The molecular menace posed by the new coronavirus has shaken the conceit of “American exceptionalism” like nothing big enough to see with your own eyes.

A nation with unmatched power, brazen ambition and aspirations through the arc of history to be humanity’s “shining city upon a hill” cannot come up with enough simple cotton swabs despite the wartime manufacturing and supply powers assumed by President Donald Trump.

The crisis turned doctors in the iconic American shining city, New York, into beggars with hands outstretched for ponchos because they couldn’t get proper medical gowns. “Rain ponchos!” laments tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen. “In 2020! In America!”

It’s turned a Massachusetts hospital executive into an under-the-radar road warrior, working up a deal through a friend of a friend of an employee who heard about a warehouse more than five hours away with masks. Two tractor-trailers disguised as grocery trucks picked them up, dodged interference from Homeland Security and took separate routes back in case one load got intercepted on highways through the northeast “pandemic alley.”