Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.
It is said that Ben Franklin stole that and most the other aphorisms in his Poor Richard's Almanack—stole them from Roman orators, Shakespearean protagonists, maybe even neighbors and the many lady friends he is purported to have made.
But the one cited above has always been one of my favorites, though now I fear it may not be true. For if Donald Trump was too stupid to take even rudimentary precautions, then acquired the virus, then catalyzed its spread, and then took as the lesson that the virus is not dangerous, then maybe not even a fool will learn from experience, or may be incapable of learning at all.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” he said of Covid-19, advice that will probably ring hollow with the hundreds of thousands of Americans grieving over the 210,000 deaths they have witnessed—parents and grandparents, sons and daughters, doctors, nurses, everyday people doing every jobs and hoping to lead everyday lives until Covid-19 ripped away the opportunity.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” he said of Covid-19, apparently unaware that the medical treatments he received are unattainable to the average citizen. Whereas he had nearly a dozen doctors fawning over him, most victims are treated more traditionally, albeit by a good medical staff often doing yeoman service. Still, there's a difference.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” he said of Covid-19, adding “As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did." (And don't forget folks, he "stood out front" despite bone spurs.) But let's parse that leadership a little further. Let's examine that in light of what men like Private John Kissinger of the Hospital Corps and headquarters clerk John Moran, an infantry veteran did 120 years ago, risking their lives to end yellow fever. Google them. They render Trump's comments a pathetic joke: two men's bravery that saved countless lives vis-à-vis Trump's advice that will cost countless lives. (In 1976 when Blue Oyster Cult offered the same Trumpian advice, there was an uproar. It's unlikely "Don't Fear the Reaper" did anywhere near the damage Trump's suggestion will do.)
Now if Trump had been the first man in space and paved the way for others, or the first to fly the Atlantic and show what was possible in air travel, the first to scale Everest, to swim the Channel, to transplant a heart, to discover penicillin, even to prove that lightning was electricity as Franklin (remember him?) did nearly 300 years ago, then we would celebrate the president's achievement. But if all he did was contract the virus and survive, then he joins roughly 7.2 million Americans ( 35.5 million worldwide) who have done the same, who have contracted Covid-19 and lived to tell about it. He accomplished nothing other than exploiting the elaborate health care he continues to keep from the American people.
Survivors of this illness, especially when the siege involves hospitalization, are apt to be chastened by it—to feel lucky to have made it through and wary of what might still happen. Fear is a natural reaction; thus for a Covid-19 patient to advise us not to fear this disease will not affect most of us with an iota of common sense. But the terminally foolish, the dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporters, and the Constitution-brandishing "patriots" will take his advice and run with it...everywhere. And the virus will continue to spread.
Filling in the empty spaces in that Almanack, Franklin once wrote "It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright." And with Trump continuing his war on common sense, we have daily proof.