I write this on December 29, 2020. As of that date, 335,000 Americans have died of Covid. That doesn’t count numberless others who caught the virus and died of secondary conditions that would not have otherwise endangered them.
By the time you read this piece — I do them in advance, you see — that number will be higher. Maybe much higher. That is not a comfortable thing to consider.
And there is more. In effect, Covid-19 is an examination. It is testing our capacity to respond to a novel infection…a new and dreadful disease.
At the moment, we’re failing that test.
We are failing the test of Covid
That’s a very bad thing, because something worse is going to come along. Covid you can at least have a chance of surviving. But a worse plague is certain to come along eventually. It could be a new disease introduced by our none too gentle Mother, Nature itself.
Or, and here’s one to consider, it could be a deliberate attack. Biological warfare has long been considered by many nations. Japan waged it quite successfully against Chinese civilian populations in World War II. It has been estimated that as many as 200,000 Chinese died of plague, anthrax, and other diseases released as part of a germ warfare campaign in 1940. (1)
And just a few years later, in 1945, the Japanese were prepared to initiate a similar attack on San Diego, California. It was called Operation Cherry Blossoms By Night, and involved five long range submarines which were meant to sail to the Pacific Coast of the United States and launch float planes carrying many pounds of plague-infected fleas to drop on the city.(2)
And this was all ready to go. The submarines were ready to sail. The planes were ready to fly. The only reason it didn’t happen was that it was scheduled for September 1945, and the month before two Atomic Bombs ended the war in a great hurry.
But my point is this. It could have happened. It almost certainly would have happened, if things had been a little different. And the country, Imperial Japan, that was responsible was a nation almost beaten, its cities and factories in flames, its people hungry and afraid, its territory about to be invaded. Yet, even so, even though it was so dreadfully weakened, it had the power to strike with insidious precision and deadliness.
Rest assured, a biological attack is coming...
Now, think about the nations of the world which do not love us, and think about the non-state actors who love us even less. Think about how much more sophisticated we are now in the production and distribution of virulent biological agents.
Which means we should be prepared for such things. We should be ready.
As we were not ready for Covid. Admittedly, this period in our history was somewhat unique. We had in power an administration that was incompetent, that was notoriously dismissive of science and expertise, and that valued the smooth functioning of the economy over everything else…even over thousands or millions of American lives.
But even so, the larger American response…the anti-masking, the denialism, the cries of “hoax,” the willingness to believe in the falsehoods and disinformation of the Trump Administration and (who can say?) perhaps certain foreign powers…was uniquely dangerous and ineffective.
Or to put it all another way, on this test, we have failed. We have a great and scarlet “F” scrawled beside our collective name. And we had best be ready to do better next time.
For if we do not…
There may be no make-up, no second chance, no recovery….
Just death. And death everlasting.
Until next time.
Onward and upward