Americans are restless. We are always doing something. Always working. Always busy. Being busy is a virtue. How many jobs have I had where even if there was a pause in the work my boss would admonish me to “look busy.” Moving, hustling, starting up, making shit happen. America is all offense. Hit them before you get hit. Even our defense is offense: build so many weapons that nobody would dare mess with you.
Americans invented superheroes—a modern pantheon of colorful-powered Gods. Orphaned, alien, lost, subject to horrific accidents they rose above their station to save the Earth. They punch hard, run fast, kick ass, get the bad guys and have great hair. We are actually all superheroes, most people just can’t see beyond our alter egos. Sometimes heroes lose, but it’s always temporary. Even Thanos gets his ass kicked in the end.
The problem is that virus fighting is about defense, not offense. It’s about care not about violence. It’s about collectively agreeing to do nothing. Go home. Sit there. Be alone with whoever or whatever you share space with. Read books. Make things. Play video games. Watch Netflix. Chill.
Wait. Wait some more.
I think this is one of the reasons we are so unprepared and why even now things don’t seem to be working very well. It seems so unAmerican for the front line to be a living room couch.
I think Donald Trump and the jingoistic flag wavers must be pretty frustrated. No big weapons. No special gear. No Hueys or Humvees. No burning, blowing up, or B-2s. No HOOAHs!
Instead we have to do all of the things most Americans are bad at. We have to admit others know more than us. We have to trust experts.
It’s about understanding science—things you can’t see but are really there.
It’s also about self control—not doing the things you want to do. This moment requires adults—people with impulse control. I think this is why we find ourselves so totally unprepared: nearly three generations of Americans have been taught to do things, to be busy and work hard to satisfy their desires. To do what they like. The muscles of our self-control have atrophied.
When this mess is over I want to be sure and remember the Spring Breakers in Florida and the weak politicians who are afraid to be the adults in the room. I want to remember sad Donald who wants to run every meeting and awkwardly steps aside while the people who know try to work around him. He desperately wants to play the “wartime president” on TV. But he didn’t get the memo: We can’t punch our way out of this. We can’t bomb or even sanction. We can’t use our expensive secret weapons.
When this mess is over I want to remember how this wasn’t a superhero moment. The Avengers can’t save us. We just need to be adults. Support the people who know. Be with our neighbors and family and friends and be patient.
All very difficult things for most Americans.