Beloved M*A*S*H star Alan Alda says in a piece for the Washington Post on Thursday that he made a vow 37 years ago “to keep much quieter in public about my political opinions.”
Alda, who calls himself “a formerly famous person,” writes that he often wondered in those decades what could actually get him to break his silence. He lists what he calls “Trump’s racism, his misogyny, his attack on the free press, his unspeakable cruelty to children…[and the] the overt, brazen attempt to deprive people of their ability to vote” as possibilities.
The actor says he was finally moved by “something more fundamental,” which was the idea that our rights are impossible to protect — not even voting, “the right through which all other rights are guarded” — if one has succumbed to COVID-19. In Alda’s words, “You can’t vote if you’re dead.”
“Trump once said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without consequences,” Alda continues in the Post piece. “At this moment, we are all on Fifth Avenue.”
His words carry weight, given the United States had by Thursday recorded nearly 9 million infections and over a quarter of a million deaths from the virus.
Alda, who in addition to acting and writing is also a co-founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, is particularly offended by the president’s denial of science.
“Trump’s deceitful assurances that covid-19 is nothing to worry about have laid untold dead at the feet of this president,” Alda writes, before pointing out the scientific community’s unanimous opposition to one of the president’s most recent (supposed) lightbulb moments.
The concept of herd immunity, Alda maintains, “has been excoriated by the world’s leading infectious-disease experts. But the Trump administration seems willing to let a few hundred thousand people die and hope for the best.”
And for those who think he’s just another unelected, entitled celebrity criticizing the president, Alda claims an authority based on one of the measures most valued by Trump: ratings.
“Almost 63 million people voted for Donald Trump in 2016,” writes the actor, “but in 1983, more than 106 million people watched the last episode of M.A.S.H. So, it seems that by this president’s standard, I’m a bigger deal than he is.”