The American Pageant has become a Greek Tragedy. The outcomes in America are always clear and predictable. Nothing has brought that into bolder relief than the Covid-19 Pandemic and Americans’ response to it.
From the beginning, we knew it would get out of control in the US. A population for which individualistic thinking is a religious concept would not curtail its Dionysian impulses even to save the lives of others. A country driven by and obsessed with its own brand of vulgar capitalism, could not see fit to decouple healthcare from employment in the formal sector, even as a pandemic ravaged its people. Now, despite the pleas, the abject pleas that is, of healthcare workers and even officials of the State, families are — in their infinite narcissistic exceptionalism- traveling for Thanksgiving and getting together for the Holidays. Over the Nov 21–22 weekend, 3 Million travelers clogged US airports, almost as if, well, nothing had changed.
Sure, family is important. For that exact reason, it’s the only decent thing to do to not gather this year. To suggest that one’s family is so important that to break bread (or kill Turkey) for a long weekend is so very essential that possibly depriving another family of the life or health of its members is worth it — that is the view of those who decided to “make an exception” for themselves this year.
A notion central to America- that of the privatized individual- breaks down when it comes to communicable disease- no person begins and ends with the borders of his body or his property; indeed we are all in this soup together. And that is the word that scares America to death- “together.”
The American ethos is one of mythologizing the self-made striver. We don’t celebrate social workers and nurses in America, we celebrate celebrities and cyclopean plutocrats.
We are an odd nation- we “pledge allegiance” but then insist on every possible expression of our individual mandate. We hate those who don’t salute the flag — how could they be selfish we ask? And we also hate those who ask us to accept minor irritations in order to save lives.
Of course, a people who think of themselves as “God’s chosen” must believe-secretly- that they are immune. “This isn’t Africa!” they must think. “It couldn’t happen here.” The privatized, exceptional American ethos is on full display.
Yesterday, over 2,000 Americans died from Covid.
The predictable nature of American behavior used to manifest itself brilliantly in our foreign affairs. Americans predictably lined up behind their leaders when it came to wars and to fawning and genuflecting before military figures. There’s no better indication of this then during the Gulf War when Americans threw “watching” parties as their bombers annihilated Baghdad and boiled babies alive in the Al-Amiriyah Bomb Shelter. This author knows of no country in which military personnel are given rights to board planes before ordinary people- other than the US. Mind you, doctors, nurses, social workers- they don’t have such rights despite (certainly currently) having higher job-related mortality rates. Yes, external wars have always united Americans, on both sides of the “aisle.” Predictably.
This time, this particular internal war (there have been others, including the wars of genocide that this country was founded on), has decoupled Americans from each other, again predictably. Red-Americans balk at mask-wearing. Following basic rules of civility and science is grounds for warfare.
Of course there’s predictable unity too. Red and Blue Americans alike get on planes for Thanksgiving.
One can only imagine what a different country might have done with the surge in Covid-cases during a normally busy travel time. Who knows….maybe restrict flights? Maybe actually enforce their pleas? Not in a country in which (false) market forces replace even God when it comes to servile genuflection.
Yes, we are a predictable animal. Like lemmings.
We screwed this one up. No herd immunity for sure, but herd insanity- predictably.