Memorial Day – This Year for Everyone
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a solemn time of commemorating all of the U.S. military personnel who have died in any war since the Revolutionary War: 1,354,664 to date. (666,441 from combat; 673,929 from other causes.)
Yesterday Yo-Yo Ma played all six Bach cello suites on PBS as a memorial service to the people who have died of COVID-19, 94,629 in the United States to date, 328,000 in the world as of May 21, 2020.
1/7 as many Americans have died of COVID-19 in the last three months as have died in 245 years of U.S. history.
My friend Edward Lewis moved to Thailand five years ago, and emailed me this message five days ago:
“California has confirmed 3219 COVID-19 related deaths.
Thailand, with twice the population (70+ million) has 56. Yes 56. The hospitals have a minimum # of patients. Less than 200.
Shutting down all air traffic, curfews, banning alcohol sales, closing non-essential businesses and many other life-saving restrictions have made this possible.
I have yet to see someone w/o a mask. Indoors or outdoors. Additionally, if I wish to enter the market must use the Purell offered and have my temperature taken by an infra-red thermometer a few feet away.”
And then the hard take-away:
“I liken people who scream their rights have been taken away to someone who decides to jump off a bridge, then in the process grabs the hands of two nearby strangers and pulls them along as well.”
The sacrifice of the individual for the common good or the preservation of the country, for the common good or preservation of fellow human beings, is a deeply existential dilemma, and an ancient one throughout human history.
As government officials begin to experiment with easing the restrictions on sheltering in place in California and other areas of the United States, I’m reminded of what a friend shared with me recently from Spock in Star Trek, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” And Kirk added, “…and the one.”
Each of us will make our own decisions today, how to honor those who have died in military service, how to honor those who have died battling a ravaging disease. And how to honor/protect those still living, still grieving, still sharing our common space and our common existential dilemmas.