As you have no doubt noticed, we are fighting two major wars right now. One is against an aggressively contagious deadly virus, and the other is an internal war between factions of our population over how to behave during the COVID 19 war. Historically, Americans come together to fight a common enemy. Not so much today.
· Going all the way back to the revolutionary war, people from territories (not yet states) all over the country united to throw off the bonds with England. General George Washington, soon to be President, led the way with a message that unified the colonists against a common foe.
· Jumping ahead to 1914 and WWI, Woodrow Wilson united the country to fight the Germans and protect American merchant shipping on the high seas. The US was in the throes of major expansion, with immigrants from all over the world coming together as one to defend the country.
· In 1941 America declared war on Japan and Germany in response to their hostile acts. Franklin Roosevelt united all Americans and kept us confident through his calm leadership, wisdom, and fireside chats.
· In 1959, the US entered the Korean War (officially a police action under the UN) under the calm but confident leadership of President Harry Truman who, like his predecessors, united the country against the enemy.
· Then we became involved in the Vietnam War. I remember it well — and have the military ribbon to prove it. It was a shameful sad time for America. We did not have a noble and just reason for being there. Over 58,000 Americans, many of them my USNA fellow alumni, gave their lives for no gain. Several presidential administrations struggled with finding a way to win the war, and eventually just found a way to get out of it. The war left a bad taste for many Americans who seriously questioned our reason for being there. It was the first war where the media technology provided close up and personal video of the fighting, described by some as “the first war fought in America’s living rooms”.
· The Middle East or Gulf Wars began in 1990 and have continued ever since. Once again, there was much debate and distrust over America’s need to be there. We all supported the troops and cheered for their success — leading to their coming home safe and sound. But it does not feel like we are defending anything in these years of war. Instead, it feels like the US is the aggressor or invading force.
· And now we are fighting the COVID 19 War. This is a vastly different kind of war. A microscopically small deadly virus is the attacker, and it is indiscriminately attacking every country in the world, and all of them have united to fight it — except one, The US of A. For apparently selfish political reasons, Trump has withdrawn the US from the global alliance by withdrawing support from the World Health Organization (WHO), and within the US he belittles medical scientists whose advice he goes against for his selfish personal goals. He appears to fear that unless he can rebuild the economy in the next couple of months before the election, he will lose. Based on this selfish calculation, he is encouraging people to disregard medical science and the ‘shelter in place’ and ‘social distancing’ rules that are designed to protect people and fight the virus, and instead, encouraging people to go back to work and other dangerous behaviors. Until we come up with a cure or a vaccination, we have to use the best tactics available for fighting the virus. Instead, selfish Trump followers are verbally and physically assaulting fellow Americans over the perceived infringement of their Constitutional right to get sick. Sadly, the results of their risky behavior is not confined to themselves. They endanger the lives of everyone around them.
Here is where the historical reference comes into play. In previous wars, the president would provide a calming message that would unite the country to make whatever sacrifices it took to beat ITS common enemy. In this war, he behaves like he is on the side of the virus, and his followers are going along and prolonging the war that has already cost nearly 100,000 American lives. Some people cite Darwinism and point out that the ignorant people will get sick and die — culling the herd of its weakest members. There are two problems with that philosophy. First, nobody should be put at risk of death for the political ambition of a sociopathic narcissist. Second, the behaviors endanger others, not just themselves.
I tend to be an unbridled optimist and keep hoping that those deluded citizens who have been blindly believing and following Trump will see through his selfish lies and become part of the team fighting against the virus, not for it.