This is a complicated question which everybody most answer according to their own temperament and judgment. If you are fatalistic by temperament the second choice is automatic. If experience has taught you to embrace hopelessness, you also go for #2 because you’ve learned never to expect a good outcome. I’ve learned to embrace hopelessness and realize that it’s a great comfort. They will never be disappointed by anything. Not even by their own deaths.

I can’t advise people to follow my example. It makes no sense to advise anyone to adopt habits of thought. What I can do is present observations about the many American panics from the perspective from a life closing in on the shade of an eighth decade.

The peak panic in my lifetime was the Cuban Missile Crisis and possibility that it would set off a nuclear war. I was living at the time in a boarding house populated by elderly gentlemen with modest incomes and younger men expelled by their wives or girlfriends. One of the latter was employed as an air traffic controller. He brought news to the household that he was on call for immediate service in case the crisis came to war. He spent the whole day drinking one bottle of beer after another and agonizing over the looming threat. By the end of the day he was only fit to answer a call to pass out. This fact somehow eased any fear I might have felt and I weathered the crisis with undisturbed tranquility.

To help you all to a broader view, I can pass on a variety of verifiable contemporary perspectives. For starters: James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, predicts an unemployment rate of 30% in the 2020 second quarter. Socialists who blame all economic disasters of capitalism will welcome this. But news that the Spectrem Groups estimates that the number of millionaires has already dropped by at least 500,000, that the Bloomberg Billionaires Index calculates that the world’s 500 richest people have lost almost $1.3 trillion since January 2020, and that 180 Americans in the richest cohort have lost $433 billion won’t be welcome. It’s true that Bernie Sanders & Co rejoice to see the wicked rich suffer, but they had been counting on these two-legged piggy banks to finance the goodies they promised to give the humble folk. They can’t be pleased to see so many piggy banks smashed.

They are not the only people needing cheering up.

An old comrade from grad school reports that Vermont is now in lock-down. “The panic is palpable and apparently contagious,” there’s a reserved morning hour from 6 – 7 in the grocery stores to let we elderly shop. Nervous side glances. Shoppers spaced yards apart. What’s next? Lines of flagellants, the danse macbre, pogroms? Am I mistaken in a suspicion that the fear mongering has a partisan character? On National Progressive Radio (NPR), the report is especially shrill.”

Some people seem to feel that the Godzillavirus is presenting an opportunity. The beautiful Alyssa Milano has e-mailed a “Dear John” message requesting a $7 donation. “I’ve always been politically engaged,” she explained, “but for me, Donald Trump’s election was a turning point. It’s clear now more than ever that the urgency of this moment demands our voices and our collective action. The Democratic Party is running out of time to collect the resources that it will need to set our eventual nominee and other Democratic candidates up for success. This election is our opportunity to remove Trump and his enablers from power.”

I couldn’t see how the virus fits in to the urgency this appeal. I sent an e-mail back promising 70 cents if Alyssa explained the connection. Until she does we must remain ignorant of how her argument affects the panic/no panic choices.

This helps. The Spanish influenza pandemic, after World War I is reckoned to have inflicted half-billion infections and between 50 and 100 million deaths, world-wide. The United State contributed 675,000 dead to this toll. There’s no question that the impoverishment, misery and economic disruptions of World War I contributed to this pandemic. Can it be that Alyssa and her friends believe that eight years of a Trump presidency will be as devastating as the First World War? Hard to believe, but their quickness to compare Trump to Hitler suggests that this may be so.

Leaving that question aside, the Spanish influenza history offers support for people inclined to choose the Panic/Don’t Panic options. First it was never “cured.” Second it died out of its own accord.

There’s a data site,, interested readers may wish to consult about the deaths to expect. Its founders have a leftish tilt but they take numbers seriously. The key article, from March 20, is entitled: “Infectious Disease Experts Don’t Know How Bad the Coronavirus Is Going to Get, Either, Those seeking experts to show them the way (Panic? Don’t Panic?) will be left afloat. Read it and see.

Infectious Disease Experts Don’t Know How Bad The Coronavirus Is Going To Get, Either

John Frary of Farmington, the GOP candidate for U.S. Congress in 2008, is a retired history professor, an emeritus Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United, a Maine Citizen’s Coalition Board member, and publisher of He can be reached at [email protected]

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