Stayed up late a few nights ago in order to catch a non-rally speech by USA President Donald Trump. I have no logical explanation as to why I would give up the luxury of an hours pre-sleep in-bed reading for another empty word waltz by POTUS.
I must have been enticed by the clever news reporters on CNN who spin their elongated stories between endless commercials for pills and nostrums. Like good fly-fishers they end each news segment with a perfectly cast “fly” promising revelations of great important “after the break.”
So I watched, and dozed and watched some more until at last the pills and notions promising happier lifestyles gave way to a putty-faced President Trump. I have gathered that he is making this 10 pm special (for him unprecedented) fireside chat to explain to his people and the world just how the USA, the richest, mightiest smartest nation in the world is going slay the COVID – 19 dragon.
Trump had been insisting for weeks that the USA had been faring better most countries but now Coronavirus seemed to be getting a stronger foothold. He was careful to interpose when he could the reminder that Coronavirus “had started in China” with an unstated but obvious hint it was all China’s fault. He boasted about earlier travel and trade restrictions he had imposed to reduce trade and traffic and hinted his actions had keep COID-119 at bay in North American while Italy and Germany were being overwhelmed. He didn’t have much to say about the immediate future for the USA – but his own in-country experts have warned him and his citizens “the worst is yet to come” that “containment” was beyond them and a possible vaccine some months or even a year away.
President Trump offered no comfort. He just glumly dismissed a rampaging COID-19 as “a foreign virus” that would eventually run its course and disappear.
There are still a few of us around who can remember childhoods spent in an earlier world in great economic distress following the world-wide ‘flu epidemic of 1918 and global great depression of the 1930’s – or have parents or grand-parents who can remember. If you are someone who ever got bored with the “depression” tales of older folk, remembering them now could maybe inspire us all through the next few months, maybe years.
It will be worth recalling the attitude and actions of a young USA President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) who, as his nation stumbled into ever deeper depression in the mid-1920’s, flung them a lifebelt, a recovery plan called The New Deal. It came with a Roosevelt confident shout to his people to rally and fight for economic recovery: “YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF!”
The people heard,responded, and built a new nation on the rubble of the great depression.
In 1941 President Roosevelt (one of the few to win three Presidential elections) rallied a badly shaken nation the day following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. In a nation wide radio address he had to choose between a truthful account of the battle so singularly won by Japan or a muffled sugar coated version.
His opening words were: “December 7, 1941, is a date which will live in infamy.” They eliminated a strong “keep USA neutral” movement and united the nation in cause as the US joined WW2 and it became the Great World War.
Opting for blunt truth in time of calamity wasn’t an exclusive US claim. Sir Winston Churchill chalked up a quite amazing record starting on the amazing day of May13, 1940, when he reported to the House of Commons for the first time as Prime Minister.
There were a few technical parliamentary matters to be addressed and they were handled quickly before Churchill brought every member – and the nation – up to date with no soft comfort zones.
He asked the House to forgive him if he didn’t provide all the details they would like on his first day on the job. But, he said: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat…We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind….”
Those words reached the general population via radio and newspaper and praise for Winston eventually reached the House and Churchill modestly said: “Mr. Speaker, I have never promised anything or offered anything but blood, tears, toil, and sweat, to which I will now add our fair share of mistakes, shortcomings and disappointments….When I look back on the perils which have been overcome, upon the great mountain waves through which the gallant ship (of State) has driven, when I remember all that has gone wrong, and remember also all that has gone right, I feel sure we have no need to fear the tempest. Let it roar, and let it rage. We shall come through.”
It’s worth remembering as we once again travel a dark uncertain road made frightening by vain leadership south of the 49th parallel, and a seemingly bewildered administration north of the 49th.
Some historians claim that great leaders usually emerge and lead us to safer places when gravest danger threaten. If there is only fraction of hope that could be true – I think we’re ready.