Excerpt from "Fifty Years Hence"
“You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you right here today would be killed in a major battle. Every man is scared in his first action. If he says he’s not, he’s a goddamn liar. But the real hero is the man who fights even though he’s scared. Some men will get over their fright in a minute under fire, some take an hour, and for some it takes days. But the real man never lets his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood.”
That’s General Patton in his famous speech to the Third Army, in the good old days when you could use the word “manhood” unironically. It’s the stuff you want to hear when being rudely shoved from behind by history into a frightening, unwelcome present.
Like what happened to America last week. Cold reality finally completed its agonizingly slow fan dance for the normies, who finally figured out the plot twist we all saw coming back in Act I and raced to the nearest Costco. After weeks of mocking their prepper friends as paranoid lunatics, the “just the flu” crowd finally coughed up the blue pill.
We’re not all going to die, but some of us will. Some younger than 50, healthy, with no “comorbidities” as they say.
Some children will lose parents. Some parents may lose children.
Everyone I know is thinking the same thing: Who will pull the long straw?
It’s like in Jaws when Quint, recalling how he had to float in shark-infested water while waiting to board the rescue plane, says “You know that was the time I was most frightened… waiting for my turn.”
Good news: President Trump seems to have finally made the required pivot to wartime footing. Thank you, Mr. President, for heeding last week’s piece, Wartime Trump! Since that Wednesday’s Oval Office address, Trump has stepped smartly into a role he was destined to fill: as General in a once-in-a-century war.
The new mission he has chosen to accept? Keep America great by keeping us alive; all else is folly.
We have successfully awakened a tweeting giant!
Into the Unknown
Several months after the birth of my last baby, in a burst of postpartum nesting, we redid our wills and changed the designated relative to whom we plan to leave the offspring in the unlikely event my spouse and I both die. It didn’t really matter, because what were the chances we’d both get hit by the same meteor?
Our wills sat in a drawer, unsigned, for almost three years—until a few days ago.
Underneath my salty exterior, just below my thin veneer of banter and barbed bons mots, I’m a mother to some nice kids. They are sometimes frustrating, often adorable. They even know which gender they are! The smallest one, the one who breaks my heart with her huge eyes, the one I most fear rendering motherless, makes me play “Into the Unknown” from the Frozen 2 soundtrack all day long. I find it a fitting theme song for the current white-knuckled moment. Right now, a lot of parents are being cannonballed straight into the unknown. We’re having unpleasant thoughts we never dreamed we’d be having in the spring of 2020:
What happens to the kids if something happens to me?
What if there are no grandparents left to take over if I’m out of commission?
Who takes care of the baby if both parents get sick?
What does it feel like to be intubated, because I hear it really sucks?
Once the thrill of not going to school wears off, what will the mental toll of all this be on my children and their generation?
I didn’t have a chance to go to confession before we pulled up the drawbridge at the castle. My other, more immediate worry is that I got infected before we started the staycation and I don’t know it yet. Some people can be asymptomatic for weeks before taking the nosedive. We’re safe at home now—but are we? Or are we about to live through a real-life version of The Thing, trying to figure out who might have brought the virus into the bunker?
A Gathering Storm
Since I can’t go to confession, I have to confess this to you. I’ve kept it secret until now. A few days before the word “coronavirus” ever entered my consciousness, I had what I can only describe as a strange vision of some sort. I’m not a Marianne Williamson cult follower, I don’t “do weed” as my mother used to say, and I am not into meditation.
But it happened. I was lying in bed in the middle of January recovering from a nasty flu (or was it?), staring out my bedroom window. Late afternoon sun warmed the quiet room and the bare trees in the backyard framed a wide expanse of blue sky. Nice. Then, like a vivid waking nightmare, I had an overwhelming, full-body, hair-raising sense of impending doom, as if something dangerous and swift and huge was flying towards the house like a missle. I had an insane urge to jump up, gather the kids, and huddle together with them in a closet before the peril hit us. After a few moments, the terror passed, but I spent the next few days torturing my husband with speculation about what it could have meant.
Now he thinks I’m a witch.
A few days later, my fellow coronaprophets and I started watching the approaching plague with a sense of terrible dread, jumpy and alone in our remote foxholes along the front. It is a huge relief to see so many joining the fight, with Trump leading the charge.
General Trump: An Invisible Enemy Meets Its Match
There is transcendent power, and grace, and heck, I’ll even toss in a sainthood, for the courageous leader who can guide a nation through the tight bottleneck ahead.
President Trump is now called to this task; if any leader in modern memory can do it, it’s him.
The market will come back. The people we lose will not. Watching his command of the daily press briefings now it’s clear: he has embraced the war and committed himself to winning it. We may have been slow to rouse, but now we have the overwhelming totality of the country focused on a shared goal: victory. I find it an incredible stroke of luck that we happen to have a president who is not interested in surrendering to the virus or “managing our decline.” Miraculously, we happen to have a president who loves winning more than literally anything else!
He understands now, deeply I think, that to keep us great, you first have to keep us alive, and to do that, you have to do the one thing you never dreamed you’d have to do in spring of 2020: Choose to lose. By choose to lose, I mean ignore the election (remember when we cared about elections?). Ignore the other candidates. Ignore politics and yes, even the economy, totally, for now.
So far, so good! Masks and ventilators and converted hospitals and vaccines and drug trials and medical Navy ships and TrumpBucks are on the way, America!
All we have to do now is win the damn war. And win it we will, with a powerful Victory Mindset shared by all Americans. There will be no surrender. There will be no quarter. There will be nothing but total war followed by total victory. We will plant Victory Gardens. We will help each other. We will stay home. We will stick together by staying far apart. We will do whatever it takes to win. And by win, I mean, deny the virus the Case Fatality Rate of its wildest dreams. We will do to it what it aims to do to us.
Because we do not want to FLATTEN the curve! We want to crush it, utterly!
To quote Patton again, no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb bastard die for his.
For extra credit, insert your own virus-optimized version of Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech here.
Finally, for those of the Catholic persuasion: Englishman Edmund the Martyr (841-869 A.D.) is the patron saint of pandemics, torture victims, and those who want protection from the plague.
Good to know, just in case.
Through the coming darkness lies hope and light and beauty and eventually, a cathartic defeat of the thing that threatens to swamp the great ship of state.
So stay safe, Mr. President!
May God protect us all.
Saint Edmund, pray for us.