Why has the USA struggled more than any other country to get a grasp on COVID-19? Like any global pandemic there are certainly several reasons that lead to success or failure in treating and eliminating a deadly virus.
The first and most obvious case in America is Trump’s utter failure to create a national strategy to address this pandemic. Every country in the world that has seen success in containing COVID-19 has HAD A PLAN. A leader that wallows in chaos and destruction is incapable of planning anything other than more chaos.
But the bigger and more problematic issue in America is the division between rural and urban Americans. This division has grown exponentially since Trump has run for office. But it is not new to America. This division has been seeping into the American mindset for over 100 years. The industrial revolution in the early 1900s led to a boon for metropolitan areas while rural America began to lose its identity. There was a massive population movement that saw millions of Americans leave their rural roots for more opportunities that were being made available daily in the rapidly growing urban communities.
Ten years ago, I retired and moved from the Chicago area to a small retirement community in Arkansas. Half of the population (12,000) is over 50 years of age. It is a beautiful area and people tend to be very friendly. Many are like me and retired here from other parts of the country. But what I have observed through my time here is most of those who have retired here are from other rural areas. They were looking for a similar rural vibe with better weather and lower taxes. This contrasts with the many retirees from metro areas that tend to move to warmer metro areas.
The division between rural and urban Americans is becoming more evident every day. Urban citizens tend to rely on each other more. Many rely on public transportation. Their workplace environments most often require interdependence with others to do their jobs effectively. This naturally leads to better team-building skills and better communication skills. Urban dwellers also are more likely to have advanced education, whether it be scholastically or trade school environments.
Rural inhabitants are nearly the exact opposite of their urban brothers and sisters. What I found most shocking to me when I moved here was how many people were obsessed with owning land. Not necessarily a home, just land. Now some do earn their living off the land and that certainly makes sense. But many own acres of land just because. They do nothing with it, have no plan to develop it, do little to care for it. I have concluded that it is just a shelter for them. To separate themselves from neighbors. There is no question that the average rural occupant has a more “don’t bother me, leave me alone, stay off my property” attitude than their urban cousins.
And herein lies the real danger from the rural and urban divisions in a pandemic. Everyday city dwellers rely on those around them to perform their daily functions. Because of this reliance, they understand that each of them needs to do their part if they are going to be successful in defeating COVID-19 and see a return to normal life. They are also far more likely to know someone who has died from it.
On the other hand, the more typical attitude of rural folks is one skepticism, indifference, and defiance. So many simply do not care if they are exposed or expose others. It’s just a hoax. This blew my mind and I have been here for 10 years! They talk about freedom as if it is something they inherited, like blue eyes or red hair from Gramma. “I’m an American and I can do whatever I want.” Yeah, try not paying your taxes and see how well that works out. I really am shocked at how indifferent they are towards so many Americans dying. I guess this shouldn’t surprise me since most of them I have met believes that Trump can walk on water.
I do have some hope as most of the younger people I have met here are more inquisitive and more likely to get their information from a variety of sources. Sadly, those fortunate enough to go away to college will be less likely to return to their rural home to make a life. Once exposed to a variety of people and knowledge at a university their world view changes significantly.
Do I hold out any hope that these divisions can be healed? No, I do not. Rural communities by their very nature are isolated. Most have little to no industry, high-speed internet, or access to Interstate highways. The only hope for rural America to have a chance of surviving would be a massive infrastructure bill to come out of Washington. And we all know that won’t happen.
America will continue to spiral down the rabbit hole that COVID-19 and Trump’s response to it has created. Rural communities will choose their “freedom” over the health of the nation. I was hoping that I could inject some humorous quip into this article at some point. I just can’t find a single thing humorous about this massive and apparently hopeless division in America.