To compare the pandemic to a “war” would be disrespectful to anyone who has actually lived through such a conflict, however, it is important that we understand in the gravest of terms just how serious the ongoing coronavirus situation is. Yesterday, I learned that 41-year old Broadway actor Nick Cordero died from COVID-19. I had never heard of this man, however, the fact that someone so young and healthy succumbed to this virus should make everyone nervous.
We are humans in love with instant gratification. For our spring of self-isolation and social distancing shouldn’t we be rewarded with a nice summer vacation? Unfortunately, this simple carrot and stick incentive is dangerous when little actions like traveling a few hours to the beach can have fatal consequences for innocent passersby. If we truly want to bring an end to this conflict once and for all, we must continue to make sacrifices even when the reward is not apparently lurking around the corner.
Perhaps, delayed gratification (i.e. the long wait to return to life as we know it) can be easier if we put this pandemic into perspective. So, Dear Reader, if you think things could not possibly get any worse, please take these extraordinary events in history to help you appreciate our complicated, yet comparatively perhaps-not-soooo-bad present:
1347 – 1352
The bubonic plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis and is commonly spread through contact with infected fleas. It killed 25 million people in a five-year period and in this number wiped out one-third (!!) of Europe.
Jim Crow Laws
1870s – 1965
These laws mandated the segregation of races in the former Confederate States of America (and other areas) and instituted racism against all non-white citizens. According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968, including 3,446 black Americans and 1,297 white Americans.
Also, on this note, not to mention SLAVERY which is a centuries-old practice of far too many states throughout history.
Spanish Flu (aka the 1918 Flu Pandemic)
1918 – 1920
This flu was an unusually deadly strain of the influenza virus H1N1. About a third of the world’s population became infected with the disease in the course of four waves. Estimates on the death toll vary widely with more conservative guesses starting at around 17 million and the higher end claiming more than 50-million+ lives lost.
World War II
1939 – 1945
This world-wide conflict was fought in part to resolve the lingering issues from WWI by two coalitions—the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, the US, the USSR). It is estimated that 70 – 80 million perished. Atrocities of this conflict include bombings on civilians, the Holocaust, the Holodomor (great famine in the Ukraine), the dropping of the atomic bombs, among other tragedies.
All in all, human history is littered with horrific and extraordinary times and my sporadic handpicking of events is, of course, not representative of anything except my limited imagination. However, my reason for this list is to put our current suffering into perspective. Unlike events like war and genocide, we can actually make a large difference as individuals just by staying home and doing nothing. How amazing is it that our simple inaction will help, rather than prolong suffering?
Maybe we don’t get a proper vacation this year (or next year), however, if that means many decades of life and vacations to come, then it’s totally worth it!
Regardless, Dear Reader, I wish you a happy, healthy, and socially-responsible summer.