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We Are Living in a Failed State
The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.

我們生活在一個失敗國家
——新冠病毒沒有使美國破產,它揭示了我們早已分崩離析。



大西洋月刊
SPECIAL PREVIEW: JUNE 2020 ISSUE

作者George Packer
Staff writer for The Atlantic

When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.

當病毒來到美國時,它遇見的是一個沉疴四伏的國家,因而它無情地在這些痼疾上大肆繁殖起來。這些慢性疾病包括了——一個腐敗的政治階層,一個僵化的官僚體制,一個不講人情的經濟體,一群分裂和困惑的公眾——多年來這些疾病被視而不見。我們不論怎樣難受,已經學會了與這些癥狀朝夕相伴。直到一場規??涨昂蛠淼窖矍暗囊咔榇蟊l,才暴露了這些癥候的嚴重性——讓美國人震驚地意識到自己就屬于高危人群。

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.

為應對這場危機,要做出的反應需是迅速的、理性的和協同一致的。而相反,美國的反應簡直可與巴基斯坦或白俄羅斯相媲美,就像是一個有破爛不堪的基礎設施低劣和喪失能力的政府的國家一樣,其領導人要么太過腐敗要么太過愚蠢,面對大規模的災難束手無策。這屆美國政府無法挽回地白白浪費了兩個月的準備時間。來自總統的言行,要么是故意視而不見的盲目,要么是尋找替罪羊、夸夸其談的謊言。在他的鼓吹,陰謀論和奇跡療法的影響下。一些參議員和公司高管動作很快,但不是為了阻止即將到來的災難,而是為了從中攫取利益。而當一名政府雇傭的醫生試圖將這一險情公之于眾時,白宮操起麥克風,將這一信息政治化。

Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.



This is the third major crisis of the short 21st century. The first, on September 11, 2001, came when Americans were still living mentally in the previous century, and the memory of depression, world war, and cold war remained strong. On that day, people in the rural heartland did not see New York as an alien stew of immigrants and liberals that deserved its fate, but as a great American city that had taken a hit for the whole country. Firefighters from Indiana drove 800 miles to help the rescue effort at Ground Zero. Our civic reflex was to mourn and mobilize together.

這已經是21世紀短暫開局里降臨的第三次重大危機。第一次危機在2001年9月11日從天而降,當時美國人的心態還停留在上個世紀,人們對大蕭條、世界大戰和冷戰依然記憶猶新。而在那一天,生活在美國腹地偏遠鄉村的人們,并未將紐約視為移民和自由主義者的外來者大雜燴,而覺得其理應遭遇這樣的命運。而是將它視為替整個國家承受下重創的一座偉大的美國城市。來自印第安納州的消防隊員驅車800英里去協助在世貿中心災難現場的救援工作。我們公民的反應是一致地哀悼和動員起來。

Partisan politics and terrible policies, especially the Iraq War, erased the sense of national unity and fed a bitterness toward the political class that never really faded. The second crisis, in 2008, intensified it. At the top, the financial crash could almost be considered a success. Congress passed a bipartisan bailout bill that saved the financial system. Outgoing Bush-administration officials cooperated with incoming Obama administration officials. The experts at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department used monetary and fiscal policy to prevent a second Great Depression. Leading bankers were shamed but not prosecuted; most of them kept their fortunes and some their jobs. Before long they were back in business. A Wall Street trader told me that the financial crisis had been a “speed bump.”

但黨派政治和一系列糟糕的政策,尤其是發動伊拉克戰爭,抹殺了這種整個國家一致團結的情感,而滋長的是對政治階層的仇恨,這種恨意從未真正消退。第二次危機在2008年到來,進一步加劇了這種局面。對社會頂層而言,金融危機幾乎可以被視為一場勝利。國會兩黨一致通過了一項救助法案,拯救了金融體系。即將卸任的布什政府的官員與即將上任的奧巴馬政府的官員建立了合作。美聯儲和財政部的專家使用貨幣和財政政策來避免第二次大蕭條的發生。排在前頭的一些銀行家顏面掃地,但免去了牢獄之災;他們中的大多數人保住了自己的財富,有些人還保住了自己的位子。沒過多久他們就開始重操舊業了。一位華爾街交易員告訴我,金融危機不過是一個“減速帶”而已。

All of the lasting pain was felt in the middle and at the bottom, by Americans who had taken on debt and lost their jobs, homes, and retirement savings. Many of them never recovered, and young people who came of age in the Great Recession are doomed to be poorer than their parents. Inequality—the fundamental, relentless force in American life since the late 1970s—grew worse.

但所有這些傷口仍在中產階級和底層的美國人身上作痛,他們負債累累,失去了工作、住房和退休儲蓄。他們中的許多人從此一蹶不振,在大蕭條中成長起來的那一代年輕人命中注定要比他們的父母更窮。社會的不平等——一個20世紀70年代末以來美國人生活中最根本、最無情的力量——變得愈加劇烈。

This second crisis drove a profound wedge between Americans: between the upper and lower classes, Republicans and Democrats, metropolitan and rural people, the native-born and immigrants, ordinary Americans and their leaders. Social bonds had been under growing strain for several decades, and now they began to tear. The reforms of the Obama years, important as they were—in health care, financial regulation, green energy—had only palliative effects. The long recovery over the past decade enriched corporations and investors, lulled professionals, and left the working class further behind. The lasting effect of the slump was to increase polarization and to discredit authority, especially government’s.

這第二次危機在美國人之間刻下成了深深的裂痕:刻在了在上層和下層階級之間,刻在了共和黨和民主黨之間,刻在了在大都市居民和鄉村人民之間,刻在了美國本土居民和外來移民之間,刻在了普通的美國人和他們的領導人之間。幾十年來一直被繃緊的社會的紐帶,現在終于開始破裂。奧巴馬時代在醫療保健、金融監管和綠色能源方面的改革,固然重要,但只是權宜之計。過去10年的漫長復蘇讓大企業和投資者賺得盆滿缽溢,讓專業人士們放松了警惕,卻讓工人階級進一步落在后面。經濟衰退帶來的長期效應是兩極分化的進一步加劇,是權威機構,尤其是政府權威信譽的進一步喪失。

Both parties were slow to grasp how much credibility they’d lost. The coming politics was populist. Its harbinger wasn’t Barack Obama but Sarah Palin, the absurdly unready vice-presidential candidate who scorned expertise and reveled in celebrity. She was Donald Trump’s John the Baptist.

民主共和兩黨都沒有及時意識到他們失去了多少信任。政治時至今日變成了民粹主義。它的先聲不是巴拉克·奧巴馬,而是薩拉·佩林,這位近乎荒唐的毫無準備的副總統候選人,她蔑視專業技能而沉醉于名人效應。她堪稱唐納德·特朗普的施洗約翰。

Trump came to power as the repudiation of the Republican establishment. But the conservative political class and the new leader soon reached an understanding. Whatever their differences on issues like trade and immigration, they shared a basic goal: to strip-mine public assets for the benefit of private interests. Republican politicians and donors who wanted government to do as little as possible for the common good could live happily with a regime that barely knew how to govern at all, and they made themselves Trump’s footmen.

特朗普的上臺時是對共和黨建制派的徹底否定,但這位新上任的領導人很快就與保守主義的政治階層達成了諒解。無論他們在貿易和移民等問題上存在怎樣的分歧,兩者都有一個共同的基本目標:為了一己之利而損公肥私。那些希望政府盡可能在公眾利益上無為而治的共和黨政客和捐款人,可以與一個對如何治國毫無頭腦的政權融洽相處,他們接著就躋身到特朗普的鞍前馬后。

Like a wanton boy throwing matches in a parched field, Trump began to immolate what was left of national civic life. He never even pretended to be president of the whole country, but pitted us against one another along lines of race, sex, religion, citizenship, education, region, and—every day of his presidency—political party. His main tool of governance was to lie. A third of the country locked itself in a hall of mirrors that it believed to be reality; a third drove itself mad with the effort to hold on to the idea of knowable truth; and a third gave up even trying.

就像一個不知天高地厚的男孩往干旱的田地里扔火柴一樣,特朗普開始將這個國家的公民生活僅存下來的東西一個個送上祭壇。他甚至不屑于裝出一國總統的樣子,而是在他總統任期內的每一天,把我們每個人都推進充斥著種族、性別、宗教、公民身份、教育、地區直到政黨間一成串斗爭的泥坑里相互攻訐。他治理國家的主要工具是靠撒謊。這個國家的三分之一把自己鎖在一個鏡子大廳里,把虛像當做現實,另外三分之一發瘋一般徒勞地守在尚可知的真相中,剩下的三分之一早已經聽之任之了。

Trump acquired a federal government crippled by years of right-wing ideological assault, politicization by both parties, and steady defunding. He set about finishing off the job and destroying the professional civil service. He drove out some of the most talented and experienced career officials, left essential positions unfilled, and installed loyalists as commissars over the cowed survivors, with one purpose: to serve his own interests. His major legislative accomplishment, one of the largest tax cuts in history, sent hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and the rich. The beneficiaries flocked to patronize his resorts and line his reelection pockets. If lying was his means for using power, corruption was his end.

特朗普接手的已是一個多年來被右翼意識形態攻擊、兩黨政治和持續的預算不足搞得步履蹣跚的聯邦政府。他意欲將這破壞工作干得徹底并摧毀專業公務員制度。他將一些最有才華、最富經驗的專業官員趕出政府,空置下許多至關重要的崗位,并任命親信去擔任那些心驚膽戰的幸存者的頭頭,只為一個目的:為自己的利益服務。他的主要立法成就是批準了歷史上最大的減稅之一的法案,這為企業和富人帶來了數千億美元的收入。受益人蜂擁而至頻頻光顧他的度假村,使他中飽私囊。如果說撒謊是他運用權力的手段,那么腐敗就是他的最終目的。

This was the American landscape that lay open to the virus: in prosperous cities, a class of globally connected desk workers dependent on a class of precarious and invisible service workers; in the countryside, decaying communities in revolt against the modern world; on social media, mutual hatred and endless vituperation among different camps; in the economy, even with full employment, a large and growing gap between triumphant capital and beleaguered labor; in Washington, an empty government led by a con man and his intellectually bankrupt party; around the country, a mood of cynical exhaustion, with no vision of a shared identity or future.

這就是疫情下門戶洞開的美國的圖景:在發達的城市里,一群全球互聯的辦公白領依賴于一群朝不保夕又近乎隱形的服務業人員;在農村,衰敗中的社區在抗拒著現代世界;在社交媒體上,不同陣營之間以相互的憎惡和無休止的謾罵對壘;在經濟領域中,即使保證了充分就業,趾高氣揚的資本方和左支右拙的勞動階級之間的鴻溝在繼續擴大;在華盛頓,一個空殼政府正由一個騙子和他那智力破產的政黨所領導;在全國上下,都彌漫著一種憤世嫉俗的厭倦情緒,人們看不到共同的身份或是共同面臨的未來。

If the pandemic really is a kind of war, it’s the first to be fought on this soil in a century and a half. Invasion and occupation expose a society’s fault lines, exaggerating what goes unnoticed or accepted in peacetime, clarifying essential truths, raising the smell of buried rot.

如果這場爆發的疫情真的是一種戰爭的話,那就是近一個半世紀以來在這片國土上首次重燃。被侵略和被占據的土地,暴露的是這個社會的斷層線,和平時期人們視而不見或安之若素的東西更鮮明地暴露出來,基本的事實一一被澄清,深埋的污濁的腐臭正在洋溢。



We now have two categories of work: essential and nonessential. Who have the essential workers turned out to be? Mostly people in low-paying jobs that require their physical presence and put their health directly at risk: warehouse workers, shelf-stockers, Instacart shoppers, delivery drivers, municipal employees, hospital staffers, home health aides, long-haul truckers. Doctors and nurses are the pandemic’s combat heroes, but the supermarket cashier with her bottle of sanitizer and the UPS driver with his latex gloves are the supply and logistics troops who keep the frontline forces intact. In a smartphone economy that hides whole classes of human beings, we’re learning where our food and goods come from, who keeps us alive. An order of organic baby arugula on AmazonFresh is cheap and arrives overnight in part because the people who grow it, sort it, pack it, and deliver it have to keep working while sick. For most service workers, sick leave turns out to be an impossible luxury. It’s worth asking if we would accept a higher price and slower delivery so that they could stay home.

我們現在將工作分為兩類:必要的和非必要的。誰是最重要的工人?多數情況下從事低薪工作需要身處一線的人,并直接使健康置于危險之中的包括了:倉庫工人,貨架堆垛工,商品代購,送貨司機,市政雇員,醫院職員,家庭護理工,長途卡車司機。醫生和護士是與抗擊疫情的戰斗英雄,而拿著一瓶消毒劑的超市收銀員和戴著乳膠手套的UPS快運司機,他們是確保前線人員無虞的補給和后勤部隊。一個充斥智能手機支付的經濟體系,將整個勞動階層掩蓋在了幕后,我們正在認識到我們的食物和商品來自哪里,我們賴以生存的人是誰。在亞馬遜生鮮上訂購的一份有機芝麻菜很便宜,可以在一夜之間送到,部分歸因于種植、分類、包裝和運送的人即使在生病期間也必須堅持工作。對大多數服務行業的員工來說,請病假是一種遙不可及的奢侈。值得思考的問題就是:為了讓他們能夠居家隔離,我們是否可以接受更高的價格和更慢的交貨速度?

The pandemic has also clarified the meaning of nonessential workers. One example is Kelly Loeffler, the Republican junior senator from Georgia, whose sole qualification for the empty seat that she was given in January is her immense wealth. Less than three weeks into the job, after a dire private briefing about the virus, she got even richer from the selling-off of stocks, then she accused Democrats of exaggerating the danger and gave her constituents false assurances that may well have gotten them killed. Loeffler’s impulses in public service are those of a dangerous parasite. A body politic that would place someone like this in high office is well advanced in decay.

大流行還對非必要工作人員的含義做了進一步的明確。佐治亞州共和黨新任參議員凱利·呂弗勒就是一個例子。她在今年一月能占住這個空位的唯一資格就是她的巨額財富。上任不到三周,在聽取了一次關于疫情可怕前景的私下匯報之后,她從拋售股票中變得更加富有,然后她指責民主黨人夸大了疫情危險,并向她的選民們做出了虛假的保證,這很可能會讓他們喪命。呂弗勒這樣的野心對公共服務而言是一種危險的寄生蟲,將這種人物委以要津的國家早已經被蛀爛了。

The purest embodiment of political nihilism is not Trump himself but his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. In his short lifetime, Kushner has been fraudulently promoted as both a meritocrat and a populist. He was born into a moneyed real-estate family the month Ronald Reagan entered the Oval Office, in 1981—a princeling of the second Gilded Age. Despite Jared’s mediocre academic record, he was admitted to Harvard after his father, Charles, pledged a $2.5 million donation to the university. Father helped son with $10 million in loans for a start in the family business, then Jared continued his elite education at the law and business schools of NYU, where his father had contributed $3 million. Jared repaid his father’s support with fierce loyalty when Charles was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2005 for trying to resolve a family legal quarrel by entrapping his sister’s husband with a prostitute and videotaping the encounter.

特朗普本人卻并非政治虛無主義最純粹的體現,他的女婿兼高級顧問賈里德·庫什納是。年紀輕輕,庫什納就已經將自己包裝成為社會精英加民粹主義者。1981年,在羅納德·里根入主白宮橢圓形辦公室的那個月,庫什納出生在一個富有的房地產企業家庭,成為新鍍金時代的小國王。盡管他學業成績平平,但在他的父親查爾斯承諾向哈佛大學捐贈250萬美元后,他被哈佛錄取了。他父親用1000萬美元貸款幫助兒子在家族企業中邁出了第一步,接著賈里德繼續在紐約大學法學院和商學院接受精英教育,他父親為此又捐了300萬美元。賈里德以熾熱的忠誠回報了他父親的支持。在2005年,他的父親查爾斯試圖指使一名妓女勾引他妹妹的丈夫,并將兩人的幽會偷拍下來從而解決一場家庭法律糾紛,后因此被判在聯邦監獄服刑兩年。

Jared Kushner failed as a skyscraper owner and a newspaper publisher, but he always found someone to rescue him, and his self-confidence only grew. In American Oligarchs, Andrea Bernstein describes how he adopted the outlook of a risk-taking entrepreneur, a “disruptor” of the new economy. Under the influence of his mentor Rupert Murdoch, he found ways to fuse his financial, political, and journalistic pursuits. He made conflicts of interest his business model.

賈里德·庫什納不能勝任摩天大樓地產老板和報紙出版商的職位,但他總能找到一個救兵,他的自信也與日俱增。安德烈·伯恩斯坦在《美國寡頭》一書中描述了庫什納是怎樣接受自己作為冒險的企業家、新經濟“破壞者”角色的。在他的導師魯珀特·默多克的影響下,他找到了一套融合自己金融、政治和新聞追求的方法。他把利益沖突作為自己的商業模式。

So when his father-in-law became president, Kushner quickly gained power in an administration that raised amateurism, nepotism, and corruption to governing principles. As long as he busied himself with Middle East peace, his feckless meddling didn’t matter to most Americans. But since he became an influential adviser to Trump on the coronavirus pandemic, the result has been mass death.

因此當岳父成為總統后,庫什納很快就在這個以業余主義、裙帶關系和腐敗作為執政原則的政府中攫取了權力。若他只是忙于操弄中東和平的事務,他不負責任的干預對大多數美國人來說并不重要。但從他成為特朗普應對冠狀病毒疫情至關重要的顧問以來,導致的結果就是大規模的死亡。

In his first week on the job, in mid-March, Kushner co-authored the worst Oval Office speech in memory, interrupted the vital work of other officials, may have compromised security protocols, flirted with conflicts of interest and violations of federal law, and made fatuous promises that quickly turned to dust. “The federal government is not designed to solve all our problems,” he said, explaining how he would tap his corporate connections to create drive-through testing sites. They never materialized. He was convinced by corporate leaders that Trump should not use presidential authority to compel industries to manufacture ventilators—then Kushner’s own attempt to negotiate a deal with General Motors fell through. With no loss of faith in himself, he blamed shortages of necessary equipment and gear on incompetent state governors.

在庫什納3月中旬上任的第一周,他就與人合寫了橢圓形辦公室中有史以來最糟糕的演講,打斷其他官員的重要工作,還可能破壞了安保守則,頻頻與利益沖突和違反聯邦法律發生關系,做出愚蠢且很快被現實碾為齏粉的承諾?!奥摪钫⒉皇菫榱私鉀Q我們所有的問題而設計的”,他這樣說道,并解釋了他將如何利用他在企業界的關系來建立免下車病毒檢測站點。這些站點從未兌現。他被企業界領袖們說服,認為特朗普不應該使用總統的權力來強迫企業生產呼吸機,而庫什納自己與通用汽車談判的嘗試失敗了。但他毫不氣餒,將必要設備和裝備短缺的過錯歸咎到無能的州長們的頭上。



We’re faced with a choice that the crisis makes inescapably clear. We can stay hunkered down in self-isolation, fearing and shunning one another, letting our common bond wear away to nothing. Or we can use this pause in our normal lives to pay attention to the hospital workers holding up cellphones so their patients can say goodbye to loved ones; the planeload of medical workers flying from Atlanta to help in New York; the aerospace workers in Massachusetts demanding that their factory be converted to ventilator production; the Floridians standing in long lines because they couldn’t get through by phone to the skeletal unemployment office; the residents of Milwaukee braving endless waits, hail, and contagion to vote in an election forced on them by partisan justices. We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal; that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work; that the alternative to solidarity is death. After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.

這場危機將一個我們無從逃避的選擇題擺在我們面前。我們可以蜷縮在自我隔離的世界里,懼怕和逃避彼此,讓聯系起我們的紐帶消逝為無物?;蛘呶覀兛梢岳蒙畋话聪聲和fI的機會,來關注那些拿著手機使病人與他們的摯愛能做最后告別的醫院工作人員;滿滿一飛機從亞特蘭大趕往紐約提供支援的醫療工作者們;馬薩諸塞州那些要求他們的工廠轉產呼吸機的航空工業工人們;在佛羅里達州因為打不通只剩留守人員的失業救濟署的電話而排起長龍的失業人群;密爾沃基的居民們冒險在無盡地等待、呼叫和被傳染的可能中,在一場由陷于黨爭的法庭強加給他們的選舉中投票。我們可以從這些可怕的日子里吸取教訓,愚蠢和不公是致命的;在一個民主國家,做一個公民是必要的工作;如果不能團結一致,就是死亡。當我們從藏身之處走出來,摘下口罩時,我們不應該忘記孤立無援是怎樣的一種滋味。