Some musical selections were overwrought. Some were unintelligible. But when ABC, NBC and CBS joined together Saturday night in “One World Together at Home” to salute health-care workers and the World Health Organization, it was impossible to not be stirred.
From the physician who sleeps in his garage to not contaminate his kin, to angels of mercy in HIV-ravaged Africa, now in a death duel with COVID-19: just stunning.
The gut-wrenching sacrifices and courage – it made one want to strap on an AK, unfurl a Confederate flag, link arms on the Capitol steps, stop traffic and help make these health-care heroes’ work all for naught.
Hmm. Where was Donald Trump when so many noted figures stepped forward on TV to call for global unity against a killer virus?
Well, of course, nowhere except where he could tap, tap, tap out more tweets and admire via Fox News what he sees as a game-changing lick at this tender moment: turning Americans against each other.
In the face of much embarrassment amid the pandemic, last week he put out his own Song of Hiawatha for the Tiki-torch troopers and gun nuts who form the point of Trumpism’s spear.
In nicely orchestrated spontaneity (See, “tea party”), they came through for him to harvest video footage protesting governors who save lives by listening to health professionals.
Every one of those governors, every one of those physicians and nurses, thirsts for the day when his or her state is safe for business and all can hug with abandon. But no one who understands the virus is saying now is the time.
What Trump did with his incendiary “Liberate!” tweets was (1) make those governors’ jobs harder and (2) stir the vipers he hopes will be the life force that keeps him in office.
What he did, in historian Jon Meacham’s words, was make this a “partisan pandemic,” one addressed “not rationally but passionately.”
Of course, he had already done this in many ways, making his afternoon press conferences nonstop infomercials for him. Someone roll back all that tape and find one glimmer of empathy for all who suffer and strive.
What he has done, meanwhile, is build a picket fence of strawmen (and straw women, of course, as in “that woman from Michigan”) to deflect concerns about all that he hasn’t done to keep Americans safe.
Chief among the strawmen at the moment is the World Health Organization.
Floating damnably false claims about the WHO, Trump has frozen U.S. contributions to it – over $500 million, a crippling 17 percent of its funding.
Five hundred million. Hey, that’s the sum Trump used to extort Ukraine. It got him impeached. But this withholding of our tax dollars is so very much worse.
Trump accused the WHO of leaving America in the dark about the crisis in its early days. This might be true if Americans from the Centers for Disease Control were not embedded with the WHO at those very moments. That’s right: 15 embedded CDC officials who knew everything about the outbreak at its nexus point.
Before accusing the WHO of a cover-up, one would assume that Trump did what the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank did: talk to those CDC officials. In fact, they reported to the administration in January.
“Everything that the WHO knew, the Trump administration knew – real time,” writes Milbank.
This doesn’t matter at all to the most divisive president in our history. To make his friends froth, he wants enemies. He wants the Tiki troops to don their camo, strap on those carbines, wave those flags, gum up what they can, get some Fox News love.
Ah, but should a crippling cough and deathly fever visit those protesters, who then will be their friends? It will be health-care heroes whose jobs Donald Trump just made more agonizing.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.