Letter: Over 200,000 dead and no hint of national mourning
After 2,977 people died on 9/11, the country had a National Day of Prayer and remembrance for the victims. Former president George W. Bush delivered words of comfort and encouragement at the packed National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where four former U.S. presidents and political and religious leaders gathered on a gray morning that gave way to bright sunshine. “Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time,” Bush said. “But goodness, remembrance and love have no end.”
Nearly 20 years later, in the midst of another national tragedy that has the U.S. surpassing 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, there have been few signs of collective mourning among Americans. President Donald Trump has steered clear of his role as consoler in chief, shifting focus away from the dead to deflect criticism of his crisis leadership. The administration has set the tone: the deaths don’t matter.
Americans have a common set of expectations and rituals for responding to national losses, whether they’re from war, terrorism, school shootings or natural disasters. We lower flags to half-staff. We have moments of silence. We leave flowers and messages of sympathy. The pandemic dead have received almost none of this.
The COVID-19 dead are disproportionately urban, people of color, immigrants, the incarcerated, the poor, the uninsured, the elderly and the chronically ill. As well, over 1,000 health care workers have died having been infected while they were caring for others. Does this loss of life matter to the president? It appears that deaths don’t matter to him.
In the U.S., the current administration hasn’t even had so much as a collective moment of silence. The American flag still flies high atop the White House. Still doesn’t fly at half-mast to honor the loss of life. That pretty much says it all.
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