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Delegate Jim Barach

Barach

My dad fought in World War II. I mean, he really fought. Inducted in the draft, he was sent to North Dakota for basic training, where he promptly caught pneumonia. Once he recovered, he was sent to a much warmer climate in Guam, where he eventually faced hand-to-hand combat. After five years of that, when the war ended, he was allowed to return home, lucky to have survived. He did his part and never complained. Now, that is patriotism.

Meanwhile, back home, his fiancee, who eventually became his wife and my mom, was making sacrifices of her own. Commodities like sugar, meat and gasoline were in short supply because of the war effort. To keep from taking produce out of supermarkets, people grew their own vegetables in what were dubbed Victory Gardens. Because of the worker shortage, with so many men overseas, women took on traditionally male jobs, as exemplified by Rosie the Riveter. The people knew what was at stake and did without for the greater good. That, too, is patriotism.

Jump forward to 2001 and the horrific attack on 9/11. Following the carnage, Americans were again asked to make personal sacrifices, this time, with their personal rights and freedoms. Flying would never be the same, with travelers subjected to body scanners, taking off their shoes and having all luggage searched.

Most Americans were all in with cooperating with an expansion of government powers that diminished many of the rights that were fought for by my own dad in World War II. But people were afraid of the perceived idea that terrorists were around every corner, even in our own country in hidden sleeper cells.

Warrantless wiretaps, increased surveillance of private communications and even turning a blind eye to legalized torture were freedoms that were given up on the promise that doing so would keep us all safe from future attacks. All in the name of patriotism.

Just two decades past that, we are being asked to help our fellow Americans and the rest of the citizens in the global community. Only, now, it’s with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has killed millions of people and is rivaling the deadliness of the flu pandemic of 1918.

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Instead of giving up commodities or being asked to risk our lives in combat, we are simply being requested to get vaccinated, wear masks around crowds and practice social distancing. Hardly a major sacrifice, when the potential benefits are saving our own lives, those of our families and anyone else we might come in contact with. We aren’t cutting back on groceries or giving up rights specifically outlined in the Constitution.

You would think we were asked to turn over our firstborns. People are outraged at the idea of being asked to wear a mask, with many of us only looking at having to put one on a few minutes a day. Not being able to go into an eating or drinking establishment and crowd in next to all kinds of people who might be carrying the COVID-19 virus is an affront to their right to assemble, or something like that.

Worst of all is the idea that a vaccine, made with the same research and processes involved in making the vaccinations that have nearly wiped out several deadly diseases — and we have taken for years without question — is somehow a government plot intended to inject us with an electronic tracking chip, magnetize us or destroy our DNA.

Why do we even believe any of this? What has happened to us as a country? Where are the citizens who used to bond together in times of crisis to make the sacrifices necessary to protect ourselves and our fellow Americans? Have we completely lost it?

We need to return to the United States that was united. Get the vaccinations. Wear your mask. Wash your hands and keep social distancing. It’s time to bring back patriotism.

Jim Barach, D-Kanawha, represents the 36th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

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