I think the COVID-19 pandemic came at the exact right time.

And, no, while there is nothing opportune or celebratory about the death of millions of people and the trauma of many more, there is a kind of cruel coincidence in the fact that a global pandemic, requiring the utmost togetherness and coordination of society, has hit during the most divisive time in history.

The United States currently ranks number one in COVID-19 cases, according to the World Health Organization, with more than 26 million cases since the beginning of last year. This embarrassing feat is the result of America’s toxic individualistic culture that makes people believe they are above the life-saving measures required to beat this virus.

America’s quick rise to becoming a formidable military power has come with a long history of fighting - the American Revolution, the Civil War, various drawn-out conflicts with Russia, China and the Middle East. This combative nature is woven into American's identity. 

It all goes back to the idea of rugged individualism, this idyllic concept of the powerful West and the creation of a culture that is unabashedly American, where all a man has to rely on is himself and the land, not government supervision. ‘Murica!

Our country’s chauvinistic reputation has continued to manifest itself in the most insidious ways. But then you have someone like Donald Trump come along, running for president wearing this persona proudly. 

Trump was, in the eyes of many, the solution. He was the ointment to the gaping, sensitive wound that had been gouged into America by the weakling left. He enabled millions and made them feel like it was OK to engage in bigotry (again). 

His supporters felt comforted by his isolationist mentality and catchy battle cries: Make America great again! Build that wall! 

A lot of that anger towards Democrats and the Obama administration carried over into the Trump administration, and Trump fed the dormant flame of pure selfishness that America will be trying to put out for eternity. 

On one hand, Trump makes an easy scapegoat. How can we be so sure any other president would have been better prepared to handle a pandemic? To that, I say: how could you have handled it any worse than this? 

Xenophobia, denial, constant misinformation and blatant disregard for the educated opinions of his staff. None of this is out of character, to say the least. And Trump’s constituents ate this attitude up.

Americans, even those who disapprove of Trump, feel justified now more than ever in indulging their greed. They see policies like mask-wearing and social distancing as encroachments on their civil liberties, as evidenced by several protests against government mandates that have sprung up during this pandemic. 

This fighting mentality has reared its ugly head. “I can’t breathe,” the infamous phrase uttered by victims of police brutality with their last breaths, has been bastardized by anti-maskers who think an N-95 mask is as much of an irremovable burden as the color of your skin.

This pandemic had to happen because there was no way that people were going to care about anybody other than themselves unless people started dying. 

COVID-19 doesn't care if you screech out of a Walmart parking lot with your “Come and Take It” flag billowing in the wind because a teenage sales associate told you to put your mask over your nose. 

It doesn’t care if you’re turning 21 soon, and you absolutely need to book a weekend trip in Vegas with your besties. Sickness is humbling, it can and will take anyone out. 

Many of us are guilty of speaking about the pandemic offhandedly, reassuring ourselves that by the end of the year, everything will be OK. The vaccine is being distributed. How long can this thing last, anyway?

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic - and our reaction to it - are irreparable. If the vaccine is distributed with enough efficiency, it will still be too late for those who have lost their lives and loved ones. 

It will not teach Americans a good enough lesson about putting aside pride and gluttony for the greater good, something we might never learn how to do.

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