Possible Death of Terrorist under Investigation

(Last week, I offered the challenge of writing COVID’s obituary. My obit turned into a newspaper report.)

tombstonePolice are continuing to investigate the disappearance and possible death of SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19.

No body has yet been found, but COVID has not been seen anywhere for at least 14 days now.

Police are questioning a relative, Aunty Body, and her accomplice Vax Scene, as “persons of interest” in COVID’s disappearance. Two other individuals, Hi Dochs C. O’Quin and Rem D. Sever, have claimed responsibility but authorities have yet to find any evidence supporting those claims.

COVID’s origins are shrouded in mystery and controversy. Most agree he was born in China but his parentage is debated. One source claims he was the son of a laboratory worker, although this has been derided as a manufactured story. Other sources suggest he was the son of a vendor in a meat market, a story many find “batty.”

Debate still rages as to the veracity of either assertion.

Whatever the place and circumstances of his birth, COVID first appeared in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province of China. Within the space of three months, he was wrecking devastation around the world. No country was safe from his terror.

When asked to explain COVID’s murderous rampage, noted expert Dr. Epi DiMiologi said, “the most plausible hypothesis to date is sibling rivalry.” He pointed to the 2003 damage inflicted in places such as Toronto by an equally insidious terrorist known as SARS.

“As you can see, COVID and SARS share the same surname. If he really were the offspring of a lowly butcher, it is reasonable to assume he had an inferiority complex and decided to over-compensate by become even more insidious than his older brother.”

SARS attacked only about two dozen countries whereas COVID has afflicted countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Investigators point out that SARS and COVID would be, at best, half-brothers. SARS was born in Guangdong province in southern China whereas COVID was reportedly born in Hubei province in central China.

A terrorist investigator who spoke off the record stated that if SARS and COVID are indeed half-brothers, then “that father certainly got around!”

Leaders of some countries are suspected of being complicit in COVID’s reign of terror. Rather than attacking him with a forthright campaign, they characterized him as a petty thief of no consequence who would soon disappear. Unfortunately, this dismissal lead to confusion and mayhem which only facilitated COVID’s reign of terror.

Police are asking anyone with information about COVID’s whereabouts to contact them at 946-268-4319. If no further attacks occur within the next 14 days, then they will close the case file.

#TongueInCheek #COVID19 #Coronavirus #Pandemic #MargaretGHanna #EndOfCOVID #Fantasy #Humour # Fiction #FutureHope

Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 4: After COVID, Then What?

We are going through some truly “hard times.”

Mental and emotional stress is at epidemic proportions. Domestic violence is increasing as is the number of women murdered by their partners. We’re sleeping less, drinking more. Suicides are increasing. Young people, especially teen girls, are self-harming more. Distress hotlines are busier than ever. Xenophobia is rearing its ugly head.

We are under unmeasureable emotional and mental stress and not just because of the fear of catching the virus. There are rents and mortgages and bills to pay but no income; families to feed but no income; fear for our parents and grandparents in long-term care homes; the pain of not being with loved ones in their last days; and, for those who have to go to work, the fear of contracting COVID.

It may be difficult to believe when we are up to our ears in pandemic woes that we will endure, as did our ancestors. But endure we will, so what about the future? What will the world be like post-COVID? How will we be, post-COVID?

As I peer into my crystal ball, I see . . . only questions:

When can I hug my grandchildren?
When can I go to the baseball game? The hockey game? The football game?
When can my kids play with the neighbour’s kids?
When can we have our family reunion?
When can I go shopping at the mall with my friends? Have a beer with my buddies?
When will this end?
Will they find a cure? A vaccine?
When can I go back to work?

Perhaps we can glean some answers by a glance back at the past. How well did people recover from stress and deprivation when previous “hard times” ended?

There were both good and bad outcomes. The Spanish Flu did come to an end, although it took two years to disappear. Children who survived achieved lower levels of education and employment as adults. However, the epidemic fostered awareness of the importance of public health and spurred Canadian and European governments to create national health departments.

Perhaps one of the reasons the 1920s “roared,” at least for some people, was because people wanted to “actively forget” (as Nietzsche put it) the pain, suffering and horrors of both World War I and the Spanish Flu. It has often been called the Forgotten Pandemic – people seemed to have put it out of their minds so they could live fully in the present. And they went overboard in doing so.

Will COVID-19 also become a “forgotten pandemic?” Will we have a 21st century version of the Roaring Twenties, when the economy booms?

The Great Depression/Dirty Thirties ended in 1939 but the effects on those who lived through those hard times lingered on. I saw them in my own grandparents and parents. Grandma Hanna refused to pay a penny more than necessary for whatever she had to buy. My father kept every bit of broken machinery because, well, it just might be useful some day.

But the depression also brought about change. Communities formed credit unions when banks refused to loan money to struggling farmers and business owners. In the prairies, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (later the New Democratic Party) and the Social Credit Party formed, each espousing a different approach to solving the economic woes of the Depression.

The SARS epidemic of 2003 also ended, even in the absence of a vaccine. However, it left about one-third of those quarantined with depression and PTSD. The rates were higher among those who tended the sick. Patients felt alone, even de-humanized. Alcohol use increased. But even so, most people showed tremendous resiliency and lived happy and fulfilling lives afterwards. And the medical profession learned many lessons about how to deal with a highly contagious disease, lessons that are relevant to today’s pandemic.

Those questions I asked earlier – they are primarily about being deprived of social contact. Being separated from family and friends is compounding economic stress. Our ancestors endured not just because of rationing or gardening or relief, although those were important. They endured because they were part of community. They had a support network of family, friends and neighbours. They met at grocery stores, the post office, the hardware store, the café, the church. They laughed together, cried together and shared what little they had.

Physical distancing denies us those essential support networks. We crave community. We crave a real shoulder to cry on or a real hug. Social media and virtual visits don’t provide the same emotional security and consolation that comes with physical contact.

In spite of how it feels, we are not alone. We are still part of community. We care for others and others care for us – witness the million little acts of kindness that happen everywhere, every day.

Think of the pandemic as a refining fire. It will change us, some more than others, some in different ways than others. That doesn’t mean it will defeat us.

It seems to boil down to this: Our future will be largely determined by what we dream it to be, and that in turn depends on our attitude to life in general. Are we glass-half-empty or glass-half-full people?

My vision of post-COVID life is this: One day, we will be back to work, bringing in an income, and ensuring security for ourselves and our families. One day, we will be able to hug each other. One day, we will be able to have a beer with our neighbours on the deck. One day, we can hang out with our buddies at the beach. That day will include a continuation of the kindness and generosity that has helped us get through these hard times.

Who knows how or when this pandemic will end, but it will. Hang in there, folks. We are more resilient than we imagine. Be kind to each other. Live in hope and faith.

Here’s a challenge for you: Write an obituary for COVID-19. How does what you have written reflect your vision of a post-COVID world?

#Coronavirus #COVID-19 #Pandemic #AfterCOVID #Hope #Resiliency #TogetherAgain #LivingInCommunity #

Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 3: Relief

Relief During the Great Depression

After the misery of World War I, the Spanish Flu and a brief recession, the Roaring Twenties blew in on a gust of exuberance and freedom. Women threw aside corsets and bobbed their hair. Speakeasies did a roaring business. The Charleston was the dance de jour. Industry flourished. Wealth grew. The world was our oyster and we lived it to the fullest. Nothing could stop us.

Or so we thought.

The Great Depression and the Dirty Thirties slammed into us with a hammer-blow. Industry shuttered. Savings vanished into a puff of nothingness. Millions were unemployed and road the rails in a fruitless search for work. Farmers watched fields and crops blow away. Only Russian Thistles, grasshoppers and army worms thrived.

No one had money, and even if you did, there was nothing to buy. In Canada, by 1933, 30 per cent of the labour force was out of work. Desperate times demanded desperate measures – relief of one sort or another. One in five Canadians became dependent upon government relief for survival.

Relief! To stubbornly independent and proud people such as my grandparents, it was a dirty word, smacking of failure, loser, inadequacy. Yet it was all they had to keep food on the table for there were no options. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

In the USA, President Roosevelt announced the New Deal which provided work and relief through projects such as the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Administration.

The Canadian federal government did little to alleviate suffering, off-loading the responsibility to provincial and local governments. In hard-hit Saskatchewan, the government funded relief work camps to upgrade highways. Payment was in the form of vouchers for groceries, medicine, binder twine, machinery repairs, clothing, fuel, kerosene and harness repairs. The Provincial Relief Commission processed requests from municipalities for seed grain, feed for livestock and food and clothing vouchers.

Soup kitchens fed the unemployed and hungry in cities. Men riding the rails marked the gates of homes where others could find a sandwich and maybe a barn loft in which to sleep – both my maternal and paternal grandparents’ farms were so marked. Churches and other organizations in less hard-hit areas shipped boxcar-loads of food and clothing westward. Stories still circulate of perplexed prairie wives trying to figure out how to cook slabs of salt cod from Newfoundland. My uncle tells of rotting apples and worn-out clothes that didn’t fit anyone in the family.

It took another war to end the Depression and the simultaneous return of rain to end the Dirty Thirties. Hard times were over.

Or so we thought.

Relief in the Time of COVID

Once again, we find ourselves in hard times. Unemployment rates haven’t been this high since the Great Depression. Thousands of businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy because of stay-at-home orders.

Unfortunately, work projects cannot be part of today’s relief response when proximity means danger. Instead, governments are providing businesses and workers with subsidies; the Paycheck Protection Program in the USA and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit in Canada are but the start of financial aid packages to tide people over, at least for a while.

Food banks have replaced soup kitchens but they are just as overwhelmed now as they were 90 years ago. In the USA, people wait in hours-long lines for a box of food. In Canada, food bank use has increased by 20% as of mid-April.

No matter how you sugar-coat it, relief is still a bitter pill to swallow. We want to work. We crave the satisfaction of a day’s work done, a cheque in the bank, bills paid, food on the table. We crave the respect of family and friends for being a productive member of society. We crave the self-esteem that comes from contributing to the well-being of our community.

Next: Surviving post-pandemic

* * *

Note: I grew up listening to my parents and grandparents talk about the “hard times” of the depression and drought. Those stories informed four chapters of “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead: “The Dirty Thirties,” “Living on Relief,” “The Plight of the Unemployed.,” and “The Year with No Crop.”

#COVID #Coronavirus #Pandemic #GovernmentRelief #GreatDepression #DirtyThirties #HardTimes #MargaretGHanna

Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 2: Gardening

It’s spring time, and people’s fancy turns to, no not THAT, to gardening.

Our grandparents lived the original “hundred mile diet.” Did they eat avocados in January? No. For that matter, did they even know what an avocado was? No!

The garden plots on the Hanna farm

They did know about gardening because, being farmers, they had huge gardens. We had two gardens which we switched between in alternate years, plus a huge potato patch just outside the farm yard. Even most people who lived in cities had some sort of garden.

During both world wars, every city, town and village had its “Victory Garden,” usually an unused plot of land. They were promoted as providing a healthy, patriotic activity, for more produce grown at home meant more produce shipped to the troops overseas. Although they were more of a symbolic rather than an actual benefit, people felt they were doing something tangible in defeating the enemy.

Gardening provided more than fresh vegetables during the growing season; it was the source of all vegetables and fruits that would be eaten during the winter. August was a mad house of canning – and once electricity arrived, freezing – the garden produce: peas, beans, carrots, corn, tomatoes, and beets. Root crops – potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions – together with squash and cabbage went into the root cellar. Berries and apples became jams and jellies. Cucumbers became pickles. It was a matter of pride to have one’s cellar stacked from floor to ceiling with gleaming jars of preserves.

Now, we go to the store. It’s easier. And it makes us vulnerable.

Of course, there’s a significant difference between then and now. During the war periods, a large proportion of people lived in rural areas, either on farms or in villages and small towns, and city-dwellers lived predominately in single family homes. It was possible then for almost everyone to have a garden.

Today, the population is predominately urban, and many people live in high-density neighbourhoods – condos, townhouses or apartment buildings. It’s difficult to have a garden when you have only a tiny balcony, if that, for a couple of potted tomato plants.

A few of the seeds we’ll be planting this spring

Limited garden space hasn’t stopped people this spring. Nurseries have never been more popular. Seed packets are as scarce as toilet paper. Bedding plants are flying out the doors. Cabbages are preferred to calendula, parsley to poppies.

A garden may ensure at least a small proportion of food but more important is the emotional and gustatorial satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment that no trip to the grocery store can match. And, as people will learn when they pick that first ripe tomato or zucchini or lettuce leaves – the taste! Oh, the taste! No store-bought vegetable can match that.

Alas, gardening is no longer an adequate solution to feed the many and not just because of lack of space. Most urbanites are now removed one or more generations from the gardening protocol. They have lost the knowledge of how to grow a garden and preserve its produce, nor do they have the room to store a winter’s supply. To compound the problem, they often have no one with experience to turn to. Even though community gardens and farmers’ markets provide some locally-sourced food security, they’re insufficient to feed an entire city.

So, if the idea of rationing rankles and gardening is a band-aid solution at best, how can we ensure food security during this pandemic?

Next: Security in the Time of COVID, Part 3: Relief

P.S. Tell me: what are your gardening plans this spring?

#COVID19 #FoodInsecurity #Gardening #VictoryGardens #HundredMileDiet #FoodSelfsufficiency #CommunityGardens #FarmersMarket #LocallySourcedFood #MargaretGHanna