No matter how often the United States’ most jingoistic champions and cheerleaders celebrate our nation as the greatest the world has ever known, there are disappointingly few positive attributes in which we are number one. If you count having the most expensive and destructive military the world has ever seen, having the highest prison population, leading the world in mass shootings and gun deaths in general, and providing shelter to the world’s most unapologetically exploitative and selfish oligarchs, then sure, we’re number one. We’ve also been the number one nation for recorded Covid-19 infections and deaths for a solid stretch of time.
It was never lack of resources or ability that made Covid-19 so catastrophic in the US so much as it was an excess of malice and stupidity. Politicians, pundits, and the countless charmless jackasses that somehow find audiences on social media, facilitated the spread of the disease and worked against the efforts to remedy it. It’s thanks to these fuckers and the fuckwads that believed them that the pandemic is still ongoing. It’s tempting to wish that the virus will kill off all the antivaxxers and save the rest of the country and world from the threat they pose, because currently it is almost entirely unvaccinated people who are getting infected, being hospitalized with severe illness and dying. But that won’t necessarily end the pandemic, because of course the virus has evolved, the Delta variant being particular cause for concern. That didn’t need to happen. All viruses, like all things that can be considered alive, all things that reproduce, evolve. But it’s not inevitable that a virus evolves to be more contagious and deadly, not if you wipe it out early. If not for the lies and misinformation spread by people in power, and the idiots that believed them, there would be no Delta variant; the virus could have been eradicated, never able to evolve, and the pandemic ended, in a matter of months.
Right wing propaganda outlets bear a lot of blame for spreading anti-vaccine rhetoric. Fox News, still the mainstream source for bigotry and general stupid dickery, has been smearing Covid-19 vaccines since their inception, only making a very late bullshit heel turn last week, suddenly urging viewers to get vaccinated after months of their hosts and guests trashing vaccines. This is despite the network owner, Rupert Murdoch, and most of the people who work for Fox being vaccinated. Reactionary soapbox bitches like Tucker Carlson have been sowing “skepticism” about the vaccines and the notion of mandating that people be vaccinated in certain places and professions, despite the fact that Fox News has long since implemented a “vaccine passport” system, and that despite his childish refusal to say whether he’s been vaccinated, Carlson very likely has been. Many, if not most, powerful people who have been downplaying the severity of the pandemic and promoting lies and fear about vaccinations, from Trump to Carlson, have themselves been vaccinated.
We now have an excess of vaccines, and too many people who are still refusing to take them. States and localities have offered everything as incentives from beer and donuts to literal guns and money. There is hardly a mark of a people’s stupidity and selfishness so bold as their requiring bribery to get a lifesaving medication. Poorer countries around the world are desperate for vaccinations, while our own surplus expires when not enough assholes can be enticed to get a shot for a free burger and an ice cream cone. The incentives for vaccination campaign goes to show not only how stupid the populous is, but also how stupid our leaders are, and how extremely stupid our leaders think the populous is; if you’re suspicious about something as stupid as a vaccination having microchips meant for tracking and mind control, you’re not going to be less suspicious because they’re “tricking you” into getting it by bribing you with a free pizza.
Every empire falls. Rarely does it happen in an instant, or as the result of a single event. It’s a confluence of events, happening in sequence. Plagues have contributed to the falls of empires. Apart from every other crisis we face, from the climate catastrophe, to gross inequality, to the pandemic itself, we also have a crisis of stupidity. Not many empires can claim overwhelming stupidity as central to their destruction. So, we may be number one in that, too. The list of things that will end the American empire is not short, but it sure doesn’t help that we have to deal with mass idiocy on top of everything else.