One thing this pandemic might teach us (if we were paying attention) is how our world views affect and effect other world views, particularly those in countries we’ve never seen.
One might think a final-year PhD student in South Africa might be part of our privileged minority, but if he or she comes from the “other side of the tracks” something like this pandemic often pulls that person back into their former situation and removes some of the “equality” we so pompously declared in 1776 and only implemented slowly, grudgingly, nationally, and with routine setbacks in the intervening 244 years … and never internationally or with the original inhabitants from whom we took this land.
Please note that we’ve (finally) elected our first Vice President that wasn’t male only shortly after electing the first President that wasn’t a white male; that not all of our country believes “Black Lives Matter” or Native American Lives Matter or that gays should have rights equal to those with heterosexual partners or that corporations and Political Action Committees shouldn’t have unlimited fiscal influence in what is supposed to be a “democratic” process. (Look up the word democratic and see where this “right” exists for non-corporeal entities with overwhelming economic resources.)
For the people who live in Third World conditions (whether in the Third World or ours), this gap has been narrowing in the last 500 years. We are no longer entirely callous to the fact that many people live in unsanitary, crowded conditions. Five hundred years ago, a pandemic (give me a better word) swept the “New World” and wiped out at least 50% of its population in a single generation but was almost unremarked in the “Old World” which was trapped in its single-minded pursuit of wealth and conquest.
That colonial attitude of inequality in both rights and value still exists, still persists in our minds, still devalues the lives of those not exactly like us. Even though Cubans live nearby, we still shun them and let a wealthy expatriate community in Florida speak for the island nation even though they are no longer a part of it. And the “rights” of ordinary North Koreans, Iraqis, Iranians and Palestinians have never been considered equal to our own.
I noticed this while participating in Vietnam (Era) Veterans Against the War. People didn’t think about the millions of Vietnamese that were killed or disabled in this stupid war fought for all the wrong reasons. Us losing this part of the Cold War enabled the Vietnamese people to protect their borders from other communists in China, Cambodia and Laos in the same war (for them) against all foreign aggression. Had we bothered to determine their intentions — or heeded Jane Fonda rather than shunning her and ruining her career — we could have avoided all 68,000 American deaths and the millions of visible and invisible injuries sustained in forcing our will upon the Third World in a contest with Russia and China over the pursuit of world dominance in war, commerce and culture.
I notice today, we’re thanking our troops for invading Iraq or Afghanistan or occupying Kuwait, South Korea, Japan, Germany, Puerto Rico, Guam, Guantanamo Bay, and the many other smaller colonial outposts we taxpayers have funded since the Monroe Doctrine. We think our massive “defense” expenditure is proper and appropriate. And we call exerting our military supremacy in foreign countries and the death , destruction and inequality it almost always creates “greatness.”
I will say what both Democrats and Republicans refuse to say or acknowledge: we, the US taxpayers and voters (as well as our direct ancestors and our NATO allies) are the ones primarily responsible for creating much of the original terror motivating terrorists in the world, most of the unrest in the world as well as the vast and growing dissonance between “haves” (those 5% profiting from this and exerting undue influence on the rest of us) and “have-nots” of the world.
Until we start thinking globally and compassionately; until we see everyone else as part of our own community and family; we will continue to do stupid things for stupid reasons — and not even know it. Ignorance isn’t bliss and doesn’t create true happiness. Nor does our military protect democracy here or abroad. If someone were to invade the US; like everyone else, we would do what it took to defend ourselves — just like the people we’ve invaded.
And, sorry uber-patriots, us Veterans haven’t made the world a better place or defended democracy or human rights since liberating Germany from Hitler’s version of “greatness.” They’ve spent your tax money creating a vast worldwide network designed to create fear and condescension in others and/or destroy other neighborhoods that are far more like our own than we suspect.
And I don’t think we’ve done much that could reasonably called “great” with our massive and growing “defense” organization spread around the globe which is designed to threaten, intimidate, and maintain inequality.