DAVID SHRIBMAN: Our COVID sacrifices pale from 1943 | Opinion



If you want to understand the world we occupy – the challenges we face, but more importantly, the failures we experience – forget for a moment that we are today at the end of December 2021. Rather think that it is October 1943 .

Singer Kate Smith just spent 18 straight hours on CBS Radio, a national unity effort that prompted 39 million Americans to buy $ 107 million in war bonds. The fourth in a series of wartime ration books is being distributed. American women clean railroad locomotives, weld airplane bodies, pack surgical kits to send abroad. Girl Scouts plant Victory Gardens. A poster reads: Have you REALLY tried to save gas by walking into a car club?

October 1943 is approximately 660 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which plunged the United States into World War II. This week is about 660 days from the World Health Organization’s declaration in 2020 that a global pandemic has broken out.

Americans were weary of war in October 1943; they did not know that nearly two more years of deprivation and death would occur before the guns stopped. Americans in December 2021 weary of COVID restrictions; we don’t know if we face another two years of masks, social distancing, overwhelmed hospitals and death.

World War II claimed 407,316 military casualties, according to the National World War II Museum. The coronavirus has caused twice as many in half that time. As terrible as World War II was – an unprecedented threat to freedom, a horrific global plunge into hitherto unknown human depravity – COVID is taking a much greater toll on Americans.

And yet the contrast between national harmony and a sense of national purpose is dramatic.

Some 660 days after the start of World War II, Lawrence Bresnahan, the local director of the Office of Price Administration, aired on the Boston radio station WHDH and said: “Today, thousands of Massachusetts residents are prepared to accept any inconvenience or make any sacrifice. it will help achieve victory a day sooner or save one more American life. “

Some 660 days after the start of the pandemic, many Americans view wearing masks as an intolerable inconvenience and the practice of social distancing too much of a sacrifice and thus defy scientific expertise and government authority.

Bresnahan asked thousands of teachers to help distribute new ration books, which included 96 red, blue and green stickers for the purchase of sugar, coffee and other items. No one saw them as intrusions into personal freedom or insufferable dictates by a tyrannical central government. The challenges for Americans in the 21st century include handwashing and restrictions on major parties.

In the summer of 1943 – the equivalent of the COVID period around Labor Day this year – President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked several questions in a radio address:

“Are you working full time at your job? Are you growing all the food you can? Are you buying your war bond limit? Do you cooperate faithfully and happily with your government to prevent inflation and profits, and to make rationing work fairly for all? Then he added, “It is not too much to say that we must pour into this war all the strength, intelligence and will of the people of the United States.”

At that time, several posters were visible in American cities:

Do with less, so they have enough!

Save residual grease for explosives / send to your meat merchant

Millions of soldiers are on the move. Is YOUR trip necessary?

Around this time, the federal government distributed a training note for its volunteer assistance program. It started: “This is TOTAL war. We are all in the same boat. “

At that time, there were legitimate reasons for members of minority groups in America to stay away. They do not have. The Pittsburgh Courier, the big black newspaper which had a national audience, in part by subscription, in part through the efforts of Pullman carriers who distributed the newspaper across the country, began its “Double V” campaign for the victory of rights. in the world and civil rights at home – and was relentless in his support for the war effort. Mexican Americans in Phoenix led a campaign to raise money to buy cigars and cigarettes for the soldiers. “Patriotic fever has infected the whole community,” Christine Marin, an Arizona State University scholar of Latin American society, wrote in a 1987 paper presented to the National Association of Chicano Studies. “Despite the hardships imposed on the community during wartime, donations have remained stable and constant. “

No child has been left behind on the home front. In the rural communities, the members of 4H mobilized, stimulated by this call: “Uncle Sam does not ask boys and girls to give the armed forces the food they have collected, they just have to eat it and to buy less. The more we have to buy, the more we take away from the boys in the armed forces who cannot raise gardens, pigs, chicks, etc.

During this time, the San Pedro News Pilot newspaper in Texas ran an article titled “Today on the Home Front.” Overnight, 500 members of the National War Fund’s Women’s Division raised $ 114,325 en route to their goal of $ 1 million.

Americans living in an era proportional to our 660 days of virus getting used to one new pair of shoes per year, 12 ounces of sugar per week, and 3 gallons of gasoline every seven days. We are asked to be content with take-out.

The relief of Leningrad, the liberation of Rome, the invasion of Europe on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, the execution of Benito Mussolini, the deaths of Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler, the surrender of Germany and the atomic attack on Japan.

We don’t know what lies ahead in the fight against the virus, nor whether it will last longer than the American engagement in World War II (around four years) or, even more perilous, the European engagement in the conflict. (about six years). We know that American attitudes today are very different and that Americans are not, as Bresnahan put it on the radio in October 1943, “stand ready to accept any inconvenience or to do nothing. ‘any sacrifice’, even though those inconveniences and sacrifices are, by our standards of parents and grandparents, insignificant.



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