Opinion: Irony and tragedy of COVID-19 response

Opinion: Irony and tragedy of COVID-19 response

Did our senators ever speak truth to power?

  • Saturday, September 19, 2020 10:17am
  • Opinion

By Mark Roye

Irony: Webster’s defines it as “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.” It was a common literary device in Greek Tragedy, but has become ever more tragic today as nearly 200,000 Americans have succumbed to the coronavirus, our economy has descended to depths not seen since the Great Depression and we continue to be deprived of all normal social interaction.


Had Donald Trump, as soon as he’d been confronted with incontrovertible evidence of the emerging deadly pandemic, simply gotten out of the way and assigned management of the response to America’s exceptional scientists, he would now be cruising to reelection. Despite all of his incompetence, moral faults, ethical failings, sexual misconduct, unbridled vanity, even unexplained loyalty to Russia’s Putin, he could have easily been heading toward a second term.

Instead, excessive pride would not permit him to admit that anyone, even preeminent scientists and public health officials, could possibly know more than he believes he does. Instead, he’s seemingly hidden the facts, lied to all of us, touted snake-oil cures, proposed injecting disinfectants and swallowing light bulbs, interfered with the CDC, FDA and NIH. If, like any other competent manager, he’d simply relied on his own team of experts, he’d have been hailed as a genius, the pandemic contained.

If Republicans, including Alaska’s delegation, wished only to retain power, they need not have even questioned Trump in public. They simply could have phoned the White House to privately suggest that science might be the better alternative. Had they done so, we just might have in fact “turned the corner”. Instead, the most scientifically exceptional nation in the world, a country with less than 5% of the world’s population, is infected with nearly a quarter of all cases and 22% of all the coronavirus deaths in the world.

Did our senators ever speak truth to power? Did they ever fulfill their oath to our country? No. They chose not to make waves while thousands died, pretending instead that such appalling death from COVID-19 was acceptable, that a completely uncoordinated, state-by-state, county-by-county response would suffice, as though we are not one nation, as though the virus respects boundary lines, as though Americans are not a mobile society. Perhaps it should just have been left to Alaskans alone to repel the Japanese from the Aleutians or only New Yorkers to deal with the consequences of Sept. 11.

Ironic. And tragic.

• Mark Roye is a resident of Cordova.

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