The Banality of Evil

I stopped watching the White House pressers after I saw part of my first one by accident. The days have blurred together enough that I can’t even tell you which day I stumbled across. I do remember that I was hoping to get caught up on things from the actual noontime news whilst making lunch, but instead of the WCVB news crew, I was watching Trump & co. in the White House press room.

Dear reader, I lasted maybe 15 minutes until the self-aggrandizement and deception got to me.

I’ve eschewed the live pressers since then, opting instead to get caught up after-the-fact from written sources. At my most kindest moments, I’m with Rachel Maddow in seeing these press briefings as irresponsible and dangerous.

In my more cynical moments*, I see these pressers as propaganda-theatre. As exercises in immorality.

In that same waxing philosophical text-convo I was reminiscing about yesterday, I made this observation:

To sound like a broken record: I honestly thought that Reagan’s inaction during the early years of HIV was going to be the most shameful presidential public health move in my lifetime….

Again, I want to offer a retrospective disclaimer on this comparison. Because no matter how COVID-19 turns out, I don’t want to ignore the import of HIV/AIDS, globally and in the USA. However immoral Trump’s actions are, that doesn’t let Reagan off the hook for his actions—or, more precisely, his deadly inaction.

Still. The resonance, it burns.


And I was almost** willing to believe that the Trumpian shitshow was more about vanity and ignorance than anything else, until he and his surrogates started their drumbeat about ignoring medical guidelines because the economy is more important than anything else.

As reported in Vanity Fair:

Following his National Economic Council chairman’s declaration that “we’re gonna have to make some difficult trade-offs,” i.e. we’re going to have to let some people die so the stock market can live, Trump told reporters during an evening press conference that while the death toll is “bad,” and “the numbers are going to increase with time,” we’re “going to be opening our country up for business, because our country was meant to be open.“ That suggestion was obviously horrifying to people who still take the word of health experts over that of a brainless carnival barker and who understand that extreme social distancing needs to last for at least several months if not longer. One person who thought it was downright inspired? Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who is of the opinion that old people, i.e. those most at risk, should volunteer to die to save the economy.

Part of me wonders why I’m even writing about this tonight. As to be expected, there’s already lots of piping hot takes out on the buffet here:

And yet I can’t not say something. I need to have my voice counted–even if it’s just by my 3 regular JALC readers.***

So let me just make 2 quick points.

First: this “we gotta re-open for business” is a stupid approach that won’t really achieve its goals. Let’s be real. Consumer confidence isn’t going to magically increase just ‘cos someone waves a non-magic wand and says “open for business!” A lot of folks are not going to be rebooking travel or going out to movie theaters right now. And those individuals that do try to go back to life-as-it-was too quickly are gonna become part of a public health crisis that will overwhelm our medical system and have catastrophic economic consequences.

Second: even if we pretended for a moment that the public health consequences of “opening for business” too soon would have zero economic implications, there would still be the cost in human lives. And the indifference to that cost is what is the most banal and evil piece about this all. How many unneeded deaths are okay by this calculus?

How many more deaths that would be caused by abandoning our current policies of social distancing — even in lower-risk communities — would be worth the economy beginning to hum again? 100? 1,000? 10,000? And does that equation change if it’s your parent or your grandparent? Or maybe even you?
“My mother is not expendable,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in his press briefing Tuesday. “And your mother is not expendable. And our brothers and sisters are not expendable. We’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable. We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.”


* For the record: having more of those moments than the kind ones.

** ALMOST. Not entirely, but almost.

*** Love y’all! MUAH.


Image credit: The National Park Service. Public domain.

2 thoughts on “The Banality of Evil

  1. Well said! And with that said, I’m getting weary of the news and the red-headed stranger and stranger person. I’m already home a lot, but having both my husband and my son, both of whom are teachers, home also is both a comfort and a routine off-setting. But we are okay. And so many aren’t. So I’m grateful. And live with the routine-off-setting. Truth is, I’m not really sure what I can write about that isn’t already said!


  2. Pingback: Take It Easy – Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change

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