Imagine for this four-minute read that the “Invisible Enemy” was human. And in that imagined scenario “infected” translated into “wounded.” Of course, “death” needs no translation.
Long before 50,000 Americans had died, and nearly 900,000 Americans were “wounded,” missiles would have been flying somewhere. Coalitions would have been (re)forming as they did in World War II. The lockdown we are all living today would likely have accompanied action like the Emergency Price Control Act and the Office of Price Administration that brought “rationing” back to America.
What has historically happened in a crisis of large scale death would have been the creation of a human villain. The hatred for and revenge sought on that villain would also be directed toward all of the villain’s “people” too. Think of the internment camps of the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, or on a smaller scale, the cultural awfulness directed toward Muslims after 9/11.
And Americans would have rallied around the person in charge of the war machine, no matter how ridiculous that person behaved.
Viruses, including coronaviruses, are certainly not human. They are classified as being in a gray area between living and non-living, which makes them even harder to hate. After all, it can’t hate us back. Our humiliator-in-chief can’t embarrass it, or convince it to at least try to keep from offending him. It will just continue its carnage on America, and everywhere else, as if it has no fear of repercussion. It is a truly unflappable kind of evil.
Polticos have made a futile attempt to blame China for the pandemic. The promotion of this generic, moronic blame toward China has translated to blame toward every person who might possibly be of Chinese descent. Thankfully those attempts have not caught on. And what if they did? I don’t know how it could help. As a bonus, I think many of the aimlessly angry among us think the World Health Organization has somehow colluded with China to set this whole thing up. The WHO is hitting back at the accusation, while China’s government ignores it.
History.com teaches us that the infamous Spanish Flu of 1918 actually did not originate in Spain. It was tagged with that name because the media coverage of that pandemic began in Madrid. And again, what if it had? Was it merely battle fatigue from World War I that kept us from invading the Iberian Peninsula? Or maybe we were a more sober people then–during the last couple of years preceding enactment of the 18th Amendment, or Prohibition.
In the absence of a national, cultural or human enemy, we are going to have to respond in a way that is not intuitive to many. Yes, we are going to have to unite, by staying apart. We will have to bond only in non-violent and non-hateful ways. Violence and hate have no value in the here and now.
In a Thursday article written by Katrin Bennhold for the New York Times, Dominique Moisi, a political scientist and senior adviser at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne said this about the U.S. response to the pandemic: “America has not done badly, it has done exceptionally badly…(it) prepared for the wrong kind of war. It prepared for a new 9/11, but instead a virus came.”
“It raises the question: Has America become the wrong kind of power with the wrong kind of priorities?” Moisi went on to ask.
On Friday, Georgia, home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leads the way in loosening some of their restrictions in response to COVID-19. No public health experts, including the CDC, support what they are doing. Jacksonville, Florida opened its public beaches earlier this week and Floridians flocked there, completely abandoning social distancing. Recent modeling shows that none of this should occur before June.
The South is emerging as the region with the highest per capita infection rates. The policies of the southern states are the primary reason for the distinction. The people of the South are not united. Not yet.
The inhuman nature of our foe leaves us in unfamiliar territory. This invisible enemy can’t be bombed. We can’t slap it with a tariff. If we wanted to build a wall to keep it out, where would we build it? COVID-19 can’t change course out of fear of some ominous American ultimatum.
Humanity toward and empathy for each other is our primary weapon. I would have said science, but we don’t uniformly trust that either. Not yet.
For this enemy we actually need each other more than anything else, and more than any other time.