Most Americans living today, beginning with baby boomers like me, have no way of appreciating how traumatic World War II must have been for the American people.
Possibly this Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 has given us a taste of how it must have felt to have the entire world at war.
Front-line military personnel, like frontline healthcare workers and first responders, had to deal with the trauma and tragedy every single day. While it is true one cannot understand the trauma of combat unless he or she has been immersed in the violence, death, fear, and horror of it; it is equally true people must be surrounded, daily, by the fear, suffering, and death while caring for coronavirus patients to fully comprehend the trauma.
During the whole of WW II, when 9 percent of the U.S. population served in the Armed Forces, almost everyone knew of someone on the front lines, or of their families. It is likely the same as true for over one million casualties.
The number of people in present day who must risk exposure to the virus extends well-beyond frontline healthcare workers and first responders, although those men and women are at the greatest risk: God bless them. Essential workers who must come into contact or interact with the public are also putting themselves at risk, just by helping the rest of us do all the things we believe we need to do, whether or not the need is real. Their public includes people wearing masks and taking precautions as well as those who have declined to take precautions. Essential workers have no way of knowing who might be contagious and who is safe, yet we expect them to serve us with a smile behind their masks.
There are few events in history for which the impact on citizens was as profound as WWII or the Covid-19 Pandemic.
As the number of deaths and infections during this Pandemic have increased, even those of us who cling to the notion Covid-19 is a hoax, are more likely, each day, to hear of someone whom they know or know about, who has suffered from the disease or who works amid the suffering as part of their daily life.
One of the biggest differences between the WWII war and the pandemic is that almost all Americans of the 1940s pitched in to support the war effort in any way they could. The war effort was a powerfully, unifying force.
Like Americans of the 1940s, we have been asked to make sacrifices and endure unprecedented hardships, and we have, also, been asked to rally around the disease-prevention effort. For reasons that are difficult to fathom, the pandemic has proven to be a divisive phenomenon rather than the unifying force created by WWII. Some people have been told the virus is a hoax and that being told to wear masks and taking other precautions is an infringement of their rights as Americans.
During this pandemic, everyone of us faces a direct risk of infection, everywhere we go, and from everyone with whom we come into contact. The virus is an invisible enemy. Lack of awareness or heads in the sand do nothing to mitigate that risk and can only elevate it.
Millions of Americans refuse to rally around the flag and accept the minimal responsibilities asked of them. Wearing masks, social distancing, and sheltering in place, are simple—if not easy—things for us to do that have been proven to protect ourselves and others. By doing one’s duty, people who wear masks, keep their distance, and stay home are saving lives and flattening the curve.
Possibly, our elected leaders, would have gotten a better response had they chosen to ask people to step up rather than demand compliance. It would be nice to think, whatever their politics, the American people care enough about their nation and their fellow citizens to do the right thing and serve the common good. Why people are willing to politicize such things is unfathomable.
The one thing that seems to stand out, during these trying times, is that large numbers of Americans have lost faith in their government. Many seem not to understand that, while imperfect, both the Constitution of the United States and the government it established, exist to serve and protect the people.
We are now a society of 330 million people, one of the most diverse populations on the planet. Somehow, our government must be able to meet the needs of everyone, not just a lucky few. This is no easy thing and the less unified we are the more difficult it becomes.
Look at the world and think about how many nations exist where citizens endure great suffering and injustice. The only thing that will prevent the U.S.A. from devolving into such a place is our commitment to our principles and to one another. Determining our mutual best-interests is what free elections are all about. The challenge is that the more diverse we become the more difficult the job of government becomes and the more tolerant Americans must be.
Does this pandemic rise to the stature of World War II? Judge for yourself.
Here are some facts to compare the impact on life in America as a result of WWII and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Pandemic is like World War II in the sense that there was no place one could go to get away from the consequences of all that was taking place around them. Consider:
- The pandemic has been with us for about 10 months. For Americans, the duration of World War II was about 3.7 years, or 44 months.
- In its 10 months, 16.1 million Americans have contracted the virus out of a total population of 330 million; and, it is far from over. This represents 4.9 percent of the US population. The total number of casualties from WWII was 1,070,000, which represents less than one percent of the population in the 1940s.
- The number of deaths in WWII, numbered approximately 400,000, or 0.3 percent of the population of 131 million people. So far more than 316,000 or 0.9 percent of the population have died from the Covid-19 Pandemic and more die every day.
- Like the hundreds of thousands of service men and women in WW II, hundreds of thousands of front-line healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers are called upon to go to war for us, putting their lives on the line every day.
- During the 44 months of World War II the average number of casualties per day was 811, which included 303 fatalities.
- During the ten months of the pandemic, so far, the average number of new infections per day is approximately 53,000, and there have been an average of 1040 deaths per day.
There are probably conspiracy theorists who believe World War II was a hoax, but there are historical records from innumerable sources to verify both the data and the reality of the war.
For the Americans who believe the Pandemic is a hoax, these infections and deaths are happening in real time. If you do not already know someone who contracted Covid-19, or died, it is likely you will soon. If you want proof, you could visit a hospital near you and count the number of patients arriving at the hospital and the number of coffins that are carried out.
If the hospital staff did not care about your safety, you would be able to visit their intensive-care units where you could see the suffering of patients, first-hand, as well as the number healthcare workers fighting through exhaustion to save as many lives as they can.
One can only wonder what has happened in the seventy-five years since the end of World War II, that has altered the character of a nation and its people.
We must contemplate what we can do to restore the shared commitment to democracy that was once so assured and vibrant. The one thing of which we can be certain is that turning back the clock is never the answer. Time only marches forward and we either adapt or fall behind. Neither can we choose to exclude segments of the population from the rights and privileges of citizenship. History teaches us such exclusions do not turn out well.
How do we get from here to where we need to be? We cannot legislate changes in the hearts of human beings. What we can and must do is focus on education. It is a recipe for disaster to have millions of people whose knowledge of the world, its history, its science, and their government is so limited they depend on others to tell them what to believe and what is true.