5/08/2020

Why War imagery for the Pandemic is dangerous, and why I am a draft resister.

Well, fellow travelers on this strange journey through Pandemic Land, all this war imagery about Covid-19 is coming home to roost.

It started getting thrown about as an image about those medical and service workers who can not shelter in place and sometimes are put in harm’s way.  It was pretty straightforward to say that their service is extraordinary and that we recognize that what they are doing is essential, dangerous, and much like “front-line” warriors.   I think, pray and do what this miserable carcass can do to support these workers. Mostly, I try to do what I was asked to do, namely get out of the. way, stay home, try not to receive or give the virus a right of passage.  

All this war talk had a cost:  we came to think of those doing essential service as devoted, not to the care of others (which they are) but devoted to winning this “war.”  It is however different to die for others and to die for a cause, particularly when that cause is seen in national terms.  Between service to some humans (near at hand) and service to all humankind there lies the broad range of service to various groups of humans, including nations.  When we think of working to end the Pandemic or working to save the lives of those who have the disease, or those who might have the disease, our goal is healing humans and communities.  When we think of the people doing this work as warriors we are not thinking of them as healers, putting themselves in harm’s way, we are thinking of them as necessary but regrettable “sacrifice” for a cause.  The trouble with the war imagery is that warriors die for a cause wrapped in a flag, or sometimes for no good reason at all, except the country.  We ask our health and essential service people to possibly die so that others might live. There is no flag big enough to represent that service.

Here is what is most bothering, however: When the “front line” is broken open (as happened almost immediately, virus having no need for a pass) everywhere becomes the front line.  Then the war propaganda makes all of us “warriors,” which means, dear friends, that the President has drafted us all into some sort of army that is going to win, making us (USA) victorious and great again and he will be the wartime president who won the war against Covid-19.  This is propaganda tail-wagging-the-dog drivel. Except it is dangerous. 

Now that the war is universal, and we are the universal soldier, and it is assumed that for reasons of national security and cause we must be willing to suffer casualties so that national economic interests (couched as return to normal) can be. maintained. We must be willing to see some of us die because the country needs to get back to business. So the draft has begun, and the draftees will include the elderly (that’s me) and the health compromised, the unemployed and the illegal, people of color and the usual gang of people first conscripted to be canon fodder, namely the poor. 

The health of people has been replaced by the heath of the nation, and the warriors are no longer in service to the people, but the nation. So all of us, first responders, health workers, essential services  personnel, together with everyone else of rank less than general, will engaged the “enemy” and many of us will die. And when it is over those who remain will be declared “winners” in the war,and the leaders will lead the victory parade.  And all we “warriors”will put stars in our windows, and after awhile we will take them down.  When the war is over, the draftees will be briefly remembered as vaguely patriotic, but the leaders will claim victory in their name, but for themselves. 

The “war” theme is as bad now as it was for the “war” on drugs.  The imagery is tempting, but  wrong headed, at its core.

My sense is we would be better off to think of what it is that the virus is doing, hitching a ride with humans, and how we might go about rejecting the virus using us as hosts.   Much as some martial arts make use of the notion of deflection,  where the advance of the other is meet with deflection, rather than attack, perhaps we need to think of our denying the virus access to our bodies as a matter not of attack for attack, but rejection by deflection. This not war, this is about personal security. If everyone could be a warrior, how much more could everyone be trained to deflect the advance of the virus, not only from our bodies, but the bodies of others.  The virus is not the enemy, but a rude and. disruptive visitor, to be tamed or deflected (treated or vaccined against.). The “war” imagery does not serve the needs of public or personal health. In a national context, it serves national interests, and by extension the political machinations of its leaders.

So here is what I know:

(i) I didn’t volunteer for this warrior service, and I an unwilling volunteer, and will become a draft resister.
(ii) War language serves leaders, not those who will must. readily be “sacrificed”. I don’t trust that language, not one bit.
(iii) “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” Calling people heroes, warriors, front-line soldiers, and the like, is fine in a loose sort of way, but those who are working in harms way are, we hope, purposeful.  They are there on purpose, doing hard jobs, and doing them even when dangerous. They are focused. If we were as purposeful in shutting the door on the virus we too would be focused. And focused people do what needs to be done, even if scared or perplexed or alone. 
(iv) Focus and purposeful action is what is needed, not reactive and fearful “fight or flight” response.
(v) I will not give anyone praise for having won the war. I will give thanks and gratitude to those who did not loose their focus,  were peurposeful in finding way to reduce the effect of the virus on our bodies and in our society. 
(vi) Heath and wealth are two very different matters. Confusing the two is disaster in the making.

But then, what the hell do I know?  I’m just a draftee.

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