Let Us Look at History for Hope

This week has been insane. What I thought on Monday has changed completely to where I think about things now. I went from blind optimism to crushing dread as I have watched so much of the news in Colorado and the United States change overnight, daily, and every hour.

At this point, I know that the whole country is looking at months of change, not weeks, and possibly years of upheaval. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but it’s the truth. We are in new territory for those living today. For our ancestors, this all looks very similar.

Many parallels have been drawn to the 1918 to 1919 Spanish Flu Epidemic. Others have compared our hours of need to WWII and production. Go back further and one sees centuries of stories and diseases that changed peoples and cultures decade after decade.

Dwell too long on those numbers and death records and all of this will fell painfully dismal. Dwell instead on the lessons and we can see some hope in how to shape the coming months. For however bad something was in the past, or even now, lessons can be learned from it to aid humanity, and change our future.

Regardless how you feel about the spread of Covid-19, and what could or should have been done to stop it, we are now in a time where we have to take action to prevent it from becoming worse.

We know from the history of medicine that to stop pandemics you have to stop new people from getting the disease. Sometimes this comes from an extreme measure of isolation (like Covid-19), sometimes it is with the sharing of information on prevention (aids), sometimes it is changing water and sewage routing (cholera).

We also know from history that humanity has faced countless enemies regarding disease, war, death, natural disasters, and economies. Our entire history is littered with strife. It is the toll that comes with being human.

What we do know from our knowledge of the past is that quick action and understanding often makes the difference on how lethal something will be and what the long term impacts will be. Even in recent history we know that Ebola of 2014 or H1N1 of 2009 would have been much worse had switch action not been taken.

Our United States bubble has not had to sacrifice much, especially in middle and upper classes, in well over 70 years. WWII is the last known restrictions and rationing that we had nationwide. It was where everyone cut back for the benefit of the United States as a whole and our military overseas. This effected households in how much gas, tires, fabric, and food they had only a monthly basis.

My grandma told stories of using spray-on pantyhose and drawing a line down the back of her leg with an eyebrow pencil because the country had a ration on nylon. She also talked about trading ration stamps with friends and neighbors so people got what they needed. This came on the tail of the great depression, people had little. Her entire life as a young person was doing without.

Guess what? They got through it. They got through it and grew up and had a successful, long life.

My husband and I made the decision this week to send my stepdaughter out of town to stay with his parents until things improve. This means that she isn’t exposed to us having to still work out of the house. It is less about her being ill, but her taking it to her grandparents, great-grandparents, or her mother who is immune compromised. Getting her away from exposure increases her safety and others. It also means that she is with people that are not constantly inundated with “being out” and the emotional toll right now. We don’t know how this will look in a few weeks, but I do know that if sending kids away in the London Blitz was an option, and a selfless act, then so is sending her to stay in a safe, rural area.

We are faced with a new crisis in 2020, but it is one that we can face together. Much like in the Spanish Flu, or WWII, or any other time of strife in the United States and around the world, we do not know 100% how this will go. What we do know is that we can ease the burden together.

What does this mean? It means that we can help those that are most vulnerable right now. Maybe it means calling your aunt who is elderly and alone. Maybe it is doing errands for an elderly neighbor. Giving blood at the hospital means that they won’t run out as they have less donations. I am currently trying to organize co-workers to sew masks for nurses and doctors as there is or will be a shortage. I am also being grateful and practicing kindness where I can.

Many people will die from this, as many people already have. Businesses will suffer. Economies are hit hard. However, as living on this blue marble has shown us, we will fight forward as a species. What I hope comes from this is an understanding and a passion to come out of this stronger, wiser, and bolder than before.

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