So here we are in early March, a time for the Houston Rodeo, Spring Break, March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Our nature is to enjoy the promise of this time of year when the flowers begin to bloom again, at least in my part of the world. We are creatures of habit and regardless of how much we protest any insinuation that we are not flexible, we feel the earth move a bit under our feet when things don’t go as planned.
We are a generally lucky lot here in the United States of America, at least those of us who are members of the middle class. We plan trips and decorate for Easter and watch sporting events on our big screen televisions. Worries come now and again but we generally work through them. Sometimes Mother Nature brings destruction to our front doors like it did when hurricane Harvey hit Houston, but we take pride in taking control of such situations and putting things back to normal as quickly as possible.
We Americans are notoriously independent souls. We don’t like to be told what to do. Some among us even insist that the government should stay out of our business as much as possible. We can be quite vocal and sometimes even a bit brash when it comes to our ideas about how things should be done, but more than anything we tend to think that we can conquer almost any challenge better than most. We got to the moon, didn’t we? Surely we’ve got the best of everything in the world! We don’t think of it as boasting because it seems to just be the truth.
Suddenly the whole world is turned upside down by a virus that is new and strange. We’re not completely sure what it will ultimately do or how we will put it down. Our instinct is to ignore it as long as it doesn’t come near us. We’ve been saved by those two big oceans that have protected us from wars and left us relatively unscathed by rumblings in other parts of the world for most of history until terrorists found a way to bring fear into our midst. Now we hear warnings that the current threat will not be intimidated by our advanced technology, or national wealth, or borders. It does not respect our traditions or our freedoms. It does not see us any differently than it does the citizens of Wuhan or Padua or Kirkland, Washington. To it our bodies are all just targets for destruction, some more vulnerable than others, but all capable of carrying the deadly disease deeper into our midst.
Leaders across the globe are making decisions without any guarantees. They may as well be blind because there is no certainty as to what will actually work to halt this novel virus. We cannot compare it to the flu or measles or any other known disease because we have no scientific basis of doing so. We have yet to learn all of its mysteries and capabilities. We only have numbers of the sick and dead and the anecdotal stories of those on the front line of the battle against it to guide us.
Covid 19 seems to affect the elderly in more dangerous ways, as well as those who have other health issues. Children and young adults seem to generally have milder cases, but they are not automatically immune to the more critical symptoms and everyone who becomes infected is a carrier. Nations that have insisted on enforcing social distancing protocols early on have generally done better than those that waited until the toll of sickness rose to unbearable numbers. At this very moment there are countries whose healthcare systems have been overwhelmed and the end to their trials does not yet seem in sight. They send furtive warnings to the rest of us to take cautionary measures before it is too late.
This virus is not just a seasonal flu that is being overblown. It is not a hoax. It is not the fault of China or Democrats or President Trump. How we handle it will surely define us in history. We can rise to the occasion and do whatever is needed to end the contagion as quickly as possible or we can whine about inconveniences that we do not normally have. We can demonstrate our concern for all people everywhere by doing our utmost to cooperate with the efforts to contain the virus or we can demonstrate a false bravado by ignoring the requests that we stay home as much as possible.
The NBA season is done for now. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita are among those who have the virus. The world seems to be spinning out of control, to have suddenly gone insane. It will be up to everyone of us to restore calm and reason by following directives and doing our individual best to comply with each request for temporary changes in our behavior. This is a time for prayer, not just for those who are ill but for those who might become that way as well as for the medical personnel across the globe who are or will be fighting this demon virus. This is the time for unity and mending of the divisions that have produced so much rancor in recent times. This is the time for understanding, compassion and flexibility. This is the time to remind the people in our lives how much we love them.
If all goes well most of us will never be personally affected by the horrors of this virus. Hopefully when all is said and done we will actually be able to wonder if it was all much ado about nothing or if we did indeed prevent a more horrific scenario by doing whatever was needed at each juncture of the battle. We can only hope that by this time next year we will have dodged a bullet but for now it is time to arm ourselves with calm and the good sense to do what is asked of us. Nobody is immune from the consequences if we presume to know more than the good souls who are attempting to protect us. Take care. Keep in touch with one another. We are a strong species that has faced down danger before. We can do it but it will take the combined efforts of everyone!