This is an excerpt from a Medium post originally published by Helio Fred Garcia on July 4, 2020.
Every July Fourth I write about the anniversary of the publication of the nation’s mission statement, the Declaration of Independence. Like most mission statements, it’s aspirational, a work in progress.
One of my favorite passages is rarely discussed: It’s in the very first sentence, just before the revelation of self-evident truths, about why bother to have a declaration at all. Jefferson says that when it becomes necessary for one society to dissolve political relations with another, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
A Decent Respect
I am a professor of communication, leadership, and ethics, and have spent two years studying Donald Trump and his language for a book that was published this week.
I spend a lot of time with my graduate students unbundling that passage, showing how decency and respect are drivers of trust and essential elements of leadership. But they have been sorely lacking in the American political ecosystem for some time.
And this week we saw a new low.
Yesterday President Trump held a rally at Mount Rushmore. Indecency and disrespect were on full display.
This week the daily new infection rate topped 50,000, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that it could go to 100,000 per day, and American fatalities will pass 130,000 today.
Thursday Trump said, for the 19th time this year, that the virus would just go away on its own.
Several of the speakers at Trump’s Tulsa rally two weeks ago have come down with the virus. And still, Trump’s Mount Rushmore rally had no possibility of social distancing: the metal chairs were linked together. Masks were not required, and very few people were seen wearing masks.
Public health experts warned that this kind of event puts at risk not only the people present, but many others. Such an event can become a super-spreader, with those present subjecting others to infection. The rally had 7,500 attendees from ten states, including states with record COVID-19 infection levels.
During the rally Trump made only a passing reference to health care workers, but not to the pandemic’s scope.