This week the president said, “We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years.” First, let’s be absolutely clear that no one wants to keep our country closed down. Everyone wants to get back to work. Everyone wants to return to the rhythms of daily life. Everyone. But we can’t do those things until we’ve got a handle on this virus. It’s too risky. The cost is too high.
It is rich that a man who dodged military service by crying bone spurs is suddenly gung-ho to declare himself a wartime president. He’s trying to send us all into a dangerous battle without the tools of war. We don’t have proper armor in the form of PPE. We don’t have proper weapons in the form of abundant reliable tests and contact tracing procedures. We don’t have proper infrastructure in the form of a working health care system. We don’t have proper intel in the form of reliable, consistent, evidence-based information.
It’s easy to use the language of war to stir emotions and gin up patriotism, but it’s also irresponsible. We are not at war. We are faced with an international health crisis that will only be solved through global cooperation, sound scientific research, and proven strategies to slow the rate of contagion. It’s not as rousing as a war cry, but it’s more accurate.
All this talk of warriors is needlessly inflammatory during a time when we ought to be encouraging calmness and unity. Instead, we’re pitting ourselves against one another. Security guards get shot and killed for asking people to comply with mask requirements. Protestors show up at rallies with rifles strapped across their chests. Grocery store clerks risk their lives for jobs that often don’t provide health benefits. And our leaders keep telling us to do things they refuse to do themselves. If this is a war, who is the enemy?
I don’t want to be at war at all. Not with the scientists, not with the medical experts in this country or other countries, not with politicians, and not with you. I want to be united in an effort to eradicate this virus that has already killed more Americans that the Vietnam War, the same war the president declined to fight when he was younger.
We don’t need to wage war. We need facts. We need the administration and certain news pundits to stop comparing the virus to the flu. In two months, this virus has killed far more Americans than the average flu does in any given year. We need to look to other countries for examples of how to contain the virus while keeping our economy moving. The isolationist, America-first policies of the past few years are short-sighted and dangerous. We are not always right. Sometimes other countries have better solutions. We should be humble enough to learn from them.
We need to admit our failures and work to fix them. This crisis has laid bare the weaknesses underpinning our American way of life. Too many of the people who work tirelessly to ensure we have food, medical care, and education are underpaid and without a safety net. If a worker is deemed essential, surely we can agree they deserve health care benefits, paid sick leave, and a living wage. As millions of jobs are lost, it is evident that no one should rely on an employer to provide health insurance. The last thing we need is for more Americans to refuse to seek medical care because they fear a trip to the doctor will result in financial ruin.
I’m no warrior. I’ll be staying home as much as possible until scientists and medical experts tell me it’s safe to do otherwise. I’ll stay home for my own health, but also for the health of the many people who don’t have the option to stay home. I’ll spend my dollars remotely, but also locally by placing orders from nearby businesses for necessities like books and ice cream. I want my local stores and restaurants to survive this crisis, but I want to survive as well. I want my neighbors and my mother and my in-laws to come through this in good health. Their well being is far more important than my sitting down for a taco or a haircut. So I’ll be staying off the battlefield. Maybe I’ll claim to have bone spurs or maybe I’ll register as a conscientious objector, but I won’t be marching into any battle unarmed, unprepared, unprotected, and without competent leadership.