I was standing in the gym. It was early March. I was in the middle of my rest period and began watching a news cast concerning the COVID-19 situation. As I read the closed captioning, the headline invoked war type language. It was a curious use of words considering we were dealing with a virus. There was no geographic location. There was no hostile force with military capacity preparing to meet American military forces. There were no press conferences involving the Pentagon and the usual representation.
But what I watched, read, and heard were words reserved for a nation preparing itself to engage in hostilities.
Now I have some experience with war. I’m no stranger to deployments, operations orders, following the laws of war, and combat zones. It is a surreal experience of victories and losses. No one wins in war. Medals, promotions, and parades will never replace the loss of friends, the stark realization you may lose your life in a foreign land, never to see a loved one again.
This is the COVID-19 War.
Yet how do you mobilize a nation? How do garner the support of the majority of your citizens, justify the expansion of government authority and significantly influence the economic situation of your nation? Well, enter into a war.
Here is the thing about war as it is prosecuted today. Wars are not fought by political leaders. Wars are fought by the citizens who are called to sacrifice life, property, and emotional well-being for a vision concocted by political leaders.
War is a time of Caesar, Pharaoh, and Thanos. It was through wars Caesar's sought to achieve Pax Romana and the glory of Rome. It was through war Pharaoh's sought to justify their position as gods. Wars are means used by men and women to consolidate more agency over the lives of everyday people. These men and women possess a vision of how the world should like and if it can not be accomplished through debate and persuasion, then what is required is the identification of an enemy, a threat to our national safety and security. War is a time when individuals or small elected groups rise up and “persuade” us through words such as “public good,” “health and well-being,” “our national safety,” or “defeat this enemy.” When this form of communication is no longer effective, these same persons motivated by a specific vision of the world, implement terms such as “guidance,” “orders,” “fines” and “curfews” to further advance the cause of peace and a return to normal life.
The environment of war is a time for a nation or state to expand power and it will enlist its citizens to carry out the burdensome work. It is a burdensome work because your jobs will be impacted. Your social norms and behaviors will be disrupted. Citizens become soldiers carrying out the orders of superiors. What is the result if soldiers choose not to comply?
Well this is where a “leader” such as Thanos rises up.
You remember Thanos, right? He was the villian of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A being who had a vision for the universe. He wanted to put into balance the universe with the snap of a finger. He consolidated power in the form of Infinity Stones and in one simple gesture one half of the universe was reduced to ashes.
What then Thanos?
“I finally rest... and watch the sun rise on a grateful universe. The hardest choices require the strongest wills.”
This is what is happening right now in 2020, the COVID-19 War. A war prosecuted by both political parties and we are the means to their desired end. We are in the middle of a conflict which has created a prime environment for the rise of Caesars, Pharaohs, and Thanos. We are being told this war and the associated actions are necessary to bring about a “grateful universe.” And for those who do not participate, they will experience the snap. The snap of shame, dragged off buses by law enforcement, citations for being in a car to worship, and in some cases imprisonment. What will it take for us to learn we were created in freedom?
John dos Passos wrote a book reflecting on the actions of President Roosevelt concerning the New Deal and World War II. A New Deal which pretty much laid the groundwork for much of what is deemed normal in today’s society regarding social programs. A world war which instituted the military industrial complex and America’s imperial approach. According to Passos, that generation did not heed the lesson.
“But we have not learned in spite of the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, and the great debates at Richmond and Philadelphia how to put power over the lives of men into the hands of one man and to make him use it wisely” (John dos Passos, The Grand Design, 1949)
War is the time of Caesar, Pharaoh, and Thanos and from their perspective the creation of a grateful nation will require the exertion of their wills by using more power over us. When this war is over and life has changed they will take a seat, look over the nation and wait for us to say, “Thank you.”
I’ll be at a gym pushing weight.