ain3fb75szq41.jpg

A World War II-inspired poster urging individuals to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic. The image was posted to Facebook by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis this month.

-PHOTOS: Documenting COVID-19 in the Pikes Peak Region

Three health care workers stand confidently in scrubs and protective equipment, defiantly staring into the distance as if poised for battle.

The words, "For YOU! For THEM! For US! Stay inside," line the top of the virtual poster, which Colorado Gov. Jared Polis posted to his personal Facebook page earlier this month.

"Stay at home unless absolutely necessary. Victory begins at home," he posted with the image, reminiscent of U.S. World War II-era propaganda.

"There was a whole series of posters during World War II that promoted the idea that victory begins at home, everything from growing gardens to saving bacon grease for explosives production," Las Vegas-based tattoo artist Das Frank, who created the current image, told The Gazette.

"Now that victory in this battle requires us to be in the home, the message, with a slightly different meaning, gained importance again."

As the nation's battle against coronavirus grew into what elected officials, including President Donald Trump, have characterized as a war, communication from some leaders has begun to mirror wartime rhetoric.

It's not the first time such a shift to wartime messaging has taken place, said Susan Kent, a history professor at CU Boulder. She described a bulletin issued by the North Carolina State Board of Health during the flu pandemic of 1918 with a cartoon showing a German firing a machine gun at a U.S. soldier during World War I, then a man coughing into a crowd of U.S. citizens back home, morally equating the two scenarios.

"Clearly they're placing (the Spanish Flu) in the context of the war and talking about how deadly things are," Kent said. "If you don't take these precautions, what we would call social distancing, you're going to kill you, kill your neighbors."

Sam Bock, a public historian with History Colorado, sees parallels between the "social shaming" of men who did not enlist during World War I and those who choose to travel unnecessarily during the coronavirus pandemic, putting fellow citizens at risk.

"What you saw during that period of time was a turning to community, turning to local support networks, churches, their neighborhoods," he said. "New social organizations like the Elk Club ... not only sort of drove the American response on the home front, but interestingly (served) to shame young men who, for whatever reason, were not in active military service.

-Coronavirus in Colorado | Full Coverage April 2020

"What's interesting is you see this sort of social shaming happening now with COVID. The governor has said they're sort of relying on social pressure to keep people wearing masks and quarantined."

Just as military service to the nation was, for men, seen as one's patriotic duty during World War I, staying in to contain the virus has become a matter of patriotism, Bock said.

The sentiment is evidenced in quotes such as this, posted by Polis on April 6 to his gubernatorial Facebook page: "Right now we need to dig deep into our souls to muster the resolve, the courage, the fortitude to carry on and do our patriotic duty as generations have done before."

The governor "has invoked the sacrifice and efforts made by Americans during World War II" and "has also shared 'throwback' photos from previous eras, or in the style of previous eras, to help show Coloradans that our state and country has overcome previous pandemics and tough times," said Conor Cahill, Polis' press secretary.

-MAP | Coronavirus cases in Colorado

During an era in which even patriotism can be viewed as a partisan issue, "maybe this is a glimmer of hope and a call for unity," Bock said.

"It's really not about who you voted for," he said. "It's about trying to save the lives of people you don't even know in the community and country."

Load comments