President Trump outside the White House on July 31, 2020. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
The ethics of feeling smug about another’s misfortune, explained.
When an older man tests positive for a pathogen that can kill him, is it wrong to feel gleeful about it? Ordinarily, we’d probably all agree the answer is yes.
But what happens when that older man is President Trump, and the lethal pathogen is one he’s spent months downplaying, to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve gotten sick or died from Covid-19 under his leadership? What happens when he’s exposed several of his own staff members and supporters to the virus, after hosting a White House reception that now looks like it may have been a superspreader event?
Some prominent Democrats, including President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, immediately wished Trump a speedy recovery on Twitter. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow did likewise, adding, “This virus is horrific and merciless — no one would wish its wrath on anyone.”
But many people did wish its wrath on Trump. Upon hearing that Trump and his allies had tested positive for the coronavirus, some instinctively took delight in…