David Lias

Back in March of 2018, a burlesque show was held in the Vermillion Theatre to help raise funds for the Vermillion Downtown Cultural Association so the organization could put a new roof on the theatre building.

I had never been to a burlesque show before covering that event. I learned that the performers all incorporated pieces of many different eras of burlesque in their acts. The main elements included storytelling, music, dance, imaginative costuming, interaction with the audience and a gradual disrobing with only a quick “reveal” at the very end of a performance, and even then usually with various parts strategically covered.

I also learned through covering this event that burlesque meant more than what was seen on the stage of the Vermillion Theatre. One of its definitions is: “An absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work; a parody.”

All of this was running through my mind while watching news clips of President’s Trump’s return to the White House Monday night while still ill with COVID-19.

Instead of entering the White House at its ground floor, he climbed a stairway to the Truman balcony, where he could oversee media and staff on the White House grounds. I’m sure there were no calls of “Take It Off!” But, in an act of false bravado, he took off his mask while still ill and still contagious.

He then stepped into the White House briefly to record a video with probably the most bizarre message a president has ever shared with the American people.

He urged Americans to follow his example by disregarding warnings about the severity of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease he is currently infected with, which has killed more than 210,000 of their fellow citizens.

His whole act Monday night was really poorly staged burlesque designed to benefit only him – he stripped off his mask; he comically exaggerated false information that downplayed the true impact that the pandemic is having on individuals across the nation; he demonstrated that even personal experience hadn’t changed his perspective.

Our president thinks COVID-19 is no big deal.

Rather than telling the public to avoid getting infected for their own safety and to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed, the president cast the illness as somthing that can easily be overcome.

“Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re gonna beat it,” Trump told the public. “We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines,” he added. “Don’t let it take over your lives.”

Having contracted the pandemic illness after six months of recklessly ignoring public health guidance from his own government to wear a mask and avoid crowds, Trump then bizarrely tried to cast getting infected with a life-threatening disease as an accomplishment.

“We’re going to be out front. As your leader, I had to do that,” Trump said, apparently referring to his decision to gather his supporters together to cheer for him despite the risks to their health, and his. “I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it,” he said. “I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did.”

Please don’t listen to president as he continues to talk about COVID-19. His catching the disease certainly hasn’t made him a coronavirus expert or a stronger leader, especially as he continues to flaunt the recommendations of health experts.

We recommend South Dakotans instead heed the advice of the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Listen to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. Fauci sadly had to tell the American people Tuesday that the president’s claim that COVID-19 was only as deadly as the flu is wrong.

People infected with COVID-19 do display "flu-like" symptoms, Fauci said Tuesday in an interview with NBC News' Kate Snow. But the damage the coronavirus can do "is very much different from influenza."

"You don't get a pandemic that kills a million people and it isn't even over yet within influenza," said Fauci. "So it is not correct to say it's the same as flu. It has some overlapping symptomatology early on. But flu doesn't do the things to you that COVID-19 can."

Trump is our parody president and what he says and tweets should be treated accordingly. He is our imitation president; he and his supporters don’t realize it, but he has mastered the use of exaggeration of the trappings of his office – standing on the balcony Mussolini-style, for example, to do the opposite of what he intends.

His comments and actions of this past week are great examples of comic effect. They show a complete lack of factual accuracy. They show a complete lack of strong leadership.

Please don’t listen to our president. Please, unlike our president, continue to wear your mask.

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