The Segregationist Approach to Pandemic: Trump’s Coronavirus Strategy Was Doomed to Fail.
[This essay was written in the early stages of the pandemic.]
As the Sunday morning shows began unrolling, I heard two real experts on pandemic health threats discuss Trump’s lunatic response to the Covid-19 threat.
One of them was former Obama Administration operative Ronald Klain. Mr. Klain served as the Ebola virus “czar” in 2014. He has real experience in coordinating a response to the threat of a pandemic.
On the tv panel with Mr. Klain was Laurie Garrett, who serves as a journalist. Ms. Garrett has written an extensive article in a house organ of the American foreign affairs establishment about our self-defeating policy relative to public health threats and specifically pandemics. Garrett explains how in the last few years, this Administration dismantled the apparatus and fired the officials best positioned to manage a pandemic response at the federal level.
Consistent only with its blind antagonism to any public policy scaffolding built up under the Obama White House, the Trump Presidency dismantled the very agency chain of command already in place in 2014–15 to deal with Ebola. Analogous to the flaws found inside our government after the 9–11 attacks, the Obama White House recognized that in a public health crisis it was the very lack of coordination betwixt agencies and the absence of communication and coordination that would doom the public health response to a deadly pandemic like Ebola. Or Covid-19.
In short, even if the experts had available meaningfully efficacious medical strategies to respond to a specific virological threat, that medical knowledge must be implemented in a way to serve the public health in a Nation of over 300 million. And, to serve in a world that is connected by air travel and a service- based information “transfer-economy.”
The United States economy is no longer a simple function of inputs and outputs. It is in truth a “transfer-economy” involving the sharing of cultural and political and information goods combined with all the other traditional inputs and outputs that economists generally measure as our domestic gross national product.
But, in the age of information and digital communications, we can no longer isolate or compartmentalize our economy anymore than we can our biological well-being.
At least not successfully. Indeed, we can no more separate our biological well-being than we can separate the informational and cultural integration obtained from the wider world — no matter how many walls we try to build either physically or psychically.
The Trump efforts at dismantling the previous administration’s policy structures to respond to a pandemic are simply one canary in the biological coal-mine we now find ourselves facing. But more than that is the very mindset with which this regime faces the world and even the Nation.
Thus, the Trump pandemic response apart from anti-expert and anti-science bias and incompetence is doomed by its overarching meta-belief that the virus could be “contained.” Or that by ignoring widespread testing that its inevitable spread could be defeated. Or contained.
For more than the chaos and incompetence (and the lying) about Covid-19, the essential Trump-style view of America is rooted in the idea that we can be separate and apart. That America can, as it did for nearly 350 years, deny its very “connectecteness” to some or all aspects of itself, or to the rest of the World.
Whether it was homegrown racism and the theory of a “tainted”Caucasian race that America employed to fuel human enslavement or the foreign policy of containment against Communism, the American ethos of self-sanitizing has ever been consistent. And, it has ever been consistently self-defeating despite its attempts to separate America from the World and parts of itself.
But, cultural, social, and economic exchanges have proved that the manifest destiny of inter-relatedness and interdependence have always overwhelmingly won out over isolationism.
The ultimate irony is that the very same biological and economic determinants that. have taught us the futility of our refusals to act cooperatively in the areas of social justice and international trade will now show us that denial and containment in a pandemic are doomed to failure. We are too much involved with one another to ignore one another. Indeed, the global environment should have been the most recent powerful proctor of these lessons.
But, it appears now that a microscopic virus is preparing quickly to teach us this lesson in a harsh and unyielding way — the same lesson we should have learned long ago from Dr. King. Yes, we all came on very different ships, but we are really all now in the same boat.
Albert Turner Goins