Herman Cain was a Black politician and author, business executive, radio host, syndicated columnist and tea party activist from Georgia. He was also a provocative candidate for the 2012 Republican Party nomination.
He had served on the boards of Nabisco, Whirlpool, Reader’s Digest and was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City for seven years. He was no fool, yet Herman Cain was one of those who attended Donald Trump’s rally on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, where it is believed that he and others contracted the coronavirus. He refused to wear a mask, nor did he socially distance from others who also neglected to heed CDC warnings. He died of the disease in July in an Atlanta hospital.
Cain was not unlike thousands of naïve Americans who have not only put themselves at risk, but have endangered family members, friends and co-workers by disdaining mask wearing and social distancing. At a time when one might have expected the president of the United States to have been in the executive office fighting the virus, the fact is he was spending his days attending political rallies surrounded by enthusiasts who wore MAGA hats, but who rarely wore protective masks. Few of his loyalists practiced social distancing.
Since Feb. 10, Donald Trump sponsored 45 such political events, all of which were dangerous to the health of those who attended. (At one rally, 23 people were contaminated.)
Author Bob Woodward recently played a recording from a February interview in which Trump admitted to Woodward that the disease was airborne and incredibly deadly. Trump kept that critical information away from the American public.
At the White House, he invited guests to events that directly resulted in the spread of the virus. On one occasion, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and her family attended. She was unmasked. Many in the audience became infected. Lack of caution resulted in White House staff members and the president’s family getting infected. Then we learned five or more of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff were infected and he refused to quarantine.
Such behavior is known as reckless endangerment. One is guilty of first degree reckless endangerment when, under circumstances evincing depraved indifference to human life, one recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person.
When such a criminal charge is brought, the prosecutor must establish that the defendant was engaged in conduct that created a grave and unjustified risk of death; that he or she was aware of and consciously disregarded this risk; and it was a gross deviation from the standard conduct of a reasonable person in the particular situation. The evidence must show one acted in a manner evincing a depraved indifference to human life. A person who is depravedly indifferent is not just willing to take a grossly unreasonable risk to human life. Instead, that person does not care how the risk turns out.
Trump’s disease-spreader rallies occurred in 18 states, usually at airports. He visited North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin and Florida most frequently. Sometimes more than one location in a state was visited on the same trip. At none of Trump’s rallies was the wearing of a protective mask mandatory. He repeatedly mocked candidate Joe Biden for wearing a mask.
COVID-19 cases are spiking, and cold weather promises even greater risks of the disease spreading. The state’s top health officer, Dr. Mandy Cohen, has asked our county commissioners and those of 35 other counties to consider levying fines against those who refuse to wear masks in public. The commissioners are encouraging compliance but taking no stronger enforcement on compliance. We already know that Sheriff Ronnie Fields has said he will not enforce mask-wearing laws.
During World War II, my mother was an air raid warden in Oceanside, Long Island. She would go around with her helmet on at night, blowing her whistle and asking her neighbors to turn out lights and darken their homes with blackout curtains. No one objected. No one failed to follow her orders. Why? Because under President Franklin Roosevelt’s compelling war leadership, everyone gladly and voluntarily followed orders for a united nation to achieve victory. To have objected on “constitutional grounds” (as some now do to wearing masks) would have been deemed unthinkable.
The pandemic will continue for months and perhaps years until a safe vaccine is universally available. Meanwhile, refusing to wear a mask in a public place in order to protect one’s self, neighbors, friends and the most vulnerable in society is unpardonable and unpatriotic.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.