Vienna memeorial to the Plague 1683

We all think we are living in a time of epic historic proportions. A pandemic that has infected close to two million and killed over a hundred and ten thousand people by this Easter Sunday of 2020.  By the time it will be over and done, it likely will have infected three million and killed over two hundred thousand.  Our children’s children will look back on this time and still remember the quarantine and social distancing we did to defeat this plague.  I doubt that plague memorials will be built in remembrance, especially in the spectacular style of Medieval memorials.  We don’t have the artisans nor the style the masters of the Baroque had.

But probably it will not be remembered much beyond the time of our grandchildren.  It will impact future generations very much as the 1918 Spanish Flu impacts us,  just a footnote in the history books. That Flu killed fifty to a hundred times the numbers of people of the Corona Pandemic, and it was only a hundred years ago. But the fog of history wipes out the sad and bitter memories quite well, once the people have lived through it are gone.

Who remembers the “Black Death,” much less the Antonine Plague? Yersinia pestis wiped out half of Europe, whole villages died out, and Smallpox killed 20 % of England.  History is a great equalizer.  It puts it all in perspective.  The present will not have the significance in a hundred years that we think it should. It will not give note to the sacrifices we had to make.  It will not recognize the loss of stock market value, the closure of schools, the need to wear home-sewn masks to go to the grocery store, and especially the lack of toilet paper or ventilators. Nor will it take note of the tremendous increase in unemployment, and not even the bitter loss of family and friends. 

It is a reminder to me of the relative insignificance of our own existence in this grandiose universe, in which we are lucky to exist. There are billions upon trillions of galaxies.  We are but a speck of stardust in all of this. In the words of Charles Dickens, “It is the best of times and the worst of times!”

History is our only link to what has gone before us, and is the reason we must remember the past! It is this tradition that celebrates the heroic and grand parts, and condemns the evil times, people, and episodes. If we don’t, we are doomed to repeat them. It would be a fitting and a good thing to build a COVID memorial!