Why Trump’s detractors wish him well

As in modern warfare, more of today’s politics accepts the principle that even a fallen opponent deserves health care.

Clouds pass over the White House after President Donald Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

Just two weeks ago, after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Trump White House issued a warm statement that the liberal jurist had “demonstrated that one can disagree without being disagreeable toward one’s colleagues.” That spirit of humanity toward a political opponent is once again on display in Washington, a town too often prone to uncivil discourse.

Just hours after the president and first lady tested positive for COVID-19, many of Donald Trump’s fiercest opponents wished them a speedy recovery. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he “will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.” Words of condolence also flowed from foreign leaders who have differed sharply with Mr. Trump’s policies, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr. Trump is not the first world leader to be diagnosed with the coronavirus. Britain’s Boris Johnson and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro have defeated the virus, as we pray Mr. Trump will. In all three countries, the usual acrimony of mudslinging politics was silenced when the head of state became ill. It gave way to a principle long honored in both military battlefields and sometimes political ones: Anyone injured during a conflict deserves health care.

That principle has been around only about 150 years, starting with the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a nonprofit group that has challenged the old take-no-prisoners approach in warfare. The organization’s neutral workers have steadily persuaded combatants on all sides to allow medical treatment of the fallen. Once injured, a soldier is considered worthy of life-saving help.

Under humanitarian law enshrined in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, a person has inherent innocence. “The task is first and foremost to recognize the humanity in each one of us, as remote and different as we may be, and most importantly to refuse to remain a spectator when this humanity is denied or violated,” writes Vincent Bernard, an ICRC editor. In politics, too, a sickened opponent must be immune from the swords of hate. 

The pandemic has upended many of the world’s conflicts. In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban have allowed the Red Cross and other aid groups into areas it controls in order to help deal with the virus. Some observers say the Taliban’s acceptance of neutral care for civilians helped soften the group’s recent stance to start negotiations with the Afghan government.

A similar response might be in store for Washington. The many consoling words for the president as he struggles with COVID-19 serve as a reminder that enmity in politics should not translate to enmity toward a person. An idea may be unworthy of respect but not its proponent. In either sickness or in health, civility – even a loving word – can move politics in new directions.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why Trump’s detractors wish him well
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today