Opinion: Ample blame in teen’s virus death
A few words on the death of Carsyn Leigh Davis.
It has become predictable that the political right always knows whom to blame for disaster. After the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Donald Trump blamed video games. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Pat Robertson blamed a pact with the devil. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the late Jerry Falwell Sr. blamed abortion, feminists and the ACLU.
But if any prominent conservative has assigned blame for Carsyn’s death, it has escaped notice. Which is unfortunate. Because while the lines of causality they’ve drawn in previous tragedies have seemed fanciful at best, the lines leading to this one are clear and easily read.
Carsyn was a teenager from Fort Myers, Fla., who had battled health issues all her life, including cancer and a rare autoimmune disorder. Then she contracted COVID-19. This, after an event at her church.
“Service is back and better than ever!” crowed the church on social media. They billed it as a “release party.” In the blog post that brought Carsyn’s death to widespread attention, Rebekah Jones, a Florida data scientist, called it a “COVID party.” She posted a screen grab of a social media post by Carsyn’s mother, Carole, promoting a website: dontmaskourkids.com. For the record: Jones was fired by the state in May for, she says, refusing to make changes to coronavirus data to suggest Florida was doing better than it was. She has since been keeping track on her own.
A hundred kids, unmasked, attended the June 10 party. Afterward, says Jones, Carole, “who is not a doctor,” gave Carsyn a precautionary dose of azithromycin, “an anti-bacterial drug with no known benefits for fighting COVID-19.”
But Carsyn got sick: headaches, sinus pressure, a cough. Carole put her on her grandfather’s oxygen machine. And she gave her hydroxychloroquine, the drug Trump touted as a possible cure but that actual doctors say is dangerous.
Finally, Carole took her daughter to the hospital. By then, Carsyn couldn’t breathe, but for several days Carole refused to allow a breathing tube to be inserted. Carsyn died on June 23, two days after her 17th birthday.
And if no one else wants to assign blame, yours truly is not reluctant.
Blame the church. You don’t hold a party in a pandemic.
Blame the parents. They failed their daughter.
But you must also blame the forces of conspiracy and confusion that invite people to ignore medical science and common sense.
Blame Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh and every other loudmouth peddling alternatives to reality and forgeries of fact.
Blame Donald Trump, Roger Stone and every other political hack who thrives on the gullibility of the ill-informed.
Blame social media for allowing dangerous propaganda to be spread anonymously and globally with no accountability.
And blame traditional news media. We heirs of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, of those who famously and bravely told it like it was, are so enthralled by false equivalence in the name of a spurious “objectivity” that we require policy memos and special dispensation to call the obvious lie an obvious lie. We’ve too often been faint-hearted and mealy-mouthed in standing up for the principle that truth matters.
By such actions and inactions, America manufactures ignorance on an industrial scale. And not without cost. This did not have to happen, yet it did. Carsyn Leigh Davis is dead.
And there is plenty of blame to go around.
— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald.