Virus: Are we summer soldiers?

What did the man say — these are the times that try men’s souls?

Nearly deserted Walnut Street at rush hour

The man was Thomas Paine, and he was writing about America’s battle for freedom, a battle that was not going well. More of the quote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

We are in another battle now, a war, really, that tries the souls of every man and woman. We are not being asked to shoulder arms. Patriots are being asked to stand down at home. We are asked to do . . . nothing, for two weeks.

We have never experienced anything like this.

The worst hurricanes and blizzards have closed down towns for days or months or even years, but that was localized.

After we were attacked by Islamic terrorists on 9/11, the shutdowns were national, but after a few days restaurants opened, baseball was played and the bright lights of Broadway were relit.

In 2020, we are at war with an invisible enemy. We have learned the name of a new disease and new weapons against it — social distance and flattening the curve. Neither can stop the enemy. Each aims to slow it, so that when we fall sick, it will be over a period of time that hospitals can handle, rather than as an avalanche that will swamp hospitals, resulting in  denying treatment to many, as is happening in Italy, which is rationing by age. With too few beds and too few ventilators — which is also true in the U.S. — people are being left to die, figuratively at the doors of hospitals that are locked to them. 

This is an international crisis and a national test of character.

Social distance and staying at home.

“They will fail if people don’t adhere to them,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the immunologist who is the administration’s best medical spokesman. He also warned “the worst is ahead.”

The 7 million people of the San Francisco Bay area have been ordered to shelter in place for three weeks. This is the largest lockdown order I could find, although local governments have ordered various shutdowns of different lengths and severity. 

New York and Philadelphia, as examples, are not locked down. Maybe we should be.

Several European nations went into lockdown to avoid the catastrophe lashing Italy. 

Monday afternoon, after buying food for our dog at a Center City PetsMart that was stopping operations after 9 p.m., my girlfriend and I walked along a nearly deserted Walnut Street in the rush hour. It looked normal, except for few people.

Some restaurants were closed, others were offering only takeout or delivery service. One sign said, “God bless all. Be safe.” There was almost something medieval about it. I thought about the Black Plague.

We went home and stayed in that evening.

Thank God for television, which in the 21st century delivers so much more than news and entertainment.

One thing it can’t offer?


America has never before experienced no sports.

A friend who operates a betting sports site tells me gamblers are betting on darts tournaments in Europe, so desperate are they for action.

I miss sports, but see the proposed two-week indoor endurance as a good time to catch up on reading. Also a time to catch up on old and new movies. My Xfinity service can bring almost anything to my door.

So we will hunker down. Half-Pint is working from home, I write this from home, but I am comfortable walking around the city. 

We don’t have the problem of having to entertain young children, nor care for aging parents, but I have told the management of my high-rise I can watch after children or shop for elder neighbors if needed.

Read the paper or watch the news and you see stories about neighbors helping neighbors, or even strangers.

This is the optimistic report. My next one will be about the dark side. 

11 thoughts on “Virus: Are we summer soldiers?”

    Well done, pallie !
    Taking the high positive, eternal optimist road, lets hope ( pray ) that everything falls in place. The feds, with the cooperation of big business and pharma, are fast tracking possible vaccines that are being tested on humans as we speak.
    Two weeks of quarantine sounds like a lot, but is it enough ? With closed borders ( and airports ? ) we can stop the disease from coming into the country . No new disease limits the incubation period to the existing population.
    Soon enough, we’ll get back to near normal.

      1. You’re not just whistlin’ Dixie. My granddaughter told me this morning there are discussions underway here in Montgomery County to cancel school for THE REST OF THE YEAR.

        The economic nightmare is yet to come. Closing ALL the stores (except food and drugstores) means a lot of people no longer drawing a paycheck, no one is buying anything, truckers are not shipping things, restaurants are closed, with staffs losing their jobs (how many restaurants will reopen after this nightmare? Restaurants are notoriously bad investments). Very few people on the road, so much less gasoline is being sold, which means anyone connected to the fuel business will suffer. Etc, etc. The domino effect will be catastrophic. But be of good cheer, we are AMERICANS and are made of sterner stuff.

        1. Vince,
          What if “The economy stupid”, Carvillie phrase takes on a new meaning…..”The economy that gets us (got us) through” this thing? And I’m not suggesting for political gain, (reelection). It has been a healthy one! Just a thought!

  2. Stu – you bottom-line comment (“This is the optimistic report. My next one will be about the dark side.”) reminds me of an old saying handed down to me years ago:

    “Some days are like this. Other days are worse.”

    We wait with bated breath for your Doomsday report.

  3. Hey, two weeks locked up with my gorgeous wife — I’m LOVING it!

    Please try to remember that the air you breathe today was in California three days ago. You can run, but you cannot hide from this virus.

    I’m a hard-core Republican, but I think FDR said it best: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

  4. Top of the morning lads and lasses!!
    Happy St Patty’s Day
    Who could have ever thought.
    I will miss the blokes for a few breakfasts’.
    Still not as bad as the potato famine.
    Truly is a great country we live in!
    My mom told me of the empty seats in school in 1918.
    My English cousin just told me he’s setting up Skype for his mum “in case she ‘s confined to barracks” She’s 88 and widowed, but cheery!
    She’s been through a war.
    All of us know our parents have been through worse.
    I suspect Stu that “the dark side” you mean those who’ll take advantage?
    The next months will be a great test for us. Let’s not let each other down.
    If you’re able, get out for some fresh air, like Stu. I will.

  5. My mother (1918-1996) told me about the quarantine for Scarlet Fever for her family in Philly. Her brother made it through one night of high fever, Mom got Scarletina, a mild form. The family was 1 month in quarantine. Someone wrote a letter to the editor today as she remembered this in 1935. We are fortunate to have good communications now. We can stick it out. Let’s call each other to keep in touch with people who don’t reach out. It can be the kindest thing you can do for someone you know. Check on people, offer to shop for people. Send funny emails that pass around. Work in your garden with nice weather. Show the good in mankind. We can do it! We have a low death rate compared to Europe and China. Let’s keep it up and hope the news of a possible combination of drugs can stop this virus faster. Use common sense. The regular flu has already killed 22,000 people (CDC as of Mar 7), and possibly up to 55,000. So don’t panic. Be prudent. Why don’t we put this effort against the regular flu??

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