A lot of residents of the USA will die unnecessarily from Sars-CoV2 over the next year or so. I’ve decided to start distributing blame now. After all, if politicizing a tragedy after it occurs is gauche (unless it gives you an excuse to invade a country or two), then let’s at least try to do it before it occurs.
People have been talking about the need for the US to normalize and encourage use of facemasks. In one sense, I agree. The country I live in (Czechia) embarked on a massive facemask publicity campaign, and I think that will help control the epidemic. However, in my opinion, Americans are not going to die because of opposition to facemasks (also, facemasks are not “50% effective at preventing transmission”, they reduce viral load that gets through by 50% which, depending on a number of factors, could do any number of things about transmission). The process is a lot more convoluted than that, and the responsibility gets diluted, but none of the following steps would occur without the next one.
Americans do not wear facemasks because they live with a medical establishment which has decided, given a shortage of protective equipment, to try and acquire as much of it as possible for hospitals, and is willing to lie to the populace to get it. The medical establishment seems to consider their public statements to be a means to a (generally public health-related) end, and not an attempt at communication with the public, and lying is expedient. I caught an epidemiologist with a large following on twitter lying about trivially verifiable facts about the disease (nothing to do with facemasks). This attitude towards the people they treat is a characteristic they share with doctors in most of the world, but America has other problems that make this one worse.
They have a shortage of masks because they live with an economy that is unwilling to produce the things they need to live and combat the epidemic (including facemasks) without being forced to by the government, and refuses to distribute necessary resources without financial gain. It may be worse in America, but this is broadly true of capitalism, the dominant mode of production throughout almost the entire world, but America has other problems that make this one worse.
The American government is unwilling to force their economy to serve their needs. A government elected because they do not live in a democracy and only have two bad parties to choose from. A regime maintained and a government elected because voters are more concerned with national pride and maintenance of oppressive social structures, some of which they do not even benefit from, than they are with peace, justice, or even self-interest. Like the others, this problem is not unique to the USA.
Americans make bad political choices and believe horrible things because they are taught to by their media. They are taught to fear their peers by media fixated on violence and crime. They are taught that war is good (presidential, even). Their public broadcasters, PBS and NPR, aren’t particularly independent, since their state funding has been reduced to the extent that they rely on donations, meaning doing journalism could cost them their budget. They are non-profit, but they are hardly public. This is rather rare. Most countries attempt to turn public media into government mouthpieces, not destroy it entirely.
All of these entities have a part in the current state, where Americans
are shamed for using facemasks. None of these entities act alone, and
all of them depend on each other. The media selectively boosts the
voices of the medical establishment. The government employs much of the
medical establishment. The media is owned by capitalists. The elected
officials who run the government are dependent on capitalist financial
support and media publicity.
If each American were able to wear a facemask, but all of these other factors remained in their current form, I think the death toll would hardly change. If America had a functional public healthcare system, it would collapse under the weight of 10 million patients just the same as their current one will. A public healthcare system could only save them if the spread of the disease were halted, and that requires government intervention, not healthcare intervention.
Americans are not going to die for any one part of the mismanaged response to the epidemic. They will die for the same reason Americans were already dying before the epidemic came along at all. America is designed to kill (non-rich) Americans. It is also designed to kill Non-americans but that is a different story for a different day.
How are Americans to prevail, if everything is so terrible? I find hope in the strike by auto workers demanding to produce ventilators, workers demanding what the government will not, the restructuring of the economy to serve the needs of the people. You can do what your leaders have failed to. You can create the systems that should have already been there.