It has been said, “We live in interesting times.” For the past decade or so, it seems that we live in unprecedented times. “Unprecedented” could be declared the word of the decade. That word is cropping up more often as time goes on.
If such a preponderance of unprecedented events continues apace, how on earth are we supposed to cope? Every week we face new, uncharted territory. Can we mere mortals handle it?
Now we have the coronavirus (COVID-19). Unprecedented? Really? Is this the first so-called pandemic that humanity has ever experienced? Not even close. The first that comes to mind is the Black Death or bubonic plague. Of course, this occurred centuries ago in medieval Europe, but worldwide death estimates have been as high as 200 million. Given the world population at the time, that number on a percentage basis was huge — approximately 30 percent of Earth’s population. But let’s look at more recent times.
The so-called Spanish flu (1918–1920) is said to have infected as many as 500 million worldwide. The Asian flu (H2N2 virus) hit in the late 1950s when I was in high school and reportedly caused as many as 2 million deaths worldwide and 70,000 fatalities here at home. Then came the Hong Kong flu (H3N2 virus) in the late 1960s. One million died worldwide, with over 30,000 deaths in this country. Who remembers the swine flu (H1N1 virus) in 2009–2010? It seemed to initiate in Mexico. About half a million people died worldwide, with about 12,000 accounted for in the U.S. And of course, concurrent with coronavirus, we are encountering another flu virus (H3N2), which seems to have been pushed into the background. Regardless of media or political reports, nothing about this is unprecedented. We’ve been there and done that numerous times — and survived them all as a nation. Many of us today have lived through at least three.
As a brief aside, kindly note the titles given to the various viruses cited above. Those who look for the slightest dent in President Trump’s armor have called him a racist (again) for referring to the coronavirus as Chinese because it is thought to have originated in China. Trump and many others come from a time when viruses were named based upon their point of origin. History proves the case. Politicization of any illness is just plain wrongheaded — regardless of leftist operational theory of never letting a crisis go to waste.
Last Monday, as I left from my morning with the horses, the farrier and I were discussing the latest closings. I’d been busy all morning and hadn’t heard the latest — gyms, bars and restaurants. My friend was concerned because he has friends who are bartenders and waitstaff at restaurants. Their source of income was coming to an end. That is truly a problem, and I echoed his concerns, adding that small businesses might well be forced to close.
Driving home, I had time to process that and concluded that we are at war — with the coronavirus. Being more grounded regarding war than a lot of people today, I have a certain attitude toward war. It is hard to disagree with a quote attributed to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. “War is hell.” As a point of fact, the true quote is “There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but boys, it is all hell.” All war is hell. It matters not if it is on a battlefield, on the political landscape, regarding international relations or in a hospital or doctor’s office. All war involves casualties of one sort or another. People are hurt and people will die — simple facts, unpleasant as they are.
We are at war with an ugly virus. As in World War II — when we all (yup, I was there, although too young to recall much) — endured the rationing of sugar, gasoline, rubber tires, and other war-related products, every man, woman and child. Hoarding (aka selfishness) was as socially unacceptable then as it is now. Profiteering was illegal and punishable. Such ugly practices are happening today.
The stores that place a limit on the quantity that can be purchased are to be commended for attempting to ensure that everyone will have access to limited quantities. Much better than finding empty shelves due to those who think only of themselves.
We all live here and are in this together. Your friends, neighbors and children are watching. Are you acting neighborly? Do you care? People are remembered for how they react in crisis, which reminds me, my wife and I got a warm and fuzzy feeling this week. Two of our neighbors and one daughter called this week to check on our welfare. This country needs more such neighbors. They are appreciated by those in need, which we are not.
Try to remember that this, too, shall pass. Stay calm and carry on. We’ve been here and done this. As a dearly departed aunt used to close all her letters (Remember when people wrote those — in cursive?), “Be good to each other,” and I’ll add be careful out there.
Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. Contact him at email@example.com.