On the menu today: The coronavirus is not gone, it has already been found in several protesters who attended protests and rallies in the past week, and thus it is time to ask tough questions of whether those who permitted and encouraged these protests and rallies really cared about the attendees as they claim; the detail that Tom Cotton glided over in his op-ed; and the tough questions that will come to James Mattis.
If You Love Someone, You Tell Him the Truth, Even When He Doesn’t Want to Hear It
Our two raging controversies in the country intersect: George Floyd tested positive for the coronavirus in a test taken after his death, according to Hennepin County’s new autopsy report.
Those of us who think of ourselves as Christians are called to love our neighbor. Loving him requires thinking of their best interest. Ask yourself if our elected officials and the people you see on television are acting out of love. Because I think if you loved someone, you would at least try to discourage them from doing things that are potentially self-destructive. I think that speech by Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Friday night was full of love — for her city, and for people who were doing something simultaneously destructive to others and likely self-destructive as well. And for the past week, she’s been telling the protesters things they don’t want to hear — that violence and looting taints the cause they claim to stand for, and that they are risking their lives by gathering in large numbers and not practicing anything resembling social distancing. She’s also reminded the protesters that they’re gathering in large groups during an outbreak of a contagious disease.
No matter how much the country may want to psychologically move on, there is still an ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The United States has roughly 1.9 million diagnosed cases, roughly 1.1 million active cases, more than 109,000 dead from the virus, still roughly 20,000 new cases per day, and still around 1,000 deaths per day.
And yes, the coronavirus has been present at the protests of the past week. A man arrested at a protest in Lancaster, Pa., tested positive for the coronavirus. Columbus Public Health in Ohio announced that someone who was symptomatic attended protests in the past week. Oklahoma State University linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, but had attended a protest in Tulsa and taken precautions.
New York City has nearly 379,000 cases. Do you think none of those people attended any of the protests across the city in the past week?
Minnesota health commissioner Jan Malcolm is calling for anyone who was involved in demonstrations over George Floyd’s killing, or any following cleanup efforts, should be tested for COVID-19 — even if they have no symptoms. In Philadelphia, the city health department is calling for a 14-day self-quarantine or testing for “those who were at or near a protest — even if they wore a mask.”
“Contact tracing” was supposed to be a key element of controlling the spread from here on out. Try to imagine how that is going to work right now:
Doctor: “Whom have you been in contact with, in the past week? Within six feet or less?”
Patient: “Well, there’s my girlfriend, my roommate, the delivery guy, and the couple thousand people in the city square downtown a few days ago.”
Some protesters will contend that being outside mitigates the risk, and masks will as well. Many are wearing masks . . . but some aren’t, particularly when they’re shouting, and it’s not hard to find pictures of some protesters wearing them over their mouths but not their noses, etc.
Rutherford points out that some protesters are contending with an additional risk: the use of pepper spray and tear gas. Those chemicals create tearing, he says, which could make protesters rub their faces more, potentially moving the virus from their hands to their eyes.
Tear gas and pepper spray also make people cough and wheeze, which could further accelerate COVID-19 infection rates.
“It wreaks havoc on the lungs,” argues Cat Brooks, the Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network and a veteran Bay Area activist. “[It’s] not us, really, that needs to change our behavior. It’s law enforcement.”
Oh, there’s plenty of need to change behavior to go around. Keeping arrested protesters together in holding cells is another risky practice.
There are some protesters who tell reporters they are trying to practice social distancing while at these events, and perhaps these particular protesters are. But we’re seeing hundreds or thousands of people gather in places like Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, San Francisco’s Dolores Park, City Hall in Seattle, and Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.
A fair question to all of these elected leaders who keep insisting they stand with the protesters and support them . . . do you really care about them? Do you love them, as you claim? If so, why are you not emphasizing how much they are risking their health right now? Is it that you are afraid of telling the protesters something they do not want to hear?
Earlier this week, “1,288 public health professionals, infectious diseases professionals, and community stakeholders” signed a public letter declaring “as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission.” They explicitly contrasted the value of the current protests against “heavily armed and predominantly white protesters entered the State Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, protesting stay-home orders and calls for widespread public masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
That letter does urge, “distance of at least 6 feet between protesters, where possible” and “demonstrating consistently alongside close contacts and moving together as a group, rather than extensively intermingling with multiple groups.”
We already know these protesters are not staying six feet apart; we’ve got eyes. How likely is it that those thousands upon thousands of people aren’t mingling?
If these public-health and infectious-diseases professionals really love these people in the streets, why are they playing along with the fantasy that these current protests are somehow less dangerous or lower risk than other protests or gatherings? Why are they encouraging the unrealistic hope that gathering in large groups with intermittent mask use is not likely to increase the rate of infection among minority communities?
The modern Hippocratic Oath includes the pledge, “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.” Can this letter be fairly characterized as an attempt to prevent disease?
Because if some leaders secretly hated these protesters, and secretly wanted them to come to harm from the coronavirus . . . wouldn’t remaining silent about the risk of infection or downplaying the risk of coronavirus be exactly what they would do? If you hated young people and minorities . . . wouldn’t you be encouraging as many of them as possible to gather in these protests and demonstrations?
If you really care about a person, you will tell that person something he doesn’t want to hear. Maybe especially when he doesn’t want to hear it, because that’s when he needs to hear it the most.
Do We Really Want a President Overruling the Decisions of Elected State and Local Officials?
I notice Senator Tom Cotton’s op-ed in the New York Times doesn’t really go into a lot of detail about what should happen if a president wants to deploy the National Guard into a city but the governor or mayor does not. The closing line that “many politicians prefer to wring their hands while the country burns” implies that the president should ignore the objections of local officials. National Review’s editors noted earlier this week, “it’s hard to see how Trump could, as a practical matter, invoke the Insurrection Act over the objections of state and local officials. Having hostile and competing authorities trying to police the same out-of-control streets is not a formula for success.”
The country’s National Guardsmen are terrific, but asking them to restore order against rampaging looters without cooperation from local and state police is simply an unrealistic demand.
Oh, and would we be comfortable with a president using the National Guard, despite opposition from state and local officials, to enforce federal gun-control laws? Because any power invoked by a Republican president will be invoked by a Democratic successor someday.
The Coming Questions for James Mattis
Former secretary of defense James Mattis’s denunciation of President Trump is powerful and compelling. But Mattis is going to face some tough and fair questions, such as what kind of man he thought President Trump was when he agreed to be his first Secretary of Defense, whether he should have resigned as secretary earlier than he did, and whether Mattis’s decision to largely mute his criticism of the president until now was the right one. If Mattis had declared publicly . . .
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.
. . . during the impeachment trial, would the Senate vote have turned out differently?
Mattis is also likely to be asked whom he will be voting for in November, since he pretty obviously won’t be voting for Trump. It’s worth remembering Mattis had some pretty blistering criticism of the Obama administration in his autobiography. He describes being dismissed from CentCom in 2012: “We were offering no leadership or direction. I left my post deeply disturbed that we had shaken our friends’ confidence and created vacuums that our adversaries would exploit. I was disappointed and frustrated that policymakers all too often failed to deliver clear direction. And lacking a defined mission statement, I frequently didn’t know what I was expected to accomplish.”
Do you think Mattis is all that enthusiastic about a Biden administration?
ADDENDUM: Michael Brendan Dougherty: “If the media tries to make the choice this summer one between cops and rioters, the great majority of Americans will choose the cops, for all their faults, because good policemen risk their lives to save others while rioters contribute nothing to society but grief and immiseration.”