American Society and Government Must Do Better Amid COVID-19

Luke O'Connell, Editor-in-Chief

     In recent months, it has become increasingly clear how the novel coronavirus has affected American politics and society. It has caused growing conflict between political parties, along with mass unemployment, and has pointed out the flaws in the American system more than any other crisis in recent memory. The lack of understanding, cooperation, and intelligence which has come from President Trump has shown exactly how power corrupts, and why he is unfit to lead. The hoarding of resources, along with poor communication between governments on the federal, state, and local levels, has shown that it’s time for change, and that we cannot allow politics stop us from providing help to those who need it. A bipartisan value of efficiency over democracy and safety has proven that the electoral system takes power away from the individual, and is willing to put them in danger.

President Trump addresses questions at White House press briefing on March 18, 2020. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

     One thing that the current COVID-19 outbreak has shown is that President Trump needs more than an impeachment to curb his abuse of power. Since the beginning of the outbreak, he has shown true ignorance to safety guidelines, and has been playing political games with supplies that must be distributed fairly and with serious consideration. To be specific, let’s look at how these critical supplies have been distributed. In a New York Times article regarding how President Trump, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been handling the current outbreak, it was reported that around the nation, state and local governments are struggling to secure shipments, and have, in some cases, had their shipments taken away after delivery.

     Not only is the Trump administration mistaken about what it is doing, it is “playing politics” in a life-and-death situation. For examples of this, let’s compare situations in Florida and New York, whose respective governors are Ron Desantis (R) and Andrew Cuomo (D). First, we’ll need a little bit of background on the two governors, along with their relationships with President Trump. Governor DeSantis has been governor since 2019, and is infamous for his campaign ad in which he teaches his young daughter to read “Make America Great Again,” and reads one of President Trump’s books to his young son. In this ad, he titles himself a “pitbull Trump defender,” adding to his already clear support of the Commander-in-Chief. Governor Cuomo of New York, on the other hand, has been at odds with Trump since long before the coronavirus outbreak occurred, but the feud’s intensity has grown exponentially due to New York City’s position as a COVID-19 hotspot. 

 

     DeSantis has a strong relationship with the president, reportedly having spoken with him daily. Accordingly, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) received 100% of requested supplies, while many other states struggled. Moving on to Cuomo’s situation, President Trump was reportedly hesitant to provide support until he heard how bad the situation was from some friends in New York City. After doctors and nurses had been calling for more supplies for weeks, and the president feuded with Governor Cuomo, all it took was a phone call with a friend to get what was requested to those in need. 

     The president’s misunderstanding of the situation, along with his clear misuse of power and avoidance of official FEMA channels, proves exactly why he’s unfit to lead, along with how we mustn’t use politics in the decision making process at such an important time.

     Outside of the president’s poor handling of the situation, Americans must do better as a whole when it comes to our current state. We must be more caring, knowledgeable, and respectful of those around us, and we cannot turn to racism or domestic terrorism in order to express discontent. The current lockdown has allowed us to “flatten the curve,” and has been a crucial part of international efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is what makes the protests so unreasonable. With signs like “Social Distancing = Communism” and “I Want a Haircut,” it’s clear that those who are protesting don’t have a full grasp on the severity of the situation, along with what they are talking about.

     First of all, no, social distancing does not equal communism, or, in the words of Tomi Lahren, a Fox News correspondent, “willful slavery.” With over 60,000 deaths from COVID-19 per the CDC on May 1, taking precautions is crucial to stopping even more. What is going on right now is totally unprecedented, and overall, temporary restrictions and cutbacks on the freedoms of the individual are necessary in order to preserve the safety of society as a whole.

     Yes, such restrictions and precautions can be upsetting, and surely interrupt normal life, but they do not call for domestic terrorism, like what is going on in Michigan. On Thursday, April 3, domestic terrorists armed with rifles entered the Michigan Capitol, prompting state legislators to don bulletproof vests. The label of domestic terrorist is a strong one, but accurate. Those involved were wielding rifles, and, according to State Senator Dayna Polehanki, yelling at public officials. As a reminder, terrorists attempt to intimidate innocent people in an effort to achieve their goals, which are often political, which is exactly what they were doing. On top of this, President Trump has supported, or at least sympathized with those involved, calling them “very good people” and saying that the Michigan government should “make a deal” with them.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Michigan Capitol on Thursday, March 30, 2020. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

     We must also be more caring towards people of Asian descent during this time, as they have been unfairly demonized and persecuted due to the coronavirus’ origin, in China. In fact, a March 26 MSNBC article stated that an online reporting forum, Stop AAPI Hate, had “received more than 650 direct reports of discrimination against primarily Asian Americans” since March 18 alone. President Trump has egged on these activities as well, calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” multiple times since March 16. 

     Along with this, it’s important to note that the coronavirus did not begin when someone ate bat soup in Wuhan, China. A video depicting a woman eating such soup was spread by both Daily Mail and RT, and was said to have been filmed in Wuhan. In reality, an article from ForeignPolicy.com claimed that the video was taken in Palau, and in addition to this, that bat soup isn’t even a delicacy in Wuhan. Overall, racism specifically directed towards people of Asian descent must stop, regardless of the origin of the coronavirus.

     While being more caring and knowledgeable about what is going on, we must also stand with those in need, especially essential workers and people who are unemployed due to coronavirus. On May 1, International Workers’ Day, workers at Walmart, Amazon, Whole Foods, and other large stores went on strike, calling for the companies to “do more to protect frontline workers from the coronavirus.” Standing with these workers is incredibly important, as it gives more weight to the argument that workers should be treated fairly, especially in a situation as dire as our current one. Despite the economic downturn and mass unemployment (30.3 million in the past six weeks, per CNN Business) which has occurred during the outbreak, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, and owner of many of these stores, including Amazon and Whole Foods, has profited greatly. In one day alone, he increased his wealth by $24 billion, as Amazon stock price increased by 5.3% on March 15 due to an uptick in online shopping. When considering that, and the fact that many of his employees are risking their lives whenever they go in to work just to make a tiny fraction of what he does every hour, it’s important to recognize that those workers deserve more recognition, higher safety standards, and better pay than they are getting.

     Overall, we must do better, both during this crisis and beyond. As stated earlier, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into racism or terrorism when times get tough, and we must be understanding and caring, specifically towards those who are already facing persecution and poor standards of living. Along with this, we cannot allow President Trump to so egregiously misuse government supplies, or be so uneducated and incorrect during such an important time in American history.