2020

It Plagues Me!

Delving into the past is a good exercise to indulge in now and then. It often sheds a new perspective that one may have missed when studying history in academia, especially since, sadly, our world has such a short memory span these days. With this Pandemic breathing down our throats, I needed a refresher look at Plagues with my awareness, nowadays more than ever, on some of the aspects of such events.

To begin with, humanity has been Plagued since time immemorial and throughout our history on this Planet. Those of us familiar with the Biblical stories are aware of what is attributed to God’s wrath and how He punished His creations with all sorts of Plagues. Personally, and being highly skeptical of all matters to do with religion, I prefer to believe in scientific evidence and not in a vengeful, vindictive and angry God who exacts punishment from the bad people, as well as the good people? Really? God, if He exists at all, cannot, in my opinion, be as wicked as the people He is punishing. Makes sense?

In a nutshell, most, if not all of the Plagues that have historically beset humans were caused by fleas, rats and other vermin. And most, if not all of them were because the pests dined on some of the abundant filth, which then turned into a disease, and eventually into a Plague that was transmitted to humans where it flourished. Our present Virus fits that description well since, it seems, that it originated in bats languishing in filthy wet markets.

Historically, I believe that most of us are aware of how measles and smallpox ravaged the Native American population. What I recently relearned, though, from a very interesting discussion on Democracy Now, where Amy Goodman was interviewing the incredible historian, Frank Snowden, about his book: Epidemics and Society, is that as a result of the decimation of Native Americans and the fact that they could not be providing the slave labor required to settle the New World, Columbus felt compelled to import black slaves and, thus, the reason for the presence of African people in these lands. And isn’t that the role that many underpaid, overworked, often abused, documented and undocumented immigrants since then have been performing all over our sick world? So, what has fundamentally changed? He also spoke of how measles and smallpox destroyed the Incas and the Aztecs who thought that the White Man’s God was stronger than their gods and that is the reason why they were dying, while the White Man was not. As a result of this, the door was opened for missionaries and the ensuing brutal occupations and conversions, frequently at the point of guns, throughout Latin America, as well as the devastating Colonialism throughout the world. History is fascinating, though its brutal lessons seem to generally elude us! Why are we so thick-skulled? In the context of this Pandemic, though, there will also be consequences some of which may be bad, some may be good. We will find out eventually. However, two very positive occurrences so far are that while the Black Death killed many, many millions, this Pandemic is nowhere close to that (yet?) and, in fact, we gasp and are horrified at even the 350 thousand worldwide deaths as of my writing today’s post! This aversion to death (to senseless wars, sanctions, occupations, rapes, human trafficking, abuse etc.) is a good development compelling us to rethink the entire way we have been conducting ourselves, and our world. Moreover, while people in the cities of old had no idea of the ravages that the Black Death was causing outside their little hamlets, towns, or cities, we are aware and informed of every development happening with this Pandemic, and, therefore, can make our own informed and responsible  decisions on how to conduct ourselves. That, too, is a positive, and one for which we have to thank the many media platforms at our fingertips.

The Black Death about which so much has been written is one of the better-known Plagues. It ravished the world and killed millions of people as it traveled throughout Europe for about four-hundred years, as well as into Asia and Africa. And guess what was prescribed then? Yes, quarantines for those afflicted. So the question for us is: why are we protesting against lockdowns and masks and having infantile temper tantrums because our “normal” lives have been disrupted and we are quarantined? Until the medical community and scientists are able to really assess and study this very unknown Virus so as to come up with therapeutics, medicines, or vaccines, the only sensible antidote for the time being – note: Time Being – is maintaining social distancing, masks, hand-washing and, yes, quarantining when/if necessary. Might herd Immunity, as some seem to suggest, work? Perhaps. Scientists will let us know once they have all the information. At this point in time, they do not. However, I don’t believe that herd immunity has worked for measles, smallpox, scarlet fever, polio, typhus, cholera, Ebola, SARS, MERS, or any of these virulent diseases, while vaccines have proven to have eradicated – or, stemmed – many of those. This is “the proof in the pudding,” as they say, or, scientific evidence. Yet, here we go again attempting to reinvent the wheel!!

Pandemics have also historically invited conspiracy theories and superstitions. During the Black Death some people hung garlic and certain herbs around their necks to ward off the virus, while we are being told to ingest disinfectants, and swallow unproven medications that might kill us  by an Oval Office Occupant who buys into, and promotes, conspiracy theories and fantasy? Garlic and herbs were much better advice, weren’t they? Some people wore big crosses, others blamed humanity’s sins, and many others yet pointed fingers at the Jewish people, especially after the King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, initiated the Inquisition and sought to purge the world of Muslims and Jews who became the scapegoats of that Pandemic. How horrid! In a repeat of history, we are now blaming China and causing some to accost, harass and scapegoat Chinese people. We did the same after 9/11 by maligning all Muslims! However, whether it is quarantines, or scapegoating, the similarities between Pandemics are eerie and only prove how humanity, on so many levels, is still so backward, bigoted and wicked in its thinking! Until when?

As time passes, and as efforts to come up with a vaccine are going apace in many countries, it would be prudent to remember that the decimation of the Incas, the Aztecs and Native Americans brought African people to the Americas with all the positives and negatives that accompanied this uprooting and its ensuing events; it also opened up these lands not only to the barbaric occupations by White Colonists and Christian missionaries, but  also to the fantastic innovations and advancements that flourished in the New World without which all our lives would have been much poorer. The flip side is that it also brought us many of the corporate greed, climate dangers, corruption, arrogance, heartless wars, and dangerous rivalry amongst nations. Twenty-one centuries and we haven’t changed this dismal playbook? Unreal! Lastly, will our horrified gasps at the numbers of dead people, eventually, eventually, prompt us to shape up and change for the better, or, will the Trumps of this world (and, sadly, there’s quite a few of them running around on our planet!) take us back to the Dark Ages as I sometimes feel that they are, especially since while we are occupied with  learning how to handle ourselves during this Virus, corrupt politicians continue to upend rules, regulations, laws, and all sorts of other malfeasance that will eventually erode our frail trust in governing bodies dangerously all the more? This Plagues me to no end!

2020

Virus Coping

Today was Swiffer-ing and cleaning day. We do it ourselves nowadays since we cancelled our cleaning team for the time being. They, like many others, have been sadly deprived of their income due to this Pandemic. So many will be falling through the cracks, and what desperation mixed with frustration is capable of doing worries me to no end! While dusting my bookshelves, I switch the television on. I often do that these Virus days simply to hear other human voices. When I listen, I get snippets of real News in between an abundance of superfluous Views spewed by our agenda-driven so-called journalists who dominate the airwaves with plenty of nonsense, and who are looking to sensationalize, or seeking that Gotcha moment! Anyway, I notice – as I am pretty sure everyone has – how most of the so-called journalists, analysts and other specialists are either airing their segments from their home studios, or their homes. I am most amused, though, by how most of those broadcasting from their homes have the same backdrop: Bookshelves! How did that convergence occur? Was it Happenstance, or Copy-catting? Some of them, such as the many on our MSM, and, especially, most on FOX, would do better with the Enquirer, and other such sleazy tabloids as a backdrop! Anyway, I do hope that the MSM channels are not the only source of news that smart people listen to. There are many other listening and reading choices for those with more discerning intellects.

So, while the Left has this vindictive vitriol and irrational hatred for Trump, and the Right has this stupefying adoration and over-exultation of him,  the divisiveness ends right there, because irrelevant of whether our so-called journalists and analysts are on the Right, the Left, or the Center when it comes to the Foreign Policy of these United States they are ALL in agreement save for some superficial, half-hearted and purely cosmetic differences. Am I the only one who thinks so, I wonder? This issue has been a Constant since I arrived to these shores in 1981 right after the Iran hostage crisis was over. At that time, it was Iran that all branches of our government, the “specialists” and all our media had termed as the Enemy. Through the years, I have seen how there has to be a Designated US Enemy no matter whether it is Republicans, or Democrats in control of the government: Iran and Cuba, except for very brief interruptions here and there, have been Constant Enemies; Afghanistan and the Taliban are Enemies in whose pursuit we demolished the whole country and ended up losing that war, just like we lost Vietnam; Iraq and Saddam, the Enemy, where we did not find any WMDs which was why we attacked that country in the first place and sent it back to the Stone Age; Ghaddafi, the Enemy, and Libya which we have totally devastated; North Korea, and Kim, the Enemy, about whom Trump later said: we fell in love; Venezuela, and Maduro, the Enemy, where we continue to exert criminal sanctions and organize coups with our despicable Puppet Guaido and those elusive “contractors,” while Always denying that we do, though no one believes us anymore; the issue of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine and of how annexation is A-Okay if Bibi is doing it, but not Enemy Putin. Hypocrisy? Double-standards? You don’t want to know my furious thoughts on this. Russia again, and Enemy Putin’s Meddling in our Elections, which begs the question why is it alright for the US to meddle Anywhere and when Russia does the same it becomes a Crime? Hypocrisy? Double-standards? You decide. And now it is Enemy China and the Virus that Trump chose to pooh-pooh and then blame China for Everything while asserting that our response was blameless. Hypocrisy? Double-standards? Obviously! What really troubles me, though, is that  the United States has this insatiable need for a Scapegoat, a Wag-the-Dog distraction, an Enemy, a Battle, a War at all times. As I finish dusting, I am pondering if all those television personalities with all those books as their backdrop could analyze why confrontation and double-standards are so much part of this country’s DNA? For, what purpose do all these books serve if not to educate and enlighten human beings, rather than simply to support one’s “views”? Are they merely snobbish décor? I have little faith that the paid hacks on the Left and on the Right would address this stuff, or any issue that really matters. However: Trump Said, Trump Did, Trump Tweeted? Unending, although I must admit that the Virus has somewhat shifted their 24/7 focus on him!

Earlier this month, we were reliving the Kent State University massacre that Nixon (whom Trump says he learned a lot from!) had authorized, and during which four students were gunned down by the National Guard, nine were wounded, and hundreds of students were traumatized. Nixon’s argument – which proved to be totally false – was that there were Outside Agitators instigating the students, and that Internal Dissent was destroying our Freedoms! I mention this because we were remembering that May 4th. Commemoration of exactly 50 years ago, and to illustrate how the Ruling Powers always manage to find  justifications for their actions, irrelevant of whether those are founded, or unfounded, and irrelevant of which of our political parties is the Ruling Power! How corrupt!

As I mop my floors I think how once this Pandemic hit us it began revealing fissures in governments throughout most of our “civilized” world, especially in so many aspects of our Exceptional Nation and to how dysfunctional, how unethical, how party-driven, how cruel are so many of our laws, how blatant it has become to see that the powerful, whether on the Left, or on the Right, have always been looking after their own interests first while throwing crumbs to the people, such as the trillions of supposed relief funds that have not yet reached those who need them most, while bestowing millions on corporations, and some were paid to fly-by-night companies! Transparency? Dream on! However, and to be fair, when it comes to this Virus that came upon the world so quickly, so lethally and is so unknown and so unpredictable a Perfect Response was next to impossible, and all nations were late in wrapping their arms around it, whether it was China, Europe, or the US. Nevertheless, Trump fumbled our response “bigly,” and if I were to do, or say, half the things he says and does some “bodies” would have emerged out of the shadows and cuffed me already while marching me straight to the Paddy-wagon (Irish for cop car)! Just sayin’!!

Many writers are saying that things will have to change for the better after this, that there will be more attention paid to Essential Workers, less of the Union busting that has been going on relentlessly since the Thatcher and Reagan eras, more Equality, more Justice, more Compassion, and more Negotiation rather than Confrontation amongst the nations of our world – now more than ever. Frankly, whether it is the irresponsible hacks opining on our television screens, or when I look at all those reckless, selfish humans (my daughter calls them Covidiots!) running around here, and elsewhere in our sick world demanding their so-called “freedom” from stay-at-home guidelines, or listening to some of the thoughtless and corrupt politicians protecting themselves while asking citizens to sacrifice themselves and go back to work without a clear and safe policy, my doubts increase that this could ever happen, and I hope that I am wrong in my perspective. Yes, we are, indeed, living in very sad, inexplicable and dangerous times! Stay very, very put and vigilant everyone! Despite all the inconvenience, eventually, eventually! it will be over!

P.S. Couldn’t we just Swiffer Virus out? Maybe only in Trumpistan?!!