As so many of us are now trapped inside, unable to experience the outside world except through masks or Netflix, we’ve increasingly had to rely on the power of our minds to imagine anything beyond our current state. When will COVID-19 no longer be a threat? What will a “cure” look like? What other measures might we be forced to take to prevent the virus’s resurgence, and for how long? Who will you see and where will you go on that mythical, beautiful day when everything finally reopens—and how will our world have been transformed? These are questions that are currently left open to hypotheses and dreams, as distant and unknowable as the afterlife. But if you want to view paradise, there’s nothing to it: come with Texas congressman Louie Gohmert and you’ll see a world of pure imagination, one where all our problems can be washed away by a magical powder.
Gohmert first alerted the world to this powder during an interview with Tyler’s KLTV, when he was asked about the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine that’s been championed by President Trump as a possible treatment for the coronavirus. This despite potential heart complications, a lack of clinical trials, and studies showing it has no statistically significant effect. Nevertheless, Gohmert said he believes hydroxychloroquine could be just as powerful a weapon against the pandemic as the powder already being used in Germany that, when mixed with water, kills the virus on contact—and that Louie Gohmert, apparently, just made up.
“It is being used in Germany as a mist,” Gohmert said. “Health-care workers go through a misting tent going into the hospital, and it kills the coronavirus completely dead, not only right then, but any time in the next fourteen days that the virus touches anything that’s been sprayed, it’s killed.”
Gohmert also claims to have spoken to an Arizona-based plant that’s manufacturing the powder, saying he urged them to “fast-track” it for use in the United States. But when pressed by PolitiFact for more details about what this powder consists of, or even the name of the company where it’s supposedly being produced, Gohmert’s office didn’t respond to “multiple requests.” According to the site’s Madlin Mekelburg, however, she did get responses from officials at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health, the German Society of Hospital Hygiene, and the German Hospital Association—all of them saying this “magic powder” simply doesn’t exist.
“What your congressman said is absolute nonsense,” Dr. Jörn Wegner of the German Hospital Association elaborated to PolitiFact. It’s a statement that, granted, could apply to lots of things Louie Gohmert has said. But then Wegner clarified: “There are no such tents and there’s no powder or magical cure.”
Unsurprisingly, Gohmert’s Democratic challenger, Hank Gilbert, decried his comments as “fairy tale lies” in a campaign email, prompting Gohmert spokesperson Kimberly Willingham to defend them in a statement to the Dallas Morning News—albeit with yet more deflection. “In our experience, PolitiFact has not been honorable nor accurate,” Willingham said. “At an appropriate time of our choosing, not that of a political hack website, specifics will be revealed and Congressman Gohmert will, once again, be shown to be accurate.”
Much like the still-mysterious powder itself, it’s not clear what Willingham’s referring to. When else has Gohmert been proven right, exactly? Was it the “terror babies”? The caribou having hot pipeline sex? The aspersions cast on his asparagus? Whatever his team is thinking of, it must be nice to live so completely inside that fantasy world, particularly as this real one remains so terrifying.
Freedom Caucus Calls on State to Let Texans Decide Their Own Fate
At least Gohmert has some company in his land of comforting delusions, as evidenced this week by a letter sent by the Texas Freedom Caucus urging Governor Greg Abbott to loosen current restrictions and allow businesses to reopen immediately. The letter—signed by nine hard-line conservative representatives—was released on Tuesday, the same day Texas reported 31 new coronavirus-related deaths, its highest single-day total yet. And while those lawmakers say they recognize that the chance that more people will die is “credible and serious,” they also believe that the financial risks are just as dire.
We’ve been listening to our fellow Texans, and we agree with so many of you that now is the time to responsibly open Texas back up for business. Here is our letter to @GovAbbott: #txlege pic.twitter.com/b5MrkfTcIY
— Texas Freedom Caucus (@TxFreedomCaucus) April 14, 2020
In a response, House Democratic Caucus chair Chris Turner called his colleagues’ proposal “completely contrary to all guidance being provided by public health experts and medical professionals.” Such experts have been adamant that restrictions must remain in place until measures such as rapid testing and contact tracing have been implemented. Turner—who also chastised the group for using “racial, dogwhistle language like ‘Wuhan virus’” (which it did five separate times)—called the very idea “crazy.”
The Freedom Caucus doesn’t mention testing or tracing in its letter, largely arguing that the state should instead rely on “the individual Texan’s responsibility to keep themselves safe, and also to ensure the safety of those who cannot protect themselves.” But much like Senator John Cornyn’s recent dismissal of models as irrelevant to his Wikipediaed definition of the scientific method, this strategy also depends on an especially willful breed of ignorance. It demands that we force an unpredictable pandemic—one that still hasn’t hit its statewide peak, according to experts—to conform to our own, ruggedly individualistic calculus. And it assumes that just putting out a “strong message” about staying away from others will be enough. That’s an awful lot of pressure to put on Matthew McConaughey.
Fortunately, Abbott seems to have a slightly more down-to-earth view of the situation, saying his plan to restart the state’s economy won’t be “rush the gates, everybody is able to suddenly reopen all at once.” At least he seems to realize that any such relaxing of restrictions will require the careful consideration of numerous, ever-shifting factors that—thanks to that aforementioned lack of testing and tracing—are still impossible to weigh accurately. It’s a reality that, admittedly, is uncertain and grim. No wonder some people prefer illusion.
Texas Pols Lapse Into Quarantine Boredom and Bad Habits
After all, most of us are just looking for any escape from the tedium of quarantine. Senator Ted Cruz, for example, spent the better part of last Saturday live-tweeting The Princess Bride. Congressman Lloyd Doggett fell prey to that most venerable of time-wasters: the joke email forward. He so enjoyed a copy-pasted routine about what Donald Trump might sound like as the captain of the Titanic that he posted it to his official government website. Meanwhile, Texas representative Lyle Larson shared some deep thoughts in the form of a little free-verse poetry, which we recommend reading over the gentle patter of bongos.
2020 Q reflections:
Never knew that my face and nose itched so much in public. Wash hands more in 3 weeks that in last 3 years. 2020 memes-Creative species when we apply ourselves.
Slowing life down makes you appreciate the people that really matter exponentially more.Carpe Diem pic.twitter.com/w6wIuvMb5P
— Lyle Larson (@RepLyleLarson) April 14, 2020
Like many of us, our political leaders are just trying to keep from going stir-crazy. This may be especially difficult for the usually wanderlust-filled former congressman turned political fund-raiser Beto O’Rourke, who’s apparently been forced to record his phone-bank appeals from some cluttered, pipe-filled corner of his basement. And while you’re searching Beto’s messages for Morse-coded blinks, also spare a thought for Texas representative Rafael Anchía, who’s been cut off from the real world for so long, he’s started to believe he can drop phrases like “my boo” and “amaze balls” with impunity. This is a slowly unfolding tragedy—not unlike the deteriorating culinary habits of Anchía’s House colleague Gina Calanni, who’s been breakfasting on Reese’s Puffs Bunnies cereal and Diet Pepsi, leaving us all to watch helplessly. Although, really, who are we to judge? As a cure for what ails you, it’s as good as any other we’ve heard lately.