This past weekend, Donald Trump should have held his fourth of July rally on Fire Island.
It would have been the perfect place for him to tout his "practice what I preach" philosophy about the coronavirus. Was there any difference between his unmasked, social undistanced South Dakota crowd and the revelers on Fire Island?
Not in the least. Trump and his base think the virus is a joke, there's no need for precaution, it doesn't affect them, they can throw caution to the wind -- and oh, if they are called out about doing the wrong thing, then it's because they are being discriminated against because of who they are. My needs first before anyone else!
Does the Trump base's attitude about COVID-19 sound any different than the throngs of partiers -- or the Fire Island Entitled -- who acted like brazen and boastful brats on the beach? Absolutely not. Trump could have killed more than two birds with one stone, literally and figurately, by delivering racist and ridiculuous rhetoric directly to the mostly white, gay partiers on the shore. Many of those men were likely drunk, high, or both, so they would have been just as ignorant as the crowds he normally bores to death. And maybe for Trump, they would have been a little more lively compared to the blank stares his base usually sports.
And, the Fire Island Entitled, just like the Trump base, will have taken their new infections they picked up over the weekend and spread it out among all the rest of us, a new formula for disaster: Trump's Ignorant Base = Gay Fire Island Entitled.
Clearly, the gay merry men are avid viewers of Fox News. For the last few weeks, and now moving forward, the White House and Fox will play down the threat of the virus. The new message is "learn to live with it." And you can most likely assume that the friends and family of those who attended Trump's rally, and those who attended the gay parties on Fire Island, will just have to learn to live with it too if COVID-19 befalls them. That's the cost for standing shoulder-to-shoulder, unmasked, listening to a bloviating bigot or partying with the egocentric entitled.
Trump's speeches over the weekend barely touched on the pandemic which now experts say is spiraling in the U.S. He spewed lies about how 99 percent of coronavirus cases are "totally harmless." That would have been the perfect message for the Fire Island Entitled.
Their selfish take on who might get sick means that 1 out of every 100 of them may get sick -- and of course it won't be any of them or anyone they know. They are simply above all that.
Like the Trump base in a remote arena, this weekend, the Entitled were jettisoned to an island all to themselves where they lapped up conversations that had nothing to do with reality. And like the camped out Trump base carrying "Trump 2020 Flags," the Entitled probably waited in line as well, waving rainbow flags, much to the consternation of most of us who wave it with pride, and not with scorn for others.
How can you take pride in legitimately and quite possibly putting lives at risk? How will you be able to hide when you or your family member is hooked up to a respirator? Or you're mentioned in an obituary that could be yours?
Earlier this year, I wrote a column about whether or not people flouting COVID-19 regulations should be socially shamed. That article stemmed from a gay house party during the height of the crisis in New York City, where again, what we were dealing with were mostly entitled muscle men congregating and putting their lives -- and more importantly -- others at risk.
Hasn't this community been through enough with HIV? Don't we know how lethal a pandemic can be? How much suffering someone can incur? How much destructive sadness and sickness a virus can wield? Most of the young partiers on Fire Island are more likely just as unaware about HIV and AIDS as people in the reddest parts of Trump's base. And that's incredibly disheartening. And yet, another ill-informed commonality.
No less an authority on AIDS, and one of the LGBTQ community's living legends, Cleve Jones had this to say in a Facebook post on Monday.
"Words rarely fail me but I can't express the depth of anger and disgust I feel towards many of the younger people (and some older) in my own community today. You who are so self-absorbed, so nonchalant in your irresponsibility, so arrogantly ignorant and selfish. The last pandemic killed half of my generation of gay men. They died hideously. Are you not aware of that history? Right now, we desperately need our young people to lead the way - to defeat Trump, fight racism, protect our democracy and save the planet. Then we can meet and drink and party the night away again. But not now, not today, not with infection rates skyrocketing and hospitals overflowing. How many will die before you wake the fuck up? You break my heart."
What will it take for those who care more about partying, their physiques, and themselves to understand what's at stake? Sadly, to many of them, just like the Trump base, they feel they are owed something, not just by society but by anyone who doesn't think or act like they do. When you're consumed with yourself, enraptured by your right to rights, and your insistence that only your voice counts, then maybe there is no way to modify this broken behavior?
There's been a lot of finger pointing during the last three and half years, and it's so easy to cast judgement, call names, and look down at your nose at "those people." Hillary Clinton called the Trump base "deplorables." But wasn't the behavior by the Fire Island Entitled just as deplorable?
JohnCasey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.