Wave Two–From 2020 To 1918: November 19

Gettysburg 1918

Now And Today, November 19, 2020

The mud sticks to your shoes. Hard to walk in the gray shadows between sun and night, night and sun. Can’t remember which they are. You try to scrape the mud off by rubbing one shoe against the other. A few steps and stop. A few steps and stop. The third time you realize something. The ground you’re walking on is getting softer and wetter and even muddier than before.

We had an election that was nothing but mud. We can’t quite seem to get our shoes clean because the mud clings. And now we look around as the light turns dim and the swamp of Wave Two surrounds us.

A lamp or two bobs in the distance.

The only way out is through the swamp. Toward the vaccines, toward continued improving treatment, toward the heroic service and sacrifice from people who do this for a living, do this for a ministry, do this for a calling, do this because they hear a voice or recall a memory.

Lights in the distance.

* * * *

Then, November 19, 1918

A young man with fair skin and thinning hair has been through the experience he never knew was coming. They call him Dwight and since a few weeks ago they also call him Lt. Col. Eisenhower.

He wanted to be somewhere else. France, to be exact. Fighting in the World War like other younger officers, including a colleague named Patton. But that wasn’t Dwight’s lot. His call to duty was to be here in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania training soldiers in a new contraption dubbed Land Ship, also Tankers, later yet and simply then, Tanks. Neither man nor machine ever left town for the war front in Europe.

Instead, Dwight’s battle has been to help the local training site and the local community endure the hellishness of influenza. It’s been hard. Soldiers collapsing under the weight of the “three-day fever,” some dying. Townspeople suffering the same. Nurses, professional and volunteer, pulled into the effort to provide care and offer compassion. Folks just helping out with donations of food and supplies. Schools shut, stores closed, churches shuttered, streets scrutinized for masking (yes) and spitting (no), fines levied, scolding done, prayers by those who pray, something else by those who don’t.

The worst was October. Dwight wrote a letter of gratitude to the people of the town. “It is gratifying,” he wrote, “to note the spirit of co-operation which has prevailed everywhere, and I am sure your kindness and sympathy will ever remain a bright spot in the memories of those who have suffered bereavement.”

The bereavement in Dwight’s future will be encountered through this bereavement in Dwight’s past. A portal is in his mind.

Today, November 19, is lately a different sort of day here in Gettysburg. Fifty-five years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood up on a platform and read words from a sheet of paper. It took him about three minutes with applause sprinkled in. Interestingly, it’s only been about twenty years ago that people started to remember Lincoln’s day in town and the short speech he read.

That’s not true today. No one cares about history and certainly not the Civil War. They’re talking present and grieving present. The future they see has pain that will scar if they’re lucky, spread and seep if they’re not.

Annie Gutshall is a wife and mother. She and her family live as renters on a local Gettysburg farm. As of today, the time when Lincoln pulled the small sheets of paper from his pocket five and one-half decades ago, Annie is in torment. Last week a son died; at the funeral a message came to her that another son had died; then, her daughter-in-law died; finally, a third son died. Influenza all. Annie stands shaking today at the last funeral.

Separated by years, Annie Gutshall and Abraham Lincoln know the cemeteries. He gives his speech. She gives her heart. Both see life and lives in the stones.

Dwight Eisenhower will know the stones, too.

* * * * *

Looking Ahead From Today, November 19, 2020

Life layers and layers on top of itself.

Our experience at this moment is entirely that—at this moment. There’s a reason that the present tense of time is the thinnest. The past grows every day. The future shortens every day. The present is always the same in size and scale and immediate disappearance. And yet it is all-consuming and hyper-dimensional.

The thing you know and feel right now will be part of knowing and feeling the things up ahead. There was a time when the mud on your shoes was the material for the walls of your house. Those days are over. A new way exists.

The lesson endures. The dark of today is the stuff and matter for the light of tomorrow.

Thanksgiving is the future. This year and next.

* * * * *

For Those Wanting To Bridge 2020 And 1918, A Reminder…

Warfluenza and Warcorona.

Warfluenza is what Americans experienced in 1918 when influenza interacted with their dominant issue and concern of the day, World War One. The illness comes to them through their handling of and coping with World War One. That’s why I want you to think of it as Warfluenza. The pandemic and the issue affect each other.

Warcorona is what Amercians are experienced in 2020 when coronavirus interacts with our dominant issue and concern of the day, World War Trump. Regardless of whether you love or hate Trump, Trumpism, and the Trump Presidency, it blends with the illness and thus we handle and cope with both together, inseparable. It’s Warfluenza updated to our world—Warcorona.

I want to reintroduce you to the world of Warfluenza’s Wave Two because we’re in Warcorona’s Wave Two right now. Our Wave Two had a first stage with preschool-to-grad school education. The second stage is the skyrocketing clinical numbers. We’re rhyming with 102 years ago. And so we’re following Warfluenza and Warcorona on exactly the same days. Mark Twain is supposed to have said that history doesn’t repeat but it sure does rhyme. Count me as a “yes” to that statement.

As always, I invite you to reach out to me. Leave a comment here, email at dan@historicalsolutions.com , or text at 317-407-3687.