Oh, Jim Jordan, Please Grow Up

The Ohio representative demands to know when Dr. Fauci will give him his liberties back.

Watching Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) go after Dr. Anthony Fauci last week about his suggested measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, one witnessed a truly tiny and narrowly focused mind attempting to go up against a large, deep and supple mind.

What Jordan blathered about hardly merits repetition because we’ve heard it all before ad nauseam—the clumsy attempts to create straw man arguments about “freedom,” the ad hominem attacks implying that Fauci is somehow manipulating data about the pandemic for some personal gain, the whining about being asked to be reasonably responsible during a global health crisis that is not even close to being over.

“Over the last year, American’s First Amendment rights have been completely attacked,” Jordan ranted. “Your right to go to church, your right to assemble, your right to petition your government, freedom of the press, freedom of speech have all been assaulted.” Like a child, he then demanded to know when it was all going to be over.

If you watch the somewhat bemused Fauci responding to Jordan’s gibes (the congressman wearing his mask, Republican-style, below the nose), you see two people located in extremely different areas of the Dunning-Kruger graph. Dr. Fauci long ago made his way up the second mountain, the attainment of real expertise and wisdom, while Jordan sounds as if he has not yet reached the first peak of superficial knowledge, known as “Mount Stupid,” where all of us know just a little but are, if we are not aware, under the impression that we know a lot, our minds filled with an enthusiastic certitude.

Early on in the pandemic, Dr. Fauci might have suffered from another aspect of the effect, where a person who has knowledge and expertise assumes that others do as well. He might have assumed that particularly given that he was working with a president and members of congress. He has certainly been disabused of that notion, over and over again.

At such moments, I’m happy to think of the tagline comedian Dana Carvey gives Dr. Fauci when he does his excellent impersonation of him on his podcast, “Fantastic.”

Hearing the Jordan-Fauci exchange—and with the second pandemic summer approaching—one also thinks, again, of the movie “Jaws,” and the battle between Amity’s Mayor, Larry Vaughn (played by Murray Hamilton), Police Chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider), and the shark expert Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss)—particularly this dialogue, which occurs after the mayor complains about a vandalized sign advertising the Fourth of July in Amity:

Hooper: Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks. And that’s all. Now, why don’t you take a long, close look at this sign. Those proportions are correct.

Mayor Vaughn: Love to prove that, wouldn’t you? Get your name into The National Geographic.

[Hooper turns to Chief Brody and laughs in astonished disbelief.]

Chief Brody: Larry, Larry, if you make an effort today we might be able to save August!

Vaughn: August? For chrissake, tomorrow is the Fourth of July. And we will be open for business. It’s going to be one of the best summers we’ve ever had. Now, if you fellas are concerned about the beaches, you do whatever you have to to make them safe. But those beaches will be open for this weekend.

We all know how that turned out.

The virus is a potentially deadly shark that is out there, unseen perhaps, but definitely still out there—just look at the dire situations now in India, in Brazil, in Michigan. And it is creating its offspring—mutations that likely are more infective and, possibly, deadlier.

Much was made in the spring and summer of 2020 of the parallels between the dramatic tension in “Jaws” and the pandemic response by various leaders who wanted to keep businesses open. The first time we got together with some friends late last summer was for an outdoor showing of the movie, which had been prompted not by thoughts of the pandemic but by hearing a podcast about fatherhood, “Why Are Dads?,” which took the movie as the topic of its first episode. But, of course, we all saw the many parallels.

Jim Jordan is the kind of representative one gets as a result of Republican gerrymandering of districts. His own congressional district in Ohio, dubbed “the duck district,” is infamously a rambling affair, one that takes some 3 hours to drive end to end. The crazily cobbled together district is just shy of 90% white. As a result, Jordan does not have to be accountable to many people who do not think just as he does. To quote a man most Republicans still unaccountably admire greatly, that vote is rigged.

Like the fictional Mayor Vaughn of Amity, Rep. Jordan may give lip service to supporting science and health care experts and workers who are still trying to protect people from the pandemic. But really throughout this entire global health crisis, he’s just wanted you to go on and get in the water.