Monday, October 12, 2020

Literary Corner: Have You Herd?


Protective Glow

by Donald J. Trump


It seems like I’m immune,
so I can go way out of a basement,
which I would have done anyway.
The president is in very good shape
to fight the battles.
I beat this crazy horrible China virus…
I passed the highest test,
the highest standards,
and I’m in great shape.
And I have to tell you I feel fantastically.
I really feel good.
Maybe a long time, maybe a short time.
It could be a lifetime.
Nobody really knows, but I’m immune.
I even feel good by the fact that, you know,
the word ‘immunity’ means something.
Having really a protective glow means something.
I think it’s very important to have that.
To have that is a very important thing.

Maybe a long time, maybe a short time.
It could be a lifetime.
Nobody really knows, but I’m immune.

I too feel good by the fact that "immunity" means something. I've always been attached to the idea of words having meaning. But "protective glow" may be taking it a little too far.

The basement is of course the one Joe Biden would have been hiding in if he had been in hiding (*checks notes*) two months ago, when his public appearances were chiefly from a basement rec room in his Wilmington house refurbished as a TV studio (although he exercised on a Peloton upstairs somewhere, something you won't catch Trump doing in any room or outdoors either). 

If Trump has in fact recovered from Covid-19, there is indeed a very good chance that he is protected from catching it again, at least for a while, though, as he says, nobody really knows. Isn't that nice. I have an idea of the cognitive process that gets him so excited about this; it has to do with the whole idea, beloved by rightwingers on two continents, of "herd immunity".

Normally the community immunity or herd immunity concept is part of the discussion of vaccination:

when enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, the germs can’t travel as easily from person to person — and the entire community is less likely to get the disease.

That means even people who can’t get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick. And if a person does get sick, there’s less chance of an outbreak because it’s harder for the disease to spread. Eventually, the disease becomes rare — and sometimes, it’s wiped out altogether.

But in the conservative discourse, you could just as easily apply it by not doing anything—simply allowing everybody to be exposed to the virus, in which case the immunity would develop naturally, alongside a certain number of deaths, as in an animal herd attacked by some viral affliction. This has the attraction of being a really small-government proposal, something that could be accomplished with no government at all in fact, and also a kind of vulgar-Calvinist cruelty, in that those who die will have shown that they didn't deserve to live, that they aren't among the Elect, while the survivors are, and can congratulate themselves the way rich conservatives congratulate themselves for not being poor, and so it's very tempting to politicians who are as lazy and cruel as Trump and Boris Johnson, who had been longing to apply it in the UK.

Unlike Johnson, who seemed to be literally trying to get the disease, in a frenzy of handshaking, when he caught it in March, Trump was clearly deeply afraid of it, demanding that everybody around him be constantly tested for it, even as he was deeply reluctant to get tested himself as he publicly announced in March and may have actually refused to do the whole time, and through his unmasked performances before the crowds 200 feet away, but the White House discipline relaxed over time, and he was eventually stricken, and probably infected a lot of other people as well. Now that he's recovered (to the extent he actually is recovered and not just enjoying the benefits of the steroid he's been taking), he feels as if he's really won something, the recipient of a "blessing from God". He "passed the highest test".

And as he stands atop the heap of 200,000 and more corpses, I think he identifies his immunity with the immunity of the herd, which is now saved, through his personal battle with the disease; he "feels fantastically" (I've always hated the way he tacks an adverb on in "I feel badly" and I hate this barbaric usage much more). He's overcome Covid the way Jesus overcame death, in his view, for all of us.

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