Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Europe Erects Wall to Keep Out Americans

According to The New York Times, "E.U. Formalizes Reopening, Barring Travelers From U.S. The bloc will allow visitors from 15 countries, but the United States, Brazil and Russia were among the notable absences from the safe list."

It's fitting in more ways than the obvious one.

Christopher Columbus’s journey to the Americas set off the worst demographic catastrophe in history. The indigenous societies of the Americas had few communicable diseases—no smallpox, no measles, no cholera, no typhoid, no malaria, no bubonic plague. When Europeans imported these diseases into the Western Hemisphere, it was as if all the suffering and death these ailments had caused in Europe during the previous millennia were compressed into about 150 years.

Somewhere between two-thirds and nine-tenths of the people in the Americas died. Many later European settlers, like my umpteen-great-grandparents, believed they were coming to a vacant wilderness. But the land was not empty; it had been emptied—world of loss encompassed in a shift of tense.

Absent the diseases, it is difficult to imagine how small groups of poorly equipped Europeans at the end of very long supply chains could have survived and even thrived in the alien ecosystems of the Americas. "I fully support banning travel from Europe to prevent the spread of infectious disease," the Cherokee journalist Rebecca Nagle remarked after President Trump announced his plan to do this. "I just think it’s 528 years too late."

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