I’ve been thinking…

When I awoke early this morning, I found myself thinking about COVID-19. I suppose it’s impossible not to, given the 24-7 coverage. So I resolved to speak some encouragement to those like me who are trying to keep this in a rational context.

The 20th century writer John Dos Passos (whose Westmoreland County home borders our Ri’vah house) wrote extensively about history and the need to reach back for the wisdom of those who proceeded us.

“In easy times history is more or less of an ornamental art, but in times of danger we are driven to the written record by a pressing need to find answers to the riddles of today. We need to know what kind of firm ground other men, belonging to generations before us, have found to stand on. In spite of changing conditions of life they were not very different from ourselves, their thoughts were the grandfathers of our thoughts, they managed to meet situations as difficult as those we have to face, to meet them sometimes lightheartedly, and in some measure to make their hopes prevail. We need to know how they did it.”

This is a hard time, not an easy one, a time to seek firm ground, not panic. Great men and women rise to challenges. How they did so is as important as the fact that they did. Dos Passos continues:

“In times of change and danger when there is a quicksand of fear under men’s reasoning, a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present and get us past that idiot delusion of the exceptional now that blocks good thinking.”

The “quicksand” of fear will crush us if we let it. Our “scary present” demands that we grab the lifeline to “good thinking”, indeed the rational actions that our predecessors took to avoid the “idiot delusion” that can cause us to panic.

We are in an “exceptional now.” We need to assume a resolute posture, one imbued of an indomitable spirit.

A good place to turn for that “lifeline” is none other that the Greek military hero, Leonidas, who confronted the invading Persians who significantly outnumbered him. In that battle one of his soldiers complained that, “Because of the arrows of the barbarians it is impossible to see the sun.” Leonidas replied, “Won’t it be nice, then, if we shall have shade in which to fight them?”

I hope you will join me in that sentiment.


Scott Lingamfelter is a former member of the House of Delegates and a retired colonel in the U.S. Army.