Lessons from the coronavirus

The United States is in the thick of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus crisis. It leads the world in the number of deaths, with reported cases in all 50 states assuming you believe the numbers coming out of the CCP. Nearly 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, which means millions of people have lost their employer-provided health insurance.

Working class Americans feel like they are living through Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year. They are learning to live with uncertainty, constantly practicing hand hygiene and prioritizing needs from wants. The economy has come to a sudden stop, induced into a coma to deal with the public health crisis.

They are living through a disaster movie. It was business as usual until less than two months ago; now it’s business as unusual with virus precautions engulfing nearly every aspect of American life. Their lives now depend on staying home and doing nothing. A lot of thought is put into doing nothing. Even comedy is becoming tiresome – there is nothing to joke about. They are cooped up with no end in sight. It’s difficult not to be paranoid when the sky is falling and the walls of their daily existence are caving in on them and their families.

Of course, the wealthy are in a twist, grappling with the traumas of cancelled golf games and visible roots. While health care employees are working 14-hour days risking everything, Ellen DeGeneres is comparing living in her sprawling mansion to being stuck in jail.

Americans are searching for elected officials willing and able to work together and put aside their partisan bickering in the face of a national crisis. They want authority figures who do not engage in self-aggrandizement and can draw upon their experience to assuage the fears of an anxious country.

There is much Americans don’t know, and much that they think they know is probably wrong, thanks to Chinese Communist Party dissembling. It’s payback time for the globe’s fatal attraction to the CCP and dependency on foreign sources of medical supplies. It may well be that the ordinary working American will be thankful that the peak of globalization will be behind them when the country emerges from this crisis.

A key question is why the country was so utterly unprepared for this crisis. Leave it to history and to a national commission to interrogate this question. But a book published by Barbara W. Tuchman in 1984, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, may be a good place to start to answer this question. Tuchman explains how smart people in power can do stupid things. The book illustrates how governments act against their own best interests, making policy mistakes and strategic blunders. A fundamental lesson is that humanity seems unable to learn the lessons of history. In other words, why do countries keep shooting themselves in the foot?

As for history repeating itself, there was a 2019 Pandemic Flu exercise called “Crimson Contagion” run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from January to August of 2019. The purpose of the exercise was to simulate the spread of a respiratory virus from China to the United States and killing nearly 586,000 Americans. The results of the exercise were defined by “confusion” and “bureaucratic chaos,” with friction emerging between the state and federal governments on issues ranging from equipment shortages to guidelines for social distancing. Sound familiar?

There’s more. Among the most tangible results of “Crimson Contagion” was an “inability to quickly replenish certain medical supplies, given that much of the product comes from overseas.” The U.S. is paying a high price for being caught so flatfooted and the government is now playing catch up.

Best to recall the words attributed to Winston Churchill: “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”

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