Epidemics scour away a country’s narcissistic notions about itself. So what is the coronavirus pandemic revealing about the U.S., the country that considers itself the best and most capable in the world?
Anne Applebaum, staff writer at The Atlantic. (@anneapplebaum)
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The Atlantic: "The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff" — "On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy sailed into Tokyo Bay with two steamships and two sailing vessels under his command. He landed a squadron of heavily armed sailors and marines; he moved one of the ships ostentatiously up the harbor, so that more people could see it.
"He delivered a letter from President Millard Fillmore demanding that the Japanese open up their ports to American trade. As they left, Perry’s fleets fired their guns into the ether.
"In the port, people were terrified: 'It sounded like distant thunder,' a contemporary diarist wrote at the time, 'and the mountains echoed back the noise of the shots. This was so formidable that the people in Edo [modern Tokyo] were fearful.'
"But the noise was not the only thing that frightened the Japanese. The Perry expedition famously convinced them that their political system was incapable of coping with new kinds of threats. Secure in their island homeland, the rulers of Japan had been convinced for decades of their cultural superiority. Japan was unique, special, the homeland of the gods."
This program aired on March 19, 2020.