It is my privilege to have at one time shared the planet with one of history’s smartest humans, the late Richard Feynman. Feynman wasn’t only a brilliant theoretical physicist, he was also an amateur safecracker, and he used safecracking as an example to illustrate a point during one of his popular lectures on physics.
Feynman invited his audience to imagine the kind of help he could expect from the public in cracking a safe. For instance, someone might ask, “Have you tried the combination 10-20-30?” Not, he hastens to point out, that it isn’t a bad combination to try, but it’s a bit obvious. But they wouldn’t even ask if he’d solved the first digit, or whether or not the safe had, say, a five digit combination.
It wasn’t until the research of doctors Dunning and Kruger that we came to understand the basis for this common impulse. Some people, not all, but some, have both an overestimation of their own abilities and an underestimation of how little they know. There’s a third thing about the Dunning Kruger result that I’ve noticed. Some people want a shortcut to respect, and they don’t want to work very hard for it.
That describes Donald Trump. Trump’s whole life could be characterized as one giant shortcut. He began with the shortcut of money privileges and other advantages few have, combined with the unquestionable advantage to be had from white privilege, male privilege and the myth of American exceptionalism. These days he wants us to respect him, and not only does he not want to work very hard for that respect, he has tantrums if we don’t. Unfortunately, those tantrums come with the power of the presidency, and Donald Trump has killed more than a hundred thousand Americans because we won’t give him the respect he craves.
Perhaps, if more people respected science and believed what it told us, as Richard Feynman hoped, Trump’s power would be significantly diminished. Instead, in a megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona, Trump attended a large indoor gathering where attendees were enticed to come because, the church claimed, an air purifier installed there would kill the coronavirus and keep everyone safe.
Dr. Anthony fauci, who hasn’t seen Trump for more than two and a half weeks, wasn’t consulted. Neither were any of the other scientists and health experts at Trump’s disposal. Instead, that group of people at the Phoenix gathering put their health and their very lives in the hands of a man who has unprotected sex with porn stars and has told over seventeen thousand provable lies. You can imagine what Richard Feynman would think.
It’s unclear whether or not my adoptive country of Great Britain will be signatory to a resolution being considered right now by the European Union. They are considering banning the right of travel privileges to persons living in the United States because of Trump’s appallingly bad and misleading leadership. I hope they do. Banning Americans from setting foot on British soil would be the right thing to do just now, and it would underline the reality about coronavirus above all, that it’s not a political bug nor a national bug, it’s just a bug, and it will make you sicker than you’ve ever been in your life, and possibly kill you.
Science should have been in charge of this pandemic from the very first, but because it hasn’t been we’re paying the price in human lives. The celebration of an America reopened is going to be a short one. Donald Trump’s lies won’t keep people from dying, because die they will.
Donald Trump admitted to the church he was speaking at that he didn’t know what the “19” in COVID-19 stood for. And no, he wasn’t kidding, he really doesn’t know it stands for “2019,” as in the year. Donald Trump really is that stupid. So don’t be like Donald. Vote Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. for President of the United States on November 3rd.
Richard Feynman once said, “Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” The terrible price we are paying in loss of life and physical disabilities for Donald Trump’s stupid attempts to fool Nature is a foretaste of how vengeful she can be when anyone tries. So, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.