Mark Helprin on the Pandemic

Policy

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A man in Albany, N.Y., takes part in a protest against lockdown measures amid the coronavirus, April 22, 2020. (Bryan R. Smith / Reuters)

As I tell Mark Helprin at the beginning of this Q&A, I started thinking about pandemics a few months ago. Mark has been thinking about them for a long time. He has prepared for them personally and warned the nation that it should prepare for them too.

Here is a piece he wrote in 2006. “We face a danger that approaches steadily from the far distance like a tsunami in slow motion. It will almost certainly strike in one form or another, it could strike tomorrow . . .”

Helprin, as you know, is the novelist, short-story writer, essayist, national-security expert, etc. He has a piece in the current issue of National Review titled “American Foreign and Defense Policy: Between Scylla and Charybdis.” He begins with the pandemic now upon us. And that’s the subject we devote our entire Q&A to.

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He talks about various aspects of the plague, including the political. Everything in our lives gets politicized. Left and Right square off. We attend to our dunkin’, ownin’, and tear-drinkin’. But a plague is a lousy thing to politicize, says Helprin. And President Trump stands at the heart of it all.

Mark is very blunt in this Q&A, as is his habit. This is not an episode for snowflakes. But it is a valuable one — informed, mature, and bracing — and I intend to listen to it again myself. That link, once more, is here.

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