Could today’s version of America have been able to win World War II? It hardly seems possible.

今天的美国还能否赢下第二次世界大战?似乎不太可能了。

That victory required national cohesion, voluntary sacrifice for the common good and trust in institutions and each other. America’s response to Covid-19 suggests that we no longer have sufficient quantities of any of those things.

那样的胜利需要国家凝聚力、为共同利益自愿做出的牺牲、以及对制度和彼此的信任。美国对新冠病毒的应对表明,以上所有这些东西我们都缺乏。

In 2020 Americans failed to socially distance and test for the coronavirus and suffered among the highest infection and death rates in the developed world. Millions decided that wearing a mask infringed their individual liberty.

2020年,美国人在保持社交距离和新冠病毒检测上失败了,成了感染率和死亡率最高的发达国家之一。成百上千万的人认为戴口罩侵犯了他们的个人自由。

This week my Times colleague Apoorva Mandavilli reported that experts now believe that America will not achieve herd immunity anytime soon. Instead of being largely beaten, this disease could linger, as a more manageable threat, for generations. A major reason is that about 30 percent of the U.S. population is reluctant to get vaccinated.

本周,我的时报同事阿普尔瓦·曼达维利(Apoorva Mandavilli)报道称,专家们现在认为,美国无法在短时间里实现群体免疫。这一疾病不但不会被基本击退,反而会成为一种相对可控的威胁,持续影响几代人。造成这一后果的主要原因,是大约30%的美国人不愿意接种疫苗。

We’re not asking you to storm the beaches of Iwo Jima; we’re asking you to walk into a damn CVS.

我们没要你去攻打硫磺岛的滩头;我们是在要你走进一家该死的西维斯(CVS)药店。

Americans have always been an individualistic people who don’t like being told what to do. But in times of crisis, they have historically still had the capacity to form what Alexis de Tocqueville called a “social body,” a coherent community capable of collective action. During World War I, for example, millions served at home and abroad to win a faraway war, responding to recruiting posters that read “I Want You” and “Americans All.”

美国人一直是崇尚个人主义的民族,不喜欢听别人的指挥。但在危机时刻,他们在历史上仍有能力形成亚历克西·德·托克维尔(Alexis de Tocqueville)所说的“社会团体”,即一个能够采取集体行动的协调一致的群体。例如,在第一次世界大战期间,为了赢得这场遥远的战争,数百万人在国内外服役,响应了“我要你入伍”和“全体美国人”的征兵海报。

That basic sense of peoplehood, of belonging to a common enterprise with a shared destiny, is exactly what’s lacking today. Researchers and reporters who talk to the vaccine-hesitant find that the levels of distrust, suspicion and alienation that have marred politics are now thwarting the vaccination process. They find people who doubt the competence of the medical establishment or any establishment, who assume as a matter of course that their fellow countrymen are out to con, deceive and harm them.

那种对民族性、对属于一个命运共同体的基本意识,正是今天的美国人所缺乏的。研究人员和采访过不愿接种者的记者发现,已经损害了政治的不信任、猜疑和分化如今正在阻挠疫苗接种的进展。他们发现这些人怀疑医疗机构或任何机构的能力,理所当然地认为他们的同胞要哄骗、蒙蔽和伤害他们。

This “the only person you can trust is yourself” mentality has a tendency to cause people to conceive of themselves as individuals and not as citizens. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic recently contacted more than a dozen people who were refusing to get a Covid-19 vaccine. They often used an argument you’ve probably heard, too: I’m not especially vulnerable. I may have already gotten the virus. If I get it in the future it won’t be that bad. Why should I take a risk on an experimental vaccine?

这种“你唯一能信任的人就是你自己”的心态促使人们把自己视为个体,而非公民。最近,《大西洋月刊》(The Atlantic)的德里克·汤普森(Derek Thompson)联系了十几个拒绝接种新冠疫苗的人。他们经常使用的论点你可能也听过:我又不面临什么危险。我可能已经感染过病毒了。如果我未来感染了也不会那么严重。我为什么要冒险接种实验性的疫苗?

They are reasoning mostly on a personal basis. They are thinking about what’s right for them as individuals more than what’s right for the nation and the most vulnerable people in it. It’s not that they are rebuking their responsibilities as citizens; it apparently never occurs to them that they might have any. When Thompson asked them to think in broader terms, they seemed surprised and off balance.

他们的推理大多基于个人。他们考虑的是对个人而言,什么是正确的,而非对这个国家及其最弱势群体而言,什么是正确的。这不是说他们不认可自己作为公民的责任;显然他们从不觉得自己应该承担任何责任。当汤普森要他们从更广的角度进行思考,他们似乎感到惊讶并深受震动。

The causes of this isolation and distrust are as plentiful as there are stars in the heavens. But there are a few things we can say. Most of the time distrust is earned distrust. Trust levels in any society tend to be reasonably accurate representations of how trustworthy that society has been. Trust is the ratio of the times someone has shown up for you versus the times somebody has betrayed you. Marginalized groups tend to be the most distrustful, for good reasons — they’ve been betrayed.

造成这种孤立和不信任的原因就像天上的繁星一样多。但我们可以点出几件事。大部分时候,不信任是有其原因的。任何社会的信任水平往往都合理准确地反映出该社会值得信任的程度。信任度就是某人支持你的次数与某人出卖你的次数之比。边缘化群体往往最不愿信任,这是有合理解释的——因为他们被出卖了。

The other thing to say is that once it is established, distrust tends to accelerate. If you distrust the people around you because you think they have bad values or are out to hurt you, then you are going to be slow to reach out to solve common problems. Your problems will have a tendency to get worse, which seems to justify and then magnify your distrust. You have entered a distrust doom loop.

另一件事就是,不信任一旦生根,往往就会加速。如果你不信任周围的人,因为你觉得他们价值取向糟糕或想要伤害你,那你就会在解决常见问题时反应迟缓。你的问题往往会恶化,而这又会证实并加剧你的不信任。你已经进入了不信任的厄运循环。

A lot of Americans have seceded from the cultural, political and social institutions of national life. As a result, the nation finds it hard to perform collective action. Our pathetic Covid response may not be the last or worst consequence of this condition.

许多美国人已经在文化、政治和社会层面上脱离了国家生活。因此,国家很难采取集体行动。我们可悲的疫情应对可能并不是这一状况造成的最终或最糟糕的后果。

How do you rebuild trust? At the local level you recruit diverse people to complete tangible tasks together, like building a park. At the national level you demonstrate to people in concrete ways that they are not forgotten, that someone is coming through for them.

如何重塑信任?在地方层面,要征寻背景各异的人共同完成具体的任务,比如建造一个公园。在国家层面,要以切实的方式向人们证明,他们没有被遗忘,有人正在为他们奋斗。

Which brings us to Joe Biden. The Biden agenda would pour trillions of dollars into precisely those populations who have been left out and are most distrustful — the people who used to work in manufacturing and who might now get infrastructure jobs, or the ones who care for the elderly. This money would not only ease their financial stress, but it would also be a material display that someone sees them, that we are in this together. These measures, if passed, would be extraordinary tangible steps to reduce the sense of menace and threat that undergirds this whole psychology.

这就要说到乔·拜登了。拜登的议程将把数万亿美元的资金精准投入到那些被遗忘、最缺乏信任的群体中——那些曾在制造业工作、如今可能在基建领域找到工作的人,或是为老年人提供照护服务的人。这些资金不仅会缓解他们的经济压力,也会作为一种物证,让他们感觉受到了关注,我们都在一条船上的。这些措施如果获得通过,将成为极为切实的步骤,减少强化了整个不信任心态的恶意和威胁。

The New Deal was an act of social solidarity that created the national cohesion we needed to win World War II. I am not in the habit of supporting massive federal spending proposals. But in this specific context — in the midst of a distrust doom loop — this is our best shot of reversing the decline.

“新政”是社会团结之举,正是这样的举措才创造出赢得第二次世界大战所需的国家凝聚力。我并不习惯于支持大规模联邦政府支出提案。但在不信任的厄运循环这一特殊背景下,这就是我们扭转颓势的最好机会。