It was already clear, two years ago, that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp had a screw loose.
In a TV ad during his successful gubernatorial campaign, the right-wing businessman displayed his handguns and rifles — standard procedure in the South, where it’s de rigueur for a Republican to flaunt manly manliness — but he decided to go a step further. He brandished a double-barreled shotgun and pointed it at a kid, joking that the kid had better behave while dating his daughter. Even Georgia gun-lovers complained that pointing a weapon at someone — in a TV ad, no less — was seriously stupid.
But, as governor, Kemp has since trumped his own stupidity metric. Back on April 2, Kemp informed Georgia citizens that he had just learned that asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus can carry the disease and infect new people. Which was fascinating, given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been clanging that alarm since January — and that CDC headquarters is located six miles from Kemp’s office.
This week, Kemp has gone full stupid. By gubernatorial fiat, Donald Trump’s Mini-Me has decreed that henceforth, beginning Friday, all kinds of close-contact touchy-feely places can reopen for business — even though Georgia virus cases are still on the rise (nearly tripling between April 6 and April 19), and even though the body count is still mounting.
This is what happens when you elect a vote-suppressing Republican. A lot more Georgians will likely pay for that decision with their lives. Goaded by Trump’s dangerous reopen-America rhetoric, Kemp is devising the perfect death experiment. If and when it goes tragically awry, we can only hope that others in positions of power elsewhere will learn from Kemp’s idiocy.
As April winds down, look at all the great stuff Georgians will be able to do: sweat in a gym, get their nails done, get a tattoo, get a massage, go to restaurants, take in a movie, go bowling, get a haircut. But hang on a second…
Bowling alleys? Aren’t those places where you fit your feet into borrowed shoes, and stick your fingers inside borrowed bowling balls? I guess that’s a good idea, if your goal is to boast to the guy in the next hospital bed that you bowled 300 before you got sick.
And hang on, hair salons and barbershops? Where the workers get physically up close and personal? I guess that’s a good idea, if your goal is to ensure that in the event of an open casket, your hair will look awesome.
Kemp also says it’s cool if churches want to resume in-person services, because, after all (to quote one protest placard the other day), Jesus is their vaccine.
Why is Kemp endeavoring to lead the league in lethal recklessness at a time when his state ranks 45th in coronavirus testing per capita? Why reopen for business when he himself has admitted that “We’re probably going to have to see our cases continue to go up”? Why is he stiffing the mayors of Georgia’s largest cities, who warn that his “dangerous” decision is “putting folks in harm’s way” by risking new spikes in infections and fatalities?
Georgians with common sense will probably stay home anyway, but even Kemp appears to understand that enough Covidiots will probably make things worse for everyone. He says, “If we have an instance where a community starts becoming a hot spot, then, you know, I will take further action.” Now there’s a brilliant plan.
So hey, springtime tourists, book those plane tickets for Atlanta. Plenty of seats available. No need to sacrifice for the greater good. And if you still need to be reminded what real freedom is all about, just listen to Steve Hasty, a reopen-rally organizer who paraded in Tennessee the other day. Steve said that he missed sitting in restaurants and getting free drink refills. In his words, “I hate having to get two iced teas in the drive-thru.”
That’s the America we’ve become.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.