Cheap Seats 2020
Surviving the Blitz - 04/01
By Rich Trzupek
Many have observed that a crisis often brings out the best in humanity. It is a joyful, hopeful truism that has been proven out time and again. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder if we have an inborn need to take on and defeat the most frightening of challenges. There is much in mankind’s history that suggests that is the case.
I, for one, believe that we will not only get through the COVID-19 crisis, we will emerge from it better than ever, proud of having battled through tough times and more certain of the inherent good that is at the core of almost every human being on planet earth. We will help each other and we will be helped. We will sacrifice. We will make do. We will conduct ourselves in this crisis the way that human beings have conducted themselves from the horrors of the Black Plague to the rise of genocidal maniacs like Hitler, Stalin and Mao in the 20th century: We will maintain our dignity, our empathy and our determination, for these are the traits that makes us human. We will do more than survive. We will thrive. You wait and see.
For proof, consider the plucky, stubborn island nation of Great Britain 80 years ago. In March 1940 the Brits and their French allies believed they could stand up to Hitler’s might Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe when the inevitable invasion of the Low Countries and France commended. A few months later the Netherlands, Belgium and France had surrendered to the Nazi juggernaut. Only a few hundred thousand Allied troops – mostly British but including some French – escaped across the English Channel through Dunkirk.
Finding themselves adrift and alone to do battle with the most powerful armed forces the planet had then ever seen, the British people could be forgiven if they surrendered to despair. Some did of course, but most did not, thanks in part to their new, unquenchable prime minister who understood the temperament of his people so well.
And this spirit only burned brighter when Hitler turned the Battle of Britain from an attempt to destroy the Royal Air Force into a crusade to destroy London. Wreaking havoc on the United Kingdom’s largest and most important city would rip the soul out the nation he reasoned. With their capital a smoking pile of ruins, the British people would finally understand the futility of resisting the power of the Third Reich.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. London’s resident’s established and learned to live with a new normal, one that saw them taking shelter in subway stations every night as the bombs fell, then emerging each morning to clear rubble and make their contributions to the war effort anew. It was a magnificent achievement, one that Hitler never truly understood, even after the ordinary people displayed the same stoic resolve under the onslaught of Allied bombs four years later. Churchill? He was not surprised at all. He knew that people are made of stronger stuff than they ever suspect.
And so, I believe, it will be with us. We may shelter like Londoners did 80 years ago, but like them we will not cower. This battle with a relentless enemy will go on, but it will not go on forever and it will not break us. Until it’s over let us adopt that wonderful five word mantra that so sufficiently captured the spirit of the British people during the worst of the Blitz: Keep calm and carry on.