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DEBRA HALE-SHELTON: A time for unified resistance

by Debra Hale-Shelton | July 19, 2020 at 2:34 p.m.

I was visiting my mother when I heard a familiar voice coming from the television. I looked up, and that's when I saw the familiar expressive hands and the familiar sometimes expressive hair as it blows in the wind and reveals a bald spot.

It was Fox TV's cable news, giving President Donald J. Trump free uninterrupted advertising time even as he turned the White House Rose Garden into the site of a poorly planned and eye-rolling 63-minute campaign speech.

He rambled in more directions than his hair often does and left reporters likely wondering what on earth just happened. But mostly Trump sought to paint a horrific picture of presidential hopeful Joe Biden--a Democrat who, according to Trump, would get rid of your house's picture window and your church's stained-glass window.

Trump opined about everything from the millions of lives he contends his administration's anti-coronavirus efforts have saved to the horrors he wants Americans to believe await us if Biden wins in November. According to Trump, Biden's plan to reduce carbon emissions "basically means no windows" and a Barack Obama-era housing rule would "abolish the suburbs."

If a life without windows and mostly white suburbs doesn't scare you, I don't know what will. On second thought, I suppose the more than 133,000 lives the coronavirus has already claimed in the United States might frighten some people, especially if they fear being among the next 133,000 victims.

And when it comes to African Americans, it appears they have much to fear, whether they're watching birds in a city park or getting the death penalty for using a $20 counterfeit bill.

Some have questioned the president's use of the Rose Garden for a campaign speech. But let's think about the choice from his point of view.

Had he given that speech in New Hampshire last weekend, he'd have had to worry about Tropical Storm Fay, not to mention an even bigger problem: crowd size. The last thing Trump wanted was another poor turnout as he had in Tulsa recently. But at the Rose Garden, he had a captive audience of socially distanced reporters. Yes, I know he hates most reporters, but they tend to be a fairly respectful bunch and not shout, boo or even applaud during a speech. (Sometimes they do ask questions, chuckle and roll their eyes, though.)

Perhaps Trump also didn't think it was worth angering more Native Americans over a second Mount Rushmore rally either. It's not as if he could in good conscience tell any Native American protesters to go back home, to their s*hole countries. You see, in 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the United States had illegally taken the Black Hills land from the Lakota tribe.

Trump isn't known for sympathizing with oppressed minorities, though. So perhaps it's more likely that his conscience began bothering him about the coronavirus. (Just like reporters, readers can roll their eyes, too. This might even be a good time for that.)

The question is whether Trump would have been responsible morally if not legally if thousands of his own supporters, police officers on duty, and protesting Native Americans had turned out for another rally and had exposed each other to the deadly virus. You'll recall that neither masks nor social distancing were required at the first Mount Rushmore rally.

That would be bad, very bad, if all those Trump voters with red and white MAGA caps got sick, and especially if they died before election day. Don't for a minute think that idea hasn't crossed Trump's mind. But he probably suspects the reverse is more likely: that more Biden supporters have died.

We've known for a while that Latino and African American residents of the United States are more likely to contract the coronavirus than whites are. Further, on July 5, The New York Times reported that Blacks and Latinos are three times as likely to get the virus as whites are and that Blacks and Latinos have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white Americans.

The Times article is based on data it obtained after it sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the information.

I've not done a survey but am confident Trump is not popular in the Latino or African American voting groups.

The question then becomes: Did the knowledge that whites trailed in getting the virus drive Trump's dismissive attitude toward the pandemic and his urge to hasten the reopening of America? I don't know. I hope not. But I'd feel much better about our country if I thought there was no chance that race helped drive Trump's lack of concern about the virus.

Instead of setting a proper example, the president has scoffed at masks and rarely worn one in public, even though people physically close to him are repeatedly tested. He's even pushing for public schools to reopen for the fall semester.

Keep in mind that these are places we send our children to learn and play. There was a time that the biggest danger these children faced was a tornado hitting their school. Then came the danger of assault weapons and mass shootings at schools. And now there's the coronavirus. How much more will we tolerate?

We already provide our children with tornado and active-shooter drills at school. Will we now train kindergarteners not to touch, much less hug each other, and teachers to stay six feet from students--even a crying first-grader needing individual help? Will we teach students to count on the deaths of some of their teachers? Will we encourage our children to wear masks or teach them to fear conspiracy theories?

Or will we take advice from a bipartisan panel of physicians and teachers and do what's safest for our children, teachers and other school staff even if that's online classes for a time? One thing is sure: The more we resist the virus now, the sooner it will leave us, our children and the economy alone.

Debra Hale-Shelton can be reached at dhaleshelton@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @nottalking.

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