600,000 COVID-19 deaths make little ripple as ‘beacon of human rights’ dim
Published: Jun 16, 2021 09:44 PM
Photo: Xinhua

Photo: Xinhua

The US death toll from coronavirus topped 600,000 on Tuesday. Unlike previous "milestones," the tragic number has not caused a big splash in global public opinion, as if people are getting used to the "new normal."

US media outlets try to underline that "daily deaths have significantly dropped in recent months," as The Wall Street Journal put it on Tuesday, as if 600,000 deaths do not matter that much against the backdrop. And media outlets no longer make the sensational calculation on how many more the number is than American soldiers killed during the Vietnam War, World War I and World War II combined. 

When the COVID-19 death toll was approaching 100,000 in the US in May 2020, The New York Times listed names and personal details of 1,000 people from the total on its front page, which created quite a strong visual shock. Granted, people were startled to see 100,000 deaths, furious to witness 200,000, yet they have become numb to lay eyes on the 600,000 lost lives. 

"People around the world seemingly don't care, because the US has lost its glory and charm. Its stories are no longer fairy tales, and it behaves more and more like a failed country. The previous ever-victorious image of the US is crumbling," Xu Liang, an associate professor at the School of International Relations of Beijing International Studies University, told Global Times on Wednesday. Not long ago, people were waiting for the US to swim upstream like a carp and even leap the falls to transform into a dragon, just like the carp in ancient Chinese mythology, Xu said. "But the country has failed too many times, so the audience has left without expectations anymore," he noted. 

Amid the ravaging epidemic in the US, the country is also witnessing a spike in gun violence. The Washington Post published an article on Monday entitled, "2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades. So far, 2021 is worse," which stated that "last weekend alone, more than 120 people died in shootings." Yet just like how people treat the COVID-19 mortality, gun deaths seem to have become just another ordinary "new normal" for them. 

There was a time when the US enjoyed days of good governance. But at the moment, "the US may be going through the greatest failure in national governance since the end of the Cold War," Xu said. 

The core of the US governance crisis is that the country's error correction capability is broken. After President Joe Biden assumed office, he did try to correct some mistakes made by his predecessor, such as encouraging people to wear facial masks and get vaccinated. But these are the technical corrections on the surface, while fundamental problems are not yet touched upon, Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The fundamental issues are: Politics has overwhelmed science; the two political parties are far from being willing to join hands to tackle the challenges that the US has to face. Worse, they are still fighting hard for their own interests. A total of 600,000 Americans perished, and they might have died in vain. Very few politicians tend to reflect on the wrong direction the country is heading to, like blaming China has become new US healthcare instruction, and many are arguing back and forth over whether to fire Anthony Fauci, rather than making genuine efforts to curb the virus. This is also the case over the gun control issue, which has long become a battle of political stances, according to Xin. 

About 675,000 Americans died during the 1918 influenza pandemic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is surprising to see that 100 years later, when the US enjoys the world's most advanced medical system and technology, the richest medical resources, it is repeating history with almost the same death toll from the public health crisis a century ago. With the medical conditions that the US has today, letting this tragedy happen again means Washington's current governance capacity is even worse than it was in 1918. What occurs in the US today is no longer a natural calamity, but a man-made disaster. 

In the long run, the US may one day defeat the virus with its high technology, but such incompetent governance will only bring more trauma and social instability to the country, Xu said.