Reality TV versus Reality

Earlier I had posted about my confrontation with an unmasked man (no lone ranger) on line at the entrance to a bank. More recently, my wife encountered two people who entered an enclosed store environment with their masks down. Politely requesting that they lift their masks, they yelled back “what you are a Nazi,” in their firm American accent and intimated that mask wearing is hoax and laughed at her. These incidents bring me to the unpleasant topic of Trump’s incredibly dangerous and alarming behavior.

Trump lives in a “reality TV” world and not in “reality.” He is not some ancient explorer facing the difficulties of crossing and ocean or a continent without a safety net, but a member of the survivor team (pick whatever show you wish) where the apparent dangers can be eliminated at any truly threatening moment by a crew of TV and Medical support staff. He is not facing the unknown without an enormous safety net!

I begin with his callous disregard for health protocols. President Trump apparently entered a fundraising venue, in closed and close quarters, having received word that one of his chief advisors had tested positive for COVID. Moreover, the Wall Street Journal reported, no bastion of liberal thought, that he himself had tested positive as well. No masks, no social distancing, plenty of handshakes for donors. Thus, rather than adhering to social protocols in handling the virus, he moved ahead as planned, knowing full well of his potentially contagious state. Moreover, at the Presidential debate, despite the rules set by the venue and the Commission for the debates, his entourage all demasked once they entered the hall.

Yet as bad as that was, what has really set me off is his response to his treatment regiment. After a scant four days of hospitalization, he leaves the hospital for the White House and declares that people need not fear COVID, and they should just get on with their lives as he has. Reality TV versus reality is how to characterize this painful instance of leadership. In essence, he is telling his followers, the nation and the world, that COVID is not that bad because after all you can just get treated like me and you are done. Forgetting for the moment, the over 200000 deaths in America, or the epidemiological evidence that a third of patients may suffer permanent damage to vital organs and potentially brain function, according to the President we are worrying needlessly.

This is all well and good if we lived in his world.

He has available a top flight medical staff in a top flight hospital. He has the opportunity to leave, but this is critical, while still under treatment, because he will be monitored by a professional staff for any reactions to medication, or signs of decline, and the administration of treatment will also be done by professional staff at his residence. He resides in place where an entire floor can be equipped with medical devices that can be used to monitor his progress. He has the constant attention of a medical staff, and knows that he can get immediate hospital care should it be needed, on demand. He can receive special medical cocktails unavailable to the general public. And, he gets it all for FREE. WE do not have such luxury or opportunity. And again, by WE, I mean just about everybody else in the world.

Thus, he has, like Reality TV, created the illusion, that if we were to conduct our lives just as he does, we too have little to fear. The fly in this illusionary plan, is that we do not have his Safety Net. We are subject to whatever medical staff is available at our local hospital. The hospital will not allow us to leave if we are still under treatment, and will thus not bring monitoring equipment, medical staff, and specialized treatments to our homes. Should we experience a setback, we will not have immediate entry to an elite facility and staff. And, our care is likely to cost substantial funds, at least in the States, particularly for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

My rage is that his message implying that all will be fine, denies his multiple advantages over the rest of us. And, as the leader of the West his observations resonate with many across the world who wish to embrace the false narrative that COVID poses no danger. Thus, not only is he inciting bad behaviors in the US that are likely to prolong the impact of the virus there, he is exporting such misleading notions overseas. He is, in short, adding fuel to those who wish to challenge science and medicine across the globe, and as such is prolonging the suffering of us all.

About the Author
Seth Greenberg has a PhD in experimental psychology and human cognition. He held two Endowed Chairs at private institutions in the United States, and held a position of Visiting Scholar at Haifa University. He has published about fifty articles and chapters in several books including a chapter in a book on academic perspective on Genesis. He's also received about 1 million dollars worth of grants and lives in Jerusalem with his wife. He has three married daughters, one of whom lives in Israel.
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