This Spring, the Vernal Equinox will not, as usual, preside over the two perennial public celebrations, of Passover, celebrating the freedom of the Hebrews, from ancient Egyptian slavery, nor, shortly thereafter, Easter, the Christian celebration of the resurrection and the re-birth of spring. All rejoicing, indeed, all business and social life, has been arrested by this season’s uninvited and unwanted holiday guest, the Coronavirus disease (“Covid-19”). Regarding this, now, pandemic virus, the World Health Organization, as of the date of this writing, reports the following, worldwide, grim statistics: infected: 1,812,734, and deaths: 113,675. American society is, in large part, shut down, in its observance of a government recommended, general quarantine.
Thus, at the present, and for the unpredictable duration of the presenting pandemic, normal life is extensively, circumscribed. The prophylactic proscription of social interaction, and the compliant quarantine, in combination with the disquiet and fear of an effectively invisible and potentially, lethal organism, has resulted in a surreal atmosphere; in some ways comparable, [for readers, old enough to remember] to the prevalent unease, in America, during the stressful period of World War ll.
The war years, not unlike the present time, were witness to an ever-present and palpable wariness, a seemingly endless period, of existential uncertainty about an unknown future. The Axis forces, under the command of Adolph Hitler, an insane and power hungry psychopath, seemed to be making fast progress in their proclaimed intention to conquer the entire world. Families, huddled together in living rooms, listened, anxiously, to the radio, to hear the newscasters of the day, recount the latest events on the various battlefields. Parents were sick with worry about their young sons in active service. Certain foods, like butter and coffee, and materials like silk (for parachutes), gasoline and rubber (tires) were rationed or, simply, unavailable. Installed on many selected rooftops were huge, bright searchlights, crossing and re -crossing each other in the night sky, in search for enemy bombers. White helmeted volunteers, carrying bright flashlights and wearing white reflective chest straps, served nightly, as wartime watchman (“night wardens”).
After school, together with many other small children, we dutifully, searched out scraps of metal, empty food cans and pieces of rubber, and brought our small wagon loads to previously assigned, collection points. If memory accurately serves, we can remember being shown official flashcards, designed for citizen identification of depicted silhouette shapes of enemy airplanes. Despite the passage of many decades, we can still remember, the black, outline shapes of the German Stuka, fighter-bomber and the Messerschmitt bomber, as well as the Zero, Japanese fighter plane. We can also recall, some instances of the public’s general anxiety over widespread, ominous, rumors of Japanese submarines being sighted, at night, off the coast of Brooklyn’s Coney Island.
This time, the feared enemy is sub- microscopic, yet, with an empirical potential for illness and mortality. The brave “soldiers” who, contemporaneously, confront the enemy, are health providers, doctors, nurses and medical technicians, masked and protectively cloaked, who valorously, risk life and health, to help those afflicted with this novel and unprecedented virulent organism.
We are hopeful, that the experience of the existential threat, will encourage where applicably needed, a rejuvenated appreciation for the precious franchise of life, and the valuable use of one’s remaining years, in the two -fold pursuit, of just and universal brotherhood, and the sincere (life-enhancing) aspiration, for personal growth.