Serious: this disease has hit our American values

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But why is that? The Spanish flu did not change the course of American education. Polio, a particularly nasty and crippling killer of young people, left my mother and grandmother aghast with fear for their little ones, but their little ones still went to school. When I was a kid, our neighborhood, Hilltop, used to have chickenpox parties not to protect or immunize against this childhood disease, but to introduce everyone to a current carrier so we could all end it at the same time.

So what has changed? Why is COVID both a national crisis and a cultural divide?

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The more I listen to people on this issue and all the issues related to it – masks, distancing, vaccinations, etc. sitting, American values: progress and resilience.

That Americans believe in progress is found in the second motto of the Great Seal of the nation, novus ordo seclorum, that is, a new order of the ages. The American Revolution not only overthrew British rule, it established a “new American era”. And with him, a new man, a new person, an American. The American did not accept what was, simply because it had always been, what seemed to be the reality of the huge European subclasses. In saying this, please understand that I recognize that the Renaissance and the Enlightenment came from Europe. But in our national mythology, this rise of the human creature to its own two feet and to its full stature was only truly fully realized by this new creation, this American. It was the American vision, American exceptionalism which postulated, which knew, that nothing stood in the way of us, that anything was possible.

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By then, the scientific advances of the West, of which America is an integral part and undoubtedly in pole position, have demonstrated it. Everything was possible. Smallpox has been eradicated from the face of the Earth. Polio pushed to distant borders, even exotic. Malaria is rare enough that American doctors, two decades after the end of WWII, can be forgiven for scratching their heads when a veteran / patient comes before them with latent symptoms. Vaccination against chickenpox is now compulsory for school attendance.

Our American sense of progress won’t accept, won’t accept a pandemic because, I guess, we all thought we got past that kind of nonsense. And we are not ready to go back to accepting such a disease, not ready to accept that our progress is not always one-sided. No reflux, everything is flowing.

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The other conflicting American trait, and the one that has rushed headlong towards that of progress, is resilience. We do not shy away from difficulties or conflict. If we did, we would still be under British rule, and even if we had managed to escape it, we would be 13 small states clinging to an Atlantic coastline for fear of the wilderness, the Appalachians, the harsh realities of life at home. frontier. Or we would be a divided nation and a enslaved demi-nation, having let South Carolina and its Confederate sisters break away rather than sacrifice 600,000 of our best on the altar of freedom. If medical science and know-how cannot beat the pandemic, an issue still debated, then stare at it and grumble “do your worst” in the face. As our 35th President more ably put it, “Let every nation know… that we will pay any price, bear any burden, face any difficulty, support any friend, we will oppose any any enemy, in order to ensure the success of freedom ”.

So why has the pandemic divided us so much? Perhaps because it has divided us, like a bizarre national schizophrenia, between two of our most basic national traits.

And two of our most admirable.


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