The world is in the middle of a global pandemic that is killing thousands and crippling our economies. So what do people want to talk about? Whether the President of the United States is a racist and a xenophobe.
Does Donald Trump refer to COVID-19 as “the China virus” because he’s bigoted? That’s a fallacy called begging the question. The statement asserts itself as proof that it is true.
What’s really happening is different. He’s poking the bear, deliberately making a point that he knows will annoy an opponent in order to see the reaction.
Trump already knows the reaction. China is trying to distance itself from being the geographical source of the virus and from how it mismanaged its early spread. At a recent White House briefing, he said he was using the term to counter Chinese propaganda that American military had started the virus.
In this case, though, he gets two bears for one poke. Every time he uses the expression “China virus,” he stirs up the media as well. Reporters will challenge him on it, which gives him another chance to say “that’s where it came from.”
That has its precedents. MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, started in Saudi Arabia in 2012. West Nile Virus was discovered in Uganda, in the Nile basin, in 1937. The tick-borne illness Lyme Disease was first found in three towns in Connecticut in 1975.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, is another severe coronavirus that spread throughout Southeast Asia in 2003. It, too, originated in China. So did the Asian influenza of 1957 and the “Mao flu” of 1968.
Naming a place of origin may not be overtly racist, but perhaps it’s time to stop. People who truly are racist are beating up on Asians. Stopping use of the term won’t end this behavior, but it will no longer provide an excuse.
Poking and shoving, verbal or physical, is not fit for man nor beast. Let sleeping bears lie.