There is an overwhelming and grim reality: Most Covid deaths could have been prevented, but America’s fractured culture – political, economic and personal – has primarily delivered death rather than life.
Still, the death rate is incredibly high, given that the mass of America produces Covid-19 vaccines that prevent most deaths. Instead of an orderly life-saving response to the epidemic, the American response has been unruly and messy from the start.
Many lives would have been saved if the United States had implemented only basic public health protections until mass immunization coverage was possible: mask warrants, physical distancing, emergency procedures. test-trace-isolation and closure of large events. Once the vaccines arrived, the continued use of precautionary measures would have helped keep the virus at bay. (Vaccines save lives but only partially prevent infections and transmission.)
American culture has repeatedly shown itself to be too self-centered, short-sighted, and ill-informed to prevent mass deaths and continued outbreaks of infection.
Even with life-saving vaccines in the offing or in hand, politicians – and especially Republican politicians – and too much of the public have demanded complete, immediate, and unhindered personal freedom: the freedom not to wear face masks, freedom to attend large gatherings, the freedom to avoid vaccines, and the freedom to infect others.
Many right wingers treated even the most modest and limited protections as an attack on freedom. No immediate gratuity should be refused; no face mask is warranted, even in schools, where children face threats of infection. The message is now, now, now, without pause for informed thinking and safety.
The selfishness of it all has been astounding. Poor people and people of color in disproportionate numbers, as well as frontline workers, have repeatedly been ordered to go to work in unprotected places in workplaces where even the basic protections of face masks were widely flouted.
We have seen courageous public health workers face abuse and even death threats, and salespeople and customers have been clubbed just for asking others to put on face masks. We have seen members of the clergy endanger their worshipers by demanding the right to hold religious services indoors even as the pandemic rages in their community, even when they could have moved services outside. or online.
We have been overwhelmed by the infodemic of fake news on social and right-wing networks.
The United States has proven to be the land of a very special notion of freedom: the freedom to harm others, to put the poor and frontline workers in danger of death, and to spread disinformation. Freedom, in short, without a glimmer of responsibility.
In recent weeks, the culture of irresponsibility has unfolded in particularly dangerous and vulgar ways in Florida, Texas and other states where Republican governors have fought against even the most basic of public health measures. . Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have, through their policies, effectively brought their citizens to death. Not only have they avoided state-level mandates on the use of face masks, but they have aggressively blocked local school districts from doing so.
These facts reflect two aspects of our shattered culture: the Republican ideology of irresponsibility in the name of freedom and a culture plagued by disinformation that results from chronically shoddy public education.