Despite its epochal effects, COVID‑19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar.
COVID-19 was always going to be bad, but it did not have to be this bad. There is another virus (probably more than one) out there that will be worse.
There are plenty of people, decisions, and policies that are to blamed—and should explicitly be blamed—for Our Current Situation, but none more so than (as Yong puts it) our “fealty to a dangerous strain of individualism.”
Yes, we all have our freedoms, but we live together and we need one another. This is not rocket science—it is a balance we have managed to figure out in a bunch of different places. Unfortunately, we now have a nontrivial slice of our society that holds a cartoonish notion of freedom.
I don’t know how we overcome this crazy idea that no one is responsible for anyone besides themselves, but we’re going to have to figure that out if we want to survive.