In America, George Packer wrote, the coronavirus has revealed a sick and unequal society incapable of self-government (June).
I shall chew on this article for several days. The taste is bitter. However, it should be swallowed and digested; hopefully its nutrients will be absorbed.
As I read this excellent article, I was struck by the clarity of the writer’s vision.
I was completely unprepared, however, to burst into tears when I read the last paragraph. The phrase “We can use this pause in our normal lives to pay attention to the hospital workers holding up cellphones so their patients can say goodbye to loved ones” conjured up such a strong image, I couldn’t hold back my tears. We are all grieving—for ourselves, for our country, and for one another. The selflessness of so many people should be an inspiration to all of us.
Howell Township, N.J.
I am a senior administrator at a major public hospital in New York City and have been simultaneously awed by the work of my health-care colleagues and furious at how much has been asked of them because our federal government willfully stopped working like one long ago. It has placed minorities, wage laborers, and “essential workers” at needless risk as the result of replacing core principles of good governance with unrelenting partisan warfare, in all three branches. We’ll dig out and recover from the daily impact of this crisis, but it’s much less certain whether we’ll ever recover the nation’s sense of unity and purpose.
New York, N.Y.
The article was powerful, but it did not tell the entire story. There is a saying in the African American community that was captured by Sam Fulwood III in a 2015 article titled “When White Folks Catch a Cold, Black Folks Get Pneumonia.” Those of us in the African American community who are cognizant of our history and have experienced American inequities are not shocked by the ineptness of the health-care system in poor and urban minority communities. However, white America appears to be.
I could not agree more with Mr. Packer when he says, “Invasion and occupation expose a society’s fault lines … clarifying essential truths, raising the smell of buried rot.” If nothing else, the coronavirus has served as a harsh reminder that while white America is catching a cold, Black America is suffering a potential death threat.
Comparing President Donald Trump’s performance to that of France’s Marshal Philippe Pétain in World War II is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps a more apt World War II comparison is the United States’s disgraceful response to the U-boat menace off our Atlantic coast, in the Caribbean, and in the Gulf of Mexico in 1942. Despite watching how the British dealt with the U-boats in the Atlantic for the first two years of the war, the U.S. failed to prepare, learn, or implement effective countermeasures. It all sounds so familiar.
The accurate and devastating picture of today’s United States speaks to a betrayal of the dreams I had when I came as an immigrant to this country in 1971. Fortunately for all, the U.S. has proved to be a most resilient country, able to recover from the worst natural and man-made disasters.
New York, N.Y.
I am a refugee born after the end of World War II and a proud naturalized American citizen. My heart is wounded by every truth revealed in this article—but I thank Mr. Packer for writing it.
While it is incredibly sad to see our great southern neighbor sink into irrelevancy, the real disturbing thing for Canadians is that our neighbor may drag our nation into the abyss with it.
Sadly, almost every word of George Packer’s article is interchangeable with our experience over decades here in the U.K. It is no coincidence that our respective countries have among the highest COVID‑19 death tolls in the world.
As an Australian, I daily sit in stunned amazement at my American friends, whose leader revels in displaying his ignorance of science and disdain for facts while his fellow citizens die. I love my American friends, but for once I feel desperately sorry for you all.
St Kilda, Victoria, Australia