Vinay Menon: I want my heart to go out to Donald Trump now that he has COVID-19, but my heart is not having it

A day before Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, Cornell researchers published a study that found the U.S. president was “likely the largest driver” of COVID-19 misinformation.

I’m not sure we need a team of PhDs to analyze 36 million news stories to know what is already crystal clear: Trump is a superspreader of lies. If he told you it was 100 per cent going to be sunny, you’d politely nod and then leave the house with an umbrella and galoshes.

But now that Trump and wife Melania are infected with a dangerous virus he once called a hoax, I’m questioning my own humanity. I should be sending thoughts and prayers. I should cling to a potential silver lining: maybe the brainwashed cultists in Trumpville will now take this pandemic more seriously and mask up and abide by social distancing. Maybe they’ll start caring for others.

Maybe they will realize slamming the window on science is opening the door to harm. Maybe they will stop politicizing medicine. Maybe they will start listening to experts. Maybe they will crawl out of their conspiratorial swamps. After sleepwalking through COVID-19, maybe this is the wake-up call.

But all I can do is shake my head at the grim irony.

I haven’t had this many mixed feelings since “The New WKRP in Cincinnati.”

As comedian Paul F. Tompkins observed: “Wishing harm, sickness or death on someone, even a bad person, is petty & small. BUT: it is genuinely & extremely funny that Trump got COVID. It’s objectively funny. He downplayed it & mishandled it & thousands of people died. Now he has it. It’s funny!”

I don’t think it’s funny. But the schadenfreude and jokes were definitely flowing as celebrities reacted.

Cardi B: “‘BET YOU WANNA’ wear a mask now.”

Michael Rapaport: “Bleach it out.”

Whitney Cummings: “I don’t get how Melania got it — she’s been social distancing from trump since they got married.”

Ice T: “Can I say Karma’s a Bitch…..”

Bradley Whitford: “The President’s arrogant, cynical, irresponsible denial of the deadly disease he now has is the most devastating self own in human history.”

It’s hard to argue with that last one. That’s why sympathy is so elusive.

Am I supposed to feel sorry for Donald Trump? I want to feel sorry for Donald Trump. But I don’t feel sorry for Donald Trump. Let’s get real: he has no one to blame but himself. Instead of leading by example, he followed his own narcissism. Instead of rising to the occasion, he tumbled into a lethal abyss. Instead of telling everyone to do what’s right, he put on a daily clinic of horrific wrong.

Trump has mocked Joe Biden’s noble embrace of masks. He has selfishly held rallies during a contagion, which is like organizing a walking tour during an earthquake. He has belittled his own scientists and consistently traded public health for personal ambition. He has promoted quackery, put a shotgun in the mouth of reality and waved off this pandemic like it was gnat at a picnic.

As Trump goes into quarantine, his symptoms are reportedly “mild.” But given his age, weight and the fact his body is about 80 per cent KFC, he could very well endure severe symptoms in the days ahead. Again, I want my heart to go out. But my heart is not having it. If someone repeatedly denies gravity and then jumps off a skyscraper, all you can do is shake your head upon the sound of impact.

What I do hope is that as Trump recovers — and he will be receiving the best medical care on the planet — he has a come-to-Jesus epiphany. Granted, it’s a long shot. He’s not exactly introspective. The more likely scenario is that he beats this and then crows about how it’s no big deal.

But what if this virus sickens him to the point where he finally realizes how much damage he did by downplaying it in the first place? What if this virus forces him to confront the catastrophic folly of his ways? What if it gives him a fever sufficient enough to freeze his worst instincts?

Again, long shot. But if, like me, you are struggling with mixed feelings today, I’d encourage you to seek out the remarkable healing power of Joe Biden. On Friday, the former vice-president tweeted: “Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”

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What a classy guy. How presidential and above the fray.

Donald Trump will have a lot of time for soul-searching in the days ahead.

Let’s hope he strives to be more like Joe Biden.

Vinay Menon

TORONTO STAR