If the coronavirus is a hoax meant to hurt President Trump, then the Republican governors of Texas and Florida are in on it. Because those states, like literally every state, every country and virtually every county, that have tried to reopen before they actually managed COVID-19 are now pulling back, desperately hoping to avoid overwhelmed hospitals and massive daily death tolls.
And now, while most other developed nations are reopening in relative safety, America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that our caseload has spiralled out of control and we need to prepare for a long haul.
Why are we the only developed, advanced country in the world that has not gotten the coronavirus under control?
In part, it’s because we’ve believed our own propaganda for so long. We’ve kept saying that America has the best health care system in the world … it’s patently obvious now (where it was only obvious before) that we don’t, that we’d fallen behind and desperately needed to upgrade our system. But we never could, and we couldn’t learn from the successes of others, because we had to keep telling ourselves that we were the best.
Pride goes before a fall. Humble people can fix things because they don’t have to keep insisting they’re not broken.
But our problem seems to go deeper, and darker, than that. The evidence of recent history suggests that there is a substantial population in America that only wants to address problems that can be “solved” by hurting other people.
Think about it: they’re happy to build a wall. They’ve got no problem with locking children up at the border and they don’t care if the conditions are cruel. They have supported any increase in police powers, no matter how much brutality it leads to. They have supported our wars and invasions, whoever and wherever. They’ll always fund more bombs and guns, even if it blows a hole in our budget.
But they haven’t supported adequately funding diplomacy, foreign aid or support for our veterans’ health care. They don’t support improving America’s health care system. They won’t support rebuilding America’s infrastructure, or improving our school systems, or economic development in poor communities. They will always support more police funding, but won’t support increasing funding to unemployment and social services — even if funding unemployment and social services actually reduces crime more than funding police do.
And when it comes to COVID-19, they’ll support draconian but ineffective measures against those who are sick and those who are inconvenient, but they won’t wear masks even if that is the cheapest and most effective way to keep the disease from spreading. If everyone wore masks, it would go a long way toward saving our lives and our economy — but they won’t do it because we’d all have to do it together, for everyone’s benefit. But if just some people were to be ordered to wear masks? And done cruelly? I bet they’d support that.
It’s not just that they are incapable of any kind of shared sacrifice, although they sure seem to be. It’s that they are only willing to invest in solutions that involve shoving someone else down. There is no act of violence against someone else that they won’t cheer. But solutions that support people, that build them up, that build us all up … they’ll protest that. Call it communism. Threaten to shoot it.
This is, of course, morally repugnant. But that isn’t even the point; the point is that the problems we really have, instead of the problems we imagine, are all problems that require us to pull together and build one another up.
We, as a country, cannot enjoy the fruits of modern technology — technology we in large part created — if we won't use it to lift one another up.
We, as a country, cannot be truly competitive in a global marketplace unless we use our vast wealth to lift each other up.
We cannot be truly prosperous, by 21st-century standards, unless we invest in ourselves. America for all Americans.
It seems like we are so big and so rich and so powerful that nothing could change our place and standing in the world, but a refusal to solve any problem that can’t be solved with cruelty is a kind of cultural suicide. We are collapsing and the only hand that is reaching out to save us is our own.
Can we take it? Are we willing to pull ourselves up?
Benjamin Wachs archives his work at www.FascinatingStranger.com. Email him at Benjamin@FascinatingStranger.com.