675,000 Americans died due to the Spanish Flu in and around 1918. Yet we didn’t “turtle.” (Or worry about calling it the “Spanish Flu.” Even though it may have originated in Kansas, but probably came from—you guessed it—China.) 110,000 died in WWI, as well, yet we didn’t throw in the towel. Then we had a great depression followed by WW II. Many, many more deaths. Yet, we did not give up. We did not lose hope. We did not change our economic and political systems. We did not attack each other. Or burn down our cities and destroy our monuments. Most chose to emphasize gratitude for what they had rather than express disdain for their hardship, envy of others, an entitlement mentality, or even great remorse for the times in which they lived. We won both world wars, survived the H1N1 pandemic and the Great Depression and then promptly went about the business of making our nation greater than ever before. That is the kind of tenacity that will impress friend and foe alike. How did we do it? And perhaps more to the point in today’s climate, why did we do it?
The population of the United States in 1918 was around 103 million. Today it is roughly 330 million, well over three times that of the country that suffered through the Spanish Flu. The 675,000 deaths due to the Spanish Flu would equate to approximately 2,163,000 today, more than 13 times the actual current number. (As of this writing, the U.S. has suffered “only” about 165,000 deaths due to the China Virus. Maybe the 1918 mortality rate and the adjustment for present population is what prompted the English professor who predicted 2 million deaths in America from COVID-19 to issue that startling and macabre forecast.)
To recap: despite a much deadlier pandemic—and a world war— in 1918 we didn’t shut down our economy, close our schools and jail people for being mask-less or failing to socially distance. We did not prevent them from attending church services or funerals. Why?
Over two percent of the U.S. population died from the (inaccurately named) Spanish Flu. Was President Woodrow Wilson utterly incompetent? Uncaring? Concerned only with his own financial and political well-being? I don’t know. But I do know that the media/press did not constantly badger, berate, mock and libel him. Nor did it do its best to do its worst by sowing division, envy and hatred among Americans of differing backgrounds.
We were figuratively—and literally—closer to our founding values then. We were more religious, less secular, and far more family oriented. We were, bluntly, younger and tougher. Where once we spoke softly and carried a big stick, now we babble incessantly and equivocate. And, worst of all, far too many of us have disdain for—and fear of—the truth. If we even believe in its existence. Which is why we are losing faith in our own existence.
Two songs seem especially poignant in these times. I have slightly altered the excerpted lyrics in each case by changing the “protagonist” from a man to the United States. (“The West” in general could be substituted, as well.) The first excerpt is from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” the second from Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock.”
And now the end seems
And we may face the final curtain
My friend we’ll say it clear
We’ll state our case of which we’re certain
Regrets we've had a few
But then again too few to mention
We did what we had to do
And saw it through without exemption
Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When we bit off as much as we could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
We ate it up and spit it out, We faced it all
And we stood tall and did it our way
For what is a country, what has it got
If not itself, then it has not
To say the things it truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows we took the blows
Our hands were steady
Our eyes were clear and bright
Our walk had purpose
Our steps were quick and light
And we held firmly
To what we felt was right
Like a rock
Like a rock, we were strong as we could be
Like a rock, nothing ever made us flee
Like a rock, we were something to see
Like a rock
And we stood arrow straight
Unencumbered by the weight
Of all these hustlers and their schemes
We stood proud, we stood tall
High above it all
We still believed in our dreams
Thirty years now
Where’d they go
We don’t seem to know
We sit and we wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone
The left has destroyed everything it has ever touched. It has destroyed countless lives. It is the destroyer of nations. It has become death, the destroyer of worlds. It must itself be rooted out and sent back to the Hades from whence it came.
If, instead, the United States succumbs to it, it will be the end of history.
Or, at minimum, the end of hope.