Did you hear the one about the man whose wife called him one day and told him that his cat got on the roof, fell and died? The distraught man schooled his wife in how to break such devastating news more gently. “First you call and tell me that my cat is on the roof. Wait for a while and then call again to inform me that the cat fell from the roof but he is under the care of a veterinarian. When you have given me enough time to deal with the truth you finally call and say that the doctor was unable to save the cat. The cat is dead.” The wife was sorry that she had been so insensitive and she swore that she had learned her lesson. A few months later she called her husband at work and calmly told him, “Your mother is on the roof.”
In many ways this has been the approach that our president has taken in guiding us during the pandemic. In an effort not to frighten us he has often downplayed the severity of Covid-19, insisting that the seasonal flu is far more dangerous and assuring us that the novel virus will one day miraculously go away. He eschews masks and tells us not to fear Covid-19. He wants us to live as normally as possible and just get through this time with as little disruption as possible.
While his intentions may have been good, the reality is that he has actually prolonged our suffering and perhaps even contributed to more deaths that there needed to be. It would have been better if he had united us in our efforts to protect ourselves from contagion from the outset. instead of minimizing the impact of Covid-19. As a nation we have shown time and again that we are capable of handling the truth and making sacrifices when they are needed. The pandemic might have been a moment when we set aside our differences and worked together but the president politicized the virus and led many among us to believe that we need not allow it to have any great impact on our lives. He blithely held packed rallies and garden parties while discouraging his supporters from taken very basic precautions. Now he and much of his staff is infected with Covid-19.
This might have been a moment when he apologized for his mistake and urged the citizenry to be more careful than he has been. Instead he seems to be using the old dog bite theory of denying that he has ever done anything wrong. It goes something like this, “My dog could not have bitten you because he does not bite. My dog may bite sometimes, but he didn’t bite you. If my dog bit you it did not hurt you. I can accept that my dog bit you, but you provoked him. What are you talking about? I don’t have a dog.”
So here we are almost eight months into the pandemic and it feels as though we are still not getting the truth from President Trump. He does not appear to trust us enough to keep be honest about what is happening. He has changed his story again and again and he seems to think that he has successfully fooled us enough that we will be willing to simply carry on as though the danger has passed. He wants us to view him as a tough guy who is not going to let the virus stop him from guiding the nation. He does not seem to understand that all we ask of him is that he demonstrate compassion, honesty and trustworthiness. We need for him to acknowledge mistakes, own them and then demonstrate a willingness to make needed changes moving into the future.
We are tired of photos and rallies and flags and salutes. What we want is leadership and that leadership must be totally honest all the time. It must include concern for everyone, not just those of us in the red states. Our president must provide example for us by following the science, not polls.
I saw Ronald Reagan’s daughter speaking recently. She noted that when her father was shot by John Hinckley he worried about those who had caught bullets because they were near him. He never again attended church services while he was still president because he felt that innocent people might be hurt if another attempt on his life was made. She said that he always considered the good of the people of America before his own well being. That is what a strong leader does.
Not only can we handle the truth, we must demand the truth. We are weary of stories of cats and dogs designed to fool us and make us feel good. We want to genuinely discuss the state of the pandemic. We want Fauci and Birx and Redfield back to tell us where we stand and what we must do. We want to trust our government again.