American Congressman inflames tensions with provocative comments

By Gregory K. Tanaka

On March 16, US Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana made a shocking comment while being interviewed on a popular television show. The congressman called on President Trump to “start forcing China to pay the burden and cost incurred by the United States of America due to the coronavirus.”
He went on to urge that the president consider refusing to honor the US debt China holds in the form of US Treasury bonds.
While a decision to renege on billions of dollars of US Treasury bonds would be highly impractical — because among other things it would lead to a severe drop in the US’ credit rating — there is an even greater and more dangerous outcome.
Such a move can irresponsibly inflame an American public that has already been made fearful due to the onset of a pandemic it does not yet understand.
For instance, Americans in some states have been ordered not to leave their homes except to pick up medicine or food.
All restaurants and bars in these states have been ordered to shut down. Large public events like basketball games and concerts have been postponed indefinitely.
It is during this time of lack of freedom of movement that people are quick to assign blame to an outside force for suddenly imposed restrictions on their lifestyles, especially when there is so much uncertainty surrounding not only the virus itself but also its derivation.
From my perch here just north of San Jose, California, I can see the high-tech industry is now screeching to a halt for lack of materials that normally come from a supply chain that originates in China.
Nearby Apple stores have been closed because they have no more iPhones to sell. Many local grocery stores are running out of food—and I can report yesterday I saw with my own eyes my favorite Trader Joe’s store had completely run out of meat and bread.
As an American born and raised in the US, I sensed a palpable panic.
It was easy to conclude the American public was already hoarding food to get ready for an extended period of deprivation.
Similarly, it would be easy to see why a Congressman might want to fan the flames of uncertainty when the American public is feeling so dazed and confused.
That kind of demagoguery could bring him instant notoriety and get him reelected.
Sadly, even President Donald Trump has been quick to assign blame by calling the disease the “Chinese Virus.”
Just two days ago, word leaked out his own White House staff was irresponsibly and jokingly referring to the virus as “Kung Flu.”
It is at such a moment that US citizens — accustomed to security and freedom of movement — can be quick to anger and raise their pent-up emotions to the surface.
In Baltimore, Maryland, fist fights have recently broken out over food in grocery stores, and on a larger scale, gangs have been precipitating minor riots.
And so it is in this context the words of Congressman Jim Banks should be called out and labeled for what they are: mere pandering that comes at a time when we need leaders who can act responsibly and with measured calm.
In fact, we are still waiting for scientists to track down the cause and origin point of this virus.
Until then, this red-baiting by the likes of Congressman Jim Banks would be better off confined to his coterie of alarmist friends.
–The Daily Mail-China Daily news exchange item