Are we close to hearing the last clicking of a stoplight?

Ed Raymond

“Our most important goal must be global human security, not national security.” -Mikhail Gorbachev

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker, has been creating provocative and entertaining columns for many years. She also was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan.

I call her a true conservative, not a fake one, because she actually believes everyone has “place” in a society. In May she had a fascinating experience.

She has been walking the streets of New York for more than half a century, but because of the shelter-in-place rules during COVID-19, she noted, for the first time in her New York life, she had heard the clicking of a changing stoplight as she waited to cross a street.

That’s what a world-wide pandemic can do. It can stop a lot of traffic and other noises. Perhaps the next pandemic will allow the changing of lights to be heard around the world.

Edgar Allan Poe published “The Masque of the Red Death: A Fantasy” in 1842. It’s a hair-curler describing a plague that attacks Prince Prospero’s country with these symptoms: victims are overcome by sharp pains, dizziness and profuse bleeding from all the pores of the body. Everybody dies within a half-hour.

Prince Prospero takes 1,000 of his rich nobles to an abbey to save their lives and his own (reminds me of the rich running to their yachts in 2020). But in the end a phantom creature with a red mask finds the abbey and “bleeds” everybody to death.
The short story’s last line: “And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

Hey, the next pandemic could be like the Red Death – and we won’t have Donald the Lyin’ King around to save us.

It’s too bad Gorbachev’s not eligible to be U.S. president

The former president of the Soviet Union makes more sense about our future than any of our politicians in Congress or the Trump administration – or Biden. At 89 years he has seen a lot of life. Born of very poor peasant parents during the early stages of Joseph Stalin’s Russia, he gradually rose to be the leader of the Soviet Union until it collapsed in 1991. He made several nuclear treaties with Ronald Reagan to reduce the possibilities of a planet-destroying nuclear war. They both decided that a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought. (Think about what nutcase Trump has said about nuclear war.)

In his one-page article “When This is Over, The World Must Gather” in the May issue of Time, Gorbachev promotes several ideas about the future.

1. The immediate challenge is to defeat COVID-19, but “we need to start thinking about life after it retreats.”

2. We have several treaties that reduced the number of nuclear weapons by 85%, but “the threat is still there.” We must keep asserting that nuclear weapons are the common enemy of everyone on the planet.

3. The pandemic today is hitting the poor particularly hard and is creating more economic inequality than ever. Somehow we have to develop strategies and goals that will benefit all mankind.

4. National security is now based strictly on military terms and the development of more powerful weapons. With our history we should realize by now that weapon races will not solve our global problems. War is a sign of defeat and of diplomacy and politics.

5. Our most important goal must be global human security, not national security. We must provide food, water, universal health care, and a clean environment for everybody. The countries of the world should get together and cut military spending by 10 to 15 percent. Gorbachev writes: “I am calling on world leaders to convene an emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly as soon as the situation is stabilized. It should be about nothing less than revising the entire global agenda.”

This son of peasants, with all of his experiences participating in global affairs, has come up with a world vision we can all follow. Will Bolsonaro, Duterte, Erdogan, Putin, Kim Jong-un and Trump pay any attention to him? I don’t think so.

We have had cults wearing masks of one kind or other

I joined the Marine Corps in 1951 while going to college, contracting to go on active duty after graduation as an officer if I passed Officers Candidate School. I spent two summers at Parris Island, South Carolina, during college undergoing boot camp at that snake-infested training base. I was a strong farm kid, so I thought Marine boot camp was a vacation. After graduation Corky and I married and we were off to Washington, D.C., so I could attend OCS at Quantico, Virginia.

We have had a number of religious and political cults in our 240-year history. The Ku Klux Klan was a powerful cult for about 100 years, wearing complete face-covering pointed “hoodies” and white sheets to hide their identity. Since then the KKK has morphed to a number of white supremacist groups such as the Skinheads and the various “white power” groups that met at Charlottesville. These are basically political cults.

When Corky and I lived in D.C. in 1954-55 Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin dominated the news by charging the government and the military had been infiltrated with hundreds of Communists in important positions.

Joe was a former Marine who had been an intelligence officer for a dive bomber squadron during World War II. He had embellished his record to “heroic” standards to get elected and had become known as “Tail-Gunner Joe” by his many critics.

As a fellow Marine I watched Joe waving his lists of 205 Commies in the State Department and other departments during the Army-McCarthy hearings led by Joe with that whining, accusative voice. Supposedly there were hundreds of Communists under Washington beds – with some of them in bed with the Democrats doing all kinds of nasty things.

At one time McCarthy had the support of one-half of the American people. Finally Joe was destroyed by a question by Army lawyer Joseph Welch when he was finally asked: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

The lists were later found to be blank. McCarthy died at Walter Reed Hospital at age 48 of alcoholism – and some say of syphilis. But the spirit of McCarthyism and Joe’s cult is still alive and well today.

We have another pandemic in America: It’s called Mask Madness

It was bound to happen. A political pandemic on top of a virus pandemic. With our masks on, Corky and I went grocery shopping last week and saw about half the young people shopping (at our age, everybody looks young) were not wearing masks. All the workers wore masks.

The Fargo metro area had been described as a hot spot for COVID-19 – and people were walking in narrow crowded aisles without masks! I was so angry and perplexed I thought of thanking them for improving the future gene pool for our grandchildren.

Why are they trying to kill themselves and other people? Do they really believe their Great Leader, the “Chosen One? Have they not read of young people who have taken months to recover from this vicious virus? Are they charter members of the Trumpocalypse cult? We evidently are in the middle of Mask Madness.

Daniel Horowitz of the Conservative Voice writes: “We destroyed our entire country and the Constitution for a very narrow and specific problem.”

Yep, what the hell, the virus killed only a 100,000 old farts and a few young blacks and Latinos. Who gives a damn? The maskless are the same zombies who believe the Second Amendment is worth 40,000 kills and 100,000 wounded each year.

A zombie in Colorado shot a cook when told he couldn’t enter a Waffle House without wearing a mask. A Mississippi church was burned down when the pastor kept insisting on having services during a state stay-at-home order because of a big spike in the virus. I thought Jesus encouraged prayer at home—but it’s hard to pass the collection plate door-to-door. The arsonist left graffiti that read: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits.” With a low IQ, spelling is a problem.

We have had unmasked zombies lick food items in Walmarts, cough on produce in Costco, an unmasked zombie vice-president touring the deadly Mayo Clinic, and the president of the zombies, His Tweetness, refusing to wear a mask in a Michigan ventilator plant because a mask implies weakness. I guess cowardly bone spurs do affect the brain.

An unmasked protester shouts: “Give me liberty or give me death!” OK, what a choice. But what about your grandmother?

Another unmasked zombie says: “I’m not wearing a mask because I woke up in a free country.”

Whatever has happened to the prefrontal cortex? It’s very hard to fix stupid. Carrying an AR-15 in a crowded state capitol dressed for combat – and without a mask?  

Kentucky zombies were caught hanging the effigy of their Democratic governor. A Kentucky convenience store posted this sign on the door: “No face masks allowed in store. Lower your mask or go somewhere else. Stop listening to Governor Beshear. He’s a dumbass.”

We are now living in a third-world failing state inspired by Donald The Lyin’ King’s McCarthyism.

The ultimate question: What is a fellow human worth?

A pandemic always centers around the ultimate question. There are two major factions:

1) Conservatives believe that free, unregulated markets are the most efficient and profitable ways for distributing goods, services and wealth. Any attempts to intervene, regulate, or steer the markets will make the economy less efficient. If a government is driven by empathy, “do-gooderism,” sympathy and altruism, growth and progress will be inhibited. If free markets are restrained, individual freedoms are reduced.

 2) Liberals believe that free markets eventually produce negative side effects such as poverty, lousy health care, environmental degradation, economic inequality and military-industrial-government control of an entire country. Liberals value educational opportunities, support for the vulnerable, the handicapped, public and private health availability, and clean and livable environments.

So, what is a fellow human worth? Let’s leave out cultural positions such as religion, abortion, homosexuality and race. Those issues make a complicated question more so.

Conservatives believe that loss of life at any age must be endured by a society for the greater economic good. We have to keep the Golden Goose alive even if humans die protecting it.

In Donald The Lyin’ King’s world the weak, sick, elderly, and the disabled and handicapped should be gracious enough to die because they have outlived their usefulness.

Liberals, on the other hand, desire to minimize the loss of human life even if such actions create economic carnage. Even the elderly are important. So we have a major problem. Republicans say we should sacrifice people for dollars, and Democrats say we should sacrifice dollars for people.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the five classes of humans are so organized that at death all bodies are cremated and then dumped in road construction to supplement concrete. We seem to be somewhere in that arc of history now.

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