My late Grandmother was born at the tail end of the 1918 flu pandemic (referred to as the Spanish flu). I only remember hearing her talk about it once, sometime in 1970’s, during a particularly bad flu season which stirred her memory.
My grandmother lived in an isolated, rural area of North Carolina. The thought was, given the remote and clannish nature of the region that there was little to fear about being infected. But then men, farm boys began coming home from World War I and with them came the flu. As she recounted the story it was thought the 1918 flu killed mostly young adults and pregnant women were particularly vulnerable and her mother, my great-grandmother was pregnant with her.
She didn’t have a lot of facts and figures about the pandemic. She didn’t remember if anyone died or what affect it had on her community, she just remembered how frightening it was to hear about it growing up. That something you couldn’t see, smell, taste or touch could wreck this much havoc on the world was terrifying to a little girl.
The estimates of how many people worldwide that died from the 1918 flu range from 17 million to as high 100 million. It infected 500 million people which represented about a third of the world’s population. In the U.S., between 500,000 to 800,000 people died and 28% of the population, 105 million, were infected.
As my wife and I have practiced social distancing, staying home and out of stores as much as possible I have thought a lot about my grandmother and what her family lived through in early 1900’s. I thought about how her family got information. Radio wasn’t available nationally until the late 1920’s and early 30’s. Her family may have had access to a local paper, but the “news” would have been mostly local features, obituaries, and crop prices.
Instead of radio, television, Facebook or Twitter in the 1900’s you got your information at the fence post that separated your farm from your neighbors farm. That’s how news spread, that’s how information was disseminated, from fence post to fence post and even in today’s high-tech world of instant access that form of communication still remains.
As many of you know, I live in the deep, red state of South Carolina run by the Dishonorable Henry “Foghorn Leghorn” McMaster. Governor Leghorn, anxious to please his orange master, along with the Governors of Georgia and Florida are all rolling back the Coronavirus restrictions even though COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to rise in their respective states, including mine.
Here is the thing that is so frustrating about this, unlike my grandmother and her family in the 1900’s, Henry “Foghorn Leghorn” McMaster has access to plenty of information, data, and smart people. And just so we are very clear on this point, I am not categorizing Trump or Pence as one or any of those smart people. As a matter of fact, I am not sure it is fair to other human beings to even categorize them as people. But nevertheless, the Governors of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida have all publicly declared that Trump is smarter than everyone else and they will defend him, and his bone headed decisions and assertions to OUR death.
So if you need a haircut, or a massage, or your nails done or want to go bowling, or work on your tan at the beach, or even touch-up your tattoo come to Dixie but remember “Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land”.