I find some sympathy for Donald Trump on one issue (among others actually). When it comes to China he gets conflicting advice. Some of his advisors want him to be tough on China and others urge him not rock the economic boat. The hawks wanted Trump to take a public critical stance against China and to start calling the virus the “Wuhan Virus.”
I must admit at first I thought this was nuts. Childish and nuts. I called it an attempt to deflect blame from himself to China. No doubt that was part of his rationale for starting to do that. But there is more to the issue than that. I changed my mind after listening to a very unlikely source for a contrary view—Bill Maher. Maher has a weekly rant on his TV show and for the first time ever, by my recollection, he ranted in favor of Trump. This is his rant in full with a couple of editorial interruptions by me.
I am not sure what the cause of the Coronavirus is, but if (and as far as I know that is a pretty big if), if it is established that the cause was in fact the wet markets of China I agree with this illiberal rant by Bill Maher in response to a poll that showed Americans are split on whether or it’s racist to call COVID-19 the Chinese virus. Here is Maher’s rant in full:
“You can’t yell at someone for breaking a rule you just made up. Scientists–yes scientists who are usually pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time. Zika virus is from the Zika forest. Ebola from the Ebola River. Hantavirus from the Hantan River. There’s the West Nile virus, And Guinea worm, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and of course the Spanish flu. (although that one did not originate there) MERS stands for Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome. It’s plastered all over airports and no one blogs about it. So why should China get a pass?
Congressman Ted Lieu tweeted: “The virus is not constrained by country or race. Be just as stupid to call it the Milan Virus.” No, that would be way stupider because it didn’t come from Milan. And if it did, I guarantee, we’d be calling it the Milan virus… Can’t we even have a pandemic without getting offended? When they named Lyme disease after a town in Connecticut the locals didn’t get all ticked off.
Seriously it scares me that there are people out there who would rather die form the virus than call it by the wrong name. This isn’t about vilifying a culture. This is about facts. It’s about life and death. We’re barely 4 months into this pandemic, and the wet markets in China, the one’s where exotic are sold and consumed, are already starting to re-open. The P.C police say it’s racist to attack any cultural practice that is different than our own.
I say liberalism lost its way when it started thinking like that and pretending that forcing a woman to wear this (he showed an image of total body niqab ) was a just a different way, instead of an abhorrent human rights violation. (Again, I only agree with this to the extent that women are forced to dress like that. To the extent they freely chose to dress like that, I am OK with that). It’s not racist to point out that eating bats is bat-shit crazy. In 2007 researchers at the University of Hong Kong wrote: “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.”
Dr. Fauci says, we should force a global closure of the wet markets because the current crisis “is a direct result of them.” On Monday the acting head of the UN’s biodiversity said the same thing.
So when someone says, “what if people hear ‘Chinese virus’ and blames China, the answer is we should blame China. Not Chinese Americans, (or Canadian) but we can’t stop telling the truth just because racists get the wrong idea. There are always going to be idiots out there who want to indulge their prejudices, but this is an emergency. Don’t we have bigger tainted fish to fry? Jesus, if the sun was exploding, the Twitter would pile up against the first person who called it a ‘dwarf star.’
Sorry Americans we’re going to have to ask you to keep 2 ideas in your head at the same time. This has nothing to do with Asian-Americans, and it has everything to do with China. We can’t afford the luxury anymore of non-judginess towards a country with habits that kill millions of people everywhere, because this isn’t the first time. SARS came from China. And the bird flu. And the Hong Kong flu. The Asian flu. Viruses come from China like short stops come from the Dominican Republic.
If they were selling nuclear suitcases at these wet markets would we be so non-judgmental? And isn’t this pretty close to what they are selling? And the next one could be even worse. If the Chinese military had purposely infected this country with coronavirus as a bio-weapon, we’d be at war with them. We are always griping about how China manipulates their currency. Well I’m not monetary expert but I think you would agree this one hurt our economy a little more than currency manipulation. And China can do this. China once built a 57-story skyscraper in 19 days. There’s been a pothole on my street for 19 years. They’re not like us. They can actually get shit done. This is a dictatorship that for decades enforced a one child per family under penalty of forced sterilization. But you can’t close down the farmer’s market from hell?
They need to use that iron fist and pound it down because it kind of does. And I hope that if Americans were told that eating hot pockets could cause a world- wide pandemic that we would have the good sense to stop doing it. Although I wouldn’t bet on it.”
That’s what Maher said and I think I agree with that. I hope you appreciate, this is hard for me to do. I have to publicly admit Donald Trump was right and I was wrong!
In Canada, we have had cases where Jehovah Witnesses who were parents of children, were refusing on their children’s behalf to take life-saving blood transfusions when the science was clear the transfusions were medically necessary to save their lives. The court held, and I agreed, that the state had the right to interfere to protect the children who were too young to decide for themselves. Parents are entitled to make such unwise decisions for themselves, but not for children too young to decide for themselves. This was a severe interference with their right of religious freedom, but I agreed with the court that it was a reasonable limit on freedom of religion, a Charter right, which is justified in a free and democratic society.
If religious or cultural beliefs are scientifically proven to a reasonable certainty to cause harm to others, we have a right to interfere to stop it. Even if that looks culturally insensitive.
In a much less serious, case, on classic liberal principles that it is permitted to call COVID-17 the Wuhan Flu, or shut down a wet market, if that will save the lives of others.
As well, in my opinion, we have the right to interfere with Muslims when they interfere with the rights of others or cause them harm without their consent even though that looks like we are trying to impose our cultural views on others. For example, if Muslim father tries to inflict an honour killing on his daughter for disgracing the family, that should not be permitted. I think that one is pretty clear.
The same holds for China. We have the right to try to stop them from harming us even if it might appear that we are culturally insensitive. Other we have allowed political correctness run amok.