Donald Trump has lived his entire life wrapped in illusion. And because of his extreme narcissism, he has expended a great deal of energy over the years to convince others of his illusions, usually to their detriment.
As the New York Times series on his taxes has made clear, Trump is not a billionaire. In fact, he owes many a great deal of money, most notably the US Treasury. Similarly, he is not a successful business man. His casinos went bankrupt and his hotels and golf courses are floundering. He often spends more than he has, living the life of the pampered playboy with yachts, jets, and resorts all gilded in tacky gold trim. He was the perfect subject for a reality TV show, a setting where illusion is the name of the game.
During those forays, he hurt thousands of people. He burned contractors by not paying them. He burned thousands more by running fake businesses such as Trump University.
By becoming president, though, the stakes went through the roof. Now he could threaten the livelihood of millions all for the sake of wealth and self-aggrandizement, for the sake of maintaining his narcissistic illusions. From his xenophobic immigration policies, to his drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to his revised tax code that funnels money to the wealthy, to stacking the courts with right-wing ideologues, he has caused tremendous damage, including to those who support him. And through it all, he has projected the image of a tough guy who gets things done. Illusion, illusion, illusion.
With COVID-19, illusion became acutely lethal. All for the sake of maintaining his tough guy image, he downplayed the disease’s deadliness. He pitted states against each other for necessary supplies. He hobbled his own COVID-19 task force. And, of course, he refused to set a good example by just wearing a damn mask. His policies, or lack thereof, have killed over 210,000 people in the US and wrecked the economic livelihood of millions.
Each day the US lacks specific, detailed, science-based planning to deal with COVID-19, we risk increasing the number of fatalities. And without an effective plan to revive the economy, prolonged economic ruin could condemn millions to homelessness and starvation.
Regardless of what Trump and his supporters believe, science doesn’t care about fantasy or illusion. It simply exists. If I drop a stone while standing on the surface of the Earth, it will fall. No amount of wishing or fantasy will change that fact. Similarly, the current novel coronavirus follows a set of unalterable rules. One rule says that the virus can travel in droplets of saliva and infect others who might inhale those droplets or get them in the eyes. The best way to prevent one’s saliva from infecting others is to wear a mask.
A simple truth, but those invested in maintaining a fantasy disregard it. And now Trump himself has contracted the very thing that he said will one day “just disappear.” Worse, he hosted a huge event at the White House to celebrate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. It turned into a super-spreader event. No one social distanced or wore a mask. Now many more are infected.
Prior to becoming president, Donald Trump’s world of illusion impacted the lives of many. Now as president, he has adversely impacted millions across the country and billions around the world. That he should fall victim to his own illusionary world seems quite inevitable. That he has foisted tragedy on others is criminal.