Some have likened the coronavirus pandemic to war. And yes, city, state, national, and international leadership must respond, protect citizens, and activate production of needed equipment.
Still, comparing fighting a pandemic to war is, as we Danes say, galimatias — it is gobbledygook and makes no sense.
A war has a tangible enemy based on differences in territorial, belief, or faith-based identities.
A war is fought to protect land, property, or in order to further ideology.
A war is brought on by conflict, disagreement, competition, or hostility.
If this is a war, it is one fought in host cells on a microscopic level. The coronavirus travels from human to human in order to replicate itself. In order to do so, it seeks new hosts. Once it enters the human organism, it seeks to alter the host cells in order to suppress or alter their normal defenses.
For those dealing with slowing the spread of the disease, for caregivers, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, every day is a battle. A dreadful one at that.
But otherwise, it makes no sense to talk about the response to the virus as a war.
It is, in fact, counterproductive, or even dangerous, because coronavirus does not care whether its host is Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Atheist, Chinese, North Korean, or Russian.
The problem with using the terminology of war is that it falls short in preparing us for what is needed in response to it from each of us individually, and particularly, from all of us collectively.
As we have seen in the coronavirus outbreak, attempts to exempt one group of people over another from protective measures, or favoring one region over another doesn’t work. The virus does not care if the next host is Republican, Democratic, indigenous or imported. It doesn’t distinguish between American, European, African, Australian, old, young, rich, poor, famous, unknown, or whether he or she is white or a person of color.
Any attempt to think “us versus them,” or “our people versus their people” as one has to do in a war doesn’t work with a pandemic.