Coronavirus Crisis Lays Bare Injustices of American Society: US Author
- March, 28, 2020 - 09:18
- World news
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An American author highlighted the reasons behind the US government’s ineptitude to handle the worsening coronavirus pandemic across America, noting that the country’s privatized health-care system has failed to marshal a sustainable plan to stem the outbreak.
“There are a number of factors behind the evident ineptitude we now see in Washington. There is the sheer complacency innate within the American outlook: Nothing evil will overcome our exceptional nation, and we are capable of managing any and all difficulties,” Patrick Lawrence based in Norfolk told Tasnim.
He added, “…our privatized health-care system, geared to profit rather than human well-being, is scandalously ill-suited to address a pandemic such as COVID19”.
Lawrence is a writer and columnist. He has published five books and is now at work on his sixth. He served as a correspondent abroad for many years and is also an essayist, editor, and critic. Lawrence has taught at universities in the US and abroad and lectures widely. He currently produces two commentaries (weekly and bi-weekly), primarily on foreign affairs and the media.
Apart from his staff work, Lawrence’s reportage, commentary, essays, criticism, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Business Week, TIME, The Washington Quarterly, World Policy Journal, The Globalist, The Nation, Asian Art News, and numerous other publications. He is now foreign affairs columnist at The Nation. He makes frequent television and radio appearances.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: According to reports, the coronavirus outbreak across the US is getting worse, with damage accelerated by shortages of key medical supplies. As of Thursday evening, there are over 104,000 confirmed cases nationwide, with over 1,700 deaths. The spike of cases has hospitals around the country scrambling to keep up with the demand for care.Warnings of shortages have reverberated across the country as state governors have pleaded with the federal government to make more supplies available. What is behind this mismanagement? How do you see President Trump’s role in this?
Lawrence: There are a number of factors behind the evident ineptitude we now see in Washington. There is the sheer complacency innate within the American outlook: Nothing evil will overcome our exceptional nation, and we are capable of managing any and all difficulties.
Our neoliberal ideology is another serious problem. Americans have spent four decades, beginning with the Reagan administration, making a demon out of “big government” and minimizing the role of the state. These are tragic mistakes we now pay for. We suddenly discover that in placing markets and profit before all else we leave ourselves radically unable to cope with crises.
Most specifically, our privatized health-care system, geared to profit rather than human well-being, is scandalously ill-suited to address a pandemic such as COVID-19.
If anything positive is to come of this crisis, it will be that we rethink our idea of the place of the state sector in our political economy.
Tasnim: More than six weeks into the Trump administration’s response effort — which began Jan. 29 with the announcement of a coronavirus task force and, two days later, the declaration of a public health emergency — ramped-up testing for the virus has only just begun, hospital systems say they don’t have enough beds and medical supplies to handle the onslaught of anticipated patients, and there is a shortage of respirators, ventilators and other protective equipment for nurses and doctors on the front lines. The emergence of the coronavirus exposed the vulnerability of western governments in the face of such pandemics despite their “advanced medical technology”. There are reports that elderly people are not receiving medical treatment across western hospitals due to shortages. Western governments always brag about their measures to fulfill social justice. Where is it now? What do you think?
Lawrence: “Social justice” is a popular phrase among Americans. Everyone favors it without reservation, rather in the way of apple pie. Now we discover the hollowness of the thought. Social justice is rare, if not nonexistent, in American society. One of the great manifestations of social justice anywhere, logically enough, is a good health-care system that serves all citizens. Our system says all that needs to be said about social justice in America.
Tasnim: Many countries across the world have been hit hard by the virus, including Iran and the US. The situation in Iran could get worse as the White House has refused to lift its unilateral sanctions despite a growing global outcry against them. However, Washington has offered to help Iran with the contagious virus despite the sanctions and its own shortages. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei recently spoke out about the offer and stated it is “very, very strange” that the Trump administration would be offering some form of help when it is blockading medical supplies and equipment from reaching Iran. What is your take on this?
Lawrence: It is a pity, maybe even a tragedy, that the leadership in Iran must view America’s offer of aid with such suspicion. But this is inevitable, in my view. The US proves again and again in recent days it is not able to set aside political or strategic differences and animosities in the name of common humanity. Secretary of State Pompeo is a diabolic figure: This is ever more widely understood. Obsessed with fomenting war with the Islamic Republic, He now favors making strategic use of COVID-19 by tightening sanctions against Iran. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have made it very plain how much the sanctions already in place have hindered Tehran’s capacity to address the health crisis. This matters not at all. We now know that Pompeo and those around him will stop at nothing in their campaign for war with Iran. How can the (Islamic) Republic possibly accept aid in the form of medical materiel without the threat it is in some way meant further to worsen the terrible plight of Iran and Iranians? If there were sincerity in the American offer, the Trump administration would have lifted sanctions in the name of common humanity weeks ago.
Cuba is helping other nations. China is helping others. Russia is helping. If we learn anything from COVID-19, it is that the myth of America as a "global leader" is collapsing as we speak. In this way, the COVID19 crisis will mark a decisive turn in global politics.