There have been several world paralyzing pandemics throughout the annuls of human history, from the first recorded outbreak during the Peloponnesian War in 430 B.C. in Athens to the Antonine Plague of smallpox that began with The Huns and then the Germans in 165 AD. They all originated in various corners of the world, like the Justinian Plague of 541 AD that first appeared in Palestine and then spread throughout the Byzantine Empire. Its recurrence would eventually kill 50 million people over the next two centuries and 26% of the world’s population. It would be the first significant appearance of the bubonic plague.
In 1492 The Columbian Exchange with diseases such as smallpox, measles and bubonic plague entered the Caribbean by way of the invading European conquerors, who decimated the natives of the America’s with their invasions by sea. In 1520 the Aztec Empire was destroyed by a smallpox infection, killing many of its victims while incapacitating a multitude of others.
Research in 2019 concluded that some 56 million Native Americans in the 16th and 17th centuries died largely through disease and may have altered the earth’s climate as vegetation growth on previously tilled land drew more CO2 from the atmosphere and caused a cooling event.
In 1817 the first Cholera Pandemic originated in Russia where one million people died. The disease then was passed through feces-infected water and food and was carried by British soldiers to India where millions more died.
And then in 1918 the avian-borne flu that resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide was first observed in Europe and the United States. By October the death tool in America reached the hundreds of thousands but by the summer of 1919 the threat finally disappeared.
What is noteworthy about all of these major pandemics is that there is no significant record of anyone labeling the disease with the name of the country where the outbreak originated or blaming and attacking the citizens from those countries. And there is no meaningful evidence that such a movement or movements ever emerged over the course of history. The smallpox, measles and bubonic plague that Europeans brought to the America’s and infected so many natives with; from the Caribbean and other parts of South, Central and North America was not called the “European plague” or “Spanish-pox.”
So why is it that now when we are facing another worldwide pandemic that some are ignorant enough to attribute, associate or name the disease after the country, nation or people where it originated, calling if the “Chinese Virus” or “Kung flu.” Those who blindly parrot the virulently racist tropes of Donald Trump should perhaps consider that there are many European nations that could have worn the same label for some of the most devastating worldwide pandemics of the past. But no one in their right minds believes that fellow humans would deliberately cause such global human death and desolation if they could avoid it.
So let’s stop assaulting each other, and start associating with each other, so that together, we can bring an end to this long night of sadness and despair that has enshrouded so many homes and families around the globe. As Martin King has said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”