How much stupidity must we excuse when we are asked to feel sympathy for someone whose decisions have made the world less safe and who has fallen prey to the very virus whose power they downplayed?
It’s just damn difficult to muster much empathy for the Commissioner of St. Johns County, Florida, Paul Waldron.
Waldron was one of the three county commissioners who voted in the majority against a mandatory mask ordinance last week for the employees of the county that includes St. Augustine and is adjacent to the site of Donald Trump’s bifurcated Republican National Convention in Jacksonville.
What Waldron didn’t know when he cast his vote was that he himself had been infected with COVID-19 and that, even if he had voted to institute the policy designed to protect the workers employed by the county, it was too late to prevent his own illness.
Just two days ago, Waldron’s daughter posted a now-deleted Facebook post that announced that the county commissioner had gone “into septic shock and has many organs struggling” after becoming symptomatic from the disease.
“He is currently in the most critical of conditions,” she wrote. “I ask you not to doubt the power of prayer.”
One look at the photo of Paul Waldron that accompanied the account of his misfortune in local news outlets shows that he was obviously in a high-risk category if he contracted the coronavirus due to his obesity.
While the power of prayer may or may not lead to Waldron’s survival of his infection with COVID-19, a mandatory mask regulation for county employees such as himself could have prevented the need for any supplications to a higher power if it had been implemented and kept in place back in March when the first inklings of the seriousness of the threat posed by the pandemic became patently obvious.
While we can lament the fact that Waldron caught the coronavirus and that his body has been so adversely affected by his disease, his culpability in failing to prevent the proliferation of COVID-19 activates the judgemental portion of our psyches and prevents us from fully empathizing with his plight.
Unlike the poverty-stricken who are often blamed by those on the right for their own situation — caused by many external factors, but attributed to laziness and lack of ambition — Waldron has no one to blame for his foolish decision making but himself.
Let’s hope that if he does recover, his ordeal will give him the renewed insight necessary to zealously change course and become an ardent advocate of public health measures henceforth.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.