Unfortunately, The Worst People Will Survive This Too

Illustration for article titled Unfortunately, The Worst People Will Survive This Too
Photo: Samuel Corum (Getty Images)

The compulsion to convince ourselves that bad things will eventually happen to bad people can be seductive and cathartic. It’s also embedded in most of the lessons taught to us as kids. Children’s stories and fairytales usually end with the “good” winning and the evil receiving some sort of punishment. The concepts of fair play and sportsmanship—ingrained in all kids who decide to join a team—imply that righteousness will eventually lead to success. American history textbooks are written with similar narratives, reverse-engineering a world where the good (America) regularly defeats the bad (everyone else) because of our latent goodness. These lessons even stalk us into adulthood, despite the brutal realization that the world ain’t fair. Most of the content we consume follows a similar edict, and our frequent misunderstanding of karma repurposes it as a lurking weapon waiting to deliver evildoers a fitting comeuppance. Organized religion, essentially, is an ancient groundwork for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Anyway, in addition to being a narcissist and quite possibly a psychopath, the president of the United States eats like a raccoon, does enough artificial tanning to give his skin a permanent sheen of Sunny D, and hasn’t been in a gym since the Newhart series premiere. If he was a fictional character, him staying alive this long would stretch the suspension of belief necessary for the audience to stay invested in a story. And the reality of his continued survival—with that brain and that toxicity and that body—is a great mystery. Except it is not.

With the world now in what we hope is the middle (instead of the beginning) of a global pandemic, the idea that good—good people, good institutions, good acts—will prevail and evil will fail can be reassuring. Embedded in that hope is the desire for COVID-19 to disproportionately affect the worst people. Unfortunately, this belief requires a misunderstanding of how the world works. Particularly, how someone like Donald Trump is built.

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We’re aware now of how much of an impact stress has on our physical health and well-being. It leads to and worsens acid reflux, hypertension, and numerous other physical ailments. It compels us to self-medicate, which can lead to life-threatening addictions. It interrupts our sleep—a vital function of immune system maintenance—making us more susceptible to viruses. And these stressors are everywhere. It’s the anxiety before a job interview or a first date. It’s the worry about friends and family and bills. It’s the pressure of attempting to do what you believe to be the right and moral thing, even if the wrong is more attractive. I’m certain that, whenever this pandemic ends, hospitals will still be filled with people who developed stress-related ailments during this.

Now, imagine if you felt none of that...ever. Imagine how much easier your life would be and how much better you’d sleep. Imagine how much longer you’d live if you truly didn’t give a shit about anyone or anything except yourself.

Unfortunately, the sort of stinginess and hubris that make people like him and Mitch McConnell so contemptible is often what enables them to live until they’re 120. While the rest of the world sweats, stresses, and suffers, they yawn. Does this mean that people like them are undefeatable? No! Just that waiting for nature or a rogue Pop-Tart or whatever to thwart them just isn’t it. That train ain’t ever coming. But, consider this: If you see a roach on a couch, you don’t just wait for it to die, do you? No! You burn the couch, and then you never visit Michael Rapaport again.

Remember, the big bad wolf gets eaten by the smartest pig. But if that pig would’ve been like “I’ll wait for karma to get him” he would’ve been chorizo.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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DISCUSSION

and hasn’t been in a gym since the Newhart series premiere

I object to these lies, Damon! You know damn well that Dolt 45 has never been in a gym.