There Is No We In ‘American’
To understand American society and culture, you have to understand that the secret to the country is revealed in the anagram formed by its name.
Unscrambled, the word “American” decomposes neatly to “I can ream.”
From day one, going back to February of 2020, American leaders of all political stripes actively downplayed the risks posed by the emerging Covid-19 pandemic. They only locked down, despite weeks of warnings from scientists working in places where the virus had taken hold, once New York City got smacked down hard.
Many of this rat-infested nightmare of a city’s wealthy residents see themselves as America’s upper crust, an educated and esteemed elite, guardians of American alleged democracy. While Spain and Italy saw horrific first waves they wrote somber warnings in the New York Times and Atlantic encouraging Americans to wash their hands, but only when their home city was struck in its turn was the nation’s attention was fixed on the mortal threat posed by the pandemic.
The irony being that the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, and the governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo were encouraging people to believe, against all emerging evidence and warnings, that the subways were safe, asymptomatic spread was no big deal, that masks were unnecessary for the general population, and everything was under control.
New York City is also home to many of the biggest national media organizations. As reporters and editors began to watch neighbors die, the nation was forcibly transfixed, states finally moving to lock down in an act of rare national solidarity that was supposed to last long enough to get working testing and contact tracing systems in place so that less-harsh quarantines could deal with outbreaks.
That never happened.
At the root of this criminal negligence are American politicians, who thanks to the evil two-party system are generally able to escape being held personally responsible for gross professional failures while in office. America’s pandemic performance under either the Trump or Biden Administrations has been atrocious.
In a real democracy the politicians would all be held to account. But not in America’s fake democracy. Here the domestic political forever war is all that matters — so long as the other side looks bad nothing else matters.
People with power lie to protect it. The smart ones wrap their lies in pretty speech hoping no one will look too closely at what they’re really saying and doing. But power breeds lies and liars, which is why real democracy is so critically important — not this sham-democracy America’s oligarchs call their “Republic” which was founded, as were the ancient Greek and Roman empires it apes, on slavery and genocide.
Democracy — real, multi-party democracy with universal voting — works because no one can hold power for too long, so the political system has a chance of shifting with time to more closely match the will of the people. Democracy will never be perfect, but it can function under the right conditions.
But in the United States, where only 10%-20% of seats in Congress are even competitive in House elections and the majority of states are now permanently and totally under the control either Democrats or Republicans, there can be no true democratic accountability.
It can always be derailed and defused by stoking partisan tensions. Politicians escape accountability because everyone is afraid of making their team look bad.
This is not democracy.
Powerful Americans and their sycophants will pretend it is, but they’re lying, covered by the fact it is taboo to speak certain truths in public. Social media companies in America— Medium included — effectively censor content by tweaking algorithms whenever certain ideas start to spread.
What this twisted oligarchic nightmare has produced is a situation where both parties are locked in a competition for donor dollars using a complex game of theatrics to obscure the truth of the cruel business. Each party operates what scholars researching other countries would immediately label patronage networks if political science as a discipline wasn’t so intrinsically racist.
In the United States, business groups lobby for favorable tax laws and regulations in order to lower their costs of doing business. They are supported by their shareholders and workers who know their livelihoods are on the line and in the two-party system know which side is likely to advance their interests.
The banking lobby, energy lobby, union groups, and special interest groups are all engaged in a perpetual negotiation with politicians hoping to minimize their own tax burden by shoving it onto other sectors of the economy. When in power they reduce taxes on allied companies and loosen regulations, shifting the relative burden onto companies who back the other side. Many try to play both sides, but ultimately are dragged along by broader trends in their industry.
Most of the climate change action being touted in D.C. is greenwashing designed to elevate capitalist solar and wind interests over capitalist oil and coal corporations. Actual investors hedge by splitting investments across both sides. The half of Americans too poor to invest are screwed over no matter who wins.
In a post-Citizens United World, this is simply how American government works. Everything politicians say and media outlets cover plugs into the grand stagnant system somewhere, the entire nightmare preying on the rest of us until it finally collapses under its own weight.
In the end, American politicians were never going to do what was necessary to beat Covid-19. The only health metric they ever chose to give a damn about was hospitalizations because overflowing ICUs sent a powerful signal to average people who changed their behavior. Images first from Italy, then the UK, then New York City shocked Americans — who, in fact, began social distancing before the government got involved, if you dig up some mobility data.
The reason inflation is eating at Americans’ wallets now is a massive and likely permanent shift in how they spend their money. Millions of people are moving towards consuming stuff in their own home as opposed to going out.
This is why some companies are struggling right now while others are in the middle of a boom. It’s why the economic recovery has been and will be K-shaped. Governments have had all the data they need to predict this — and the Delta variant too — but politicians chose not to listen to scientists who told them things they didn’t like to hear.
When the images out of New York City were scaring everyone, even Republican politicians were forced to take action. Stimulus funding passed through D.C. with ridiculous speed. Joe Biden’s half-assed bipartisan infrastructure and reconciliation bills have taken almost a year to get in a position to pass — Covid-19 bailouts materialized in weeks.
But as soon as the pandemic began to wane in the Northeast — even as it took off in Florida and Texas — there came a marked shift in media coverage. Politicians, realizing the pandemic was too costly to beat began to focus on the economy, not the vulnerable who are still dying to this day.
Once reporters and editors stopped fearing for their own loved ones’ lives, fears of the economic impacts of the pandemic were amplified more than humane concerns about rising death tolls. People who never cared for an instant about American childrens’ mental health a year before began demanding schools reopen because few managed to get distance learning right —and most unionized teachers never wanted to.
The politicization of the pandemic response during the 2020 Election was a national scandal and tragedy — and both sides played their wicked part. Democrats were more than happy to blame the inept federal response, ignoring the failures of numerous state governors, and as election day approached a consistent meme emerged blaming the federal government for everything. Only a change of Presidency could save us, they warned.
So much for that. Nearly as many Americans will have died in the first year of Joe Biden’s administration as perished under Trump’s.
Where is the accountability? Where is the outrage? Why are people not rioting in the streets?
Because our politicians and media tell us over and over again that this is as good as things can be. Americans as individuals are at fault, not the leaders who spent the past two years fighting to avoid being blamed for sucking so mightily.
Politicians on both sides deliberately chose to abdicate as much responsibility as they could get away with to local governments that were simply not equipped to handle the challenge and themselves were closely tied to the business community. Both parties were content with relying on public messaging putting the onus for stopping Covid on individuals and businesses whose employees have been forced to become Covid rule enforcers and suffer nonstop abuse as a consequence.
America’s leaders embraced a pernicious and deadly mythology unique to America — that every individual is solely responsible for their condition, that is it an educated citizen’s responsibility to manage their own personal risk. Those who fail have only themselves to blame in America — because Americans won’t hold their leaders accountable.
The truth is that you can never rely on individuals to self-police to the degree necessary to stop a pandemic. A virus is invisible, information about our true risk isn’t available, and humans have limited attention spans. When people are sick and dying around us, it is easier to remember how important it is for everyone that we fight the virus. In absence of government action, we still respond — it’s when government tells us all is well that people wind up divided as everyone responds in the way they think best.
That’s why in a pandemic you have to knock the virus out fast and hard. Every day of delay guarantees an exponential increase in cases down the line. This is the lesson Australia and New Zealand and Malaysia and Singapore and South Korea and Denmark taught the world — not that American media cares to pass on the message at how much better they have all done than this fake nation.
You have to do a lockdown of sufficient length to reduce caseloads to the point that contact tracing and testing can identify new outbreaks in local areas before they widely spread.
What this means is a deliberate segmentation of the physical parts of the country to create Covid-free zones. A true national lockdown, lifted one region at a time, with regions defined by actual patterns of movement, not arbitrary county or state boundaries.
Anyone with the slightest shred of training in systems science, geography, public health, or epidemiology could tell you this. It is precisely because people get lockdown fatigue that you have to do it right the first time. A real, competent government would have figured out to do this.
Decrepit, self-delusional America never did — its pathetic, sclerotic leaders have killed at least 800,000 Americans.
They deserve to pay a heavy price.
The brutal truth of Covid-19 is that rich, wealthy Americans no longer fear it. And so, like anything else that disproportionately impacts the poor, the pandemic is being pushed out of the public consciousness, the thousands still dying every day largely ignored by people who are more concerned with being able to visit their friends than keep the elderly from dying.
Vaccines have substantially reduced this death rate — but Covid-19 is now set to be the kind of virus that flares up every year in a new form that partially evades the prior year’s vaccine and, as always, leaves poorer Americans taking the worst hits. Thanks to the criminal incompetence of America’s “leaders” Americans will continue dying from this plague for years to come — that, folks, is what living with the virus really means.
Once the media and politicians decide something is normal, no one cares anymore. The United States spent twenty years fighting a futile war on terror that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.
No one is calling for investigations or punishment. It’s forgotten — because the war was bipartisan and profitable for the right people. Veterans? Victims? Irrelevant to the powers that be.
There is so much blood on the hands of the American taxpayer — but do you see politicians or even the very people who give around 50% of their federal income taxes to the Pentagon protesting this criminal waste of money? Nah, that’d be unpatriotic — a sin in the American civic faith, where the core belief is that America is God’s own special creation.
There ought to be a Covid Justice party demanding a total reform of this broken country so this never happens again. There ought to be a Pentagon Justice party going after exorbitant military expenditures.
But not in America. There is no we in American — only I, and those I can ream.
Democrats have used the pandemic and Capitol attack as an excuse to portray themselves as the only American political party willing to defend democracy. It is now expressly doing this to cater to a wealthy suburban base while counting on urban progressives — disproportionately younger people of color, to turn out in elections out of fear of what happens if the crazy Republicans are back in power.
Republicans, obviously, almost unanimously agree that the Pandemic is God’s plan. I’m frankly surprised the Evangelicals aren’t calling this the Rapture and trying to die of Covid.
This is why so many Americans have given up on the political system. People have a sense of when they’re being lied to — and this creates exactly the kind of cognitive dissonance that has led to so many people turning their backs on masks and vaccines, a shift the Republican Party has embraced.
The catastrophic ripple effects of Covid-19 have only just begun to be felt. Much of this piece was originally posted in March of 2020 — before Delta smacked America, before a wasted year of political in-fighting. I’m editing and re-posting it now because the vast majority of my argument from eight months ago still holds true.
When people really start to think about what has happened, anger at the establishment will rise — and this at a moment where young people are already turning against the status quo on the left and the right.
A tipping point has been reached, a threshold crossed, where “Burn it all Down” is set to become the default position of a huge number of people, right when the Republicans become the default anti-establishment option.
Whatever you personally feel about the future of the country, one thing is certain:
America’s politicians and media pundits have destroyed America. They have chosen to allow hundreds of thousands of needless deaths because they lacked the courage and ingenuity to lead.
When anyone in this country starts saying we, close your ears. They have only one goal: drag you into their moral universe, making you a footsoldier in their war.
Take it from me, someone who volunteered for the War on Terror and trained to wage it — that’s not what you want. It isn’t worth it.
Meanwhile, Americans keep dying. Medical staff are understandably quitting in record numbers, having discovered just how much this country cares about them — just like so many veterans of the War on Terror did.
Welcome to the club. I’m so, so sorry for what this country has done to us all.
There is no We in America. And that’s why the thing is doomed to die.
Let it, I say — then build something better.
A real democracy.