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Thursday, April 9, 2020
Opinion Opinion: Our partisan fever is dangerous

Opinion: Our partisan fever is dangerous

Partisanship is particularly useless right now. Worse, it’s proving dangerous…

I saw this exemplified in real time last week. Mid-week, I was reading about promising results being found in Belgium, South Korea, and China when it came to treating COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, with the decades-old malaria drug chloroquine and/or its sibling drug hydroxychloroquine. On Thursday, I wrote a story touching on these facts. But due to website glitches caused by increasing traffic, we couldn’t run the story ‘til Friday.

By then, things had changed. For come Friday a.m., President Donald Trump had jumped on the chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine train. Trump’s toxicity, and the press’s toxic relationship with him, immediately altered the whole narrative. 

Now it wasn’t as simple as the drugs showing promise. Now The Orange Man, so crass, so coarse, had touted their potential effectiveness. And The Orange Man, being bad, simply couldn’t be trusted. So left-leaning news outlets went to town, highlighting the lack of proper clinical studies on chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and thus framing the president as an evil snake oil salesman.

To say the least, this isn’t grounded. Not when increasing and increasingly desperate souls are bound to hospital beds.

Trump himself didn’t offer any guarantees. And doctors everywhere, meanwhile, are prescribing the drugs, which, being time-tested and notable for their safeness (although lethal, like any drug, at high doses) are, given the emergency we’re in, absolutely worthy of a try. 

Variables abound, of course. We have to perfect the dosages. We have to study and map the drugs’ interactive potential with other drugs. We have to carry out those proper clinical studies, complete with sizable patient pools and much-needed control groups, regardless of their high cost (generally millions of dollars) and slow speeds (generally months). In the end, the treatments may indeed turn out to have been hype. 

But that does not make the president a fool for backing them. 

After all, in New York, proper trials start tomorrow. The state has got its hands on chloroquine (750,000 doses) and hydroxychloroquine (70,000 doses). Bayer, which manufactures chloroquine, gave 3 million doses of the drug to the U.S. government. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, not exactly a fervent Trump supporter, would have been a lunatic of delirious proportions to halt such actions because The Orange Man is aligned to them. 

Meanwhile, let it be noted with seriousness that lupus patients who depend on this medicine are having trouble getting it right now. But such is not Trump’s fault. Such is the nature of the nightmare that we’re in. 

Observe your television. In California, this past weekend, the beaches were aflood with partiers, gleefully and/or willfully ignorant to the state’s shelter in place provisions. Now note that 43% of California’s registered voters are Democrats, and only 23% are Republicans. We can deduce, therefore, that many Democrats, the supposed good guys, the alleged stewards and guardians of compassion and equality, were out this weekend, catching sun and putting lives in danger. 

That’s because the human animal is nothing if not paradoxical. I know liberals who are possessed of commendable empathy and intellect. I also know liberals who are self-righteous, sanctimonious, unsolicited-lecturing phonies. Likewise, I know conservatives of breathtaking generosity and toughness. And I also know conservatives who, despite all their claims to rugged individualism, are falling apart emotionally in this crisis like microwaved butter.

We all know such things. Yet in recent years, prior to facing down this physical infection, we’ve found ourselves fever-stricken by a mental one. Like children, we divided human beings into good guys and bad guys, leading with our worst assumptions when faced with our ideological opposites, and feening for likes and head-pats on social media when taking the supposed bad guys to pieces.

An opportunity exists now to cool this fever, and recall that humans, above all else, are worthy of our sincerest and most grounded efforts to humanize them. And the president, be he right or wrong, noble or crass, commendable or despicable, is human, too. 

If he’s wrong, it might satisfy our egoes. But if he’s right, it’ll save our lives.



Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro is a writer and filmmaker. He is the author of six critically acclaimed fiction books, among them the novella "It's Only Temporary" (2005), which appeared on Nightmare Magazine's list of the Top 100 Horror Books, and numerous short stories published in anthologies alongside work by H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others. His nonfiction articles have been published on The Daily Dot, Ravishly, and The Good Men Project. His first feature film, "Rule of 3" (2010), won awards at the Fantasia International Film Festival and Shriekfest, and had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest. His second feature film, "Living Things" (2014), was endorsed by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. In 2015, he won the 19th Annual Fade In Award for Thriller Screenplays. He was a founding partner of Ghostwriters Central, a writing and editing firm which received positive notices from The Wall Street Journal, Consumers Digest, and the TV program "Intelligence For Your Life." Eric has edited works published on The Huffington Post and Forbes, as well as two Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels.
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