by Kelly Chia and Emma Jean

With Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19, the internet has been swarmed with arguments to be empathetic while weighing the irresponsibility of the Trump administration in their management of COVID-19, leading to over 200,000 deaths. Peak Associate Kelly Chia and Staff Writer Emma Jean discuss below.

Kelly: To start, while I definitely believe it’s in poor taste to wish sickness on a person, I find it really difficult to empathize with Trump being diagnosed. This was a man that, most recently in the presidential debate, mocked Biden and his family for wearing masks. This was a man that, after being diagnosed, was admitted to a luxurious six-room suite receiving top treatment. My biggest fear was that should he recover swiftly, he would downplay the seriousness of this disease, and that’s exactly what he did in this tweet

Emma: I agree. It’s very hard to not abide by the traditional sentiment of not wishing harm on another person, but when the health of a single person could dictate by proxy how seriously countless governments and individuals address a literal plague . . . it feels almost wrong to hope for a swift and full recovery. If some of the more severe symptoms of COVID-19 had taken hold of Trump, and there were people other than Claudia Conway who could publicize it, it could be a global example of how even the most powerful people in the world can be dramatically affected be this virus — even if they’re receiving the kind of world-class care you described at a world renowned military hospital. Instead, though, we got this horseshit, and he can justify all the lies he’s spread about COVID because he’s lived it. I never thought I’d say that beating an illness is the worst case scenario, but in Trump’s case, it really is.

Kelly: As a politician, it feels like he has already done the most dangerous thing he could in his situation: say COVID-19 is nothing to be afraid of. A study from the 2020 Health Care Trend Report states that COVID-19 treatment costs about $14,500 a person. For him to talk about his recovery like it represents all Americans is to spit in the faces of the citizens that can’t afford this treatment. I also take issue with Trump continuing to call COVID-19 the Chinese virus. He continues to aggravate Anti-Asian sentiment, and I can only imagine how nerve-wracking that must be when voting at the polls. 

Emma: I couldn’t imagine how he could possibly cause more damage than he already has, but, jester, he has done it again. The rhetoric he’s used the last six months seem to exemplify the greatest hits of his presidency, namely racism, fear-mongering, and science denial — but it’s all applied to an issue that forces everyone to listen to him talk about it because he’s technically the leading public authority on it. The exorbitant cost of healthcare that you highlighted also makes it even more despicable that the other favourite talking point of his campaigns have been the slandering the Affordable Care Act, which was flawed but still began to provide bare minimum of public health insurance, and any form of Medicare for All. Considering that comes from one of the most privileged people in the world, it’s beyond insulting and exponentially damaging to know how much this combination of lack of health coverage and reckless handling of a pandemic will cost in human life, as well as the financial ruin COVID-19 leaves behind to those affected by it.

Kelly: In other words, Trump’s own treatment of the virus has largely informed how we empathize with him in the virus. As we are writing this article, Trump has claimed that he has fully recovered from the virus, and we know that he has been receiving treatment that most Americans can not afford to see. Regardless of whether he has truly recovered, I don’t think that the reactions to him getting diagnosed is a true measure of anyone’s empathy. Many people are understandably hurt by the way he has navigated the COVID-19 crisis in the States, and they are still suffering from the effects of it. 

Emma: Exactly. I think there’s nothing wrong in taking some satisfaction that Trump can finally experience a fraction of the pain he’s caused others, nor with hoping his situation would have become a lesson on how contagious and serious the virus can be. Obviously, the latter hasn’t come true, so settling for the former is the best we can do. That being said, I think everyone’s entitled to feel however they do about this, because we all have our own relationship to illness and death. Twitter should not be banning accounts that are making jokes about Trump’s death (especially after they’ve ignored countless death threats against racialized people, trans people, and women in the public eye for years). Ultimately, there is no reason you should feel bad for feeling good about Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. (FBI, please don’t come to our homes.)