Eighty years ago, a virus dedicated to the evil notion that a “master race” should have dominion over the world was consuming Europe with beachheads in Asia and Africa.
With this murderous tyranny forcing itself on one conquered nation after another, allied countries asked their people for sacrifices commensurate with the threat, up to and including what Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”
Their response cleansed the world of malignant Nazi fascism. Americans of all ages observed meatless and wheatless days bought war bonds, held scrap rubber and metal drives. And they volunteered in unprecedented numbers for military service.
In 1944, that sense of sacrifice for the greater good sent boys in their late teens and early 20s wading onto the sandy beaches of Normandy and into German machine guns that cut them down by the thousands.
Fast forward to another beach scene 76 years later: besotted college students in their late teens and early 20s crowd oceanfront resorts from Florida to Texas, ignoring urgent national calls to blunt the spread of a potentially lethal virus by sequestering themselves. Even warnings that failure to do so could overwhelm hospitals and kill many thousands could not persuade them to sacrifice their ritual spring bacchanalia of sun, surf, suds and sex.
“If I get corona, I get corona,” one student-hedonist from Ohio told Reuters in Florida last week, presumably referencing the disease, not the Cerveza. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”
He spoke for many in the coddled, college-attending and privileged demographic of twenty-somethings known as Generation Z. Believing that their youth minimizes personal consequences from the virus, they’ve wantonly jammed themselves together on the shores, watering holes and motel rooms with little or no separation – perfect conditions for such an aggressive contagion.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.