Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Credit: The White House/Flickr

According to some people, this crowd at a restaurant in Castle Rock, Colorado, on Mother’s Day is a demonstration of what it means to be strong and patriotic during a pandemic. Packed in like sardines, there is not a face mask in sight.

Do you think I’m kidding? If so, take a look at what Brian Kilmeade had to say Monday morning on Fox and Friends.

That is exactly the kind of rhetoric we’re beginning to hear from Trump.

[A]s he pushes to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has identified a new group of “warriors” to enlist in battle: the American public.

Trump unveiled the moniker this week — during a trip to a face-mask manufacturing facility in Phoenix on Tuesday and again in an Oval Office photo op with nurses Wednesday — suggesting it is no longer just medical workers on the front lines who must respond against the lethal illness.

“I’m actually calling now . . . the nation warriors,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years.”

But it gets even worse. According to David Marcus at The Federalist, if the president followed CDC guidelines and wore a mask, he would be portraying weakness.

Scolds have been on a rampage over the past few days regarding Trump’s unwillingness to don the face covering that has come to define our current moment of Chinese virus…What Trump is really doing is projecting American strength and health at a time when strong leadership is needed…

An image of Donald Trump wearing a protective face mask while performing his duties, behind the Resolute Desk, or in the White House briefing room would be a searing image of weakness. It would signal that the United States is so powerless against this invisible enemy sprung from China that even its president must cower behind a mask. That simply should not happen.

What all of this demonstrates is how easy it is in a patriarchal culture to make ridiculous arguments about what it means to be strong or patriotic. It’s as if they truly believe that a virus plays by the rules of a military conflict in which fearless warriors can defeat the enemy through sheer defiance of the laws of nature. In that world, strong leaders are willing to spread the virus to others, because taking the necessary precautions is the equivalent of cowering behind a mask. The entire notion is completely absurd.

I recently suggested that it is time to rescue the meaning of words like “strong” from their patriarchal associations. In that spirit, let me give you an example of how that’s done.

A truly strong president can identify with a group of Girl Scouts who are obviously bright and enjoy wearing crowns. It is only weak men who would view that as a threat to their masculinity.

When it comes to the coronavirus, the stakes are much higher, though. In that case, the truly strong warriors are those who understand the virus and are willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary to protect themselves, their families, their co-workers, and their communities. Being afraid that wearing a mask ruins your image is the definition of cowardice.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.