With Donald Trump’s supporters jammed together and unmasked, campaign rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix have demonstrated once again just how carelessly Trump and his people treat the global coronavirus pandemic. They truly do not care how many Americans get sick or die – even their own.
Trump has turned his “movement” into a death cult. His followers are, in effect, “drinking the Kool Aid.” But what, exactly, does that mean?
In November 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan (D-CA) led a mission to South America to investigate abuses by a U.S. Christian cult called the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. The Temple’s leader, Jim Jones, ordered the murder of Ryan and people who traveled with him, and afterwards Jones caused the deaths of more than 900 of his followers. Jones told them to drink a flavored beverage (Kool Aid or something like it) that was laced with potassium cyanide. Many committed suicide this way, while many others were murdered by being forced to drink.
So, when we say Trumpism is a death cult, it means that Trump and his allied officials, organizations, and media outlets are persuading followers to do things that may kill them – especially refusing masks and ignoring social distancing. And like the Jonestown massacre, it’s not just willing participants who get hurt. Right now, Trumpists are spreading the disease to everyone else. We have a massacre every day.
This is the inevitable result of the Trump/right wing handling of the coronavirus from the very beginning.
Trump and his allies argued for months that COVID-19 is no big deal. They said it’s a “hoax” by Democrats, that it’s no worse than the flu, and soon it will go away like magic. On June 15, Trump told a group of seniors at the White House that, “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.” Despite the sheer insanity of that claim, Trumpists continue to push for access to sit-down restaurants, beauty shops, gyms and bowling alleys. And if scientists and public health authorities disagree, they are threatened and hounded until they are silenced or resign.
Trump and his allies repeatedly asserted that readily available medicines or chemicals can prevent or cure COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine! Bleach and disinfectant! UV rays and sunlight! The Trump administration went so far as to use veterans as guinea pigs to push the false claim that hydroxychloroquine would cure the virus. In fact, it did no good and instead inflicted additional harm.
Trump and his allies discouraged followers from wearing masks. Incredibly, they turned mask wearing into a question of partisanship! This has led to the deaths of tens of thousands. The fact is, until there is a vaccine, masks and social distancing are the most effective measures to hold down the infection. Over just the past few days – as COVID has ravaged conservative states – even Republican leaders like Vice President Pence, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Minority Leader McCarthy have finally urged people to wear masks. But Trump still does not.
Trumpists who say that, by refusing to wear a mask and social distance, they are only risking their own health are astonishingly ignorant. Anyone paying the least attention understands that people who are infected spread the disease while asymptomatic, which may continue a few days or for weeks. Trumpists are sickening and sometimes killing their own families and friends.
But worse than those who spread COVID person-to-person are the political and media operatives who have willfully spread lies about the disease. They are playing the role of Jim Jones and his thugs who stood over people with rifles, encouraging and forcing them to drink the poisoned Kool Aid. They are monsters.