COVID-19: Reflections on American failure

Photo by @sargranger, UnsplashPhoto by @sargranger, Unsplash
Michael Carin

The case count and death toll from COVID-19 in the United States far exceed the per capita numbers from every other advanced industrial society in the world.

Why has the crisis so horrendously and disproportionately ravaged our neighbour to the south? The answer does not point solely to the callous incompetence of the moron in the Oval Office.

Nor does it stop at indicting the thirty-five percent of the American population that worships the orange messiah, and has – largely at his misdirection – disdained common sense precautions. No, responsibility for the failure to control the virus also rests with a demographic that we usually equate with high ideals and public spirit. I am referring specifically to the country’s young adults.

Compare for a moment two very different generations of Americans: on the one hand the young men of the World War II era; and on the other their counterparts of today, namely the young people in the era of Coronavirus. The contrast could not be more stark, or more disappointing.

In December of 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war against Japan and Germany. Line-ups of young people instantly materialized at military recruiting centres. They rushed to volunteer. They were determined and eager to do their part. They were willing to risk their lives to defend their country and defeat the enemies of freedom. In other words, they were willing to do whatever their country asked of them.

In the spring and summer of 2020, what did the United States ask of its young people? The country did not ask them to postpone their lives and careers; it did not ask them to put on uniforms and march to war; it did not ask them to potentially lay down their lives on foreign battlefields. No, young Americans were asked to temporarily stop gathering on beaches, and to pause their patronage of bars and dance halls; they were asked to wear protective masks and refrain from congregating in groups.

What was the answer young Americans gave to their country when asked to perform these simple, safe, reasonable, public-spirited actions? We need only look at the countless photos accessible on the Internet that show young people cavorting on crowded beaches and exchanging laughter at close quarters in watering holes. They could not restrain themselves from enjoyments they consider entitlements. They thereby became effective vectors of infection, returning home from their bars and swim fests to transmit the virus to countrymen much less able to withstand it. History favored these young people by keeping them out of harm’s way; they have made history by keeping to their comforts and spreading harm.

The grandparents of today’s young adult Americans were the people who heroically sacrificed large chunks of their lives to ensure the victory of liberty in the 1940s. They were since properly dubbed ‘the greatest generation’. Most of them have passed on, and those who remain are now the most at risk from the virus. They should be excused if they regard with contempt what will surely go down as ‘the most spoiled generation.’

Michael Carin is a Montreal writer. Excerpts from his new book can be read at

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