2020 has been a difficult year to follow in the headlines. Between a presidential impeachment, the explosion of an aggressive pandemic, and the social revolution against systemic racism, it is almost impossible to keep up with everything.
And that’s partly the responsibility of the media.
While headlines were populated with alarming numbers of infections and deaths in February, a trio of white men murdered Ahmaud Arbery in cold blood, and his name barely made the bottom corners of the front pages.
Conversely, once George Floyd’s pleas for air became the slogan of a second wave of protests for Black Americans’ right to live, infections in meat processing plants and in many of the states that refused to impose control measures against COVID-19 increased exponentially, with no one able to understand concretely how to control a virulent pandemic in a country without a coherent strategy.
While communities and local officials around the nation have joined together with BLM to advocate for those who have been left behind by our nation — a testament to the power of effective leadership and informed solidarity — the president has instead been fanning the flames of chaos. And so, in yet another reversal of headlines COVID-19 is back on the front page, more ominous than ever.
“What happened once the disease began spreading in this country was a federal disaster in its own right,” writes James Fallows in The Atlantic. “Katrina on a national scale, Chernobyl minus the radiation. It involved the failure to test; the failure to trace; the shortage of equipment; the dismissal of masks; the silencing or sidelining of professional scientists; the stream of conflicting, misleading, callous, and recklessly ignorant statements by those who did speak on the national government’s behalf.”
Six months later, the country has about 2.8 million positive cases of COVID-19, 130,000 deaths, and no strategy.
Last Wednesday, reported infections surpassed 50,000 for the first time, an all-time high in U.S. numbers, and are rising significantly in 40 states, according to The Guardian. More than a dozen of them have been forced to stop the reopening or reverse it completely, and health care facilities are at the limit of their capabilities in many of them.
Leon Panetta, a member of several administrations around the country, has been the latest prominent figure to accuse Trump of negligence and of “abandoning Americans to their fate,” using the military jargon “awol,” which means absent without permission.
“This is a major crisis,” Panetta told Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, noting that Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that America may hit 100,000 new cases a day, twice the current rate.
“But the president, rather than bringing together some kind of national strategy to confront this crisis, simply resorts to tweeting about vandalism and other things to kind of divert attention from the crisis that’s there.”
Strategies as simple as wearing a mask in public spaces have become campaign issues for the president, who has refused to wear it, breaking with the decisions of many of his own party members.
“We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people. Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves, it is about protecting everyone we encounter,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday.
But Trump on Tuesday tweeted cryptically “THE LONE WARRIOR!” — apparently embracing his isolation from even political allies and the scientific approaches that have proven elsewhere to at least slow the spread of the coronavirus in the short term, CNN reported.
While other world powers such as France and New Zealand have successfully contained the epidemic — partly by prohibiting Americans from entering their countries — the U.S. president appears to have chosen the simplest and most commensurate solution to his type of leadership: Refusing to lead.