I wrote this piece for The Hood River News. I believe it's in today's newspaper. It's a little different from our normal fare, but I hope you find it interesting.
History has a funny way of offering perspective. A couple of weeks ago I was researching Hood River’s 125th anniversary and came across something which I filed away as a “fun fact” to pull out some day. Today is that day, though the “fun fact” no longer seems fun.
Ordinance 5 was the first real law the Hood River City Council enacted, after they finished all the technical stuff you have to do to create a new city. It addressed contagious disease. Ordinance 5 created rules for everything from how you report disease to what color flags you put in your front yard to indicate quarantine, and who burns the clothing of the infected person.
The fact this was our city’s first real action wasn’t a random choice. Every person alive at that time lived in constant fear a random contact one day could leave them seriously ill the next. Contagious disease for which there was no effective treatment was a basic fact of life.
There was no particular outbreak going on here in 1895. There was simply the fact that if the purpose of their new government was to promote the general welfare, the first thing they needed to address was how the community should deal with contagion. This fear wasn’t a temporary or novel condition. It was the human condition, and It had been so for all time.
Until recently most of us forgot to be afraid of contagious disease. The fact people were debating vaccination a couple of weeks ago shows how deeply we had buried that fear. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say recent generations have replaced that fear with new ones: nuclear winter, terrorism, school shootings, climate change. We’ve had monsters hiding under our beds, but contagious disease wasn’t one of them. And now it is.
Despite living with this constant fear of contagious disease, the authors of Ordinance 5 proceeded to invent our modern city. They got to work on sanitation, water and electricity. They installed sidewalks. They cut down the oaks in the middle of Oak Street so they could grade and pave the street. And, for some reason, they regulated jugglers (Ordinance 7).
I am sure you would like to know what history says about how long this will last. I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you that as a community we learn to live with our fears. The authors of Ordinance 5 figured out how to live their lives day to day, taking the appropriate precautions to deal with fear and risk, and they built the remarkable little community which is now ours. It has withstood disease, ice storms, war and economic collapse, and it has thrived.
The fear, the economic disruption, the losses and all the heartbreak that that come with this pandemic will become history as well. What will be its legacy? History suggests trials and times of darkness trigger creative impulses. You may have heard Isaac Newton formulated the basic concepts of calculus and William Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” and “Macbeth” while under isolation during bubonic plague epidemics.
I already see creativity emerging from our current hardships. Every day people are sharing new ideas with me. Some have ideas for a new product, others have a new idea about how they can help their community or advance a favorite cause. We process our fear, then we start solving problems. We put in place our personal “Ordinance 5” then get on to more productive pursuits.
So while some are predicting we will emerge from our social distancing cocoons to a baby boom, I predict a surge in entrepreneurial and philanthropic activity. We’re pretty good thinking creatively once we have figured out how to process our fear.
Are there any shortcuts to quiet the mind so you can get back to creative thought? I suggest you ignore Ordinance 7 and try juggling.
Category: [Downtown Hood River]
Arthur, +1 !
Dale Nicol on 1st April 2020 @ 7:08am
Good insight Arthur.
L.E. on 1st April 2020 @ 8:07am
Kyle on 1st April 2020 @ 8:17am
Will on 1st April 2020 @ 8:43am
GREAT work Arthur......yesterday we got a message from our friend in China..she spent some of her quarantine time learning Korean..... Thank you for this posting and your daily postings... a highlight of our days.
Arlen L Sheldrake on 1st April 2020 @ 8:45am
Thanks Arthur, a rational and calm perspective of our history. We are alright. Things will get better. It is all a repeating history of all of us.
nels on 1st April 2020 @ 10:39am
Excellent, thanks! It is at times like this we realize how important effective government is at all levels.
Kevin on 1st April 2020 @ 11:12am
Another fine contribution! Thank you Arthur. While being stuck at home we have read and re-read some books. One of them A DISTANT MIRROR by Barbara Tuchman, telling about what Europe (most what is now France) went through in the 14th century when Black Death, the plague, hit. It killed an estimated one third of the population! No masks, no gowns, no testing, no hospitals. We are actually very fortunate to live in 2020! Stay well!!
Maria Kollas on 1st April 2020 @ 11:38am
And I remember one of your previous posts had comments that there was a sort of quarantine house up here off Belmont for contagious diseases, TB, measles, and other such contagions. At least now they don't cart us across a pasture to get us out of town! Different diseases, same issue, better understanding and treatments. Everybody say a special prayer for our hospital and EMS people as well as those dealing with health issues. And count our blessings.
nels on 1st April 2020 @ 11:54am
Thanks, Arthur, yet again! Perspective and context, from someone who has been devoted to so many vital threads holding this place together, behind the scenes, and withstanding community meetings out front and center, to get exceptional improvements and fixes for our special corner of the world.
That includes, of course, all of the work and time to produce and maintain this wonderful gem of a running look at our history, with subtle insights in every choice, fostering community with the involvement in the comments, every day.
Keep well all.
b.rad on 1st April 2020 @ 1:59pm
Nels...was that Hamby's? I think I remember her as the county health nurse or some such position...…….
Arlen Sheldrake on 1st April 2020 @ 8:15pm
Yes Emma Hanby was the count health nurse. Rough as they come. Man when she gave you a shot it was like she glowed from loving it. Everyone dreaded her. She had no bed side manner that is for sure. Children begged their parents not to have to have shots by her. I can remember those standing in line shaking and crying. Is that not considered child abuse?????
Charlott on 2nd April 2020 @ 7:17am
Arthur, I actually read your piece in the newsprint newspaper and I thought it was wonderful. Thank you for reminding us of the tough times people before us had to go through and the challenges they faced and overcame. Let's work to get through this situation with as much grace and collaboration as we can.
Leanne on 2nd April 2020 @ 4:21pm
Newton's gravity seems to be interfering with my juggling.
David Michalek on 2nd April 2020 @ 5:33pm
Very thoughtful. Thanks!
Tom on 4th April 2020 @ 5:28pm