- 24 Nov 20
He caused the death of countless thousands. He lowered the tone of political discourse to one of out and out depravity. And he promoted a climate of hatred, hostility and aggression. Donald Trump may have lost the US presidential election, but the effects of his sickening thuggery will linger in the body politic for a very long time…
The USA has succumbed to two parallel pandemics, Covid-19 and Orange Swine Fever. Donald Trump is central to both. As regards the first, on his watch to date 1.5 million people were infected. A quarter of a million have died. Those figures keep rising.
As for the second, it’s Trump himself.
To be clear, on Hog Heights, pigs are grand: plain, honest snufflers, happy to be where they are, as they are and when they are. They’re Kool and the Gang around here.
But a swine is, according to the dictionaries, a “coarse, gross, or brutishly sensual” individual; the “contemptible person” you meet in casual verbal abuse and political diatribe; a ripping yarn bounder or cad, a downright bastard. “I once knew a fellow by that name,” says Albert in Heinrich Boll’s Tomorrow And Yesterday, “he was a swine”. The reader knew exactly what he meant.
Not just mean but greedy too. At family meal times, an older cousin used to shout “the biggest pig gets the most swill!!” as he dived at the communal pot of stew. Ry Cooder wrote a song about a swine named J Edgar: “He’d eat up all our victuals and start back up again/ Just like them vacuum cleaners they sell down in the lane.”
Now, colour such a swine orange and put him on a podium infecting a crowd of true believers and, well, we’re talking about a very serious situation indeed. Exhibit A: Donald Trump.
See the orange skin, the saggy cheeks, the piggy eyes, the snouty pout, the weird bristle on his head, the layers of porky fat, the rooting in the filth, the greed, the porcine self-satisfaction and entitlement, the utter disregard for people, the gloating dismissal of expertise, the capacity to gobble all the victuals, the amorality, the childishness, the porkies, the grotesque rictus grin, the snuffling around women, the aggression, the mealy-mouthed support for white supremacist boot-boys and Christian fundamentalists, the racist tweets, indeed his EVERY EFFING TWEET, his hoof-licking admiration for, and deference towards, authoritarians like Putin, his delusions about his intelligence and the stability of his genius, his Soprano-like deportment and delivery, his willing dissemination of conspiracy theories, his absolute lack of any social awareness or responsibility…
Is he orange? In our opinion, YES!! Is he, by the dictionary definition a swine? In our opinion, YES!! Is he, by my cousin’s definition, the biggest pig? YESSSS!!!!
At the time of writing Trump is in the sty, digging it out, supported by the slimy band of yessirs which whom he has surrounded himself. Most seasoned observers reckon he hasn’t a chance of overturning the results in key states but worriers aren’t so sure. A swine goes lower than low, and in a brutally politicised world, in which facts don’t matter, you never know.
Over 72 million Americans voted for him. It would have won any other US election, and by a distance. Which confirms that his 2016 vote wasn’t a one-off. And it begs a question of existential significance for our planet: how have so many people been so bamboozled, so persuaded, so hypnotised, so enfevered by an Orange Swine?
Perhaps it’s best understood as a kind of political pandemic: Orange Swine Fever. Trump is an American grotesque but he’s a huckster, a classic PT Barnum showman – and they love him.
It’s literally infectious. He knows how to push the buttons, how to appeal to the lowest and most venal instincts, prejudices and fears; and how to play with, and off, a multitude of villains, liars, bigots and conspiracy theorists. Plus, he can duck and dive and parry and turn his opponents’ strengths back on them. Truth and decency are for losers. For him it’s all about winning, at any cost.
If it is to spread, an infection needs a vulnerable population, a fertile environment and effective transmission. Trump found them in disenchanted blue-collar workers, cowardly Republicans; the decay that attended the decline of traditional US manufacturing; and, of course, the foetid swamps and feral vectors of social media and their algorithms and echo chambers.
It’s the Orange Swine pandemic. And it has a long tail…
With the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s more to it than mortality and lockdowns, significant as they are. A whole slew of other effects are emerging, now referred to as Covid’s long tail in these parts, and as Covid long-haul in the US.
According to Anthony Komaroff, Editor in Chief of the Harvard Health Letter, surveys and studies “indicate that 50% to 80% of patients continue to have bothersome symptoms three months after the onset of COVID-19 — even after tests no longer detect virus in their body.”
“The most common symptoms are fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, inability to exercise, headache, and difficulty sleeping,” he adds. Depression is common.
Two long-term effects keep being mentioned. They call the first ‘brain fog’. It includes neurological complications like delirium as well as cognitive difficulties, including confusion and memory loss. The second is severe fatigue, a crippling exhaustion and malaise. This is likened to chronic fatigue syndrome (aka myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME).
“Virtually every health professional I know,” Komaroff says “believes that the pandemic in the US could and should have been better controlled than it has been. Bad mistakes rarely lead to only temporary damage.”
President Harry Truman used to say “the buck stops here.” Trump says the buck stops anywhere but here. The result is a public health catastrophe unparalleled in modern times – and it happened on Trump’s watch, in the richest country in the world.
The damage won’t be temporary. Nor will the fallout from all the other crimes and misdemeanours, the incantations and inflammations of the Trump presidency – the myriad deceits, as well as the prevailing pettiness and nastiness. Right now, as well as refusing to accept the election outcome, he and his cronies are stacking the system so as to immobilise, as far as possible, the incoming regime. The virus fights on.
This, then, is the Orange Swine Fever. Its aftermath will be longer and worse than Covid’s. It will sicken the world for ages. There will be brain fog: indeed there already is. There will be chronic fatigue. There will be anger and depression. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
SARS-Cov-2 will be fixed by a vaccine. Sadly, no such remedy has been found for Orange Swine Fever…