National Commentary

Pity the Demise Of America

The following comes from a most prominent and civically active general practitioner in my little home town. As people are arguing about lifting restrictions to open the economy, Dr. Gordon Theisz writes:

“More positive Covid-19 cases today — every case in the last two weeks has been in someone who is still working. Most are not aware of who else had it. It is everywhere and not declining — our cases are from Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William, Stafford, Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church. Reduce the spread: Everyone wear masks, stay home if you can, don’t go to work if you feel sick. Failure puts you, your family, your neighbors, you co-workers at risk. Some will die. By the time this is over, everyone will know of someone who died from Covid. One person died who used to live on our street. Be responsible to your fellow human!”

This is my doctor, and he is gravely worried that opening up too soon will be catastrophic.

Meanwhile, Trump has ordered that meat-packing plants remain open, with the impact that workers who fail to show up will be denied unemployment benefits. This is like a death sentence. No surprise that these workers are predominantly racial minorities and with no significant wealth or social protections.

Meanwhile, according to a report this week, “Billionaire Bonanza Report” by the Institute for Policy Studies, the Bloomberg Billionaire Index shows that the nation’s 565 billionaires enjoyed a net increase in value from $2.9 trillion to $3.2 trillion during the first three weeks of the pandemic crisis, March 18 to April 10 during the crisis, itself!

The richest 400 control more wealth than the lower 64 percent of Americans. The claim of one of the three richest, Warren Buffet, is that the nation has shifted from a “meritocracy” (that rewards on the basis of merit) to “dynastic wealth” where the richest simply inherit rather than achieve their wealth. By the way, “dynastic wealth” is the most basic reason behind the American Revolution, in the first place.

So, we can conclude that this obscene imbalance of wealth is fundamentally responsible for why the U.S. has become the most Covid-19 infected nation, by far, on the planet. It is those who are being forced to work who are getting the most ill.

A scathing indictment of America’s response, under Trump, to the pandemic appeared in the Irish Times last week.

By Finian O’Toole, it is entitled, “The World Has Loved, Hated and Envied the U.S. Now, For the First Time, We Pity It.”

“Over more than two centuries,” he wrote, “The United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.”

“It is hard not to feel sorry for Americans,” he states. “Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

“It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time — wilfully, malevolently, vindictively,” he added. “It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

“The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.”

Pity us.

Nicholas F. Benton can be reached at