Thursday, July 9, 2020

America has become very Self-Destructive

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece, “America.” It was a pep talk to this country: I argued that throughout its history, whenever the US has faced daunting obstacles, it has ended up overcoming them - often spectacularly,- even if often slow on the uptake.

Most of you liked what I said, if for no other reason because it’s good to try to be positive once in while. Some of you did accuse me of being a brown-nose immigrant, one of those who slavishly embrace their adoptive country.

Actually, I am only high on America part of the time. The other half of the time, I am enraged by what this country is doing to itself. Today is one of those days:

EVERY country in the world is doing a better job warding off the Coronavirus than we are. We have become the epicenter of the pandemic. Covid-19 is becoming an American disease.

Both our absolute and relative infection rates are the highest in the world (apart from a few city states such as Bahrein and Qatar). Brazil, which not coincidentally is also ruled by a strongman, is a distant second. All other major countries have managed to beat back the virus - Italy, Spain, Britain, France and all the other European countries that were once in deep trouble.

Consider this horrific comparison: China gained control over the epidemic after losing fewer than 4,700 people, out of 84,000 infections. In other words, it suffered an infection rate of 58 per million, and a death rate of 3 per million. The US has now suffered 3 million infections and 133,000 deaths. That is an infection rate of 9,200 per million and a death rate of 402 per million - America has 160 times China’s infection rate, and 134 times its death rate! 

And the worst is yet to come: A month or so ago, we managed to flatten the curve a bit, but we then lacked the discipline and the plain common-sense and intelligence to persevere. Social distancing, shutting bars and wearing masks became a political and cultural war. We had to resume partying prematurely. As a result, our numbers are exploding. So far, twice as many Americans have died from the coronavirus as during the 15-year long Vietnam war. The number will probably reach half a million by year’s end, more than all the American soldiers who died in World War Two.

We are no longer allowed to enter Europe. This reverses the traditional nationalistic/ethnocentric American “exceptionalism,” which views the US as pure, as having to protect itself from disease, dirt and evil influences from outside. We have become the shithole country (our President’s words). Some reversal!

We only have ourselves to blame for this disaster. We ought to be ashamed. We are the only major country that couldn’t do it. We elected Trump as our leader. This man spent the first three and a half years of his presidency lying, fumbling, cheating, causing incalculable damage and chaos to the country.

And then, out of the blue, the country was hit by the greatest challenge in its history - Covid-19. Having been a dismal failure for over three and a half years, this President was not only utterly unable to meet the new challenge, but he aggravated the problem tenfold.

Every country understands that when its leadership fails miserably, it must be replaced. Either through established parliamentary procedures, or through revolutionary means. But this country’s political system makes this impossible. Between our undemocratic senate, our electoral college, our mandatory four-year terms, our undemocratic Supreme Court, gerrymandering and voter suppression, the Republican minority maintains its stranglehold over the country. Congress couldn’t even send Trump packing after he was impeached.

Nations sometimes go haywire. Once in a while, a country becomes mentally ill, somewhat randomly. Take France: it had its revolution. Then Napoleon moved up in the ranks. He took the French people into a bloody maelstrom, 25 years of nothing but war, millions of dead. Stalin turned the Russian Revolution into a nightmare. Germany went berzerk with Hitler. Mass temporary insanity.

America is now in a self-destructive downward spiral. As the historian Ariel Durant wrote, “a great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Nothing indicates a country’s decline more than its demography: Our demographic troubles were already under way before the pandemic: We were already one of the few countries in the world with a DECLINING life expectancy. The deterioration of our public health was aggravated by such things as the Fantanyl opioid epidemic, which cost as many as one hundred thousand lives each year. The coronavirus is adding several hundred thousand annual deaths to that. The country may face, for the first time in its history, a DECLINE in its population.

Add to this Trump’s pernicious nativist policies - essentially putting an end to ALL immigration and all foreign student and faculty programs. This is truly a case of cutting your nose to spite your face: Immigrants have been the lifeblood of this country. The brain drain from overseas to the US has brought thousands of the most talented scientists to our shores, with immense benefits to us (Ever heard of Einstein?)

Americans have wedded their fate to Donald Trump. With the advent of the Coronavirus, that man’s ineptitude has become an existential threat to the country. If Trump gets a second term - either by winning, or by cheating - this country’s collapse will be comparable to the decline of countries such as Spain, Argentina and Russia - all countries which were once powerful and prestigious, but then sank into dysfunction and mediocrity. We’ll be somewhat like Russia is today, a second-rate country, a less than fully democratic country led by a strongman.

If we somehow manage to get back to some normal federal leadership, we’ll recover. It’s that simple.

© Tom Kando 2020;All Rights Reserved

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