Editor’s Blog: Let’s stop acting like a failed state
I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, and when I tell people my opinion of the country that feels the most like the U.S., some are surprised, while others know exactly what I mean. It’s not Canada, which, outside the charming French sections, can feel oddly cinderblock and Soviet (the “modern” parts of Montreal). It’s not England, which seems like a fairytale; London looks like it was put together with toys and then made real. The country most like the U.S. is Australia. Despite some British touches like lamingtons and marketplaces named for queens, it has the vibrant commercial flavor of the U.S. The oceanfront pathways from Sydney’s Bondi to Bronte beaches look almost exactly like those in La Jolla, California. Even the temperament of the people feels familiar—unrestrained range of emotion, sort of messy.
Given this, it is nothing less than a tragic embarrassment when you compare COVID-19 statistics between the two nations, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. When we contrast our infection rates and death rates to South Korea (36,332 cases, 536 deaths) or Taiwan (686 cases, 7 deaths), people wave it away—But their culture is so different, so homogeneous; they have an ingrained habit of mask-wearing. But those excuses fail with Australia—they share our language, our movie stars, our café culture, our surf culture. And they’ve had just 27,949 cases—and 908 deaths. Australia has 25 million people, so if we adjust for population, to be on par with Oz, we’d have had roughly 12,000 deaths.
But we haven’t had 12,000 deaths. We’ve had over 276,000. And 14 million cases. Only 11 countries have fared worse in terms of per-capita deaths, several of them European countries that were hit early on, taken by surprise: Italy, Spain, Belgium, the U.K.
The U.S.—the world’s 12th hardest-hit country on a per-capita basis, with a quarter of the world’s deaths—falls between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Brazil. Because of our scattershot approach to leadership, mask-wearing and social gatherings, our tragic outcomes make us look like a failed state. While the news on the vaccine front is a godsend, the shot in the arm won’t come soon enough to avoid a gruesome winter. The medical community—the battered doctors and nurses and respiratory techs—are risking (in some cases, losing) their lives, begging you to stop the illness, stop the death.
Australia, a country that was founded as a British penal colony—an other-side-of-the-world place where one would expect that folks would resist authority—actually follows the science and sound advice from the experts. The numbers don’t lie. They take personal responsibility. Be like Australia. Do your part. Winter is coming.