Be careful during the ides of March

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - March 2, 2021 - 12:00am

It has always been said that March is quite an unlucky month. I say so with a tinge of sadness because it’s my birth month. I was born on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, the same day and month as Archbishop Jose Palma. I just trust that God, through the intercession of St. Joseph, may spare us from disasters, calamities and tragedies, and save us from COVID-19.

I don't really relish being a prophet of doom but in 44 BCE, Julius Caesar was warned by a fortune teller, on his way to deliver a speech in the Roman Senate, to beware the "Ides of March". He didn’t give importance to it and was murdered later that day by a conspiracy of 60 senators, led by his close friends Brutus and Cassius. Four years later, his adopted heir, Octavian, later renamed Caesar Augustus, avenged his death by executing 300 senators and their underlings. In 1599, William Shakespeare wrote a masterpiece, a tragic drama titled “Julius Caesar” and in 1948, Thornton Wilder wrote a 246-page novel "The Ides of March". Both were a success.

On March 17, 1957, the most beloved Philippine president, Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash in Mt. Manunggal in Cebu. He was born in 1907 and died in 1957. He was only 49 and the seventh president. There were a lot of unlucky sevens in his numerology, as the square root of 49 is 7 and he died on March 17, 1957. It appears that the number 7 and the month of March are incompatible. Many aviation accidents happened in March. On March 27, 1977 (number 7 again), the worst tragedy happened when two Boeing 747 collided in Canary Island, killing 577 people. March 2020 was also a bad month for the world. In the US, deadly tornadoes hit Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, while there was a terrible earthquake in Utah and massive flooding in Indiana. In 2020, the first COVID case was identified in New York on March 1. Later that month, New York became the worst US state with 20,875 cases. On March 1, Jack Welch, CEO of GE died. That month alone, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits.

March last year saw Italy, Spain, and India ordered lockdowns of their respective territories, as COVID hit their populations in staggering numbers. India ordered 1.3 billion people to stay home. Italy closed the Lombardy Region and Spain’s economy was halted, bringing untold misery to their people. The UK was also badly hit and that month, both Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for COVID. With the COVID pandemic devastating the world economy, millions lost their jobs. Many disasters and calamities also took place. The Australian forest fires destroyed millions of acres of forests. California also raged with bush fires, destroying homes and properties worth billions of dollars.

Tragedies across timelines in history have a nasty habit of repeating themselves. On March 11, 1918, the much more deadly Spanish flu reached the US and infected 107 soldiers. That virus killed no less than 22 million people in 1920 alone. In March 2003, the SARS virus infected thousands of people in China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, prompting the World Health Organization to issue a global alarm. In natural disasters, in March 1941, there was a deadly and huge blizzard in the American Great Plains, specifically in North Dakota and Minnesota. NASA reported in March 1988 that the ozone layer in the northern hemisphere was depleted three times more than predicted. Way back in March of 1899, a giant cyclone wrecked six warships (three US and three German) in Samoa. In March 1952, the whole island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean was submerged by 73.62 inches of rainwater due a very heavy downpour for 24 hours.

March is also a month of political turmoil in geopolitics. On March 16, 1968, US troops executed 584 children, women, and men in the infamous My Lai massacre as part of the maligned Vietnam War. On March 24, 1939, the Nazis staged a massive attack against Allied forces, gaining more than 35 square miles of territory but the total casualties for both sides reached a staggering half a million soldiers. In that month and year, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and seized the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. In March 1917, the Bolsheviks ousted Czar Nicholas II and later executed his entire family by firing squad. Let us just be extra careful and pray harder.

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