'What you reap, you sow.' Many Americans find it hard to feel sympathy for a COVID-afflicted Trump
Aaron Sanders of Union Station in Los Angeles for his COVID-19 test said he had no sympathy for President Trump when he learned the president had it. "It is what it is," he said.
President Trump's case of COVID-19 has tested Americans' willingness to express empathy for a leader who, as many believe, brings out the worst in people.
Trump's critics say the contempt and glee he has committed since his diagnosis, given the president's propensity to use his powerful position to demand the prosecution of his political enemies, people he dislikes as "stupid" have reduced. and "nasty," spitting racist and xenophobic rhetoric and downplaying a coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 213,000 people in the United States.
"I can only wish him a long recovery," said Tim Espinoza, a 36-year-old health care professional, when he recently arrived at Union Station in Los Angeles for a coronavirus test. Espinoza believes that if Joe Biden had been the one to test positive, Trump would not have hesitated to ridicule his Democratic rival.
"If he gets better, he gets better - if he doesn't, he doesn't," said Aaron Sanders of Trump when he arrived for his test. The 33-year-old project manager for a media company borrowed a dismissive phrase Trump used to describe the rising death toll from COVID-19: "It is what it is."
How did a nation's connection with its leader become so frayed that many citizens would forego heartfelt well-being for a sick president in favor of just outrage, claims of cosmic justice, and allegations that his illness was a politically motivated joke?
Even Americans who don't love Trump have grappled with this question.
Tania Verafield understands why Americans feel entitled to pile up a president who poked fun at the idea of empathy in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention - but it worries her.
The 37-year-old LA actress and Democrat put her hand on her heart when she spoke of balancing her own malicious response to Trump's illness with her normal behavior.
"My first answer, which was really, 'I hope he dies,' is really causing me suffering because I don't feel like this is the kind of person I am," she said at the coronavirus testing site.
Tania Verafield, who considers herself a compassionate person, has tried to investigate her initial satisfaction when she learned that President Trump was positive for the coronavirus.
"It's about what Michelle Obama said," If they go low, we go high, "said Verafield, who wore a black mask with the word" VOTE "on it." But I think the President will bring that out, even with the best of people. With all the opportunities he had to do something right or to do something good, he has failed. "
The cast of "Saturday Night Live" was also there, and host Chris Rock said in his opening monologue last weekend, "My heart goes out to COVID."
Many Americans have used the president's illness as the perfect opportunity to do what he did to Trump - who made fun of Biden for wearing a mask and called opponent Hillary Clinton weak during her battle with pneumonia in the 2016 campaign has done to many others.
"'I don't feel bad for him.' I've heard that from people, "said Keesha Middlemass, assistant professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, DC." He gets the best doctors, he has access to tests, and yet he doesn't wear a mask. It's hard to understand with stupid .
"It's the whole idea of karma, or the chickens that come home to settle down, or the boomerang effect," she said.
President Trump takes off his mask when he returns to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
The majority of Americans agree that Trump put himself at risk - and sent a dangerous message to his fellow citizens - for carelessly wearing masks and insisting on holding large events with mostly exposed spectators who are not safely separated from each other are.
A Reuters / Ipsos poll published on Sunday found that 65% of respondents agreed that "if President Trump had taken the coronavirus more seriously, he probably would not have been infected".
Verafield said that while the president is not showing the best of human nature, that doesn't mean the rest of America should follow suit.
Chi Williams, 32, a barber in Metro Atlanta, says Trump "has no compassion for others, so he doesn't get compassion." (Jenny Jarvie / Los Angeles Times)
Across the Atlanta area nation, Chi Williams explained why something so wrong - in this case, belittling a sick president - feels so right to many Americans.
"He lacks compassion for others, so he doesn't get compassion," said Williams, 32, a hairdresser with the Kutz & Kurlz community in East Point, a town about eight miles south of downtown Atlanta.
"That's the treatment he gives to those around him and the lack of care he gives us," Williams said as he smoked outside the hair salon.
Timothy Arnold, an Atlanta landscaper, said he did not want President Trump harmed but believed God was trying to send a message to Trump because he was so lost in himself.
Williams credits Trump with supporting stimulus payments to Americans at the start of the slowdown and doesn't think he's a bad president. But Williams has a hard time seeing any wisdom about Trump not wearing a mask in public when so many get sick and die from the virus.
"He didn't take it seriously - and that's why he got it," said Williams.
Timothy Arnold, a landscaper and retired U.S. Marine who lives on the west side of Atlanta, said he did not wish Trump any harm but believed God was sending a message to the president for much of his term and for most of it of 74 years in office - years of public life has proven to be selfish.
"Sometimes God gives you things you don't care about to draw your attention to," said Arnold, 52. "The Bible says what you bring out you bring back - what you reap, what you sow."
Regardless of whether or not Trump tested positive, the president seems unfazed and unwilling to change.
On Sunday, the still contagious president exposed his intelligence detail to the virus as he drove past cheering supporters outside the Maryland military hospital where he was flown.
President Trump waves to supporters in a motorcade outside Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., On Sunday. (Alex Edelman / AFP / Getty Images)
After receiving hospital treatment for three days, he tweeted a video telling Americans not to let the virus "dominate" their lives even as COVID-19 hospital stays increased across the country.
Trump claimed in another video that his COVID-19 infection was a "blessing from God". He has continued to compromise those around him by returning to work in the Oval Office and trying to get back to campaigning.
The president's demeanor does not surprise those who have studied and observed Trump for years, a media showman whom they describe as insensitive to facts, advice and shame - and who is determined to present every result as evidence that he was right all along .
But his actions are difficult to fathom for Kiemba Knowlin, a minister in Flint, Michigan, whose predominantly black community has been hard hit by the pandemic. Five men in his church have died of COVID. Knowlin said his mother and two of his seven children were also suffering from illnesses related to the virus and are recovering.
"Going through all of this changes how you see other people's suffering," Knowlin said.
He just wished he had seen such a development in Trump.
Sanders, the project manager who is also Black, said that Trump's misfortune "resonates differently" with people in his community because many lack adequate access to health care and cannot properly bury their loved ones killed by COVID-19. Then they see Trump pretending that a pandemic is not a serious threat - even if he has the best medical care for his own case of COVID.
"They feel like they got their fair guilt, you could say," says Sanders of the reactions of many black people.
Verafield, the actress, said she hopes people who feel Trump abandoned the country will save their scorn - and use it to deliver a more stabbing setback on election day.
"I think this is our opportunity to show each other as fellow citizens and other countries that we have been misrepresented by our leader," said Verafield. "To essentially redeem us for this lack of true guidance."
Beason reported from Los Angeles, Jarvie from Atlanta and Stokols from Washington.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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