My take on the Ed Yong’s “Anatomy of An American Failure”

In Ed Yong’s Anatomy of An American Failure, Yong explores the actions and implications of the American government. If the American government were said to be holding a position of paternalism over the American people, it is safe to say that it did not end up being for the best interest of said American people. While it is not my place to speak for the motivations of the Trump Administration as I do not know them, it is plausible to assume that part of the reason that they withheld information about just how wide the spread of COVID-19 really was in late January to early February was to preserve peace and not cause mass panic. This ended up backfiring, as this withholding of information and encouragement that everything was under control just emboldened those who doubted the legitimacy of the virus. It is my opinion that there were also much less noble reasons at play such as financial obligations and infrastructure shortcomings, but I do think that the paternalistic viewpoint of the Trump Administration thinking it was in the best interest of the American public was part of it.

The same can be said for the Trump Administration’s stance on masks, and how it changed throughout the spring. At first, they were adamant that masks, especially N-95’s, were not necessary to be wearing in public. While this is obviously not true, one could argue that the reason the Trump Administration said this was because they were trying to preserve what was left in the stockpiles across America that were a non-negotiable necessity for those at the frontline of the battle against COVID-19. Again, the Trump Administration withheld vital information that led to more deaths and higher spread among the public and looking through a paternalistic lens they did this thinking they were helping most of the American public. I would like to point out that this was before issues such as this became partisan.

In general, the infrastructure of the national stockpile and ability for the Public Health systems to handle mass influxes of patients was extremely lacking. As many things are, these changes and shortcomings were mainly tied to financial obligations. The defunding and expulsion of existing measures in place meant to safeguard against pandemics exactly like this one was mainly to allocate more money to other areas that were found to be more relevant or financially beneficial to the government. How would our nation look now if we had not had an administration withholding vital information and an infrastructure to support us?

3 thoughts on “My take on the Ed Yong’s “Anatomy of An American Failure”

  1. Robel Betre

    We equate paternalism to entities and restrictive structures that act on behalf of the bodies they govern. I agree that to call the actions of the Trump administration paternalist in nature is questionable to say the least. Withholding relevant information from the public regarding the status and influx of Covid cases serves only to Trump and his camp’s benefit. Even with the absence of information, panic still ensued. People still bought out toiletries and sanitary products. I don’t agree with the notion that there was a lack of resources to adequately prepare the American people for the onset of the pandemic. There was a clear prioritization of economic gain as opposed to the safety of the people. I have a hard time defining the actions of the government during the onset and progression of Covid as paternalist because the motivations behind the actions of the government were ones to instill disbelief and downplay the potential impact of the virus to keep the economy up and running.

  2. Kat Bagger

    Cassie, while I completely agree that the administration did not deal with our current pandemic in the most efficient way possible I will say that political paternalism is fairly standard for America. During the outbreaks of swine flu, ebola, and AIDS the government purposefully downplayed the severity of each disease in an attempt to satiate the public – at least initially. It’s culturally acceptable to have vital information withheld from us, to avoid mass panic, but we do so because we have faith our government will take care of it. In the case of CoVid, standard paternalistic measures were taken but instead of putting forth proper infrastructure to “take care of it” the administration fought within itself and failed to put forth a course of action. This was exacerbated by the conflicting economic relationship with China, opinions on the validity of modern science, and America’s societal attitudes towards our government ( people refusing to trust our government, rightfully so but applied at an incredibly inopportune time).


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