There are fierce historical moments that shake people’s lives. People have a hard time understanding events. They only know that they are getting worse. They have lived better times, they have been tolerant. But now they feel so much anger and fear that they throw themselves into the arms of men who tell them they are going to fix everything. Who are willing to make history. Perhaps they do not share 100% what they say or what they do. But these men, they don’t know why, they make them feel safe. Then they stop being sovereign citizens to follow those who promise them protection.
Donald Trump you must think maybe that the most vibrant moment of his presidential term were those seconds in which, back from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he had been admitted for contracting the virus, he climbed the steps of the south portico of the White House and went to the television cameras to remove (almost tear off) the mask, converted for him into an annoying symbol of vulnerability to the disease.
Trump considers the mask a symbol of vulnerability to the disease. On Monday he took it off before the cameras in a desperate display of strength
In that energetic gesture his entire opinion about the disease was condensed. In the defiant look that said: you see, I have defeated the virus. I have traveled to the darkness and I have returned. Here I am. If I could, you too. I am still here to protect you. “I feel good”.
Six days after that shocking scene, it is still not known what is the true state of Trump’s health. And if you have to go by history, it will take time to find out. What is known is his state of mind: he thinks exactly the same as before entering the hospital.
There is a belief that traumatic events change people. But it’s not always like this. Jair Bolsonaro passed the disease in its mild version and came out of the experience as ignorant as he had entered. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, was more touched when he was infected at the end of March. He disappeared from the public scene for ten days and at some point must have seen death up close. Dominic Raab, his foreign minister, explained this week that he feared for his life for two days. And some of that seems to have remained in the lost gaze of the British prime minister.
Health is in the contract between those in charge and the errands, but in Trump’s world it is more than that
Trump no. He is made of other wood. When he said on camera that he felt better “than twenty years ago” he was probably sincere. He was doped with dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that can cause euphoria. He may not even realize that the attentions he received – a medicalized White House, the antiviral remdesivir, and Regeneron’s experimental antibody cocktail – are out of reach for his voters. But Trump does not come from politics, but from the business world and has a more hierarchical relationship with those who vote for him. He is a guy who has taken risks in life and who has been trained in the rude and masculine business of real estate development, gambling (and even the organization of Miss Universe). You are in office to set an example, not to feel compassion.
It is historical law that the powerful who fall ill try to hide it. Health is in the contract between the one who governs and those who entrust their destiny to him. And every time you talk about secrecy and illness you think of the cryptic world of communism. In Iosif Stalin’s Soviet Union, where his health information was classified material. Or in the last two years of Mao Zedong’s life, which forced silence about his ailments, especially a lateral sclerosis that left him almost incapable.
The journalistic literature on American presidents, their illnesses and the secrecy with which they carried them is abundant.
But also in democracy, examples abound. Frenchman Jean François Mitterand imposed absolute secrecy about a prostate cancer that was supposed to be terminal but which survived two seven-year terms. And the journalistic literature on American presidents, their illnesses and the secrecy with which they carried it is abundant.
Woodrow Wilson contracted the Spanish flu in 1919 and later had a stroke. His wife took the reins of the government, a situation that did not transpire until a year later. In 1932, public opinion was unaware that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a man in a wheelchair when he took office. In 1962 John F. Kennedy managed the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis suffering from the painful Addison’s disease, which forced him to take steroids and other drugs. Ronald Reagan was a vigorous man when he became president in 1980. He was 69 years old. He survived an attack. In re-election (1984) he showed confusion in the debate between candidates and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s ten years later. It is still debated whether the symptoms were already noticeable in the presidency.
The only thing that has changed in all this time is that Western culture (and especially American culture) has redefined the concept of old age thanks to a medicine that allows you to live vigorously longer. When it comes to gerontocracy, one recalls the short and agonizing terms of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in the Soviet Union of the 1980s. They actually died at 70 and 74 respectively. Today the candidates for the American presidency are 74 (Trump) and 77 (Biden). They compete at the limit of what was previously the limit of life expectancy.
When he ran for president in 2016, Trump said in a statement that he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” He keeps thinking about it and rebels against every sign of illness. He has caught the virus, but he thinks it was out of bravery, not because he made a mistake and denied science. He already said it the day he left the hospital: “Don’t let the virus dominate your lives.” He tries now not to take his