Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Judging from politicians’ response, the media, and millions of social media pundits, Hydroxychloroquine was likely brewed deep in hell on an old abandoned comet by an orange headed maniacal devil complete with combed over horns. So devilish was this concoction, it must be banned by using any and all means available. And so the destruction of this old malaria drug, Hydroxychloroquine, commenced. It was to never see the light of day as a possible treatment option for COVID-19. By force of law if necessary.
It didn’t take long for the governor and legislature of Minnesota to work on legislation banning its use. Political revenge likely motivated the governor of Michigan, so she issued an edict prohibiting pharmacies from filling prescriptions for Hydroxychloroquine if they believed it was destined to a COVID-19 patient. So they were ordered to ask the prescribing doctor if this prescription was for a COVID-19 patient. Incensed and not about to start justifying a prescription order to a pharmacist, they were told to go to hell (pharmacists are very knowledgeable about pharmaceuticals, but a doctor’s request for a prescription is not a ‘request’ for agreement to its suitability).
But the real venom against Hydroxychloroquine and its chief protagonists, the president, was the media and the chattering class on social media. Neither, by the way, had any actual scientific knowledge or training to know what they were talking about. But they were animated by a kind of intense hatred where you hope that people are standing by with straight jackets if it becomes necessary to take them for an extended stay to the funny farm.
Today much more is known of the efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine to aid in the battle against COVID-19. Steven Hatfill, a veteran virologist, and professor at the George Washington University Medical Center, says the literature supporting Hydroxychloroquine is overwhelming.
“There are now 53 studies that show positive results of hydroxychloroquine in COVID infections,” Hatfill wrote in RealClearPolitics. “There are 14 global studies that show neutral or negative results — and 10 of them were of patients in very late stages of COVID-19, where no antiviral drug can be expected to have much effect.”
Understandably embarrassed, the governor of Minnesota has recently and quietly rid that state of its anti-Hydroxychloroquine laws. Even Switzerland, it too possibly triggered by antipathy towards a Trump endorsement, reversed its statutes. I would as well after reading what Dr. Harvey A. Risch, a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, recently wrote in Newsweek. “Physicians who have been using these medications in the face of widespread skepticism have been truly heroic. He added that a full review of the COVID literature on the drug shows “clear-cut and significant benefits.”
Dr. Risch writes of being troubled by the politicization of Hydroxychloroquine and reminds the reader, and possibly his fellow practitioners, “When doctors graduate from medical school, they formally promise to make the health and life of the patient their first consideration, without biases of race, religion, nationality, social standing — or political affiliation. Lives must come first.” Unfortunately, neither the politicos, the media, or academia have offered up a similar public ethos.
Hydroxychloroquine, like every other drug, is just a clever arrangement of molecules that, when combined, act on our bodies for a hopefully positive result. That is straight forward biology, applied scientific knowledge, and of course, apolitical.
But the pitched battle over Hydroxychloroquine serves a useful purpose in exposing the most interesting of human behaviors- anger, hate, and revenge. So interesting are these peculiar human foibles, it is difficult to not pick up a novel and read of them. It is nearly always the cause of social friction. If you’re a connoisseur of romantic novels, extramarital affairs are often motivated by revenge born of anger. Murder mysteries? The role ‘anger, hate, and revenge’ play in politics come as no surprise to any reader of political history. Even comedian Jerry Seinfeld said, “Well, all comedy starts with anger. You get angry, and its never for a good reason, right? You know its not a good reason. And then you try and work it from there.”
If you’re a Darwinist, perhaps there was an evolutionary benefit to the development of ‘anger, hate, and revenge’ impulses. But throughout recorded history, humankind has been troubled by these inclinations. Even Plato saw the pitfalls of anger when he wrote, “There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.” Since there isn’t much between those two positions, Plato clearly thinks there is little benefit to anger.
Yet, we continue to fall into its warm embrace. We use positive terminology suggesting an innocence to our baser instincts. Nothing would satisfy us more than the sweet smell of revenge. To see someone canceled who we loath, or fail as a political leader, or be hurt by infidelity, can feel like such poetic justice. But many remain skeptical of any real long-term or personal benefit.
Always insightful, writer James Baldwin believes hate does serve a purpose. He theorizes that hate is mostly a diversion from pain when he wrote, “One of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone they will be forced to deal with pain.”
Mark Twain concerned himself with anger holders. “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Robert F. Kennedy saw it as a terrible waste of time. “We must admit to ourselves that our own future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled nor enriched by hatred or revenge.” Robert Kennedy would die at the hand of revenge.
Budda saw anger and truth-seeking as incompatible. “In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.” Perhaps that is why so many wanted Hydroxychloroquine to fail- their anger closed their mind.
I think we all have seen those who have allowed themselves to be obsessed with hate. So vengeful, you fear for their sanity. They pursue revenge or justice as if it the only purpose of their existence. Speaking about the obsessed, Dr. Leon Seltzer offered this assessment in Psychology Today. “Such is the inevitable result of becoming obsessed with blaming someone else for our misery rather than refusing to permit external hindrances or setbacks from blocking us from pursuing our goals. Frankly, it’s all too easy to hamper ourselves by falling into the trap of righteously obsessing about our injuries or outrage. Doing so does afford us the gratification of feeling that we’re better than, or morally superior to, the source of our wrongs.”
Before Christ, Leviticus 19:18 says, “Thou shalt not hate another in one’s heart.” Apostle James added this later, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Jesus Christ, according to Matthew 21, was angry at the mercantile atmosphere of the temple. He overturned the tables and chastised the money changers. Yet, when lied about, spat upon, crowned with thorns, and nailed to a cross, he showed no anger. He sought no revenge. He assigned no blame. His life was imprinted on all Christiandom, including the necessity to tame our lesser impulses.