Exploring Human Potential

Confronting Presidential Out-ertia.

Posted on | March 23, 2020 | 6 Comments


Mike Magee

“All change of matter has an external cause. (Every body remains in its state of rest or motion in the same direction and with the same velocity, if not compelled by an external cause to forsake this state.) … This mechanical law can only be called the law of inertia (lex inertiæ) Immanuel Kant, 1786


In the March 23, 2020 COVID-19 Washington Press Briefing, President Trump signaled his active intent to break through his self-imposed inertia and embrace opening markets while closing out American lives. In the process he has taken inertia and morphed its evil twin, out-ertia. What should medical leaders like Tony Fauci do now?


Inertia describes the tendency for physical objects and human beings to resist change. If you want something to move, or to stop moving, or to shift direction, you must apply force whether through gravity, friction, or contact.

Isaac Newton defined inertia as his first law of his Laws of Motion in 1687 in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. But the word “inertia” was first introduced in scholarly fashion 60 years earlier by Johannes Kepler in his Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae, deriving the word from the Latin word for “idleness” or “laziness.”

The phrases “dig in your heels” or ‘denial and routine were her two best friends” reflect human tendency to embrace existing habits and ideas. Most of the time, this proves harmless and with some patience evolves with time. But in moments of great environmental change, whether by global warming or COVID-19, inertia can prove to be dangerous and fatal.

This truth is magnified by those in power. Indecision and poor judgement are a deadly combination. It matters little whether the man in control fails to recognize change or fails to react to it – the outcome is the same.

History tells us that failures of inertia are more commonly exhibited by those directly involved at the center of a crisis. They readily exhibit a bias toward the status quo, hanging by a thread to the old ways. Clarity often arrives first through witnesses on the periphery with greater perspective.

Breaking the rules requires mental courage. This is especially true at the beginning. After the first push, there is momentum. But it has to be a real push, not a feign, nor a wink and a nod. Gentle corrections of Presidential fabrications, false promises, and misdirections are not a course changing push. You’d have to say, “If you lie one more time in my presence, I will walk off the stage and quit.”

Dr. Fauci needs to insure his availability to the public to speak truth to power. That’s the only way to confront Presidential out-ertia. Trump has signaled his intent. There is no “hidden agenda.” It is present and clear, and there is no Presidential regret. Time for Medicine, Nursing, and all Health Professionals to rise to or fall from the challenge.


6 Responses to “Confronting Presidential Out-ertia.”

  1. Nina Agrawal
    March 23rd, 2020 @ 11:24 am

    I hear your concern but disagree about him quitting. We need him and we need him to keep his job. Without him, we are doomed to be overrun by propaganda and loss of lives. As a physician, I value Fauci as the only voice sounding the alarm. He’s doing one of the toughest jobs out there, in working with people he doesn’t agree with, and being successful. If we are to achieve change in this country, I think we need to do more of that. I’m a social justice and health care justice advocate through and through but also believe in pragmatism.

  2. Art Ulene
    March 23rd, 2020 @ 12:36 pm

    Day after day, I’ve been asking myself: Why does Anthony Fauci stay so silent? Why has he not stood up against this man who is undermining the entire Public Health effort? Why has Fauce not used his REAL power: the power of truth. I’m hoping he’ll answer those questions someday. Even more, I’m hoping he’ll start speaking up soon against the President’s lies, distortions and hunches.

  3. Mike Magee
    March 23rd, 2020 @ 2:24 pm

    Thanks, Art. I’ve been in a situation where you believe you can accomplish more from within than without. But what I learned is that you gradually become subsumed and to survive, with integrity and residual power, you have to walk. I believe Fauci will eventually come to the same conclusion. Best, Mike

  4. Mike Magee
    March 23rd, 2020 @ 2:37 pm

    Thanks for this, Nina. For many years I was a proponent of cross-sector leadership:
    But what I discovered, and did my best to outline in CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex, was that I was supported and co-opted for a reason: to assist in the dismantling of good government and essential checks and balances. We now see in front of us the end results in full bloom. At this point, Dr. Fauci is being used and abused to his detriment. He has public standing and could demand the stage on his own. It is difficult for me to see how he is helping himself, his profession or our patients by placing himself in proximity to Trump. Thanks, Mike

  5. Chuck Fahey
    March 24th, 2020 @ 9:19 am

    Dr. Faucii is bearing witness to truth. His presence and words are having an impact on millions. Thanks for your continuing insights.. I might add we at LeMoyne are proud of you and your fellow Jesuit alum …Dr,Fauci. Peace and all good things C

  6. Mike Magee
    March 25th, 2020 @ 5:46 pm

    Thanks, Chuck! We both attended Jesuit high schools in NYC as well – he to Reis, me to Fordham Prep!

Leave a Reply

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons