In 1985 the great Colombian noble prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez published his world-famous book: “El amor en los tiempos del cólera”. Spanish speakers immediately caught the title’s irony, lost in English translation. We can understand the title in four different ways. We can read it as: “Love in a time of rage” or “Love in a time of cholera”, or “Love in raging weather” or even as “Love in a season filled with illness”. This book’s multiple play-on-words, the irony that it expresses seems to be a perfect fit for the times in which we are now living.
College Station, Texas is both culturally and geographically far from New York City: the epicenter of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). Yet even here, as in much of the world, we feel the pandemic and it touches all of our lives. Tonight at 9:00pm we too will go on “shelter-in-place”, a nice way of saying: “Stay home!” As in García – Márguez’ book we too have had our fair share of rain (but nothing like the downpours on Colombia’s Caribbean coast), and there are many, especially some young people, who are enraged by the fact that they shall have temporally to surrender some freedoms for the sake of everyone else.
College Station is a college town. Its principal industry is “education” and the secondary businesses that serve the university community. Without students the city becomes a ghost town, the streets are eerily empty, the restaurants and bars are closed and even many of our first responders are “on-call” from home. In that sense, College Station is not a typical American city; its population tends to be younger and healthier, but also more willing to take risks and far less patient. Many of its professors are more used to giving orders than taking them. The city’s streets are wide and generally not overly crowded (except during a football game). Here most people are polite and visitors often have the sense that they have stepped back into the 1950’s and 1960’s television world of “Father knows Best”
But in many other ways, College Station is typical of not only Middle America but also of much of the Western world. These are days that remind us of our humanity. The pandemic has taught us that we are all humans, that no matter how strong or weak, rich or poor we might be, all of us a mortal. The virus has caused most of us to spend a great deal of time at home. We have learned to tap our inner resources and seek out our creativity. The internet is filled with ways to self improve and when speaking on the phone I am amazed at the number of creative projects and ideas that people are having: from on-line challah baking classes to learning a new language, from improving one’s math skills to struggling with ethical and philosophical questions.
College Station is also typical of Middle America in the fact that most people are disciplined and kindness has overcome selfishness. As in so many United States communities, there are senior citizen shopping hours, young people who ask the weaker how they can help and a general sense of comradery and community cohesion.
There is no doubt that these are not easy days, but we are learning to cope with and discovering an inner peace that had been drowned out by the cacophony of the mundane.
Wishing you all the best from deep in the heart of Texas!
College Station is a city in eastern Texas. It’s home to the main campus of Texas A&M University. On the campus, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum documents the life of the 41st U.S. president. It includes a replica Oval Office and a slab of the Berlin Wall. The Sanders Corps of Cadets Center traces the history of the student military group and exhibits medals and vintage weapons.