If this is a war on COVID-19 in America, why doesn’t it feel like it?

by Bob Schwartz

Even those who minimize the pandemic choose to call this a war on the virus. It appears that in a few months, the deaths from this war will exceed 200,000.

During World War I, 116,516 Americans were killed. During World War II, 407,316 were killed. Because of the lives in peril—and ultimately sacrificed—newspapers and radio of the time led with the latest developments, the victories and defeats, everything else taking a distant second place.

Right now, of course, there is plenty of coverage and discussion of the pandemic. But it seems there is not an urgent visceral sense of how many people, some close to us, are in danger of being killed or wounded. The sense that this is a do or die war. Even more confounding, those lives are not being lost in Europe or Asia. The war is here at home, as close our neighborhood.

The people of Europe and Asia have an advantage in fighting this war. Unlike America, where the last major war fought on the homeland was about 160 years ago, almost every one of the countries that has done better has seen, in living memory, the horror of war on their soil. They seem to understand sacrifice and temporary dislocation better than we do.

If this pandemic is a war—and it is—we are, like it or not, going to learn a little more about what that means.