With over 410,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the United States tops the charts as having been hit the hardest by the disease. Noticing this, it is difficult to hold onto the notion that America is the best equipped to handle modern challenges. But, in all manners of fairness, can we pin it solely on the failure of government, or the attitudes of the masses?

No, we cannot. This virus was a perfect storm, a combination of all the afore-mentioned reasons, wrapped up to make a global nightmare.

The Trump administration was tasked with fielding a problem so immense that it threatened to topple all confidence in leadership. Although this trend toward distrust was aided by the government’s complete failure to grasp the gravity of the situation.

Toward the beginning of the pandemic, a full year ago, the public was continually placated. With sentiments of small disruptions to a small population, and then the hopes of warmer weather killing off this virus the president admitted to downplaying the importance of the pandemic.

This dismissive attitude carried over from, not only a general overview of the virus, but of the science itself. The administration routinely overshadowed the epidemiologists’ warnings and spurred others to do the same. 

The science at the beginning was, sadly, lacking; we just didn’t know what to think yet. Many took that lack of initial data to signal that the doctors were just making it up as they went along and assumed that disregarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advice was as effective as following it.

Perhaps one individual who took this mentality and ran with it more than anyone, was former President Donald Trump, who at every turn knee-capped health officials to prevent them from discussing the gravity of the pandemic. 

Even when listening to his advisors, Trump failed to roll out massive programs on the health side, often failing to wear a mask himself. When he contracted the virus, many thought that it would be a signal to change the tune, but if it was, it fell on deaf ears. Though when assigning blame, it is important to acknowledge that this global catastrophe could’ve happened on any president’s watch; but this administration failed unequivocally.

While the pandemic was clearly not handled to a maximum level of success, blaming it all on the government would be ignorant of the other factors that have kept the illness in the news. The American mindset has, for almost two and a half centuries, been solely focused on individual freedom. 

The liberties we enjoy as citizens of the United States are part of what make this country great, acknowledging inherent flaws and inequalities; but when we allow those freedoms to spoil into the notion that we can do whatever we want, they become dangerous. 

Liberty is the freedom to act and think as we choose, as long as we don’t infringe on the safety and liberty of others.

Sadly, some believe that their personal freedoms outstrip the needs and safety of others, and they refuse to wear masks. Whether or not one believes in the science behind masks or other COVID-19 regulations, is it too much to ask for cooperation and human kindness?

Question and challenge government to the maximum; it ensures that the voices of all are heard and considered. But if by a personal bias an objection is raised then it does nothing more but halt the progress of the country.

Thinking that social health guidelines are a form of oppression displays a massive disrespect and blindness toward actual oppression. While having a healthy understanding of your Constitutional rights is not a bad thing, inflicting harm on others in the name of the various freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution is selfish, dangerous and downright wrong.  In short, the overblown version of the American attitude has hindered relief and remedy to COVID-19 by sheer stubborn and petty grudges.

This attitude has also spread to the states, for whom autonomy is paramount. The lack of a single, national plan for vaccination and regulations also created the environment in which COVID-19 has thrived.

So, wherever you decide to place blame, remind yourself that there’s enough to go around.

Dawson Neely is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @DawsonNeely. 

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