectively gave corporations free speech rights and protected the “right” to spend an unlimited amount exercising that “speech,” thus wiping out all previous bipartisan attempts to reduce the undue influence of corporate wealth on politics and the resultant public policy that makes our lives harder.

It is ongoing cruelty and it has always been intentional. Agencies, across the board, have been sabotaged of the people and resources necessary for successful operation. Undermining the response to COVID-19 is consistent with failing to supply clean water to at-risk communities, botching hurricane responses, and human rights violations at the border. Ordinary folks, poor people, minorities, foreigners, etc. are bypassed, Trump’s team has already foreshadowed the Darwinian future: we will have a vaccine available to those who can afford it.

Collectively we have a lot to face. Communities around the global are being ravaged. If we take steps to limit the spread—through social distancing, good hygiene—we can mitigate the damages of this virus. If we demand our leaders take steps to protect us—like diverting funds from Trump’s vanity wall or the spectacularly wasteful military budget to healthcare—we can be proactive in our survival. If we learn to work together, continue to find creative solutions, and adapt—choose community over chaos—we will maximize our survival, but we will not get there if we do not start with the ugly truth: there is a deadly pandemic and we have been lied to repeatedly by fake leadership.

Let’s beat these threats, from the microbial to the liar in the White House. It will only be done with people power and more care for each other than those at the top evince.

Wim Laven has a PhD in International Conflict Management, he teaches courses in political science and conflict resolution, and is on the Executive Boards of the International Peace Research Association and the Peace and Justice Studies Association.