This essay is not meant to denigrate the efforts of our government or any others around the world. This is meant to provide some perspective. Many younger folks are now standing in front of me asking questions like, Have you ever seen anything like this? Is this not the worst you have ever seen in America? Will they declare martial law? What is going to happen?
I have no good answers frankly. There is no true control. Nonetheless, I think I try to provide a real perspective. Yes, things are crappy, but is this the worst I have EVER seen? My simple answer is a short and confident NO! No, things can get a lot worse, especially if we do not pull together as a country. Let me tell you what I mean.
When I was a child influenza still stalked the world and killed people in great numbers. In 1957 just before I was born and in 1968 after I was born there were large worldwide influenza pandemics. I recall wholesale vaccinations for a host of childhood diseases, like measles and Diptheria in elementary school. Often the words of the nurses and teachers were stern. Even as a child though, I recognized the fear in their voices as palpable despite the sternness. They clearly remembered a time when such an option was not available.
The stories about polio were even scarier. For a young athletic boy, the idea of being struck down by a virus which didn’t kill but paralyzed seemed worse than death. From 1916 until Jonas Salk developed a vaccine in the mid-fifties, the disease stalked the nation every summer. As an aside, one should consider the fact Salk GAVE HIS VACCINE AWAY!!!! He didn’t partner with Big Pharma to make money off of misery and disease. It would seem in the 21st century, many American doctors have forgotten their Hippocratic Oath, but I digress.
When I entered into adulthood, I went out to bars, partied and dated and did the things young people do. However, before I was even 22 HIV began to kill people. At first, it seemed to be only gay men, but then the disease spread to heterosexuals. For the first time in my lifetime, sex began killing people. Being a history buff, I understood for much of history this had been true with syphilis killing the promiscuous in horrible ways. It put things in perspective a little because for most of the 20th century it had NOT been true. At this time, everyone started reviewing their sexual partners. A person's history in the bedroom became a matter of great concern.
These are just the health crisis I have seen. There have been a number of other times where things seemed worse. In the early seventies, the first oil embargo crippled the nation. Gasoline is the lifeblood of the American economy still. Back then it was even more so. As I entered high school, the war in the Middle East led to a shortage of gasoline. There was rationing. I remember we were lucky with TWO cars one with an odd license plate and one with an even license plate. That meant it was “possible” to go to the gas station to SEE if there was gasoline available because rationing was based upon your license plate. If the last number was odd, you get gas Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and if it was even it was Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Everything closed on Sundays.
War was a threat throughout most of my youth. As I prepared to enter high school, the Vietnam War still raged. The draft meant males were subject to having their lives stolen from them before they were even 21 years old. After the war ended, the draft was ended, but then a couple of months before my high school graduation it was reinstated. There I was in line at the post office under threat of jail to register for the Selective Service.
All throughout my elementary school years in the sixties and early seventies, things seemed to be on the edge of an abyss. Regularly we would have duck and cover drills in case of a nuclear attack. As I got older, I understood how foolish it was and hoped to be vaporized by being near Ground Zero if a nuclear attack occurred. The long slow death of radiation illness, as described in On the Beach was terrifying.
As long as we are in an election year too, I should mention something which happened a few miles from my front door in Los Angeles. Few remember the Summer of Love in 1967 was followed by a Summer of Violence in 1968. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was gunned down mysteriously upon winning the California primary. The Democratic Convention became the center of an upheaval in this nation which actually continues to this day…IMO.
When asked about when was the worst time, I always look to this moment when the previously assassinated president’s brother was gunned down. One assassination is unexpected, John F. Kennedy. Two assassinations, Martin Luther King, Jr. is suspicious. However, when we get to three assassinations, two of them within weeks of each other in 1968, well, it is hard to consider this pattern to be random. Especially when it occurs right before the party convention when the party’s current sitting president chooses NOT to run. Lyndon Baines Johnson just didn't think he could beat Robert F. Kennedy. Goodness, it almost tore the country to pieces and it is why we are so fractured now…IMO
Yes, this is all opinion. When I begin to talk about politics the questioners begin to push back, but those are the facts. Societies are based on their politics and our nation has yet to heal. Usually, a quick query of Professor Google verifies my narrative which leads to questions like: then why is there so much panic? Why are people hoarding toilet paper? Did people hoard toilet paper during the Cuban Missile Crisis? No, they hoarded FOOD!
Why then is there such panic? My answer revolves around the smartphone and Big Tech. We live in a much more controlled society. Anyone who is thirty or less has never lived in a world without an electronic bodyguard. In fact, no one under forty has lived their adult life in a world without an electronic lifeline called the cellular phone. I remind my audience of a time when a flat tire in a bad neighborhood could be a very very bad situation. Many many times in life, one would be completely on one’s own with no electronic bodyguard and no electronic lifeline.
How the HELL did we tolerate such a crazy situation? We had no choice back then. We had to be actually self-sufficient. Today children are driven everywhere. At all times, their parents know where they are. At all times, they can reach out for help. I even hear of parents putting tracking devices in their children’s vehicles or hidden cameras in their rooms.
I know, I am a parent of a millennial and a “zoomer”. There was a lot of temptation to do these things, especially when my children did the things that teenagers are known to engage in. I had some real heart to heart conversations with myself and then with their mother. I felt we had to stand back and let them be who they were. They needed to be more self-sufficient. I didn’t want to raise robots. I wanted my sons to be able to take care of themselves. Some day I would be forced to shuffle off this mortal coil and it would be easier to check-out knowing they were able to take care of themselves.
And so I end the conversation with the half-joke, “Don't Worry! Nothing is under control!”
This was the favorite phrase of one of my mentors. It seems like gallows humor at first, but if you think about it, it is the truth. NOTHING is under control! The rich are the LAST to figure this out now because they have so much control in a world with so much technology and artificial intelligence. They think all it takes is money to fix things. This is why there is so much talk about sending people checks during this crisis.
These trillions we are spending now would have been far more useful in creating a more coherent health care system, no? I am not an advocate for Medicare for All, but Medicare, if you have nothing else, makes sense. Why did we not do this? Why did we allow the poor and underprivileged to fend for themselves? The lament of we cannot AFFORD it seems rather hollow now.
In DC, it is endlessly repeated the crisis is no one’s fault and ergo let us send a bunch of money to EVERYONE. However, poor people don’t ask to be sick. Yet somehow the power brokers kept looking at sick people as a hit to their bottom lines. People get sick and as a society, it makes sense to take care of each other so a health crisis does not spin out of control.
We must accept the fact nothing is under control here. It never was. It was always an illusion. Illness stalks us all. There could be a meteor strike today. The coronavirus could kill millions in this country unless we pull together and TRY. We must TRY to do what we can because nothing is under control. Our fates are based upon the actions of many of our fellow citizens.
C’mon people! This is America. We can get through this TOGETHER, but there are no guarantees. Have some compassion for your fellow Americans if you are well and practice some social distancing anyway. Over the next week, we are going to learn more about what trajectory we are on. Panic and toilet paper will not change the outcome. In fact, these things are likely to make things worse, so CHILL!!!!
Don’t Worry! Nothing is under control. Your life and my life is controlled by many lucky breaks. The chances are often driven by the actions of others who we cannot control. For example, did three or thirty-three butterflies flap their wings near you blowing away a coronavirus about to colonize your mucous membranes?
We can cooperate in the face of this crisis. We can understand we are in this together. We can help each other. We can hoard toilet paper and whine or we can get out there and try to make the chances better for us, our nation and our world.
Oh yes, here is the related podcast if you are interested
Don't Worry! NOTHING is Under Control.
This podcast is not meant to denigrate the efforts of our government or any others around the world. This is meant to…
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