A Mosquito Net Descends Across the Americas

We are a few weeks away from the 70th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s famous speech in Fulton, Missouri, the one where he announced (with Churchillian timbre) that “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” He named the geopolitical fact that would dominate the globe for the next 40 years, the single factor that would focus, and often warp and distort, everyone’s worldview for most of the rest of the 20th century.

Sometime in the last 10 days, a mosquito net has descended across the Americas. It is unlikely to cause armed conflict between great powers, but unless we are very lucky, the new divisions it creates are likely to linger, truncating and deforming relationships, and changing the way that rising generations view the world in which they live.

And in the meantime, it’s pure agony for women and families across Latin and South America. The Zika virus has been in circulation in Africa for some time, apparently, but in the last two years it made a decisive crossing into South America — perhaps into Brazil, perhaps with the World Cup soccer tournament. In any event, in this previously unexposed population it is producing a particularly horrifying havoc. Last year, 4,000 microcephalic babies were born in Brazil — that is, babies with small, rounded heads. (They were called “pinheads” in the 19th century, when they were common sideshow exhibits. It’s gross — and we’ve since, thank God, learned to think more thoughtfully about children with birth defects — but there’s no denying the visceral pain the image still evokes.) This increase, from the normal baseline of a couple of hundred cases, obviously alarmed Brazilians — there are at the moment 220,000 troops deployed across the country. Their job is to turn over —> Read More