Years In The Making

The Coronavirus Is New.
Our Reaction To It Has Been Years In The Making.


Leonard Zwelling

         There really is little doubt that the coronavirus that has
caused so much death and suffering in the world emanated from Wuhan, China
towards the end of 2019. Had the Chinese Communist Party and the government of
the People’s Republic acted responsibly and sealed off the country and
prevented anyone from leaving until the plague subsided, the rest of the world
might have been spared what it is going through now. It is essential that the
United States and the rest of the free world hold China responsible in the
court of public opinion for what its inaction did to the world.

         That’s history and that history is still being written.
Whether the world will get a corona break during Northern Hemisphere summer
remains to be seen. That Americans cannot seem to take the threat seriously as
they flock to beaches, swimming pools and houses of worship without masks
suggests that we are in for a continuous run of bad numbers that may only get
worse in the fall. Why can’t Americans (and Brazilians and Mexicans) take this
virus seriously, maintain social distancing, protect the elderly, and wear
masks? A lot of this is class-based as the poor in the third world and even
here are in far worse positions to implement mitigation strategies.  Why is America leading the world in covid-19
deaths when America used to lead the world to enlightenment? When did things
start to go wrong?

         Bulletin. Donald Trump is not the reason America is in the
throes of such a messy response to the virus. He is indeed a poor leader who
was slow to recognize the seriousness of the threat and even now sends mixed
messages about what Americans ought to do in the face of the virus. He simply
will not wear a mask on TV. Joe Biden did. That may sum up the entire election
for 2020. Are you voting for the Mask Party or the one of bald-faced lies?

         Why is America such a mess right now?

         There will be those who will say American democracy was
always messy, right back to the Revolution. There’s some truth to that. Heck,
we fought a Civil War over two basic belief systems that couldn’t even agree on
whether every person was human. How nuts is that?

         But I think this latest trend to mistrust the government
began on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas, the day John F. Kennedy was
assassinated. We have been trying to get “back to the garden” since then. No
one who was alive then can really be sure what happened that day and certainly
is not sure why, even if they believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the
president by himself. Was it Cuba? Was it Russia? Was it the Mafia? Who knows?
We may never know. But that one act sowed the seeds for a host of others.

         Lyndon Johnson took office and within a few years was mired
so deeply in Vietnam he chose not to run again. Despite all his success in
domestic affairs, Johnson just could not see his way out of Southeast Asia. No
one trusted him or his administration by the time he stepped down.

         Richard Nixon has become a punch line. He wasn’t when he was
elected in 1968, but Watergate brought him down and made it clear to all that
the government could not be trusted, including the FBI, and that newspapers and
an investigatory press was necessary to maintain our freedom. Unfortunately,
the press believed its own press clippings and now borders on the
irresponsible. It seems that anyone will say anything to get on TV let alone
social media.

         Gerald Ford was a blip. He was always going to be because
the Republican Party was heading right and he simply delayed that drift for two
years while Jimmy Carter undermined confidence in the presidency and America’s
predominance in the world in a matter of four years. He was done once the
hostages were taken in Iran and he could do nothing about it.

         Even Ronald Reagan tripped on Iran Contra. Bush 41 was so
aloof he couldn’t feel America’s economic pain even though he won a war and
Bill Clinton, who could feel the pain, tripped on Monica.  Bush 43 got us into wars we are still
fighting on false pretenses and Barack Obama never was able to sell America on
his vision of itself because while he had a great vision of himself, he never
really risked anything to make significant change. He spoke well. He acted less

         Now we have Donald Trump who is really an outgrowth of the
lack of trust in American leadership and great resentment of Hillary Clinton’s
seeming position of privilege.

         We are in the next great American Revolution. We have them
periodically as we are supposed to.

         The Vietnam Era was awful. The country was even more divided
than it is now and the cities were burning, kids were being clubbed in the
streets of Chicago, and four students at Kent State were killed fifty years

         The American experiment goes on and we are not in a very good
place now. No matter who wins the presidency in November, we still will not be
in a good place. The people do not trust the government. The people do not
trust the experts. The people actually resent the government and the experts.
If a force like this virus cannot pull us together like 9/11 did, what can?

         The faulty American response to the coronavirus is the
product of many years of American neglect culminating in the super nationalism
of Donald Trump touting American exceptionalism at the precise moment the virus
reduces us to nothing exceptional. America is at another crossroads. It needs
great leadership and is unlikely to get it any time soon.

         This was all predictable. We were kindling waiting for a
spark. The virus was the spark. We are burning toward mediocrity unless we up
the free energy to get us out of this. That free energy is not Trump or Biden.
I have no easy answers.

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