Approximately 90,000 Dead Without a Hint of National Mourning
So far, Americans have failed to collectively honor COVID-19 casualties
Over the course of a week, as the national death toll from COVID-19 marched steadily toward 90,000, President Donald Trump returned repeatedly to the idea that America is at war with the coronavirus. At a mask factory in Arizona on May 5, an event honoring nurses the next day in the Oval Office and a wreath-laying at the National World War II Memorial two days later, he said that Americans should think of ourselves as "warriors, "because “we can’t keep our country closed down for years,” and, that, as we have in the past, we would “triumph.”
The idea is to encourage us to collective effort and common sacrifice, to exhort us to put country ahead of ourselves and our conveniences, to stay strong in the face of psychic and physical pain, isolation, fear and loss. And, of course, go to work, shop and dine out for the greater good, knowing that it may mean sacrificing our lives or loved ones. That’s what it means now to be a warrior.
But, if we are all warriors, why aren’t the currently more than 86,000 American pandemic dead treated as patriots and honored for their sacrifices? The metaphor appears to stop at death’s door. Our war dead are buried in the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Our pandemic dead are more likely to end up in the anonymous ground of Hart Island in New York, a sort of potter’s field where it has long been considered a dishonor for a soldier to lie. It is a fate the national cemetery system was designed to avoid.
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