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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 3/26/20

Greetings and Happy Thursday!


War and COVID-19

The above meme is funny, yet there is an element of truth. There have been many comparisons of the battle against COVID-19 to warfare. If the current moment is to be characterized as warfare, we probably need benchmarks to measure the success of the fight. One such benchmark is just getting people to see this threat for what it is and to begin dealing with it. Many experts saw this coming but found our leaders unwilling to take things seriously. One of the first conversations with the President about the gravity of the situation was distracted by a discussion on lifting bans on vaping.

The delay to realize the gravity of the situation has caused us immeasurable harm—in strain to the health care system, lives lost, and economic dislocation. But it seems the majority of the country finally “gets it.” What we need now is honest talk about the road ahead—not gut feelings about therapies early in development; not “feel good” moments; and certainly not the partisan park-barrelling from both sides during the formulation of the stimulus package. This is the time when great leaders step up and tell the people the cold hard facts, while offering them hope.

Winston Churchill, in different times and a different type of war, was able to blend these messages of sacrifice and hope effectively. In commenting after the Allies defeated Rommel’s troops at el-Alamein in Egypt, he famously warned:

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The year was 1942. The Nazis were on the roll. There would still be two more years before D-Day and the liberation of France. While the battle was a much needed boost to flagging British morale, Churchill still didn’t try to play to the PR. He understood that the enemy would continue to rack up early victories and people needed to be prepared.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Before the war, Churchill was a voice in the wilderness, arguing that Britain was behind in its preparations to fight the Nazis. Few listened to his warnings until the Nazis made meaningful military victories. History may write that our Churchill was Dr. Fauci and others in the medical profession. These words about the end of the beginning seem apt today. We have been awakened to the threat and the war is on. Hopefully acceptance of the enemy may constitute the end of the beginning and we can begin looking toward a beginning of the end.



While we’re making historical comparisons, historical fiction clearly is a genre beloved by many readers of the Musings. Whereas many of the books recommended over the past few weeks are in my library, most of these come with recommendations from people who know their stuff. I offer them up without review or edit:

  • I’m sure just about everyone has read the extraordinary A Gentleman from Moscow so a new one to recommend is Isabelle Allende’s captivating A Petal of the Sea. It follows a couple from the Spanish Civil War through a tumultuous time in Chile and beyond. I’m just at the point of the Pinochet takeover. A page turner... Thank you, Toby Waldorf

  • Masters of Rome is a series of historical novels by Australian author Colleen McCullough. They are set in ancient Rome during the last days of the old Roman Republic; it primarily chronicles the lives and careers of Gaius Marius, Lucias Cornelius Sulla, Pompeius Magnus, and Gaius Julius Caesar, and the early career of Caesar Augustus. It spans from January 1, 110 BC through to January 16, 27 BC. Thanks, Andrew Kopkin

  • Cleopatra, by Margaret George. Andrea says this book is unbelievably interesting and well-written. She says pretty much any historical fiction by Ms. George is worth the read. Her fictional biographies include The Autobiography of Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, Helen of Troy, and others.

  • The Book of Daniel, by E.L. Doctorow. Written from the perspective of a surviving child of the Rosenbergs, a remarkable study of the U.S. in the 50s, with all its attendant panic and stress so washed over by “Happy Days” nostalgia and memories of how much we all liked Ike. Thanks, Peter Bain, for this advice. I agree with Peter that nearly anything by E.L. Doctorow is worth a read. His prose and subject matter are brilliant. Check out World’s Fair, which takes place at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 (home of the perisphere and the trylon, still extant in Queens today).

  • The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. We can all use a good laugh again. Thanks, Paul.



If you want to get GREAT journalism from a different source, you need go no further than Lauren Sonnenberg! She has been covering the COVID-19 pandemic 24/7. She doesn’t sleep (seems genetic). Prior to this story, her “beat” was the Senate for the impeachment vote. Seriously, this is good stuff, written for Cheddar news. Here’s a link to her stories:



It’s tough to see the end of this thing, but it will come. The enemy is invisible and our goal is simply that “less will happen.” It’s hard to get one’s arms around “less is more,” but here’s a thought on our physical separation:

“‘The healthy and optimistic among us will doom the vulnerable,’ [Emily] Landon said. She acknowledged that restrictions like a s-in-place may end up feeling ‘extreme’ and ‘anticlimactic’ — and that’s the point. ‘It’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix from your couch. But if we do this right, nothing happens,’ Landon said. ‘A successful shelter-in-place means you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing, and you’d be right: Because nothing means that nothing happened to your family. And that’s what we’re going for here.’”



A number of folks have shared what they are doing more virtual get-togethers, reading to grandchildren on Facetime, jigsaw puzzles (but only the tough ones!), playing on-line card games with friends, and learning new skills. Some (myself among them) are indulging in the limitless crossword puzzles available from the New York Times!

Jim Schreier offers an article on great stuff to do:,1,uviogK8J_KG2zIF0vnDKzzjLmueD5_uUcpSdpikbEI3hnjjaC_nPemBOKsMPLGye6no_klyDeK1o6U9sKePaplogdAU05GGKn5igBwjI0HSbJRs,&typo=1






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