The Local Voice

The View From The Balcony: “Welcoming Ourselves Back: History Weighs In”


by Randy Weeks

By the time you read this we’ll have had a few days to venture out from under our rocks to see what a not-quite-post-apocalyptic Oxford looks like. As we loosen the grip of the restrictions we’ve been under, many are saying, “Welcome back,” while holding their breath and crossing their fingers. As much as we all want a return to the old ways of being, we must accept that those ways are gone―at least for now.

Our city and county officials from Mayor Tannehill on down are doing amazing work in negotiating a viral mine field with little or no map to follow. Call them “Contagion Cartographers”―sort of a modern day Lewis and Clark. It appears that common sense and courage have ruled the day―at least, locally.

As good fortune would have it, I had the chance to clandestinely sit down with some pretty famous folks recently. In an unsanctioned tête-à-tête on The Balcony, in the wee hours of this past Sunday morn, we philosophized, postulated, and pontificated upon the current state of the world, relative to Covid-19.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first to bound up the steps to The Balcony―as spry as he must have been at sixteen.  He mixed a Bermuda Rum Swizzle and joined me.

“Mr. President,” I asked, “how would you apply your famous words, ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ to our current situation?”

“I’ll be frank, Randy,” FDR said, “and you can call me ‘Frank’―we were at war when I said that.”

 “But aren’t we in a kind of war now?” I asked.

Frank took a long sip of his swizzle, exhaled, and thoughtfully surveyed the Square. He lowered his head and, with mist in his eyes, spoke. “War is hell. Look at me. Yes, I led us successfully through a World War, but we could see that enemy. I was a casualty of an enemy we couldn’t see―polio. Like polio, this Coronavirus is a horse of a different color.”

“It pays to know the enemy, doesn’t it, Franklin?” Margaret Thatcher approached. “But in this case, I don’t think we’ll ever have the opportunity to turn him into a friend.”

“Bully for you, Maggie!” said Teddy Roosevelt, clearly not speaking softly. “We’ll never turn this virus into a friend. But we must be certain to do the right thing. Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”

“And knowing what must be done does away with fear, doesn’t it, Theodore?” asked Rosa Parks.

“The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution,” came a voice from the southwest corner. It was Sun Tzu, sipping warm saki.

His tablemate, St. Jerome, added, “and the scars of others should teach us caution.”

How could one argue with that?

“Just as with polio, there will be a cure―eventually,” said Dr. Jonas Salk. “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”

“But what about those raging for everything to totally and immediately open up again?” I asked.

All was quiet for a few seconds. “Stupid is as stupid does.” The voice was unmistakable.

“Forrest Gump!” I said. “I quoted you on that in my last column.”

“I know,” Forrest said. “But people with ears don’t always hear.”

The clip clop of a horse’s hooves came from the west. The Lone Ranger and Silver approached, both wearing masks. They stopped beneath the balcony. “The law here is doing yeoman’s work,” the Lone Ranger said. “Be optimistic, but be cautiously optimistic. Keep your mask handy, Randy―but not so you can get away with something.

Remember my creed: ‘All people are created equal and everyone has within themselves the power to make this a better world. God put the firewood there, but everyone must gather and light it themselves in being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.’”

The morning sun peeked over the eastern horizon. We all raised a glass to the Lone Ranger’s simple truth of personal responsibility. Silver reared up and the Lone Ranger shouted, “Hi yo, Silver, and away!” and they rode into the sunrise, as if to say, “It’s a new day. It’s a new time. Let’s be careful out there. Wear your mask, buckaroo.”

…and that’s the view from The Balcony.

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