How my dad survived the 1918 flu — and predicted the decline of America – Raw Story


by William Astore 

My dad was born in 1917. In some way, he survived the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, however an outbreak of whooping cough in 1923 claimed his child sister, Clementina. One among my dad’s first reminiscences was seeing his sister’s tiny white casket. One other sister was completely marked by scarlet fever. In 1923, my dad was hit by a automotive and spent two weeks in a hospital with a fractured cranium in addition to a lacerated thumb. His immigrant mother and father had no medical insurance coverage, however the driver of the automotive gave his father $50 towards the medical payments. The one lasting impact was the scar my father carried for the remainder of his life on his proper thumb.

The 12 months 1929 introduced the Nice Melancholy and lean occasions. My father’s father had left the household, so my dad, then 12, needed to pitch in. He received a newspaper route, which he saved for 4 years, quitting highschool after tenth grade so he may earn cash for the household. In 1935, like hundreds of thousands of different younger males of that period, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a creation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal that provided work on environmental initiatives of many sorts. He battled forest fires in Oregon for 2 years earlier than returning to his household and manufacturing facility work. In 1942, he was drafted into the Military, going again to a manufacturing facility job when World Warfare II ended. Occasions grew rather less lean in 1951 when he turned a firefighter, after which he felt he may afford to purchase a home and begin a household.

I’m providing all this private historical past because the context for a prediction of my dad’s that, for apparent causes, got here to my thoughts once more not too long ago. Once I was an adolescent, he appreciated to inform me: “I had it robust to start with and straightforward ultimately. You, Willy, have had it straightforward to start with, however will possible have it robust ultimately.” His prophecy stayed with me, maybe as a result of even then, someplace deep down, I already suspected that my dad was proper.

The COVID-19 pandemic is now grabbing the headlines, all of them, and a world recession, if not a melancholy, looks like a near-certainty. The inventory market has been tanking and other people’s lives are being disrupted in basic and scary methods. My dad knew the expertise of dropping a beloved one to illness, of working laborious to make ends meet throughout occasions of nice shortage, of sacrificing for the great of 1’s household. In comparison with him, it’s true that, up to now, I’ve had a better life as an officer within the Air Drive after which a university trainer and historian. However at age 57, am I lastly prepared for the laborious occasions to return? Are any of us?

And understand that that is just the start. Local weather change (recall Australia’s latest and large wildfires) guarantees but extra upheavals, extra chaos, extra illnesses. America’s wanton militarism and lying politicians promise extra wars. What’s to be achieved to avert or at the least attenuate the robust occasions to return, assuming my dad’s prediction is certainly now coming true? What can we do?

It’s Time to Reimagine America

Right here’s the one factor about main disruptions to normalcy: they’ll create alternatives for dramatic change. (Catastrophe capitalists know this, too, sadly.) President Franklin Roosevelt acknowledged this within the 1930s and orchestrated his New Deal to revive the economic system and put People like my dad again to work.

In 2001, the administration of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney capitalized on the shock-and-awe disruption of the 9/11 assaults to inflict on the world their imaginative and prescient of a Pax Americana, successfully a militarized imperium justified (falsely) as enabling better freedom for all. The inherent contradiction in such a dreamscape was so absurd as to make future calamity inevitable. Recall what an aide to Secretary of Protection Donald Rumsfeld scribbled down, solely hours after the assault on the Pentagon and the collapse of the Twin Towers, as his boss’s directions (particularly when it got here to on the lookout for proof of Iraqi involvement): “Go huge — sweep all of it up, issues associated and never.” And certainly they’d just do that, with an emphasis on the “not,” together with, in fact, the calamitous invasion of Iraq in 2003.

To progressive-minded folks eager about this second of disaster, what sort of alternatives would possibly open to us when (or moderately if) Donald Trump is gone from the White Home? Maybe this coronaviral second is the proper time to contemplate what it will imply for us to go really massive, however with out the standard hubris or these disastrous invasions of international nations. To reply to COVID-19, local weather change, and the staggering wealth inequities on this nation that, when mixed, will trigger unbelievable ranges of pointless struggling, what’s wanted is a drastic reordering of our nationwide priorities.

Keep in mind, the Fed’s first transfer was to inject $1.5 trillion into the inventory market. (That will have been sufficient to forgive all present pupil debt.) The Trump administration has additionally promised to assist airways, motels, and above all oil corporations and the fracking trade, an ideal storm in relation to making an attempt to maintain and enrich these upholding a kleptocratic and amoral established order.

This must be a time for a genuinely new method, one match for a world of rising disruption and catastrophe, one that may outline a brand new, extra democratic, much less bellicose America. To that finish, listed here are seven options, focusing — since I’m a retired navy officer — primarily on the U.S. navy, a topic that continues to preoccupy me, particularly since, at current, that navy and the remainder of the nationwide safety state swallow up roughly 60% of federal discretionary spending:

1. If ever there was a time to cut back our huge and wasteful navy spending, that is it. There was by no means, for instance, any sense in investing up to $1.7 trillion over the subsequent 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal. (Why are new weapons wanted to exterminate humanity when the “outdated” ones nonetheless work simply nice?) A whole lot of stealth fighters and bombers — it’s estimated that Lockheed Martin’s disappointing F-35 jet fighter alone will value $1.5 trillion over its life span — do nothing to safe us from pandemics, the devastating results of local weather change, or different all-too-pressing threats. Such weaponry solely emboldens a militaristic and chauvinistic international coverage that can facilitate but extra wars and blowback issues of each type. And talking of wars, isn’t it lastly time to finish U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan? Greater than $6 trillion has already been wasted on these wars and, on this time of worldwide peril, much more is being wasted on this nation’s ceaselessly conflicts throughout the Better Center East and Africa. (Roughly $4 billion a month continues to be spent on Afghanistan alone, regardless of all of the speak about “peace” there.)

2. Together with ending profligate weapons applications and quagmire wars, isn’t it time for the U.S. to start dramatically decreasing its navy “footprint” on this planet? Roughly 800 U.S. military bases circle the globe in a traditionally unprecedented trend at a yearly value someplace north of $100 billion. Slicing such numbers in half over the subsequent decade can be a greater than achievable objective. Completely reducing provocative “battle video games” in South Korea, Europe, and elsewhere can be no much less smart. Are North Korea and Russia really deterred by such dramatic shows of damaging navy would possibly?

3. Come to consider it, why does the U.S. want the instant navy capability to struggle two major foreign wars concurrently, because the Pentagon continues to insist we do and plan for, within the identify of “defending” our nation? Right here’s a radical proposal: for those who add 70,000 Special Operations forces to 186,000 Marine Corps personnel, the U.S. already possesses a potent quick-strike drive of roughly 250,000 troops. Now, add within the Military’s 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions and the 10th Mountain Division. What you’ve is greater than sufficient navy energy to offer for America’s precise nationwide safety. All different Military divisions could possibly be decreased to cadres, expandable provided that our borders are instantly threatened by battle. Equally, restructure the Air Drive and Navy to de-emphasize the current “global strike” imaginative and prescient of these companies, whereas eliminating Donald Trump’s latest service, the Space Force, and the absurdist concept of taking battle into low earth orbit. Doesn’t America have already got sufficient battle right here on this small planet of ours?

4. Convey again the draft, simply not for navy functions. Make it a part of a nationwide service program for bettering America. It’s time for a brand new Civilian Conservation Corps targeted on fostering a Inexperienced New Deal. It’s time for a brand new Works Progress Administration to rebuild America’s infrastructure and reinvigorate our tradition, as that group did within the Nice Melancholy years. It’s time to have interaction younger folks in service to this nation. Tackling COVID-19 or future pandemics can be far simpler if there have been rapidly skilled medical aides who may assist free medical doctors and nurses to deal with the tougher circumstances. Tackling local weather change will possible require extra younger women and men preventing forest fires on the west coast, as my dad did whereas within the CCC — and in a climate-changing world there will probably be no scarcity of different needed initiatives to avoid wasting our planet. Isn’t it time America’s youth answered a name to service? Higher but, isn’t it time we provided them the chance to really put America, moderately than themselves, first?

5. And talking of “America First,” that everlasting Trumpian catch-phrase, isn’t it time for all People to acknowledge that world pandemics and local weather change make a mockery of partitions and go-it-alone nationalism, to not converse of politics that divide, distract, and maintain so many down? President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that solely People can really damage America, however there’s a corollary to that: solely People can really save America — by uniting, specializing in our frequent issues, and uplifting each other. To take action, it’s vitally needed to place an finish to fear-mongering (and warmongering). As President Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural tackle within the depths of the Nice Melancholy, “The one factor we now have to worry is worry itself.” Concern inhibits our skill to assume clearly, to cooperate absolutely, to alter issues radically as a neighborhood.

6. To cite Yoda, the Jedi grasp, we should unlearn what we now have discovered. For instance, America’s real heroes shouldn’t be “warriors” who kill or sports activities stars who throw footballs and dunk basketballs. We’re witnessing our true heroes in motion proper now: our medical doctors, nurses, and different medical personnel, along with our first responders, and people staff who keep in grocery shops, pharmacies, and the like and proceed to serve us all regardless of the hazard of contracting the coronavirus from clients. They’re all selflessly resisting a risk too many people both didn’t foresee or refused to deal with critically, most notably, in fact, President Donald Trump: a pandemic that transcends borders and limits. However can People transcend the more and more harsh and divisive borders and limits of our personal minds? Can we come to work selflessly to avoid wasting and enhance the lives of others? Can we turn out to be, in a way, lovers of humanity?

7. Lastly, we should prolong our like to embody nature, our planet. For if we maintain treating our lands, our waters, and our skies like a set of trash cans and rubbish bins, our youngsters and their youngsters will inherit far more durable occasions than the current second, laborious as it could be.

What these seven options actually quantity to is rejecting a militarized mindset of aggression and a company mindset of exploitation for one which sees humanity and this planet extra holistically. Isn’t it time to regain that imaginative and prescient of the earth we shared collectively in the course of the Apollo moon missions: a fragile blue sanctuary floating within the velvety darkness of house, an irreplaceable dwelling to be cared for and revered since there’s no different place for us to go? In any other case, I worry that my father’s prediction will come true not only for me, however for generations to return and in ways in which even he couldn’t have imagined.

A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of historical past, William Astore is a TomDispatch regular. His private weblog is Bracing Views.



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