Time for Some Pandemic Patriotism

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of all American adults have now received at least one COVID vaccine dose as of April 18. Development, approval, and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is a phenomenal success story, showcasing the very best of American business acumen and efficiency. In the face of this stunning achievement, a proud and confident America has a critical role to play in a “vaccine arms race” developing on the European continent. 

Sputnik V, the Russian-made vaccine, is being dangled as a tantalizing lifeline to European leaders who have watched the European Union’s abysmal failure to secure the lives and livelihoods of their citizens. Germany, the E.U.’s most populous and wealthiest nation, has administered just over 8 million vaccine doses. Only about 5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. According to German newspapers, 4.3 million vaccines have yet to be distributed because of Germany’s inability to break their crippling tendency toward bureaucratic perfection. 

History has taught us the dire consequences of a failed Europe. In recent weeks, Germany, in a desperate attempt to procure a viable vaccination, has begun talks on buying the Sputnik V vaccine. A paper published by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center last week, however, estimates that the U.S. could have as many as 300 million excess doses by the end of July. A vaccine “Marshall plan” of delivery and distribution may be appropriate to bolster the social and economic confidence of a Europe losing the battle against a microscopic enemy.   

To waste time downplaying the enormousness of America’s success in the COVID-19 vaccine, due to partisan animosities by a liberal media that seems to be at war with a great America, could now jeopardize the influence and security Americans fought so hard to gain on the European continent in the horrendous battles of the 20th century. All our successes in the conquering of tyranny in Europe are threatened with displacement by the soft influence of Russia or China—bad actors who are trying to deliver their brand of vaccines to a desperate European people. The cost of purchasing a Russian-produced vaccine may be more than monetary, as a hungry Russia eyes a vulnerable Ukraine or the economically struggling nations of Eastern Europe. The real cost of the vaccine may be a compliant and complacent Europe as Russia attempts to exert an influence once again on the European continent.         

America and the United Kingdom have vaccinated more of their respective populations than any other Western country. The independence of the United States and the newly minted post-Brexit England has allowed both countries to turn on a dime in expeditious responses to the COVID crisis. While other European countries depended on the unwieldy bureaucracy of the European Union and a globalist approach to develop and procure an effective vaccine, the U.S. and U.K. looked to their own citizenry and wherewithal to solve the problem. Nationalism—thought so poisonous in the lexicon of the day—and localism have triumphed in serving both nation’s citizens. 

There is no better example of healthy nationalism shaping positive action than President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.  As early as February 11, 2020, the Trump administration began to explore an idea which would marshal the robust spirit of American entrepreneurism in concert with a partnership of private industry and a kaleidoscope of U.S. government agencies to “provide for the common defense, and to promote the general Welfare” of the American public, in the form of an effective vaccine. In a brilliant move, the Trump administration allowed for the U.S. government to become a business partner with several large pharmaceutical companies in order to produce, approve, and deliver vaccines as quickly as possible. Once produced, the vaccines were immediately sent from the manufacturer via UPS and FedEx to locations named by state governments. Contracts were then delivered by the Biden administration to local pharmacies to distribute deeper into American communities. Although certainly not without flaws in execution, the success of America’s unprecedented steps of rapidly delivering a vaccine to the American people has had immediate positive effects as businesses open, travel resumes, and cultural community events are taking place. By the end of May, it is estimated 75 percent of Americans will have received at least one round of the vaccine.     

European leaders, instead of taking responsibility for their own citizenry, relegated decisions and actions to the leviathan of the European Union bureaucracy. The 27 member nations of the E.U. proved to be intractable, with actions requiring their agreement preventing a swift response to a deadly virus. Trying to find the best economic deal rather than the most effective comprehensive solution, the European Union pursued policies that were perceived to be the cheapest. The decision proved to be not only poor, but deadly, as variant forms of the virus now roll around Europe despite continued draconian lockdown measures.      

The extent of the European lockdown cannot even begin to compare with an American version of lockdown, as Germany now enters a sixth month of restrictive measures in which restaurants, cafes, and bars have not been allowed to open or school classes to resume. Severe lockdowns and restrictive measures are by their very nature antithetical to the American concept of individual liberty and freedom. As early as May 2020, lawsuits were beginning to travel through the state and federal courts when American citizens began to perceive their fundamental rights were being violated.  

Words like patriotism are out of vogue in current times. Pride in America has become mistakenly associated with extreme right-wing politics held by a minuscule minority that seems to best express itself in a cyber world rather than in lived reality. Particularly at this moment in light of our stunning vaccine success, a more robust understanding of patriotism must be embraced. Wilfred McClay, in his recent book The Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, writes, in describing the value of patriotism, that “celebration and criticism are not necessarily enemies.” Pride in the particularity of who we are as a nation of people should not blind us to our imperfect past. Celebrating what is profoundly good about the American story of liberty and democracy does not necessitate denying the mistakes we have made in the past, nor the ones we will most certainly make in our post-Edenic future. A moment of pride, however, in the greatness of the 246-year-old experiment of self-governance called America is appropriate now.    

Settling the West, walking on the moon, or condensing the wisdom of Solomon into a silicon chip, the American people have pushed the boundaries of human endeavors in ways never imagined before by human civilizations. These innovations, both frightening and exhilarating, are an outward expression of America’s intuitive notion of the meaning of the human person. Our ideas displayed in our inventions, from a cotton gin to a global positioning system, carry an understanding of our belief that all are born with a unique identity and dignity given only by the Creator, and each has both a right and duty to develop their talents to the best of their abilities.

Last summer when many Europeans smugly looked down at the United States’s climbing morbidity rates, we were determinedly working to develop a vaccine. In the end, as in the past, we cannot let our problems define us, but rather our solutions and the generosity of spirit we have in helping those around us. On June 6, we will celebrate the 77th anniversary of the landing at Normandy; maybe a gift of an American-made vaccine from the American people to Europeans would be appropriate on this date. As before, we would ask nothing in return. Bold and generous action would once again serve to remind ourselves and others, in humble thanksgiving, who we are as a nation and a patriotic people.

Michele McAloon is a wife, mother, retired U.S. Army officer, and a canon lawyer. She resides with her family in Wiesbaden, Germany. Her podcast “Cross Word” can be found on Spotify, Apple, and archangelradio.com.  

The post Time for Some Pandemic Patriotism appeared first on The American Conservative.

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