Life During (Viral) Wartime
(apologies to David Byrne/Talking Heads)
Toward the end of October 1962 I remember all the adults I knew --- teachers, parents, neighbors --- being very nervous . . . almost scared. If you are not familiar with the dates, it was the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was one of the first in a series of cataclysmic or historic events I would experience in my lifetime. At the end of 1963 there was Kennedy’s assassination. In the spring of 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. and then Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Less cataclysmic but certainly world-changing was the Moonwalk in July 1969, followed by attendance at Woodstock in August of that year. Other significant events include the Challenger explosion in 1986 and, of course, the Twin Tower demolition in 2001. Obama’s election in 2008 was significantly historic but now this Pandemic makes all those other events pale.
My Mother will be 93 in August. I was thinking about what she could add to my list (I left out the Vietnam War, as well as our “excursions” in Afghanistan and Iran from my list). Since 1927 when Mom was born, the U.S.A. experienced the Great Depression, World War Two, the Korean “conflict” --- and then all the events that I was around for (which might also include the Space Race, starting in 1957). The question is whether this Pandemic will eclipse all those events. I think about the Lovely Carol Marie’s grandchildren (ages 13, 10, 8, 4, and two weeks) who will, undoubtedly remember this as a searing event in their personal history. The question becomes: how do we put all this in perspective? Where, in each of our personal histories, is this “shelter in place” crisis going to fit?
Earlier events and crises allowed for more active observation and reaction. You could see what was occurring on the news and react as you saw fit: demonstrate, write a letter to the editor, ignore things, whatever. Today we are relegated to watching how circles expand on a map, get statistics on how the virus is advancing, and adhere to directions to maintain “social distance,” so as not to spread the disease. As retirees, the Lovely Carol Marie and I are not as severely impacted as the younger members of the family --- and I wonder what the long-term effects of this crisis might be. There is also concern for my 93 year old Mother in her assisted living facility (are they taking all the precautions necessary?) and my brother & his wife, who are part of the “vulnerable” senior population. Also: what about the two-week old baby? And how about explaining all this to a 4 year old? Those 8, 10, and 13 year-old boys who thrive on going to school as well as playing (and watching) sports? What will the long-term and unintended consequences of this Pandemic be?
We don’t know, of course, and that may be the most bedeviling issue of all. I have said before that one of the most difficult things humans can face is uncertainty --- and this crisis is brimming with it. The horse is out of the “what if? . . .” barn regarding the government’s response and, while governor’s appear to be doing heroic, almost herculean, work, we don’t see any large-scale national plans which the situation warrants. Whatever the case, it results in uncertainty: do I have the virus? Am I going to get the virus? Will testing increase rapidly enough for me to find out? Are my family members safe? Can I (particularly as an “elderly” person) safely go to the grocery store and pharmacy? We don’t know. We don’t know. We don’t know. What could be worse?
Here’s what I would recommend.
I’m sure there are numerous things folks can do that I haven’t listed, so please feel free to pass along your thoughts (in the Comments section here or email me at email@example.com ) and I’ll “publish” them in succeeding BLASTs. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Socially distance. Keep reading the BLAST.