When the light came on

David Christy

It seems to me that with every year that passes we — as a society — get more complacent than our forebears with our lot in life.

I can communicate with just about anyone I want, from a minicomputer we call a smartphone, to a laptop, a watch, a home computer, ad nauseam.

With this technology we presently enjoy, it has made us almost complacent to the fact we now rely on that technology to do many, many things in our lives without us having to really do anything.

When you are in the middle of a disease pandemic like COVID-19, we rely on experts to help inform us of what to do, what to expect, things we need to be doing to help us cope with a novel disease. We have all this knowledge at our fingertips, and seem to be ignoring it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I think most people realize we are in the midst of something that one day will be a chapter in a school textbook.

Or maybe just a page.

Unless you are a doctor, a health professional, a scientist or researcher in the field, it’s up to each one of us to get through what has turned into a real crisis.

I remember reading and hearing about the novel coronavirus sweeping China, and then in Europe striking Italy and Spain, and I thought this is terrible. And yet, their number of cases and deaths now pale in comparison to the United States. All any of has to do is to look back on history at what transpired to our forebears — the people we have to thank for us being here in the first place. I’m talking about our maybe six or eight or 10 great-grandparents.

Do you realize you have 1,024 great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents? Now, all of them obviously have gone on from this life, giving you traits and passing on genetics, how you are reading this column today because you fought off a potentially life-threatening disease or event, how you are coping with a disease today.

It’s staggering to think that you and I and everyone else on planet Earth is only here because of someone else in our extended family. Kind of weird to ponder that your 100-great-grandpa might have looked like comic book caveman Alley Oop. He was possibly a savage, because he had to be to survive, find a mate and procreate.

I’m sure everyone is tired of talking about disease. But, again, disease has always been with mankind and always will be. All we can do is to work and think our way out of the latest disease pandemic.

I still can’t imagine how scared people must have been in 1918 when the Spanish flu struck down millions of seemingly healthy people as we emerged from the First World War. They didn’t see a deadly disease on their horizon, just celebrating the fact the war was over.

However, disease, as history tells us, can be a byproduct of war.

It threw millions of people in our armed services in training camps and in the trenches in France together in close proximity, and the disease had an unwilling and unknowing host to spread like wildfire.

Again, the Spanish flu was horrifying because it had to be fought by medicine and a health care system totally unprepared for what was to come.

People dying of a disease in sometimes a single day just doesn’t happen much in history. Yet in 1918 and 1919, it struck the world, and 675,000 Americans died from it before it passed through the population and the virus mutated into a form that didn’t kill people.

Medicine during this time was overwhelmed, and never came up with a solution to it. People simply caught the Spanish flu, and either died or lived — and gained immunity to it. It was as simple as that. Social distancing was used, masks were worn, churches and schools closed, and our forebears somehow got through it.

Now, modern medicine is infinitely more prepared for COVID-19 than was health care in 1918. And yet, as good as medicine is, it has been overwhelmed, as we saw in New York, as we are seeing in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida.

The problem — and maybe the solution — is each of us is unique. Each of us has our own unique system of fighting off disease, or getting symptoms either mild or that can kill. Unfortunately, how we act or don’t act can either make COVID-19 livable or it can take us and the economy down with it. We have great technology, but it is only as good as each of us acts and reacts to it.

We sometimes have very limited control over our lives, and that always is a scary, most unsettling proposition.

Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Visit his column blog at www.tinyurl.com/Column-Blog

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