Last week President Donald Trump announced that his administration will suspend support to the World Health Organization. The United States provided $553 million to support the WHO last year and was the largest national donor. In making the announcement, Trump accused the WHO of severely mismanaging and covering up the dangers and origin of the coronavirus infection.
This is the president’s latest and perhaps most dangerous, most despicable lie to date.
The WHO warned the U.S. and other nations as early as mid-January about the risk of human to human infection from coronavirus. On Jan. 30 it officially declared “a public health emergency of international concern.” Trump has presented no evidence whatsoever that it could or should have taken these steps sooner.
Moreover, when the WHO issued that notification in technical guidance notes, Trump paid no attention. On Feb. 27, a month after the WHO published an official report that warned of human to human transmissibility of coronavirus and that transmissibility would be higher than seasonal influenza, Trump downplayed the threat (against the advice of U.S. health and intelligence experts).
Halting funding for the WHO is Trump’s latest ploy to shift blame for the COVID-19 death toll from his vicious incompetence and to scapegoat a multinational organization associated with the United Nations, a body he and his white nationalist base have long despised. Trump took the same approach when he canceled U.S. support for the Paris Climate Change Accords after he became president.
“Unlike the novel coronavirus, Donald Trump is a home-grown threat to democracy, decency and stability in the United States.”
What makes this ploy so dangerous and despicable is that people are dying – in the U.S. and throughout the world – from COVID-19 infection. Americans are not dying because of anything the WHO has done or failed to do. They are dying because of what Trump has done and failed to do. In this sense, the cruel suspension of U.S. support to the WHO is not only fraudulent; it is a crime against humanity.
Trump minimized the coronavirus threat. He insisted that coronavirus was no more dangerous than seasonal influenza even after health and scientific experts declared that it was exponentially more lethal than seasonal flu. He delayed declaring a national emergency out of concern about the effect on wealthy investors in the stock market if he did so.
Trump lied about how many people were being tested. He lied about the availability of testing. The Trump administration refused for weeks to use validated WHO protocols for coronavirus testing. Then the administration promulgated an invalid coronavirus test that had to be scrapped. None of these things can be blamed on the WHO.
In a July 2018 blog post, I likened Donald Trump to King Joffrey Lannister, a villainous character from the award-winning HBO “Game of Thrones” series. I quoted this line spoken by Tyrion Lannister regarding the king, his nephew: “We’ve had vicious kings and we’ve had idiot kings, but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king.”
I declared that Donald Trump is a vicious idiot, concluding the essay with these words:
“The unpleasant truth is that Donald Trump’s presidency is both a curse on the United States and a curse from the United States on the wider world. Thanks to the election of 2016, the security of our nation, sanity of our world, strength of U.S. armed forces and our NATO allies, stability of our economy, tranquility of our society, and health and welfare of our population are threatened by one reality: the President of the United States is a vicious idiot.
“We are cursed. Welcome to the ‘new normal.’”
Trump is not merely a vicious idiot. He is a vicious idiot whose sociopathic personality threatens the whole world. Thanks to his free market fundamentalist and white religious nationalist sycophants, the population of the entire world now will be threatened by the suspension of U.S. support for the World Health Organization.
Unlike the novel coronavirus, Donald Trump is a home-grown threat to democracy, decency and stability in the United States. Although his election was aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin and Russia, no outside power or force imposed Trump’s vicious and incompetent presidency on the American population. The dangers that Martin Luther King Jr. warned about in a speech in April 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City – racism, materialism and militarism – have been deliberately, actively and openly cultivated in “evangelical” religious congregations for the past half century.
Trump embodies those evils. His policies are actively enabled by racist, materialistic and militaristic allies in all three branches of the federal government thanks in large measure to Senator Mitch McConnell’s success in staffing the federal courts with judges who will acquiesce to Trump’s hateful policies.
In a tragic sense, the chickens of racism, materialism and militarism have come home to roost in the convergence of Trump’s presidency and the COVID-19 pandemic.
With one exception, Trump resembles former President Richard Nixon. Although Nixon (like Trump) was a vicious sociopath, he was not an idiot. Nixon also didn’t have Fox News to use to spew racist propaganda and a lapdog Congress to enact, and a federal judiciary to judicially uphold, his worst policies.
Roosting chickens eventually hatch their eggs. Since Nixon, free market fundamentalists, white nationalist religious conservatives and proponents of what President Dwight Eisenhower famously called “the military industrial complex” have elected politicians who proudly questioned the need to protect public health, who cut vital social services (including access to health care, nutrition assistance, housing and public education) for people who are needy, and who questioned the need to protect people from bigotry and discrimination.
Nixon was elected twice after King warned that a nation which spends more every year on war making than on programs of social uplift does so at a peril that King called “a tragic death wish.” We are now seeing that “tragic death wish” play out in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the U.S. and the wider world.
“I hope future generations will condemn the religious people who embraced the perspectives of nationalism, materialism and militarism and supported the politicians who governed by them.”
Trump’s presidency demonstrates the moral and ethical bankruptcy of the free market fundamentalism, white nationalist religious conservatism, white supremacy and patriarchy associated with the religion of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee, Robert Jeffress and Franklin Graham; the xenophobia and racism of Pat Buchanan; and the crass materialism of the misnamed “prosperity gospel.” No other national leader in U.S. history has been so vicious, so incompetent, so foolish and so dangerous to democracy, decency and stability.
As I stated almost two years ago, we are cursed. Our curse, like the COVID-19 pandemic, must run its course. Sadly, the course of our curse includes Trump’s suspension of the United States’ contribution to the World Health Organization. It includes Trump’s daily lies about how well his administration has responded to the public health crisis posed by coronavirus.
And the course of our curse includes willful amnesia and deliberate disregard by so-called white nationalist religious conservatives about Trump’s vicious idiocy and shameless dishonesty. That willful amnesia and deliberate disregard has defined public religious discourse and influenced public policy for generations since the Civil Rights era and now shapes how the U.S. is perceived by the rest of the world.
I hope it will also shape how this period of U.S. history will be remembered. When future generations examine the words and actions of this period, I hope they find King’s 1967 speech as prophetic as I do. I hope they discern the relationship between the moral, religious and social perspectives of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee, Billy Graham and Franklin Graham and the racist, materialist and militarist policies that resulted in voters electing a vicious idiot who suspended aid to the World Health Organization during a deadly global pandemic.
I hope future generations will condemn religious people in our time – yes, condemn the pastors, educators, denominational leaders and congregations – who embraced those perspectives and policies and supported local, state and federal politicians who governed by them. I hope they will not give thanks for those religionists and politicians and the suffering that occurred because of our curse. Instead, I hope they will denounce the multi-generational moral, ethical, religious, economic, social and political hell they inherit as a legacy from our era.
Perhaps then something akin to repentance will happen. Perhaps then the next generation will pray for deliverance from the curse we have placed on them. Perhaps God will have mercy on them.
Until then, our curse will continue. And as hard as it may be to contemplate, things might even get worse.
Read more BNG news and opinion on this topic: