What will we do without America? Three thousand dead already, the most reported anywhere except for Italy and Spain, and the White House says the toll could reach 240,000. Given the chaotic response to date, that is surely too low. (As a mark of how fast Covid-19 is spreading in the US, the death toll there rose to 9637, a 200 per cent increase, in the first five days after publication of this article.)
For the last four years it's been open season on American jokes. And why not: how else would we cope with the buffoonery, let alone the outrageous threats to world peace, the environment and vulnerable people everywhere.
It's not funny now. America's problem is not simply that Covid-19 is rampant. It's that it does not have the means to save itself.
The president cannot deal with crisis and his party is consumed by a craven lust for power and simple stupidity, but a single election could deal to those things. The tragedy for America is that its political structure and social culture render it incapable of dealing with this kind of calamity.
Health services and police are controlled by individual states and cities, so a nationally co-ordinated response is difficult. Local populations also have authority over schools, through school board elections, which is why ignorance about evolution, climate change and more has taken root in many parts of the country and has never been dug out. Ignorance begets itself. Trump's popularity ratings are rising right now.
What irony, that the single thing likely to prevent utter catastrophe for America is an early vaccine. Only science can save them.
Then there's the American culture of idealised individualism. You're not taking my gun from me and you're not going to tell me where I can go. Stay safe? Be kind? Don't make me laugh.
No, we won't. In New York this week, they brought the giant navy hospital ship the USS Comfort to town and what happened? People – smart New Yorkers, mind – flocked to the wharves to see it berth. They're the very model of irony, Americans. Jerry Seinfeld must be beside himself.
And behind all this, a corporate culture that says the economy must prevail, no matter the cost in lives. Covid-19 can and does strike every type of citizen, but those most afflicted will be, as always, the old, the immune-compromised, people without access to ventilators and ICU care. That would be the poor.
It's not a criminal offence to pursue policies like that, but it should be.
Don't get me wrong. I love America. I've been lucky to visit twice in the last five years and both trips – in the biggest cities and in vast wildernesses too – were splendid. I don't expect to be able to visit again.
America will thrash around in ineptitude and then desperation, failed by its own democracy, and it will close down. Who knows when it will be safe for the rest of the world to consider it open?
We're going to lose trading markets, scientists, artists and entertainers and all the creative ferment that comes with them. We could lose the energy of everything great in America, which is almost everything its president doesn't mean when he talks about it being great.
It's not just America. It will be worse in Africa and wherever health systems and social structures are not built to cope. But it's especially shocking in America because it should not happen there.
Lockdown. You let your mind slide, sometimes. As you may have gathered from the above.
I was standing by a beech tree in the backyard when I realised I was looking at little spotted bugs crawling in and out of the cracks in the bark. An infestation of ladybirds, some a rich yellow, others burnt orange, red, sometimes black. They crawl, and then they launch themselves and fly straight at the next vertical object. Which is you.
They're lovely, but it's weird.
To be continued.