But what may be most unsettling just now is this: At a moment when states and local communities are trying to work together, when many churches and religious communities are seeking to be agents of support and healing, when health-care workers are risking their lives to save others, the president and many of his most devoted supporters are fomenting chaos, division, and antipathy. They want COVID-19 to be the latest battlefield in a never-ending culture war.

This is particularly worrisome because while some crises can unify a nation, pandemics have historically caused people to turn on one another. At the very moment we need as our national leader a person who can break down the dividing walls, who can strengthen our bonds of affection for one another, we have a president who is temperamentally determined to annihilate comity, a spirit of grace and self-giving, and feelings of empathy and compassion.

At least as worrisome is the president’s ability to marshal an army of supporters who model themselves after him, who take his lead, and who allow their sensibilities to be shaped by his.