SHARING IN AN INSANE WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 5-27-2020

Questions:


In your opinion, does patriotism require the belief that one’s country is the greatest on earth?

Manchaug dam on the Blackstone

I know people who live in a lot of other countries and they love their country. Not only do they know their country isn’t the biggest, greatest, richest, or most powerful, they love it because it’s home.

Why is patriotism considered by some to be the highest of virtues? What is so important about love of country? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about humankind, or the planet as a whole, rather than a single country?

I never understood it, frankly. The only country other than the U.S. that tends to get wildly patriotic is Great Britain. Maybe that’s our “inheritance.” I understand loving your country. But proud? Why should you be proud because your mother happened to get pregnant and gave birth in this particular country.  If you’d be born somewhere else, you wouldn’t love your country because your mother was in the wrong place? Huh?

The world

Of course we should care for humankind more than “things” and power and money, but we aren’t. There’s something terribly wrong with us, and it seems to be getting worse.

Too weird for me.

What is the relationship between decisions and consequences?

There ought to be a direct relationship but apparently, I’m just living in another universe.

What is social justice?

Not whatever it is we’ve got. But that’s because we started out supporting slavery. It was our original sin and most of our problems come directly from that.

What’s one body part you wouldn’t mind losing? (told you.  Silly).

It turns out I’m doing pretty well without boobs and two heart valves. And a few teeth. I would rather not lose anything else. I think I’m already on thin ice.

The true meaning of patriotism

Beautifully written and something I’ve spent a lot of time — especially recently — pondering.

THE SHINBONE STAR

My great-uncle, U.S. Marine Corps Private William L. Brasfield, also known as Lee, died long before I was born, but I heard all the stories. As a young man, he enlisted because he believed that was what a patriot was supposed to do.

For a while, he wrote fascinating letters home to rural Alabama about the exotic places he had been. It was an adventure, not just a duty. Then, just a few months after Pearl Harbor, he was aboard the USS Houston (CA-30), which was deployed to escort and protect convoys carrying troops to Indonesia. By late February, 1942, the Houston was located in the Java Sea, where it and four other cruisers from Australia, the United Kingdom, and The Netherlands, and 10 destroyers became engaged in battle with the Japanese.

Early on the morning of March 1, after an arduous and commendable show of force that was later…

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FOREVER EVOLVING? WHERE AM I? – Marilyn Armstrong

Blogging Insights # 30 – Evolving

The question from BLOGGING INSIGHTS #30 – EVOLVING is:

“Your blog is never static.It is a living and breathing organism that continues to grow as you grow as a blogger. Sometimes this growth takes unexpected directions and you end up with something very different from what you had envisioned.”

Credit for today’s question goes to Di of Pensitivity.

Since I never expected anything, it is exactly what I expected but also, totally different. I really was just trying to post photographs that were sitting in my hard drive. No one ever saw them. I had done this before on a variety of platforms that closed down.

I was never really “into” it. Maybe because I was still working and I wrote all day, so I wasn’t all that eager to do some more writing when I got home. I hadn’t had the time to develop photographically, either. I worked a lot of hours, had a child to raise, a house to maintain and I really enjoyed my few hours of doing nothing.

Looking for a few seeds?

So I started this blog without expectations. I also didn’t think it would last long. All the others had closed down, so I figure a couple of years or even less, and this one would close down too.

What I didn’t expect was that I would develop a pretty large readership so quickly nor did I think politics was going to become a big part of my landscape. Mostly, I didn’t think that from this experience would come real friendships across oceans and continents.

Square and still blooming!

It has been eight years and I’ve put up more than 10,600 posts. Some are reblogged from other authors who have said something I wish I’d said, but they said it better. If someone else wrote it well, there’s no reason for me to reinvent the wheel.

Blogs don’t need wheels. We roll through cyberspace where there are no roads.

A couple of thousand posts were likely written by co-authors who have gathered under Serendipity’s umbrella.

How did it happen? I don’t know. I still wonder why anyone bothers to read what I write. I greatly appreciate it, but there are so many blogs around, why me? I’ve never gotten huge responses. I’ve never gotten a million hits, though I’m close to a million total after blogging for eight years. Typically, I get good responses to well-written posts. Garry almost always gets better numbers than I do.

I also gave up studying stats. Numbers make me crazy.

I also never imagined that birds were going to become such a huge part of the blog. Birds, orchids. Christmas cacti, Flying squirrels. Raccoons. Squirrels. Even little baby chipmunks. Until I put up feeders, I didn’t realize I lived in the Forest Primevil.

And some of those squirrels fly!

Given that I had no expectations, it is exactly what I wanted. A free-for-all. A place where I can say what I want without a boss warning me about deadlines. Trying to make sense of history, where we fit into history, and what is going on in this messed up world.

Still blooming and more buds

One of the things I have been told — repeatedly — is that I must find a niche. I disagree. On this blog, I am free to be me, free to pretend I’m someone else, free to find unique and new areas that interest me. I can write articles I am sure no one will read because they are a bit obscure, but I don’t have someone telling me how many characters I need to fit into this column. I figured I’d do more book reviews, but I can’t read as much as I used to, so now I review special books that have personal meaning to me.

Finally, I am doing what Garry always told me to do. I write about dogs.

RUINED FOR THE REAL WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Oh to have that job again. The one where they keep paying you but you don’t have to do anything but deposit the money.


 

Seeking Serendipity

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.

To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive.

And they have to look good while doing it. Without a break for lunch or even a bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

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HISTORY AND PLAGUE’S END – Marilyn Armstrong

It turns out that epidemics and pandemics all end the same way. People get tired of worrying about being sick and say “Life or death, I don’t want the rest of my life to be spent in hiding.”  It helps to not be part of the “if you get it, you’re dead” category of citizens, although many people who were not supposed to be at risk die anyway and no one is entirely sure why.

Bubonic or Pneumonic plague has no effective vaccine. You can’t get a “shot” that will prevent you from getting it and while heavy doses of antibiotics help, mostly, it kills you. Its favorite targets are young, healthy people, not very young or very old folks. Why don’t we see Bubonic Plague these days?

We do. Since it showed up in Europe in 1347 and decimated its population, it has made its way around the world, killing millions, including in the United States where the last cases were in 1900 and again in 2015 when the U.S. had 1,036 cases. In 2015, 16 people in the Western United States developed Plague, including 2 cases in Yosemite National Park.

It has not disappeared. It is lying low and could come back. Let’s hope not!

How did it end? The most popular theory of how the Plague ended is through the implementation of quarantines. The uninfected would typically remain in their homes and only leave when it was necessary, while those who could afford to do so would leave the more densely populated areas and live in greater isolation.  Also, the plague stopped being dependent on fleas and became Pneumonic, which meant that coughed up droplets or sneezes could spread the disease from person to person, no rats or fleas required.

Museum of London, Plague 1665-1666

While it seems like the Black Death was the only instance of the bubonic plague epidemic, there were many other bouts with it through the centuries, including a pandemic that started in Asia in the 19th century. The World Health Organization didn’t consider this pandemic officially over until 1959 when the annual deaths finally dropped to fewer than 200.

In 1920 Galveston, that “oozy prairie,” as early settlers described it, was only 20 years removed from the devastating 1900 hurricane. Then came Plague. A 17-year-old feed store worker was the first to contract and die from the disease. The first case was diagnosed in early June 1920. Over the following months, eighteen people were diagnosed. Seven survived.

There was initial mishandling with Plague. In two cases the doctors note in their report that the patient isolation “was not accomplished as rapidly as desired,” both because families were slow to call in a doctor and because the doctor didn’t consider bubonic plague to be an actual possibility.

Vaccines have not been found useful for Plague. Vaccines work best for diseases that are stable and don’t mutate such as smallpox and polio. The Coronaviruses are rapid mutators, so whether or not they can find an effective vaccine is a big question.

The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, had lain dormant in China’s Gobi Desert for centuries. But in the 1300s, it emerged with a vengeance, fanning out via trade routes from Asia to Europe and killing millions of people along the way. The plague was transmitted by fleas harbored by rats, which flourished in the overcrowded, filthy cities of the Middle Ages. By the end of the 1500s, between a third and half of Europe’s population had died from the Black Death.

Even during the 1900s, the plague still killed millions of people, but since then, the advent of better hygiene in cities and swift treatment with antibiotics has reduced this killer.

This article from The Washington Post by Mary E. Fissell, Professor of History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains what we are seeing today with histories of previous pandemics and epidemics. It is shockingly similar to past events. Here are quotes. If you can read the entire article, please do.


“Just as today, a global economy was a key driver of the English epidemic. Bubonic plague, which is bacterial rather than viral, is typically spread to humans by fleas who have fed on the blood of infected rats. Earlier plague epidemics — such as the Black Death of the 1300s, which may have wiped out half the population of Europe — came to Europe via merchants traveling back from Asia along the Silk Road. In the same way, contemporary observers reported that the 1665 epidemic may have been brought to London by Dutch trading ships; the epidemic had already spread there a year earlier. In the months before it reached England, authorities had tried, obviously without success, to quarantine ships from the Netherlands and other plague-affected places.

Another conspicuous resemblance is socioeconomic. In the United States, we’ve seen that covid-19 is disproportionately affecting poor people, as well as blacks and Latinos. Overall, these groups tend to have poorer health and less access to health care, and they are more likely to live in crowded, unhealthy conditions and to work in jobs that require them to come into close contact with others who may be infected.

In New York for example, the death rate among blacks is twice as high as it is for whites; for Latinos, it is 60 percent higher. In Louisiana, blacks make up a third of the population but so far account for almost 60 percent of covid-19 deaths. About 5,000 meatpacking workers, and perhaps many more, have tested positive for the virus to date, largely because of a lack of safety measures and the industry’s cramped and grueling working conditions.

The situation 350 years ago in London was similar. During the epidemic, the London city government counted the dead, tracking how many people died of plague in each parish. This work was performed by “searchers of the dead,” who were often older poor women. These parish lists, known as Bills of Mortality, were printed up and sold weekly, a kind of early version of Zip-code-by-Zip-code health reports from state health departments.

Examining these lists, both 17th-century readers and historians have found that, no surprise, the poorest neighborhoods tended to have the highest death rates from the plague. The reasons for this are probably similar to the causes of today’s disparities — the poor were already less healthy, lived in dense, unsanitary neighborhoods and did the city’s dirty work.

They could not leave. Even without our current scientific knowledge, people knew the disease moved from place to place. And once it reached English shores, people practiced social distancing as best they could, by getting away from the worst disease hot spots. Just as we are seeing today, those who could afford it left the cities for the countryside, where there was less disease; the classic medical advice of the time was “leave quickly, go far away and come back slowly.”

…  Today, as we face another disease, one that we still don’t understand very well, 17th-century England reminds us that despite the enormous leaps we’ve made in science and technology, humans themselves remain in many ways the same: imperfect, not always rational and still deeply vulnerable to novel nasty microbes.”


Thus we can see that human reaction to pandemic outbreaks hasn’t changed. We blame others for it. We persecute others for it. We run away if we can. The better-off survive while the poorest pay the full price.

People believe rumors. Others spread them. In the end, life goes on, but not as it was before the plague came. This “return to normal” is not a return to the world before the plague. It’s a social return only and it doesn’t mean people stop dying. Viruses don’t care how you feel about them.

Economies do not recover in a month or two. Not ever in the history of the world has that happened. Nations fall, governments collapse, economies are decimated. Plagues change everything, not just human lives.

Is this one over? Probably not. Wait. watch and we shall see.