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We can prevail against COVID-19 the way we prevailed in World War II

Freedom to an earlier generation of Americans didn’t mean a person could do whatever they wanted regardless of the consequences to themselves and others.

A Chicago woman works on a victory garden in 1943. During World War II, writes a Sun-Times reader, people “thought of something greater than themselves.”
Sun-Times file photo

Growing up as a baby boomer, I heard about life during World War II from my parents. My mom won a prize in high school for an essay titled “What the War Means to Me.” Her mother hosted Sabbath dinners at their home for servicemen stationed at an airbase outside their town. One of the men returning from overseas who came to dinner was my dad.

My father had been away nearly four years, stationed in North Africa and Italy. Later in his life, he always gave money to Disabled American Veterans. Even when he was living in a retirement home and didn’t have much to spare, he gave something. He said the wounded shouldn’t be forgotten.

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Communication was not as sophisticated in my parents’ era. They had the basics: newspapers, the radio and the telephone. But somehow a message of national unity got through. People grew fruits and vegetables in victory gardens to alleviate wartime shortages. They thought of something greater than themselves.

Freedom to them didn’t mean a person could do whatever they wanted regardless of the consequences to themselves and others. It’s no surprise to me that the young president who said these famous words in his inaugural address in 1960 was a World War II veteran: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

We are now in a situation that is analogous to a war. The numbers are difficult to think about — almost 200,000 people have died from COVID-19. And medical experts tell us that thousands of lives could be saved if mask compliance in the United States reached 95%. As noted in a City of Chicago public service announcement, wearing a mask is no different from wearing a seatbelt, a life jacket, or a bike helmet — the purpose is safety.

It not been difficult for me to follow the experts’ advice to wear a mask, observe social distancing and wash my hands frequently.

Because I know that’s what my parents would do.

David Caplan, West Rogers Park

When a president deceived us before

Rather than follow the examples of candidness set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in moments of crisis, President Donald Trump — when it comes to COVID-19 — has followed President Lyndon Johnson’s model of deception.

In 1964, Johnson made phone calls to National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy and Sen. Richard B. Russell regarding the conflict in Vietnam. Johnson confided his pessimism. He said: “I don’t think it’s worth fighting for” and “I don’t think we can get out.”

But four years later, there were more than a half a million U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam, a country that many Americans could not even locate on a map.

Larry Vigon, Jefferson Park

Chicago’s reality

This morning, I asked my mirror, “Am I still in Chicago?”

The White Sox are in first place and playing brilliantly. The Cubs are in first place and threw a no-hitter on Sunday. The Bears came from behind to beat Detroit.

But wait. Fifty-three people were shot, 11 fatally, over the weekend.

Yep, I’m still in Chicago.

Kathleen Melia, Niles