There are many things to say about the devastating coronavirus pandemic enveloping the globe. In America we are seeing the worst of humanity (the Kentucky Coronavirus party and thousands of hate crimes against Asian Americans) and also the best (fashion designers sewing masks, Chef Jose Andres feeding the hungry). Here in the United States, we have become the epicenter of the ordeal and the medical system is being strained and tested like never before in our lifetimes. We are in the midst of a bloody war for survival, and the tireless frontline soldiers this time are the doctors, scientists, nurses, and first responders, not machine gunners, grenade throwers, and top gun pilots.
Every one who has called in for duty to battle the virus is a hero. Depending on which source of statistics to believe, physicians of Indian origin make up about 5-10% of all of the active medical doctors in the United States. The meaning of this number is abundantly clear: Indian-Americans are being desperately called upon by their country like never before in our history from sea to sea, in communities large and small. All eyes are watching, and this is our time to shine brighter than ever before as Americans. One can hope that this dangerous, selfless heroism is what we will be remembered for in years to come.
This plays out in different ways. At the macro level we are seeing the ascendance of CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, giving outstanding medical commentary, author Deepak Chopra expounding on mental health with whatever pseudo-spiritual comfort gibberish the guy comes up with, and Administrator of Medicare and Medicaid Seema Verma standing steel-faced by the president and Anthony Fauci in the federal coronavirus task force briefings- regardless of what you think of her, playing a critical role in the federal response.
At the local level we are seeing tons of media interviews with Indian-American ER doctors and hospital administrators, and categorically they come across as heroic and informative. During b-roll footage we see plenty of brown scientists around the country dripping mysterious liquids into test tubes or plugging away at some medical machine. No doubt some of them will be at the forefront of vaccines and other treatments to be implemented. Indian-Americans are all over the media explaining what coronavirus is, and how to stop its spread.
Despite many pockets of individual greatness, the Indian-American experience has never before had such an awesome collective responsibility or calling. Throughout America’s past wars, Indian-Americans made up minuscule percentages of overall troop strength. That is all changing now in the hard war against the invisible enemy, changing for good.
Godspeed and bravo to all of those on the front line, but forgive me for cheering particularly loudly for the tens of thousands of Indian origin, many whom were made fun of as nerds when they were younger. A large number come from the ranks of family and friends.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor