In case you missed it, Dabo Swinney, the noted pandemic expert and Clemson football coach, suggested Friday that the coronavirus can be beaten into submission simply through the sheer force of America’s greatness.
“This is America, man. We’ve stormed the beaches of Normandy. We’ve sent a rover out on Mars and walked on the moon,” Swinney said. “This is the greatest country. We’ve created an iPhone where I can sit here and talk to people in all these different places. We’ve got the smartest people in the world. We’re going to rise up and kick this thing in the teeth and get back to our lives.”
In normal times, this would harmlessly qualify as “Dabo being Dabo”, which, on second thought, maybe isn’t so harmless. But in these times of pandemic, stupidity passed off as grit or expertise is downright deadly. It’s a whole separate disease – thinking you’re smart when you actually aren’t (it even has a name: the Dunning-Kruger Effect) and it has infected a massive swath of America, from Dabo to the Dumbo in the Oval Office.
This isn’t to blame Swinney for the current emergency in the U.S., but he is a caricature of many who have ignored the seriousness of the virus in either the name of jingoistic bravado or the embrace of ignorance.
The New York Times illustrated this perfectly Thursday with its excellent piece mapping the correlation between the rapid spread of the virus and many states’ lethargy when it came to enacting – and adhering to – stay-at-home orders. Not surprisingly, a majority of the states were led by Republican governors and full of conservative folks who are more comfortable social distancing themselves from science than their neighbors.
This is where Swinney could have been a true leader and called upon people to respect social distancing orders — something the South needs to hear more than any part of the country — instead of beating his chest like some Team America tough guy.
It’s not only the disdain for expert advice or the illusion that, because we won a war 75 years ago, we are predestined to defeat this virus that is most frightening. No, it’s the utter contempt for having to even consider an alternate plan of attack than that of shouting “We’re America, die, motherfucker, die!” This was President Trump’s first of many mistakes – not having a plan and thinking everything was going to be just fine. And you hear echoes of that hubristic stupidity in Swinney’s comments when he talks about whether the college football season will be delayed.
“I’ve got one plan, and that’s to get the Tigers ready to play in late August, early September,” he said. “I’ll leave it to the smart people to figure out the doomsday scenarios. We’ve got one scenario, and that’s to run down that hill and kick it off in the valley.”
Leave it to the smart people.
Yeah, don’t worry, someone will figure something out. Just not Swinney. He has a football season to worry about. And certainly not the president. He has TV ratings and political axes to keep him occupied. Let Jared Kushner figure it out.
And as for storming those beaches to victory? You know, like Dabo and his pals like to brag about when telling us how America’s exceptionalism will save the day?
All’s safe on the home front, Dabo. You go do you. It will all be fine.