Last year, as the initial round of COVID raged and much of MAGA nation refused to mask or socially distance, it was common to hear folks refer to the Trumpian right as a suicidal death cult.
Most recently, MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Stephen Colbert agreed with the designation during a discussion on the latter’s program. According to both, refusal to get a vaccine as the Delta variant surges, and the seeming willingness of Trump’s followers to continue risking illness or worse, qualifies such persons as members of a death cult.
There were, of course, the requisite Jim Jones analogies.
But as much as I respect both Reid and Colbert (the former is a friend whose show I’ve been on several times), this position has always been wrong.
The truth is worse.
Stories are spilling out every day — outpourings of regret from persons who refused to get the vaccine, now awaiting intubation, coming to realize they were wrong.
That they are bellowing contrition and asking for prayers in the hopes they won’t die proves this is no suicide cult.
Few of the 900-plus at Jonestown drank the Kool-Aid only to sputter at the last minute, “Oh wait, you mean it’s cyanide?! Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
The members of Heaven’s Gate didn’t don their black Nikes, take phenobarbital, tie plastic bags over their heads, cover up with shrouds, and then start praying to see another sunrise.
They laid down to die, expecting to be spirited away in a UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet and have everlasting life.
That is a suicidal death cult.
This is different, something more dangerous, sociopathic, and sadistic — not suicidal but homicidal.
As I said last year, this is a mass murder movement.
These are people who didn’t and don’t want to die. They simply thought there was no way they would.
To them, COVID was a virus of the big city and those who live there, of old people, or persons with multiple pre-existing conditions (of which they didn’t believe their cholesterol-lined arteries and COPD qualified as examples).
It was only killing the weak.
And they were strong — cowboy strong, to be precise, or at least Sturgis motorcycle ridin’ strong.
High on a delusional mix of rugged individualism, toxic masculine bravado, pseudoscientific faith in vitamin supplements, and a belief that God would pull them through, they were convinced they were safe.
Only others were at risk — the less good people.
The ones who don’t do CrossFit, or go to a megachurch, or better still, a CrossFit in a megachurch.
The ones who don’t settle for the “power of positive thinking,” like FOX host Jesse Watters, who insisted that’s all he would need should he become infected.
The ones who place their faith in science rather than a Bible study group.
And for people like that? Who cares? To the right, those people don’t count.
Indifference to the suffering of others is why Trump’s minions wouldn’t mask. They didn’t care that they might infect people, despite being asymptomatic.
When you would tell them repeatedly that wearing a mask was less for the wearer than for others, they shrugged. If other folks are at risk, they should stay home and let the rest of us get back to the gym, the hairdresser, concerts, movies, and tailgate parties before the big game. I mean, this giant foam finger isn’t gonna wave itself.
Their freedom to do as they pleased was more important than other people’s lives.
Suicidal people don’t act or think that way. Homicidal people do.
Indifference to others is why they routinely violated social distancing requirements in stores, getting in people’s faces, coughing on them, yelling at them, just for being asked to wear a mask in keeping with a retailer’s policy or state or local mandate.
Because although they weren’t concerned about getting COVID themselves, they ultimately didn’t care if you did.
Suicidal people don’t act or think that way. Homicidal people do.
Most who refused to mask (and reject the vaccine now) are not full-blown virus deniers. Instead, they simply didn’t believe — and still don’t — that it can harm people like them.
But if you know it can harm others who aren’t like you, and you still refuse to take the measures that reduce the risk of spreading the virus to them, you are a sociopath.
If you refuse a vaccine when you have no valid health reason to do so (as almost no one does), thereby keeping the virus alive longer by increasing the risk of mutations, you are saying that other people’s lives don’t matter to you.
And if you expected to be infected, hospitalized, and die, you would never take these risks.
That’s what these ICU confessions signify — that they care about their own lives quite a bit, whatever they might think of others.
Now that it’s caught up with them, the tears flow, and the panic sets in their faces as they wonder what they’ve done to themselves.
If they were members of a suicide cult, they would celebrate their oxygen levels dipping below 80, and would refuse intubation for prolonging their glorious demise. But instead, they’re praying to survive and setting up GoFundMe pages to cover their medical bills, which, they’re shocked to learn, are going to be huge.
I mean, who could have possibly known that health care in this country was so unaffordable?!
By the way, I won’t be contributing, but I do have a GoFuckYou page if you’d like to donate to that one.
Don’t misunderstand. I don’t want another person to die from this virus, and I hope all who are sick have a speedy recovery.
That said, I cannot feel sorry for them.
I cannot cry for people who thought their Facebook friends, some stranger on Reddit, or a guy who told them ingesting bleach could kill COVID were better to listen to than their doctor.
I cannot weep for someone who thought the “blood of Jesus” was all the vaccine they needed.
These people put us all at risk for their perverted understanding of faith and freedom, or to signal their allegiance to Donald Trump.
They symbolize the shriveled heart of modern conservatism — a conservatism that begins and ends with anti-liberalism. Whatever a liberal says, they must oppose, regardless of consequence. It is a politic of people whose emotional intelligence is that of a below-average 9-year old.
And if it were merely suicidal, I would have no problem with it. Indeed, as a believer in the right of assisted suicide, I would be the first to Kevorkian-up and ride for them.
But it’s not that.
And at some point, we will have to decide to stop coddling these folks, treating them like the Billy Mumy character in that Twilight Zone episode who can banish people to the cornfield with his mind if they say mean things about him.
Time to treat them like the pariahs they are.
Institutionally, this means requiring vaccines to do anything worth doing. You want to get on a plane, a cruise ship, go to Disney, come into this restaurant, or go back to college in the fall? Either prove you’ve been vaccinated or show proof that you’re unable to get one for a legitimate medical reason.
And no, your HIPAA rights don’t preclude such a rule. You don’t have to tell or show us shit. But we also don’t have to let you on Space Mountain, or in your dorm, or the Buffalo Wild Wings you dearly love. You do you — go ahead, seriously, because that’s all you’ll be doing.
Beyond that, and until we reach herd immunity, indoor mask mandates should be imposed everywhere. I know they won’t be, but private businesses should adopt them and toss people who won’t abide on their asses. Hire very large men as security and have them physically launch miscreants who won’t comply into the parking lot when they become belligerent.
On a personal level, treating deniers like pariahs means banishing them, metaphorically, to the cornfield.
It means cutting them out of our lives entirely: no invitations to the cocktail party or backyard barbecue, no seat for them at the holiday table, and no invitation to the grandkid’s graduation, Little League game, or dance recital.
Refuse to speak to them, break bread with them or communicate with them in any way until they get their shit together and learn to play by the rules of public health by which rational, decent people agree to play.
Till then, they have made their ICU beds. Now they can lie in them, and sadly, die in them — completely and utterly, alone.