On December 29, 2019, historian Timothy Snyder fell gravely ill. Unable to stand, barely able to think, he waited for hours in an emergency room before being correctly diagnosed and rushed into surgery. Over the next few days, as he clung to life and the first light of a new year came through his window, he found himself reflecting on the fragility of health, not recognized in America as a human right but without which all rights and freedoms have no meaning.
And that was before the pandemic. We have since watched American hospitals, long understaffed and undersupplied, buckling under waves of coronavirus patients. The federal government made matters worse through willful ignorance, misinformation, and profiteering. Our system of commercial medicine failed the ultimate test, and thousands of Americans died.
In this eye-opening cri de coeur, Snyder traces the societal forces that led us here and outlines the lessons we must learn to survive. In examining some of the darkest moments of recent history and of his own life, Snyder finds glimmers of hope and principles that could lead us out of our current malaise. Only by enshrining healthcare as a human right, elevating the authority of doctors and medical knowledge, and planning for our children's future can we create an America where everyone is truly free.