In August the United States reached another grim milestone: over 170,000 deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic. But unlike other national tragedies, there has been little collective mourning among Americans. Why is that? Why is this time different? To better understand why national grieving is important, CNN contributor Ray Sanchez spoke with Professor Micki McElya. On August 16, Sanchez published the article, “Few signs of collective mourning as the US tops 170,000 coronavirus deaths,” on the CNN website. Professor McElya, author of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, is the ideal scholar to discuss matters of collective grief and how US political leaders have marshalled national mourning during previous tragedies.
Describing the country’s lack of collective mourning, Professor McElya eloquently states in the CNN article: “We need to really consider this and talk about this as a collective national failure. One certainly encouraged by our leadership. But people have to submit or commit to that narrative, and so many have, and that’s an enormous sadness.”