Monday, May 25, 2020

Have we already forgotten? 

   I recently received a catalog offering piloting clothing, gifts, and mementos. This was from a company I’ve long respected and have occasionally bought items from. I was appalled at what I saw on one page that offered an autographed book, framed signed posters, and a model of a German WWII fighter plane. Here’s the letter I wrote to the company.

   To Whom it May Concern:

   Received your Wright Brothers Catalog today.

On page 22 you feature three Nazi pilots and write of them in glowing terms: Gunther Rall ". . . third ranking ace of all time . . . his 275 victories . . . ,” Hans Marseille "the Star of Africa,” and Erich Hartmann ". . . highest scoring ace fighter pilot of all time . . . the 'Blond Knight' of Germany." Between them these three Nazi pilots shot down 785 Allied aircraft, killing hundreds of American and Allied men who fought one of the most evil regimes of all time—many of those men suffering unimaginable agony, such as being burned alive in their cockpits or being maimed and disfigured for life—just so you would have the right to lionize that vicious enemy they fought so bravely.

   I suppose a few neo-Nazi skinheads with swastika tattoos who are also free to live and express themselves among us in America might want the overpriced mementos on page 22 glorifying these three Nazi pilots.

   But, as you choose to remember and praise these Axis pilots, I choose to remember rather the courageous pilots of the Allied Powers who fought and all too often died in the Battle of Britain and in Italy and in the Pacific, and in North Africa and in the lethal skies over Europe so I, too, could be free.

   Please remove me from your mailing list.

Phil Bowie, pilot
New Bern NC

   On this Memorial Day let’s pause to remember all the thousands upon thousands of men and women from our military services who gave their lives for us in way too many wars.
   And also let’s pause to remember the nearly one hundred thousand souls our nation has lost this year to a new global enemy we all need to keep fighting in every way we can.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Crisis Perspective

   For perspective during these frightening and frustrating times, imagine you were born in 1900.

    In your 14th year, World War I exploded, and it only ended in your 18th year after killing 22 million people. In the same year that war ended, the Spanish Flu epidemic spread its deadly tentacles around the planet until your 20th year, sickening 500 million and killing 50 million in just those two terrible years. In your 29th year, the Great Depression began. Unemployment hit 25 percent and the World GDP plunged 27 percent. It persisted until you were 33. The country nearly collapsed along with the entire world economy. Many lost everything. Some committed suicide. People starved.

    When you turned 39, World War II erupted and two years later America was inexorably drawn into it. Between your 41st and 45th year, 75 million people died horribly. Millions were maimed. Millions were displaced.

    In your 50th year, the Korean War broke out, killing another five million people. In your 55th year the Vietnam War began and dragged on and on through four presidents and 20 years, killing four million more people to no purpose. In your 62nd year the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened nuclear Armageddon that was only narrowly averted, and a long cold war dragged on, shadowing our world.

    Think of all those souls born in 1900. How did people survive all of that? Yet many did and went on to help create a better world.

    Now humanity is under yet another global threat.

    Maybe we need to view it in perspective. Think of all those who came before us and their many trials.

    Maybe we need to help each other out while we each do everything we possibly can to defeat the common enemy. And try to build a better world on the other side.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Anti-vaxxers

     My mother shared a hospital room with a woman named Dot when they both gave birth, Dot to a daughter named Cynthia. They vowed their kids would share birthdays together, alternating between our home and theirs in our nearby Berkshire villages. Dot and her husband Howard, who had a woodworking business as did my Dad, became close friends over the years. Cynthia and I did, too.

    Dot and Howard had been childhood polio victims, and the disease had left them severely disfigured and impaired. One side of Dot’s face was paralyzed, though it never dimmed her crooked but genuine smile. Howard was hunchbacked with a twisted torso and one leg shorter than the other, though he never let his condition interfere with business or family life. He walked with an awkward lurching motion, often with the help of a forearm crutch (a walking cane with a forearm brace added).

     Widespread fear of polio was quite real throughout my early childhood. It was a terrible virus, paralyzing and killing seemingly at random, and like the current virus there was no effective defense against it.

     Until Jonas Salk came up with a vaccine that could defeat it. There were no protests against using his vaccine. On the contrary, people were deeply grateful for it. They welcomed it and lionized Salk.

     In recent years, routine mandated polio vaccination of children had eradicated it from America and had reduced the disease worldwide to relatively few cases. If the polio virus could be deprived of all hosts for a period of time, it would at last go extinct planet-wide, so the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with other charities and agencies set out to achieve just that, spending millions in a comprehensive effort. But anti-vaxxers and religious objectors and African terrorist groups interfered, intimidating and even killing vaccinators, so the valiant effort sputtered and failed. Leaving the polio monster alive and still lurking in the shadows. It’s on the prowl in several countries including Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. In some areas, cases are stealthily on the rise.

     One faction of the recent widespread lockdown protest movement, vehemently objecting to the very measures meant to save them from sickness and death, has been the anti-vaxxers, those who have chosen to deprive themselves—and worse, their children—of vaccinations in general. They are apparently willing to sacrifice hundreds or thousands of others to scourging diseases like the current deadly virus on the altar of their own selfish beliefs.

     I wish they could have met Dot and Howard, who would have given anything to have had access to the vaccine with the power to spare them from the horrors of polio, but which came too late for them.


Monday, May 4, 2020

On Wearing A Mask
   I’ve never copied a post from elsewhere on the Net, but a friend sent out this message and I think it bears repeating:

   I wear a mask in public, not only for me, but also for you.

   I know I might have no symptoms and still give you the virus. I don’t live in fear of the virus. I just want to be part of the solution, not the problem. I don’t feel government is controlling me; I feel I’m being a contributing adult to society and that the world doesn’t revolve around me and my comfort. That if we all could live with other people in mind, this world would be much better. Wearing a mask doesn’t make me weak, scared, or stupid. It makes me considerate. When you think about how you look or how uncomfortable it is or what others think of you, just imagine someone close to you—father, mother, grandparent, sibling, or friend—cut off from everybody and choking on a respirator.

   Then ask yourself if you could have worn a mask and maybe protected that person.