Have you ever noticed how much people who live in America claim it’s the greatest nation on earth? I live here and I think it’s pretty great and so I tend to agree (mainly out of national pride), but it’s a pretty common refrain among Americans. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you individuals from other nations who have had to deal with us Americans are probably pretty sick of hearing it.
But do you know what else is a pretty common refrain among Americans? That politicians suck! That anyone who has ever held political office should be thrown out and replaced by like-minded individuals who will actually work for the people who sent them there. You know, the voters!
You know what is also interesting, though? That the system works pretty much the way it’s supposed to. Majority voters in just about every congressional district and state are represented by people who act in a way their voters want them to. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear conservatives rail against dirty and corrupt liberal politicians they don’t like, such as Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. It’s also fairly common to hear liberals cry out for the head of Mitch McConnell. But if you ask a majority of voters in San Francisco, New York or Kentucky about those individual politicians, you’ll find that they are pretty satisfied with the job their own representative is doing. So it’s not that we dislike all politicians, we just don’t like the ones who represent people who disagree with us.
Now, all of this quarreling about politics and who is right and who is of the devil is all well and good when times are normal, but when something like COVID-19 comes up, then…not so good. And when lives are literally on the line, it can become much more difficult to be the representative your constituents want.
But the problem is, in the age of social media, people have more power than they have ever had before. You see, the public that thinks all politicians are corrupt and moronic (except their personal favorites, of course) has a much more direct say on what they expect of their representatives. Social media mobs can form in a heart beat and they can kill a political career faster than an affair with an intern ever could. And unfortunately, here’s a sad truth that most people aren’t going to like to hear. In large groups, human beings as a whole become very ignorant and…frankly non-smart, very quickly.
Which brings me to my ultimate point today. Being a politician during this pandemic has got to be the worst. Especially if you are a politician that actually wields a significant amount of power. It’s this reality that actually makes me feel a little bit bad for President Trump. Not real bad, but at least a little bit.
You see, conservative media and President Trump downplayed COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, which turned it into a political issue rather than the health issue it always should have been. It was called among other things: a hoax, a tool of liberals to bring down the president, nothing more than the common flu, etc. But as days went on, it became more and more clear that COVID-19 was serious. How serious? The truth is we’ll never know. Many states, followed eventually by the President, started issuing directives designed to “flatten the curve” and limit the effects. When this started, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that if those efforts were successful, we would all claim that we as a nation had overreacted. But regardless of how successful we’ve been at limiting the damage of COVID-19, there is no doubt that it was serious and it was something never to have been taken lightly.
Which is why I now feel bad for the president. For reals! I feel bad for the president and frankly any governor who is faced with the responsibility of how soon and how widely to open back up our country.
You see, it’s easy to be a media commentator who coins the phrase, “The cure can’t be worse than the disease.” It’s also easy to be a media personality who downplays the realities of facing another day without a paycheck to pay for rent or food or any other necessities. It’s incredibly easy to be a protester who goes and waves a sign around demanding that your God-given freedoms be returned to you, when in actuality your freedoms to endanger the lives of others were never granted under the constitution, nor by God. On the other hand, it’s quite simple to be a social-distancing shamer who happens to be living out their quarantine in a comfortable home with a loving family while their income continues to be automatically deposited into their bank account as opposed to a battered wife who is now imprisoned 24/7 with a much more immediate danger to her life than COVID-19.
In other words, it’s easy to be anyone other than the person who has to make these ultimate decisions.
I’ve never seen the problem our president and our governors face better illustrated than in the movie, The Dark Knight. In that movie, there is a scene where two ferry loads of people are pitted against each other and given the choice of blowing up the other ferry boat before they themselves get blown up. The ultimate catch is that if neither boat chooses to “turn the switch” then both boats will explode, killing everyone.
When the situation is presented to the passengers, everyone has an opinion. One boat even takes a vote, with the vote producing the outcome that the passengers on the other boat are expendable because they are prisoners currently serving time. The catch is, they only need someone to turn the key.
And nobody can.
Because it’s easy to claim life is expendable when placed in comparison with the greater good. It’s easy to say that 60,000 additional lives are a reasonable sacrifice if the rest of us can get back to work. Heck, it’s easy to SAY anything. DOING? That’s hard. Because if you are a governor, or a president who gives in to the pressure to open everything back up too early and COVID-19 deaths spike as a result of your decision, that’s on you. No protester, media personality or low-rung politician whose vote ultimately didn’t matter is going to step up and take responsibility for you. You’ll be on your own.
But on the other hand, if a large swath of the population have nothing left when they emerge from their homes because you let the economy go completely down the toilet due to an over-abundance of caution, that’s on you too.
The difficulty of this situation is playing out before our eyes. It’s obvious the president wants to open things up, like…yesterday. He tweets about it like we should move forward right now. He makes comments practically goading governors to open non-essential businesses. But when the governor of Georgia actually makes the call on opening up his state, the president immediately says he’s acting too soon.
So which is it? Liberate Michigan? Or is the current liberation of Georgia irresponsible? We’re not sure. No one is. But those people we denigrate and run-down every day as corrupt and dirty politicians are now the ones we have to trust to make those decisions.
And as far as I’m concerned, I have to believe they are doing their best. Because, at the end of the day, we Americans live in the greatest nation on earth, right? So then we have to acknowledge that the system we’ve had in place for over 200 years demands that politicians make these calls. Politicians we voted for as well as politicians that our political foes voted for. It’s just the gig.
So to bring it home, I wish President Trump all the best as he wades through this time of extreme trial. I still think he’s a disaster. I still think he should shut up just about every time he opens his mouth. But he’s the guy who has to make tough decisions that I’m very glad I don’t. And as an American, I need him to get those decisions right. So I’ll pray for him. And I’ll pray for Governor Cuomo and Governor Newsome and most especially Governor Ducey. Because I, and 350 million of my closest friends, can’t really DO anything else. We can talk and argue and speechify all we want, but the doing is in the hands of a very select few. And boy am I glad it’s not me.