As he gives his daily COVID-19 briefings, Gov. Phil Murphy keeps reminding us New Jerseyans how important social distancing is to slow down the spread of the disease.

To drive home his message Murphy, now refers to this as an all-out effort that must be embraced by everyone.

“We are at war, and you win wars like World War II not cause you panic, but cause you’re aggressive, you’re smart, you shoot straight with each other," Murphy said last week. We’re all in this together.”

The governor has described his directive to stay home as a key strategy to fight the novel coronavirus and save lives, part of a war-time effort that all must embrace as Americans.

“We’re the country that never leaves the fallen soldier injured or killed on the battlefield," he said. "We always go back, including putting lives as risk to get that fallen soldier. That is what we stand for, that is our value system, and that is New Jersey, we will fight to save every single life.”

Murphy also has said repeatedly nothing will be left on that battlefield to save lives.

According to Rutgers Camden political science professor Shauna Shames, the strong language the governors is using, and the imagery it evokes are designed to spark a sense of passion and urgency in the civilian population during a time of great stress and challenge.

She said referring to the efforts to stop COVID-19 as a war encourages a feeling of unity, people coming together to fight a common enemy, which is important "if you actually do need the population to give up things, war rationing, or to mobilize, or in this case to stay home, which people don’t really want to do.”

She noted “it feels very isolated right now. We’re all in individual homes. But there’s a ‘we’ and there’s an America, and there’s an enemy -- and that helps people to make sacrifices.”

“If we’re at war, everything is different," Shames said. "I think everyone understands that’s an emergency situation and the brain goes to a different place.”

She said people by nature are social animals, and want to be together -- but if this war then in a sense we’re all soldiers,and “that gives you a reason to stay the course and stay strong."

She added similar kinds of war references have been made in recent history, including America’s "War on Drugs" and the ongoing "War on Terror."

“It always helps politicians to use battle rhetoric,” she said. “It invites patriotism. It invites a rally-around-the-flag effect.”

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