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Perspective on the Coronavirus

A few weeks ago my dad read one of my newsletters discussing the new normal and dealing with the mental aspects of Covid-19. We had just been put on lock down and I had to cancel all my in person fitness classes. 

My dad, who is in his 70's, currently works full time as an attorney in the Los Angeles area. Here is what he wrote. 

Putting Coronavirus Time of our Lives into Perspective

By Michael Brooks

When my daughter Lauren sent me her email about living in interesting times,  I was so impressed with her openness and love, especially for the people whose lives she touches, that I offered to write something about her grandparents who went through the second world war in England. I asked her if she thought it would help to put this Coronavirus time of our lives into perspective. She jumped at it. So what follows here are just a few of my memories of my parents experiences during the second world war.

So why talk about WW2 at all! Because for those of us who have not yet come to realize it, this is war!  In one way, I hope that I did not scare you. In another way I hope that I did. People need to take this seriously. I have heard so many youngsters saying that getting the virus is inevitable so might as well just get it and get over it. Well, maybe you will get over it, but maybe you will also unknowingly bring it home to your mother who may have asthma or your grandpa who may just be too old to fight it. You will kill them. Harsh words? You had better believe it. Or maybe you will just be sick enough to be hospitalized and be the lucky one to get the respirator and survive. And since there won't be enough respirators to go around, grandpa in the bed next to you won't get one and will be left to die. For those of you who think I'm being too dramatic. Think again!

When WW2 broke out,  my parents were 16 years old. My mother worked as a secretary in the Admiralty. They lived in a densely populated area of London. My father eventually went into the army. Time passed, and my mother was told that she was going to be a Navy girl. She refused and said she wanted to be in the land army. Most Americans do not know what the land army is. The British Isles were cut off from other countries and Europe was occupied by the Nazis. Much food and other necessaries were shipped. The Nazis wanted to starve the British so they sank the supply ships with U-boats. They were deadly. So the British rolled up their sleeves and turned Britain into a giant farm. They needed workers. Thus the land army was born.  I think they were all volunteers. Mostly girls. Teenagers. They were not soldiers, but sometimes those farms became the front lines and those brave girls did their share of dying too. You see, when the German bombers went to the cities to bomb them, they had fighter escorts; Messershmits and Stukas. After bombing the cities, while on their way back to occupied France, the German pilots sometimes saw the girls working in the fields. They strafed them with machine gun fire. Yes. They killed unarmed teenage girls growing potatoes, shooting from the air with machine guns.They also bombed the farm houses. My mother told me that she was at the top of the stairs in the farm house when a bomb made a direct hit on it. The blast threw her down the stairs. Fortunately she was not badly injured but told me that she noticed one white hair in her head after that. 

Perspective? No one is bombing us or strafing us with machine gun fire.

My parents told me that every night during the war they had to hang blackout curtains so that the German planes could not see lights. They bombed where they saw a light. 

Perspective? We do not have to hang blackout curtains.

The German bombers were relentless.Some of you have heard of the blitz. This was nighttime bombing raids against London and other cities from September 1940 - May 1941. Between 40,000 - 42,000 civilians were killed, about half in London, and 2 million houses destroyed or damaged. My grandparents were bombed out. That's an English expression for having to leave a now uninhabitable house because it was bombed. 

Perspective? You are not being bombed out of your house. You are being told to remain in it. Anyway, the British resolve was too strong. And in spite of the deaths, injuries, lack of medical help, and all around terrible conditions, the Germans failed. Why? Because the British stood together. 

My parents told me that for weeks on end their diet was bread, jam and some cheese. You want an egg? Look for it on the black market, if you can find it! You want a chicken? Raise your own!

Perspective? So you wait a few days for eggs to come into the store or get a pizza delivered. Or maybe you won't get your favorite latte for a while.  Not such a big sacrifice.

We over 70's most probably either fought in WW2 or know someone who did. I know we have many vets who fought in other wars: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. I talk about WW2 because this is war at home. This war is in my country, in my city, on my block, and in my house and in my neighbor's house. It is also on my planet. It is a world war. To me this is WW3. Here's the difference. This enemy does not care about your race, your age, your sexual identity, your political preferences, your country affiliation or your religion. It does not care whether you are a meat eater, a vegan, a vegetarian or on one of the seemingly 100 or so diets going around. It does not care if you are white, black, or some color in between. It does not care what language you speak. This enemy only cares that you are human. It is an equal opportunity invader.

Perspective? WW2 had the axis powers against the Allies. Covid-19 is the axis. Humans are the allies. Humans helping humans is how we win.

In WW2, metal gates, doors and fences were being torn out and made into bullets and other war related necessities.  Factories that made one product turned to make guns and tanks and planes.

Perspective? I heard that car companies are going to make respirators. Other companies will be making masks. Labs are ramping up to look for a vaccine or a medicine to fight the coronavirus.

I spoke to my neighbor who is a few years older than I.  I'll call her Janet to protect her identity. She has family in England. I called and asked her if she was okay and had everything she needed. We talked a bit about WW2 and how she thought we seniors were more equipped to deal with the hardships than the younger generation. Mostly because we heard it from our parents. We heard enough stories of the deprivations and the stress of being bombed nightly not knowing when it was your turn to be hit. We talked about being hungry and cold and sometimes bombed onto the streets. We also talked about victory because our parents generation were in the same boat, went about their business and stood together against a common enemy. They were not, the me me or me first generation. They were the, what can I do to make things better for you generation. What little they had they shared. Selfishness was not tolerated. Sacrifice was honored.

Time has brought us great leaders. Winston Churchill was one. I am reminded of his famous, we will fight them on the beaches...speech. I am also reminded of the signal sent by Vice Admiral of the Royal Navy, Horatio Nelson, from the HMS Victory as the Battle of Trafalgar was about to commence on 21 October 1805. He said,"England expects that every man will do his duty." How about we update that to "The world expects that every human will do their duty."  Just a suggestion.

After hanging up, I called another neighbor originally from Iran to say hi and just to chat about us all being in this together. She told me that she had already spoken to Janet to check on her. She also said if I needed something just to call her since she has to go out a lot.

A few minutes ago, while I was writing this, one of my co-workers called me and told me that she needed to go on a necessary shopping trip and she could pick some milk and eggs up for me if I needed them.

With people like this, I put the chance of winning the war at 100%

Perspective? Well, you know.


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