One-hundred years ago the influenza pandemic, begun a year prior, was winding down. An estimated 675,000 Americans died. Remember that the US population in 1919 was 104 million; thus with the Great War having just ended and accounting for aditional deaths, it's not much of an exaggeration to claim that the flu killed 1% of Americans. (Note: more than 40,000 of these deaths were servicemen.)
Worldwide 20 to 40 million died—a closer estimate could not be made, nor will it ever. Settlements and villages disappeared, their entire populations stricken. The mortality rate was 2.5% compared to today's flu mortality rate of less than 0.1%. And by some inexplicable serendipity, the illness struck the young, the 20-40 year-old populace, sparing children and the elderly.
And then, in 1919, it ended.
It would be facile at best to equate the presidency of Donald Trump with the Influenza outbreak of a century ago, but there are similarities that shouldn't be overlooked, not the least of which is the spread and replication. I am speaking here not of Trump himself—he is no longer a mystery to any of us—but of those around him who have become infected. The list of the embarrassed and humiliated grows longer every day—Tillerson, Mattis, Kelly—and this past week Mike Pompeo engraved his own initials on the Trump walk of shame.
Pompeo, in his official role as Secretary of State, swung through the Middle East in what can only be characterized as a campaign speech that urged the people of Cairo and its environs not to vote for Barack Obama who, in Pompeo's revisionist look at history, is solely responsible for the chaotic situation in that region today. The problem is, Barack Obama isn't running for anything. But beyond that, it has generally been U.S. policy not to denigrate past presidents or statesmen in such scathing terms. Of course Trump's hatred for his predecessor is the tacit imprimatur for speeches like the ones Pompeo delivered; and to his detriment, he seemed quite comfortable delivering them.
Beyond that, Trump's idolatry for the world's "strongmen" must place Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi near the top of the president's contact list. Pompeo praised the man for his ability to "unleash the creative energy of Egypt’s people, unfetter the economy, and promote a free and open exchange of ideas.” Nowhere was there mention of human rights or any reference to ethics or morality. Those were ideas that weighed on Obama: in the world of Trump such considerations are pointless.
Human rights, morality, and ethics. If those considerations held any sway at all, the government would be up and running again and children would not be virtually orphaned at the border. Businesses would be able to find raw materials to continue manufacturing, and airport security would remain a feasible goal. And much, much more. But as with Pompeo's view of the Middle East, Trump's view of America is myopic and callous. It's his way or the highway...though as the shutdown continues to affect more elements of our daily lives, it's doubtful we'll have a reason to hop onto the Interstate either.
We can only hope, that like that previous plague, this ends in '19.