Paine had Revolutionary War-era ‘Merica in mind when he penned his famed “These are the times that try men’s souls” line in reference to a crisis of another kind – but this one feels no less critical.
Forgiving the 18th Century gender exclusion, Paine pretty much nailed the prevailing national sentiment during an age bereft of Internet and Netflix – asking the stretched-to-the-breaking point colonials to dig deep and hold fast for the benefit of their fledgling nation.
Humans were involved then, as now, of course, and most know that when you add Homo Sapiens to the mix anything can happen and probably will – the latin meaning of the name notwithstanding. We’ve proven ourselves to be a mercurial, apparently heavily-armed species after all.
Excluding the rest of the country for the moment and focusing on the nexus of our namesake highways, colonists living in the 24/680 seem to be holding up fairly well despite buildups of Cabin Fever, occasional visits by marauding bands seeking catalytic convertors and Amazon packages, and diminished provisions. Veteranos of calamity by now, most of us dismissed this morning’s temblor (a 2.0 Magnitude yawner epicentered near Brentwood) and moved on to more pressing matters – like securing the morning camp coffee.
The majority among us seem to have dug deep and dug in, prepared to fight an invisible menace by denying it opportunity to spread. Some of us have demonstrated remarkable resilience and even largesse during these, well, bizarre times – looking out for their neighbor and coming up with creative games to keep their kids from beating the hell out of each other.
In many cases the kids have actually shown us the way, exhibiting patience and wisdom beyond their years, parents either falling in line with their example or falling woefully behind. And there’s no more scathing retribution for a parent than knowing your kid knows mom or dad came unglued and stood wailing, fists clenched, in front of everyone in the paper products aisle of their local Costco.
Not to say there hasn’t been some of that. A lot, in fact, with some locals succumbing to internal pressures and external provocations and doing things Paine may not have thought possible before we all found ourselves reenacting the worst scenes from “Contagion.”
Under prolonged lockdown, more people seem to be caving in to our inner freakishness, at times listening to the Demons What Drive Us – with occasionally murderous results – and doing some of the really dumb things human kind uses as counterpoints to our advances in science, technology, and the arts.
There have been suicides, and incidents of domestic abuse, and full-blown adult slap fights over parking spots. Like any revolutionary moment blood has been shed – with the cocktail hour curtailed in Orinda recently after a local got their finger stuck in a blender; and other poor colonials losing appendages in home workshop accidents.
In another oddly American way, mask wearing has become a political flashpoint of sorts – with some regarding it as un-patriotic behavior worthy of congressional investigation and even in-person confrontation, while others regard the practice as a simple, lifesaving measure.
We’re not sure if similar issues erupted at Valley Forge during the Long Encampment, but we’re scouring our history books for evidence.
The good news is that unlike George Washington we seem to have gotten the kinks in our supply chain worked out for now, and we no longer douse the delivery person with Lysol spray when they arrive with groceries, an Amazon package or a tub of Chicken Tikka or Chicken Soup.
We’ve resumed and honed the practices of our colonial ancestors – tending our garden, collecting rain water, trying to do more with less. (Ed. – That reminds us: Anyone have a milk cow for sale? We’re looking for a milker.)
Things seem to be settling down a bit for now as pandemic-related casualties – while still painful – appear to be fewer in number and we look to Washington – our capital, not the general – for signs of leadership.
If and when this Global Disruption ends, perhaps we’ll be able to determine who the “summer soldier” and the “sunshine patriot” will turn out to have been through it all. And, as Paine further states in his landmark work, more inclusive at the end of his effort, we’ll be able to see who among us “deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”