I do a lot of thinking about things while I’m working in my shop. Not because I have to stay home during this virus thing, but because I’m retired and I stay home and think about things while I’m working in my shop anyway. But here’s what I think, and I believe it’s mostly correct.
On Saturday December 6, 1941 life was good, both here in the U.S. and at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The next morning, Japan killed thousands of us and precipitated our entry into World War II. There were thousands of heroes on that morning and in battle during the next four years. We’ve forgotten virtually all of them, living or dead.
In 1889, The Johnstown Flood killed at least 2000 people. I’ll bet there were thousands of heroes there. We don’t know who they were.
In 1906 the Great San Francisco Earthquake shocked us. At least 3000 dead. You can still read stories about the heroes there if you’re willing to search for them.
On September 11, 2001 terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and elsewhere, killing nearly 3000 people. The nation reeled under the shock. We’ve pretty much quit reeling and stopped celebrating the firemen and thousands of other heroes. They get an annual “thank you” these days, but in another twenty years, they’ll get the same treatment as Iwo Jima soldiers.
This list could go on and on. Today’s doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, truckers, grocery store personnel and thousands upon thousands of heroes should soak up this adulation and remember it, because in five years, we certainly won’t.
The media is currently trying to convince me that the president has done a terrible job of fighting this pandemic. Is that true? I don’t know, and neither do they. Would the other choice for president in 2016 have done a better and more effective job? I doubt it. Here’s something I’m sure of: Harry Truman walked out of the White House on January 20, 1953 labeled as one of the worst presidents in history. Truman died in 1972. Today, he is regularly listed as one of the ten best presidents in history. Bear in mind, he accomplished all this while he was dead. Point being that Harry didn’t change; we did. We would do well to apply this to our current administration; you just never know how wrong a dead President is going to make you look.
The reality is that anyone trying to fight this pandemic probably made errors and heroic decisions at the same time. Shouldn’t we all focus on how we can be better prepared next time? I hope we do.
A little dose of positive reality: We’ve knocked the incidence of regular old flu down by amazing numbers. We won’t see much of that reported in the news. Bad news sells, and don’t you forget it.
What we know about this pandemic today will not be the reality tomorrow. The business of this country will reopen. it will be spotty at first and move faster later. People will forget about social distancing about as quickly as they learned it. We’ll shake hands again, because that will remind us what “normal” feels like. But we are a people who must forget things. We are a people who require a villain and a symbolic atonement. We’ve been doing this since we stuck knives in sacrificial lambs on stone altars. We will create our own sunny and wonderful time all over again, but first we must put our knives in all the right places. You know, because it was their fault.
Business and the economy will come back, sooner than we think but not fast enough for those who are suffering as a result of it. I mean no ill will against those lost businesses and employees, but the reality is that in our society, businesses fail and people lose their jobs. In our society, a new business is drawn to the vacuum and creates jobs. This life and death struggle doesn’t require a pandemic, but we’ll stab it all the same. That is a reality.
People have died from this pandemic. People will die from this pandemic—mostly older people. I certainly don’t intend to marginalize older people—I’m one of them. But in fact, people die, mostly older people. That is a reality and we do our damndest to deny it.
We won’t all go into the streets, flooding the country at once. Most older people will refrain from dangerous situations until the vaccine is actually in their arm. They’ll be the most careful and they are unquestionably the most patient. For everyone else, the day is coming when we’ll be told the world isn’t ending. When our healthcare infrastructure is prepared and adequate, herd immunity will win the day. It will be December 6, 1941 all over again.
There are good and wonderful people in this world, doing good and wonderful things. There are heroes. Look for them and celebrate them. But be aware of humankind as it exists alongside you, not what you see and hear on television. Be aware of these small things and wonderfully good people. That’s real.