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Opinion

What the Devil won't tell you

Christy's challenge: Why aren't we blaming migrants for COVID pandemic?

Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy issued a coronavirus challenge during Tuesday's board meeting.

He wanted to know why no one was talking about how asylum seekers were the real spreaders of coronavirus because the testing, isolation and treatment of the allegedly infected was insufficient.

"This protocol has gaping holes that could lead to COVID infections. No one is addressing that. No one wants to address it. It doesn’t fit the narrative," said the Republican county supe.

Right. Well, allow me to retort.

Let's go back in time. In 1666, much of London burned to the ground.

The Great Fire, as it is still known, began in a bakery on Pudding Lane (yes, a bakery on Pudding Lane). Thomas Farriner, the owner of that bakery, eager to escape judgment for the spark that ignited the metropolis, found the “real culprit.” His name was Robert Hubert.

Hubert was perfect. He fit the profile. He also was likely out at sea at the time of the fire and had a cognitive disability that made judges wince at the idea of taking his confession.

That didn’t matter. He was an immigrant. People in London didn’t like immigrants. It felt good, no doubt, to hang him for it.

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Flash forward 200 years and Catherine O’Learny got pegged for the Chicago Fire. Michael Ahern, a reporter for the Chicago Republican newspaper, wrote the story that alleged O'Leary's cow tipped over a lantern and burned down a city. 

O'Leary wasn't hanged but the story was used to fan anti-Irish anger about a people too drunk to pay much attention to flames.

One problem: Ahern later admitted he made it up.

Didn't matter. Immigrants == bad.

We shouldn't be surprised that Christy is joining other Republicans in blaming Central Americans for the pandemic. We should be surprised it took xenophobes this long to tie the phobia to the xeno.

The coronavirus has killed 2,468 Pima County residents. Christy should be taking it seriously.

Instead he talked about how asylum seekers are being given rides to various appointment as “being chauffeured” (because they get better than you do, right?) He warned that this kind of pampering would expose the Pima County residents to the virus.

“We wonder why we are seeing a rise in COVID infections,” he read from his prepared remarks.

No we don't. We know exactly what's doing it and what's not. There have been 6,300 asylum seekers shuttled through Tucson this year. Someone's gotta be a particular kind of stupid to think migrants are spreading the pandemic rather than the 500,000 un-vaccinated locals constantly rubbing shoulders and refusing to wear masks.

You are better than this, Steve.

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Christy scapegoated Latinos as the majority Democrats on the board wimped out. They voted repeatedly to not purse fast actions to dampen the virus, such as a vaccine mandate.

Why? Democrats are just built that way. Wouldn't want to step on toes or cause a fuss.

What would Republicans do? That's what's been eating at me for the last month or so. Imagine if the FDA had granted Pfizer an emergency authorization 10 days earlier, just prior to the election. This was when Democrats were worried President Donald Trump would play politics with the authorization. In that scenario, Republicans wouldn't be conducting outreach or asking nicely for Democrats to take Donnie's Rona Miracle Cure. They'd be administering the vaccine by branding iron.

If Democrats were the ones invading Iwo Jima, they’d have been U.S. Marines armed only with easels and PowerPoints eager to educate the Japanese troops about the possibilities of the coming Toyota Corolla.

Supervisors Adelita Grijalva and Sharon Bronson joined Supervisor Rex Scott in opposing Supervisor Matt Heinz's efforts get all county employees vaccinated. Christy, of course, piled on victorious.

Scott wasn't happy about it though. Oh no. He blamed the Legislature for effectively blocking the board by passing a state law meant to preserve the pandemic.

“There is nothing unusual or wrong about vaccine mandates,” Scott said. “I don’t want to put in a mandate that is essentially toothless.”

The Legislature has screwed up and failed to declare an emergency, instead ramming through a law banning mask or vaccine mandates. They left a window of 90 days from the end of the session for Pima County to get the job done, before that measure takes full effect. The county now has six weeks to get county employees vaccinated. That’s plenty of time to march workers straight into a needle.

Well, then don’t make the vaccine mandate toothless.  

This is how you do it: You require your employees to get the vaccine or you fire them. Bingo. That’s it. 

Technically, firing a county worker isn’t as easy as that. There’s a whole process involved but make them go through it. They will have violated county policy and did so on purpose. Can’t have good order and discipline that way.

You don’t get to serve the public while infecting them and you sure as hell shouldn’t be a taxpayer-funded bio weapon aimed at the people you are supposed to serve.

Republicans keep saying that individuals can decide what to do with their bodies (on this issue and this issue alone, Planned Parenthood of Arizona will remind us). Then society can make its move.

Nowhere in the Constitution does it say "Congress shall pass no law designed to abridge the individual liberty to become a smallpox blanket." 

It may be a privilege but that privilege doesn't come with immunity from consequences. Republicans have spent decades preaching how society shouldn't have to pay for other people's bad decisions. When it comes to their bad decisions, well, just leave the check blank.

Not about vaccines

In fact, this isn’t about “vaccines.” Christy supported Scott’s proposal that the county would continue to require the other vaccinations county employees need for their jobs, but not require them to get COVID shots. That only applies to a handful — nurses who work directly for the county must have certain vaccinations to be licensed by the state, for instance.

So employees are only required to take the vaccines not killing our Pima County neighbors at a clip 30 times faster than the local murder rate. And the state is happy to ban requiring certain high-priority live-saving vaccines while requiring others that fight scourges long-since vanquished.

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"Incredible. You people....," sneered Heinz — a medical doctor who works treating coronavirus patients in a Tucson hospital — as the board shot down his proposal to require all health-care workers in the county to get their shots.

I concur.

This whole “my body-my choice” thing doesn’t pass muster when the same county requires employees to pass a drug test to get their job. Only the contagious decisions rack up liberty points, I guess.

The vaccine is nothing. It’s a prick and a sore arm with a chance of brief, minor flu symptoms. The virus is everything. It’s not the flu. The flu doesn’t come with long-haul symptoms. The flu doesn’t kill at 2 percent like COVID has in Arizona.

Yet the deniers keep calling it the flu. They keep cheering it on, as it finds its way to more and more infections. 

That's bad enough. I never thought I would see a day either political party was pro-pandemic. But it's worse than that.

When it’s time to blame someone? They hold up an immigrant like a human shield. The stranger in the strange land has always been a convenient target for the people who claim the land for themselves alone.

I actually spend a strange amount of time defending Steve Christy. Earlier during Tuesday's meeting, I was talking about how I liked his directness and his attitude regarding a growing number of spats the county is having with the city.

Usually he’s a Republican arguing about things that actually exist. I give him props for that. I shouldn't set the bar that low but I do.

I didn't think he was this guy.

Blaming immigrants for a pandemic fanned along by his own party’s coronavirus-boosterism is real chickenshit. But it's just as popular now as it was all those centuries years ago.

What's that you say? There's an immigrant giving birth in a manger? She's gonna burn down Bethlehem.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Supervisor Steve Christy, center in this file photo, put the 'xeno' back in phobia during a Tuesday rant.

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