25 May 2020
Back in late April, I watched a documentary on the flu pandemic in 1918 (see video, Here). One comment read, “Why didn't they teach this in school? So much focus on the world wars, they basically skipped this. Now look at us.”
This got me to thinking. So I wrote this:
“War gives us the illusion of control. The better armed, the more clever tactics, the braver the soldiers, the more likely victory. To die in the war effort was considered heroic. “He gave his life for his country.” People fought wars to right wrongs, to prove something.
But disease is different. Disease is involuntary. Dying of it is not heroic, just tragic. Disease brings a sense of helplessness and despair, not control or noble purpose. We were taught enlist, to run toward war and to fight. Not to do so was thought to be cowardly. Contrast that with disease, where the best way to fight it is to run away from it, to hide, to isolate.
Wars and armies are social institutions, masses of people join together to fight. Disease is anti-social. We become afraid of each other. There is no human enemy, there are few tactics. Without vaccines, there is nothing to fight with. We are only victims, not honored warriors. War holds the promise of success through victory so we suppress our fears through vigorous action, to win. Disease instills fear without any way to deny it. As with any tragedy, any great loss, we wish to leave it behind, to move on. We behave in a way similar to whole nations who have lost a war. Or we behave the way soldiers, once returned home when the war is over, prefer to forget the whole thing, for what they’ve seen and experienced is so horrible that they have no desire to ever think or speak of it again.”
Later, in early May, I added this:
“I’ve been told that the doctors and medical personnel and essential workers are the heroes in a pandemic. And, yes, we would do well to honor all those who have died and who have not died but had the courage to risk their lives and stay with their tasks.
But remember, even though we say we honor those who died in war, we have a terrible record when we fail to support veterans who did not die in war, but return home to find a government and even a culture, a population, that would prefer to forget the war and instead divert the money needed for their care to spend on other things.”
Today, I remember back to Jon Stewart's fight for the first responders who rushed in to rescue people in the the Twin Towers on 9/11. (see story, Here) Many of those who survived ended up with terrible medical problems but nobody would put up the money to pay for their treatment. It's the same thing, really - terrorism is just the latest form of war. It seems that we'd just rather forget and move on to spend our money on other things. I hope we find a way to stop for a moment and reflect ... on who helped us when the crisis ensued, and care for them in their time of need, either at the time, or after it's over.