For US, after a terrible year, perhaps a respite?

Forthcoming changes bode well for the future
US president-elect Joe Biden received his vaccination at the Christiana Care campus in Newark, Delaware. Photo: AFP

Here in America, are we finally beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel?

As we get ready to ring in the new year, two major developments ought to give even the most dour pessimist cause for hope.

The vaccine is coming.

Trump is going.

However, we live in strange times. My second observation, utterly uncontroversial on the basis of facts, will likely have a substantial number of Americans baying for my blood.

So let me step aside for a moment from my reflections on our esteemed (and mercifully soon to be gone) President Donald J Trump and reaffirm what all Americans can agree upon—a rare thing in this bitterly polarised country: This has been one heck of a year. The coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation that has come in its wake have crippled America.

Most Americans agree that for the entire world, this was indeed annus horribilis, as Britain's Queen Elizabeth's had called 1992 following a spate of royal scandals. That's a fancy way of saying it's a been a no good, very bad, terrible year.

I don't know about y'all, but I still wake up every day and have to pinch myself to make sure I'm in the real world and not in the middle of a chilling dystopian sci fi movie.

What's scarier—and more humbling—is that the virus has exposed an ugly truth. We've met the enemy, and it turns out that it is us. The few nations that have come out of this well have several things in common—they respected the science, addressed the challenge with massive, draconian public health measures, and gritted their teeth through the painful economic and social cost.

To be sure, the effect of the coronavirus is protean. But there can be a deadly reciprocity in how coronavirus affects a nation.

If you respect the science, get your entire population to hunker down and do what needs to be done, with some luck you can get the virus on the run, though it's no sure thing.

On the other hand, you can decide to be ornery about it. You might say this thing is like the flu, no big deal. You may come up with the asinine notion that health safeguards like wearing a mask are a commie, pinko plot to take away your freedom. Your leader may well egg you on as he squabbles with scientists, trashes the nations world-class public health research organisation that is the envy of the world and comes up with bizarre solutions like injecting disinfectant.

Yep, I am talking about the good old US of A. It simply boggles my mind that one of the most developed, wealthy and powerful countries in the world could botch its coronavirus response so horribly.

The results break my heart. Coronavirus is out of control today as the US grapples with millions of new infections, hundreds of thousands of deaths and critical care at a breaking point.

Then there is the economic fallout. Unemployment numbers have hit the roof, countless small businesses have closed their shutters for good and millions of people face eviction.

I return to the two developments I mentioned  that give me hope for the next year. I've rarely, if ever, praised Trump—but his plan for a fast vaccine produced results. The development of a vaccine within a year is a stunning accomplishment.  This is one occasion where pride in American exceptionalism has the ring of truth.

Most experts say that the US economy is on the verge of a recovery, and that may well help the nation get back to its feet faster.

I stand by my assertion that the pandemic and the Trump presidency was a marriage made in hell. It is hard to think of a leader and an administration more ill-suited to deal with the coronavirus.

Thin-skinned, narcissistic, self-obsessed with politics, incapable of understanding basic facts of science, Trump and his administration's response has been ruinous.

There's also the serious damage Trump has caused to American politics. The whole world is still watching in appalled horror as a sitting president refuses to concede after pretty much everyone says the elections are over—the courts, the archaic system of electoral college. Trump continues his futile, disgraceful effort to overturn the election results as he pardons crooks and felons.

Next year, he will be gone. The planned distribution and administration of vaccines gives us hope that sometime by the next year the pandemic nightmare will largely recede.

There is cause for believing that economic rejuvenation will accompany the fading of the pandemic, as this nation, battered by the double-whammy of a health crisis and an economic crisis, tries to get back on its feet.

The challenges remain daunting. The administration of vaccines to such a huge population is a logistical challenge. After four years of invective from the White House, the US Congress remains crippled by partisan rancour. And expect Trump to continue to create mischief even after he is out of office.

President-elect Joe Biden has his work cut out. Yet no matter the challenge, America has recovered from crises before, and only a fool would underestimate its capacity to bounce back.


Ashfaque Swapan, an Atlanta-based writer and editor, is contributing editor for Siliconeer, an online South Asian publication.


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