Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Richard III, Shakespeare
As 2020 slouches into the past—and good riddance—it seems that this winter is indeed ‘the winter of our discontent.’
We have suffered through almost a year of COVID, which remains rampant and as yet unconquered, and we continue to suffer it’s widespread and devastating economic consequences. Although vaccines have been developed amazingly quickly, distribution is only just beginning. In parallel, and partially as a result of the pandemic, 2020 was also a year of widespread political discontent in both Europe and the United States.
Let us pray that 2021 will bring a ‘glorious summer’ and that ‘all the clouds that lour’d upon our house’ will soon be ‘in the deep bosom of the ocean buried,’ so that we may indeed have a Happy New Year.
It may be cold comfort but, contrary to innumerable media pieces, these are not the worst of times—far from it. A hundred years ago in 1921, still in the lifetime of more than half a million of our senior citizens, the world was struggling with the aftermath of the ‘Spanish Flu,’ a H1N1 influenza virus (similar to the 2009 ‘swine flu.’) Approximately 500 million people, a third of the world’s population, were infected, of whom between 20 million and 50 million died.
In comparative terms, the Spanish Flu was at least 30 times more deadly than COVID 19. In addition, to make matters worse, the Spanish Flu struck at the end of World War I which had claimed at least 15 million deaths.
An emergency hospital in Kansas in 1918; the epidemic was not ‘Spanish’ and may have originated in the Midwest.
Tale of two headlines: Seattle imposes flu restrictions to save lives while celebrating enemy deaths in battle.