The last time I saw my dad, he blew me a kiss through his oxygen mask, through the tablet screen, across the long miles to Minnesota.
I woke to a ringing phone in the night. The pneumonia had filled his lungs and stopped his heart and all I could think was that he must have been so scared.
That was years ago, but I see his face and I hear his voice, scratchy from the ventilator, behind the numbers in every pandemic tally.
The 1,434 Minnesotans reported as new COVID-19 cases on Saturday must be so scared. The 7,846 Minnesotans hospitalized last week must be so scared.
Our president must be so scared right now.
Qorsho Hassan must have been so scared last weekend in Duluth, when the white guys in the pickup truck targeted her. Make America Great Again, they screamed at Minnesota’s 2020 Teacher of the Year as she walked by in her hijab.
A few days later, President Donald Trump arrived in town, unmasked and unwell.
“Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp,” the president told the crowd at his airport rally who obligingly booed refugees in general and Somali Americans like Hassan in particular. You guys love Somalia, the president told the jeering crowd. “It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to your state. It’s a disgrace.”
Everyone at the Trump rally and everyone who paid $200,000 to attend his fundraiser in Shorewood is at risk from a virus the president may or may not have known he could be spreading.
On Friday, Hassan spoke out against the toxins the president spreads on purpose.
“Trump is sharing dangerous and harmful language,” she said at a Friday news conference hosted by Faith in Minnesota. “We need to speak up; we need to say this hatred is not OK and we need to hold each other accountable.”
Hassan is a living fact-check on the president’s racist rhetoric and daily proof that immigration makes us greater by addition.
The men she says harassed and threatened her in the street were simply putting the president’s words into deeds.
Like the Trump supporter outside the Duluth rally who swung at WCCO photojournalist Dymanh Chhoun, who was born in a refugee camp. Fortunately for Minnesota, his family settled here when he was a child.
“You guys want to be peaceful? Be peaceful. You want to be violent? Come to me,” the man yelled, wheeling on Chhoun and knocking his phone out of his hands.
Like the Minnesotans who reportedly threatened and screamed racial slurs at survey workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who were trying to track the spread of COVID-19, back when the president was still making fun of people who wear masks.
“Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” the president said, mocking opponent Joe Biden, a few hours before his COVID test came back positive.
For months, the president dismissed and downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic while Americans died by the hundreds of thousands.
Getting sick and getting hospitalized is the harshest possible way to find out how wrong you were.
“Tonight, [First Lady Melania Trump] and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” the president tweeted Thursday night.
It was the sort of reassuring, unifying message the country would have loved to hear back in January, when the president first learned how deadly the coronavirus can be.
“As someone who lost my own father to this virus and has seen the pain it causes, I do not wish it on anyone,” U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis wrote after the president’s announcement.
Trump had plenty to say about Ilhan Omar last week.
“How the hell did Minnesota elect her?” he asked. “What the hell is wrong with you people?”
The crowd laughed and laughed and almost no one wore a mask, because this president turned refusal to wear a mask into a badge of honor. Masks. The nicest, easiest way to save yourself and everyone around you from illness and death.
“For months, we have been hoping for a simple acknowledgment from the President — to hear the words, ‘We will get through this together,’ ” Omar wrote. “And now we only hear those words when it is about him — not the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their lives, and the millions whose families have been touched by it because of his malfeasance.”
The president took the risk that he might be endangering a crowd full of people who trust and adore him.
His cruelty, his racism, and his bungled pandemic response endanger us all.
Get better soon, Mr. President.