The Suffering of America Under the Coronavirus

And Trump is to owe for a great deal of it.

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2019 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Courtesy of Flickr by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

With its opportunity for taming the coronavirus squandered, America stands to watch its people and institutions more devastated than in the country in which the disease originated. Why we’ve arrived at such a perilous point in American history is partly the responsibility of a broken policy apparatus that didn’t take seriously to imposing harsh lockdown measures early on, leaving nothing but catastrophe in its wake.

The initial wave of cases concentrated in America’s tri-state area was eventually put under control, but not without a costly human toll–now that the virus has found its way to rural America, it just further accentuated the bizarre nature of the world’s foremost economic power not being able to issue an effective response to this virus unlike its much-less-capable analogues abroad.

Complacent leadership creates an apathetic populace, and so Trump’s America found itself enveloped in a fight against systemic racism, wealth inequality and the constant affront to civil rights as symptoms of an even bigger, harder-to-cure disease. Whether that inspired hope for a better future, or the cynical realization that things would never change, seems to be defined by the standing of each constituency in American society–if you’re part a minority, the statistical reality dictates that you’re more vulnerable to the virus; something White America can’t quite claim to receive in equal measure.

There’s nothing inherent to the European Union, or other parts of the world that dealt with this virus more effectively, that makes them so wildly different from the United States that their strategies could not be replicated as easily. Because their institutions are strident in providing their citizens a fighting chance against economic hardships to come, they’ve not backslid into a bottomless pit of nihilism like America’s leadership has.

The thin valence of civilizational might that the United States would not cease to boast about, is now decidedly a thing of the past. Even the value of an American passport in international travel — something which has long been taken for granted — is no longer due to the country becoming a big bundle of a health hazard–whereas America is known for not wasting chances to point at its subservients for incompetence, it now stands to learn much from the subjects of their erstwhile mockery.

All that is to say, the American people — regardless of their moral profile — do not deserve what the powerful have wrought upon them, but the absence of a mobilization effort around containing the greatest threat to American lives in recent history is… bizarre to say the least. Its intersection with America’s existing ills was all-the-more reason to believe that a coalition would’ve formed to face it head-on–so far however, growing pains loom on the horizon as Democrats barely rammed through a measly stimulus package, with a mafia-like Republican Senate holding hostage any further relief.

A chance to right the ship presents itself in America’s upcoming electoral charades in November, but who custodes the response to Trump’s four years of utter incompetence doesn’t inspire much confidence either–much like the man he was second to, Joe Biden has an unshaken belief in the ability of America’s agencies to reach a desirable outcome, but what he fails to realize is they’ve been already rendered toothless by Republicans’ Nixonian distrust in big government. Unemployment insurance was the most blatant display of this–systems designed with the explicit purpose of dissuading people from seeking welfare have utterly failed them when they needed it most, and it’s unclear whether the rest of America’s safeguards are built with the lack of friction and universality needed to make sure this moment doesn’t inflict further irreversible damage.

The economic impact of the coronavirus, compounded with political inaction have led to America’s underclass feeling the brunt of the pandemic, while the wealthy have departed for their far-flung hideouts where they may shelter until all is back in order. Now however, it’s not looking like there’s an order to come back to–only the seething discontent of America’s downtrodden ready to burst open at any moment.

It is said that when revolution is brewing, the elites try their damndest to convince the populace that their dire straits are perhaps not-so-dire. But in America’s case, the will to avert the collapse of trust between electorate and leadership seems to be non-existent–wealth inequality is still a problem, corporate America is still bloodsucking the underclass, the Payroll Protection Program was mired in corruption and mismanagement, many are heading for homelessness as moratoriums on paying rent proved too fickle to implement, and who knows what hardship awaits next as the worst of an upcoming economic downturn has yet to arrive.

This virus was an opportunity to gather a nation together in the fight against a common enemy — Trump said as much when he tried to position himself as a wartime president — but whereas America’s military campaigns against unsuspecting forces were often led with a semblance of strategic aim, the headlining feature of Trump’s response to the coronavirus is unmitigated chaos.

When historians opine about the fall of an empire past its apogee, they often point to collective hubris as the main culprit. With America, it doesn’t feel like there’s any need to expend on assassination plots, or sowing internal discord to get the job done–it is as easy as having the country led by an incompetent leadership midst one of its worst crises, and a populace whose vision for radical change is paralyzed by sectarian disarray.

Will things ever get better? Eventually they will, but the nature of the threat dictates that even in the presence of future relief, the current period of great turmoil will not be looked upon fondly–one can only hope that the memory of Trump’s atrocities doesn’t fade as quickly as Bush’s did.