Category Archives: Current events and history

The Summer of ’96 – Birth of conspiracy theories?

One of many conspiracy theories… This one from the “Summer of ’96,” on TWA Flight 800

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I’m working on a new E-book. It’s another novel about Florida State University football. (This one is on its current fall from grace.) It includes a chapter on the 1996 college football season. (You know, the one ending with a heart-breaking FSU loss in the national championship game? To their hated arch-rival, the Florida Gators ?)

In the process of doing research for the new book, I came across a scene from an earlier book (a novel) that I did on FSU football. It talked about that “Summer of 1996” noted above, and it may explain where and how our current raft of conspiracy theories all started.

Here’s what I wrote about that summer of 1996, as remembered in January 1997:

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My first wife Karen* and I had our grandkids visiting, along with some other child-relatives as well. (Seven or eight altogether.) At the time I owned a 28-foot Coachmen Class C Motorhome, and so for a week we took them “camping” at an RV park in Indian Rocks Beach, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. (At least Karen did. I visited from time to time, but “had” to stay home at night, so I could go to work in the morning.)

Naturally – as the week progressed – the dweeby pre-teen male cousins tried to scare the wits out of their female cousins. And they did a pretty good job of it, mostly with tales of omnivorous aliens and treacherous UFOs. Until finally, our granddaughter Heather came up to me at the campground pool. She asked, very serious, very worried, “How can God protect us from UFOs if He doesn’t know where they come from?

At first I thought it was a pretty naïve question. Then I started wondering: “What does the world look like to my grandkids?” For one thing – and judging only by the relative coverage on TV [at the time, 1996] – it would be only logical for them to think that aliens and UFOs are more powerful than God.

They certainly get more media coverage.

Then it struck me. Like Heather, most people today are slaves to some fear. They live in fear, and because they live in fear they never really live…

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At this point I said the novel I was then working on might teach a message from God. Like in the form of a parable? (Maybe a parable of a college football team and its fans; maybe even one “moonbeam” fan?) I included a cite to Matthew 13:34, then continued:

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If there is a common emotion today, it’s fear. Everyone is afraid of something, and much of it comes from TV shows like X-FilesSliders, and Millennium. The common premise is an impending takeover by aliens, or a massive government cover-up, or that someone besides God has power over your soul. (No wonder kids today are so messed up.)

On the other hand, these are scary times. We “of a certain age*” survived the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War, but we still have the Oklahoma City bombing, the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, and TWA Flight 800. So if there’s a need today, it’s to be freed from slavery to fear.

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And now a note from the future: All that was even before “9/11” – the September 11 World Trade Center attacks – and all the other disasters that we’ve come through since 1996. (For a full list of those trials and tribulations see 21st century – Wikipedia.)

But getting back to the Summer of 1996…

As noted, one popular show back then was the X-Files. It featured such slogans as ‘The Truth Is Out There,’ ‘Trust No One,’ and ‘I Want to Believe:’

Seen as a defining series of its era, The X-Files tapped into public mistrust of governments and large institutions, and embraced conspiracy theories … as it centered on efforts to uncover the existence of extraterrestrial life.

And now it seems that those conspiracy theories – and that public distrust of government – have both grown exponentially. As to why – and maybe as to where it all began – consider Your Guide to the TWA 800 Conspiracy and Its New Truther Documentary.

As noted, the mysterious crash of TWO Flight 800 happened way back in 1996. But then in June of 2013 came an update, a “new Truther documentary,” which started with this:

Remember the ’90s? Snap bracelets? ‘N Sync? Friends? Accusing the Navy of taking down a U.S. passenger plane with a missile? That’s right – our favorite ’90s conspiracy theory is back, thanks to a new documentary purporting to show “new evidence” that TWA Flight 800 crashed because it was hit by a missile.

The Truther Documentary review noted that TWA Flight 800 has been the focus of numerous “rumors, alternative explanations, and conspiracy theories.” And that “’90s nostalgia is big right now,” mostly because of the internet. And finally that, “Like most conspiracy theories, TWA 800 is search-engine optimization gold.” Which is another way of saying that those conspiracy theories and that public distrust of government “have both grown exponentially.”

That is, those rumors and conspiracy theories were fueled by “speculation among conspiracy nuts, especially on message boards on the newly popular internet.”

Which leads to the subject of “Truthers.” For one definition of such people, see Truther | Definition of Truther by Merriam-Webster: “one who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy.”

That definition included a warning that – to most people – it was “not flattering” to be called a truther. And further that the term originated, “as far as anyone can tell, to characterize people who embraced alternative explanations for the Sept. 11 attacks.” (See also Urban Dictionary: Truther, or Google the term.) But then there’s the definition from truther – Wiktionary. Aside from the definitions noted above, it includes this one: “Someone who tells the truth.”

Imagine that…

The Wiktionary site included some “see alsos,” on what seems to be the more generally accepted definition. “See alsos” include anti-vaxxerbirtherdenier and flat-earther. An anti-vaxxer “opposes vaccination, as for its purported dangerous effects.” A birther is someone who believes “the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States (2009–2017), was not born in that country.” A “denier” – aside from being an old French coin – is someone who “denies.” (Things like the the existence of AIDS, Global Warming, or the Holocaust.)  And “flat-earther” has two definitions.

One is of a person “who believes or advocates the theory that the planet Earth is flat.” The other is of a person “who believes or advocates an outlandishdiscredited theory; a person who refuses to acknowledge the truth despite overwhelming evidence.

All of which seems to be part of the ongoing problem. For myself, I believe that people who deny reality end up having it bite them in the ass. (An idiom which means being punished “for one’s poor judgment.”)  See also Denialism – Wikipedia, referring to the choice “to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth.” Motivations and causes for such denial include a defence mechanism “meant to protect the psyche of the denialist against mentally disturbing facts and ideas.”

All of which translates to: The truth is indeed still out there, but more and more these days it seems that finding such Truth is like searching for “diamonds in a dung-heap.”

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The upper image is courtesy of Twa Flight 800 Conspiracy Theory – Image Results. It comes with the article, Your Guide to the TWA 800 Conspiracy and Its New Truther Documentary, dated June, 2013. 

The first link in the caption is to List of conspiracy theories – Wikipedia. That article includes a link to Wikipedia’s List of political conspiracies.  

The first image in the main text is from the Wikipedia article on FSU, captioned: “Florida State and Miami first met in 1951 and have played each year since 1966.”

Re: “My first wife Karen.” She died in 2006. 

Here’s the full quote of what I wrote, about a possible message from God: “Maybe that was one message God wanted to teach. If that’s true, what better message than by way of a parable? (Maybe a parable featuring one college football team and its fans, and maybe even one “moonbeam” fan.)  “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.  So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables…” (Matthew 13:34 NIV, emphasis added, and Mark 4:34, citing Psalm 78:2.)

“…shows like X-FilesSliders, and Millennium.”  See the Wikipedia articles, including this:

The X-Files “originally aired from September 10, 1993 (1993-09-10) to May 19, 2002 (2002-05-19). The show was a hit … and its characters and slogans, such as ‘The Truth Is Out There,’ ‘Trust No One,’ and ‘I Want to Believe,’ became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s.  Seen as a defining series of its era, The X-Files tapped into public mistrust of governments and large institutions, and embraced conspiracy theories and spirituality as it centered on efforts to uncover the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Sliders was a science fiction series that ran from 1995 to 2000. It followed “a group of travelers as they use a wormhole to ‘slide’ between different parallel universes.” Millenium was an American TV series “created by Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files,” and ran from 1996 to 1999.  The series followed the investigations of ex-FBI agent Frank Black, a consultant “with the ability to see inside the mind of criminals, working for a mysterious organization known as the Millennium Group.”  While the first season dealt mainly “various serial killers and other murderers,” the second season featured “more overtly supernatural occurrences … with Frank often coming into conflict with forces that appeared to be apocalyptic or even demonic in nature.”

Re: “Of a certain age.” See Idioms by The Free Dictionary. Strictly speaking, my generation didn’t survive the Great Depression or World War II, but we heard about those events from our parents, and grew up watching movies and such about them.

Re: Oklahoma City bombing, the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, and TWA Flight 800.  See the  Wikipedia articles, starting with saying the Oklahoma City bombing was an attack in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995; “It would remain the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks.” The blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children, and injured some 680 people. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings in a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings. There was an estimated $652 million worth of damage.  Within 90 minutes, Timothy McVeigh was stopped for driving without a license plate and arrested.

The Olympic Park bombing occurred on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta, during the Summer Olympics. Two people died, and 111 were injured. Trans-World Airlines Flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off New York on July 17, 1996, 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 230 people on board. Although a terrorist act was at first suspected, “the government” found no evidence of such a criminal act, after a 16-month investigation.  (See the X-Files note above, re: “public mistrust of governments” and/or “conspiracy theories.”)

Re: “Diamonds in a dung heap.” See Thomas Jefferson’s observation that – to him – “Certain teachings in the Bible are as diamonds in a dung-heap.” Or see Diamonds From the Dung Heap : The Life and Morals of Jesus. The latter refers to a book by Jefferson – often referred to as the Jefferson Bible – but which was apparently originally given the title “Diamonds from the dung heap,” but later simplified. “This edition is named after the first reference President Thomas Jefferson gave to this compilation, that later became referred to as the Jefferson Bible.” 

The lower image is courtesy of X-files – Image Results. The image is for an 11×14″ poster available from Etsy – Shop for handmade, vintage, custom, and unique gifts, but with a note, “Sorry, this item and shop are currently unavailable.”

John Paul Jones – Admiral of the Russian Navy?

September 23, 1779 – Battle between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis, off Flamborough Head

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Here’s a break in the action from way too many political posts…

This past Saturday morning I ran across my paperback copy of John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy, by Evan Thomas. (I bought it second-hand four or five years ago.) That reminded me of a post I did back in June 2016, On John Paul Jones’ CLOSEST call. The “CLOSEST call” part had to do with Jones being accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.

But the really strange part came in finding out that – at the time – Jones was serving in the Russian navy. And here we’ve been told all along that he was the Father of the American Navy. So first a word about this better-known aspect of John Paul Jones.

That is, most people know John Paul Jones as the American naval hero of the Revolution.

That included his signal victory over the British man-of-war HMS Serapis, in the Battle of Flamborough Head, seen at right. Jones commanded the Bonhomme Richard, “originally an East Indiaman.” That is, it was a merchant ship that had been jury rigged into an ad hoc Navy vessel.

As a result of that hours-long battle, the Bonhomme Richard sank, and Jones had to make the captured Serapis his new flagship. But in the latter part of the battle he is supposed to have said, “I have not yet begun to fight.” That was said to happen when the commander of the Serapis called out, asking Jones if he was ready to  “strike the colours;” i.e., to surrender. Evan Thomas indicated Jones probably didn’t say that.

What Jones apparently did say – late in the battle – was: “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!” And in his official report, Jones merely said he had answered “in the most determined negative.” Which is definitely not as colorful, but we digress…

Back to why Jones joined the Russian navy.

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, but as late as 1787 – four years later – Jones was still trying to get the prize money due him from the war. (He was growing increasingly disgruntled with the American Congress. “Go figure!”) Accordingly, he decided to leave the country and enter the service of the Empress Catherine II of Russia. She commissioned him a rear admiral, and so he was known in the Russian Navy as “Kontradmirál Pavel Dzhones.”

For more on why he ended up an admiral in the Russian navy, see John Paul Jones – Russiapedia Foreigners in Russia. For one thing, in 1785 the U.S. banned privateering. That was the practice of a non-naval ship – and captain – “engag[ing] in maritime warfare” under a a letter of marque. (By which Jones should have collected prize money.) Further, Congress refused to promote Jones to the rank of admiral.

At the same time, war was brewing between Russia and Turkey. SoCatherine the Great, Empress of Russia (at left), decided to recruit Jones. In doing so she “broke her own rules,” including the usual practice of reducing foreign officers in rank:

The Russian ambassador received an urgent order to recruit Jones to the Russian Navy. ‘This man,” she said “will enter Constantinople…” However, Jones’ extraordinary reputation and ability forced Catherine II to break her own rules, instead promoting him to the rank of Rear-Admiral and giving him command of the flagship Vladimir.

Jones did have some initial success. However, “being a foreigner, he was constantly surrounded by suspicion, jealousy, and intrigues in which he refused to participate.” As such he found himself quickly out of favor with his commanding officer, Grigory Potemkin. Potemkin – said to be Catherine the Great’s lover – lobbied for Jones’ “removal behind the scenes.”

Which included what turned out to be a false accusation of rape and/or child molesting.

Read the full story in the first CLOSEST call, which clocked in at 2,122 words. (With extensive notes, as on Catherine’s “open relationships,” with Potempkin and others.) But here are the highlights:

[I]n the Russian navy Jones was also surrounded by people of far lesser ability and courage. And who were extremely jealous of his ability and courage. (Which happens a lot…) Those Russian enemies included Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen… He  in turn “turned the Russian commander Prince Grigory Potëmkin against Jones…” To cut to the chase, “In April 1789 Jones was arrested and accused of raping a [10]-year-old girl named Katerina Goltzwart.”

Such an accusation of “child rape” was bad enough under American law. But under Russian law, anyone convicted of such rape was “to have his head cut off or be sent to the galleys for the rest of his days.” (For all the gory details of the sordid accusation see the June 2016 post.)

But then the truth started to come out…

The 10-year-old girl – who was actually 12 – said the incident occurred while she was “selling butter.” It turned out that “selling butter” was a euphemism for what she was actually selling. And that she’d been “’selling butter’ for quite a while.” Further, one of her best “butter buying” customers included the very same manservant who’d given such damaging testimony against Jones. And finally, the girl’s mother eventually admitted that she’d been “given money by a ‘man with decorations’ in return for telling a damaging story about Jones.”

In other words, it was a setup, a “situation in which someone is deliberately put in a bad position or made to look guilty.” But the damage had been done. Jones was increasingly ostracized by “polite” Russian society. Beyond that, there were problems with a number of British naval officers who the Empress Catherine had also recruited. Those officers “refused to serve under the Pirate Jones.” So in the end, in the “late summer of 1789, Jones left Russia, still resplendent in his beribboned white uniform, but shunned and disgraced.”

From which we can glean at least two key object lessons. One is that many of our hardest-fighting heroes – like John Paul Jones – also have a “penchant for the ladies.” (Which can ofttimes be their undoing in civilian life.) Yet another is that – as a nation – we tend to tear down the very heroes we build up. (Which was one reason Jones left the American navy.)

In the case of John Paul Jones, that meant he died in Paris, in obscurity. He was also buried in obscurity, and it took more than a century to find out where. Not until July 1905 – more than 100 years after he died – was his body finally returned to the United States.

That is, three years after leaving Russia (in 1792), Jones died in Paris. He was buried at the Saint Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. But four years later, the French Revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten.

Then, beginning in 1899, General Horace Porter – then U.S. Ambassador to France – started searching for Jones’ body. (Having only “faulty copies of Jones’s burial record” to go on.) On April 7, 1905, Jones’ body was found and unearthed. In due course it was returned to the U.S. and – on January 26, 1913 – “the Captain’s remains were finally re-interred in a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.”

Apparently just another case of We Build-Up and Then Tear-Down Our Heroes

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To Britons “the pirate Paul Jones,” but to us he’s” Father of the American Navy…”

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The upper image is courtesy of John Paul Jones Painting Serapis Bonhomme Richard Anton O. Fisher – Image Results. Captioned: “‘USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis’ by Anton Otto Fischer.” Some text on the battle was gleaned from Battle of Flamborough Head in the American Revolution

Re: Letter of marque. A “government license in the Age of Sail that authorized a private person, known as a privateer or corsair, to attack and capture vessels of a nation at war with the issuer.”

Re: “War was brewing between Russia and Turkey.” There were actually 12 such wars, extending over 355 years, according to History of the Russo-Turkish wars – Wikipedia. The first one began in 1568, and the last one ended in 1923. “It was one of the longest series of military conflicts in European history,” and generally the wars “ended disastrously for the stagnating Ottoman Empire; conversely they showcased the ascendancy of Russia as a European power.” 

Re: “Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (at left).” The image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is captioned: “Marble statue of Catherine II in the guise of Minerva (1789–1790), by Fedot Shubin.”

Re: “extensive notes, as on Catherine’s “open relationships.” The image is courtesy of Catherine The Great Lovers – Image Results, and more specifically, Catherine The Great Movie Russian – Image Results. I clicked on the “view page” that accompanied the “Russian” image, trying to get some detail on which “Catherine” move it portrayed. Instead I got two messages, one about “hot sexy girls” and a second on how to obtain a Russian bride. It was tough to track down, but apparently the image is from a “movie poster” for some Russian TV series. Beyond that I don’t really care. All I wanted was a good image to accompany the text, and the titles in Russian seemed to best fit the bill.

Re: Jones’ problems in both the American and Russian navies. It didn’t help that – like many fighting men – Jones was inapt at “Imperial politics.” That is, political intrigue.

Re: Grigory Potemkin. See Biography, Villages, & Facts | Britannica, which noted that he “remained friendly” with Catherine, “and his influence was unshaken despite Catherine’s taking subsequent lovers.” See also Who Was Grigory Potemkin, Catherine the Great’s Lover? Some tidbits therefrom: “After she overthrew her husband to take the throne, Catherine never married again – but she found something of a soulmate in Potemkin, who helped her rule for decades.” Then too, “In 1776, they developed an arrangement for an open relationship,” after which “they took other lovers, but retained a strong partnership – both politically and emotionally.”

That’s why I like blogging so much. It’s so educational…

The lower image is courtesy of John Paul Jones – Wikipedia, which included the caption:  “Paul Jones the Pirate,’ British caricature.”  

Note that a caricature is a “rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way…  In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others…  Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary and can serve a political purpose…”

2020 – A Christmas like no other?

“Seattle police wearing masks in December 1918.”  Is this a case of deja vu all over again?

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It’s the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, 2020. Which leads to a question: “Was this past Christmas Day in the crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 truly one ‘like no other?’”

The answer? “Actually, no.” There was for example Christmas in 1918…

Which led me to this article, Was Christmas celebrated during the 1918 Spanish Flu?

A largely unheeded warning from 1918…

For some background, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic started in February that year and lasted until April, 1920. (So, roughly two years and two months?) And in another “deja vu all over again,” the culprit was the H1N1 flu virus. (It also caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic.)

But back to 1918, when there was a little thing called World War I going on. The first recorded such “flu” case in the U.S. was said to come on March 4, 1918, as America geared up to send “our boys” overseas. It was Albert Gitchell, an army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas. (Although there were likely unreported cases before him.) First observed in Haskell County, Kansas, a local doctor –  Loring Miner – warned the US Public Health Service, but to no avail. Within days, 522 men at Camp Funston had reported sick. By March 11, 1918, the virus reached Queens, New York. And in a sign of things to be repeated:

Failure to take preventive measures in March/April was later criticized.

But wait, there’s more! Because the war was raging, censors minimized early reports. That is, they did so in the major countries involved in the war, but not in neutral Spain. There, reports of the disease weren’t censored, which is why the epidemic got the name “Spanish flu.”

From Camp Funston the disease spread through the American Expeditionary Forces, who brought it to Europe and the Western Front by mid-April, 1918. It then spread from France to Great Britain, Italy, Spain and beyond. After the March Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – between Germany and Russia – “Germany started releasing Russian prisoners of war, who then brought the disease to their country.” From there it spread to the rest of the world in four “waves,” with a much-deadlier second wave in late 1918. (With a third wave in 1919 and a fourth in 1920.)

Later that year – on November 11, 1918 – the war ended, and people were so happy they “couldn’t be stopped from gathering to celebrate.” Then too the number of Spanish Flu cases went down toward the end of 1918, so restrictions were eased and many churches “swelled with the joyous music of the [Christmas] season once again.” But as one site noted, “History suggests that celebrating holidays during a pandemic by gathering in large groups, as one might during normal times, could have harmful and long-lasting effects.”

Which may explain the second, third and fourth “waves.” On the other hand, back then “they” had some advantages, as noted in A Look Back at Christmas During the Spanish Flu Pandemic. For one thing, Americans in 1918 were “much more familiar with epidemic disease:”

… epidemic disease was very familiar to the early 20th century public. Families, many of which had lost a child to diphtheria or watched a loved one suffer from polio, were generally willing to comply with some limitations on their activities. Most public health departments wore badges and had police powers, and this was generally uncontroversial. “They could forcibly quarantine you or put you on a quarantine station on an island.”

So much for the “advantage” being familiar with deadly epidemic diseases. But at least they were “willing to comply with some limitations on their activities.” And another point to remember is that – be all that as it may – the United States and the world survived. So much so that if it hadn’t been for this year’s COVID-19 pandemic – illustrated at right – few people today would have any reason to recall the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Which brings up a link from my last post, December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?” The gist of that link – Bad Things to Good People? | Psychology Today – was its “scientific” answer: That “the universe has no inherent purpose or design.”

However, the pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well who came up with that conclusion did offer up some good advice. (Bless his heart,” as we say in Georgia):

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter… When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

Which brings up “Christmas spirit.” I Googled “what is the Christmas spirit” and got 4,180,000 results. One answer, from What is Christmas Spirit? – Scientific American Blog Network:

The code of generosity, kindness, and charity toward others is enforced by no one other than ourselves. There are places where this code is strong, and these places (or people) are said to have strong Christmas spirit… After all, we are the sum of the individuals around us who generate the collective force that governs and organizes our social structure… When we “act out” Christmas spirit, we’re making visible this collective force, and we give it power.

Then there’s Christmas Spirit – Its Real Meaning | 7th Sense, which defined that spirit in three simple actions: Giving, Appreciating, and Doing service. Which is pretty much the same advice “pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well” offered a few paragraphs back…

Which in turn brings up the “mystery” of why this particular plague hit us at this particular time. The short answer? Such “mysteries” – even pandemics – seem to be a part of life. But from them we can learn valuable lessons, like how to develop and grow stronger, spiritually and otherwise. Which means the “answer” to such mysteries largely depends on us. “What will we do with this unexpected calamity? Will we go forward and grow stronger, or turn back the clock and start turning on each other?” In turn, “our” Covid-19 can remind us of our “fragility as human beings,” as noted in a quote from The Plague by Camus, in Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

Which certainly seems true of this latest 2020 pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise. Which brings up a book review from the Salt Lake Tribune on “The Plague,” with this relevant point:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

One possible lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. The present Coronavirus might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.” So with all that in mind:

Merry Christmas, 2020, and may 2021 be a WHOLE lot better!

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A “time of pestilence” can show there are more things to admire in people than to despise…

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The upper image is courtesy of Wikipedia on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

The “influenza” image was accompanied by a caption: “Rules to reduce the spread of Spanish flu posting by the US Public Health Service. Cough or sneeze into your mouth with a handkerchief, avoid crowded places, do not spit, do not share the use of cups and napkins…. Typographic poster; Unites States, Washington, DC 1918. (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).”

The image “COVID-19 – illustrated at right” is captioned: “A testing team responds to a confirmed case in a nursing home in Charleston, West Virginia.”

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia

Now that the Trump Era is almost over…

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Now that the Trump Era is almost over…

Or at least now that his first run-through as president is almost over… (But see Trump’s Possible 2024 Bid Leaves Other GOP Candidates in a Bind.) So to repeat, “Now that at least the first incarnation of a Trump Era is almost over,” it’s time to start looking back. 

Which is what many of us do near year’s-end anyway. I Googled “why do we do year-end reviews” and found these two: How to Conduct a Year-End Review and Why You Need to Do it, and Why You Should Do a Year-End Review for Your Writing. Here’s a bit from the first one:

Ever since I began writing personal goals, December has been a month of reflection and planning. I tend to slow down, take a step back, and think about how I feel the previous year went. I take time to reflect on what I accomplished and what I want in the upcoming year.

Then there’s the Review for Your Writing article. (And since I’m a writer I paid special attention to that. E.g., read about my recently-published e-book in “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) Anyway, this is what the writer  said about such year-end reviews:

A year-end review is about experiencing gratitude … that we made the choice to write instead of watch television or procrastinate… It’s important to note that this isn’t just a feel-good exercise. You can’t move forward – with your writing, your life, or anything else – if you haven’t made peace with where you’ve been.

Which is what I’ll be doing a lot of in the remaining three-or-so weeks of this eventful “Year of Our Lord2020. But we were talking about “Now that the Trump Era is almost over…”

Which makes this a good time to go back and review some early posts I did on Donald Trump. And – possibly – some of the hopes I had for him. Like that he might turn out to be the “closet liberal” Ted Cruz once suspected. (See Cruz: Trump [is] a ‘rich, New York liberal,’ 2/26/16.)

One early post with an allusion to Donald Trump came in October 2016, “No city for Grouchy Old White People.” (Part I.) In it I described a summer visit to New York City, with a family-base in Staten Island. One thing I noted was that – in that summer of ’16 – the City was a “refreshing reminder that there’s more to this country than just the right-wing wackos so prevalent back home.” (Trump’s campaign was heating up.) I quoted a Facebook post from September 22:

Ever since last Saturday, September 17, we’ve been taking the Staten Island ferry into and back from Manhattan Island. So that’s eight times – twice a day for four days now – that we’ve seen the Statute of Liberty, off in the distance…  And I don’t remember ONCE seeing a sign that said, “the heck with your tired, your poor,” those “wretched refuse … yearning to breathe free.”  WE’RE GONNA BUILD A FRIKKIN WALL!

Which was either irony or sarcasm. (I often get those two confused.) Anyway I ended Part I by noting that with all its diversity and relative tolerance, “the Big Apple is ‘No city for Grouchy Old White People.’” (Who seemed to be so prevalent, “back home” and elsewhere.)

I followed that with “No city for Grouchy Old White People” – Part II. I noted that on our many rides on the subway and Staten Island Ferry, “we did a lot of people-watching, of the ‘passing panoply.’” And especially on the crowded subways, we listened “to all kinds of languages spoken by all kinds of different people.” Which was one thing making the visit so refreshing…

And just as an aside: The day we left to go our separate ways – Thursday, September 22 – I kayaked across the Verrazano Narrows. Mostly following the Bridge of the same name, and here’s a picture “down below” to prove it. I took it half-way back to Staten Island. Note that the waters are choppy, and in fact WAY choppier than when I started. It only took 20 minutes to get from Staten Island to Brooklyn, so I toyed with the idea of cruising along the Atlantic side of Brooklyn awhile. But I headed back while still fresh, as detailed in “Part II.”

Anyway, getting back on topic: I ended Part II with a zinger about the kind of people – I feared – who would end up voting for Trump as president. I took the photo below during our visit to the Museum of Natural History, on September 19. And added, “With all the talk of politics lately, I figured this would be a good one size fits all insult, for whatever political opponent you may have in mind.” (Though I knew the kind of political opponent I had in mind.) I then wrote:

“So here’s my gift to you, a souvenir from my recent [2016] visit to New York City:

Here’s a typical [- fill in the blank – ] voter!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Looking Back The Past Year – Image Results. The image accompanied an article, “Inspiring Quotes to Start Off the New Year in 2019.” (How innocent we were…) 

I took the above picture on September 19. Note that I reviewed this Summer of 2016 visit in Looking back on “the summer of ’16,” last February 2020. One final note: I’ll be doing more Trump’s-end and year-end postmortems in the remaining weeks of December 2020, and possibly beyond! 

An early post-mortem – and “a look at last year…”

Independent voters try to keep the Ship of State from keeling over – here, ‘too far to the right…'”

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My last post was On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, back on July 5, 2020.

Canoe on Manitou Bluffs regionMy “Adventurous Brother” and I completed the trip. (115 river miles down the Missouri River, from South Sioux City to Omaha, Nebraska.) We left South Sioux City at 2:30 the afternoon of July 9, and got to Omaha at 5:00 the afternoon of July 12. In between – and before, for that matter – there were distractions, complications and near-disasters. (An 80-mile-an-hour windstorm for one.) But we came through, “Mission Accomplished!” The only problem is that a full postmortem account will take time, and I’m long overdue to submit a new blog-post.

So, I decided to take a look at “this time last year.”

What I found was three year-old draft-projects that I never finished, so here goes. One project was “On partisan gerrymandering,” on the then-just-released Supreme Court case, Rucho v. Common Cause. (Of which more later.) The second unfinished project was the start of a new book – composed of a series of posts herein? – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” Of which the recent Missouri River canoe trip was an example. Meanwhile, the original title of this post was supposed to be “Wanna beat Trump? Laugh at him!” And it featured the “Independent voters … Ship of State” lead image and caption at the top of the page.

That unfinished post was based in part – and was a partial review of – a book, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, by Sean McFate. (“82nd Airborne veteran, former private military contractor, and professor of war studies at the National Defense University.”) 

The book offered ten “new” rules for victory, and Rule Five is “The best weapons do not fire bullets.” And one of those non-bullet new weapons was – humor. There’s more on other such weapons in the notes, but the key point came in this set of observations:

Google “humor as a weapon,” and you’ll get sites like Humor is a weapon – so you better learn how to use it. Which offered the following quotes:  “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter,” by Mark Twain. Also “Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly.”  (Michel de Montaigne, the French writer (1553-1592) “one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight.) Then there’s this full quote:

Authority is a natural target the world over for comics. Remember it, cherish it, use it. People all around the world hate their leaders, their systems, the powers they have to labor under.  This humor is nihilistic – no one is too powerful or too pure to be beyond reproach. Just remember lots of people have sympathy for the underdog, so direct that hostility upwards.

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Now about that draft post – from a year ago – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” It had links to past posts on such adventures as my canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, and into the Okefenokee Swamp, as well as hiking the Appalachian Trail (in small part) and the Chilkoot Trail. In toto, that is, all 33 of the “meanest 33 miles in history.”

For the full set of links see the notes below, but I wanted to focus on one link I found. It’s on the adventures of other people in Old Age, The Top Ten Late Bloomers Of All Time | Psychology Today. And from which I draw inspiration. (Heck, I just turned 69 years old. Or young!)

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And finally, the third draft post from a year ago had to do with “SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (Rucho v. Common Cause). The main question: “Is North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander?” The Supreme Court basically punted, saying the issue was one for state courts. I concluded in turn that the net holding was not to allow such partisan gerrymandering in all cases. It merely “kicks the issue back to the states.” (“Much as would be true if the Court overrules Roe v. Wade,” which remains to be seen.)

And – I wrote – some states were beginning to do just that. (Outlaw partisan gerrymandering.) I cited Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering doesn’t directly affect Florida: “In its majority opinion Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court referenced Florida’s Constitution in asserting that states have the ability to solve this issue themselves.” I also cited Another View: Florida’s amendments thwart partisan gerrymandering.

Which made me thankful that our 50 states are now just the “laboratories of democracy” that may yet save this country. The phrase was popularized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann (1932). The phrase describes how “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” See Wikipedia.

It springs in part from the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “all powers not delegated to the United States … are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That is, the 10th Amendment “assigns most day-to-day governance responsibilities, including general ‘police power,’ to the state and local governments.” One positive result? Because of the “diverse patchwork” of non-federal governments, the several states and/or localities are free to try different public policies to solve problems. In turn, ” If any one or more of those policies are successful, they can be expanded to the national level by acts of Congress.”

Now, if we can just get a state to kick COVID‘s ass. Or get those Feds out of Portland

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Did the 2016 U.S. presidential election create a  monster? Time will tell…

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The upper image is courtesy of Yachting Keel Over – Image ResultsAccompanied by an article “Real-life Bond performs daring boat stunt off the Isle of Wight.”  See I’m 007 and I won’t keel over! Real-life Bond performs (March 2012, but also ‘Show-off’ businessman caused Isle of Wight boat crash, BBC News, from March 2017).  Click on I’m 007 and I won’t keel over!  Then the “Read it” icon.

Re:  Ship of State. See Wikipedia, noting the “famous and oft-cited metaphor put forth by Plato [circa 400 B.C.] in Book VI of the Republic (488a–489d).”  But which can also be traced “back to the lyric poet Alcaeus (frs. 6, 208, 249), and it is found in Sophocles’ Antigone and Aeschylus‘ Seven Against Thebes before Plato.”  Sophocles appeared to be a relative contemporary of Plato, while Aeschylus and Alcaeus (“c. 620 – 6th century BC”), appeared to predate him by 100 to 200 years.  

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Re: “There’s more on other such weapons.” Here follows – down to the next four asterisks (****) – a lot of notes on McFate’s book that may confuse a reader or lead him astray – if not set off by the aforementioned asterisks. But note too that the next set of notes, including the source of other images, will begin with the next set of four asterisks. 

First, for our purposes, McFate noted the “declining utility of force” (as in Russia’s Putin “weaponizing refugees rather than threatening firepower,” indirectly, by bombing Syria, which drove tens of thousands of refugees into Europe and “stoking anti-establishment policies across the continent…  Right-wing nationalist parties, once shunned as neo-Nazis became popular … for the first time since the 1930s”.) Then McFate moved to “Warriors of the Mind.” As in, Get a Mac – Wikipedia, and Case Study: “Mac vs. PC” Advertisement Campaign – Hannah’s Media Leap BlogThe campaign had a huge impact, tripling computer sales and becoming iconic “to this day.” How did Apple do it? “The secret is simple: denigration. Going negative is powerful, but the trick is to make the target look like the wrongdoer… It’s beautiful ridicule, highly manipulative, and it works.”

From there McFate spoke of the “humor” weapon against ISIS, and others:

ISIS and its successors would shrivel like the Wizard of Oz if the Muslim world could belly laugh over them…  Putin’s cult of personality would whither [sic] under the power of denigration.  In fact, he’s easy pickings, given his naked bear-riding habit…  This works especially well against autocracies because they are often built on a cult of personality and the infallibility of leadership.  Make such leaders fallible.

He went on to note that one key is gaining information superiority, first through monitoring (“know your enemy”) and second through discrediting:  “pinpointing fake news, alternate facts … false narratives, viral memes and negative frames, and then exposing them.  Myth-busting must happen, otherwise people may start to believe the spin.  This task is especially critical for democracies…” And finally, counter-attacking, “and this is where Western countries grow weak in the legs.” (For that matter so do “polite” liberals and moderates.) Again, the prime method of counterattack is denigration, while looking like the good guy, conveying empathy, aligning with “preconceived knowledge” and being “funny but not stupid.”

For other reviews Google “the new rules of war sean mcfate.” Of particular interest: The new rules of war. Sean McFate – The Junior Officers’ Book Shelf, and Reviewing The New Rules of War – The Strategy Bridge (“A critical reader might also find inspiration here. As McFate presents them, however, the new rules are a starting point and far from the last word on victory or how to get there”).

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Re: “For the full set of links see the notes.” The first one listed in this post was Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.) That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015. See also On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part I and On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part II, on an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. I’ve written about my Okefenokee adventures in several posts: Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17). And see Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

The lower image is courtesy of Laboratories Democracy States – Image ResultsThe image is accompanied by an article, If States are the “Laboratories of Democracy,” Then Young Frankenstein Runs California. The article was from Legal Insurrection, “one of the most widely cited and influential conservative websites… Our work has been highlighted by top conservative radio personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.” But see also Legal Insurrection – Media Bias/Fact Check: “These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.” Note the article was written before the “Covid,” so for an alternate view see California coronavirus: What the state is doing right – CNN

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And finally, the original “laugh at him” post contained notes from an apparent “cultural elites” file. It was about those “cultural elites” that Trump supporters love to hate. The notes below are in rough form, include some personal observations, and are included solely for purposes of completeness:

acts of deliberate transgression against what many Trump supporters have come to view as the supposedly stifling ethics of our cultural elites

sending ” those damn media types into a tizzy”

a given act is actually praiseworthy and brave if it draws condemnation from the despised left-wing media.

just another handy weapon for triggering the pearl-clutching libs.

Send Her Back! Send Her Back! – The Bulwark

That portion of American society that has pretty much ruled America during the latter half of the 20th century, and the 21st century as well, up to Election Day, 2016.

Since the end of World War II, the rest of the world has looked at America as that “city on a hill” it has claimed to be since the beginning.  And America has responded – by and large – by accepting the mantle of world leadership.  And because America is a land of such promise, people from other countries keep trying to come here.  But – by and large – they are no longer white, English-speaking and mostly European.  Which frightens a large segment of American society.

Aside from that the mantle of world leadership is heavy.  It means not going off half-cocked.  It means being responsible, and thinking through what we say and do.  And many Americans seem to think we should act more like Russia, imposing our will on the rest of the world by sheer force.  Which – from all accounts – is what we used to do in the days of Teddy Roosevelt.

And it could be that the Americans who support Trump would love to see a return of a bit of American imperialism.  (On the other hand, if that’s true, why did Russia try so hard to get Trump rather than Hillary elected?)

Class warfare between workers and elites explains Trump …

What’s happening in America is an echo of what’s happening in democracies around the world, and it’s not happening because of Trump. Trump is the symptom of a ruling class that many of the ruled no longer see as serving their interest, and the anti-Trump response is mostly the angry backlash of that class as it sees its position, its perquisites and — perhaps especially — its self-importance threatened.

Trump’s dislike of — and desire to be a part of — the ‘elite’

Trump has since made a name for himself — in New York City and, more unexpectedly, in Washington. As he reminded his Minnesota supporters, he won the presidency — which by one definition automatically puts him among the elites: “a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group.”

By all accounts, Trump supporters – or as Hillary called them, “the deplorables” – exercise the major share of authority and influence within the Republican Party, which is the governing party in the United States. The group’s values on racial issues, the economy, immigration and other cultural issues has a louder and bolder advocate in the Oval Office than at any other time in recent history.

But perhaps the reason it is difficult to embrace that definition is because Trump and many of his supporters believe that winning isn’t all that matters.  It matters that you be viewed as a winner.  And for a president who has been quick to lob the label “loser” at those with whom he didn’t find favor, knowing that there are many Americans who don’t want him in their club is a great source of anger.

Elite – Wikipedia  a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the “elite” are “those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type

a relatively small, loosely connected group of individuals who dominate American policy making. This group includes bureaucratic, corporate, intellectual, military, media, and government elites who control the principal institutions in the United States and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions of the policymakers

Why a lot of Americans resent the cultured “New York City elite.”

I think this feeling was shared by some of the voters who went for Trump – as well as Brexit beforehand.  Trump, a masterful populist, has manipulated this very real bitterness, raising his 18-carat pitchfork against “liberal elites” for his own political gain.

a cultural elite may be disliked for reasons that are as not particularly economic: college professors, experts, NGO staffers and psychotherapists are not corporate titans, after all. It’s a new variation of an old-fashioned populism that is anti-intellectual and anti-expert.

Trump and his family may be mining this anti-elite anger, but they are, of course, preposterously upscale, living in Trump Tower, attending expensive private schools, flying about in private jets (now with in-flight Secret Service) and dining in five-star restaurants.

Republicans are benefitting from the cultural resentment of their non-elite electorate. They also aren’t proposing anything that could make life better for the people who actually live in small towns or in “flyover” states.

On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down…

 Voltaire,  a new figure – the intellectual recluse” – during a time of “destruction let loose…”

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It’s Sunday May 10, 2020, and we’re at the end of eight full weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since wisdom begins with the definition of terms – as Socrates said – I’ll clarify.

To me, the pandemic hit full swing – the “‘stuff’ hit the fan” – back on Thursday, March 12. That’s when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, and March Madness and college baseball were called off. Also about that time the NBA, NHL and other major professional sport seasons all ended. (For what those college sports mean to me, see June 2018’s “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and February 2019’s On my “mission from God.”)

So my definition of the “First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic” has it starting Sunday, March 15 and ending Saturday, March 21. (Meaning we’re actually starting the ninth full week of the pandemic.) And that pandemic shows no signs of abating, which means we need continue adjusting to a “New normal.” (With social distancing, extreme caution and shortages of all kinds.) 

Which brings up the question: What did people do in the Olden Days when disaster struck?

For more on that see below, but for now let’s just say that I personally have been “busier than the proverbial one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.” Aside from working three days a week – at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful – I’ve been exercising eight hours a week.

That includes two hours of high-intensity exercise. (Stair-stepping 30 minutes a time, wearing a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.) Plus an hour or so of yoga a week, plus calisthenics, sometimes interspersed with at least 200 minutes of medium-intensity workout. That can include kayaking or hiking an hour or so at a time.  But it also includes lots of time stretching and bending, while watching lectures from The Great Courses Plus.

I signed up on May 3, and been loving it. And putting my “shelter at home” time to good use.

Fundamentals of PhotographySome of the courses I’ve begun so far:

‘Fundamentals of Photography” (at left), “Understanding the Old Testament,” “Understanding the New Testament,” “Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques,” “America’s Founding Fathers,” “Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything,” and “Liberty on Trial in America: Cases That Defined Freedom.”

But the course I’ve latched onto most recently is “The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy.” And that course begins with this, that the “conquest and settlement of the American West transformed the United States from a regional republic into a continental power.”

The American West: History, Myth, and LegacyLecture One included a quote from Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the “most influential historians of the American West.” He said key elements of the American character came from the encounter of settlers with the frontier.

Domesticating the frontier … forced Americans to live by their wits, to cooperate, to revert temporarily to earlier stages of civilization, and to embody a more wholehearted democracy than anything on offer in the Old World.

And speaking of cooperation, he added that Americans taming the frontier learned to “adapt, to cooperate with one another, and to treat each other as equals.” (Emphasis added.) By such means as mutual cooperation and treating each other as equals, they “subdued the wild lands around them, working out ideas and techniques unknown to their ancestors.”

Needless to say, I was struck by the words “cooperate with one another” and “treat each other as equals.” To which I can only say, “What the hell happened?”

But enough of politics. (For a while anyway.) For the time being I’ve decided to revert to making this post more like a series of personal essays. That is, where the writer “explores his or her own thoughts, often as related to an organizing idea or subject.” Which brings back what I’ve learned about what people did in the Olden Days, when disasters like our pandemic struck?

One answer came from the 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. It opens with the hero – Candide – “living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise.” But from there things go downhill:

The work describes … Candide’s slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes Candide [by] advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden,” in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best” in the “best of all possible worlds.”

Or as Voltaire put it in another setting, “Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s [own] garden.” (Voltaire’s Solution to a Life Full of Thorns.) And speaking of Eden – as in “a place or state of great happiness [or] an unspoiled paradise” – that seems to be what we used to have, before Covid-19. Or at least it seems so in hindsight…

Then there’s what historian Kenneth Clark said in his 1969 book Civilisation, about what some did during a time of great upheaval. (Like today’s.) Writing about the violence brought on Europe by the Protestant Reformation, he said that whatever the long-term effects,

…the immediate results were very bad; not only for art, but bad for life. The North [of Europe] was full of bully boys who rampaged around the country and took any excuse to beat people up… All the elements of destruction were let loose.

So a great upheaval – with elements of panic and destruction “let loose” – can come from either other people (“bully boys”) or from nature itself. So what do we do, in the process of riding out this storm? Or as Clark put it, “What could an intelligent, open-minded man do in mid-sixteenth-century Europe?” Or for that matter, here in America this 2,020th “year of our Lord?”

His short-and-sweet answer, “Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” Which as a result of the European wars of religion created a figure new to Europe but “familiar in the great ages of China: the intellectual recluse.” (Which at this point evokes – to the writer anyway – the old Maynard G. Krebs repeated line, “You rang?“)

Yet another answer is to “Keep on keeping on.” As in, “to persevere,” which means to persist or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. Or maybe “cooperate?” Or get back to “treating each other as equals?” Or at least with a bit more respect. See Treat each other with respect – Communication and Conflict. Of which more later…

Or as Voltaire once said, “Treat other people with respect, even the Dumbasses!

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The upper image is courtesy of Voltaire – Image Results. This particular image accompanies an article, “Rodama: a blog of the 18th century,” subtitled “Houdon: ‘Seated Voltaire’ at Les Délices.”

Here are some pictures of Houdon’s Seated Voltaire, the beautiful centrepiece of the Musée Voltaire at Les Délices in Geneva, which I was lucky enough to visit last Easter. This version is among the finest examples of Houdon’s famous statue, and is particularly unusual in that it is made of terracotta.

I chose this image because to me it seems most similar to what I might have looked like, had I gone through Voltaire’s particular trials and tribulations. (Instead of just my own.)

Re:  The full quote reads as follows:

Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential historians of the American West, argued that the distinctive elements of the American character came from the encounter of settlers with the frontier. Domesticating the frontier, Turner wrote in an 1893 essay, forced Americans to live by their wits, to cooperate, to revert temporarily to earlier stages of civilization, and to embody a more wholehearted democracy than anything on offer in the Old World.

Re: Personal essays. See also 7 Helpful Tips on How to Write a Memorable Personal Essay

Re: The ending of Candide. Wikipedia had the ending – “we must cultivate our garden” – translated into French, il faut cultiver notre jardin.” But see also Candide Conclusion Summary & Analysis from LitCharts, which worded the ending as “All that is very well … but let us cultivate our garden.”

Re: Kenneth Clark. The quotation from Clark is from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), at page 161. For an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

Re: The “dumbasses” Voltaire quote. See State Farm TV Commercial, ‘The Internet and French Model, and State Farm … Bonjour – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Treat Each Other Respect – Image Results. See also Live Life Happy – Inspirational Quotes, etc. 

 

 

Thank God Jesus wasn’t conservative…

Steuben - Bataille de Poitiers.png

If Jesus had been conservative we might all be Muslim (i.e. and e.g.,no Battle of Poitiers“)…

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I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you  Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. For another more-recent post, click on An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements,’ at right. (From March 20, 2021.) Meanwhile, I’ll work on fixing the problem.

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What with the Coronavirus pandemic and the demands of working three days a week, it’s been tough to do posts on a consistent, timely basis. (See How Often Should You Blog in 2020?) But not for lack of topics or ideas. It’s because I blog mainly to learn, and for my own satisfaction. That means I “take enough time to do the job right,” not be consistent.

And I last posted here back on April 17, almost two weeks ago. So on this last day of April, 2020, I’m juggling four or five possible blog posts. Like “Memories of Lori,” based on listening today to  the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. (A movie that I saw back in 1980 with a lovely young copy editor at the St. Pete Times.)

Or a post on possible answers for really stupid Facebook posts. (Like my earlier Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook.) So for this quick-response post I’ll go back to some thoughts I revisited five months ago, that have been percolating a good long while.

The topic is a favorite theme of mine – or Meme – that goes, “If so-and-so had been conservative, we’d all be ____!” And by the way, I take issue with today’s conservatives only because a reporter’s job – and by extension a blogger’s – is “challenge the prevailing quacks.”

And today’s conservatives are definitely the “prevailing quacks.”

For one example, “If the Founding Fathers had been conservative, we’d all be singing ‘God save the Queen’ at the start of our baseball games.” (If we weren’t playing cricket instead.) The idea – and the irony if not the incongruity – is that today’s conservatives act like they’re the only real Americans. The problem is that our forefathers came to this country mostly to get the hell away from conservatives – the ones who tended to stay back home.

In plain words, those old-time conservatives didn’t have the guts to put up with the challenges of creating a New World. It was the Independents and Dreamers who did all that.

Then there’s this, “If Jesus had been conservative, we’d all be talking Yiddish.” (“Oy vey,” to which might be added the Seinfeld meme, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”)

Or in the case of this post’s headline – “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative” – the Punch line thereof would be:  “Otherwise we Americans might all be Muslim.” 

But don’t take my word for it. Kenneth Clark said that in his 1969 book Civilisation: “Without Charles Martel‘s victory over the Moors at Poitiers in 732, western civilization might never have existed…”  And by western civilization he meant western Christian civilization.

Which again means that if Jesus had been conservative – as many ostensible Christians claim today – there would have been no viable force to stop the “Islamic advance into Western Europe.”

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There’s a bit of background in the notes about how I happened on to Clark’s observation…

But – to cut to the chase – here’s the connection between Charles Martel and Jesus not being conservative. The idea is that if Jesus had been conservative, He wouldn’t have started the New Religion – the “New Testament” – that eventually bore His name. And Judaism would likely have stayed a relatively small religious movement. (Without the proselytizing that is such a trademark of Christianity, it would have been confined to the fringes of the eastern Mediterranean.)

In plain words, there would be nothing to stop Islam from taking over Western Europe.

At page 17 in his first chapter, “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Clark noted how close Western civilization came to be snuffed out. That is, with Fall of the Roman Empire, life in what we call the Middle (or “Dark“) Ages was generally nasty, brutish and short.

For one example, during those 500 years or so it was rare person indeed who could read or write. (“[P]ractically no lay person, from kings and emperors downwards, could read or write.”) And as Clark noted, it was only in the Church that reading and writing were preserved. “We survived because … for centuries practically all men of intellect joined the Church.” And it was Church scribes who preserved not only reading and writing, but also the classics of antiquity. “In so far as we are heirs of Greece and Rome, we got through by the skin of our teeth.”

Which is one reason to thank God that Jesus wasn’t conservative.

Another reason is that if Jesus had been conservative – and Judaism stayed a small religion without Christian proselytizing – there would be no Charles Martel, the French warrior-king (and “Hammer“) who saved Christian Europe. As historian Edward Gibbon noted:

[H]ad Charles fallen, the [Muslim armies] would have easily conquered a divided Europe… [T]he Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.

See Battle of Tours – Wikipedia. But that didn’t happen. Instead – and again cut to the chase – after many long centuries of struggle, mayhem and death, we now have a clearly-defined separation of church and state. Which started (arguably) with Charles Martel, an effective combination of ardent Christian, powerful military leader, and Independent.

Although Charles Martel ( d. 741)  is one of the most noted heroes in Christianity when studying one of the many violent encounters between Christian and Muslim forces, Charles “The Hammer” Martel was no marionette of the Church. He was quite an independent and practical thinker as a military leader and as a politician.

To which we could add, “Martel was an Independent, just like Moses and Jesus!” (And like me, for that matter. See A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter).”) 

Which is another way of saying that after Martel’s victory at the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers) neither the Church nor the governments of Europe gained complete control. The result was a “dynamic tension” between the two forces, which turned out to be a blessing.

That is, Charles Martel “begat” Charlemagne – actually his grandson – who has been called “the father of Europe.” (He “united parts of Europe that had never been under Frankish or Roman rule.”) Which again wouldn’t have happened without Martel’s victory at Tours.

The point is that in the fullness of time, Charlemagne traveled to Rome, where the Pope crowned him “emperor.” (At a Mass on Christmas Day, 800, “when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum (‘Emperor of the Romans’) in Saint Peter’s Basilica.”) Charlemagne later thought that episode was a mistake, in that it gave the pope a pretext of “supremacy” over him. (And future secular rulers.) Which led Clark to note:

But historical judgments are very tricky.  Maybe the tension between the spiritual and worldly powers throughout the Middle Ages was precisely what kept European civilisation alive. If either had achieved absolute power, society might have grown as static as the civilisations of Egypt and Byzantium.

(Clark, 20) And that – clearly – would have been the situation if Jesus had been either conservative or liberal. Instead, He and God seem to have worked together to maintain the Dynamic Tension that exists “even to this day,” between spiritual and worldly powers here in America. And why Jesus and God made sure that the foundations of American democracy included Freedom or religion and the separation of powers.

The result is that – whatever you might say about American democracy today – it is definitely not “static.” In short, if Jesus had been conservative, we here in America might have to see all our women togged out in those silly burqas, or otherwise covering themselves up…

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Re: The “foul-up” resulting in this old (April 2020) post being made so prominent right now. Maybe it’s a sign from God? See for example Sign From God Meme – Image Results, including the one featuring various church billboards, including the one billboard saying, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”

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The upper image is courtesy of Umayyad invasion of Gaul – Wikipedia, rephrased in the main text as “Islamic advance into Western Europe.” The main point: “The Umayyad invasion of Gaul occurred in two phases in 720 and 732. Although the Muslim Umayyads secured control of Septimania, their incursions beyond this into the Loire and Rhône valleys failed. By 759 they had lost Septimania to the Christian Franks.” The caption for the painting: “The Battle of Tours” – also called the Battle of Poitiers – “in 732, depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours. Painting (1837) by Charles de Steuben.” See also the link Reconquista:

The Reconquista (Portuguese and Spanish for “reconquest”) was the period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.

The photo to the left of the paragraph beginning “But don’t take my word for it” is courtesy of Kenneth Clark Civilisation – Image ResultsThe quotations from Clark are from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), pages 18 and 20. And for an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

As to “Christian civilization,” see How Sir Kenneth Clark Defended Christian Civilization on PBS.

And here’s some background on how I happened on Clark’s observations. I used to exercise seven hours a week. Over two of those hours included stair-stepping. (With a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.) And those two or more hours of stair-stepping were exceedingly boring. So to pass the time – and aside from listening to music on my iPod Shuffle – I watch VHS tapes, hooked up to a flat-screen TV. And my VHS collection includes a Box Set of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). And some time ago – while stair-stepping an hour or so – I heard again Clark’s saying that Charles Martel saved western Christian civilization.  (It was like a “sign from God…”) A side-note: I now exercise some eight hours a week, but have cut down on the “weighted” stair-stepping.    

For more on the topic of Jesus-as-not-conservative, see The Story of the Law: Rene A. Wormser, 1962 paperback edition,  by Rene A. Wormser, at page 32. Briefly, Wormser used 29 pages to describe Moses’ role as “law-giver,” but only two to cover Jesus. Mostly, he wrote, because Jesus simply “preached what Jewish liberals had taught.” That is,”Jewish liberal thought had already produced the fine flowering of ethics which we now know best from Jesus’ lips.” For more on Wormser himself, see RENE A WORMSER, 85, LAWYER –  (Obituary) The New York Times.

The lower image is courtesy of Coronavirus Mask – Image Results.

“Spanish flu” – Politically incorrect?

Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston

A sign of things to come, or déjà vu? “Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu…”

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Back in mid-March (a month ago), we had a politically incorrect dust-up over the term “Chinese coronavirus.” See Tucker Carlson (at right): Racist for saying “Chinese coronavirus?”  (Another note: Coronavirus spreads anti-Chinese racism, xenophobia concerns.)

But aside from raising the twin concerns of spreading baseless “Conspiracy Theories” – and Scapegoating – the hubbub brings to mind another arguably “racist” disease: the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Two points. First, it was only called “Spanish flu” because Spain was the only major country that didn’t lie to its own people. That is, Spain didn’t censor bad news about the disease. Every other major country kept its citizens in the dark, lest their people panic.  (And maybe buy out all the store-stocked toilet paper?)  In plain words, they lied to their citizens and voters.

The other point? This one either puts things in perspective or gives us a preview of whatever bad news may be yet to come. For starters, as of April 15, 2020, there were some two million cases of Covid-19 worldwide. Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 cases top 2 million worldwide. To give us some perspective, the 1918 Spanish flu infected some 500 million people worldwide, making it “one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.”

As for deaths, to date some 28,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.  The 1918 Spanish flu killed some 675,000 Americans.*  Worldwide there have been some 134,000 Covid-19 deaths. (Coronavirus Update (Live).)  Spanish-flu deaths worldwide? No one knows for sure, but at least 17 million:

Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world’s population at the time.  The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million…

(See Wikipedia.  And as “noted” below,* if the present Covid-19 pandemic were to have a similar impact – in terms of population percentage – we’d have some 2,025,000 American deaths.)

Also – incidentally – the Spanish flu didn’t start in Spain. (No conspiracy theories please.) It got the name “Spanish flu” only because Spain was neutral in World War I. (Which was slowly coming to an end at about the same time.) That meant Spain didn’t censor the bad news about the disease. The nations actually fighting in World War I imposed strict censorship:

To maintain morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit.  This gave rise to the name Spanish flu.

Another note: “The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus; the second was the swine flu in 2009.” (Speaking of déjà vu.)

And also speaking of deja vu, see the web article, America relearning the lessons of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  One big lesson?  Social distancing works, “but only when it’s imposed early. And it has to be sustained.” See US may have to endure social distancing until 2022 if no vaccine is quickly found. But the Number One lesson from the 1918 Spanish flu?  (According to the Fox News article.)  “Number one, give people the straight facts.”

And let the toilet-paper shortage fall where it may.

But there is one silver lining to this “Corona-cloud overhanging us.” Covid-19 has cut down on the number of mass shootings in the U.S. See  March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, and Coronavirus Stopped US School Shooting In March.

Just compare the image below with the same one from a year ago, in May 2019…

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The upper image is courtesy of Spanish flu – Wikipedia. The caption: “Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston.”

The Carlson image is courtesy of Tucker Carlson – Wikipedia. Caption: “Immigrants’ Rights Rally in Washington Mall, 2006.” And BTW: Why not call it the “Trump Coronavirus?”

Another note, re: Carlson’s disease-name. See, Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 – Wikipedia:

Nearly a century after the Spanish flu struck in 1918–1920, health organizations moved away from naming epidemics after geographical places. More modern terms for this virus include the “1918 influenza pandemic,” the “1918 flu pandemic,” or variations of those.

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “As for deaths” is courtesy of 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic – Wikipedia. Caption: “Public venues like this playground in Hannover, Germany, have closed throughout the country.”

Re: “The 1918 Spanish flu killed some 675,000 Americans.”  The U.S. population in 1920 – the nearest census to 1918 – was set at a bit over 106 million. 1920 United States Census – WikipediaThe U.S. population in 2020 is estimated at a bit over 329 million. Population of USA in 2020The world population as of 1927 was estimated at some two billion. World Population by Year – WorldometerThe world population is expected to be 7.8 billion by 2023. World Population Clock: 7.8 Billion People (2020). Thus there was a three-fold increase in American population between 1920 and 2020, and a “3.9-fold” increase in world population in the same century. Thus for the present Covid-19 to have a similar impact – in terms of percentage of population – the numbers would be as follows: some two million, twenty-five thousand (2,025,000) American deaths; as for the worldwide rate of infection, that 500-million-people total would reach one billion, nine hundred fifty million (1,950,000,000) people. (As noted, roughly a “quarter of the world’s population at the time.”) 

Also re: Number of Spanish flu deaths in the United States, see Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths (New York Times).

Incidents in 2019The lower image is courtesy of Mass Shootings in 2020 | Gun Violence Archive. As noted, compare that with the “incidents in 2019” lead image for “Trump’s” mass shootings, from May 2019, shown at right.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte Harry wrote and published the “Israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made him special was his positive outlook on life.  He got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

Meditations on “the new plague…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Their headgear was particularly unusual” – and the plague-rod helped “fend off victims…”

 

 

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Last March 12, I went to the local library and checked out a copy of The Plague by Albert Camus. (In light our new Coronavirus pandemic.)  Which book, incidentally, I cannot now return, because that library and all others in the area are closed. (Possibly “for the duration.” See below right.)

At the same time I checked out a copy of What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills, for a bit more uplifting reading. And I also started researching more on this “plague” business.

One thing I learned was that the Coronavirus is not – strictly speaking – a “plagueRoseduration.jpg.” According to Wikipedia, that term is restricted to the “infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis.” (Symptoms for that version generally included fever, weakness and headache, similar to the Coronavirus.) But the most familiar form is bubonic plague, which was one of three types of this plague:

Bubonic and septicemic plague are generally spread by flea bites or handling an infected animal. The pneumonitic form is generally spread between people through the air via infectious droplets. Diagnosis is typically by finding the bacterium in fluid from a lymph node, blood or sputum.

La Peste book cover.jpgThe good news: There is now both vaccine and valid treatment for the plague of in Camus’ novel, at left. (Like “antibiotics and supportive care.” With which the risk of death through treatment is “about 10% while without it is about 70%.”) Not so with Coronavirus.

Not yet anyway… (And “La Peste” is French for “The Plague.”)

I also learned the difference between epidemic and a pandemic.

The web article Difference between epidemic and a pandemic went into great detail on distinctions between the terms, a distinction “often blurred, even among epidemiologists:”

  • Epidemic refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected.
  • Outbreak carries the same definition as an epidemic but is often used to describe a more limited geographic event.
  • Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

The article also noted the term “plague” refers “specifically to a contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium, such as bubonic plague.”

But we seem to be splitting hairs here. I didn’t check out Camus’ book because it was exactly on point with the current situation. I wanted to see what similarities there might be between the 1940s Algeria described by Camus, and America today, in March 2020.

Written in 1947, The Plague describes a “plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran.” As noted in one recent review, the novel poses a number of questions about “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of the plague. The novel thus poses a number of questions on “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of a plague on a community.

For myself, in some ways my life is more relaxed with this new “plague on a community.”

With none of my sport-teams playing, there’s no “canary in a coal mine” aspect to my spiritual life now. I have no pressing need for the ongoing ritual purity and ritual sacrifice that have been such a big part of my life since 1989 or so. (See “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth – illustrated at right – and On my “mission from God,” from a companion blog.) 

What remains is a series of annoying but petty minor inconveniences…

The biggest example? No more dine-in lunches, or dinners, or stopping by a local bar for a beer or two before Wednesday-night choir practice. And no more choir practice, or church on Sunday either for that matter. And pretty much every morning I used to stop by a local McDonald’s for iced coffee. I liked to sip a bit out, then put in lots more ice. (From the ice machine in the dine-in area. Remember those?)

There’s no more of that, but I’ve adapted. I now bring cup-and-straw from the day before (“saving the world, one McDonald’s straw at a time”), and fill it with ice from my home-freezer.  As for dine-in, every three days a week at work now – at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful,” still open as of this writing – I take my to-go order to the parish hall of my church, around the corner. (I’m the vestry person in charge of buildings, so I have a key.) There in the peace and quiet of the parish hall, I eat my lunch and read my hand-me-down Time magazines.

All of which is, I suppose, a metaphor of sorts…

But then again, even before this “new plague” hit I was pretty much a hermit, living in a rambling four-bedroom house on an isolated acre of woodland. (It’s so isolated that I don’t have any curtains or venetian blinds on any windows. Who the heck is going to look in?)

But back to The Plague by Camus. Here’s a quote from Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.*

Which certainly seems true of this latest pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise.

I’ll no doubt be writing more meditations on this “new plague,” but for now the Faithful Reader is probably wondering, “What the heck is that beaked get-up at the top of the page?”

For a summary answer see Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks:

During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease… [T]hey covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… Plague doctors wore spectacles … and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils…” Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims.

So much for that question. It’s a good thing we don’t believe in those silly superstitions anymore. And it’s a good thing history doesn’t repeat itself. And that we can learn so much from the lessons of the past, but we’re digressing again. So, going back to that review “The Plague” I cited above, here’s one thing the reviewer said, that seems to be relevant:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

One lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. That is, the present “Coronavirus” might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.”

Along with “a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” Or even a realization that there “are more things to admire in [all] people than to despise…”

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The upper image is now courtesy of Plague Beaked Mask – Image ResultsThe original upper image was courtesy of Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks. (National Geographic, with an article apparently “now defunct.”) The article described protective gear worn by “plague doctors:”

The costume [including the “beaked mask] is usually credited to Charles de Lorme, a physician… He described an outfit that included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather.

Re: “For the duration.” The image is courtesy of For the Duration – Wikipedia, about the 1991 album by Rosemary Clooney, “of songs popular during World War II.” 

Re: “Local branch of Keep America Beautiful.” See On “Mad Men” – Revisited, and a prior post cited therein, Whatever happened to … Cassidy?

Re: Why … those strange beaked masks (National Geographic). Here’s the full quote: 

In 17th-century Europe, the physicians who tended to plague victims wore a costume that has since taken on sinister overtones: they covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… [The outfit] included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather. Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims.

Their headgear was particularly unusual: Plague doctors wore spectacles, de Lorme continued, and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the [herbs] enclosed further along in the beak.”

During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease. Their iconic and ominous look, as depicted in this 1656 engraving of a Roman doctor, is recognizable to this day.

The “pestilence” quote is from The Plague, Part 1, Vintage International paperback, 1991, originally published 1947, at pages 36-37. See also “Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “So much for that question” is courtesy of Coronavirus Mask – Image Results. The image is accompanied by an article, “Solutions people came up with to try to protect themselves.” 

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia. See also Plague Camus – Image Results, including the article accompanying the “american illiterati” image.

Yet another review of “past Trump-posts…”

The 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Any connection to current events?

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

I just got back from a month in Portugal, hiking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago. Meanwhile, in the last few days since I got home, there’s been a lot of political hubbub in the news. As in Trump Impeachment Poll: Public Support Rises.

So before starting any posts on my recent adventure-pilgrimage, it might be good to review some posts I did in the past. About Donald Trump. Like the one predicting he’d “be impeached within two years.” (Which cited another past post, from before the election, asking if Trump might be the “new Maverick in town.” See April 2016’s “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”)

We missed that deadline, from November 2016. On the other hand we are coming up on three years into his first term. (Putting aside – “tabling*” – the question whether he’ll have a second term.) And yet many people still support him. Why? One possible answer might have come in last April’s On Oscar Wilde and our “criminal heroes.” It came in turn from an article in the Jan/Feb 2019 National Geographic History Magazine, “Jesse James: Rise of an American outlaw.”

It seems that Wilde was in America in 1882 – in St. Joseph, Missouri – the week after Jesse James was killed. Thus he witnessed “firsthand the mad clamor for relics of the outlaw at an auction of Jesse’s household belongings.” That led Wilde to observe: “Americans are certainly great hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”

Which – as I said – could explain the continuing support of Donald Trump from a large part of “the sovereign people.” Then too, Americans tend to admire “rebels” as well, as explored in the post-election (11/16) post, Donald Trump – The new Johnny Yuma? Which included this:

I have to admit I’ve been pretty much stymied since the election, last November 8. The best I could come up with since then was “Trump is like a box of chocolates.”  [11/13/16…]  It’s as if the Muses have abandoned me. On the one hand I want to be fair and not cranky. (Like so many other people my age.) But on the other hand I have this deep sense of foreboding

Which sense of foreboding could be coming to fruition “even as we speak.”

And which brings up a common phrase in this blog, “past Trump-posts.” It could be related to another new word, Trumpgret. See New Word: Trumpgret! – debatepolitics.com. (A word “bandied about by many voters that now ‘regret’ having voted for Trump in 2016.”)

But getting back to Trump as a rebel. The Yuma post noted that I “Googled the words ‘Donald Trump rebel’ and got 46,300,00 results.” And that one such link was the article, How the Rebel Flag Rose Again – and Is Helping Trump(“That title pretty much speaks for itself.”) 

Which I suppose means that the current Democratic House of Representative’s moves to impeach Trump can be seen – by some Americans anyway – as the functional equivalent of “the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard,” as illustrated at right.* (If I’m being too subtle,  Trump is portrayed as the “heroic Jesse James.”)

Then there was another post from the past,  “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night.” It asked the musical question:

50 years from now [could] that dulcet-toned lass [Joan Baez] be singing that ode to Donald Trump to the tune of “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night[?]” Joan Baez sang the original song – about Joe Hill – most memorably at Woodstock, back in the summer of 1969.

That post noted that “in some strange way Donald Trump – educated at the New York Military Academy, then the Wharton School” and worth over three billion dollars* – “has somehow become a hero to the (white) American working man.” It also noted that comparing Trump to famed labor activist and union organizer Joe Hill might not be such a good thing.

That is, like Jesse James and other noted “rebels,” Joe Hill died young. (At 36.) In one line from from “Joe Hill,” Baez sang, “‘The Copper Bosses killed you Joe, They shot you Joe’ says I.” That is, in 1914 Utah officials charged Hill with murder, resulting in a trial that became a sensation:

The case turned into a major media event. President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller (the blind and deaf author and fellow-IWW member), the Swedish ambassador and the Swedish public all became involved in a bid for clemency. It generated international union attention, and critics charged that the trial and conviction were unfair. [One later organizer considered] Joe Hill to have been a political prisoner who was executed for his political agitation…

And again if I’m being too subtle, Joe Hill was executed by firing squad at Utah’s Sugar House Prison on November 19, 1915. (After a conviction arguably orchestrated by “the copper bosses.”)

Which could happen to Donald Trump, metaphorically anyway.

Even if impeached and convicted – and in all likelihood ever after he passes from the scene, possibly still in disgrace – he likely will still remain a hero to some members of “the American working man.” As the original “Joe Hill” song said, “Takes more than guns to kill a man…  Says Joe ‘I didn’t die.’” In the same way it may take more than an impeachment-and-conviction to tarnish the Donald’s reputation with some Americans.  

And so the final stanza of  “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night” might go like this:

From San Diego up to Maine, In every mine and mill, Where working men defend their rights, It’s there you’ll find Don Trump, It’s there you’ll find Don Trump!

It could happen! Meanwhile, the question “How much of this will be ‘deja vu all over again?'”

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Will this be the scene if the House of Representatives impeaches Donald Trump?

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The upper image is courtesy of Impeachment in the U.S. – Wikipedia. The caption:Depiction of the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding.”

Re: “Tabling.” The term in the United States for a rule of parliamentary procedure under which a topic or motion is put aside, possibly indefinitely; “to ‘table’ usually means to postpone or suspend consideration of a pending motion.” The term has different meanings in different countries; “the American meaning is based on the idea of leaving the topic on the table indefinitely and thereby disposing of it, i.e. killing its discussion.” See Table (parliamentary procedure) – Wikipedia.

Re: “Dirty little coward.” The caption of the photo: “A woodcut shows Robert Ford famously shooting Jesse James in the back while he hangs a picture in his house. Ford’s brother Charles looks on.” James was living under the assumed name, “Mr. Howard,” and apparently “Tom Howard.” See Wikipedia on Jesse James and Question about Jesse James & h – Genealogy.com. Wikipedia further noted:

While his “heroic outlaw” image is commonly portrayed in films, [some late 20th century historians] have classified him as a self-aware vigilante and terrorist who used local tensions to create his own myth among the widespread insurgent guerrillas and vigilantes following the American Civil War…  James remains a controversial symbol, one who can always be reinterpreted in various ways according to cultural tensions and needs. Some of the neo-Confederate movement regard him as a hero.

Which may well become the legacy of Donald Trump? 

The lower image was courtesy of Hard Hat Riot: Tea Party of yesteryear – Daily Kos.  (Which image has since been “removed.”)  The caption refers to two prior posts from this blog: Is this “deja vu all over again,” and a repriseAnother “deja vu all over again?”  See also Hard hat – Wikipedia, as to the literal meaning of the term, and the Collins Dictionary, as to its cultural implications; i.e., “characteristic of the presumed conservative attitudes and prejudices typified by construction workers.”  (See also, Hard Hat Riots.)

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Past posts on Trump and his future include Some thoughts on “the Donald,” from two years ago, On Hard hats, Hell’s Angels – and Inauguration Day 2017, and Trump – The new Johnny Yuma?

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte Harry wrote and published the “Israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made him special was his positive outlook on life.  He got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.