By Barton Hershfield, MD
When we reflect on the events and aftermath of 9/11, many of us are struck by how it united Americans. Whether Republican or Democrat, whether white, black, Hispanic or Asian, whether Christian, Jewish or even Muslim, we came together for the common goal of stopping terrorism and protecting our country’s citizens from harm. More than 180,000 of us voluntarily enlisted for active military service and another 73,000 joined the reserves. We didn’t object, and still don’t, to having our luggage x-rayed and searched and our bodies imaged and sometimes patted down before we travel in order to protect ourselves and our fellow travelers. The military War on Terror and TSA travel screenings were established by our President based on advice from anti-terrorism experts in response to an enemy that killed 2,996 of us on that horrific day, and we supported those decisions to help protect ourselves and our fellow Americans.
Fast forward 20 years when America is under attack by another deadly enemy. Although it is an invisible and biological one, it is the deadliest enemy our nation has ever encountered, having killed 670,000 Americans in 20 months. That is more people than we have lost in all our wars in the last 100 years combined.
Unfortunately, our response to this deadly enemy is not as united as our response to our 9/11 enemy. Some politicians, and many of us, refuse to follow the advice of medical experts on how to stop the carnage this viral enemy is causing. Though willing to submit to invasive TSA screening to protect ourselves and others, many of us refuse to wear a mask indoors in public to do the same. Though willing to place ourselves in harm’s way by joining the military and supporting those who have done so, many of us refuse to arm ourselves with the weapon needed to stop our enemy—antibodies from receiving a vaccine, which actually places us out of harm’s way. Because not enough of us have volunteered to become soldiers in the fight against this relentless enemy, we are now faced with a “draft”—vaccine mandates to increase the number of us who are armed and able to fight. If we don’t protect ourselves and others from this enemy, we are unintentionally aiding and abetting it when it infects us, allowing it to continue to multiply and to become stronger by mutating.
We appropriately hail our frontline healthcare workers as heroes, more than 3,600 of which the enemy has killed while trying to help others. Yet when they plead for our help to reduce the preventable death and suffering that is taking a physical and emotional toll on them and resulting in them not being able to help patients with other conditions because hospital beds are full, many of us have not been willing to do our part.
This deadly enemy is no longer primarily attacking the chronically ill and elderly. The majority of Americans being hospitalized and dying now are healthy and younger, including children. Ninety percent of them are unvaccinated.
It is easy to get caught up in the personal freedoms/anti-vax/anti-mask political rhetoric. Please take a moment to do your own thinking. This virus is the second deadliest pandemic our country has ever faced, and the 7th most deadly in the history of the world. Exceptional times call for exceptional measures. Like our response to 9/11, the challenge we face is what to do to prevent more people from dying. If you haven’t already, please remember the patriotism you felt after 9/11 and join the fight against this enemy that continues to kill and disable our fellow Americans. Or do it for spiritual reasons—to help others as we are called to do in Philippians 2:4 – “Let each you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Please help. Your country and your fellow man, woman and child need you.