by Victor Davis Hanson
Joe Biden has redefined mask wearing. It is now the thinking man’s patriotism, what every “scientific” and “refined” mind naturally does.
Biden, the media, and the progressive party all blame the now ill Trump for becoming infected. They accuse the president of becoming sick because he was selfish. You see, he was not always wearing a mask, or not always isolating in social-distancing fashion, or not always staying inside except for essential expeditionary trips.
Upon reading these condemnations, one could be forgiven for thinking Trump was the mayor of Fresno, not the president of the most powerful and necessary nation in history.
The subtext is that Trump is no Biden. Joe follows “science.” He “gets it.” He “listens” to “experts.” Like Trump his rival septuagenarian has health issues, but very much unlike Trump, Biden, until lately, seldom was seen or heard. For Biden, the way to run a presidency is the way he wishes to conduct the second debate—by Zoom.
Who Is the Real “Patriot”?
This Trump/Biden good-bad dichotomy is crazy. It reveals that Biden has no real idea of who is keeping this country in general, and his own household in particular, alive—much less how hard that task is at a time of plague and quarantine.
Class differences, considerations, and interests are the real themes of this election. They are on the side of the president who took the same calculated risks that millions do to meet the requirements of their jobs that simply cannot be done from basements and safe zones or over computers and smartphones.
Recently, Joe Biden, in his usual clumsy racialist fashion, at last confessed that his own half-year sequestration kept him safe only because, “some black woman was able to stack the grocery shelf.”
Aside from the reality that Biden usually stereotypes black people as either stock people, or clueless (“you ain’t black”), or defenseless (“put ‘y’all back in chains” ) or addicted to drugs ( “you taking cocaine or not? What do you think, huh? Are you a junkie?”), he accidently stumbled upon a truth here.
Biden really doesn’t take risks, because he assumes that others less privileged will take them on his behalf. And in doing so, hundreds of thousands of Americans, with masks, with hand sanitizer on their palms, and with careful distancing whenever possible, have been infected, some severely and others mortally so.
So COVID, the quarantine, and the president’s illness alike have now become class issues. On the one hand, are the elite and entitled “Karens.” They scream and rant when they see a slipped mask. They worship Lord Zoom and His Highness Skype. They brag about their near-perfect quarantine, and become insufferable when talking of “the science” and “Dr. Fauci.” In truth, the telecommunicating, distance-working and remote profiting classes are all part of the pyramidal capstone of American society, the tiny tip that does not totter or blow off because it rests on a vast, indomitable base below that has no such options.
Who exactly makes or brings House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ’s (D-Calif.) designer ice cream to her palazzo? Who cooks the food delivered via DoorDash to the right zip codes? Who slaughters, cleans and packages the steak cooked by the quarantined class, or meets the sick at the ER door? Those of perfect weight, with correct vitamin D levels, who eat the proper vegetables, and keep their blood sugar and cholesterol low, and the fat off with a daily hour at the gym? Not always.
Yes, they should and they do wear protective gear. But they are also busy, often exhausted, short of breath by their eighth hour on their feet, and so human rather than Karen-perfect. A mask is not a matter of an hour’s walk break from quarantine, or a trip to the grocery store, but of impairing breathing for 9-10 hours, day after day, to keep a grocery store open or cut the tree limbs back from sidewalks.
Not long ago during the quarantine, four of our old appliances, like clockwork, failed. I ordered replacements from Home Depot. They were delivered by sweaty movers, who did 10-15 such deliveries a day. Most usually fit the weight, age, and ethnic categories of those at risk. As two scooted the refrigerator into the kitchen narrows, one had taken off his mask. He apologized with, “Sorry, but I can’t get enough air after about the 10th delivery.”
I told him “We beggars can’t be choosers—and without you I would have no food.” It was not as if he slung his mask off to board his private jet, or roamed around the Hamptons while actively infected, as a prelude to lecture the nation on the sacred and deified mask.
We Don’t Deserve or Choose to Get COVID
It is past time to remember that a hundred million Americans are out on the front lines doing their best to keep the country alive; and its whiny, sequestered elite fed, powered, supplied and safe—and thus ever more hyper-critical and hypocritical.
If our supermarkets ran on the logic of Yale, or our hospitals on the hours of Stanford, or our assembly plants worked on the rationale of the grad seminar, then most of us would starve, die, or revert to a pre-civilizational existence.
The track record of our elite policymakers, like many of our epidemiologists, and our modelers and our media, is not nearly as good as those who deliver refrigerators or slaughter steers.
There is a now mini-internet industry of exposing our hectoring political and media grandees—take Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), or CNN’s Chris Cuomo—shouting about the need to wear masks, while themselves stealthily not wearing them. And they do so often in the context of sneaking into upscale salons for beauty treatments, or scurrying around a private jet port, or inspecting an “East Hampton property under construction.” Their message is unambiguous: “I do exemptions so I can ensure you don’t.”
Most Americans who don’t work from home try to wear masks. They use hand cleansers. They distance when they go out each day. But most also under no circumstance say anything to correct anyone pouring cement, changing tires, cooking food, or fighting fires if their protocols seem like they don’t meet Joe Biden’s standards. Not only do these people help to keep us alive another day, but we know those who set such standards for others have often failed them—and predictably in a landscape of privileged hypocrisy.
In this context, Trump is not the reckless one. He no more deserved to get the virus than did the 210,000 who have died—died with and without masks, distancing and not so much, and meticulously clean and sometimes not.
Trump is president. He’s not a professor, not a journalist, not a stockbroker, not an actor. The Left has it upside-down. It is narcissistic for a president to hibernate on the theory that he can’t be replaced, even as he does the nation psychological damage. It is leadership to go out and, with proper caution, to brave the contagion, on the theory Trump is indeed replaceable while cowering is inexcusable.
His job description is to be one with the people, and to take measured risks, when necessary. That’s what leaders must do. General George Patton certainly did not have to fly above his 3rd Army in a fragile Piper-Cub in foul weather and near enemy skies. But he did it to hone his knowledge of the battlespace, and to remind his men that like them, he was as expendable.
Churchill had no business making 25 trips outside wartime Britain. Yet he had all the business in the world to do so if he was going to encourage men that not all was lost, and that the Wehrmacht was not so powerful. Teddy Roosevelt was not “reckless” when he finished a speech after being shot, with the bullet lodged near his heart. Rather he determined that his Stoicism reminded his audience that he was one with them, and stronger unarmed than the assassin armed.
In our true sickness, we have come to equate COVID-19 infection with some sort of moral or patriotic failing, as though it is due to lack of prior exercise or weight control, or whatever writ is used to fault the infected. No doubt, there are beach boys and sorority girls who do dumb things in their drinking and kissing without masks, as they get and pass the virus to the vulnerable. But most of the sick and dead were not so reckless.
Trump got infected because his duties entailed meeting guests, talking and jousting with the media, greeting foreign leaders, crisscrossing the country in times of fire, riot, recession, and crises abroad, hosting receptions, huddling nonstop with advisors, and yes, addressing thousands at rallies if need be. We are told this was foolhardy and exposed others. Perhaps, but more likely at 74, too heavy, and with the knowledge that he was vulnerable, Trump took hazards to conduct a normal presidency in times of abnormality.
We are told he was rash, impulsive, poorly served, foolish—fill in blanks— in taking off-label and experimental drugs, or that the combination of his unproven medicines ensured side effects that will impair his work and endanger his own more sober and judicious citizens.
But in reality, Trump was willing to risk his health again to get back to work. Yes, it is not especially a safe thing simultaneously to take off-label and experimental drugs like Regeneron’s REGN-COV2 and Remdesiver, whose side effects, interactions, and long term risks are not really yet known. The conservative regime, as media hounds bark nonstop, is not taking new medicines and combining them with the steroid dexamethasone at 74 and while being overweight. Again, perhaps. But it most certainly is necessary if you are president and were elected to guide the nation in times such as these.
Only a lost generation such as our own could transform a president who is willing to take risks to his person to get back on the job, to run the country, and to try to restore a normal campaign in a horrific year into some kind of unpatriotic monster.
Politically Correct and Incorrect “Science”
Lastly, we come to the “science.”
Americans have nothing but respect for public health officials. But the latter has been the most unscientific bunch we’ve seen in decades.
The head of the World Health Organization is not a medical doctor. For weeks, he recycled trite Chinese communist lies about viral transmission, quarantines, and travel bans.
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a Biden COVID advisor on a disease that targets septuagenarians, has previously written that life really is, and should be, over at 75. Emanuel’s timing on how to protect those vulnerable at 75 and over could not have been worse.
Dr. Fauci may be a saint. But take any key issue of the last six months—from wearing masks, to quarantining, to taking cruises, to blind dating, to projecting viral loads and likely lethality—and he has not just been mistaken, but predictably self-contradictory.
So herky-jerky are Fauci’s edicts that he finally was reduced to explaining that he had told a “noble” lie about the irrelevancies of mask-wearing to ensure supplies for medical professionals. Later, he was caught without a mask at a sporting event, while also in violation of his own commands about social distancing.
The truth is that “science” is still ambiguous about long-term quarantines and the cost-benefit efficacy of non-stop wearing of masks. Science may well soon teach us that far more died from missed surgeries, tests, and examinations, or domestic violence, or drug and alcohol abuse, or billions of hours of lost schooling for an entire generation of youth.
Facts and data may soon reveal far more Americans in our lose/lose year perished as a result of consequences stemming from the reaction to the virus than from the virus itself.
Recently hundreds of medical professionals signed a declaration urging governments to reconsider the scientific costs of the continued quarantines and the damage they are doing to the nation, given that COVID-19 is a selectively chronological killer.
By quarantining everyone, when the majority of age cohorts are as vulnerable to COVID-19 as to a bad flu—we are consuming limited resources that might well have been better focused on the sick, the vulnerable, and the aged. The reasoning of these professionals was scientific. What was not scientific were earlier petitions by other professionals saying that those who violated mask-wearing and social distancing to protest in the streets were not contravening any laws of lockdowns. Or, as they put it, it was more hazardous for your health not to protest than to violate a national quarantine.
Throughout this long quarantine those who have screamed the loudest about science, about patriotism, and about fairness—according to their accustomed habit of projection—have been the least scientific. They are the most insensitive to class and the most ignorant about true patriotism. A patriot struggles to keep the world’s greatest nation fed, safe, and viable in a dangerous world that watches America hourly for signs of vulnerability, fear, and mass hysteria.
So this election had always been about class. It has been about reminding minorities that they deserve good jobs and dignity rather than “you ain’t black” condescension, and that the rich who profit from China worry little about those who don’t.
That’s why suddenly Joe Biden, after spending a lifetime as a globalist and a parasite who feeds on the ideas of others, is now scrambling to Xerox the Trump agenda with the zealotry of a late convert. He is suddenly blabbering about “buy American” and “hire Americans” and “stand up to China”—words never uttered in the past five decades of Biden’s so often self-referenced career.
President. Trump has no reason to apologize for getting sick. He took risks to meet the obligations of his office. And he took more risks to be healthy enough to continue at it.
In other words, Trump is now one with the millions who do the same thing, every day and thereby keep the country functioning—so often for others who haven’t got a clue about how or why they do so at all.
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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books).