America-Grow Up!

You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely -Ogden Nash

 Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another Immanuel Kant

 A person remains immature, whatever his age, as long as he thinks of himself as an exception to the human race. -Henry Allen Overstreet

For eight months between September 1940 and May 1941 the German Luftwaffe bombed the civilian populations of Great Britain with stunning regularity. Chief among their targets was the city of London. At first these assaults were daytime operations but by October of 1940 the Luftwaffe began attacking at night. From September 7th for 56 of the next 57 days London was ravaged by German air attacks. Other British cities were not spared. The port cities of Liverpool as well as Hull, Bristol, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Southampton, Swansea, Belfast, and Glasgow, were all similarly savaged. The industrial centers of Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester, and Sheffield were also treated to the continuous threat of Nazi storm clouds and deadly showers. By the time it was over 40,000 civilians were killed, half of them in London itself  which also saw over a million homes demolished. For nearly six years lights were not allowed to be turned on at night and citizens were forced into a food rationing program. This limited the amount of food to each family so that everyone could have a degree of nourishment at a time when supply lines were compromised. Everyday staples, often taken so for granted here in 2020, were limited, including meat, cheese, eggs, milk, and grains.

Air raid sirens were innumerable. The Underground transportation stations soon had to be utilized as shelters .As many as 150,000 people would hunker down for protection there on some nights. Although the brunt of the bombing went from late 1940 through mid-1941, it continued beyond that. As late as March 1943, 143 people were crushed to death at the Bethnal Green tube station when upon entering the station, a woman fell down the stairs and a panic developed as the station took a direct hit.

During all of this the British people displayed the ultimate form of patriotism, unity. The common enemy was obvious and for the most part there was mutual cooperation for the common good. Volunteerism exploded. The Scout Association (Boy Scouts) directed fire engines to conflagrations from the fiery streets. Many others did the dirty work of salvage, clean up and recycling. The instructions of air raid wardens were for the most part, obeyed. The more the Germans laid on them the more resolved the Brits became. The stiff upper lip only got stiffer. When Neville Chamberlain resigned they were led by a man who not only recognized the evils and abilities of the enemy but who was ready, willing, and able to commit fully to the battle and in so doing rallied his people. This is what leaders do.

Today, in America, immaturity is on parade in the face of a different common enemy. Americans are asked to do something very simple. They are asked to wear facemasks. They are asked to wash their hands. They are asked to keep a safe six-foot distance from others. Nobody is asked to crawl around in the dark at night at home. There is no constant blaring of air raid sirens. Food and gasoline rationing is not required. They can get as fat as they want as they toodle around in their gas guzzling SUV’s. They do not need to shelter in their local subway station for protection from bombs literally bursting in air and all around them. They are not stepping over, around and through fires in their cities as more than a million of their homes are burned to the ground. No. None of this is happening to Americans. Air raid wardens are not commanding us to do anything. We are “asked” to follow guidelines for our own safety. We are asked to wear masks. How horrible!!

The resistance to this simple adjustment boggles my mind. A segment of our society is not only inconvenienced and more than a little ticked off ( I include myself in that group) but more than this, too many are willing to put themselves, their neighbors, their friends and their families at risk to practice their “freedom” to endanger the rest of society. And it’s not enough that they object, no, they feel that as full-grown adults, petulant childish behavior is appropriate. We’ve all seen the videos. People asked to wear a mask resort to screaming big moist droplets in the faces of the polite requestors. Punches have been thrown to preserve this precious freedom to infect, which somehow I glossed over in the Bill of Rights. One fully adult woman of grandmotherly age actually sat down on a grocery store floor and refused to move as she exploded into a full-blown toddler temper tantrum. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud when I saw this, but even laughter loses the name of action  when it is presented in this context, for this woman’s actions signifies something very dangerous.

When it is not about their freedoms it is about the virus as a hoax. Gee, I wonder where they got that messaging from. I suppose they have a hard time with math, as in counting, as in the 141,000 subtractions from the population as of today. Including the 30- year old man who attended a “Covid Party” and died shortly after from a coronavirus infection. Reportedly his last words to the nurse who treated him were that he thought it was a “hoax” and he guessed he made a mistake. The Tulsa rally apparently infected mask less former presidential candidate Herman Cain, as well as that state’s governor. Why believe scientists when you can put your faith in the Wizard of Odd?  Didn’t he fire Meatloaf once? I wonder how many tickets were punched to paradise that day bypassing the dash board light.

To be clear, as one of my favorite young people advises me, there are few who are enjoying this disruption of our daily lives. The ability to travel has been quite curtailed. Businesses facing the perils of temporary closure or opportunity now face the very real possibility of permanent dissolution. That is if such a fate hasn’t already descended upon them. Along with this comes the layoffs and the furloughs. States are faced with economic ravaging as millions upon millions file for unemployment benefits. Front line essential workers of all stripes perform heroic daily service without the type of necessary economic assistance the rest of us are able to avail ourselves of. Doctors, nurses, technicians , janitorial and other assorted staff at our nation’s hospitals and clinics continue to report for duty. The reward for too many of these brave health workers too often, is their own illness and even death.

Political leadership in much of the country has not only been lax it has been missing in action. There is no reason at this point that these numbers should be surging in the manner that they presently are. But yet, they are. The messaging coming from those who impersonate as leaders is that they wish to resuscitate the economy. But the economy depends on public health and I have yet to witness a cadaver spend a single dollar. Instead of engaging in the ideas of alternate methods of safe education for our youth in advance of what promises to be the most dangerous school term on record, the “leadership” is trying to bully teachers, parents, and learners into a complete “normal” reopening. And in order to achieve this insanity they are relying on a daily diet of deception and demonization of the scientists whose job it is to protect us.

Meanwhile, much like toddlers crying for their ice cream before they eat all their vegetables, grocery store grandmas  throw tantrums on floors and hairbrained hooligans spitefully cough upon their neighbors powered by the stiff winds of purposeful propaganda. In my city, which has improved much from the early days, the sole uptick in our infection numbers come from the demographic of people 20-29  who in many cases have bought into the fiction that they cannot be harmed. They can. What’s more they can infect others even if they themselves never get horribly ill. I hate to have to say this because this should be readily apparent to anyone paying any type of attention during this period of history, but I will say it again anyway. The mask isn’t to protect you, it is to keep you from infecting others. How are you going to feel when it dawns on you that you killed grandma or grandpa?

My angst is not directed toward all Americans, notwithstanding the posting’s title. I know that most of you are doing the right thing, or at least are trying your best. I know that most of you are putting science over politics, unlike the press secretary to the charlatan who occupies the Oval Office. But the biological virus itself is too comingled with the virus of ideology. The result is more pointless death and illness than we should be experiencing now when almost all “first world” countries are bouncing back. The only countries experiencing this degree of infection are “developing nations” lacking the advancements of our so called “civilized” society. The faster this bug of misinformation and propaganda is squashed the faster we can all get back to the  normalization of both our economy and our lives. The “children” are holding us all back. It is time they were collectively sent to their rooms.

***And on a side note: In these times the concept of community is more important than ever. This is true in the many ways we experience community, whether it is the literal communities we actually live in or the myriad manners  we also experience it, such as work, gyms, churches, restaurants, and taverns to name a few. So I want to take a moment here at the end of my latest rant to solicit support for a community which has been close to my heart for over forty years now. At different times over three different locations I have been a patron as well as a former employee and through all of it, a friend.

 The Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village has for 70 years nourished the souls of downtown New Yorkers with fairly priced cocktails, interesting people, a great jukebox and stimulatingly conversation. The original location on MacDougal St. was a watering hole for such artistic luminaries as Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso. I remember well, when the current owner was a much thinner and longer haired bartender and I was a much thinner and better dart thrower. The Kettle later moved to the space that formerly occupied Gerdes Folk City where a number of talented acts like Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Allen Ginsburg and Johnny Cash performed. The rumor was that they drank at the Kettle to avoid the rip off prices at Folk City. Whatever, eventually Folk City closed just around the time that a new lease on the MacDougal St. Kettle location couldn’t be renegotiated and the owners moved around the corner into the Folk City space where it operated for another 15 years. Eventually the skinny bartender, by now a little heavier, took over ownership and moved to the present location on Christopher St. which had at one time been The Lion’s Head, the favorite watering hole of some legendary NY writers and journalists like Pete Hamill.

Well folks, COVID has put the Kettle on the precipice and they could use your help. Even though they don’t have a kitchen, every Thanksgiving, at his own expense the now less hairy owner lays out a free catered Thanksgiving meal for all who walk through the doors of the establishment. But even more importantly, those who through disconnection of one form or another from family may enjoy the blessings of this holiday with a warm and welcoming community. Not to be too corny, but I must, this IS the place “where everybody knows your name”. In the weeks before Christmas, musicians are brought in to help all enjoy the most wonderful organized screaming of carols you will ever hear. And the pumpkin carving contest right before Halloween is Greenwich Village art at its best and the only thing getting knifed are the pumpkins. The Kettle is also the home away from home for the many Wisconsin ex pats who worship the pigskin- ARY of the Green Bay Packers. Ok, nothing is perfect. But the Kettle comes close.

NY rental real estate is not cheap, and the Kettle was closed for months. Even now they are not fully open. They can do business from their doorway, but no one can stay inside and get out of the sun while enjoying a cool one and a ballgame. The city had for awhile even denied them the right to set up a few outdoor tables, a gesture made to many NYC establishments. Thank god they finally changed their mind on that, but a lot of time and income has been lost over the months and continuation of this 70-year-old NYC treasure is now at risk. So, if you have enjoyed anything on the Ledge and you can see yourself to it, follow the link to their Go Fund me page. And if you are in town stop by and say hey to Pat and A, the proprietors. All are always welcome. You don’t even have to be a Packer fan. But it helps. Tell them the Squirrel sent you. Here’s the link:  https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-kettle

6 thoughts on “America-Grow Up!

  1. Excellent post! I will try to get over to visit the Kettle, couldn’t get through on the link this morning. Though I am a Browns fan, I still think it is a good thing to support community!
    My nephew thinks he is strengthening his immune system by not wearing a mask, but he at least doesn’t visit his mom, so he doesn’t expose her to anything himself. But she misses him, and so do I, as he didn’t visit while I was in Ohio because of his refusal to wear a mask.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Margaret. The link problem was my fault but I fixed it on edit and it should work now. I tested it when I first posted and quickly found out that I had entered it wrong. But Penny called just at that moment so I had to put it aside for awhile. Long story short, I just tried it and I got through. Thanks for the support. They are good people and the sense of community is strong. Sorry about your nephew but at least he is acting somewhat responsibly regarding exposure to his mom. Sad that you could not see him on your visit. The old Folger’s commercial jingle swooned “the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” Nothing against Folgers or coffee or Mrs. Olsen but the best part of waking up-is waking up. Stay well and stay strong my friend.

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  3. Tom, once again, a very thoughtful and thought provoking commentary. The analogy with war time London illustrates the differences two cultures can demonstrate in the face of real adversity. Though, I would say it is probably easier to be united and mutually compassionate while the bombs are dropping and your “leaders” are not denying the seriousness of it all.

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    1. Thanks Phil. True, union of the populace might be easier when the threat is so immediate and visible as in Britain during WWII. But the real problem is, as you correctly observe, is this deadly lack of leadership. A “leadership” which elects to deny the problem. Stay well. Best to Michelle.

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