During Donald Trump’s time in office, more than a million possibly preventable deaths occurred in America.
Trump, who showed at best a lack of seriousness during the crisis provoked by the novel coronavirus, seems to have escaped accountability for his catastrophic decisions. His Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, who often seemed horrified while watching her boss, has said that following the first 100,000 deaths, most of those that came after could have been “mitigated.”
Those who tuned into the then-president’s daily press briefings in search of information or some compassion and reassurance were met instead with bragging about his own brilliance, the idea that the virus would soon miraculously disappear and claims about untested cures that still reverberate among paranoid conspiracy theorists today.
The Trump administration’s greatest success, the quick rollout of vaccines, is one Trump barely lays claim to now, as those who haven’t “moved on” from COVID 19 are those who believe that the shots rather than the disease are what led to so many deaths.
This almost pathological ability to ignore tragic events from even the recent past is far from an exclusively American phenomenon. Like George W. Bush, Tony Blair in the UK has been mostly rehabilitated for the role he played in selling and prosecuting the war in Iraq, going on to an incredibly lucrative career as an elder statesman.
Despite being admonished for breaking his own government’s protocols during the medical crisis, Boris Johnson has also dodged accountability for more than 100,000 deaths from the disease under his watch.
When we create a society based on forgetting, especially our collective traumas, the result seems like a kind of mass sociopathy. After terrorizing much of the world with little thought, should we be surprised that a charlatan like Trump (or Johnson) can avoid consequences for their incompetence when most citizens just want to forget the anxiety and terror of the last few years?
Derek Royden is a Canadian journalist.