Exploring Human Potential

David Brooks on COVID-19 Response: Beware of Dread.

Posted on | March 17, 2020 | 5 Comments

PBS Newshour

Mike Magee

On March 12th, New York Times columnist David Brooks indulged in a moment of existential reflection when he wrote, “Frank Snowden, the Yale historian who wrote ‘Epidemics and Society,’ argues that pandemics hold up a mirror to society and force us to ask basic questions: What is possible imminent death trying to tell us? Where is God in all this? What’s our responsibility to one another?”

Three days later, he discarded metaphysics and just couldn’t take it anymore. On PBS News, he let loose with this:
“I feel a deep sense of anger that our government has responded so badly. Frankly, this is what happens when you elect a sociopath as president, who doesn’t care, (and) who’s treated this whole thing for the past month as if it’s about him.”

Likely Snowden’s book with its crushing insights put Brooks over the edge. Here are a few nuggets from a recent New Yorker interview of the author:

Historically, epidemics have “shaped politics, crushed revolutions, and entrenched racial and economic discrimination.”

“Epidemic diseases are not random events that afflict societies capriciously and without warning. On the contrary, every society produces its own specific vulnerabilities … it’s structure, its standard of living, and its political priorities.”

Epidemics are a category of disease that seem to hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are.”

“Epidemics also, as we’re seeing now, have tremendous effects on social and political stability. They’ve determined the outcomes of wars, and they also are likely to be part of the start of wars sometimes.”

“The way we respond very much depends on our values, our commitments, and our sense of being part of the human race.”

“The health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us.”

“To have officials in the White House saying, ‘Oh, its nothing more than a common cold, we’ve got it under control,’ when they have nothing under control, as far as I can see, and they’ve put people in charge who don’t even believe in science.”

Even as David Brooks awoke, Republican leaders have slept on, or offered weak bromides like Marco Rubio’s plea that we not “spend all our time taking political shots”, as if Susan Collins was right when she said President Trump had “learned his lesson.” No, he hasn’t.

His words – serious one day, flippant the next – mean nothing.  Actions – only verifiable actions – count now. They must be real, rational, and responsible. And so is David Brooks warning, “Dread overwhelms the normal bonds of human affection.”


5 Responses to “David Brooks on COVID-19 Response: Beware of Dread.”

  1. David Brooks on COVID-19 Response: Beware of Dread. | Rankers
    March 17th, 2020 @ 4:42 pm

    […] Posted on | March 17, 2020 | No Comments […]

  2. Dr. William A Hassey
    March 18th, 2020 @ 8:33 am

    I agree with David Brooks…it’s appalling that the response of our “president” is to blame foreign influences, to take credit for having things “under control” and to urge people not to worry about this malady is unconscionable. All he cares about is his political status (amazing for a man who ran on decrying politics) and his ego…even in his actions “on stage” when he tried to shake hands at a time we have been urged to avoid such contact shows what his lack of empathy and common understanding of what is going on.
    He has made an art of pushing off responsibility and blame and telling us his version of the truth…until this point in time, it has only effected our sense of right and wrong…now, we add to that the safety and well-being of every American…every person in the world…this is a pandemic…he needs to become a leader and stop running for reelection!!!

  3. Mike Magee
    March 18th, 2020 @ 8:44 am

    Thanks for this! Agree.

  4. Chuck Fahey
    March 18th, 2020 @ 9:54 am

    Thanks again and always. Hope you and all dear are well.

  5. Mike Magee
    March 18th, 2020 @ 1:40 pm

    All well here, Chuck. Stay safe and well! Best, Mike

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