“I worked 12 hours in the ER today. We intubated five patients. Four people died. Seasoned nurses were found hiding and crying in storage rooms. I'm literally in a war zone and the battle has only just begun. The front line is failing, you guys are on your own now.” An American emergency room nurse named Terter tweeted this on Thursday. A lot of his followers who are also healthcare workers echoed his desperation and anger.
A news podcast I’m listening to features a CNN host interviewing a medical expert discussing how bad the COVID-19 situation is in the United States. It’s deja vu all over again for me. We Chinese know exactly how bad the situation could be for a COVID-19 hit city, just like Wuhan.
“One of the most painful lessons of this crisis is the extent to which America cannot or will not identify with Chinese pain. Every horror that is happening here happened first in Wuhan. We covered it. Many people did not care,” tweeted a Washington Post journalist who was based in Beijing on Wednesday.
“Why didn’t your editors make that coverage a higher priority,” said a comment. “It has been on the front page of the Washington Post for literal months,” she replied.
Why did the Chinese pain go unnoticed even though it has been covered by a top national newspaper for months in the US? According to the replies to the tweet, some Americans think things happening in other parts of the world seem too distant to be real to many of them, and others argue that those reports which focused on blaming Chinese government convinced many Americans that they were “somehow immune.” Some Asian Americans find “systematic racism” in this: “If it happens to Asians in Asia, it’s their problem.”
For me, a Chinese journalist who was based in Washington, DC, for some time and is still interested in American politics and foreign affairs, it’s mostly about the increasing inward-looking tendency of Americans. Probably it’s true that people in every country tend to care about their own issues, but it’s pretty striking that the people of a superpower show less and less interest in the broader world.
This is also the case with American media. I watch both CNN News and Fox News a lot, only to find that they almost report exclusively on domestic affairs for the domestic audience. As for the news shows, most of the time the hosts, experts and politicians talk about partisan fighting, and show little interest in what happens around the world and how this impacts America. I understand that political polarization could provide an explanation for this, especially after Donald Trump was elected president, but am still amazed to see the extent to which Americans have been detached from the world.
As a cost for being overly inward-looking and self-centered, Americans are learning some lessons the hard way. It’s heartbreaking to see American healthcare workers are experiencing the same dangerous and helpless situation as their Wuhan counterparts went through two months ago. What is happening in the United States could have been avoided had Americans stayed vigilant and governments at all levels taken decisive measures.