Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

The two Americas face off again

COMMENT

TAGS: US, Politics, Society, Coronavirus

There have always been two Americas. This seems today clearer than ever. The two clash every night and the outcome of this fight will affect all of us; it will have an impact on the West at large. In recent days, the dark America has been swarming the streets of big urban centers. Thousands of citizens, some armed, others waving Confederate flags, are protesting lockdown regulations and certain governors. President Donald Trump is fueling the anti-lockdown protests by doing something absurd. He has encouraged the angry protests and, in the meantime, supported the gradual reopening of the economy following the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

America is no stranger to division. But it has never had a president who blatantly employs division to advance his own political ends. Trump does not care about bringing together a society in distress. His only concern is to rally his party base ahead of the November election.

It is some comfort to see the other America mobilizing. It is starkly personified in the infectious diseases expert at the forefront of the US fight against the outbreak, Dr Anthony Fauci, who has been the target of threats and attacks even by Trump himself. Fauci has served five presidents from the same post and has always expressed his opinion. He is an excellent manager and has a sense of social responsibility. When the AIDS epidemic broke out, he convinced then president George H.W. Bush to fund research against the disease despite reactions from conservative circles who argued the issue was only of concern to the gay community. He respects the institution that he serves and is surrounded by top experts. It is the bright side of America which steps forward at times of major crisis. 

I recently watched Fauci in an old interview. He had once brought an Ebola patient from Africa. Everyone was afraid to examine her. He put on a protective uniform and did it himself. Asked why he did, he responded that this was what a team leader had to do. If he did not do so himself, how could the team possibly move forward? 

When the patient was cured, Fauci gave her a hug and escorted her to the hospital gate. Once again, he was asked why he had acted that way. He said he wanted to show that, first, the battle against Ebola can be won and, second, that this person had been cured. The woman should not bear a stigma and no one should be afraid to hug her.

On one side stands the America of hatred, of division, of conspiracy theories and of arms possession. Opposite it stands the enlightened America; but also the one that made the mistake of shunning the anger of the average American who felt deprived of the right to feel part of the middle class. In November they will face each other at the ballot. While still uncertain, the outcome will be of historical significance for generations to come.

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