Confetti is seen on Times Square after the New Year celebration, in New York, the United States, Jan. 1, 2021. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
The tumultuous year of 2020 has again thrown into sharp focus the American exceptionalism, a concept that has become an anachronism in the 21st century, experts say.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans were convinced of the stories Washington had been peddling all around, which portrayed the country as a steadfast and powerful defender of people's lives, equality and fairness.
However, a much different storyline about the very same protagonist has been developed as an array of calamities unfolded in the United States during the year 2020, from the dismal response to COVID-19 to the most divisive election in U.S. history.
Just as U.S. writer Evan Osnos wrote in his recently published book, "the trials of 2020 have dismantled some of the most basic stories we Americans tell ourselves."
A COVID-19 disaster morgue made up of refrigerated trailers stands at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Brooklyn borough of New York, United States, Dec. 14, 2020. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)
FAILURE IN CONTAINING COVID-19
"The world's richest, most powerful country has botched even rudimentary responses to the pandemic -- finding masks, making tests," said Osnos.
According to the real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University, the United States has recorded over 20.1 million COVID-19 cases and more than 347,000 related deaths, leading the world in terms of both the caseload and the death toll.
"This is a staggering and mind-numbing number," Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies, said in a recent interview with Xinhua. "Yet, we still have to cope with nonsensical debates about individual freedoms and mask-wearing."
Experts have attributed the U.S. failure in containing the virus to an absence of a national strategy, politicized policies as well as misinformation and conspiracy theories that have allowed the pandemic to take root and become rampant.
"A vacuum of leadership, coupled with incompetency in the country to take early action to prevent the spread of the virus even after the COVID-19 virus had been identified" has all contributed to the U.S. failure, Sarwar A. Kashmeri, an international relations analyst at Norwich University, told Xinhua.
"Throughout the course of this pandemic, politics has been an obstacle to public-health initiatives," said an article titled America Needs a COVID-19 Reckoning on the webpage of The Atlantic in early December.
"In the United States, there has been a great deal of misinformation and confusion about COVID-19," John Manzella, editor-in-chief of The Manzella Report, told Xinhua.
"As a result, many Americans still do not understand the importance of wearing a mask or social distancing -- a problem that very likely has resulted in higher COVID casualties," he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, has also warned the pandemic "might actually get worse" in the next few weeks.
According to predictions from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, another 193,000 Americans could lose their lives over the next two months.
Photo taken on Dec. 14, 2020 shows the White House in the rain in Washington, D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
ERODING PUBLIC FAITH IN INSTITUTIONS
Restoring faith in U.S. institutions, like a good government, a well functioning electoral system, a fair judiciary, and sound property rights that protect investments, is another challenge facing the country, noted Manzella.
A series of unexpected events like the "Black Lives Matter" protests, raging gun violence, and intensifying conflicts between parties and social groups has all indicated that U.S. institutions are losing Americans' trust.
"Declining trust in American institutions is tantamount to chipping away at the building blocks that ultimately support our wealth creation model," Manzella said.
The recently staged saga about the U.S. presidential election is functioning as a catalyst for such a process of eroding Americans' faith in the institutions, according to the experts.
President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump by "a massive 7 popular million votes" in Election 2020, yet if "only 45,000 votes" in the states of Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin had changed hands, which is "less than 1 percent" of the difference in the popular vote, both Trump and Biden would have exactly 269 electoral college seats each, according to Gupta.
"America's electoral college system is utterly broken," said Gupta.
"It reflects very poorly on the state of America today that in a year in which the country, for lack of honest political leadership, has suffered more deaths than all U.S. troop casualties in all the U.S. wars of the 20th century combined with the exception of WWII, the incumbent president failed to retain office by a mere 45,000 votes! This is utterly shocking," he said.
"This was not the total repudiation of Trump and Trumpism that so many had hoped for. Instead, in some quarters, it amounted to an embrace, with Trump actually increasing the total number of votes he'd received in 2016," said a Time report.
It is "a shock, if not a surprise, for those eager for the country to turn over a new leaf," the report said.
"The electoral college system heaps an unnecessary degree of artificial polarization and rural bias upon the political system, which at the end of the day has real world consequences like controversial judicial selections. And which, in turn, has led the political system to keep chewing upon itself for the worse," said Gupta.
Photo taken on Jan. 1, 2021 shows the U.S. Capitol Hill building in Washington, D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM SHATTERED
The tumultuous year of 2020 has again thrown into sharp focus the American exceptionalism, a concept that has become an anachronism in the 21st century, experts said.
"The catastrophic U.S. response to COVID-19 is ... the product of an insularity in U.S. politics and culture that the American way is invariably the best, has blinded the country's leaders (and many of its citizens) to potentially lifesaving lessons from other countries," wrote Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, in his Foreign Affairs article "Exceptionalism Is Killing Americans."
Domestically, the U.S. exceptionalism was built on the country's "remarkably dynamic entrepreneurial streak, which ensured unparalleled intergenerational mobility to its residents," according to Gupta.
Internationally, the U.S. exceptionalism was built on "America's power of leadership which was best exemplified by its own power of example -- and notwithstanding the immense military capabilities that it enjoyed," he said.
But now, domestically, the U.S. "inter-generational mobility machine has broken down with economic gains accruing to the very top and near top of the income and wealth pyramid, and remaining across generations within this wealthy cohort," Gupta said.
"The U.S. has suffered a huge loss of standing in the post-Cold War era, given its numerous illegal wars and the failure to abide by the very international rules that it had itself laid down after WWII," he noted.
"It is also no longer an engine of prosperity overseas as it used to be," Gupta said, explaining that the United States "can no longer expect to lead by power of example; it must learn to lead by consensus as a 'first among genuine equals' during these uncertain times." ■