Viruses don’t care if you’re lying or not

China’s initial attempt to cover up coronavirus is a reminder of the downside of policies built on lies.

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Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, whose death was confirmed on Feb. 7, is shown in bed at the Wuhan Central Hospital, China.

Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, whose death was confirmed on Feb. 7, is shown in bed at the Wuhan Central Hospital, China. Li was the first known medical professional in China who tried to sound the alarm about the virus, but his warnings were suppressed by the government. His death unleashed a wave of anger at the government’s handling of the crisis — and bold demands for more freedom.

Photo by Li Wenliang/AFP via Getty Images)

Reality intrudes.

You can crumple up the X-ray, cover your ears and hum.

Yet if a tumor is there, it remains, growing.

Opinion bug


You can refuse to believe your house is on fire. Call the person who tells you a liar.

Yet your house still burns.

That’s why I don’t yet despair about Donald Trump, his funhouse of lies, and the Americans who choose to believe him.

Because while anyone can ignore truth, truth doesn’t ignore anyone. Declaring yourself great and actually being great are very different things. Greatness isn’t a state achieved by declaring it on your hat. Sorry to be the one to tell you.

Not to underestimate the danger of what Republicans are doing, trying to establish a new American system built on the whim of one powerful individual, supported by a web of lies, where loyalty is the ultimate value — not honor, not honesty, not law.

Nothing new here. We see this in lots of other places. Xi Jinping, the supreme leader of China, stands atop a pyramid of state suppression and genuflecting loyalty. Everyone must obey. The free speech guaranteed in their constitution is just another lie. Propaganda and news are the same thing.

Yet reality intrudes.

In late December, a new coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China and began to spread. A Chinese ophthalmologist named Li Wenliang went on social media and tried to sound the alarm. The local medical authority warned him that “any organizations or individuals are not allowed to release treatment information to the public without authorization.” In early January he was called to a police station, accused of “spreading rumors online” and “severely disrupting social order” and forced to sign a statement confessing his crime and promising to refrain from “unlawful acts.”

But the virus was still spreading.

Reality intrudes.

Li died last Friday of the coronavirus that has so far killed 1,000 people, mostly Chinese, paralyzed their economy, and sent shock waves around the globe. Nobody knows how this will end.

Turns out, the coronavirus doesn’t care about national image. Viruses tend not to.

People in surgical masks walk near Hong Mei House in Hong Kong. More than 100 people were evacuated from the Cheung Hong Estate Tuesday after four residents in two different apartments tested positive for the new coronavirus.

More than 100 people were evacuated from the Cheung Hong Estate in Hong Kong Tuesday after four residents in two different apartments at Hong Mei House tested positive for the new coronavirus. The spread of the virus has many people donning surgical masks as protection.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

What will be America’s coronavirus? Trump can lie all day, every day, and does. And his supporters choose to believe those lies. But the truth will out. By reorganizing our leadership to flatter the ego of Donald Trump, by ignoring our laws and customs, we leave our country vulnerable. Look at what’s already happening. Our nation made ridiculous in the eyes of our allies and weak in the eyes of our enemies. Three years lost to the fight against global warming. Our military and intelligence agencies undercut in a dozen ways. Environmental standards scrapped, along with standards of decency, honesty, decorum, patriotism. A new budget slashing social services, boosting the deficit, all opposite of what Trump promised. He lied; a shock, I know.

Reality intrudes.

It’s so sad to see the United States embrace the weakness of self-deception, deceit and authoritarianism. Despots must act strong because they are by nature weak. China fears that anything negative, even something as random as a virus, is a criticism of their system, so must be covered up. Accepting international help would imply help is needed, so offers from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were rebuffed.

The United States has never had a weaker president than Donald Trump, a liar, bully and fraud who can only function disengaged from reality. Deceiving himself and others. But his ignoring facts does not mean those facts cease to exist. The tumor still grows. The house still burns.

That’s the biggest puzzlement for me. Why do Republicans want to live like this? To set up a system that requires them to suspend all values but loyalty to The Leader. For what? For fetuses? For tax breaks? I don’t understand. Maybe it’s a mass hysteria, and one day the price of tulips will plummet, and people will look at each other and marvel, “How did we support that clown for so long?” Or maybe not. Maybe they’ll go to their graves telling lies to each other: how great Trump was, how great the country was under him, until he was undone by a treacherous conspiracy of voters.

Unless he isn’t. Unless he’s followed by worse. The final infamy of Donald Trump may be that someday we have reason to miss him. Think about that.

Reality intrudes.

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