The title of this post is a play on the title of a novel written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera. Marquez’s novel in turn was inspired by Daniel Defoe‘s A Journal in the Plague Year written as an eyewitness report during the 1665 Black Plague in London. (Here is an online e-version from The Project Glutenberg.)
So there is precedent for writing about plagues which in “our” time is novel coronavirus. We have yet to learn the outcome as indeed it is just getting started. What will our generation “write” for future generations?
The Spanish flu of 1918 is perhaps the most recent pandemic affecting the U.S. at the scale of the one we are in now. However, the outcomes could be vastly different IF WE HEED THE LESSONS OF PAST PANDEMICS.
Don’t squelch the truth
Even the Black Plague in London, which DeFoe’s story chronicles, shows that when it first broke out, families and then city officials tried to suppress it to control public panic. That should shake us up. We are unprepared to combat the novel coronavirus because we didn’t react immediately by listening to health experts and the experience of China and Korea. There is even rumbling in the White House that we should let up on the quarantine to save the economy. A curious absence of Dr. Stephen Fauci, who heads up the NIH Immunology section and who has helped keep the correct information disseminating from the Hill, does not bode well either. He notably has corrected the erroneous statements of the President which as we have seen is sure to get him dismissed or fired. This should raise an alarm.
During the 1918 Flu Pandemic, because countries were embroiled in WWI, a horrible war with massive death and dismemberment, the city of Philadelphia held a big parade to pump up national patriotism, and, as a result of the crowds, caused a surge in the flu pandemic from which the city never recovered. Loss of life compared to other cities which acted quickly, was 30x’s higher. I am thinking now of the beaches in Florida that stayed open for Spring Break until just a couple of days ago. How did those crowded beaches, hotels, and restaurants magnify the spread of Covid-19? We have yet to learn that. More so, the impetus to save the economy, whether localized or national, can kill people by putting them second to the GDP. The pandemic highlights that pure capitalism does not have a human face.
Kindness and compassion build resiliency during and after the pandemic
Love abounds in America, however, all across the country, in individuals, local leaders and Governors like Andy Beshear, in my state of Kentucky. He has been on top of the latest health information and acted quickly which is probably why we have a low rate of infection comparatively to other states that hesitated This kind of loving care (for it is loving to assure the safety of people) is in contrast to the President who is mostly concerned with the economy. While he does talk about keeping jobs for people by keeping business open, he ignores science. What good will it do if people die by going back to work and causing this pandemic to rage through America? We are on a path to be the center of the pandemic globally.
A lesson from past pandemics is good public compliance to health recommendations is essential. Right leadership at all levels of government and society is consequential.
This is a time to accept the scientific information coming to us from many trustworthy sources AND the living example of countries that were slow to act: Italy being one where the death rate is very high.
A very good summary of the complex 1918 Flu Pandemic can be heard on NPR’s On Point which aired today, March 24, 2020.
Meanwhile, the citizens, families, and individuals, and some businesses are acting with bravery, compassion, and creativity, i.e. love.
RIGHT NOW WE ARE WRITING OUR STORY OF THIS PANDEMIC.
See what has been planned to make a response on this scales: The National Response Framework – which is not currently being used. NRF_FINALApproved_508_2011028v1040
Write about how your community is responding with love and creativity. Submission to Yes! Magazine’s Call for Submissions (deadline April 3).
READERS: Another plague novel I highly recommend is Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders