“In his arrogance, the cult leader sets himself up as the fountain of all truth."
That’s from veteran journalist and author Tim Reiterman’s book (with John Jacobs) “Raven: The Untold Story of Rev. Jim Jones and His People.” He could also be describing President Trump.
So far, largely as a result of Trump’s willful negligence, inept leadership, and sociopathic narcissism, nearly 100,000 people nationwide are dead from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. He continues to recklessly encourage Americans to race back to life as usual.
And in too many places on Memorial Day weekend, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. People are behaving as if their inalienable rights include ignoring public safety guidelines and endangering others in the middle of a pandemic.
This isn’t a presidency. It’s a death cult.
During a CNN interview at a crowded Alabama beach where few wore masks or practiced social distancing, a 21-year-old woman told a reporter, “I mean, everybody’s gotta go somehow, you know what I mean?” By “go,” she meant “die.” In the same segment, a young man said, “I mean, if [Trump’s] not wearing a mask, I’m not gonna wear a mask. If he’s not worried, I’m not worried.”
Trump is so worried about the coronavirus, he spent the weekend playing golf and tweeting insults at Democrats.
Naturally, those crowds packing bars, beaches, and pools are overwhelmingly white. Hell hath no fury like a white person accustomed to following no rules but their own. Whiteness, they’ve been indoctrinated to believe, is a shield from laws and logic. It’s not just that they don’t care if they die; they don’t think they will, especially after reports about the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color.
Like Trump, they’re so selfish and thoughtless, they’re incapable of caring about the toll their actions may exact on others. It’s also why, similar to the president mocking the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, they berate those who choose to wear masks. In Kentucky, militia gun nuts hanged an effigy of Governor Andy Beshear from a tree outside the governor’s mansion, an ugly tantrum sparked by his endorsement of pandemic safety measures.
Only with Trump in the White House could face masks incite a culture war.
All 50 states have partially reopened some businesses and activities. Yet at least 18 states are still reporting increases in coronavirus cases, as epidemiologists warned of a second wave as ferocious as the first. Meanwhile, White House adviser Kevin Hassett recently evoked this nation’s racist history when he said, “Our human capital stock is ready to go back to work.” Whatever happens, Trump says, “We’re not going to close the country” a second time. (Governors closed down their states to stop the virus’s spread and if, necessary, will probably do so again. Trump didn’t close them the first time.)
Trump hasn’t flinched at nearly 100,000 pandemic deaths. Nor has he stopped touting hydroxychloroquine, despite the World Health Organization temporarily halting its clinical trials after studies showed those receiving the drug were dying at higher rates than other COVID-19 patients. Those people are all just grist for Trump’s reelection mill.
The cult leader, Reiterman wrote, “often creates the illusion of giving more to his people than he takes for himself. Because commitment can be stronger than fear of death, cult leaders have a tremendous responsibility toward their members. As history has proved, they can exploit good or evil.”
It is all but inevitable. More will get sick. More will die. Jobs will be lost again. States will falter under the economic fallout. Neither Trump nor his followers will care.
They’re too busy lapping up a White House punch poisoned with cruelty, lies, and anti-science lunacy. Like their leader, Trump’s cult has accepted that the wages of their devotion to this president is death — theirs or ours.