A Modern-Day Frontier
Updated: May 4
I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenge we’re facing right now in our world with the corona virus. All schools, businesses, restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, department stores, well about everything that’s not essential is closing. Government officials have told us to shelter-in-place, to self-isolate. Our world is being turned upside down. It is hard to grasp the magnitude of this world event.
I've also been thinking a lot about the challenges and sacrifices Americans have made before us. The Native Americans and settlers on the frontier in centuries past had unthinkable challenges. They battled cholera, typhus, smallpox, deadly accidents, bears, buffalo stampedes, plagues of locusts and grasshoppers, famine, droughts, rabies, floods, and attacks by other humans. And that’s just a short list.
They did without. They made do. They learned to solve their problems with ingenuity. They persisted. And they helped each other.
Looks like we’re heading into a modern-day frontier of our own. We’ve never faced something like the corona virus before. Nearly everyone who experienced the 1918 flu virus is gone now. (See the recent post “The Godzilla of Pandemics” for a glimpse of how horrible that epidemic was.)
The pioneers and Native Americans on the frontier could see many of the dangers that threatened them with their own eyes. The dangers were tangible. The urgency was clear. We face a silent killer, an invisible demon, one that can be seen only under a microscope until it attacks and we see its ravages too late. It’s hard to feel an urgency. It’s easy to deny the danger. To go on about our lives without a care.
With all of modernity’s wonderful advantages, indoor plumbing, toilets, running water, heat and air conditioning and all the products we could possibly dream of, our society has become used to luxury and convenience. Most of us don’t know true sacrifice. Not really. We are a culture with 400 types of toothpaste to choose from. We deny ourselves very little.
So now we’re getting down to brass tacks. Now we are sheltering-in-place and self-isolating, just like the pioneers did. But they did it because they had no choice. We are doing it for our own survival and for our loved ones and others in society. Now the shelves are out of toilet paper, soaps, antiseptics, thermometers, milk, eggs, flour, and many other staples we’ve come to rely on. And we are only in the beginning days of this epidemic.
We’re approaching unknown territory, dangerous territory, our own modern-day frontier. Past generations of Americans have been through periods of great danger and great sacrifice. Certainly, the pioneers and Native Americans learned to live with very little and survived spectacular challenges. The World War I generation went through a global war, then on the heels of the war, faced the flu epidemic and lost many more loved ones. The Depression era generation suffered many privations, some even utter poverty and starvation. And many of the World War II generation went to war or held down the home front. They all lived with severe rationing, profound sacrifices, and years of isolation from those they loved.
Today, our enemy is invisible—for now. But it is coming. And we must be prepared. Make no mistake: this is a call-to-arms. We are in a war. We must be ready to sacrifice. To be disciplined. To be creative in solving our challenges. And, like the pioneers, we must remember to look out for each other.
Will modern-day Americans rise to the challenge? How will we fare once we are tested in our own wilderness, our own frontier? Perhaps learning how to sacrifice will have a silver lining? Perhaps we will become more appreciative of what we have? Of each other? Perhaps we will come out the other side better people, better Americans?
For related posts, go to NotesfromtheFrontier.com
-The Godzilla of Pandemics: 1918 Flu
-Ira Hayes-A Great Native WWII Warrior
-Pioneer Survival Guides
-Basic Tools of the Pioneers
-The First Wagon Train
-Death on the Trail
-Outhouses: Gems of American Architecture
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