Margaret Mitchell’s tart and tantalizing Scarlett went from indulged to forsaken during the Civil War. She saw her world crumble as her many protectors abandoned the sprawling plantation. Some took to the hills and deserted her. Some just died. Trauma induced lunacy claimed others. Untethered, she faced her fate alone. In charge of a tumbled, uncertain future; returning to Tara was her only solution.
I see our world much like Scarlett’s. Our states are once again at odds. Our lives, previously so insulated, are now unsettled and chaotic. As we wage war against an invisible enemy, our protections erode. Task forces come and go. Our input and gains from a global effort are lost. We’ve been deserted by the lunatic in charge of the battle, and we cling to the notion that somehow, such horror could never happen to us. We are Americans! How dare we be inconvenienced! We, too, want to return to our former world. Our Tara.
Rhett Butler’s famous line concerning the illusion of the Confederacy’s strength comes to mind. “All we have is cotton, slaves and arrogance” he warned the zealous young enlistees. Today our lifestyle is our cotton; our conveniences our slaves. And an arrogance that promotes blind allegiance to anything that speaks to our fears; a modern bravado that seeks out easy solutions to perceived threats. Those that find reality too difficult, or inconvenient, cling to theories that feed their need for security. Bizarre conspiracies posted on line, or twitter feeds at midnight go down easier than hard science. Rating-crazy talking heads spew out the latest disinformation, no longer thwarted by the need to fact check. Those in the usual role model positions indicate one thing, and do another. Analyze? Not any more. It’s now rationalize and sensationalize. Facing facts means getting them. Not those alternative ones. The scientifically based facts.
And the facts tell us that we are dying. By the thousands. That increasing exposure by liberating our communities will increase the death toll. That those in charge have no plan other than to inspire the enemy. And the voters. And the donors.
Clearly, we are on our own. Tara was, and is, a myth. But this virus is not. We will never be able to go home again. Not completely.
So, give a damn. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. And get your affairs in order. The winds are changing…
Today, America is number one. Not in science. Not in healthcare. Not in climate control. Not in manufacturing. But, we are number one in Covid-19 cases. Whether or not other countries have fewer or more, is not the point. As of today, one million people are infected. Fifty-five thousand are dead. And while some areas of the country have seen a leveling of numbers, people are still contracting the virus. And the death count will continue.
Being far from the big city can give us small towners a false sense of security. But we must take heed. The pandemics of the past hit cities first and then rolled into rural areas. And round two was far more virulent than the first one. It’s quite possible that this pandemic could get worse, before it ever gets better.
Americans tend to feel indestructible. We’ve ridden a wave of success, domination and power since our forefathers created our republic. Not so much any more. We’ve taken a back seat to Europe and Asia in the current war against an elusive virus. This time, we’re all soldiers, with little or imperfect ammunition and no Eisenhower or Patton to lead the charge. We all must do what we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
A new world is, indeed, on the horizon. But new isn’t always better. Everything about our world has changed. It will be a long time before we can right this ship, if indeed, we can survive the storm.
Americans have always been generous. They donate, tip and volunteer more than any other country. Giving USA’s annual report on philanthropy shows that, in 2018, donations totaled nearly $428,000,000,000. Tax law changes hurt some, as giving was down 4% from the year before. But the country still gave.
It is estimated that 6 in 10 Americans donated something in 2019, with individuals over the age of 55 giving the most. Corporations provide the largest share, with foundations in second place and individuals coming in third. Wherever it comes from, charitable giving keeps the country going. It assists schools, the environment, the arts and the needy. Without it, important programs and safeguards would disappear.
Local charities are suffering. Agencies that serve our communities need your help. Families are hurting. Fund raisers have been shelved. Donations have plummeted. Consider choosing 5 favorite charities and send them each $5.00. Every month. If 100 do this, that’s $6,000/yr for each one. Give now. Please.
I grew up with Republicans. The ancient ones. The “fiscally conservative/socially moderate” folks. People like Eisenhower, who built the Interstate System, continued the New Deal and expanded Social Security. Nixon, who resigned in disgrace, eased Cold War tensions, ended the draft, formed the EPA, created the first affirmative action program, enforced desegregation, saw the passage of the Clean Water Act and implemented Supplemental Social Security for the needy. Closer to home, Everett Dirksen, war monger that he was, also fought to create the Civil Rights Acts of ’64 and ’68. The Rockefellers were probably the best example. They favored big business and Wall Street, but supported Unions, the building trades, and government spending on the environment, healthcare and higher education. Six decades ago, the GOP fought for Civil Rights, Gender Equality, welfare programs and environmental protections. I miss those people. Their old, familiar elephant is now in a museum. Next to integrity.
The pleas for “social distancing” have me puzzled. Such a strategy sounds more like advice for young teens with racing hormones than a public health necessity. I find little about the current pandemic precautions to be social in any way. To me, a call for “personal distancing” is more suitable advice.
Social drinking, along with pot lucks, bridge parties and birthday celebrations are what I consider entertaining contact with others. A deadly virus not so much. And yet, people in my own community continue to gather on porches, in garages and on their decks to socialize – thinking, I assume, that being outside is a “no-virus bubble.” Furthermore, large delegations of family and friends still march in tandem though big box grocery stores, checking out the bargain bins and gathering up the necessary allotment of beef jerky and toilet tissue.
This is not a party, folks. Take this personally. Stay home!
For those who plan to attend the 2020 Easter service at your place of worship…
Our leader, who art a heathen,
Hollow be thy fame.
Although you won.
We know how come.
To whom you’re cleavin’.
Give us today, no view of your head,
And quit with all the texts,
And let Fauci do his best.
And lead us not into annihilation,
By continuing your drivel.
For the world is not your kingdom,
As you sour in false glory,
Shut your mouth, sir.
We’ve all seen and heard how Covid-19 is the most dangerous to the older crowd. Seniors are advised to stay in. Nursing homes and assisted living centers are closed to non essential visitors. Old is the new threatened. Given that the scientists are expecting the rest of the world to follow the course of Italy and Spain, who’s to say the world’s population won’t shrink from the top down?
Because rank and priviledge won’t spare the vulnerable, should we lose key world leaders, what will ensue? Kim Jon Un is 37. Macron and Trudeau are in their 40’s. UK Boris and Kavanaugh are 55. Merkel and Xi Jin Ping squeak under at 65 and 66 respectively. Everyone else is as old as dirt. Should our world leaders become incapacitated, or worse, what kind of chaos will their absence create? Who will be in charge?
Do the math. Wash your hands. This stuff is real.
Back in the dark ages of the 1950s, 5th grade brought new responsibilities. Readying us to go out into the world, teachers assigned tasks. No refusals accepted. It was then that I found myself perched on the curb of authority. Literally. Swaddled in an oversized yellow belt, I was charged with the safety of our school mates every Thursday as I led them from the “Dome” and across to the Fourth Avenue sidewalk. No lights, no signs – just my short, outstretched arms and the hope that my face could be seen over the front of the Chevys and Packards that waited in line for a few of the non-walkers. It was not my favorite job. And I don’t think I was very good at it.
Which brings me to this morning’s responsibility. I’m here in Wisconsin for a few days and chauffeured my grandkids to school. It’s cold and very snowy here. Snow, cheese and the Packers never disappoint. Huge piles of snow line the streets while rows of cars and buses vie for an opening into the various entrances. There is no such thing as a left turn before or after school. And not a Packard in sight. The lean, attractive woman who controlled the flow of traffic smiled as she waved us along. Our eyes locked, and she knew. Kindred spirits? Soul mates? Illinois plates? No problem. “She’s wearing my belt” I said to myself. Then, I saw her nod in my direction. In the midst of all the commotion, she quietly, but decisively, led a group of warmly jacketed children from the curb and across to safety. She looked like she enjoyed her job. And I bet she was good at it, too. A successful drop off and one more wave, and I was on my way home. Secretly so glad that she, not I, was doing that job.
Today is January 28, 2020. UNICEF estimates that 353,000 babies will be born around the world before tomorrow dawns. If it’s your birthday you are in good company with a few of the greats. Johann Ernst Bach for one. Johann Sebastian was his twin. Guess you could say they were born Bach to Bach. Sorry about that. And African explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who led the search for Dr. Livingston, and discovered the Nile as a bonus. The illegitimate son of Elizabeth Parry, he went by his father’s name (whom he never met) as Henry Rowlands until he emigrated to America, where he went to work for Henry Stanley, taking his name as a gesture of gratitude. He fought for both sides in the Civil War, ending up in the Union navy where his love of adventure flourished. Expeditions to the Ottoman empire, the Congo and beyond followed. Happy birthday wishes, I presume.
I grew up in a cloud. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, everybody smoked. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors – even the minister, inhaled. I doubt if I ever saw anything clearly – and I’m certain that I always smelled like a Winston. Tobacco ruled. Fancy cigarette boxes, lighters shaped like large chess pieces and oddly molded ash trays were prized possessions. There was no escaping it. Everyone on television smoked. Everyone in the movies smoked. Cowboys in white hats, black hats, jeeps and saloons all lit up the “tobaccy” as they tamed the wild west. Danny Thomas, Donna Reed, Jack Parr – you name it. Smoke was there. Bogey’s Casablanca was awash in it, adding to its intrigue with a magical, swirling haze.
It’s always been a right of passage for young people. I missed that voyage, having never tried it. I’m lucky I guess. Quitting looks really hard. Ask Bogey.