Rather here than there

Naturally, most of the news these days is about the virus crippling the world. We’ve been living with it for a while now, but it still surprises me sometimes.

What surprises me most is what’s happening in the States. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise with a madman like Trump in charge of the place. The surprise is conditioned, but still, it’s startling to compare what’s happened here in Oz with what’s happened – and continues to happen – over there. The results speak for themselves.

In Oz, we’re debating easing the lockdown with only a handful of new infections every day, and the infrequent death. The death toll nationally is still under a hundred.

Contrast that to the States where the latest reported death toll is approaching 70,000. The infection has slowed, but with hundreds still dying every day, it seems sensible to remain cautious. That’s what’s happening here, but I watch the news and see people in the US flock to the beach and attend demonstrations and businesses re-opening, and basically any concept of social distancing going out the window. I’ll go he if there isn’t a spike of infections – and deaths – because of this. It seems utter madness. From afar, you can’t imagine a final death toll under 100K (and probably well beyond when the final tally is done). How many of those lives would have been saved with sensible precautions? Many thousands.

There’s a lot more at play in the US than mere health concerns. There’s politics of course, and the economics of it all, not to mention the mad libertarian impulse of so many Americans. You read signs like Give Me Liberty or Death, and you wonder, really, you’d rather die than sacrifice a visit to the mall? Then there was another banner I read this morning: Honk if you question coronavirus. Seriously? There are hundreds of thousands dead from it, millions infected, and you still think it’s a conspiracy? There’s a lot of smart and unfortunate people in America, but gee, there’s an awful lot of nutters there, too.

And now they’re easing restrictions. It’s suicide.

There’s a lot of media these days about the decline of America and describing it as a failed state. Recent history would support a lot of that, and it’s hard to argue that a lot of structural and cultural damage has been wrought by Trump, which may never be rectified. And it’s fair to say there were issues even before Trump. Even so, I take articles like that with a pinch of salt. Journalists love writing those articles, and a lot of them crave the opportunity to sink the boot into America (a surprising number of them American). But then you see protestors storming the Illinois legislature brandishing automatic weapons, and you know that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the place.

This has become a common sight in recent years, but it’s unique to America, and a few anarchic, tin-pot nations. What has become normal in America is looked upon with horror by the civilised world. Will it change? I don’t know that it can now. And even if Trump is voted out in November – as he must be – then I still doubt that the underlying issues will be resolved. I actually wonder how the half of the country who believe in Trump will respond if and when he gets thrown out – it could become ugly. But ugliness has become emboldened.

We’re not free of politics here, but thank christ it remains in the zone of the sane. I can complain bitterly, and with good cause, but gee we’re a million miles ahead of what’s going on elsewhere. America now acts as a warning of what can go wrong when you let things slide, when you elect the wrong leaders. When – let’s face it – democracy corrupts.

It’s a crazy world. History is moving very quickly before us.

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