Friday, April 3, 2020

The Final Solution: Microbe Hunters

As Andrew Cuomo pointed in one of his press briefings before his brother the CNN anchor was diagnosed with COVID-19, the expression “shelter-in-place” is usually applied when there's an active shooter or a case of a threatened nuclear attack like the false alarm that was ignited to Hawaiians a while back. For those who grew up in the era when Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957) was a popular novel, television programs could be interrupted when Civil Defense was testing the early warning system. Back then it was the mushroom cloud that was the monster. The moribund humor of Dr. Strangelove (1964) derived from the fear of nuclear Armageddon. Who would have dreamt that the threat to the world would ultimately be a microbe, with no political affiliation? Like the asteroid that might have created the Ice Age, COVID-19 is a value free adversary. The Ruskies that  Major T.J. King Kong (Slim Pickens) feared are in the same boat as the US of A. Even Kim Jong-un couldn’t have dreamt this one up. The closest thing was Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds (1938), when a Martian invasion threatened the earth. Now it’s like one of those dreams where you try to resist an attacker and punch at air. It’s all of mankind up against a silent opponent who’s too small to see. Paul de Kruif’s Microbe Hunters (1926) was prescient.

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