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How a Pandemic Took the World by Surprise Options
Hope123
Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2020 9:18:03 AM

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Joined: 3/23/2015
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Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
This is a fairly long read because it is filled with many great insights into where the world stands right now during Covid-19 and the problems the world faces in the future.

There is a lot to think about in this opinion piece and if you have any ideas to add about how humans need to respond now, please do so - for example how you see it affecting your life in the future and what you intend to do about it.


https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-making-history-how-a-pandemic-took-the-world-by-surprise/


Author's Conclusion: Now, we are experiencing our own great disruption. It is not world war nor a Great Depression, although it could well become one. Will we in time ignore the present’s lessons and warnings? Or will we reinforce, rebuild and reform our societies, from the local to the global, so that we are better prepared? It could go either way and much will depend on the sort of leaders we get in the next years. But it will also depend on our willingness to hold them to account.

While we will have to keep washing our hands, let’s only do so in a literal sense. If we are to build a better future, we, leaders and publics both, must not be like Pontius Pilate and abdicate all responsibility.
FounDit
Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2020 11:12:52 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/19/2011
Posts: 15,647
Neurons: 74,672
Apart from the silly childishness of the obligatory insults for the U.S. and its President, it was a well-written and cogent piece of writing.

Her conclusion, however, ignores a very important point.

Quote:
"Author's Conclusion: Now, we are experiencing our own great disruption. It is not world war nor a Great Depression, although it could well become one. Will we in time ignore the present’s lessons and warnings? Or will we reinforce, rebuild and reform our societies, from the local to the global, so that we are better prepared? It could go either way and much will depend on the sort of leaders we get in the next years. But it will also depend on our willingness to hold them to account." Emphasis mine.

It is the formation of the global economy that permitted this virus to travel so quickly around the world and infect so many people. The fact that we can't trust every government to do the right thing for its own citizens, much less for those of other countries, means a global economy can be a dangerous thing for life on the planet since there is no way to compel all nations to do the right thing.
Hope123
Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2020 9:25:19 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 10,049
Neurons: 57,307
Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
FD,

Agreed that it is globalization that allowed the virus to travel with the many travellers.

Also agreed that governments cannot be forced to do the right thing. There were some who didn't but many who did.

China withheld critical information at the beginning.

The US made its own states negotiate for PPE to the highest bidder instead of helping it’s own citizens with a national response, creating chaos. The response was delayed by Trump's ignoring of reports early on. More people have died than needed to.

Canada turned a blind eye to the fact that only three of the early cases came from China and the rest were from the US, closed the China border but not the US one because of the economy. Well lookie how long they've been forced to close it instead of just for a couple of weeks. More people have died than needed to.

The inadequacy of retirement and nursing homes in Canada was exposed with them being the hot spots for the spread. Also exposed was the fact that the privately run for-profit senior homes had many more cases and much more death than the ones run publicly. Canadians who have pushed for the privatizing of healthcare as the Conservatives always do have been shown their errors in thinking. Many Canadians have been pointing this out to them - we love our universal healthcare system and want governments to stop cutting funds as they have been doing, just as the UK did.

Perhaps this virus is exposing the negative sides of capitalism - the corruption, the hubris, the greed.

FD, I'd like to know what you think is silly about the following comments concerning the US and Trump. They are commonly known facts and were in the list of criticisms of several governments, her own country included.

To find a dysfunctional federal state, we can look to India, Brazil, or, much closer to hand, just south of the border. The United States’ response has been fitful and chaotic partly because of a deeply engrained suspicion of big government and that mythical beast, “the deep state.” The fear of government – along with the hatred of taxation, which goes back deep into the American past – has been fanned more recently by conservative think tanks, lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association and the radical right, which has taken over most of the Republican Party. The governors of states such as Florida, Georgia and South Dakota have distinguished themselves only by their failures to grasp the seriousness of the epidemic, or to lead. On the other end of the spectrum, governors in California, Washington and New York State have shown what decisive action and public understanding and co-operation can achieve in mitigating and controlling the epidemic. Regional responses are vitally important everywhere, but, since viruses do not respect borders, national policies and leadership matter as well.

It is the United States’ great misfortune that fate has provided it with a president who is so manifestly incapable of occupying the office, much less dealing with a serious crisis. Donald Trump has pretty much driven out any of those who were good at their jobs and surrounded himself with sycophants with few other discernible talents. Perhaps states, federal institutions, medical practitioners and many willing volunteers will carry the U.S. through the crisis and limit the damage. But what will the lasting lessons be, and who will pay attention and act on them?


The facts are that Americans are afraid of government, (your comments many times verify that), the radical right has taken over the GOP, Trump has gotten rid of those good at their jobs and put in unqualified people such as himself, some governors have not done well, while others have. And Trump is on video saying the virus would disapppear like magic, spends his time on Twitter whining about how people don't like him while explaining how wonderful he is and what a great job he is doing - while nearly 80,000 have died, millions are unemployed, and while they are spreading money to help, there is really no room to move much because of the dramatic increase in the deficit since he's been in office. Somebody with too much time on their hands counted and said Trump has “rage” tweeted 104 times today so far but not once have I heard a word of condolence from him for all the grieving families. He does not care about people - only money and his re-election. US has 5% of world population and 33% of the world's Covid-19 cases.

I would not have bothered to mention my usual criticisms of Trump if you had just discussed the rest of the article and not been defensive about criticisms of the US by the author, when the US was just one of the governments mentioned. I do not hesitate to criticize my own government as well - it is certainly not perfect.

jacobusmaximus
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 3:40:13 AM

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Location: Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Did the world change in response to the 'Spanish' flu of the early 20th century? In what way?
Romany
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 5:19:08 AM
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Joined: 6/14/2009
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

Hi Jacob - well, where to start?

The "Spanish" Flu (which, as you probably know, originated in the USA) had so many consequences and changed so much that many people are unaware that lots of things we take for granted today resulted from that pandemic.

I guess the most important & obvious is the way it changed health-care, health awareness, public and personal hygiene. Although aware of "Germ Theory" the existence of viruses was unknown and it was through the Spanish Flu that global discovery of, and research into the vast, complicated field of Virus study began. That in itself has led to incalculable progress in medicine.

All of our public health systems - including the NHS - were born of the Spanish Flu. Until the 'twenties schemes for public health systems HAD NEVER BEEN SERIOUSLY ENVISAGED! That's huge in itself!

It was realised, after battling with Spanish Flu, that governments world-wide had to start adding a Health Department to their infrastructure - an absolutely gob-smacking idea in the early 20th century. The whole idea of "Public Health" sprang into being. The unthinkable idea that Governments should be responsible for each citizen's well-being led to access to health-care being a Right for citizens of "modern" governancing.

Even the new field of "psycho-analysis", already forced to undertake a re=appraisal of the "new" idea of "shell-shock", began to rise to prominance and began it's journey from it's original narrow application to women's "hysteria" and sexual lives in which it might have mired itself , and withered away.

BECAUSE the Spanish Flu affected and changed governments, societies, public health, personal health, economics, the Military, the public psyche, and even commerce, there's a plethora of books, papers, reviews, scientific journals available detailing the effects of "Spanish" Flu around. It really is both illuminationg, surprising and really, really interesting, so it's worth digging into for reputable information - especially at a time like this!
jacobusmaximus
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 11:44:57 AM

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Joined: 4/17/2009
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Location: Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Thanks Romany. That is amazing. It is surprising that there was a world left to change after the Spanish flu and WW1 combined.
Can you predict what major changes we might see in our country after this pandemic is over?
FounDit
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 12:26:55 PM

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Joined: 9/19/2011
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So it would appear from Romany's post that the Spanish flu was a good thing, judging from all the benefits that have been derived from it.

However, it is an error to say it originated in the U.S. (another insult to the country).

Quote:


"Hypotheses about the source
British troops in France

The major UK troop staging and hospital camp in Étaples in France has been theorized by virologist John Oxford as being at the center of the Spanish flu.[23] His study found that in late 1916 the Étaples camp was hit by the onset of a new disease with high mortality that caused symptoms similar to the flu.[24][23] According to Oxford, a similar outbreak occurred in March 1917 at army barracks in Aldershot,[25] [England] and military pathologists later recognized these early outbreaks as the same disease as the 1918 flu.[26][23]
The overcrowded camp and hospital was an ideal environment for the spread of a respiratory virus. The hospital treated thousands of victims of poison gas attacks, and other casualties of war, and 100,000 soldiers passed through the camp every day. It also was home to a piggery, and poultry was regularly brought in from surrounding villages to feed the camp. Oxford and his team postulated that a precursor virus, harbored in birds, mutated and then migrated to pigs kept near the front.[25][26]

A report published in 2016 in the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association found evidence that the 1918 virus had been circulating in the European armies for months and possibly years before the 1918 pandemic.[27]
United States


Some have suggested that the epidemic originated in the United States. Historian Alfred W. Crosby stated in 2003 that the flu originated in Kansas,[28] and popular author John M. Barry described a January 1918 outbreak in Haskell County, Kansas, as the point of origin in his 2004 article.[7]

A 2018 study of tissue slides and medical reports led by evolutionary biology professor Michael Worobey found evidence against the disease originating from Kansas, as those cases were milder and had fewer deaths compared to the infections in New York City in the same time period. The study did find evidence through phylogenetic analyses that the virus likely had a North American origin, though it was not conclusive. In addition, the haemagglutinin glycoproteins of the virus suggest that it originated long before 1918, and other studies suggest that the reassortment of the H1N1 virus likely occurred in or around 1915.[29] [Emphasis FD]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu

Hope,
You ask what is silly about the insults you posted concerning Trump and the U.S. The answer is that all of it is silly. It could have all been written by the Democrat/Socialist Party. It's simply a litany of Democrat talking points, and insults with no evidence to support any of it. It's simply opinion masquerading as fact.
Romany
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 2:40:30 PM
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

Jacobus -

It always used to astound me to realise how life changed both during and because of, WW2 as well. From time to time I'd be utterly gobsmacked to find something I'd thought had been around for ever, turned out to have been based upon exigencies and make-do-and-mends of the period. Or of research done by various Military and governmental projects of the time.

FD = "the Spanish Flu was a good thing" ?? more people died during it than did in the war, countries were decimated, famines arose. No, I don't think it was a good thing at all.

And hey, thanks for doing that research, very interesting, and I stand corrected.

However, no matter where it is thought to have originated, I was pointing to the way people like to make - and perpetuate - "blame" as in "X Countries Flu" or "Y countries Virus"(It's like "Pass the Parcel") That's the reason for the inverted commas around "Spanish" Flu. (Just as the introduction of venereal diseas was supposed to have come from Somewhere Else during the Middle Ages - when modern technology has discovered it's been around for a few thousands years.)

And, once again, I appreciate the fact that you posted the information source.


FounDit
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 3:20:01 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/19/2011
Posts: 15,647
Neurons: 74,672
Romany wrote:

Jacobus -

It always used to astound me to realise how life changed both during and because of, WW2 as well. From time to time I'd be utterly gobsmacked to find something I'd thought had been around for ever, turned out to have been based upon exigencies and make-do-and-mends of the period. Or of research done by various Military and governmental projects of the time.

FD = "the Spanish Flu was a good thing" ?? more people died during it than did in the war, countries were decimated, famines arose. No, I don't think it was a good thing at all.
Well, I didn't say it was a good thing, but Jacobus did ask you how the Spanish flu changed the world, and you listed many good things that came from it, particularly in the medical field. Are you now retracting all the good things you said resulted from it?

My point was to show that even in the worst of circumstances, there can be some good come from it, if nothing else, to show us what we should not do. There will no doubt be some lessons learned from this pandemic also, and those will be good things.


And hey, thanks for doing that research, very interesting, and I stand corrected.

However, no matter where it is thought to have originated, I was pointing to the way people like to make - and perpetuate - "blame" as in "X Countries Flu" or "Y countries Virus"(It's like "Pass the Parcel") That's the reason for the inverted commas around "Spanish" Flu. (Just as the introduction of venereal diseas was supposed to have come from Somewhere Else during the Middle Ages - when modern technology has discovered it's been around for a few thousands years.)
There is no "blame". It's simply a name that was assigned to the pandemic, just as this one has a couple of names assigned to it also: Wuhan virus, Chinese virus (It did come from china, after all. That's just a simple fact), and Covid-19. All this is objectively, empirically true.

And, once again, I appreciate the fact that you posted the information source.


Hope123
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 11:22:57 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
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Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
FD, in your responses to Romany, you first say it is an insult to the US when she said it was thought to have originated there. Then you say later there is no “blame” attached to a name of where other diseases originated. ???

:::

It must be nice to be able to write off your president's own words and actions as simply Democratic talking points and opinion. At least the world is objective and sees through him, even if you don't.

Trump sees no value in many preventive measures for the future and gets rid of them as being too costly - for instance he disbanded the pandemics team in 2018.

Trump's top priority is never what’s happening to the country or good for the people but instead how it’s making him look, which affects his re-election chances, and has led him all along to downplay the severity of the pandemic. Some governors and people have listened to him and are not social distancing.


So now - all this winning.

77, 690 new Covid-19 cases today world wide

19,710 in U.S as it has its most new cases today

1/4 of new cases are in the US which has 1/20 of the world population
Hope123
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 11:59:27 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 10,049
Neurons: 57,307
Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Romany and Jacobus,

There are often silver linings in many “bad” happenings.

I am hoping that people will continue to help one another as they have been doing. One friend ordered 100 lbs of yeast (none available in stores) and delivered one pound to 100 families. She bought food for some poorer than she, and delivered groceries to many - us included.

Also, I was on a Caremongering limited group on Facebook when I lived in Burlington. We had not panicked and stocked up on anything - in fact we were trying to use up what we had so less to move. Anyhow, I said on the group I was getting nervous about our moving during this crisis and asked if anyone knew where to buy masks for moving day. Three different strangers brought masks and gloves to our condo and did it while social distancing. Several people bought groceries for us while we self isolated for about a month before we moved. We are now going ourselves for groceries at senior times but are being careful with social distancing and wearing those masks and gloves.

Movers went above and beyond and carried in the heaviest pieces of new furniture and appliances from the garage, as the furniture store was allowed to deliver the boxes only as far as the garage.

It would be nice if the cooperation between provincial and federal governments would continue. (Whistle Well, I am an optimist.)

I also hope people will like the slower pace, will be a little more conscious of how often they run to the store, and will see what is important in life. People are realizing it is friends and family that were missed the most. That the frontline workers who are the ones that keep us safe and keep society moving will get to keep that minimum wage increase.

There will be changes made to Ontario's homes for seniors after this virus pointed out inadequacies. Let's hope the Ontario government will start funding hospitals properly.

Maybe anti vaxxers will see the light. After SARS and MERS were controlled, they stopped trying to make vaccines. What if they re-emerge? Maybe this pandemic will be different.

Scientists and researchers are already looking at things differently.

Canadians have learned that we need to be more self sufficient and some companies have already changed products.

Let's hope that there will be even more lessons learned and silver linings emerge.



And I found several new products as people did the shopping for me or we ordered online and got curb side pickup. Whistle Whistle Whistle
FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 12:08:50 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/19/2011
Posts: 15,647
Neurons: 74,672
Hope123 wrote:
FD, in your responses to Romany, you first say it is an insult to the US when she said it was thought to have originated there. Then you say later there is no “blame” attached to a name of where other diseases originated. ???
It is an insult to place blame on someone when they are innocent of fault.

Romany said Spanish flu started here in the U.S. I merely said she was incorrect, and provided evidence of several hypotheses that suggest otherwise. But saying the corona virus started in China is not an insult, nor is it blame. It is a fact.

:::

It must be nice to be able to write off your president's own words and actions as simply Democratic talking points and opinion. At least the world is objective and sees through him, even if you don't.
All anyone has to do is listen to what they say, or in this case, what you say. You provide all the evidence necessary to see the truth of the statement.

Trump sees no value in many preventive measures for the future and gets rid of them as being too costly - for instance he disbanded the pandemics team in 2018.

Trump's top priority is never what’s happening to the country or good for the people but instead how it’s making him look, which affects his re-election chances, and has led him all along to downplay the severity of the pandemic. Some governors and people have listened to him and are not social distancing.
And here your provide more evidence of your bias and hatred.

So now - all this winning.

77, 690 new Covid-19 cases today world wide

19,710 in U.S as it has its most new cases today

1/4 of new cases are in the US which has 1/20 of the world population
Hope123
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 6:19:54 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 10,049
Neurons: 57,307
Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
FounDit wrote:
Hope123 wrote:
FD, in your responses to Romany, you first say it is an insult to the US when she said it was thought to have originated there. Then you say later there is no “blame” attached to a name of where other diseases originated. ???
It is an insult to place blame on someone when they are innocent of fault.

Romany said Spanish flu started here in the U.S. I merely said she was incorrect, and provided evidence of several hypotheses that suggest otherwise. But saying the corona virus started in China is not an insult, nor is it blame. It is a fact.


Thanks for the explanation.
:::

It must be nice to be able to write off your president's own words and actions as simply Democratic talking points and opinion. At least the world is objective and sees through him, even if you don't.
All anyone has to do is listen to what they say, or in this case, what you say. You provide all the evidence necessary to see the truth of the statement.

Trump sees no value in many preventive measures for the future and gets rid of them as being too costly - for instance he disbanded the pandemics team in 2018.

Trump's top priority is never what’s happening to the country or good for the people but instead how it’s making him look, which affects his re-election chances, and has led him all along to downplay the severity of the pandemic. Some governors and people have listened to him and are not social distancing.
And here your provide more evidence of your bias and hatred.

Just because the statement exposes my bias and hatred of the man, does not mean it is wrong. My bias was formed by reading some of Trump's own tweets. Of course I can't find the exact tweet but I clearly remember one on @RealDonaldTrump (blue check mark meaning verified account) saying that it was important to keep the number of Covid19 cases/deaths down because his re-election depended upon it. He did not say important to keep them down period. i.e. for the good of the people. Also, he got rid of the Pandemic Council in 2018 - why would he do that if he cared?

So now - all this winning.

77, 690 new Covid-19 cases today world wide

19,710 in U.S as it has its most new cases today

1/4 of new cases are in the US which has 1/20 of the world population
Hope123
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 6:28:05 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 10,049
Neurons: 57,307
Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Hope123 wrote:
This is a fairly long read because it is filled with many great insights into where the world stands right now during Covid-19 and the problems the world faces in the future.

There is a lot to think about in this opinion piece and if you have any ideas to add about how humans need to respond now, please do so - for example how you see it affecting your life in the future and what you intend to do about it.


https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-making-history-how-a-pandemic-took-the-world-by-surprise/


Author's Conclusion: Now, we are experiencing our own great disruption. It is not world war nor a Great Depression, although it could well become one. Will we in time ignore the present’s lessons and warnings? Or will we reinforce, rebuild and reform our societies, from the local to the global, so that we are better prepared? It could go either way and much will depend on the sort of leaders we get in the next years. But it will also depend on our willingness to hold them to account.

While we will have to keep washing our hands, let’s only do so in a literal sense. If we are to build a better future, we, leaders and publics both, must not be like Pontius Pilate and abdicate all responsibility.


Back on topic -

I am content with the way the Canadian governments have worked together and people have responded by social distancing, some wearing masks, and with the desire to help each other during this difficult time. So far we have flattened the curve, the healthcare system has not been overwhelmed, and the economy is beginning to reopen slowly.

We personally feel safe enough to go to stores, especially during early morning senior hours, and while wearing masks, as others are social distancing and wearing masks too. People are being considerate and respectful of each other.

The governments will have staggering debts because of the help supplied to everyone affected financially, but we have to get through this before we worry about the debt.

The challenge is to keep the case load decreasing, not increasing, after the economy opens more.

Of course there will always be idiots who do dumb things but this chart shows how most Canadians are thinking as evidenced by their behaviour in my personal experience and in Canadian news.

Hope123
Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 10:23:00 PM

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Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Original Post: This is a fairly long read because it is filled with many great insights into where the world stands right now during Covid-19 and the problems the world faces in the future.


I copied and pasted this article that fits in. The world misses the leadership of the US.

This Irish Times article should be read by every last person in this country. (America) It’s behind a paywall, so here it is in full:

Read it and weep, my fellow Americans.


From the Irish Times
April 25, 2020
By Fintan O’Toole

THE WORLD HAS LOVED, HATED AND ENVIED THE U.S. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE PITY IT

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted ... like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

Abject surrender
What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.

In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

Fertile ground
But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.

And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.
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