Opinion

It didn’t have to be this way

Monday, September 14, 2020

On Sunday, as the president of the United States held a political rally for thousands in a manufacturing plant in Nevada, in violation of that state's COVID-19 restrictions limiting gatherings to 50 people or less outdoors, the Clay County Fair was shuttered on its planned opening weekend, and the National Football League kicked off its season in cavernous, mostly-empty stadiums.

Closer to home on Sunday evening, my husband began planning a funeral for his mother, navigating the timeless rituals of grief in the new reality of a pandemic.

And I'm angry.

Our family, you see, and so many others like us, spent the past seven months visiting her through the windows of the nursing facility in which she made her home. We missed hugs, and family gatherings and time spent together. Even the final goodbye will be socially distant and with masks on attendees.

And, we are finding out from medical experts, scientists and even the words of the president himself, it didn't have to be this way — not for this long, and not this deadly.

While I realize this may be an unpopular opinion among some in this area — our leader knew how bad this could get. He knew it affected everyone, of all ages. And he knew what he should have done months ago.

In his own words, the president admitted to writer Bob Woodward that he was told by his intelligence team on Jan. 28 that the pandemic would be "the biggest national security threat to his presidency."

On Feb. 7, the president told Woodward, of China's President Xi Jinping, "I think he is going to have it in good shape. But it's a very tricky situation. It goes through air, Bob. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.

"This is deadly stuff," he added.

Yet, on Feb. 10, at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, this was the president's line for public consumption.

"Looks like by April, you know in theory, when it gets a little warmer it miraculously goes away," he said. "I think it's going to all going to work out fine."

In April, his private comments were much different.

On April 5, Trump again told Woodward, "It's a horrible thing. It's unbelievable," and on April 13, he said, "It's so easily transmissible, you wouldn't even believe it."

In public we got, "I said it was going away and it is going away."

Here we are in mid-September, with nearly 200,000 Americans dead, and an economy in chaos. (Your stock portfolio up? Thank the Federal Reserve and its heavy hand holding down interest rates. That's not the economy, that's the stock market. Talk to small business. Talk to farmers. Talk to families struggling to work and homeschool and live on unemployment about the booming economy.)

A large percentage of our population has chosen to believe, against overwhelming evidence, the lies told to them by the president, lies he doesn’t believe himself, as the Woodward tapes show. Those folks eschew masks as signs of "weakness" and the virus as "overblown."

And the death toll rises.

Our life has not "miraculously returned to normal" with the warm weather of summer.

The virus was turned into a weapon used to further divide our nation for political means.

What would have happened if the nation had been told, honestly, just how bad it was — back in February?

I have faith in our people. I think if we had the facts, and a leader to encourage us along the way, we would have done the hard thing then — quarantined, shut down, socially-distanced. All-in, for the good of everyone, for as long as it took. We could have been like so many other nations in the world, getting back to “normal.” Instead, the United States, with 4% of the world’s population has 25% of its COVID-19 deaths.

We could have "flattened the curve," and saved tens of thousands of American lives.

And yet here we are — in mid-September, with the president ignoring science-based state guidelines, death tolls breathtakingly high, and families planning "socially distant" funerals.

And it didn't have to be this way.