We Shall Cower in Our Basements?

I just placed a library hold for a book reviewed in my morning paper. I have no idea when I will be able to pick it up. As in so many cities, our libraries are still closed. Why?

I understand that initially governments responded by closing down areas under their control. Yet, weeks have passed and libraries are still closed. What might have happened if libraries were privately run businesses that existed on yearly subscriptions? If they wanted me to renew my membership, they would realize that encouraging me to use only their download facilities might lead me to decide that my membership was no longer a worthwhile investment. 

Like many stores, private libraries might have organized pick-up appointments. Maybe it was time to resuscitate the idea of traveling librarians, who brought books (sometimes on horseback) to patrons who lived far from the library building.  Perhaps each returned book would be cleaned and put aside for 72 hours before recirculating. Owners and employees of a private business would be brainstorming to find ways to serve their customers. Yet, since the public library system and employees are on a government (read taxpayer) payroll, physical libraries, at least in my area, are simply closed.

I understand that those who are mourning the serious illnesses and deaths of loved ones are overwhelmed by this crisis. But, one of the saddest outcomes, in my opinion, has been the proliferation of fatalistic thinking, the very opposite of a traditional American can-do attitude.

Imagine if previous notable figures in American history were alive today and behaving as their modern counterparts are.  Instead of a General Washington who camped out at Valley Forge with his men during a brutal winter, we would have pictures of him feasting on venison at Mt. Vernon, similar to Nancy Pelosi’s tone-deaf shots of her ice cream selection.

Instead of hearing from Franklin Delano Roosevelt as we faced tough times during the Depression that, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” we would hear, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” I may not agree that President Roosevelt’s solutions helped to end the Depression, but at least he projected confidence in a better future.

On the eve of D Day, General Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “Pessimism never won any battle.”  Imagine what might have happened had he told his troops, “Now is the time to fear all that could go wrong.” 

In response to Russian achievements in space, John F. Kennedy said, “…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Today’s leaders warn us that not only will we not have a vaccine soon, we may never be able to manufacture a reliable one. Life as we knew it, is over.

If you will cross the ocean with me for a moment, can you imagine that instead of Mr. Churchill declaring that “…we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…, he might say, “We must surrender our way of life, we will cower in our basements, we will hide in our homes, we will tremble in fear in the fields and in the streets.” 

Are we facing a challenge in our country and around the world? Certainly, we are. Yet, it is hard to find a time when victory was earned through fear, cowardice and pessimism, the guiding lights for far too many of today’s media voices and politicians.

45 thoughts on “We Shall Cower in Our Basements?”

  1. This is completely off topic, but Mrs, Lapin, you look absolutely gorgeous in the purple outfit in your 6/2/2020 TCT podcast! Your hair, accessories, the color purple-so lovely!

    1. Well, Chava, I don’t think that is off-topic at all. :). Thanks so much for telling me that. I have to go look at the episode now.

  2. Susan, as so often happens, you express just what I have been thinking, except better.

    On my rare ventures out, to resupply groceries primarily, I notice I am not enjoying being out as much as I should. Oh, I wear a mask and follow all the social distancing rules, but I have noticed all too often that many, or at least some people, have embraced fear and anxiety to such an extent that just passing by them in a supermarket aisle apparently causes them to react with obvious fear and sometimes outright hostility. It is quite unpleasant. If the lockdown is not unlocked soon I don’t know where this will end. It reminds me of some rather horrifyingly episodes of “The Twilight Zone” from many years ago.

    Like you, I have been wondering why the public libraries have not reopened for at least some services. I miss them! Your comparison of public and private sector services is very apt.

    1. Mark, I too have noticed animosity between people when out walking, even if we are really spread apart and there is plenty of room. I never watched The Twilight Zone, but so many people reference it, I wonder if I should try to do so one of these days.

      1. Susan,

        It has only now occurred to me that we can’t forget that the public libraries are “free” because they are funded with taxpayer money, from which we all benefit. (No, this is most assuredly not an argument of socialism or big government in general!) If they were privately run, undoubtedly there would be either a per use or a subscription fee, and it would probably be quite hefty, too, to maintain the same level of services we have today, or at least did have before the pandemic. But your point still is valid, which is that they could be operated a bit more like in the private sector.

        I forgot that you rarely see television, but “The Twilight Zone” was a remarkable series. It amazes me how many episodes, which I saw as a kid, and most of which I’ve never seen since, have stayed with me, how prescient they were. You might just dip your toes into a few of them, just to see. I bet a lot of them can be found online easily. I recommend especially the ones from the late 50s and early 60s. They were so well written!

        1. Mark, I do think public libraries are a wonderful thing, though as they become more indoctrination and entertainment centers because of the Leftist-leaning tendencies of the ALA and various local boards, I do think they need renewed scrutiny. They should be serving the purpose for which they were intended.

      2. Susan,
        Sorry, but I’ve had yet another thought. Ever since I first heard the term “social distancing” I have found it vaguely annoying. It bugs me, but I haven’t been able to figure out why. Probably because it seems like somewhat of a contradiction in terms. Social. . . distancing? I’m not referring to its practicality, or necessity, just the term itself. It’s strange. However, I believe I have had a minor epiphany: It should be called ANTIsocial distancing! What do you think? (I’m probably not the first to think of this.)

        1. Mark, I have heard people prefer using ‘physical distancing,’ so I don’t think you are alone in your thinking.

  3. Your sentiments about public libraries during this time are tone-deaf at best. Libraries are one of the few remaining resources that serve the public regardless of status or income. To compare it to a paid subscription service is a viewpoint rooted in entitlement; if the library isn’t performing to your standards and getting you your “money’s worth“, then it must not be doing anything worthwhile at all. Many libraries that are “closed” are working tirelessly and thanklessly behind the scenes to feed and serve their communities. Those who are being served and provided with basic needs don’t have the luxury of complaining that the library isn’t working harder to meet some arbitrary, elitist standard set by someone bored of digital offerings. They are simply grateful that now, as always, libraries are showing their mettle and proving once again that they are an institution that offers far more to society than just books. You refer to the famous riding librarians, as if modern libraries are not still going well out of their way to meet the needs of their communities, albeit without the horses. Libraries have been running pen-pal programs to comfort the lonely and the elderly. They are preparing and donating sanitized books and care packages to struggling families stuck at home. Many are working from their offices, not at home, to offer a myriad of virtual programming for all ages. Even more institutions are offering exactly what you’re suggesting, with hold pickup and sanitation plans, quarantining materials, etc. Those services cannot spring to life at a moment’s notice. It takes time and patience to plan and implement alternative ways to safely provide materials. I find myself constantly repeating a phrase that so much of society refuses to accept: Libraries do not simply offer material to consume. The most vulnerable in society look to libraries as their home, their main resource, their lifeline. I am a librarian. My library is closed. We are devastated and concerned about our regular patrons. We pray for them and only hope to see them again, alive and well. We are working very hard to provide more than “just” digital materials. None of us have stopped working. And despite your unfortunate attitude towards your library, I can assure you that they will be thrilled to welcome you back when it is safe to do so. We are taught from a young age not to judge a book by its cover. I urge you not to judge your library by its closed sign.

    1. Alyssa, as some of the other comments show, different library systems are reacting in different ways. I was particularly concerned not about “the elite” but rather about those who don’t have (as I do) bookshelves filled with books to enjoy or the ability to pay for and order books via the web. I am not aware of my local libraries offering any physical books to any patrons. If your area is doing more, that is a good thing.

  4. Lenore Maslonka

    Up side to all things 😊
    Drive through line to pick up books. Librarian in parking lot taking names of patrons. When you get to head of line phone number on sign, roll passenger side window down, a librarian drops your bag of books onto seat.
    Great service! I have requested all books online for years. Had to walk inside…..cane & bad knees….to check out. This is great having a drive through!
    Brazoria County library system, TEXAS.

    1. I’m so glad to hear that there are library systems that are functioning, Lenore. I hope you let them know how much you appreciate it and how helpful it would be to have that option even when they open up.

  5. Susan, I was almost five when America entered world wars two at that time. I remember the rationing Americans did and the scrap drives for iron, rubber and paper, that we supported. The ten cent stamps we bought in our schools to support the war effort. There was great respect for those that lived in houses that had blue or gold stars in the windows. We were a God fearing, united America at that time in history.

    1. Mark, I wonder if the idea of the whole nation pulling together sounds like a fairy-tale to today’s youth.

  6. One thing I’ve done a little research and reading on has been news papers that have been digitized from 1918. It is interesting to see the difference and compare. Most notably to me was how Jewish and Christian believers ran toward the danger like fireman toward a fire, verses the complete absence and shutdown of churches and synagogues today. Today the primary concern seems to be safety. The 1918 folks weren’t trying to be reckless is didn’t appear, they just saw it as a necessary requirement of the faithful. I read that in New York in particular, synagogues opened as hospital wards and members took care of the sick and made soup and bread lines to feed the hungry. Today’s church has done what? Gone digital so you can watch from home. Wow! (Sarcasm)

    1. I think autocorrect did a number on my comment! haha Should have read before hitting post.

    2. Kevin, I have seen that happening today as well. It’s not a good idea to lump all churches or synagogues together. Times like these do separate the wheat from the chaff.

  7. Carl August Schleg

    WONDERFUL POST, Am on the ‘Front Line’ and REFUSE to live in FEAR, both on and off the job…..Sharing HOPE ALL THE TIME…..HUGS2YA’LL

  8. I am grateful for your voice……for reminding us to take heart, we are not alone in our thinking that we must accept bunkers constructed of pessimism.

    1. Fear and pessimism are contagious as are courage and optimism. We need to face reality, but which side we approach it from makes all the difference.

  9. Amen, amen, amen!!!! I will never, ever resign myself that this is the new normal. I’m such a big fan of the President’s upbeat, can-do, failure-is-not-an-option, All-American message. God bless and keep writing the truth, Susan.

  10. Dear Susan Lapin,

    As you mention COVID-19 is a challenge in our country and around the world. It is therefore important that we look at the issue seriously, and also look at it through the lens of science, mathematics and history.

    One of your readers wrote, “Viruses don’t go away – chicken pox, whooping cough …” While there many disease causing viruses that are still with us, some have been eradicated. I would like us to remember that smallpox, a viral disease, has been eradicated worldwide. And that further, several other viral diseases such as poliomylelitis, and yaws have been targeted for elimination. The Bill & Melinda Gates are actually committed to eradicating 5 major diseases within the next few years. Talk about paying it forward! However correcting the record as to whether viral diseases can be, and have been, eradicated is not the main reason why I am asking that you permit me to comment on your post.

    You wrote above, “Yet, it is hard to find a time when victory was earned through fear, cowardice and pessimism, the guiding lights for far too many of today’s media voices and politicians”. I am neither a member of the media nor of the political class, and so I have no particular reason to advocate for them, nevertheless I believe that you and some of your readers have simplified their position. The solution to the problem of COVID-19 is not courage as opposed to cowardice, or optimism as opposed pessimism. The solution is rooted in applying sound scientific principles as advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and others. Some of the techniques are identifying those who are infected, or who may be infected so they can practice physical distancing, hand washing, and doing testing so that we can be sure that business that are reopening do not once again become foci for the reemergence of the pandemic. This is an incomplete summary of the precautions required to flatten the curve, however since the complete list is actually available by consulting the “profits” of doom. I don’t need to point them out, as most of your readers seem to be all too aware of them, and indeed, are aghast at the ideas. They seem to be less aware of the mathematics related to COVID-19.

    We can pick up the papers and see the following based on current numbers i.e. the numbers of May 21, 2020 for COVID-19:

    Total Cases in the USA 1,608,084.
    Recovered 308,195.
    Deaths 95,087.
    Which allows us immediately to estimate the likelihood that you will die if you get COVID-19 as 5.91%. No one in the USA had immunity to COVID-19 when the pandemic broke. It is a new disease (in humans), therefore there is no “herd immunity”. For herd immunity, which is to say that situation in which enough people in the population have immunity so that when one person gets sick the propagation to another person -without immunity- is unlikely, we need from 70% to 90% immunity. (This is the case for diseases such as measles and chicken pox). If in the US we are to develop herd immunity –in the absence of a vaccine- then if we conservatively say that 75% of the population needs to get ill with COVID-19, then we would have deaths totaling 5.9% of 75% of the US population (of 328.2 million), which is to say 14.55 million deaths.

    The wholesale destruction of cultures by disease like this is well known throughout history. In the Americas the Native Americans had no immunity to measles, smallpox and other diseases that came with the Europeans. The estimated mortality rates resulting from smallpox epidemics range between 38.5% for the Aztecs, 50% for the Piegan, Huron, Catawba, Cherokee, and Iroquois, 66% for the Omaha and Blackfeet, 90% for the Mandan, and 100% for the Taino (h. About 60 million people died in the Americas from viral disease after Columbus came. Other decimations of populations are documented in the book “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies” by Jared M. Diamond 1997.

    As far as COVID-19 is concerned, the current US population is in the same position as the Native Americans were three or four centuries ago. The bubonic plaque or “Black Death” killed approximately 50 million people throughput Asia, Europe and Africa in the 14th century. In effect it wiped out 60% of the European population. I believe the politicians and the media are not being alarmist and cowardly, as much as they are aware of history. We are taught that G_d hardened Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 7, versus 3) such that he did not see the signs, and thus ten plagues were visited upon the Egyptians. I pray that we will not be like Pharoah with a hardened heart, and likewise refuse to see the signs and refuse to remember the history of diseases and plagues. My advice is listen to the scientists of the CDC. Hearken to their advice, practice social distancing and reopen the economy carefully with the requisite attention for safeguarding human life. Rather than bravado, we need patience, science, and more than a few prayers to the Almighty to ensure a smooth reopening of the economy.

    May you and yours remain safe during this crisis, and continue to partake in the bounteous blessings of our Father in heaven,


  11. Thank you Susan. Well said! The same is happening in Canada. This is exactly how I feel. The paranoia is overwhelming. I get a little depressed when I think about how easily and how fast the general public succumbed to all these controls on our society!

    1. Janice, as my husband points out, just about everything can be a ‘health crisis,’ once the government sees it as a tool to manipulate. Let’s hope that voters have open eyes and we have honest elections in the fall.

  12. I thought for certain, I would read more library stories! You are so fortunate being able to put “holds” on (I’m assuming) NEW books.
    My library informed me that I will not be able to place holds until June 1. As far as NEW materials? They haven’t been processing any, so a search for a new book or other materials comes up, “not owned by library.”
    However, they did start allowing patrons to pick up holds from March on Monday. I had one and the procedure was as follows: Park in an approved parking location, then walk to the rear of the library building. There will be a table set up outside and your hold will be in a paper bag with the last 4 digits of your library card. You must identify yourself, and have your library card to pick up your “hold material”
    I can’t begin to describe the surreal feeling I had when walking to the table to take my “paper bag.” I forced myself not to say anything, but I really wanted to!

    On June 1, we can enter the building as long as we are wearing a face mask, but ONLY to pick up holds and check them out. Patrons are not allow access to the stacks to browse. They have not specified when full access will be allowed.

    I am in total agreement with your well expressed sentiments. You write what so many of us are thinking and say it so much better than we could!

    1. Mary, it sounds to me like your library made an effort to keep patrons supplied with books. I’d be happy to pick books up in the parking lot. When we moved to a new city close to thirty years ago (wow!) they used to mail our holds. It was such fun to get books in the mail. The post office is suffering from lack of business – maybe this would have been another solution for filling holds. If I can buy and return shoes by mail, why not order and return library books? We would, of course, have to inculcate an ethic of feeling responsible for returning books.

  13. People I thought willing to do anything for liberty have proved themselves fainthearted. And people I never expected have proven themselves willing to fight for liberty. I’ve seen people practice amazing kindness and compassion and other people revealed to be tyrants and malicious, allowing fear to feed anger to the point of wishing others dead. Thank you for sharing a heart of courage and for giving others who are likeminded to share, reminding me I’m not alone.

    1. So true, Judy. I need to find an article from decades ago, where (can’t remember who) wrote about a party where she looked around and decided who were the “Nazis in the room.” In other words, who would succumb to that kind of thought process if circumstances were different. This has taught us a lot about ourselves and those around us.

  14. Our park benches that are baking in the hot sun have signs attached that say, “These surfaces have not been disinfected.” I look around and think, “If I were a hostile nation, this one looks ripe for takeover.” But then again, I live in California which I keep having to remind myself is thankfully not reflective of the rest of the country.

    1. Flayer, my concern is that as people like Elon Musk leave California, they don’t leave behind their awful political allegiances. They don’t connect how they voted with how things turned out.

  15. People will stop living in fear when they realize that there are some things worse then death. It’s only a matter of time before people won’t fear going to prison when they figure out that they are already in prison.

    1. Remember, “Better Red than dead,”? The reality, of course, was “Red + dead,” but people couldn’t see beyond the immediate.

  16. Marlon Dion Glenn

    Hello! Excellent thoughts. I completely agree. Never in my life have a seen such a generation of cowards. It is shameful and I can’t help but think how utterly disappointed my deceased parents would be at our national cowardice. The “pampered” life has borne the fruits of our demise. We are fearful, unbelieving, faithless, undisciplined, cowardly, and weak. Unless we grow a spine, our national heritage is done. Torn to pieces on the rocks of our unbridled lack of trust in God. We have reaped what we have sown. May God have mercy on us for our shameful conduct. Past generations would recoil in horror at our actions. Thanks for your excellent work. God bless.

    1. Marlon, it’s amazing how a lack of faith leads to so much inability to cope. However, let’s be careful not to generalize about “a generation.” There are people of all generations who understand the threat we’re under and those of every generation who think that the government should completely control us.

    2. I agree! I fear for our country. Can you imagine what our Founders would think of their spineless nation? God speed!
      Nelson Martin

      1. Nelson, as I recall 2/3 of the colonists were not ready to rebel or were on the side of England. Human nature is what it is, however, our educational system has definitely not been geared to raising courageous patriots.

  17. Very well said, Mrs. Lapin! My mother texted me today and asked me to pray that “the American spirit be revived.” She meant just what you write about here. God bless you and Rabbi Lapin.

  18. Wholeheartedly agree. Viruses don’t go away – chicken pox, whooping cough…. We need to open things up and deal with this sooner rather than later. We are just prolonging the agony by sitting home. The shut down was to be very short term so the hospitals could be prepared for a possible crisis. This thing is out-of-control and ridiculous. I am very sad to see the fear that has been propagated and the “need” for mother government to take care of us. Ugh.

    We are very much missing our library as well.

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