In Germany, where my younger son Ned has been suffering from the coronavirus for nine days, Chancellor Angela Merkel has “barred groups of more than two people from gathering” and has herself gone into isolation after learning her doctor had tested positive. Ned, who is fluent in German, listened intently to a speech she gave a few days ago on how her government planned to combat the contagion.
He described her as calm, straightforward — a well-educated, unemotional, yet empathetic grandmother telling her brood that matters were serious, the greatest challenge the country had faced since reunification, but that by coming together and following her advice that they would overcome the disease.
Ned said that he felt fortunate to be living, as he put it, “in a first world country.” He might have added in a country not so horribly polarized by political divisions. Although I voted against Ronald Regan twice, I think he’d be an excellent spokesman in a time like this because he possessed a sort of serene confidence. He did not require a coterie of toadies to preface their technical expertise with praise for his unmatched leadership. He would not have lied in ways that could be so easily refuted, nor make statements like “the world has never seen anything like this before.” He would have projected a calming presence and have reassured the populace.
I’m not going into what might have been done differently to mitigate the virus’s rapid spread here in the States. I’m pleased to see a sort of a sort of un-self-pitying camaraderie developing, virtual get togethers, musicians performing virtual concerts. We’re all in the same boat, more or less, stuck at home with worries galore, but it’s not like we’re in London during the Blitz. Nevertheless, war is an apt metaphor, and we all certainly owe much gratitude to the men and women on the front lines, the health care workers who are battling this pernicious disease.
Today, Ned says he feels much better, that his breathing is almost back to normal. He and his housemates are making the best of a bad situation. Here’s a photo of a Corona Cake they made for a birthday party they couldn’t go to, and it ended up that the birthday boy or girl only had three rolls left.
I’m not much of a silver-lining sort of person, but at the very least, this experience should remind us not to take life for granted, and while forced to forego televised sports, we now have a chance to notice the “birds in the trees/ — those dying generations — at their song.”
 In the mid-14th century, the bubonic plague killed ~20 million people, roughly a third of Europe’s population.