Here are two statements that should shock you.
- Republicans say the economic effects from social distancing could lead to increased suicides but the flu and car accidents kill people too.
- Republicans say the economic effects from social distancing could lead to increased suicides but that’s really only a problem for the poor and depressed.
If you were to read those statements on a Twitter feed, you might become outraged. I can easily envision tweets like that going viral very quickly. Perhaps a quick hit on Twitchy starts the job rolling. Then some blue check Trumpers pick up the ball and carry it. Finally the tweets end up on Hannity or Tucker, an object lesson in how the left does not care about life.
And yet these are precisely the sort of comments people on the right have been making to dismiss the likely number of increased deaths from coronavirus. Hey, it’s not that many people, you know. And by the way, the people it hits are sort of expendable anyway.
The GOP used to cite the danger that ObamaCare and more government control over health care might pose to vulnerable seniors. Now the message — of Donald Trump until recently, and many of his fans even today — is: hey, this coronavirus thing might kill some people … but not that many and it’s just old people anyway. Some have even said: why, these old folks should be willing to sacrifice themselves to get the economy going again! (Hi, Dan Patrick!)
And what is richly ironic about much of this is that the same people who want us to care so deeply about the misery that might result from the fall of the economy are the very same people who have shrugged off the deaths from coronavirus as a minor inconvenience, like the flu or car accidents. President Donald John Trump being one glaringly obvious example.
Now, a couple of points that shouldn’t need to be said, but it’s the Internet so of course I have to say them.
First: In no way am I minimizing the tragedy of suicide. Suicide and attempted suicide are horrible, awful things that have touched people close to me. I am not making light of them. It’s actually the fact that they are so awful, if you truly understand them, that makes the statements so shocking — and thus makes my point so vividly.
Second: Yes, I understand that public policy requires calculation about life and death, and that can sound horrifying but it’s necessary. I don’t need a troop of incels giving me the ACKSHUALLY treatment in the comments to understand that. Here’s the thing: if deaths and misery from coronavirus are going to be treated as components in an equation, that is equally true of the deaths and misery that result from economic dislocation. And if you don’t like the tone of someone saying: hey, sure, economic dislocation will kill some people, but to make an omelet you gotta break a few eggs then that should be a clue to you that when you speak about death and misery from coronavirus, you are going to rub a lot of people the wrong way if you seem to minimize it. So maybe realize that all human suffering is bad, and that to speak of it as though you are shrugging your shoulders dismissively while you speak is not a good look.
I don’t think people realize just how callous people on the right have sounded lately. It’s truly remarkable. And the ultimate expression of this is the fact that, for Donald Trump and his greatest sycophants like Bill Mitchell, literally the most important thing about whether hundreds of thousands of Americans die is whether the numbers will show that Trump did a good job. Trump: “So you’re talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this. And so if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000. It’s a horrible number, maybe even less —but to 100,000. So we have between 100 and 200,000, and we altogether have done a very good job.” And Bill Mitchell:
This is what they care about.
These people are soulless ghouls and among the worst humanity has to offer.