Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

I remember watching a documentary about chimpanzees many years ago. And while the details blur with the passing of time, I recall the researchers talking about the remarkable discovery that chimps pretend. More recent research found that chimps can pretend but it is not entirely clear if the chimps, in pretending, can fully understand the difference between reality and fantasy.

Which, of course, brings me to a Weld County rodeo and concert.

story in Colorado Politics reports on our state Attorney General Phil Weiser needing to issue a cease-and-desist order against an entertainment company that was planning several major events with crowds to be measured in the thousands. Last Sunday, the company presented the good people of Weld County the opportunity to attend a concert and rodeo, and at least 4,000 folks showed up. There were no mask requirements nor was there, not surprisingly, any social distancing. In June, the company hosted an event in Agate that drew roughly 2,000 people. As this company seems intend on hosting more events, Weiser stepped in with the aforementioned letter to shut down such large gatherings. Oh, and the promoter called CP to talk about the situation and mentioned that he had put on yet another event in Pierce that also drew a crowd far larger than our state’s limit of 175.

As I read the CP article on this, the text appears next to the story reporting on the death of former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain due to the COVID virus. It appears that Cain caught the bug at the now infamous Trump rally in Tulsa, and it killed him. There is a lesson here, and that lesson is all about what Dr. Fauci has been saying for months, even as the Trump administration seeks to discredit him: wear masks, avoid crowds. And somehow, that has become political. 

I’ve often written about the challenge of rights in conflict (and perceived rights, but that’s for another column) in our great nation. And, unless you are a cold-hearted narcissist (cough…Trump…cough) as opposed to a warm-hearted narcissist (cough…me…cough) you cannot help but be deeply touched by the suffering of so many during this crisis. And the promoter rightly points out that many of his employees rely on these concert jobs to pay the rent and to buy food. And the response to that calamity is, in my view, what separates people who think like Democrats from those who love Trump.

My view, and the view apparently of the Dems in the U.S. House of Reps (given that they passed their relief bill 10 weeks ago at $3 trillion), is that in such times as these, extraordinary measures are needed, and the government needs to step up. The Trumpers seem to think that if we ignore the virus enough, it will go away, and that people are lazy and want to stay home and not work. So, in Trump’s mind, lets start opening things up even more, when the science clearly says the opposite.

You likely saw pictures of that couple in a Minnesota Walmart wearing face masks with swastikas on them (and a Trump t-shirt). They argued that their fundamental freedoms were being restricted by the vile tyranny that is a face mask. Sigh… 

There was a time when we as Americans thought more about our community than only ourselves. Kennedy’s famous “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” speech is now largely forgotten. In its place is a notion that anything that restricts my life is somehow oppression. I can’t help but wonder what people would have thought, back in WWII when the real Nazi’s were bombing London, about a neighbor who insisted on keeping his lights lit brightly when everyone else was going dark to deny the German bombers any visual cues. How about that fellow down your street who argues that rules requiring him to have functioning brakes in his car are oppression? Sitting on an airplane when the oxygen masks drop down? Well, you show them whose boss and don’t wear that mask either. 

There are many, many things that Trump has done very, very poorly. But his politization of a scientific truth is costing lives, including Mr. Cain's. How did we get here? Hitler was not going to invade the U.S. mainland, yet millions of young patriots went to a war in Europe and the Pacific for an ideal. That same greatest generation is now quite elderly and is at greatest risk from COVID. As these wonderful Americans think back on what they sacrificed — and what all too many sacrificed to the last full measure of devotion — I suspect they’d be mystified by those who put going to a concert ahead of not infecting the elderly. 

I’m glad AG Weiser is on the job and doing what’s right. But I’m dismayed that he has to in the first place. People are better than chimps. We can discern reality from fantasy, but only if we use our minds rather than our gut reactions to YouTube videos. Let’s stop pretending that masks are oppression rather than a gesture of kindness and respect for others.

Let’s show the world that we are better than chimps. 

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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