Understanding The War On COVID-19 or Channeling Our Inner Hilda

By On
• In Bellingham,

The dialogue above comes from a scene in the original 1951 sci-fi movie The Day The Earth Stood Still (not the 2008 junk remake). Klaatu, an extraterrestrial visitor, arranges to demonstrate the power of his advanced civilization to humans by shutting down electricity all over the globe. One human, Professor Barnhardt, who knows of the demonstration, speaks with his secretary, Hilda, who anxiously looks out the office window at the stalled vehicles in the street. He is glad that when he asks her, she acknowledges being anxious because it means she has internalized the gravity of the situation. The demonstration succeeds. So too with COVID-19, I also am glad when others acknowledge that they are afraid because it connotes internalization of the threat. To that end, we must seek out reliable sources to inform, guide, and protect ourselves. We must face reality. That is what Prof. Barnhardt was telling us.

I watched French President Macron deliver an address to France a few days ago. He was the first head of state who spoke of the COVID-19 situation as a war. It is exactly that. People all over the world who have never experienced war are now coming to an understanding of the meaning of that term. I thought back to my year in Vietnam where I was virtually isolated most of the time with my two team colleagues in a small town. Our lives then were circumscribed, like all American’s lives will be in the near future, if they are not already: the inability to move freely, no place to go even if we could. In Vietnam, we had no TV, only a transistor radio. Electricity went out at dusk as hundreds illegally tapped power lines and forced the system down. We could not go to breakfast at the advisory compound until Vietnamese forces cleared the road of mines and snipers. We were constantly wary.

And so it is here, if, like Hilda, you are paying attention. You watch where you are going and what you are doing. You stay at your residence. You leave at your own risk and only for important errands. Here, you may get the corona virus, in Vietnam you might get shot. Both could carry a death sentence.

Locally, people are beginning to understand the enormity of what is upon us. Unfortunately, there are those who would ignore the rules put in place during this extraordinary period. As I drive around town, (the only thing I can do without coming into contact with others), I see signs of ignorance of present prohibitions (willful or not is impossible to say), youthful insouciance and intractable situations such as the indiscriminate mingling of the homeless. I hear from neighbors about parents still looking to arrange play dates for their children and of teens who think it is OK to leave town to go camping with a bunch of friends. I hear daycare centers are still open. I hear of gatherings of youth in the evenings to party at certain spots around town such as Clark’s Point. I read social media posts on NextDoor where there are questions and statements from which I infer a woeful ignorance of the pandemic. Are they just not paying attention?

Yes, Professor Barnhardt, I am frightened.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Larry Horowitz

Mar 19, 2020

Thank you Dick.  Fear can be a great motivator.  

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds me of the movie 12 Monkeys, which was turned into a TV series in 2015.  Both were excellent.  The plot revolves around a man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population of the planet.  A time machine was used to send people back to stop the plague.

Might be worth binging while staying home.





Dick Conoboy

Mar 19, 2020

I remember the film.  With Bruce Willis.  Unfortunately we have no time machine.


Larry Horowitz

Mar 19, 2020

Perhaps future humans will develop a time machine and travel back in time to save us from ourselves.  The motivation for doing so in 12 Monkeys was to save loved ones who perished.

BTW, IMHO, the TV series was vastly superior to the movie.  Definitely binge-worthy.

For those who like to read, Bellingham resident and friend James R. Wells, grandson of THE TIME MACHINE author H.G. Wells, published his own SciFi novel THE GREAT SYMMETRY in 2015, which was the 2015 Grand Prize Winner of the Cygnus Award for SciFi and Speculative Fiction.

To comment, Log In or Register