We’re All Purposefully Forgetting the Pandemic
Around, oh, June 2020, I found myself getting obsessed with the 1918 Flu Pandemic. This was partly because I was sitting around my house with nothing to do and nowhere to go, like most of the rest of you. But mostly: I just wanted to know when this was going to be over. So I looked to history.
I found some basic facts about the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Five hundred million people were infected with it, a third of the world’s population. Fifty million people died, including 650,000 in the United States. It affected younger people more than older people, reversing what we saw in this pandemic. But what I marveled at most was how, by 1920, people were over it.
Across the board, by 1920, the United States had moved on from the pandemic. If anything, it was more focused on recovering from World War I, which ended right around the time the pandemic was beginning. The 1918 Flu had three major waves, the last of which subsided in summer 1919. And then that was it.
It is difficult to find coverage of the pandemic after early 1920. Newspapers stopped writing about it, almost entirely. You did not see stories about the aftereffects, the trauma it had put the entire planet through. It is difficult to find arguments that it change life on earth all that much at all. It was a problem people went through, endured, survived and then forgot about. Until Covid-19 hit, odds are, no one had thought about the 1918 Pandemic in any sort of serious way in decades, maybe longer.
This struck me as bizarre, even pathological. The biggest thing those people had ever lived through, in which a third of the planet had a deadly virus that killed millions upon millions of people, and people just stopped talking about it, entirely, when it was over. How could this be?
I understand now.
The pandemic, again, is not over. (Do you know how many people died of Covid-19 in the United States yesterday? 388. That number would have horrified us basically any day before, oh, summer 2021.) But not only are we…