It’s difficult to grasp just how inept and half-hearted the U.S. pandemic response has been.

Forget about the record-breaking vaccine development. Trump will want to take credit for that, but the foundation for the rapid development was laid long before he took office. Forget about the months-long efforts of doctors and nurses who are way beyond bone-tired by now. Let’s talk first about herding cats, trying to reason with stubborn, “patriotic” people who have chosen not to listen. Or think, for that matter.

The toll on this nation is immeasurable, except as we catch glimpses of the suffering and grief, the soul-crushing fatigue and fear and unanticipated poverty. The cabin fever and isolation didn’t have to last this long. We could have been on the downside of this if we had taken it more seriously and listened to the right people.

As it is, millions chose to place their bets on their President, their fearless leader who they believed, for some strange reason, had their best interests at heart. Half the country got taken to the cleaners and it affected everyone else in the process. It’s a fucking mess, way beyond shameful.

In retrospect, people may view it as criminal, if they don’t already. Purposely downplaying the severity, the absence of a plan, outright deception and lies, just to protect the economy, Trump’s perceived lifeline to re-election that ended up tanking anyway. Thousands of small businesses gone. Millions unemployed. Three hundred thirty thousand lives lost, and many more to come. A very dark chapter. A lost year, in many ways.

Oh, of course we learned some things along the way, and people came together, made lemonade, blah, blah, blah. Spare me. You can always find a silver lining if you look hard enough. But there’s no getting around the fact that this could have played out very differently if the leadership in Washington had been motivated by something other than self-preservation and obfuscation and preying on peoples’ gullibility. They had a chance to lead, and they decided not to.

They decided–consciously chose— to ignore reality, and placed minimal value on human life. It might be about the economy, stupid. But you can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people. The reality is that not enough people wanted to make the necessary sacrifices—relatively short-term sacrifices– in order to stem the tide of this virus. Enough among us were led to believe that such measures were unnecessary and even un-American.

A well-conceived testing program and contact tracing, wearing a mask, washing our hands, and keeping a safe distance were all turned into polarizing issues, just too much to ask or expect. How sad is that?

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