Will The Deaths Of Herman Cain And Turning Point Co-Founder End The Anti-Mask Nonsense?
Herman Cain — former candidate for president of the United States and actual president of bad airport pizza — has, along with 150,000 other Americans, died of COVID-19. He was 74 years old and is survived by his wife, Gloria Etchison, and his two children, Melanie and Vincent.
Two weeks before his diagnosis, Cain attended a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Two days after being diagnosed, he was hospitalized. Here is a picture of him, at this rally, not wearing a mask, surrounded by other people who were also not wearing masks.
Here’s just a few of the #BlackVoicesForTrump at tonight’s rally! Having a fantastic time! #TulsaRally2020… https://t.co/E0v2PpYxp9— Herman Cain (@Herman Cain)1592696982.0
And here is a tweet he sent about masks, they are so terrible, which his people have only just deleted today:
The Trump campaign said that all attendees at the event had their temperatures checked upon entry, and that masks and hand sanitizer were handed out but not required to use.
The campaign revealed before the event that six members of the team involved in the rally preparations had tested positive for the virus and had been quarantined.
The July 2 statement on Cain's hospitalization said, "There is no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus." The Trump campaign said after Cain's diagnosis that he had not met with the president at the Tulsa rally.
Whether or not he got the virus at the Trump rally, the fact that he — as a stage four colon cancer survivor — was there in the first place suggests that he was almost definitely not taking any other precautions otherwise. But why should he have? It is likely that all of the information he was getting about COVID was that the Left was blowing it out of proportion, that masks and social distancing wouldn't do anything, that it was all a plot to make poor Donald Trump look bad and to ruin all his big rallies. He probably thought that even if he did get it, a few doses of hydroxychloroquine would zap it away.
Things did not work out that way.
Yesterday, Turning Point USA — an organization for the very doofiest of young Republicans — deleted the meme you see above at the top of this post. The one featuring a satisfied-looking Nicolas Cage (who does not deserve this, by the way), reading "Me Not Wearing A Mask While A Leftist Screams At Me From Their Car Across The Parking Lot At Whole Foods." It was not simply because it was incorrect in the way that exactly zero Turning Point USA faces are as good or expressive as Nicolas Cage's face, but more likely because their co-founder, Bill Montgomery, died this week of COVID-19. Though it probably had less to do with tact than with the likelihood of the meme getting flooded with comments pertaining to the irony of this particular situation.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, conservative thought leaders have sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus and have opposed wearing masks to prevent its spread. Just as recently as this weekend — a point where we might safely assume that he knew his old friend and mentor was dying of the virus — TPUSA's Charlie Kirk was claiming that masks could actually make things worse and that the right not to wear one is an issue of civil liberties.
On the Sunday edition of his podcast, Kirk said: "Do not force me to wear a mask, it's that simple. I'm not gonna do it, I'm not."
"[E]very single time I go into one of these grocery stores, 'Where's your mask?' I say, well first of all, the science around masks is very questionable, very questionable," he said. "In fact some people, some doctors think that masks actually make you sicker and have you less likely to be able to get oxygen and more likely to infect yourself, and less likely to be able to fight the virus, and actually more likely to be able to die sooner. [SORRY TO INTERRUPT MR. KIRK HERE, BUT NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, FALSE, UNTRUE, WRONG.]
"A lot of people believe that. I've met many doctors that hold that view," Kirk added. "Secondly, we have a huge civil liberty issue here. Why do you have the authority to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body? I thought it was 'my body, my choice.'"
Well, that's when we're talking about a fetus. When we're talking about the lives of actual living, breathing human beings, you have less authority to do what you want with your body when what you do with your body puts other people's lives at risk. You can't fill your body with alcohol and put your body into a car and drive it — and if you do, you can go to jail. If you have HIV and you have sex with someone without informing them of your status, you can be held criminally liable.
In a slightly less nightmarish world, these deaths might be a (wait for it) turning point for some of those on the Right. They might think to themselves "COVID-19 isn't hurting the right people! We should totally care about it now that we know it can affect us! Maybe we could even wear masks so that other people we like don't die like that one guy we liked a lot died!"
We can always hope.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse