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