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For the duration of WWII, Britain suffered self-imposed austerities so that the island nation could combat Hitler’s attempts to pound it into submission. For six years, from 1939 until 1945, the citizens of the United Kingdom gave up much for the common good of their fellow countrymen. That’s seventy-two months of doing without or with less. The nation implemented rationing in response to numerous factors including the scarcity of resources. Britain relied heavily on imports from around the world. German U-Boats hunting in wolf packs sank merchant ships carrying goods and supplies to Britain’s ports.  The Luftwaffe dominated the skies over Europe. German V-2 rockets bombarded coastal regions. In order to feed the population, maintain wartime production needs, and adequately supply the military, Churchill implemented strict rationing programs to ensure that everyone did their part, rich and poor. There were heavy penalties for violations. Almost every essential part of British life was rationed including food, clothing, and gasoline for automobiles. Curfews limited the time when lights should be out to save electricity and therefore coal, which powered the electric plants, but had the dual purpose of confounding German bombers during nighttime raids. Children from obvious aerial raid targets like London were relocated to live in the country, where they might be safe from the Blitz. C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe begins in 1940 with the four Pevensie children boarding a train to evacuate London.

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Everywhere were the ubiquitous signs reminding Brits to do their part to ensure “a Fair Share for Everyone,” including growing family gardens called “Victory Gardens” and ride-sharing to save petrol. It was during this time that the famous poster with the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” was created.

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For seventy-two months the British endured severe austerities for the future of their nation and for the sake of the common good. Yet, in its war against Covid-19, America gave up after weeks, not months or years. We surrendered to the virus. In our collective selfishness and impatience, armed protestors with signs demanding “End the Lockdown” stormed city streets and state capitols demanding that the austerities be lifted (see photo at top of article). “We can’t take it anymore!” they shouted. “We have the right to get our hair styled and our fingernails painted!” they screamed while wearing the American flag. “We have the right to go to malls and movie theaters and bars and night clubs!” they cried with an itchy finger on the trigger. The president of the United States fanned the anger by tweeting that the oppressed people should be liberated, and then he went to hide in his bunker when the going got tough.

Unlike the people of the Britain during WWII, who sent away their own children for safety’s sake, these protestors had absolutely no concern whatsoever for their fellow countrymen. All they cared about was their own creature comforts. Where was their compassion for those who would be hospitalized because of the virus? Where was their pity for those who would die from it? Where was their mercy for those they left behind who never got to say goodbye? “Me! Me! Me!” was their war cry as the invisible enemy infiltrated our borders and took our country state by state. As of the writing of this article, More than three million Americans have contracted the virus. Research suggests maybe ten times that number is more accurate. Forty of our fifty states are seeing severely increasing numbers of cases. In some places, hospitals are flooded with the sick and dying. And most tragically, as of this writing, more than 130,000 Americans have lost their lives in our war against the virus—more than the total loss of soldiers during the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Estimates suggest as many as 200,000 may be dead by fall.


One Nation 4As far as I know, Brits didn’t politicize their response against Hitler. They stood united. They accepted the austerities. But because of our politicization of the virus, The United States’ response to the global pandemic is by far the worse in the world. (Note: By early July 2020, new cases in the U.S. hit over 60,000 per day, more than double this graph only two weeks earlier. Source: Johns Hopkins University.)

After six years of war, the British eventually won their battle against Fascism, even though winning came at a heavy cost. To their great relief and joy, their children came home from the country. To our eternal shame, after weeks of self-isolation and the softest of austerities, America hoisted the white flag and surrendered to its diminutive enemy. “We couldn’t take it anymore” will be the battle hymn that history records of our war.


JSmelcer 4


Dr. John Smelcer is the Inaugural Writer-in-Residence for the Charter for Compassion where he teaches a global online course called “Poetry for Inspiration and Well-Being.” He is the author of over 60 books, including A New Day, his timely new pocketbook of meditations to inspire love, compassion, hope, mercy, charity, tolerance, contemplation, peace, and the spiritual life. He is currently working on a book about his discovery of Thomas Merton’s relics in the spring of 2015.


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