Cannon Charles Martin was the Headmaster of The St. Albans School for Boys at the National Cathedral in Washington DC from 1947-1977. I met Cannon Martin on several occasions when I as a Sr. medical student at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington DC. My best friend Jim Clark was an English teacher at the school and lived on the grounds in a small apartment. Medical students in the Navy don’t make much money so to save on rent I lived in Jim’s apartment and slept on his couch.
Cannon Martin found out about the arrangement and one Saturday morning at breakfast, he came up and started talking to me. He never asked about the living arrangement, so I guess he was just looking me over to make sure I wasn’t a bad influence on “his boys”. Canon Martin was a tough guy. He patrolled the facilities and the grounds of the National Cathedral with a military bearing. He was short and stocky-like his bulldog that always followed him around the grounds. He loved sports, but was especially strict and demanding of his students regarding their academics.
I went to several of his daily morning chapel services and remember quit vividly his praying for St. Alban’s to beat Landon Prep or Georgetown Prep in football or Lacrosse, and in the next breath asking that his students—all who were required to be in attendance, to glorify God by working hard to get good grades.
An anachronism for sure, old school without a doubt. But one sermon that very much stands out for me today was about the reason the school would never close down. Hurricanes, snow blizzards, power outages, polio epidemics, civil rights marches two blocks from the school, nothing would close down the school. The message was that school and learning are so important that nothing was going to stop the process of education. The other point was that the students knew that while they were at the school many were boarders, they were safe. One time there was a very real threat of a perpetrator on the grounds of the National Cathedral and Cannon Martin was out in full view along with the security guards walking up and down the grounds ready to subdue anyone that was a threat to “his boys”.
Faith, education, and competition were part of the DNA of St. Albans. There is a difference between fear an irrational emotion, and concern. Concern forces us to focus and leads to action. Fear makes us cower and is an irrational emotion. The opposite of fear is faith. Live a life of faith and don’t be fearful but concerned in difficult times. Cannon Martin had the advantage of being able to teach faith, Western Civilization, Calculus, and football all at the same time. The lessons of different disciplines when taught in a context of Christian faith and philosophy gives purpose to living a life of vocation and service. In difficult times this foundation gives us perspective.
Have we in Idaho lost our perspective? What about our politicians and those working in the press and government? Have they provided us the proper context regarding the danger of the pandemic? Have they controlled information in a way that supports a self-serving narrative? Have they hurt more than they have helped? Are they able to out process and learn from mistakes? What about the people of Idaho, many who too willingly gave up their own individual and family sovereignty? Where do we as Idahoans fall on the scale between faith and fear? Are we teaching our children to have faith or be afraid? If we had this to do all over again remember we probably rank near the top in the States that did not establish herd immunity so a second wave could be bigger than the first, will our mitigation strategy be different the second time around?
We have seen great heroes in the tristate area doctors, nurses, technicians subjugating their own safety in the line of fire just like Cannon Martin did. In Idaho, we have seen many other heroes doctors, nurses, and technicians placed in harm’s way not by a pandemic and the need to serve, but by having their own vocations put on hold many were retired early or furloughed or even ‘suspended from work” what does that mean? What lawyer came up with that term? In the world, I used to live in many of these people personally put themselves in harm’s way on a daily bases. They participate in operations or attend to patients in the ICU, taking care of sick patients with hepatitis-C or HIV-AIDS, and many other dangerous conditions. This was no way to treat our own local heroes who everyday go unrecognized by the managers who planned a month’s long triage without accounting for the needs of many health care workers and their sick patients the ones living on the margin are the ones hurt the most, who have not received medical care.
We should have these types of people making decisions within our health care facilities and on government panels determining triage strategies. Would they have supported a NY-tristate mitigation policy that would negatively impact the care of so many Idahoans? An ICU or ER nurse should have been on the Governor’s panel instead of hospital administrators and lobbyists who had no idea that the ICUs in our State never were burdened with too many patients including the 4 days early on when St. Luke’s had patients in Sun Valley, Twin Falls, and Boise. Even then the 80 ICU beds in our Valley only had 30 patients. And for the last two weeks ST. Al’s all 4 campuses including two in Oregon averaged 2 Covid-19 patients a day in all four hospitals! For the past 2 days, they have averaged 1 patient a day with a Covid CPT code presumed diagnosis.
The incident rate of being infected with Covid-19 in Idaho has dropped in half over the past week. As testing moves on the number will be lower the number 0.00004 or 0.004%. You have four times the chance of dying from a car accident in Idaho than you do from dying from Covid-19. Is it time to quarantine all drivers? The Ro rate of lateral transmission from one person to another is now approaching 1, not the 3-4 or even 6-8 as previously advertised.
So right now, we can say that the new virus is slightly more infective and slightly more virulent than seasonal flu. 3 Weeks ago a health care provider said that it was 500 times more deadly than seasonal flew. I have not seen a retraction or correction from this “expert”. Our own common sense tells us that this is not true unless we are too afraid to use our common sense.
Schools should never close. They should always stay open and always be safe. By doing so they show the importance of education. Self-isolate children that are immune compromised or whose parents are at high risk I have a granddaughter with a mother who recently underwent chemotherapy and a splenectomy for lymphoma she has and is self- isolating and that is appropriate. Her whole class is not in the same situation.
Hospitals and the people that work there are important because the patients that are sick and need their services are important and are of value. How dare our government officials tell us who amongst the sick is the most important or most in need of care or what disease process is “most necessary”. I say again the ones most hurt the ones who won’t go to a primary care doctor because of the fears and false sirens sounding even today about COVID-19 are those living on the margins.
Cannon Martin taught us most of all about priorities. Learning and living a life of vocation without fear in service to others is all our calling. Being afraid leads us to make bad decisions. Cannon Martin had it right. Anyone who chooses a life of vocation is more than necessary. “They are heroes.”