As more and more of the nations afflicted by Covid-19 start to see a slowing, perhaps even halting of the crisis, one nation–the U.S.–stands out. If one were to take a look at Johns Hopkins’ data, the U.S. is not alone in continuingly being ravaged by the virus. However, the country has more confirmed cases and death rates than almost the next three most plagued nations combined, all the while being a “world power” and a “developed” nation. Many of the other world powers have, arguably, gotten the situation somewhat under control: either having a clear decrease in daily cases (as well as the other indicators of spread) or moving towards easing the restrictions put upon the populace. Yet, in the U.S., the ridiculously high number of daily cases does not seem to stop growing.
This begs the question why the U.S., a globally recognised power and leader in many technological, educational and even medical innovations, is failing so splendidly. The country’s failure thus far in containing the virus has a myriad of factors, from the lack of an equal and well-established healthcare system to an irresponsible (to say the least) administration. However, I think the problem also lies in another noteworthy aspect, albeit less prominent, that stems much more from history than the current infrastructure or politics: the values on which the US was founded.
As members of the CA community, many of us have spent time and effort learning about the flaws in the American system, raising awareness about residual issues, and discussing potential remedies. I propose that those institutional issues that are present to this day, which are vestigials of the U.S.’s early history, contributed negatively to the COVID crisis. One of these perpetrating values is the American notion of freedom, an idea that has become a joke at the U.S.’s expense both domestically and internationally in recent years. And rightly so, as the American definition of freedom seems to only be valued when it benefited the individual from whose mouth the word sprung. In other words, it might be better to conceptualise American freedom as individual selfishness rather than a collective, national conception.
To verify such a claim, look at how Americans treated the notion of quarantine with protests (meaning the protests against quarantine), overt disobedience to state orders, and in some cases, as political propaganda. Whereas in other nations with comparable regional, economical, political, and technological influence, they listened to their doctors and government and tried their best to keep themselves, as well as others, safe. Of course, this is not to say that everyone in America is negligent of safety measures, but it only takes a passionate few to mess it up for everyone else. That group reasons that keeping others safe is a violation of their own freedom. Yet, by prioritising their own comfort above all else, they are infringing on the rights of others who wish to stay alive.
Much of this flawed and distorted view of freedom stems from values the U.S. has held close to heart since its founding. The notion of “freedom” also exists in many other nations, it is what the democratic West prides itself on. For example, France’s situation, with their motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, would seem miraculous in comparison to the US, “The Land of the Free”. That said, I can only speak of a selection of nations to which I am decently acquainted, such as parts of Europe and the Pacific. However, the point is that these nations are on equal footing with the U.S. in many regards. The fact remains that the U.S., outstripping many nations in its might, also outstrips everyone in its failures.
Many say that the US is founded on an ideal to strive towards, as it still falls short today. I commend this positive outlook on the states’ potential. It must be ceded that the U.S. has undeniably contributed to the world in various ways, a laudable direction in which it seems rather lacking in recent years. I, like many others, came to the U.S. in search of the opportunity that it bore synonymously with its name. Yet, it seems reality oftentimes remains disappointing. The U.S. has changed, for better or worse, I genuinely hope it will live up to its name again in the future.