Are We a Nation of Quitters?
A letter to the pandemic response cynics
To those making such statements or accepting 200,000+ premature deaths:
How cynically do you view
- Americans to believe we can’t do more than argue about hoaxes and wearing masks amidst widespread sickness and death?
- The federal government to think we can only blame China and the WHO while abdicating international leadership to prevent uncontrolled spread?
- The scientific community to believe that we got caught by surprise in February?
- The health system to think that ingenuity can only be applied to treatments and vaccines rather than preventive measures as well?
- The CDC to think they couldn’t have overseen redundant test development to ensure a working one in the crucial early stages of community spread?
How do you square that cynicism with “American exceptionalism” or patriotism? It sounds like you’ve given up on this nation being great. In this case that would mean working together creatively and resourcefully to overcome adversity.
We did that in World War II. What we DIDN’T do: make a bunch of excuses for why nobody could stop Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini. We punched them in their fascist faces. But only after setting aside partisanship and enlisting soldiers, workers, and corporations in the effort. And eventually leading an international coalition of like-minded countries.
Where did that kind of American toughness and spirit go? Did we panic when the Russians launched Sputnik? Or surrender when the British burned the Capital building in 1812? We need a lot more John Lewises willing to be bloodied to expose racism and fewer hucksters fixated on short-term stock prices.
We’re living through an active betrayal of some of our greatest accomplishments. Excusing corruption and incompetence compounds the failure and helps advance the agendas of autocrats like Vladimir Putin. But we have choices. One is to pick ourselves back up, acknowledge ways we’ve failed and how others have done better, and learn from both. Then we can apply those lessons to do things like:
- Pass a meaningful relief bill to prevent mass layoffs and foreclosures
- More effectively produce PPE to protect exposed workers
- Better use contact tracing and test in ways that reduce wait times
- Prevent virus-friendly events from occurring in our communities
- Incentivize safety protocols in group living facilities
- Inform the public of relevant data and flag bullshit
- Coordinate with other nations on best preventive practices and vaccine distribution
- Elect leaders capable of contributing to the above
The pandemic raging is a bit like “the bombs bursting in air.” Many self-described “patriots” seem to be waiving a white flag. What might we achieve if instead we responded like those who made it possible for us to be here? This isn’t over. We can and must do better.