Monday, December 7, 2020

Threat Response

Today is the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, a Japanese sneak attack on a naval harbor in Hawaii which drew the United States into World War 2.  The attack killed 2,403 Americans (PDF), and goaded the citizens of the US to take on heroic sacrifices for the war effort (to this day, my mother refuses to eat oatmeal because she, born a few months before the attack, subsisted on the stuff due to rationing).  To this day, most Americans remember the attack, as we were exhorted to do (CONTENT WARNING: ethnic slurs)... hey, I'm posting about it 79 years later.

79 years later, we have recently seen five days which each saw a higher death toll than the Pearl Harbor attack, yet we cannot seem to mobilize as a country to fight the pandemic.  It's an easier fight than WW2, I mean all people have to do is to wear masks, maintain social distance, and practice basic hygiene.  There is no a sense of urgency among a sizable minority of the population, and the authorities in charge of pandemic response are a fifth column.  There is no shared sense of purpose.

Is this because the enemy is intangible?  Do we need to hate a human opponent in order to mobilize a war effort?  Why are we so paralyzed as a society?  If we can use Pearl Harbor as a watchword for the need to mobilize against an implacable foe 79 years after the fact, why can't we use this memory to mobilize us against the implacable, yet intangible, foe that we are fighting now.

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