Marco Rubio: Does It Matter What Racist Names We Use For The Coronavirus Right Now?

coronavirus

Marco Rubio is useless in the best of circumstances, so the coronavirus crisis has cast an intense spotlight on the Florida senator's fecklessness. Friday, Rubio tweeted a video filmed in what looked like his grandmother's dining room. He was dressed casually in a baseball cap and a “Property of Dolphins" T-shirt that indicated he's a fan of the football team based in Miami. That's a good look during a crisis. All that was missing was a few days' beard growth.

He expressed his concerns about the working people who are losing their jobs because states are shutting down businesses in an effort to slow the coronavirus's spread. He was almost compelling.

RUBIO: People are literally getting laid off by the second. I know an entire family of six — the husband, the wife, their two adult kids and their spouses. Everybody got laid off in the last 72 hours. Can you imagine how traumatic that is? Maybe unfortunately you can because you got laid off or your kids got laid off. I'm talking about your local bakery. I'm talking about the dry cleaner you've used for 30 years. I'm talking about mechanics that fix your car. These people are closing their doors. No one knows if they're ever gonna reopen. Their workers don't know if they're ever gonna have another job. That should be our number one focus right now. How can we get cash quickly to those companies so they can at least pay their workers and be able to reopen when the time comes for that.

Rubio's right — and not just on the political spectrum. He's actually correct that our primary focus should be on helping the people who can't telecommute their way through this crisis. Unfortunately, Rubio doesn't nail the dismount. He quickly transitioned from empathy to partisan rhetoric.

RUBIO: Instead, all the focus is on how much money some big company is gonna get.

It's true that Democrats have opposed sweetheart deals to big corporations with no strings attached. That's because they aren't confident those funds would make their way to the people currently on virtual unemployment lines. Democrats aren't just being cynical. They have short-term memories that include 2009.

RUBIO: Or some people want to argue over what name we should use for the virus.

The virus has a name. It's COVID-19 or you can just call it by its family name, coronavirus. Donald Trump and other Republicans are the ones who decided to call the coronavirus the “Chinese virus" or even the “Kung-Flu." Democrats and the media calling out xenophobic bigotry isn't the distraction. Trump is trying to distract from his own incompetence by scapegoating an entire country and its people.

RUBIO: Who cares what name we use for the virus right now?

Chinese people might care. We have historical precedent for the unpleasantness that can result from associating an entire group of people with a disease. Nazis argued that typhus was “endemic among members of the Jewish race." Rubio just said that people are losing their jobs and businesses. Their futures are on permanent hold. Desperate people might want something — or someone — to blame for their trauma that they can see. Deliberately linking China to a virus that's proven a greater threat to American lives than Al-Qaeda is repulsive. And it's not just lazy jingoistic crap. It's dangerous. But Rubio is the same guy who infamously derided Barack Obama for daring to suggest there was anti-Muslim sentiment in America.

Sunday, Rubio was back to tweeting Bible verses.

If Rubio genuinely fears “no evil," he shouldn't have to hold water for Trump's bigotry.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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