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Are You Prepared to Needlessly Die for Your Country?

When I was a young boy, I used to play war, and watch movies that celebrated violence. Rambo showed the awesome potential for a single devoted patriot to turn the tables on evil. I had a glamorous account of war, and as an 8-year-old I did not understand why my father cried when we went to see the award-winning movie “Platoon.”

A year later we visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC, and while I was looking at my reflection on the marble—ignoring the letters in front of me—he was searching for names. I learned that the names are on the wall in chronological order of loss, and that more than 50,000 people are thus remembered. My father cried again, when he used a pencil and paper to make rubbings of the names of classmates who had been drafted—and died—fighting in Vietnam.

I was a curious child, and I asked questions. I learned about the draft, and the understanding, that there may be a time when would I could be asked to die for my country—like his classmates had. I remember sharing my fears during Operation Desert Storm, “what if this lasts long enough that I’m drafted?” People thought I was silly, “we won’t be over there that long…” funny, it seems we never left, and now I’m being asked by a President who avoided the Vietnam War with phony bone spurs, to make the sacrifice, and be willing to die for my country.

Donald Trump, as well as other Republican leaders, have made it clear that American citizens should risk our lives to defend the economy and stock market, their definition of our country, apparently.

We are in the beginning stages of medical crisis, the global pandemic of the spread of COVID-19 virus is upon us. According to Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, “within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.” Models for the United States suggest the potential for millions of hospitalizations and hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of coronavirus mortalities if we do not slow the spread of this epidemic.

This is not the time for the President and his administration to push for opening business, it defies the consensus of medical experts. Medical experts are horrified by Trump’s dreams of restarting the economy.

Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, responded that, “It is way too early to even consider rolling back any guidelines.”

It is not right to ask people to sacrifice their lives in defense of the stock market, and I truly hope we do not have to ask, who should die or be saved first? Unfortunately, that could be the direction we are headed in. It is also dishonest.

The dilemma being presented is a lie. Asking us to choose between the economy and public health is a false dichotomy. There is no saving the economy without getting the global pandemic under control—human life is paramount. Simply put: there is no choosing between saving human lives and saving businesses, because when you choose to save business—and people get sick and die—business ends up dead anyway.

I see a country of beautiful people making sacrifices. So many essential employees exposing themselves to danger, and, sometimes, isolating from their own families to manage the risk for the good of their communities. People, not stock markets, are what makes us great. My fellow citizens please, please, do not listen to any elected official who treats people as expendable and do not betray the clear life-saving expertise. Can we agree to not elect leaders who promote such dangerous fantasies and work to create an economy that values human life? We must demand better, our lives depend on it.

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