I recall as a teenager reading about the high numbers of battlefield casualties in some of the fighting during the Civil War. Reading for the first time about the piles of bodies at Gettysburg is a memory that sticks with me. Reading of the stench and the burial trenches and trying to process the enormity of it is something that we all came to terms with during our history classes.
I thought of those classes and that battle today as I mowed the lawn. I was to learn when back inside from the outdoor projects that our nation had officially passed 100,000 deaths as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew this news was coming, and yet it hits hard.
Gettysburg was a place James and I visited almost 3 years ago to the day. Over 50,000 Americans were killed in those massive battles that spanned for days. Over the decades the war, and the cause for it, have become better understood with many books and lectures. But even as I have lived and watched the COVID-19 crisis (seemingly hour-by-hour) over the past three months it seems harder to grasp as to why it happened than that war from the 1860s.
The reason for my unsettled feelings about the mass deaths in our nation is that it did not have to happen. We did not have the federal leadership that was interested enough to think ahead of the curve, no president able to apply the mental bandwidth required to create policy, no one in the White House who wanted to handle COVID-19 other than as a mere PR problem.
Tonight as we wind down it is reported that Donald Trump has not spoken to the nation about the 100,000 death marker. We are told by conservatives that to talk of the 100,000 deaths, as the New York Times did this weekend with a stark front page, only promotes a “partisan pandemic”. What a wretched place America finds itself.
Like so many others I am totally frustrated by what this administration has done to our nation. They want us to accept their sordid behavior by tempering our outrage at the needless deaths of 100,000 of our fellow citizens. And then they offer no attempts at empathy to the nation which needs to have a national hug at this moment.
I often harken back to slices of history to either find a lesson for a current situation or to find some comfort or even a smile. Since Trump did not even try to comfort the nation today I end this post with a letter from President Abraham Lincoln. My favorite of the actual leaders who have sat in the White House.
One of Lincoln’s dearest friends, William McCullough, was killed during a night charge in Mississippi. His daughter, Fanny, received a letter from Abe. Part of that letter is posted below.
In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.
The arm of the president around a nation is something that has long been a part of the connection the citizenry has had with the person in the White House. When there is a complete lack of compassion, empathy, and any sense of normalcy from the holder of the nation’s highest office we then have months like which we have lived through this year. We end up on days like this without a leader.
Trump had time to golf this weekend but had no time to address the nation about the mass loss of life of fellow Americans.