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Posts Tagged ‘BUBONIC PLAGUE’

THE COSTS OF RIGHT-WING ARROGANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on March 30, 2020 at 12:42 am

It has been said that President John F. Kennedy left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy asked his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means hopeless:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, Right-wingers exchange superstition for science and insults for solutions.

One of these was Landon Spradlin, a Virginia pastor who claimed the “mass hysteria” around the Coronavirus pandemic was part of a media plot against President Donald Trump. 

The 66-year-old father and husband from Virginia died due to complications from COVID-19 on March 25. in Concord, North Carolina.

At a time when responsible Americans are self-isolating to halt the spread of Coronavirus, he was returning home from a mission trip to New Orleans to “wash it from its Sin and debauchery.”

On his Facebook page Spradlin misleadingly compared Coronavirus to the swine flu. He added that the media had created “mass hysteria” to damage Trump:

Spradlin also claimed that a missionary in South Africa “protected” himself from the bubonic plague with the “Spirit of God”: “As long as I walk in the light of that law [of the Spirit of life], no germ will attach itself to me.”   

Had Spradin been as knowledgeable about history as he presumably was about the Bible, he would have known:

  • The bubonic plague—better known as the Black Death—raged from 1347 to 1351.
  • It spread quickly and virulently throughout Europe and Asia.
  • It killed 75 to 200 million people.
  • Faith proved no protection from its deadliness.

Reacting to the news, a Twitter user wrote: “On March 13, Pastor Landon Spradlin shared this post suggesting #COVID19 is a hoax. On March 24th he died of that hoax. You can thank Trump and @FoxNews for perpetuating that narrative. This is not a game.”

The despicable role that Fox News Network has played in convincing millions of Americans that COVID-19 is a hoax cannot be overestimated.

By March 9, the virus had stricken 1,016 Americans and caused 31 deaths. It was raging in 33 states.The stock market had had its worst week of trading since the “Wall Street meltdown” of 2008.

But on March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.”

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.” 

Unfortunately for Regan, by March 9, too many Americans—including many Fox News viewers—realized the virus was not a Democratic hoax, as she and Trump had claimed. 

A firestorm of outrage descended on Fox—and on March 14, Fox Business Network announced that Regan’s program would be on “hiatus” until further notice.

Another Twitter user posted the following cartoon to mock Spradin’s contempt for science:

View image on Twitter

But far worse is almost certain to come. 

President Trump has repeatedly said he wants to “re-open the country” to end the “social distancing” and shuttered businesses recommended by the medical community. Only this, they believe, will halt or at least slow the spread of COVID -19.

He intended to use Easter Sunday—April 12—as a pretext for his real reason: He wants to return to what many of his critics refer to as “Nuremberg rallies.” Packing stadiums with his most fanatical followers, he thunders insults and lies with abandon.

Unable to do this while “social distancing” is officially on throughout the country, he has substituted nearly constant “press conferences” filled with equal parts of lies and ignorance about Coronavirus.

On March 21, for example, Trump insisted he had a “very good” feeling about using a malaria drug to combat the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had to set the record straight: “No.”

On March 29, Trump announced he would postpone “reopening the country” until April 30. By March 29,  the United States had more than 139,000 COVID-19 cases, with at least 2,425 deaths.

PLAGUE AS PROPHECY

In Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary on October 16, 2014 at 12:32 am

“It was virulent beyond anything in anyone’s memory, and the most terrifying effect of this mysterious virulence was not only that it killed so many people but that it turned them against one another.”

So opens “The Black Death,” the third chapter of Otto Friedrich’s brilliant 1986 book, The End of the World: A History.

The narrative examines “the monumental, often inexplicable catastrophes that have at various times swept over humankind–moments when, for numerous people, the world did come to an end.”

Among the catastrophes vividly depicted by Friedrich:

  • The Sack of Rome
  • The Birth of the [Spanish] Inquisition
  • The Black Death
  • The Coming of [the Russian] Revolution
  • The Kingdom of Auschwitz

As America comes face-to-face with the terrors of Ebola, the pages Friedrich devotes to the original plague may turn out to be as much prophecy as history.

Bubonic plague originated in Central Asia, killing 25 million people.  Upon reaching Constantinople in 1347, it spread to Naples and Venice.  Trade ships from these ports spread the plague to southern France and Italy.

It reached Paris in June, 1348, and London several months later.  By 1350, all Europe was ravaged by the plague.

Within four years it destroyed a quarter to half of the population of Europe.

The plague was caused by the bacillus Pasteurella pestis, which lives in rats and other rodents.  The fleas living in these animals transmitted the plague to people by biting them.  Within five days, the victims had died.

By the time the plague had run its course, it had killed 75 to 200 million people.

The signs of infection became unmistakable: Growths in the thighs, about the size of apples, then dark blotches and bruises on the thighs, arms and other parts of the body.

As a result of these dark blotches, the plague quickly became known as the Black Death.

“O happy posterity,” wrote the Italian poet Petrarch, “who will look upon our testimony as a fable.  Will posterity believe that there was a time when, with no deluge from heaven, no worldwide conflagration, no wars or other visible devastation…but almost the whole earth was depopulated?”

The plague destroyed not only the lives of its victims but the fragile bonds that hold society together.

“As the number of deaths increased in Messina,” wrote the Franciscan monk Michael, “many desired to confess their sins to the priests and to draw up their last will and testament.  But priests and lawyers refused to enter the houses of the deceased….

“Soon men hated each other so much that, if a son was attacked by the disease, his father would not tend him.  If, in spite of all, he dared to approach him, he was immediately infected….

“Soon the corpses were lying forsaken in the houses.  No priest, no son, no father and no relation dared to enter, but they paid hired servants with high wages to bury the dead.  Soon there was a shortage of servants and finally none at all.”

Bones of plague victims stacked by a monk at the Sedlec Ossuary.

No one knew what caused it.  Many–especially members of the Catholic clergy–believed the plague was God’s judgment on a sinful world.

Philip VI, the king of France, fearing this might be true, issued a proclamation against blasphemy. For a first offense, a blasphemer’s lip would be cut off; for a second, the other lip.  And for a third offense, the tongue.

Medical professors at the University of Paris believed that a disturbance in the skies had caused the sun to overheat the oceans near India.  As a result, the waters were giving off toxic vapors.

Guy de Chauliac, the physician to Pope Clement VI, believed that the plague had been caused by a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, in the sign of Aquarius.  This, he believed, had corrupted the earth’s atmosphere.

Just as no one knew what had caused the plague, no one knew how to protect oneself against it.

Among the remedies prescribed: Bleeding, purging, bathing in vinegar to purify the body and the burning of odiferous wood to purify the air.

Others trusted to faith, praying for deliverance.  Some went on pilgrimages or subjected themselves to self-flagellation to expiate their sins.  The Brotherhood of the Flagellants appeared in Dresden, Hamburg and Magdeburg, then spread throughout Europe.

For others, debauchery seemed to be the road to salvation–or at least temporary happiness while they waited for the plague to claim them.

“People behaved as if their days were numbered,” wrote Giovanni Boccaccio, “and treated their belongings and their own persons with equal abandon.  Hence most houses had become common property and any passing stranger could make himself at home.”

Yet none of the prescribed medical cures brought relief.  And no amount of religious devotion brought salvation.

As Friedrich notes: “One of the most baffling and terrifying aspects of the plague [was] its indiscriminate slaughter of the devout as well as the sinful.  If this was God’s anger, how could it be understood, much less appeased?”

The plague ravaged France, Germany, England, Spain, Norway, Poland, Hungary, Russia.  After devastating London in 1665 and Marseille in 1720, the disease mysteriously disappeared.

Some believe the common black rat was destroyed by the larger brown rat, which lived outdoors, away from people.  Others believe a milder, mutant form of the disease caused its victims to build up immunities.

No one knows for certain.

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