The War on Covid-19 and American Rugged Individualism

by Fernando Perfas

Iconic lion statue wearing a giant face mask | Photo by aNDy on Unsplash

There is nothing more American than the belief in rugged individualism. That every individual can succeed on account of their own effort with minimal government intervention. This may be true in an even playing field, in a society without the baggage of racial discrimination and social and gender inequities. The Trump administration and his followers’ response to the continuing public health crisis and the economic and social fallouts from the Covid-19 pandemic have exposed the dangers of unfettered individualism often upended by perceived intrusion into personal freedom.

A fitting metaphor for this pandemic is an alien invasion where the enemy is invisible and capable of replicating itself in almost infinite ways. Allow me to elaborate on the enemy. It renders its victim’s body ravaged, whereby making it a vehicle for spreading its lethal poison. Instead, this enemy does not conform to the Geneva Conventions; instead, it dictates its own rules that change as it becomes more deadly. Since it waged war on humans, more than half a million Americans have so far perished, and millions of more survivors are scarred for life physically and psychologically.

Thank goodness humanity has its science, which can develop an effective weapon in record time against the stealthy enemy. It is effective enough to protect many from certain death and has the potential to stop the enemy’s advance in its track. However, to subdue the enemy requires every person to be drafted and fight in the war. A war that requires the government to mobilize all resources to win against a formidable enemy. To succeed, it must rely on science to equip all its fighters with an arsenal of newly minted and effective weapons. In an ideal situation, this is how the war scenario should unfold to guarantee victory for the nation.

“While many poor countries can only dream of having enough vaccines fast enough to put in the arms of their suffering citizens, many in the U.S. are injecting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories in their brains instead. They have become more toxic than ever in the backdrop of a deadly pandemic. Some politicians contribute to more deaths by continuing to push the doctrine of personal choice to its selfish limits.”

Unfortunately, there are impinging factors that prevent us from acting as one. To protect our country and fellowmen, we have to temporarily relegate some of our freedoms and personal interest in the service of a greater cause. Politics has become venomous. Consumption of conspiracy theories and misinformation have become the basis of personal decision for some, and denial to the point of delusion has taken over the coping mechanism of others. In wartime, the citizens who collaborate and facilitate the agenda of the enemy are considered traitors.

Other countries that have taken a war stance against the pandemic have done better than the U.S. despite limited vaccine resources. In those societies, it would be unthinkable to oppose government mandates to curb infections. One would be looked upon as a looney to believe that the pandemic is not real.

The rest of the world is probably scratching its head in disbelief at how we have squandered a coveted advantage of having almost licked the pandemic. As a nation, we narrowly missed the goal of herd immunity; instead, what we have achieved is herd mentality.

It reminded me of a conversation between two farmers where one says, “The difference between animals and humans is that animals don’t let the dumbest among them lead the herd.” While many poor countries can only dream of having enough vaccines fast enough to put in the arms of their suffering citizens, many in the U.S. are injecting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories in their brains instead. They have become more toxic than ever in the backdrop of a deadly pandemic. Some politicians contribute to more deaths by continuing to push the doctrine of personal choice to its selfish limits.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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