In the fall of 1954 I was five years old. It was a plague year, not unlike this year. It was also a politically dangerous year. ’54 was the year I scared my parents very badly. Well, to be fair I was pretty frightening from the outset. I was very premature. It was touch and go for a week or so. I was born with what they now call Infant Respiratory Distress I had a gnarled- almost clubbed- foot and pronounced strabismus in my left eye. The doctor who delivered me told my parents that If I defied the odds and lived, I would probably never walk normally. Fortunately for me, Mom did not buy it.
She got me leg braces to straighten my feet out, walked me around as soon as I could stand, got me corrective lenses and then coached and hectored me mercilessly to exercise and practice with all my defective and dis-unified parts. By the time I was three, I was up and around and terrorizing everyone with my level of activity and impulsive behavior. It was about then that she realized that she a had enabled a monstrously hyperactive boy to express himself fully, in the most kinetic possible way.
But, I digress, back to 1954. As I said, ’54 was a plague year. It was not so much a twin to 2020-2021 but a mirror image- a perverse reversal. As there are now, there were two plagues stalking the land. One plague was Polio. Poliomyelitis, we also knew it as Infantile Paralysis, was rampant and the population most at risk were the children while Covid 19 is more of a threat to the elderly. Newspapers and magazines often featured horrifying pictures of rooms full of machines- giant gleaming steel tubes mounted on wheels with a child’s little head protruding from one end of each. They were called Iron Lungs and they were the only way to keep the children who were worst effected by the virus alive.
One of the odd symmetries between the two plagues is that in many states (New York and Massachusetts for example) 2020 many of the vulnerable elderly were shut into nursing homes with sick patients and healthy ones unsegregated leading to wild infection and death rates in that group. In the 1950’s schools and summer camps were open about as usual filling up more Iron Lungs with little heads.
So, I didn’t end up in an Iron Lung, but I did give my parents the biggest scare I ever could have without Polio. But they were scared for themselves. As I mentioned, I am “a Hyperactive”. I’ll make the case that Hyperactives are often well-meaning as kids. They just take a lot of joy in life and do not get stifled easily in that joy. As adults do, we learn to compensate with age and experience. We “get serious” and “fit in”.
My problem in 1954 was that at 5 years old, I passed an IQ test with a high enough score that my parents were able to place me in public school a year earlier than usual. So, there I was, I was not only hyperactive, I was a silly baby among older, more mature classmates.
It was not easy. Early in the school year, I got myself blacklisted by McCarthyism. Every morning, we all stood and recited The Pledge of Allegiance. This one morning, I stood with the rest of the class put my hand over my heart and began to repeat the words. I actually remember what happened next all these years later.
Everyone around me was facing the flag. I suddenly thought it would be great fun to turn around and face the back of the classroom while still reciting the pledge. The next thing I remember was the look on my teacher’s face as she came at me with the other, still reciting children scattering before her. She was angry and afraid.
The rest is a blur. I was taken out of class and sent to the principal. My parents were called and my mother came and got me. I remember the horror on my mother and father’s face as they tried to explain to me how very wrong and dangerous what I had done was. How people lost their jobs because of a careless word or action. I don’t remember most of the details but the sense of foreboding and my father saying the phrase “ruin your life” echoes through my memory.
It was an infantile parody of what was happening to untold numbers of people in America back then- I was blacklisted.
Blacklisting did ruin lives. People lost careers and were prevented from making a living. Many were shunned by their friends and families. There were suicides, addiction and broken souls. I was lucky- only suspended from school for a week. After being questioned closely again by the principal on my return, I was then released back into the Polio ravaged school.
The “other” plague beside Polio in 1954, you see, was a political one; McCarthyism.
If Polio was a mirror image of today’s Covid19, McCarthyism was the same for today’s Progressivism and its evil avatar, Wokeness. This plague is sweeping innocent people before it. It is carrying our nation, actually, our whole culture to the very brink of totalitarianism.
It is an ironic mirror image in which McCarthyism, which was an overzealous crusade against socialism and communism, now is replaced by the political proponents of collectivism socialism and communism. They camouflage their intentions under the banner of Progressivism but it fools no one who is paying attention this is not progress.
“Progress”, like all the rest of their words is a barbed hook hidden inside an enticing idea. Subscribe to their idea of progress and you have unwarily taken the hook. Once hooked, they can play you mercilessly.
The wonderful words they have baited! Take Social Justice – as if the word Justice needed to be further defined. Justice should be a purity in and of itself. When combined with “social” it becomes just another postmodern ambivalence to be debated and harangued.
Then there is “gun violence” by which they pander to people’s fear and insecurity. The expression implies the violence is caused by the guns and would not exist without them. It’s very telling that ever since the Ferguson riots were allowed to burn that city and the Philadelphia rioters were encouraged to “express themselves”, record-breaking numbers of Americans have bought firearms for the first time. They know that “progress” is now defined to mean that some people will be coddled and allowed to run riot while others will have their businesses burned and neighborhoods destroyed. They see the police being defunded, hamstrung and leaving the profession in large numbers. So, now they see that they have to take bottom line responsibility for their own safety and that of their loved ones.
Equality has perhaps the cruelest hook of all. It is the very heart of the socialist/communist argument. America’s shining achievement is that our constitution has provided the greatest equality of opportunity and justice in the history of the human race. But now, the hook of equality of outcome has been embedded in the national conversation. The only way to insure that, as has been proven time after time in country after country, is to diminish the results for everyone to the lowest denominator.
They argue that they can find ways in which America fails in her lofty goals and pretend that they have the remedies for the problems. Justice in America is not perfect, equality in America is not perfect, America is not perfect; but for them, the perfect is the enemy of their enemy..
This is a progress that calls for crushing everything in its way and destroying the lives of people who even so much as question the soundness of the movement, And Social Justice, I’ve seen it before and I don’t want it. Disguised as “social justice” and “progress” it is bent on the “cancellation” of anyone who does not faithfully subscribe to the dogma- and the dogma shifts relentlessly in one direction.
We have slowly lost our moorings in reality. People who do not work or contribute in any way to society are “entitled” to a dignified existence at the expense of others. Citizenship is no longer a privilege for legal citizens but a debased commodity for anyone who can sneak across the border. Men can pretend to be women and never be denied access to rooms that used to be private and safe for biological women. Male athletes can compete “equally” with females and no-one dares defend the rights of high school girls who have their achievements taken from them.
That way lies the destruction of order, logic, reason and everything that ennobles existence. It is also the opposite of the thing that our children need to nourish their souls and build their character. If the things that are good and bad, male and female, logical and illogical can change places so easily, immature minds become disoriented, lost. Much has been made ( and not much proven) of the Covid epidemic and the possibility that it is causing an epidemic of suicide and mental breakdown among teens and children, but there is little or no discussion of how the insanely counter-intuitive progressive ideology, the utter, bigoted savagery of social media and the cancelation of our cultural heritage, are robbing them of solid intellectual and emotional ground to stand on. It should surprise no one that diseases of despair are sky rocketing among our young- teen suicide has been rising steadily – it has quadrupled in the past ten years!
In the time of Polio the children were the canary in the coal mine. The adults had more to fear from McCarthy. Now it’s reversed. The politics are more dangerous for the children while the elderly are being swept away by the disease. To rescue the children, we need a national resistance movement to the progressive agenda. We need to vaccinate them with a love of liberty and sense of purpose. We need to honor reality, nature and God by not avoiding the hard fact that what we are and what we see around us cannot be changed by tricks of illogic and false language.
We need to reinstall our honorable value of “All men are created equal” as in our Declaration of Independence and remove “equity of outcome”. We need to teach them Justice- not pettifogging “social justice”.
Teens need a healthy, world of wholesome ideas and understanding for the natural urges and needs of their minds and bodies; not a censorious mental catechism without gender or authentic attraction, without greater rewards for their finer talents and hard work. They need the dignity of self-reliance, and the learned respect for loyalty, patriotism and courage. In short, they need someone like my mother who knew how to help a kid stand up for himself, pull himself together and grow up.
Note to the cancel culture: I’ve been blacklisted before- It will not happen again.
4 thoughts on “Between Two Childhood Plagues”
The word “equality” is now seldom used; too many people have internalized the meaning and the user gets called on it.
Now, we have “equity”, which removes the “all” from “equality”. It’s a bamboozle word, like “gold filled”. Jewelry labeled gold-filled are not filled with gold. On the contrary, it’s 2.5% gold. The naive are expected to assume solid gold, just as the naive believe that equity has anything to do with equality. On the contrary, equity demands unequal treatment, with the holders of “white privilege” expected to get the short and shitty end of the stick – and they’re supposed to be grateful for it.
The only privilege I’ve ever had is “white”, and that and a buck will get me a cup of coffee… and I drink tea.
Social Justice: the living embodiment of the idea that two wrongs make a right
That is a fine and deep essay and it deserves a wider readership. I too remember the “Polio Pools.”