We wait to see how bad it is going to get. We fume and fret and function, as best we can, with a national response that is many ways dysfunctional – dangerously so.
We see other nations that took the threat seriously and others that didn’t. We don’t understand why we can’t be more like South Korea and worry that our fate will be like that of Italy.
The manifest inadequacies of President Trump, whether measured in terms of leadership, or empathy, or competence, or stability, or any of the other metrics by which presidents should be judged, have long been obvious. Now we see the impact of his deficiencies at a level that puts the public health in grave danger.
But it is important to also not focus solely on the president. He is a natural outgrowth of a movement that has denigrated science, experts, preparedness, and an affirmative role of government. Many hoped the nation would escape President Trump’s tenure in office without the test of a national emergency. Instead, we have a global pandemic that is beyond the ability of any leader to control.
We were never going to emerge unscathed, but that doesn’t mean competence is fruitless. The nation yearns for words and actions that suggest unity in the face of challenges. We have no choice but to pull together. We are desperate for leadership that helps us do that. Instead we have squandered precious time and have little confidence in a government that still can’t test for the virus at any scale. The nation seeks a sense of purpose, a leveling of what we know and don’t, not buck-passing and secrecy.
We are the United States of America, a country born from a vision of people coming together – the opposite of social distancing. We must take prudent and even drastic measures. But we also must remember who we are, and what we can yet be.