I was up very early, stumbling around the living room when I opened up my computer to read the day’s headlines. When I read that President Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19, I thought that my sleepy eyes were confused.
I started switching news sources convinced that I would find nothing to verify what I thought I had read.
The night before, I had seen that Hope Hicks had tested positive for this deadly disease. I knew that she was with the president a few times this week, even traveling in relatively close quarters on Marine One — the helicopter that they both flew in on Wednesday.
As much as I despise all of the things Trump has done while president, I never wished for this. And reading it on my computer screen seemed surreal.
I know he almost never wore a mask and I know that he ridiculed Joe Biden for wearing one. I know that he held huge rallies with almost no social distancing and no masks. And I have heard others say, perhaps even wish, that because of his careless behavior he would get the virus that has destroyed more than 200,000 American lives and families.
But honestly, it never seriously occurred to me that Trump would get sick with the coronavirus.
In the short time since I read the first headline, I read comments on social media that this was “a hoax” and that Trump wasn’t really sick — that he was just doing this to get out of the next debate because he had disgusted so many Americans with his petulant behavior. He was a laughing stock they said and he was just trying to find an excuse not to do it a second time.
I don’t know the president personally, but I am a keen observer of his behavior. Would he lie about something like this if he thought that it would help him? I think Trump would do almost anything to get elected. And I’m sorry to say that using the virus as a political tool for his own purposes isn’t beneath him.
But nothing in his past that I have read or seen indicates that he would run away from a fight with Biden. Despite what others have said, I’m guessing Trump thinks he crushed Biden in the last debate and that he is anxious to give him another beating.
Additionally, Trump has been trying to focus the campaign on “law and order” and the economy. A major headline saying that he has tested positive for COVID-19 would only highlight an issue that he is trying to avoid — an issue on which the president is seen by many as a failure.
I also read comments from people who said that he got what he deserved. They said that he lied about the seriousness of the virus to protect the stock market and his own political future. They said that he pushed fake cures and mislead the nation by not modeling the proper behavior. They said a lot of ugly things.
I think Trump’s behavior relative to the virus has been disgraceful and that he has caused American families to be shattered needlessly. But as much as some see this as poetic justice, I do not.
I also believe that we are better than this. I honestly believe that.
As we debate the current election, we call each other names — terrible, ugly names — and we say things in public that we would have never said out loud before. The guardrails of our political discourse have been ripped out and almost anything seems to be within bounds.
But I believe that there is an inner dignity and strength of character that we must find. If America is ever to be the nation that we hold it up to be, I believe that we can and should hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct.
I had already prepared and submitted a column for this Sunday. At around 7am, I sent my editor an email asking him to hold my column. I liked the column I had written but it will have to wait until next Sunday. This was more important for me to say.
Here is my wish: I wish that the president and the first lady stay relatively symptom free and recover fully and quickly. I wish every member of his family and staff the same.
I don’t say this because I think it makes me a good person. I say it because I am a human being who has watched others that he loved get sick, struggle and die. Even now, someone that I love has received a terminal diagnosis. It breaks my heart. I would never wish that on anyone — even Donald Trump.
Someone said to me that Trump wouldn’t feel the same way about me or any of us. They said that he is incapable of feeling that kind of empathy. I don’t know what he feels in his heart and frankly I don’t care. I know what I feel. Good health, Mr. President and Madame First Lady.
As for the upcoming election, I can separate my hope that he faces the largest most devastating loss in the history of electoral politics from my wish that he and his family be spared the pain and suffering that far too many Americans have faced.
Email Raymond V. Mariano at [email protected] He served four terms as mayor of Worcester and previously served on the City Council and School Committee. He grew up in Great Brook Valley and holds degrees from Worcester State College and Clark University. He was most recently executive director of the Worcester Housing Authority. His column appears weekly in the Sunday Telegram.