Coronavirus or Not, We Need A Return To Sanity

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Ben Franklin was a teen when the plague struck Boston. His mother, having endured the plague several times before, was keen to the fact that the first remedy against this recurrent illness was not to panic. Many would get sick, for sure, but not most. Some would die, but by 18th century standards it was expected, even accepted. This too would pass, almost as quickly as it arrived.

And life would go on as before.

The plague was part of life in 18th century colonial America – and, for that matter, much of

the world. It might come and go every half-century, or even every few decades. But people knew it would always go.

They didn’t close their shops, furlough their workers, suspend school, curtail travel, or sequester themselves away from their family and neighbors.

The Port of Boston was bustling, the markets at Faneuil Hall busy, wagons still traversed Boston Post Road, and the taverns opened for business, as always.

The plague, although debilitating and even lethal, did not shut down the Commonwealth. 

Life continued, with minor interruptions. 

People were cautious — yet serene; circumspect — yet productive; apprehensive — yet stoic. Courage and vigilance would prevail, rather than fear and paranoia.

Would that we inherited the wisdom and tenacity of our forbearers.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin Roosevelt meant what said when he assumed the leadership of our nation at the height of the Great Depression:  Fear can be debilitating. It can seep into and saturate a people — creating a malaise, a sense of futility and despair; leading to an inertia where people cease to function in their daily lives, morphing into frightened victims hiding behind their living room curtains, lapsing into not only physical exile, but psychological exile, as well.

Yet there comes a time when neurosis must give way to reason. When paranoia must be overtaken with logic. When fear must be replaced with courage.

That time is fast approaching us.

Shutting down our entire country to prevent a contagious illness that may — or may not — afflict even a small percentage of a segment of our population is, to put it mildly, unreasonable.

Withdrawing from society because a virus has been shown to kill less than 2 percent of those it afflicts is illogical.

Fearing a virus that has affected a minuscule portion of the country is something that only the most timid would succumb to. Yet that is precisely what has happened here. 

Americans are not supposed to be a timid people. Our history proves it.

So how we deal with this situation?

In a time of crisis leadership matters.

The American Revolution would have been lost if George Washington had succumbed to the fear of rampant illness ravaging his troops at Valley Forge. The Civil War would have ended in defeat if Ulysses Grant had been terrified of the huge casualties his soldiers endured from infectious diseases.

World War I might have ended in a yet-worse catastrophe if Woodrow Wilson had reverted to extreme measures to curtail the Spanish Flu pandemic. And that one was as bad as it gets.

The troop trains and ships headed towards Europe were incubators of the disease, and the Army Medical Corps knew it. The pandemic ended up killing more than 45,000 American soldiers, close to the number killed in combat. Worldwide the death rate was 10 percent — of 500 million infected, more than 50 million died.

Nevertheless, the military enemy had to be defeated. World War I had to end. In victory. Which is exactly what happened, in large part because President Wilson pressed toward victory with little consideration of the inevitable death toll from the pandemic. He — and the nation — had no choice. Throughout World War I and the Spanish Flu, commerce continued, elections stayed on schedule, markets and restaurants flourished, subways and trains carried people to work. And the schools remained open.

Eventually this pandemic, devoid of any vaccine or cure, petered out. As they always do.

And today ….

If we left it up to liberal darlings like Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom we’d be hiding out in our shuttered homes until Christmas. A recession would morph into a depression that would make the Great Depression seem tranquil by comparison.

But Andrew Cuomo is not president. Donald Trump is.

And President Trump is not the leader who will sit by and watch America reach the precipice of a recession, let alone a depression. It won’t happen. He won’t let it happen.

Like FDR of long ago, almost every day we welcome President Trump into our living rooms, perhaps one or two hours at a time, with the latest updates on this pandemic, and his solutions to it.

He does not obfuscate or deflect. No question from the biased, hostile press is off limits. Even now, in their quest to derail him, he stands above them, tutoring their hapless selves on the reality of the day.

Dread the thought of an alternate world of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Her dogmatic liberalism would likely have precluded her from stopping fights from China, with the end result that the current pandemic would possibly have hit Spanish Flu proportions by now. And despite thousands dying everywhere, the mainstream media would still have touted her as a heroic leader.

In times of crisis leadership can make or break a nation. Enter Donald Trump.

There is a finite time that our nation can remain in its current state of inertia. And that time will come to an end. Soon. Not months, per Cuomo and Company. But weeks.

Holy Week — Easter and Passover — will soon be upon us. But these holidays will be devoid of family gatherings. By then far too many will have been sequestered at home and separated from work for far too long. Another month of this and any sane person will be nearing their breaking point. People will demand a return to normalcy.

And it’s coming. April 30. As President Trump so declared. Yet we really can’t go beyond that. The American people can’t. Our economy cannot sustain a shut down into May. Bailout money only lasts so long. People cannot endure being shuttered at home, kids out of school, locked out of work for much longer. Something has to give.

Donald Trump the businessman knows this.

Donald Trump the president will see it through.

Have faith. The end is in sight.


Tom Mountain is a Newton resident and a Member of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee.