Newmann: Keep calm and carry on
A recent story in The Washington Post focused on the angst many folks have been experiencing during the reign of the pandemic — and highlighted some of the more dire effects that angst has produced.
Emotional distress, a breakdown of coping mechanisms, inappropriate or aggressive behavior (especially toward folks trying to enforce mandated policies), a disconnect from others … these are just a few of the psychological symptoms mentioned in the article. And then there’s the fear of actually catching the virus.
All in all, not a very heartening piece of reading.
But maybe we can take heart — and a few lessons — from the not-too-distant past.
If you happened to be born in, say, 1900, you would have, during your lifetime, experienced an overwhelming array of calamitous events.
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When you turn 14, World War l (then known as The Great War — or, when it finally ended in 1918, the most devastating war to that point in history) would have started. Then, at age 18, you’re saddled with the Spanish Flu — also known as The Great Flu — which lasted for two years and ended up infecting about 500 million folks (about one-third of the world’s population).
You have a respite from the privation … until 1929, when the markets crash — and the Great Depression begins. This sad piece of history lasts until around 1939 (around your own 39th birthday).
So much for the “Great” events.
A couple of years later, World War ll breaks out. It dwarfs World War l in size and scope. By this time, you’re probably wondering, “What’s next?”
The war finally ends in 1945 and you’ve got a few more years of relative tranquility … until the Korean War starts in 1950. So here we go again.
The war finishes in a stalemate a few years later — and is a blow to U.S. supremacy. But the end of the war also signals the beginnings of an arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that threatens to blow up the world. Time to build a bomb shelter.
Meanwhile, the McCarthy hearings, which are meant to ferret out Communists in both our government and in other walks of life, start in 1954 and throw the country into a paranoia. They turn out to be latter-day Salem witch trials — totally without any merit — but, in the process, destroy many careers. And lives.
By this time, you’re around 54 years old … and possibly wondering what else can happen?
You get a rather short respite.
Then a president, a presidential candidate and a revered civil rights’ activist are assassinated. And we’ve also become heavily involved in yet another war, this time in Vietnam. There are massive protests against the war which divide the country. The upheaval comes as we also experience a deepening racial divide. And, as if all this is not enough, a disgraced president resigns.
The war slowly grinds to a halt … and, as it does, you turn 75. In virtually every decade of your life you’ve seen incredible amounts of devastation and strife.
But you’ve survived all the travail. And, more than surviving, you’ve been able to keep moving forward with your life. In the face of all odds, you and your contemporaries have transformed the country into a world leader and taken it into an age of unequaled prosperity. Seventy-five years of continual (and, in some cases, unequaled) hardships — and you’re still standing tall.
If you can survive the multitude of adversities and still come out on top … well, we’re your descendants.
And, if we put our minds to it, we can do it, too.
Tom Newmann splits his time between Edwards and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.