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OPINION

It’s not a protest. It’s a Trump-endorsed tantrum

This is the apex of Trumpism and aggrieved white victimhood: angry, illogical, and corrosive.

It’s not a protest. It’s a temper tantrum.

To be more precise, it’s a Trump tantrum, amplified and moved from the White House to the streets. Those small hordes of varying sizes demanding an end to stay-at-home orders represent the apex of Trumpism and aggrieved white victimhood: angry, illogical, and corrosive.

It’s probably no coincidence that these Trump-endorsed disruptions began after the media reported what many knew would be inevitable. In both infections and deaths, the coronavirus pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on communities of color. COVID-19 is doing what white resentment has been doing to Black, brown, and indigenous people for centuries, giving white demonstrators even less reason to care about the virus.

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Now, against the stern advice of medical experts, Republican governors in Georgia and South Carolina this week are reopening such businesses as department stores, hair and nail salons, even tattoo parlors. Both states have Black populations above 25 percent.

To agitators, their toxic privilege inoculates them from the virus and scientific facts. In states such as Michigan and Colorado, white people are clumped together like grapes, few of them wearing masks or other face coverings, as recommended by governors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some places, they’ve blocked ambulances from reaching hospitals. A few health care workers have put their bodies in front of vehicles to impede and defy the demonstrators.

This white insurgency downplays the seriousness of this pandemic and cruelly mocks those who are sick, dying, or grieving unimaginable loss.

Demonstrators claim they only want to get people back to work. (Yes, that explains all the guns and rifles, Confederate flags, and “ironic” swastikas at their gatherings.) Of course, they are really concerned with protecting Trump’s job, for which, if there was still any doubt, he is dangerously unqualified.

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Intent on ducking responsibility for his slow, dimwitted response to the pandemic, he’s squabbling with governors, attacking the World Health Organization, and still blaming China. Now Trump says he will sign an executive order to “temporarily suspend immigrants” from entering the country to fight the virus and “protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens.”

Targeting immigrants is not a robust federal response to an unchecked pandemic. It’s just a remix of Trump’s signature song. If the situation is that dire, why is he pushing for states to reopen its businesses?

With a series of tweets some see as tailored to foment rebellion, Trump has compelled his minions into the streets under the guise of liberty — and with potential infections for all. He’s championing the demonstrations: “They want their life back,” he said Sunday. “Their life was taken away from them.”

The president has yet to express such compassion for the nearly 47,000 people in this country who have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, due in part to his ongoing, stultifying incompetence.

“All lives matter” — unless Trump says otherwise.

The hard economics of this pandemic are also having an oversized impact in communities of color, where many people were already facing financial hardships. Yet, unless they’re doing the essential jobs that keep this nation going, they’re staying at home to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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That’s in line with a majority of Americans, who don’t want stay-at-home restrictions lifted prematurely. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 81 percent want a national stay-at-home order. Trump, who should have issued such an edict weeks ago, does not.

So who are these demonstrators representing other than Trump?

While they wave American flags, they’ve pledged their allegiance to Trump. He is their country. They don’t care about America. They care about Trump, who is only concerned about his reelection. That’s what you get with a president who thinks a death toll of 100,000 would signal that his administration had done “a very good job.”

If only these demonstrators were protesting for more personal protective equipment for health care workers or grocery store employees, or pushing for vastly increased testing. Short of a vaccine, that’s the surest way to get the nation restarted.

Instead, they’ve turned this relentless tragedy into a pro-Trump rally. All they can see is pointless rebellion against the public good, another battle for white supremacy waged for their lost cause of a president.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.