COVID-19 has and will continue to shape global affairs and daily lives for months to come. While we all have an opinion about the current state-of-affairs, each community is at a different stage of confrontation with the virus, and the public’s opinions likely reflect this variance in exposure. Disaster at a distance does not pack the same punch as when you are faced with it head-on.
The words “warfare” and COVID-19 are continuously linked in the media. Disregarding the opinions on the media’s handling of the virus, I think this correlation to well-founded. Modern warfare, especially for wealthy countries, can be fought at a distance. The US has not fought a war on US soil in over 130 years. We export warfare to our enemies, which makes it is easy for American citizens to be lulled into a false sense of security, both about the world and our government. Our worst atrocities are committed far away from the public, and news articles can never capture the intensity of war. The people who fight and live in these war-torn countries, however, have different opinions about the world, war, and the nature of man. With the personal and often daily confrontation with bombings, gunfire, and explosions, most would not argue against these people’s experiences of warfare and their stories of the impact of war.
Warfare alters the world of the people whose lives it touches, but it can be isolated to specific regions, inflicting its suffering onto an area of the world. In this way, warfare is like a hurricane or a tornado, it hovers around a region or follows a line of destruction. COVID-19 is more analogous to wildfire—it touches every inch of the land, spreading in every direction without rhythm or reason. The virus sweeps through terrain and it is nearly impossible to contain once it reaches a certain size. Similarly, the destruction it leaves is irrational. A wildfire burns down virtually every house in a neighborhood, leaving one house unscathed amidst the ashes of its surroundings; COVID-19 leaves one individual with a cough and fever and destroys the lungs of the next individual. Who lives and who dies is not a simple equation.
False Sense of Security
The effects of this coronavirus are only beginning in the United States. Meanwhile, Europe and China are feeling the burn from the pandemic and reeling as a result. The virus may still feel far away, especially within the rural corners of the U.S. and in the sanctity of American sprawled suburbs. But I think we must reflect on how we felt during our countless years of warfare— the feeling of peace and safety Americans false enjoyed while foreign lands experienced terror, death, and destruction. That feeling is an illusion. It will lull us all into a false sense of safety unless we, as individuals and as citizens, make a demand from our communities, governors, and the federal government to prepare the US for the virus’s eventual peak. We should listen to the experience of countries like Italy, China, and Spain and not assume we are safe, simply because we are currently living at a distance from the disaster.