Death cult or survival in a better world

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Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore

The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.

“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies — even while his own administration says the virus is real, it is deadly and we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted. — Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, April 17, 2020. 

The virus is the boss until we have a vaccine. However, we can control our behavior. 

When Trump started talking about big crowds in the churches at Easter, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, we “don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline (to go back to normal).” He and other public health experts have said we need much more testing and even more contact tracing.

In response, it seems the Republican Party is turning into a death cult.

The Rev. Tony Spell, the pastor of a megachurch outside Baton Rouge, held in-person services on Palm Sunday and Easter in violation of a statewide stay-at-home order by Louisiana’s Democratic governor John Bel Edwards. He was arrested and charged with six misdemeanors as a result.

Hundreds of people attended the services (which were livestreamed), including many who came in a fleet of 26 buses.

Spell was asked if he thought he would have blood on his hands should congregants became infected and die. He responded: 

“Like any revolutionary, or like any zealot, or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.”

Spell claims he can cure COVID-19 but emphasized in his sermon that, “My hope is not in a vaccine for a virus, but all my hope is in Jesus.”

U.S. Congressman Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana appeals to our patriotism. He says, “it is always the American government’s position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life, of American lives, we have to always choose the latter.” 

He says it is the grown-up thing to do: “It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils.” 

Right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck told viewers of his BlazeTV show that Americans who are older should just go back to work and be ready for death: “Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country.”

The Trumpist lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, told Tucker Carlson of Fox News that he is willing, as a senior citizen, to take a chance on his “survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren.”

Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who led the bureau’s investigation into al-Qaida in the run-up to 9/11, watched a clip of Patrick saying that and tweeted: “I’ve dealt with suicidal cults before. I encountered people who are willing to die for their faith, ideology, race, etc. But, I never encountered anyone who is willing to die for someone else’s 401k. This is a whole new level of craziness.” 

There have been rallies in many states all over the country (including Colorado) protesting the lockdown orders. They are promoted by Fox News and other right-wing media. There are families with MAGA hats waving big American, Confederate and Trump flags. Guys in camo carrying semi-automatic rifles. Signs evoking the American Revolution taken from the anti-Obama Tea Party demos such as “Don’t Tread on Me.” People are telling reporters that the virus is a hoax or no worse than the flu. There has been little social distancing or masks. 

Most Americans support the stay-at-home orders. These protesters are a distinct minority. Their frustration and anger is real but this isn’t a spontaneous revolt. It is funded by wealthy Republican donors.

In Michigan, they chanted “lock her up” in reference to Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The rally was facilitated by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group run by Michigan Trump Republicans, and promoted by the Michigan Freedom Fund, a right-wing group with ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a billionaire mover-and-shaker before she joined the Trump administration.

Jason Wilson reports in the Guardian that the demos are “also supported by street-fighting right-wing groups like the Proud Boys, conservative armed militia groups, religious fundamentalists, anti-vaccination groups and other elements of the radical right.”

In Idaho, the protest against Republican governor Brad Little was “heavily promoted” by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which receives “dark money” from the Koch brothers and the Coors family.

Labor and civil rights activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. offers this modest proposal to the protesters:

“Here is my suggestion regarding these right-wingers who believe that their Constitutional rights are being infringed upon by social distancing: the government should provide affidavits that individuals can fill out that provide that should they voluntarily choose to ignore orders for social distancing and other forms of protection against COVID-19, they give up any right to medical attention.

“Further, that they agree that they and any family member who becomes ill will choose to self-medicate as they believe appropriate and will not become a burden on the system nor will they risk the lives of first responders and medical personnel. I believe that these individuals should absolutely have the right to put themselves, their friends and loved ones in danger, if they see fit, as long as they do not put others, including and especially first responders and medical personnel in any sort of danger.”  

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.