Editor’s Note: This commentary is responding to Maria Maresca’s commentary “Take five minutes: Officials politicized COVID-19 pandemic” which was published Sept. 15 in The Slate and on theslateonline.com
As a college student, I’m well acquainted with the term “five minutes more;” 20 years of procrastination have shown me that. Usually those five minutes more are spent doing something entertaining rather than being productive. But sometimes it’s good to spend five more minutes on something to give it a bit more thought. Some topics would do to have more than 300 seconds of analysis spent on them.
As an avid reader of The Slate, I enjoy seeing the different opinions of its columnists. They are excellent writers, and I’m happy to have worked with them in other capacities on campus. However, on occasion I feel the need to respond.
In her column titled, “Officials Politicized COVID-19 Pandemic,” Ms. Maresca argued that the current pandemic differs from previous examples in that it “has been politicized beyond recognition and was carefully orchestrated to tear down all that America has come to represent.”
Setting aside the implication that the pandemic was in any way intentional or planned to do anything —which is demonstrably false and bordering on conspiratorial — it should be noted why the pandemic has been politicized.
For months, President Donald Trump downplayed the COVID-19 coronavirus. Trump said in February, “When you have 15 people [infected by the coronavirus in the U.S.], and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
Meanwhile, Trump confided in Bob Woodward that the coronavirus had a much higher mortality rate than the common flu, as well as previous pandemics.
Maresca notes how during previous pandemics — chiefly the 2009 H1N1 and 1968 H3N2 — few schools and businesses were forced to close. This is true, but it misses context. The 2009 H1N1 resulted in the deaths of nearly 12,500 Americans. The 1968 H3N2 virus resulted in an estimated 34,000-100,000 deaths.
However, we are only nine months into this pandemic and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have just crossed the threshold of 200,000 deaths. We are not through this yet, and that number will go up. It is not outside the realm of possibility we will reach 300,000 by the time this is over. That would be more dead Americans than all U.S. combat casualties in World War II.
Regarding the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, Maresca writes, “These statistics have clearly had a minimal effect on the U.S.’s population…”
While this is true in a purely statistical sense, I cannot articulate how nauseated I am at such a display of unsympathetic and disinterested prose.
She moves to claiming that the recent protests focused on the constant murder of Black people in our country were “another tactic of division.”
She argues that the country cannot possibly be racist; it was built on the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But who were those rights endowed upon, I might ask? White, land-owning men. Millions of people were deprived their rights based on the color of their skin, sex and economic status.
I will echo her in quoting United Nations General Secretary, Antonio Guterres.
“It is imperative that we reimagine, rebuild, redesign, and rebalance our world,” he said.
She frames this as a bad thing. As something to be avoided. But does the world not need change? Are we not responsible for facilitating that change?
Maresca writes, “But rebalancing comes at a cost that does not justify the means.”
I would ask, what is the cost which she is referring to? Bringing people out poverty? Equal protection under the law? Having a planet that is capable of sustaining life in 50 years?
In the future, when researching, writing and making an argument on issues of great importance in our modern world, I would urge Ms. Maresca — and other aspiring writers — to take five minutes more.