On Tuesday the president took his first trip since the coronavirus grounded the country, to a Honeywell factory in battleground state Arizona. This particular Honeywell factory produces N95 masks. Pictures of the trip immediately surfaced on the internet, and they showed a president sporting his usual mango-tinted, ever-tan skin, his usual topiary-structured hair tinted a baffling yellowish, and a pair of clear safety goggles.
But what was missing? What we did not see on the president’s face was a mask. While the rest of us cover our faces as recommended by the CDC, the president does not. In fact, we have never seen a mask on the president, despite the president’s love of masking himself when it comes to his tax returns, his sexual assault allegations, and his financial dealings.
On Wednesday, when pressed on his decision not to wear a mask at a mask factory, the president responded with the very fishy, “I had a mask on for a period of time, I had it on back, backstage. But they said you didn’t need it, so, I didn’t need it. And by the way, if you noticed, nobody else had it on that was in the group.” Okay. Whatever you say.
The truth seems pretty obvious: He doesn’t want to be seen in a mask. And it makes sense that a president who doesn’t believe in global warming, a president who questioned if vaccinations caused autism, that guy isn’t really the type to follow the CDC guidelines. Remember when asked if he would wear a mask, the president responded, “I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know. Somehow, I don’t see it for myself.”
But there’s more. The AP wrote that “Trump has told advisers that he believes wearing one would ‘send the wrong message,’ according to one administration and two campaign officials not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.” Yes, the administration that doesn’t believe in science doesn’t want to send the wrong message, which is that it might believe in science. But I think it even goes deeper than that. Like most autocrats, Trump is invested in the image of himself as a strong man, and part of that strong man image is the idea that he is healthier than other individuals.
There are also shades of master race stuff, like Trump’s genes are better than a normal human’s genes. Doctor Ronnie Jackson actually even said that after the president’s 2018 checkup, “He has incredible genes, I just assume.” This fits with the president’s narrative of himself. Doctor Harold Bornstein wrote of the president that he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Bornstein later said that Trump actually wrote the letter himself. But the idea that after all those well-done steaks and double vanilla ice-creams, Trump is somehow healthier than normal 73-year old, is his favorite trope, and it plays into the larger trope of genetic supremacy.
And the president’s many minions, like his Republican sycophants, I mean senators, have the president’s anti-science back, even the doctors like Rand Paul, who said, “Who knows what the truth is on masks?” You may remember that Rand swam in the Senate pool while waiting for his coronavirus test results to come back. He was positive for coronavirus. But Paul isn’t the only one. An extremely impressively stupid Republican Ohio state representative named Nino Vitale wrote on Facebook (the social network where science dies) that he would not be wearing a mask because, “We are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask.” I guess his thinking is that God wouldn’t wear a mask and so Nino won’t either, and since Nino is God, this makes a lot of sense. Here’s a photo of Nino. I leave it to you to decide if that’s what God looks like.
Meanwhile on the sane side of the political spectrum, Joe Biden said, “I don’t walk out in my yard to talk to the Secret Service without a mask on.”
Thursday, one of the president’s valets tested positive for the disease. Trump (ever the wordsmith) replied, “It’s a little bit strange but it’s one of those things.” Not sure why it would be strange for someone in the president’s employ to test positive for the virus. There are more than five thousand cases of COVID-19 in DC. Either way, the president is now being tested daily for the virus he’s downplaying in the media.
The mask has become a symbol, like a reverse MAGA hat. By wearing a mask you’re acknowledging you believe in science, that you believe there's a deadly pandemic ravaging our country (there is, it’s killed more than 70,000 people). The problem Trump is about to encounter is that politicizing public health and science usually ends in death. Look at the government censorship of the coverage of the Spanish flu. The president (whether he admits it or not) has sent a message to his supporters, that they don’t need to worry about the coronavirus and shouldn’t wear masks. You don’t have to be a virologist to see this is going to end in tears.
Oh, well. Live and let die, I suppose.