What caused America to be a nation that allowed hundreds of thousands of people to die needlessly of Covid?

We know at least two things certainly about the pandemic in America.

Hundreds of thousands of people were infected and died, despite valiant work by so many skilled and selfless health professionals who tried to save them.

A large number of those who died—hundreds of thousands—did not have to be infected and end up dying. We look to public policy, personal behavior and of course the virulence of the virus as contributors to this.

That leads to an overriding question: How are we a nation where public policy and personal behavior allowed this to happen?

The answers are more complicated than pointing to people in power or to individuals demonstrating some combination of selfishness, ignorance or recklessness, as convenient and in some ways as accurate as that might be.

How did we become a nation with a sufficient measure of selfishness, ignorance or recklessness that lead to that outcome?

As we review what happened—and make no mistake, vaccines notwithstanding, is still happening—we should not leave that question unexamined. It belongs near the top of the list. Set aside whether we can discover the social, cultural and political preconditions that would make our response to another similar emergency equally inadequate. If there are factors in our American life and in our American psyches that are tending to move us away from an optimal level of knowledge and care for others, and we are able to look at 600,000 dead (the estimate by this summer 2021) as an unfortunate fact of life in America, as just a natural disaster like a hurricane, as much as I try to reflect rays of light, the American prospect, at least in the near term, may be bleak.