Many of us are understandably feeling depressed and discomforted by the Covid-19 affliction that is enveloping us. Perhaps we can take some comfort from the fact that previous generations have suffered similarly, and that they persisted and prevailed.
In the tragic 1918-1919 influenza epidemic, an estimated 25 million people in the United States were afflicted and 650,000 – or 6% – of them lost their lives. But with pluck, perseverance, and pushback they quickly moved on into the “Roaring 20’s.” In more modern times, only one other event has had the physical and emotional impact that Covid-19 is levying….World War II. A few statistical similarities of these two crises are striking.
To date, Covid-19 in the United States has taken over 300,000 lives, a total which almost matches the 300,000+ U.S. combat deaths in World War ll.
More than 16 million US citizens have fallen ill and their family members have suffered along with them. In World War II over 16 million men and women in the armed services were distanced from their loved ones and all bore the pain of that separation for, in most cases, years.
In terms of percentages, World War II death toll was three tenths of one percent of our population. Covid-19, to date, has claimed one tenth of one percent.
Of course, statistics can’t measure the extent of physical and psychological pain that is occasioned by such tragedies. No factual comparison can be attempted on those grounds.
Nevertheless, to a number of historians and culture watchers, it appears that many – if not most – Americans today seem to feel more deprived, disadvantaged, disfavored, and deserted than they were during the 1941-45 war years. Resentment, even true rebelliousness, can be sensed. Distrust and dissention are palpable.
In our current state of beleaguerment, we don’t have the time or resources to figure out why our society is more disaffected than it was during World War II. But, our war experience did show that a positive and productive attitude can be inspired by an unreserved, universal dedicationto doing all that we must do to prevail and by a firm personal belief that we will emerge from today’s crisis as an even stronger, greater nation.
Our crisis today is different from World War II. But, its resolution will require hope and fellowship like that demonstrated in Command Performance, a radio broadcast aired originally on Christmas Eve 1942. The program aimed to provide a “virtual” connection for families of 16 million men and women who were serving in the military at that time. It brings back a period when folks like Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Harriet Hilliard Nelson (Ricky’s mom), Dinah Shore, Red Skelton and a cadre of other stars were able to deliver a sense of relief to our distressed citizenry. The sound ain’t great but the sentiment that is conveyed is only one example of how Americans everywhere can strive to muster love, dignity, respect, and an upbeat attitude even in the worst of times.
This program is also a great example of what could be done now by today's vastly more powerful and creative (but, alas, dispirited) media. Today, "Christmas" (A/K/A “The Holidays”) is recognized by our media for only a few hours on the 24th and 25th of December -- and this trivial tribute is vastly overshadowed by three months of overpowering retail holiday advertising they have shoveled our way..
Bottom line: Our media owes us a chest-pounding “command performance” at this critical time in our Covid experience. In lieu of that, please accept this one.
Click on the "radio box" above to get pumped up by a Command Performance, as it aired December 24, 1942.
Also, you might want to check out some previous Christmas audios in our library.