Little sense of shared grief as virus deaths near 100,000

For months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the nation ached together in televised memorials, joining in a collective catharsis of uniformed salutes, bagpiped dirges and President George W. Bush declaring a national day of mourning and remembrance.

The space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986 turned classrooms into grieving sessions, with President Reagan directly addressing the national wounds. The Japanese attack on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor in 1941 was a day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would live in “infamy,” uniting the mainland to enter a world war.

Yet as the nation nears 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 — far more than all those tragic events combined or the entire Vietnam War — there is little sense this Memorial Day weekend that Americans are grieving together or uniting in a sense of purpose.

While Americans have shared undeniable hardships since March — including more than 38 million people forced to file for unemployment, and tens of millions more forced to hunker down at home to avoid the contagion — the carnage is hitting them unevenly.

President Trump, loath to dwell on those dismal figures, is both stoking the polarized response and counting on a fragmented experience to distract the nation from the almost incomprehensible death toll — nearly triple that of any other country — which could tar his presidency and jeopardize his chance for reelection in November.

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Source: Progressive Party USA