Brothers, Cousins, and Strangers

Robert Brooks Contributor
Brothers, Cousins, and Strangers
Read Time: approx. 3:21

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on October 7, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.


On Monday, President Donald Trump left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the Marine One helicopter, landed on the White House lawn, climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask, and said, “I feel good.” Before leaving the hospital, Trump tweeted “Don’t be afraid of it,” referring the coronavirus. “You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines.” Yesterday, Trump tweeted again, comparing COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. “Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” he tweeted. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with COVID, in most populations far less lethal!!!” What should everyday Americans make of these remarks? The answer most likely lies somewhere between the two responses below. Take a look.

On the LeftWriting for CNN, Errol Louis, host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, called President Trump’s return to the White House “rash and reckless” which is why “Democratic challenger Joe Biden… has checkmated Trump on the issue” of COVID-19. Louis says “Americans have seen the effects of the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 people, shut down entire school systems, triggered a global food crisis and resulted in the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression. And they have the good sense to be afraid.” Louis believes “Trump’s wildly irresponsible advice — ‘don’t let it dominate your life’ — plays right into Biden’s strategy of offering the nation a calm, sensible and presidential alternative by simply acknowledging reality. At a time when the nation’s leader seems lost in a fog of claims that he might be immune to the virus and unfounded predictions that the pandemic would simply disappear, Biden gets a big head start by following basic public health precautions and urging voters to do the same. Thus, shortly after Trump ginned up a media spectacle of checking himself out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and posing, maskless, on a balcony overlooking the South Lawn of the White House, Biden was imploring voters to take the deadly pandemic seriously. ‘I hope nobody walks away thinking it’s not a problem,’ he said of Trump’s tweet. ‘It’s a serious problem.’” In conclusion, Louis says Trump will “have to answer the question on everybody’s mind: with hundreds of people dying every day, how can we trust you to keep the country safe from COVID when you couldn’t even protect yourself from it?”

On the rightWriting for the New York Post, Miranda Devine counters that, “President Trump is not a basement guy. Sure, he could have done a Joe Biden and hidden in the White House the last five months, a president under quarantine cowering from the Chinese virus. The symbolism would have been disastrous for the mightiest nation on the planet.” Instead, Devine argues that “Trump had to show fearlessness in the face of the virus.” Devine says, “Biden’s timid behavior is not a model for how a president needs to behave. The obsessive measures taken to protect the 77-year-old border on fetishistic, with elaborate social distancing circles taped on the ground and masks at 20 paces. If this was your grandfather, you would appreciate the caution. But a president can’t be paralyzed by fear, and neither can the country.” Continuing, Devine notes that “The virus is no longer a death sentence. Treatments have been found, the fatality rate has plummeted and vaccines are on the horizon. For political advantage, Democrats have tried to keep Americans scared, depressed and under house arrest while blaming the president for every COVID death. Sensible Americans reject this perverse framing of the pandemic.” Devine points to what she believes are examples of this rejection. “You see it in new voter registrations, from Florida to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where Republicans are outstripping Democrats by as much as two to one. In conclusion, Devine says “If the president bounces back onto the campaign trail, he will be an invincible hero, who not only survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him but the Chinese virus as well. He will show America we no longer have to be afraid.”

Flag This: What’s truly amazing about the coronavirus is how divisive it has become. Depending on your perspective you probably think this pandemic polarization is being driven by either Trump or the Media. Remember, two things can be true at the same time. Nevertheless, prior to the emergence of this virus, there was a belief that conflict bred cohesion. This means smaller, potentially divided groups band together to protect themselves from larger threats. Tim Urban from Wait But Why and Psychologist Jonathan Haidt point out an old Bedouin proverb that highlights this idea. It goes: “Me against my brothers; my brothers and me against my cousins; my cousins, my brothers, and me against strangers.” We saw this after September 11th. In the aftermath, we flew flags, we donated blood to one another, and we gathered for candlelight vigils. Republicans and Democrats sang “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol in one harmonized voice. Our differences seemed to fade away in light of a larger attack. On a global scale, this same theory holds that if aliens attacked us, mankind would band together to defeat the invaders. At least that’s how Hollywood portrays it. Merriam-Webster defines “alien” as “coming from another world,” which explains COVID in some senses. However, despite the alien-like nature of the illness there seems to be less cohesion now than ever.