Think role model. Think dignity and respect. Think kindness and empathy. Think grace under pressure. Now think brazen disregard for others. Petulance, cruelty and downright meanness. Think disrespect and selfishness. Because, as a country, that’s where we are right now.
Let’s just briefly review a few activities that occurred over the last week or so. First, there was the super-spreader event on the White House lawn to introduce Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in which almost no one wore masks or were socially distanced.
Then we witnessed what was probably the worst debate in human history. It contained little or no deep policy discussions. Instead, we saw Trump interrupt incessantly, act like a belligerent child, show no appreciation or empathy for Beau Biden—either his service to the country or his struggle with the most deadly form of brain cancer–or empathy for Hunter Biden who struggled with addiction—a malady that affects almost every extended American family in some way—including Trump’s own brother.
Then we learned that Trump and at least 14 members of the White House staff, as well as three Republican senators and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie contracted COVID allegedly at the White House Amy Coney Barrett event. Trump then headed to a fundraiser in New Jersey, even knowing that he had been exposed to COVID.
Then we saw the President whisked away from the White House in a dramatic nine-minute helicopter ride to Walter Reed. Upon his arrival, he was whisked away to his own private floor. We are not talking private room here. We are talking private floor with nine rooms known as Ward 71 with paneled office and conference rooms, a kitchen, dining room, bedrooms and more.
Two days later we saw Trump take a joy ride with Secret Service men who risked their own lives driving him around Walter Reed so that he could wave to his ardent fans standing near the hospital. Before he left the hospital, he tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
Then we saw him once again whisked away by yet another dramatic helicopter ride back to the White House where he walked up to a White House balcony for his Eva Peron moment, waving good-bye to the helicopter after removing his mask and putting it in his pocket. Then maskless, an infected Trump re-entered the White House, now an infected building given that two housekeeping staff were tested positive who were not in close proximity to the President. That means that the White House itself is a petri dish for COVID. Several White House workers greeted the returning president.
Now think taxpayer dollars spent on this little foray. Helicopter rides, dozens of armored cars, a cadre of doctors, all because Trump refused to follow the science and take appropriate precautions.
Then think about Trump’s tweet, “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate you.” Tell that to the literally thousands of families who have had a loved one die alone in a hospital bed—maybe a ward. They were unable to visit their family members. They were unable to say goodbye. Tell them not to let it dominate their lives.
Let’s be clear. If we don’t let COVID dominate our lives right now, we as a country will never get better. If we take appropriate actions, if we give this virus the respect it deserves, and take the recommended cautions, we can beat this. To act otherwise is irresponsible. End of story.
In Henry V, Shakespeare said, “I never heard so loud a voice issue from such an empty heart. It’s true what they say, “the empty vessel makes the greatest sound.” This country may soon become that empty vessel unless we restore in quick order the virtues of kindness, empathy, grace, humility, and knowledge.
To quote T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”
Maria Grant served as Principal-in-Charge of the Federal Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting. Since her retirement from Deloitte, she has focused on writing, music, reading, travel, gardening and nature.