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No, Biden’s African travel ban isn’t hypocritical

America is polarized between left and right, with most of us in the middle.

I’m convinced most Americans want intelligent discussion of public issues that affect us all. Truth, logic, and reason still matter.

I criticize rightwingers on this blog, for good reason. They don’t want reasoned debate. Their anti-intellectualism and outright dishonesty is grating; they fabricate, photoshop, lie, and hatemonger. It all looks like a gigantic temper tantrum, until it turns threatening and violent. That’s not right, nor does it help anyone.

Compared to some their excesses, this will seem nitpicky, but nevertheless I think it’s worth discussing.

South African scientists have identified a new Covid-19 variant “of concern.” Mutations of the Covid-19 viruses are popping up all the time, but most don’t raise serious concerns. The variant they’ve labeled “Omicron” is still an unknown quantity in many respects, but its unusually large number of mutations, and the configuration of those mutations, raises the possibility that existing vaccines and treatments not work  against it. It will take several weeks to figure this out, and meanwhile, governments are acting with an abundance of caution.

As the Omicron variant appears to be spreading outward from South Africa and neighboring countries, Britain and other European governments imposed restrictions on travelers from that region. The U.S. then followed suit. This weekend, President Biden acted in concert with leaders of numerous other nations to impose temporary travel bans to and from southern Africa. This won’t contain Omicron, but it may buy some essential time to study it, assess the threat, and respond to it with, among other things, modified vaccines or additional booster shots.

Rightwing propagandists immediately jumped on this travel ban, calling it hypocritical in light of Biden’s past criticism of Trump’s Muslim travel ban. See, for example, the Daily Mail story here. (Daily Mail is a U.K.-based tabloid newspaper with a rightwing editorial slant; the Dan Bongino mentioned in their story is a Fox Nation talk-show host.) Which is especially ironic, given how little the Republican “base” has contributed to solving the real problem of the pandemic.

There is no comparison. This travel ban, carried out in cooperation with other nations, is a public health precaution, reasonable in the circumstances until experts know more about the Omicron variant and the potential threat it poses.

Trump’s travel ban was an exercise in anti-Muslim bigotry. No other nations participated in it. His travel ban, imposed when he took office in early 2017 long before Covid-19 appeared, had nothing to do with Covid-19, and everything to do with branding all Muslims as “bad people.” As a precaution against terrorism, it didn’t stand up to scrutiny. It played into right-wing hate, and attacks on mosques followed.

The only thing Trump’s and Biden’s travel bans have in common is they’re both restrictions on international travel. Otherwise, they’re other  totally different, with different motivations; one is reasonable, the other not. Trump’s travel ban targeted a specific religious group; the multi-nation Covid-19 travel ban that Biden joined in this weekend applies to all travelers, regardless of nationality, religious preference, or other personal characteristics.

Any thinking person will see this, and dismiss the hypocrisy talk as just more vapid rightwing rhetoric devoid or substance or meaning.

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