Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues


          The pandemic began and I was sure of one thing, but no idea other things were coming. I knew the virus would be around longer than expected but not that our national response would be outright resistance to good sense and the best science–that the war we would wage would be against each other, not the deadly disease. Nor did any of us guess that as it waned, a tyrant long in the making would rise to shake the Western world.

          Amid retirement and for the first time in my adult life I had no organization or newsroom to shepherd through a crisis. I had learned already, from having worked once with an aging population, that when one lays down a career, it’s risky not to have a plan. One cannot drift, cannot say he or she will merely sleep late, idle days away or travel aimlessly.

           My plan was not as structured as in mid-career but there were precious spaces waiting for me and I was ready to defend them from those who imagined I had nothing to do but help them get what they wanted; I knew how to say that I was saving that time for something else, which sufficed to being left to what I wanted thereafter.

          Those precious spaces would be filled with the bibliography that had shaped me through college and graduate studies. I re-visited that curricula to recall not only what I had learned but what I had missed—and what was at stake when the authors wrote what they wrote and what their ideas and the events meant in real time.

          My studies were in the humanities: literature, history, philosophy, theology, poetry and language—things that carried Western civilization to greatness in the centuries preceding ours. I revisited Plato and Aristotle where I first deplored the former’s absurd notion of two worlds and that we aren’t living in the real one; that people who didn’t believe certain ways should be punished or put to death; that if we had followed Aristotle religion would be far different today, based on ethics instead of dogma.

 When I re-read Aeschylus and his literary kin I realized for the first time how far ahead they were of their own world and what was at stake for them to say what they said—as it came to be for Socrates himself. And early on I loved the pre-Socratics, who were irreverent to the max, questioned all they were told and had their own thoughts; that so many then and long after them suffered for their beautiful minds because Plato had taught dogma only too well, and how to use it to silence upstarts.

          But there were many geniuses in the mainstream too, people who pulled up the rest of humankind with their disciplined minds. Science has done us the greatest favors but today in the face of potential world-wide devastation from disease we dissed them, called them names and, in our blessed ignorance, thought we knew better. Frankly, we were lucky that enough people were careful, followed the science and helped ease the attack while strains of the pandemic ran their course. My guess is we’re still going to pay for our obstinance in ways we won’t fully know for perhaps another generation.

          We were at war with COVID and its variants but we chose to fight each other. How dumb was that? And now, convinced that we know better than geniuses what’s good for us, we’ve set ourselves up for future devastation. We laugh at old depictions of evil, thinking they were meant to terrify gratuitously but folks then, like people now, thought evil shows up in obvious costume and the scary depictions called attention to look below surfaces for its presence—as Augustine startled the faithful in his time that the antichrist was not outside, but within, the Church itself.

          Now there’s Putin. Donald Trump needs to look deep into that guy and see not a “genius” but the next great evil in our world. No one seems able to stop him; maybe Aristotle’s notion of tragedy will save the day—that Putin’s kind is that of the unstoppable jerk who, at last, brings down himself.

          So the answer may be in the past as much as the present, for as Santayanna said, those who know not history are doomed to its repetition.


One Response to “THE PANDEMIC AND ME”

  1. As always, food for thought. Thanks.

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