The Tough October Of 2020

October 2020 will be a bad month. It may be the toughest yet of our pandemic. I say that not because of numbers of cases or counts of the dead. I say that because of our social body, our body politic, and our civic condition. October will be traumatic.

Permit me to lay out my reasoning. My approach is different, unconventional. It’s not everyone’s first way of looking at things. I understand that. I’m a consulting leadership historian. Born and purposed to use the past in a new way, I offer my life’s calling in bridging the past to both the present and future. And for those of you reading who haven’t seen this from me before, never forget 1) that the past is vast, all of existence and everything before now; 2) history is a thin subset of the past, made up of tiny slices and stories which people recalled for some reason; and 3) thus the past and history are two very different things. I’d even go so far as to say that the past is perfect and history is imperfect.

Done with that. Now, let’s go to my four reasons for extracting this piece of history from all of our pasts. I’m using my research and analysis of the 1918-1920 pandemic (the lives of your ancestors) to illuminate the 2020-2022 pandemic (the lives of you, me, us).

THE FOUR REASONS

Reason #1: October will be the beginning of seasonal illnesses with symptoms and bodily conditions that overlap or mimic the existing features of coronavirus. This will complicate the already complicated efforts to fix the number of cases and clarify the data of upward and downward trends. The full moon of the month—the Hunter’s Moon—will yield a light that misshapes more than it illuminates.

Reason #2: October will be the final month of the presidential and congressional election campaigns. The depth and intensity which are already mind-boggling will be beyond the solar-system in their extent. If you think it’s bad now, it will be hideously bad, shockingly bad, and immeasurably bad then. Take our current turmoil, multiply ten-fold, and then add another dump-truck load and you’re half-way there to the bad awaiting us politically. Jaws will drop when political campaigns get their mythical jolt, the appearance of an October surprise. Keeping in rhythm with our political world down to now, it will feel unprecedented to at least half the nation.

Reason #3: October will be a back-breaking month for the world of education from kindergarten to college. The strains of at-home/online, in-class/face-to-face, and the bouncing back and forth between will have reached levels of intolerable burden. This burdening will be still greater yet because of the connections and spill-over to parents, guardians, and extended families who have jobs and are struggling to do them or ar out of work and struggling to survive. So heavy will the burden be that the proverbial weight-crushing straw will not flutter onto the camel’s back but rather smash onto the creature with the force of a meteor. This will be especially true as daylight dwindles, the night chill sets in, and leaves of green decay to brown and yellow and gold. Moods and manners, habits and tendencies, all will show the burden.

Reason #4: saving the most troubling for last, Americans will have a new battleground in the final two weeks of October. That battleground will be over the national past-time and secular holiday of Halloween. Halloween is arguably the year’s most important ritual in having people come together, reach out to strangers, and break down the isolation that usually defines American life. Spanning generations, cultures, regions, economic groups, and more, Halloween will now be made into a knife-like decision with life-threatening effects. The preceding three reasons will result in a controversy of whether or not to have Halloween, whether to obey or disobey restrictions, whether to report or stay silent about actions in opposition to our own, whether to protect social and mental health or protect physical and biological health. The battle over masks will enter a new realm and the fury of dispute will enter a new reality.

Taken together, these four reasons will, in my view, make for the worst month yet of our pandemic. April was bad. October will likely be worse. And as we know in even our normal years, the heart of autumn will not at all look like the heart of spring.

WHAT CAN I DO?

One thing and one thing only. Get ready. Prepare. Take the time we have—four weeks as of my writing today—and see in your mind’s eye the likely behaviors, conduct, and physical and oral expressions that would occur in such an October. Set aside minutes, quarter-hours, maybe a few hours to use in your mental self-awareness as a person who can perceive a forthcoming future.

OK, I guess I’ve got more than one suggestion. My fault—I’ll keep the remaining suggestions brief.

Next, think of the person you trust the most. I’m talking about trust in the fullest sense—trust to do the right thing far more often than not, trust to know that there is a right thing to discern and try to do, trust to keep your confidence, trust in being with people you love, trust in handling your treasure and resources. With the person (or persons, more than one, but not too many because that starts to feel a bit elastic in meaning) in mind, reach out and schedule time to talk about October and my thoughts on October. See if, as your conversation unfolds, you and your person of trust generate some ideas and recommendations for one another. Write down those that are the most compelling to you.

Moving on, a third thing you might do is find those written sources that best express and describe your views on the Higher-Up that speaks to you, on spirituality, on God, or the Term-Of-Your-Choice. Read through and reflect on at least some of those written sources. My advice is ends here. I’m not converting or proselytizing or preaching.

Keep in mind as you do these three things that you have two targets in whatever order you care to place them: yourself and the people around you. Your insights from the three things must be aimed at the two targets.

A final thought. I’ve worked extensively on finding important stories from the influenza pandemic in 1918 which you can use in 2020. Remember, my fundamental take-away is that Americans in 1918 experienced influenza through the prism of their dominant public issue, the World War or, as we call it, World War One. Thus, these Americans, your ancestors, coped not with influenza (by itself) but Warfluenza (the combination of influenza and World War One). Warfluenza convinced me to look hard at October in 1918 and 2020. And while we don’t have World War One, we do have World War Trump and all of the chaos—regardless of whether you’re pro-Maga or anti-Maga—that has come along with it. World War Trump is our World War One, and I see the October of Warfluenza in our October of 2020.

As ever, I encourage you to reach out to me. Feel free to react to this post below, to email me at dan@historicalsolutions.com, or text/call at 317-407-3687.

Thanks for reading. All the best, Dan

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your timely thoughts, Dan. I would urge all of us to focus on harvesting our gratefulness. Autumn ushers in our season of giving thanks. I would also suggest we focus on our gratitude for the many “silver linings” stemming from this pandemic. I don’t doubt your premise that October will be challenging, but let’s think ahead to November and December and the many blessings we celebrate then. And remain hopeful that January will usher in a kinder, gentler year for all of us.

    • It will be nice to get to that point and we all know we would welcome it!
      I have asked Dan several times about how we ever “get there.” How do we ever get back to just helping one another, to feel unified, to be proud, thankful, and humbled by what/who we have?
      His answer most every time is that we’ll have to go through something very awful to get us to that point. Say a 9/11, or a World War. Perhaps this October will be our unfortunate, Warfluenza, which may get so bad, that it does in fact lead us to the blessings you described.
      I wish each of you the best and hope you are able to stay well during this abnormal time.

  2. Dan, do we/you have time for client gathering(s) during the next 4 weeks? These 4 segments and the pending October seem to be plenty to cover. Is this something worthy of small group Coffee Talks? (Weekly?)

  3. Charles A Berdel says

    Dan.. Thank you! Well said!

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