If a segment of nobody-tells-me-what-to-do-keep-the-government-off-my-back American’s still whinge at the thought of a mask mandate while shedding crocodile tears about the discomfort, inconvenience, and infringement on their freedom, how in hell would these self-serving “patriots” feel if suddenly Uncle Sam said they couldn’t imbibe in their daily extra-large sugar-loaded Dunkaccino?
Or were told how often they could drive their gas-guzzling SUV? How about being ordered to give up grilling a juicy T-Bone steak on their backyard grill? Or being instructed those cigarettes were for sale only at certain times? Could they possibly survive with only being able to buy 2 pairs of new shoes a year, or abide by government regulations concerning the permissible length of a skirt or the required width of your suit lapels? All these were once Uncle Sam’s directives.
This was America during WWII when ordinary Americans sacrificed and did without. You couldn’t just saunter into a grocery store and buy as much sugar, butter or meat as you wanted nor could you fill your car up with gas whenever you liked. These were all rationed by the government. When the war broke out, Americans had been told that each of us was a vital part of the war effort. Uncle Sam had a big army to clothe, feed, and supply, and their needs came first. The public was bombarded with messages asking them to be frugal, conserve, and to produce more of what they consumed.
Americans did their duty by doing what was not comfortable or easy. Foregoing certain items and forfeiting some pleasures during wartime became the norm for most.
Being asked to sacrifice your personal comfort for the safety of others and the greater good is not a violation of freedom.
In fact, it is a very American way to be. I learned that lesson early on from my parents, members of the greatest generation.
Did some people at the time balk at the restrictions? Of course. Was there some griping? Sure. But that generation understood the greater good was more important than personal comfort or freedom.
Did my motoring loving grandfather Arthur enjoy being restricted to 3 gallons of gasoline a week to put into his 1940 Chrysler? Or having to forego his weekly Sunday pleasure drives to nowhere on scenic parkways because it was deemed non-essential driving? Probably as much as my other grandfather Morris missed his standing rib roast and his nightly tumbler or two of whiskey which was near impossible to come by since distillers were in 100% production of alcohol for explosives.
They both tolerated living with only the occasional cup of scarce coffee reluctantly accepting that a refill at a restaurant or hotel was forbidden. But as my grandpa Morris would say what good was a cup of Joe without a soothing cigarette to accompany it? He groused plenty at the time about the cigarette shortage in ‘44 when he had to stand on interminably long lines outside smoke shops on the days cigarettes became available. Nonetheless, both men understood how to sacrifice, make do, and play square.
And by the way, don’t think restricting automobile-loving American’s on their driving was easy. FDR in fact initially dawdled lacking the political courage to deprive Americans of their cherished freedom of the road. But the only way to really enforce the ramifications of the extreme rubber shortage we were experiencing and save tires was to establish driving restrictions and to limit mileage for the entire nation.
So gas rationing was ordered nationwide, a ban on pleasure driving went into effect, and a 35-mile speed limit on all highways.
I am certain that with her prodigious sweet tooth, sugar rationing did not make my grandmother Sadie smile when as an early casualty of the war it went into effect in 1942. But she made do relying on perhaps less satisfying but more patriotic alternatives.
Always fashion conscious, Sadie I’m convinced was not all that pleased when Uncle Sam took to the runways and became a clothes warden dictating fashions such as forbidding any pleats, ruffles, pockets or big sleeves on women’s clothing. Nonetheless, she dutifully kept both her hems and fabric belts no wider than 2” and raised her hemline at least 17” off the floor as the government required. Uncle Sam persuaded everyone that clothing conservation was one way each citizen could contribute to victory.
For my other grandmother, Rose who like most Americans abided by the notion that “meat makes the meal” thriftiness and ingenuity had to be learned when it came to mealtime. Her family had to adjust to different less, tender cuts of beef since the best cuts went to servicemen.
Food we were told during WWII, will win the war and no food was more vital to victory than meat, which became material of war as soon as the hostilities began. Morale boosting meat was needed most to fight on and to win on which meant meat-loving Americans had to deprive themselves of this most vital and beloved pleasure.
As the war groaned on, nearly every item Americans ate, wore, used, or lived in was rationed or regulated by the government. Shortages were followed by the disappearance of one another amenity after another. It caused discomfort, inconvenience, even annoyance but they complied.
There was an enemy to fight and we were all in it together.
Together. That’s a word missing today.
Today for some personal freedom has been distorted. In recent years selfishness and self-interest are repackaged as personal freedom.
Refusing to wear masks is the lethal result of decades of selling folks on freedom without responsibility. Clinging to the warped idea of freedom and democracy that apparently means not caring whether others in your community get sick. Or die
Relinquish comfort, my fellow Americans. Give it up and wear a mask. It’s what your grandparents would have done.!
Copyright (©) 2021 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved