Vietnam and the sex revolution dominated headlines in ’69, not pandemic that killed 100,000

by WorldTribune Staff, May 4, 2020

Step out of line, the man come and take you away — For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

Today, in some cities and states under the emergency orders of power-hungry officials, if you sing at a gathering of more than 10 people the man might just come and take you away.

In the summer of 1969, social distancing was not the order of the day as 500,000 people packed Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York to see some of the top musicians and bands of the day perform at Woodstock.

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. ‘If we used government lockdowns then like we use them now, Woodstock would never have happened.’

But why wasn’t America in lockdown in 1969? At that time, the H3N2 flu pandemic was running rampant in the USA.

“The flu spread from Hong Kong to the United States, arriving December 1968 and peaking a year later. It ultimately killed 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly over the age of 65, and one million worldwide,” Jeffrey A. Tucker, editorial director for the American Institute for Economic Research, noted in a May 1 analysis.

“The H3N2 pandemic killed more individuals in the U.S. than the combined total number of American fatalities during both the Vietnam and Korean Wars,” Nathaniel L. Moir wrote for National Interest.

As Bojan Pancevski in the Wall Street Journal points out, “In 1968-70, news outlets devoted cursory attention to the virus while training their lenses on other events such as the moon landing and the Vietnam War, and the cultural upheaval of the civil-rights movements, student protests and the sexual revolution.”

Tucker noted that “lifespan in the U.S. in those days was 70 whereas it is 78 today. Population was 200 million as compared with 328 million today. It was also a healthier population with low obesity. If it would be possible to extrapolate the death data based on population and demographics, we might be looking at a quarter million deaths today from this virus. So in terms of lethality, it was as deadly and scary as COVID-19 if not more so, though we shall have to wait to see.”

“Not a single governor acted to enforce social distancing, curve flattening (even though hundreds of thousands of people were hospitalized), or banning of crowds,” Tucker noted. “No mothers were arrested for taking their kids to other homes. No surfers were arrested. No daycares were shut even though there were more infant deaths with this virus than the one we are experiencing now. There were no suicides, no unemployment, no drug overdoses.”

The H3N2 pandemic happened in the lifetimes of every American currently over 52 years of age.

“I was 5 years old and have no memory of this at all,” Tucker wrote. “My mother vaguely remembers being careful and washing surfaces, and encouraging her mom and dad to be careful. Otherwise, it’s mostly forgotten today. Why is that?”

Media covered the 1968-69 pandemic “but it never became a big issue,” Tucker noted.

“Nothing closed. Schools stayed open. All businesses did too. You could go to the movies. You could go to bars and restaurants. John Fund has a friend who reports having attended a Grateful Dead concert. In fact, people have no memory or awareness that the famous Woodstock concert of August 1969 – planned in January during the worse period of death – actually occurred during a deadly American flu pandemic that only peaked globally six months later. There was no thought given to the virus which, like ours today, was dangerous mainly for a non-concert-going demographic.”

The only actions governments took was to collect data on the H3N2 flu, “watch and wait, encourage testing and vaccines, and so on,” Tucker wrote. “The medical community took the primary responsibility for disease mitigation, as one might expect. It was widely assumed that diseases require medical not political responses.”

Government at the time was certainly willing to intervene in public matters. “We had the Vietnam War, social welfare, public housing, urban renewal, and the rise of Medicare and Medicaid. We had a president swearing to cure all poverty, illiteracy, and disease. Government was as intrusive as it had ever been in history. But for some reason, there was no thought given to shutdowns,” Tucker noted.

Which raises the question: why was this different?

Tucker wrote: “Was the difference that we have mass media invading our lives with endless notifications blowing up in our pockets? Was there some change in philosophy such that we now think politics is responsible for all existing aspects of life? Was there a political element here in that the media blew this wildly out of proportion as revenge against Trump and his deplorables? Or did our excessive adoration of predictive modelling get out of control to the point that we let a physicist with ridiculous models frighten the world’s governments into violating the human rights of billions of people?”

Tucker continued: “By way of personal recollection, my own mother and father were part of a generation that believed they had developed sophisticated views of viruses. They understood that less vulnerable people getting them not only strengthened immune systems but contributed to disease mitigation by reaching ‘herd immunity.’ They had a whole protocol to make a child feel better about being sick. I got a ‘sick toy,’ unlimited ice cream, Vicks rub on my chest, a humidifier in my room, and so on.

“They would constantly congratulate me on building immunity. They did their very best to be happy about my viruses, while doing their best to get me through them.”

It is said that Woodstock was three days that “defined a generation.”

“If we used government lockdowns then like we use them now, Woodstock (which changed music forever and still resonates today) would never have occurred,” Tucker noted. How much prosperity, culture, tech, etc. are we losing in this calamity?

“What happened between then and now? Was there some kind of lost knowledge, as happened with scurvy, when we once had sophistication and then the knowledge was lost and had to be re-found? For COVID-19, we reverted to medieval-style understandings and policies, even in the 21st century. It’s all very strange.

“The contrast between 1968 and 2020 couldn’t be more striking. They were smart. We are idiots. Or at least our governments are.”


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