Roy Exum: ‘From Russia With Love’

Monday, March 23, 2020 - by Roy Exum

When I was 11 years old I watched in horror as our TV showed Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe during a session at the UN. It was probably my first view of the evil included in this world and when the Russian bellowed that the speech that he was hearing was by a “fawning lackey of the American imperialists,” that sealed it for me. In high school I read about even worse – Lenin and Stalin – and how the gulags worked 31 million “dissidents” so unmercifully an estimated 1.5 million died.

For over a century Russia was the undisputed world capital of atrocities. In later years I would visit Russia four or five times and found the Russian people were kind and nice and – very privately – despised Communism as much as I do (Take that, Bernie).

That made it all the more special when I learned nine colossal Il-76 cargo planes were being loaded in Moscow on Sunday with eight huge mobile medical teams, gobs of medical supplies, and a fleet of trucks that spray aerosol disinfectants. Each Il-76 has a payload of 40 tons – they even call them “airlifters” – and within hours 360 tons of desperately needed aid was on its way to Italy. The planes themselves, the trucks, and the uniforms all plastered with signage that showed the Russian and Italian flags and bearing the words, ‘From Russia With Love,’ in Russian, Italian and English. Oh, I forgot; there were 100 military experts in virology and epidemics who also made the trip.

It seems that on Saturday Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, called Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and told him he would like to help what has become the coronavirus epicenter. On that very same day, Italy had a record-high 796 more deaths. Italy’s death toll is now 5,476 after 651 deaths were reported on Sunday. Italy is now believed to have the most deaths of any country from the coronavirus, yet China’s reports of cases/deaths are very sketchy. Chinese doctors are not allowed to write the diagnosis on medical charts. They tell frightened families, “This may be the flu you’ve heard about.” Needless to add, world health leaders are appalled.

Then again, last week Chinese president Xl Jinping sent Italy some of his battle-strained experts with medical equipment and millions of face masks. Jinping has also rushed Chinese aid to Pakistan, Serbia, Liberia, the Philippines and the Czech Republic. The losers among the world’s nation claim the Communist country’s largess is an attempt to defuse the criticism that if China had handled the outbreak better and quicker, it would not have been quite the pandemic. Those more eager to help have asked those critics to focus on solutions instead and, to date, not one country that has been offered aid, medical supplies, medical experts or – ‘From Russia With Love’ – has refused it. Nor, not one of the critical losers have suggested the gifts of mercy should be returned.

It is vitally important, especially when talking to children, that we emphasize while thus far there have been almost 330,000 cases of CONVID-19 reported in the world, there have also been 97,636 who have “recovered.” Be mindful that when a case if found, it is immediately reported but it takes at least two weeks or more before the recovery can be announced. Even in strife-torn Italy, there were 7,024 fully recovered on Sunday and that is up from 6,072 the day before. On Sunday the government health agency said there were 3,009 patients in the country’s intensive-care beds, up 141 from Saturday.

Italy has a population of 30.4 million. The United States has 328.8 million of us, and when you add an estimated 40 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., then apply the belief that Italy right now is where the coronavirus will be in the United States two-to-three weeks from now, we are facing quite a storm. The American people will hopefully fare somewhat better percentage-wise by quarantining early, but if you apply the same percentage table to the horrors we will witness in the next two-to-three weeks, it is fully expected our death rate will be something never before witnessed in the history of our nation. This week’s 334,000 cases of the coronavirus is over double what it was … just seven days ago.

The United States reported 31,319 cases by mid-Sunday afternoon, 15,186 of those in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday he expected between 40 percent to 80 percent to get infected.

* * *


(This excerpt is from the ‘Today’ TV show and was written by A. Paswlowski.)

“Fifteen days is likely not going to be enough to get us all the way through,” Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, told TODAY this week. “We really need to lean into it now so that we can bend the curve in the next 15 days and at that point, we’ll reassess.” According to infectious disease chief Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Social distancing will likely continue for ‘at least several weeks’. “I cannot see that all of a sudden next week or two weeks from now, it’s going to be over,” added Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He told this to TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Friday when asked how long Americans would need to stay home and practice social distancing.

During a White House briefing Tuesday, Fauci noted it would probably also take several weeks "and maybe longer" before officials knew whether the guidelines were actually flattening the curve. When discussing the 15-day initiative at that briefing, the president said, "We'll see what happens after that." When previously asked how long the crisis could go on, Trump said, "People are talking about July, August."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the coronavirus outbreak “could easily be a six-month crisis.”

* * *


(NOTE: This is an essay Gutpreet Gill wrote, entitled “What If …” that he posted on his blog -- – and was shared by my longtime friend in Dallas, Sandy Pohfal.)

There is so much fear, and perhaps rightfully so, about COVID-19.

And, What if...

If we subscribe to the philosophy that life is always working out for us, that there is an intelligence far greater than humans at work...

That all is interconnected.

What if...

the virus is here to help us?

To reset.

To remember.

What is truly important.

Reconnecting with family and community.

Reducing travel so that the environment, the skies, the air, our lungs all get a break.

Parts of China are seeing blue sky and clouds for the first time in forever with the factories being shut down.

Working from home rather than commuting to work (less pollution, more personal time).

Reconnecting with family as there is more time at home.

An invitation to turn inwards - a deep meditation - rather than the usual extroverted going out to self-soothe.

To reconnect with self - what is really important to me?

A reset economically.

The working poor. The lack of healthcare access for over 30 million in the US. The need for paid sick leave.

How hard does one need to work to be able to live, to have a life outside of work?

To face our mortality - check back into "living" life rather than simply working, working, working.

To reconnect with our elders, who are so susceptible to this virus.

 And, washing our hands - how did that become a "new" thing that we needed to remember. But, yes, we did.

 The presence of Grace for all.

 There is a shift underway in our society

 What if ... it is one that is favorable for us?

 What if ... this virus is an ally in our evolution?

 In our remembrance of what it means to be connected, humane, living a simpler life, to be less impactful and more kind to our environment.

This is an offering from my heart this morning. Offered as another perspective. Another way of relating to this virus, this unfolding, this evolution.

 It was time for a change, we all knew that.

 And, change has arrived.

-- The Author is Gutpreet Gill

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