For most Americans alive today, the idea of shared national sacrifice is a collective abstraction, a memory handed down from a grandparent or passed on through a book or movie.
Not since World War II, when people carried ration books with stamps that allowed them to purchase meat, sugar, butter, cooking oil and gasoline, when buying cars, firewood and nylon was restricted, when factories converted from making automobiles to making tanks, Jeeps and torpedoes, when men were drafted and women volunteered in the war effort, has the entire nation been asked to sacrifice for a greater good.
The civil rights era, Vietnam, the Gulf wars, 9/11 and the financial crisis all involved suffering, even death, but no call for universal sacrifice. President George W. Bush encouraged people to buy things after the terrorist attacks to help the economy — “patriots at the mall,” some called it — before the full war effort was underway. People lost jobs and homes in the financial crisis, but there was no summons for community response.
Now, with the coronavirus, it’s as though a natural disaster has taken place in multiple places at once. Millions of people will likely lose their jobs. Businesses will shutter. Schools have closed. Thousands will die. Leaders are ordering citizens into isolation to stop the virus’ march.
Suddenly, in the course of a few weeks, John F. Kennedy’s “ask what you can do for your country” injunction has come to life. Will Americans step up? [Continue reading…]
Looking for ways to step up wherever you live? Check out COVID-19 Mutual Aid