U.S. Crisis, Global Implications

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021. Image: Jon Cherry/Getty
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Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021. Image: Jon Cherry/Getty

The mob attack on the US Capitol yesterday left the US and much of the world aghast—a stunning conclusion to a tumultuous election and a scarring year of pain and loss for so many.
 
But in global health, a crisis in one country cannot be an isolated event, and the implications are sure to reverberate beyond the US. Yesterday’s violence occurred in the context of a pandemic that has twisted politics, attitudes, and behavior. Key implications for the near future: 

  • Basic health precautions have taken on a political charge that caught the public health world off guard—as a commentary in Science Advances yesterday details.

  • Rebuilding trust is an ever more important focus of the public and global health community’s work. Even if the pandemic can be brought under control, similar divisions are already undermining efforts to counter other major threats like climate change.

  • Repeatedly throughout the course of the pandemic, it has become clear that scientists can no longer afford to be political, as the Union of Concern Scientists concludes in a statement responding to the US crisis.

  • The attack exposed the inequality and double standard that the US must address to repair deep-rooted damage to the country’s democracy and health. As UCS’s Andrew Rosenberg said, “It is impossible to watch today and not recognize white privilege and white supremacy in action. There were many peaceful protests in support of racial justice over the summer. Too often they were met with aggressive suppression and violence—and mass arrests.” Many images on Twitter shared tweets that starkly illustrate that contrast.


The crises that have rocked the US put the difficult road ahead in stark relief. But the US Senate immediately got back to work last night, seeking to restore democratic order and speaking of the need to repair the devastating divisions. The world will be watching.

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