US and COVID-19: Death, Denial, and Dog Whistling
Maitreya Bhakal Published: 28/09/2020
It is often said that the average American cares only about three things: his Gun, his God, and his Hamburger. Neither is particularly useful in a health crisis. For it is in this once-in-a-century pandemic that we see the true face of America.
In order to determine a country’s true national strength, it helps to look at how its people and leaders behave during a crisis. COVID-19 has killed more Americans than all US invasions of all nations since World War II. With more than 200,000 deaths and 7 million cases, the world’s most powerful nation is also the worst hit.
Freedom over lives
Initially, few in America took the pandemic seriously – whether the people or the regime. After all, this wasn’t an enemy they could just pray or shoot away (or bomb) like they usually did. People even protested against wearing masks, openly flouting social distancing guidelines, and even having parties. Americans openly – and proudly – disobeyed health guidelines designed to keep the nation safe. No wonder the US lacks an efficient public health system – it simply doesn’t have enough public trust.
US culture rests on a militant version of “individualism”, in other words, personal benefit at the cost of others. It’s every man for himself. When Americans are required to collectively sacrifice something for their country, they are more likely to turn on each other. For instance, unlike in Asia, where people will readily wear masks to avoid infecting their fellow citizens, many Americans simply refuse to wear one.
Such apathy flows from the top. It took 135,000 dead Americans for Mr. Trump, America’s racist President, to finally wear a mask in public for the first time. By contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping first wore a mask in public after only 108 Chinese deaths.
And what about the ruling class? When the pandemic first hit US shores, the regime’s instinctive, Pavlovian response was a mixture of denial and cover-up. After all, this wasn’t an enemy that the trigger-happy regime could simply sanction, bomb, or invade. So it became insecure, its responses awkward and contradictory.
While more sensible countries activated a war-time response, Mr. Trump publicly rubbished his experts, claiming that the new disease was less serious than the flu, calling it “totally under control”.
Wuhan went into lockdown the next day. Other western countries eventually followed China’s example (after decrying it for days as “authoritarian” and “undemocratic”).
Yet, a month later, Trump was simply calling the whole thing a “hoax”.
And then they came for the Chinese
White America has always needed enemies to keep itself united. And few things unite Americans more than a common hatred of someone – whether brusque Russian commies or turbaned Muslim terrorists. It was about time Chinese were labelled as the enemy (again).
When denial and cover-ups didn’t work, the regime switched to race baiting and blaming China and Chinese people to distract the public.
The China blame-game became a full-fledged government strategy. The US propaganda machinery swung into action. Trump and his cronies repeatedly spread dog whistles like “Chinese virus”, leaving no doubt about their true intentions. The regime’s racist rhetoric was amplified and exacerbated by the “free” US media. Tom Cotton, a racist US Senator, and the Washington Post, a racist US propaganda outlet, openly peddled conspiracy theories, claiming that the virus was a Chinese bioweapon.
The concept of honor (or “face”) is important in US culture. Americans are proud of their superpower status, and of what they see as an unassailable lead in science and R&D. If the US is seen as losing face to a poor nation like China, it could significantly affect the regime’s legitimacy. Thus, the regime cast China as a scapegoat for its own failures. Chinese hackers were accused (without evidence, of course) of trying to steal US vaccine research – such as it was.
Orientalist tabloids such as the New York Times projected their guilt to China, frequently accusing it of silencing doctors like the US did (falsely claiming that Li Wenliang was a “whistleblower” who tried to “warn his country”; yet, Wuhan authorities already knew far more than he did, and he did not try to warn the public, but only a private chat group).
The 1800s were back. The “newspaper of record” openly sought to revive decades’ old Sinophobic yellow-peril stereotypes – openly blaming China for the pandemic and even calling it an “incubator” of disease.
And it worked. Hate crimes against Chinese people (or maybe they were Korean or Japanese or Vietnamese – few Americans know or care about the difference) started rising at an unprecedented rate. After all, racism is how many Americans cope with rising poverty and unemployment – you just blame The Other.
Meanwhile, thousands of Americans continued dropping dead like flies – sacrificed at the altar of the regime’s cover-ups and missteps. But not before the regime had asked Americans to try Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with zero clinical benefits for treating COVID-19, or the more bonkers suggestion that they should inject themselves with disinfectant to kill the virus.
While the US government avoided science like the plague, deaths kept climbing. The crisis exposed the raw power struggles that often lie just beneath the regime’s surface. Experts and whistleblowers were silenced, with Trump even publicly disagreeing with his own epidemiologists and state governors. In true strongman fashion, he even threatened to withdraw aid from states whose governors criticized him too much.
The federal government – never entirely comfortable sharing power with its state counterparts – used the crisis as an opportunity to snub them further, even going to the extent of seizing medical equipment. Maryland even sent its own national guard to secure its COVID-19 tests from being seized by the Trump regime.