What This Crisis Reveals About the United States: A British View

Gun lines

Read Nick Bryant’s scathing, but fair, observations about the current state of our country. Here is a taste of his piece at BBC News:

Donald Trump’s response has been so predictable. He has not changed. He has not grown. He has not admitted errors. He has shown little humility.

Instead, all the hallmarks of his presidency have been on agitated display. The ridiculous boasts – he has awarded himself a 10 out of 10 for his handling of the crisis. The politicisation of what should be the apolitical – he toured the Centers for Disease Control wearing a campaign cap emblazoned with the slogan “Keep America Great”.

The mind-bending truth-twisting – he now claims to have fully appreciated the scale of the pandemic early on, despite dismissing and downplaying the threat for weeks. The attacks on the “fake news” media, including a particularly vicious assault on a White House reporter who asked what was his message to frightened Americans: “I tell them you are a terrible reporter.” His pettiness and peevishness – mocking Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican who voted at the end of the impeachment trial for his removal from office, for going into isolation.

His continued attacks on government institutions in the forefront of confronting the crisis – “the Deep State Department” is how he described the State Department from his presidential podium the morning after it issued its most extreme travel advisory urging Americans to refrain from all international travel. His obsession with ratings, or in this instance, confirmed case numbers – he stopped a cruise ship docking on the West Coast, noting: “I like the numbers where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.” His compulsion for hype – declaring the combination of hydroxycholoroquine and azithromycin “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine,” even as medical officials warn against offering false hope.

His lack of empathy. Rather than soothing words for relatives of those who have died, or words of encouragement and appreciation for those in the medical trenches, Trump’s daily White House briefings commonly start with a shower of self-congratulation. After Trump has spoken, Mike Pence, his loyal deputy, usually delivers a paean of praise to the president in that Pyongyang-on-the-Potomac style he has perfected over the past three years. Trump’s narcissistic hunger for adoration seems impossible to sate. Instead of a wartime president, he has sounded at times like a sun king.

Then there is the xenophobia that has always been the sine qua non of his political business model – repeatedly he describes the disease as the “Chinese virus”. Just as he scapegoated China and Mexican immigrants for decimating America’s industrial heartland ahead of the 2016 presidential election, he is blaming Beijing for the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to win re-election.

And this:

As for the American exceptionalism on display, much of it has been of the negative kind that makes it hard not to put head in hands. The lines outside gun stores. The spike in online sales of firearms – Ammo.com has seen a 70% increase in sales. The panic buying of AR-15s. Some Christian fundamentalists have rejected the epidemiology of this pandemic. To prove there was no virus, a pastor in Arkansas boasted his parishioners were prepared to lick the floor of his church.

Once again, those who live in developed nations have been left to ponder why the world’s richest country does not have a system of universal healthcare. Ten years after the passage of Obamacare, more than 26 million Americans do not have health insurance.

Rather than a coming together, the crisis has demonstrated how for decades Americans have conducted a political version of social distancing: the herd-like clustering of conservatives and liberals into like-minded communities caused by the allergic reaction to compatriots holding opposing political views. Once again, we have seen the familiar two Americas divide, the usual knee-jerk tribalism. Republicans have been twice as likely as Democrats to view coronavirus coverage as exaggerated. Three-quarters of Republicans say they trust the information coming from the president, whereas the figure among Democrats is just 8%.

Read the entire piece. This one is really worth your time.