I watched the opening night of the Democratic National Convention because it was news, not because I was particularly interested in the outcome. It wasn’t really inspiring, and it wasn’t really moving, and it wasn’t really exceptional, but at least it wasn’t really offensive.
That is, until Kristin Urquiza opened her mouth. Urquiza is the daughter of Mark Anthony Urquiza, whose died on June 30. His death has been attributed to COVID-19. His daughter, however, attributes it to Donald Trump. After having been introduced with the fanfare accorded to heads of state, Urquiza came on to talk about how her father died:
“He had faith in Donald Trump, he voted him, listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said coronavirus was under control and would disappear, and that it was OK to end social distancing rules before it was safe. In late May, after the stay-at-home order was lifted in Arizona, my dad went to a karaoke bar with his friends. A few weeks later, he was put on a ventilator. And after five agonizing days, he died alone, in the ICU, with a nurse holding his hand.”
And then, to make sure that we hadn’t missed her point, she added, “My dad was a healthy 65 year old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.”
For a moment, I just sat there in silent shock. No one expected the Democratic National Convention to tiptoe around its animus toward the president. I certainly didn’t expect the powers that be to navigate a middle ground where they focused on the attributes of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris while criticizing the policies and accomplishments of this administration.
But Urquiza’s use of her father’s death to advance a political agenda hit me in the solar plexus. She is, like so many of her generation and political formation, a master of social media, where appearance matters much more than substance. If we can convince people that what they see is the actual reality, perhaps it will prevent them from thinking for themselves and searching for the truth. If we can go after a despised president in the process, so much the better.
We don’t know how Mark Anthony Urquiza contracted COVID, although it is possible, as his daughter suggests, that he was infected after that ill-advised visit to a karaoke bar. But Donald Trump did not tell him to go to that bar with friends. Donald Trump did not pay his bar tab, and did not tell everyone that the virus was a hoax. In my personal view, the president has been far too cavalier about the virus and has not listened to his more seasoned advisers. He has not, in my opinion, set the best example. I do not look to him for medical guidance.
Which is exactly my point. Anyone who actually believes that people who became infected because of acts they took of their own volition were killed - figuratively - by the president are using those tragic deaths as bullets for their partisan artillery squads. I don’t care if it hurts the president’s feelings, and I’m not here to praise his conduct during this pandemic which, as I stated earlier, is mediocre at best.
My anger is focused upon a daughter who would prostitute her own grief in the service of a partisan message, playing upon our emotions and trying to make it seem as if one political party supports death. I seem to recall how angry the Democrats were when Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama’s health care mandates of being “death panels.” Funny how they’ve changed their tune.
This isn’t about who wins in November. This is about how base, how low we in this society have become when we can milk our loved ones deaths for political purchase. Apparently, the bottom is lower than even I thought possible.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.