Times of crisis reveal what societies are really made of. We are at a crossroads. Our collective response to this pandemic will tell us whether America is a real civilization or merely a commercial enterprise. Do we truly value human lives or simply worship the “Golden Calf” of the economy?
Civilization is about having values, ethical codes and a way of life that make our lives meaningful. It is about honor, loyalty, self-sacrifice, compassion and love. Commerce is about making money. Money is nice, but it can’t buy you love. Money might help get you on a ventilator, but it won’t buy you a way off of it.
As a nation, our response to this crisis so far has been awful. I’m not talking about our doctors, nurses, food providers, etc. They have been great. I’m talking about leadership. Our leader is in power because of one of our collective choices.
In just a few months, Trump’s behavior has made the enormous self-sacrifice by millions of Americans on the frontlines of this pandemic not only necessary, but supremely dangerous. Millions of U.S. citizens, giving it their all every day, simply can’t make up for the harm Trump has done. Trying to restart the economy before we have tests and a cure threatens to undo most of that heroic work.
Trump has tried to shift the blame for this catastrophe on to everyone he can think of: China, the World Health Organization (WHO), Obama, etc. All that just doesn’t wash. A simple timeline tells you all you need to know:
We didn’t need China or WHO to tell us about the outbreak — U.S. intelligence already knew about it. Why criticize China for under-reporting deaths and a lack of transparency? Trump does the same thing on national television every day.
In 2016, Republicans screamed that the four Americans killed in Benghazi was the worst tragedy since 9/11. “American Carnage,” Trump cried. Today we see true American carnage — the equivalent of 25,000 Benghazis. And we aren’t done yet. Trump supporters apparently just don’t care. It is commerce before values. No investigations please, just get back to work.
The anti-lockdown protesters are a dangerous absurdity: these people thought they could outlast a nuclear war. A few weeks of social distancing have left them stir crazy. In the aftermath of a real nuclear war, they apparently would have rushed out of the shelters early and died in droves.
Those who urge us to sacrifice human lives at the altar of reopening the economy are a tragic comment on our nation’s condition. Talk about losing sight of basic values: we work so we can live our lives — we don’t live our lives (or die) so we can work.
Most of this carnage was simply avoidable. We must make better choices if we are to be a civilization, not just a platform for the economy. That would have to include electing a competent, sane president. Reopening the economy now is just a recipe for more carnage.
It’s interesting to think about how many Americans would still be alive if Trump had been impeached in January.
Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport.