Virus—and Leaders—Wreak Havoc When the Body Is Weak

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A mailer for the Nov. 3 election shows Democratic candidates accused of being “socialists.” This type of old-fashioned narrative is simplistic and Manichaean and doesn’t explain what “socialism” is. It was heavily used during the so-called Cold War (1945-1990).

By Raul Pickett

Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, recently stated that “leadership matters, and their performance matters. Leaders will be judged on whether they actively promote unity during a crisis and ultimately on whether they got the job done.” We should all take this to heart.

We now have more than 7.5 million Americans who have been infected by Covid-19, and more than 214.000 have died. A far cry from President Trump’s initial statement that the nation had only 15 total infections that would promptly disappear.

Take a moment to think about President Trump’s use of the term “American Carnage” during his inauguration and consider that the mortality due to the pandemic represents more American deaths than have occurred in the nation’s streets in the last 50 years.

Some of our own elected leadership in the Central Valley seem to also be overly consumed with the traditional dogma professed by extreme right-wing elements in the community that fail to give the crisis the serious attention it deserves. In fact, some elected officials openly advocate for the hasty opening of local economies and schools and for total employer discretion on issues of infection control.

Likewise, some in law enforcement oppose the wearing of masks and at the pandemic’s high point have stated that they will not enforce the wearing of masks. These contrarian views are expressed defyingly as if totally divesting of any concern for the pandemic or for the thousands of Americans who have been lost due to a lack of effective infection controls. 

If we learn anything from this crisis, it should be that failing to take informed and thoughtful action has consequences. If you’re honest, you can’t help but acknowledge that failing to wear a mask, allowing businesses to open too soon or not enforcing worksite regulations ultimately costs lives. It’s a fact we have all come to understand.

This is evident in the rapid spread of infections in our cities, colleges and schools, where our leaders acted hastily, rather than in the best interest of public safety. We’ve seen this same scenario repeated, with the creation of new hotspots causing our hospitals to repeatedly reach capacity. 

Sadly, for many, the dangerous nature of the virus is obscured until they must send a loved one to the hospital and are no longer able to see them until their ashes are handed to them in an urn.

During the upcoming election, how our leaders have performed, especially during this crisis, should be the final determinant as to whether they deserve our vote. The ultimate yardstick should be how their decisions have affected the well-being of society and whether they’ve exerted the necessary leadership to save lives.

One thing is clear: A person’s true capacity to lead is revealed in a time of crisis. When leaders fail to adequately comprehend the severity of a crisis, they make errors in judgment that ultimately have dire consequences for the entire community. Although citizens might be uninformed, our leadership should not be.

In considering the performance of local leadership, we must also ask where Congressional District 22 Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Tulare) has been during the crisis. Ironically, he has spent the last two years intensifying the political division in this country, leading the cheerleading squad for the President and raising money for his ideological passions.

Nunes has demonstrated little leadership in his district to manage the crisis, which incidentally includes some of the most impacted areas in the state.

His only advice to his constituents during the crisis has been that it’s all a “hoax” and that we should take our family out to eat at a local restaurant. He’s rendered this advice while our hospitals have been inundated with infected patients.

Nunes’ campaign is now asking local residents infected with Covid-19 to donate plasma, although still not validated as an effective treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And he has made a belated appearance just before the election to promote blood donations.

It behooves us all to look at his voting record to determine what he’s done for his constituents, especially during the last two years. His district includes some of the poorest communities in the nation, and some of the most depressed economies, yet he’s made little effort to address these problems in Congress.

If you take a moment to review his campaign material, there’s no mention of accomplishments. What stands out in huge letters is a 1930s slogan, “Stop Socialism,” which, coincidently, is another of President Trump’s principal campaign messages.

This attack on some exaggerated notion of being invaded by Socialists from outer space also has been heard repeatedly on the floors of Congress as Nunes opposed proposed legislation to serve the needs of low-income communities. Yet, he continues to be one of the strongest supporters of socialistic-style farm subsidies.

Our Valley communities continue to represent some of the most pervasive concentrations of infection in the state. Despite the continued proliferation of the pandemic, many of our elected officials seem to be more committed to personal libertarian philosophies than to serving the needs of the greater community.

Whatever your party or ideology, we must all ask ourselves whether our current elected officials professing contrarian views are truly people who should be steering the vessel in rough waters.

“The virus wreaks havoc when the body is weak; the same goes for our leaders”, says New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In the final analysis, each of us is either a part of the problem or the solution. Our leadership is no different and should be held accountable. The future of the Valley depends on it.

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Raul Pickett was born and raised in Fresno. He is a graduate of Fresno State and is retired from the State of California as a staff service manager. He was also the CEO of El Futuro Credit Union.