10. Recognizing that a problem that has grown severe in other countries could grow severe in the United States would require thinking of the United States as existing in the same world, susceptible to the same forces, as everyone else. A willingness to recognize that would have led to earlier action and wiser action more coordinated with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the United States is supposed to be exceptional.
9. Recognizing that there are crises that can’t be addressed by shooting or bombing anyone would have led to different preparations and different emergency responses. Newt Gingrich, who took the lead in preventing demilitarization after the supposed end of the cold war, thinks now is the time to invest in human needs. David Frum, who helped launch the past 19 years of wars, agrees. But CNBC has published an op-ed proposing that NATO declare war on coronavirus. It’s too late boys, the military madness has taken hold. This is a country where people shoot guns at hurricanes. Trump fired the team of people that was supposed to deal with pandemics, and claims he doesn’t even know he did it – and probably he doesn’t. The U.S. government has been reduced to an appendage of a military, so that even the remaining officials who are supposed to be dealing with coronavirus publicly rely on studies from rightwing think tanks to know what it is that they themselves have supposedly done.
8. There is widespread belief across the political and ideological spectrum in the United States that one can invent reality, that one can pick which channels to watch, which social media to block out, which experts to believe, etc. — and create a reality that’s actually real, that actually exists outside of one’s head. So, if you’d rather not stay home for two weeks, no problem! Just read something that says you don’t have to!
7. The United States is alone among wealthy nations in lacking basic health coverage as a human right for all. This prevents proper planning and prevention, and leaves people without a doctor to call, and without the ability to afford healthcare if they could get it.
6. The United States is a similar outlier when it comes to lacking paid sick leave and financial security. Millions of people cannot afford to stay home; if they do they’ll soon have no home to stay home to. Others already have no home to stay home to. The U.S. reality reinforces the ideology that established it, which holds that we’re not all in this together.
5. The U.S. government is so corrupted that it can dump money on banks but not on human beings. Any crisis is an opportunity to attack what’s left of the safety net, not an occasion to make use of it. What’s needed is a guaranteed income, paid leave, expanded Social Security, and forgiveness of debt. But all that comes oozing out of the swamp are banker bailouts, threats to Social Security, and excuses.
4. A lot of people have gone to a lot of trouble to try to stop Bernie Sanders’ campaign, which promises a platform including enhanced Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and taxation of the wealthy and corporations and financial transactions. How would it look to have to enact some of these policies as emergency measures right in the middle of trying to destroy Bernie’s campaign, right in this moment when he himself is on the edge of joining in the pretense that he’s already lost? That would be a real shame.
3. Through a majorly corrupt election system, the United States has put into an office holding beyond-royal levels of power, an absolute imbecile with zero interest in the public good. Were Donald Trump to try to help, he’d only make things worse. And he has very little motivation to try. The so-called opposition in Congress has refused to even try to impeach him for dozens of serious offenses, and granted him virtual immunity by impeaching and acquitting him with a far weaker charge. He knows he won’t be impeached now.
2. Failing to take the biggest problems seriously is a well-established habit. Coronavirus seems different to some people. By shifting a bit of pocket change from billionaires to people who need to stay home from work, millions of lives could be protected from risk. Such a calculation is unfamiliar to ethics classes in U.S. academia, where the question is always whether one should save lives by murdering a smaller number of lives. But it’s also unfamiliar to the U.S. public, media, and government. Failing to invest in a Green New Deal puts billions of lives at risk. Failure to rein in the nuclear weapon profiteers does too. The lack of a decent healthcare system is a long-established killer. Poverty and homelessness and mass-incarceration are long-accepted horrors, made virtually invisible by their normalization, deadly and devastating though they are. What’s surprising is the extent to which anyone is taking coronavirus seriously, not the failure to take it seriously enough.
1. The United States has been suffering under a prolonged and severe shortage of democracy, self-governance, civic engagement, and activism. Beyond the overworked, over-drugged population watching too much television, we’re dealing with a system of “news” and communications that educates people against activism, that sells disempowerment in between every pair of ads for cars and beers. If people won’t take mass collective action in response to any of the other abuse they’ve been dealt in recent decades, they certainly won’t figure out how to do so when gathering in large groups is itself the problem that needs to be addressed.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include Curing Exceptionalism: What’s wrong with how we think about the United States? What can we do about it? (2018) and War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Support David’s work.
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