At midnight all the agents
and the super human crew
go out and round up every one
that knows more than they do . . . —Bob Dylan, from “Desolation Row”
Dr. Fauci has an unenviable position. He knows more than Donald Trump. He knows more than most any of us about infectious disease. And so, he is left to tell us what we don’t want to hear. In his position, one can’t win, one can only do one’s job.
My maternal grandfather, Claude H. Ballard, was City Commissioner of Health for Florence, S.C. from 1946 until his retirement in 1970. He had arrived in Florence while serving as a Health Officer in, the Army Air Corps during the war. He had meant to return to his old job in the Rural Health Department in Sullivan County Tennessee after his discharge, but the City of Florence offered him a whole department at better pay, having been impressed with the efficiency with which he had eradicated the rats on the air base and thinned out the mosquito population. My mother said her father still had to struggle with the decision to stay. He told my grandmother, who had been a rural public health nurse when he met her, “I just don’t want to be buried in this sand.” But there they both lie, in that Carolina sand that had been so foreign to them once, before the war took them out of the hills and all over the South.
Most of the stories I hear say we pulled together for the war. We sacrificed, rationed gasoline, flour, metal and rubber, and didn’t complain. Once the war was over, we went back to complaining.
My mother said she often caught some backlash from her friends in the post war summers, because my grandfather often had to take the extremely unpopular action of closing the public swimming pools in attempts to stop the spread of polio. Polio is spread through saliva and fecal matter. Public pools generally had baby sections which weren’t really sealed off from the rest of the pool. You see where I’m going with this, it had to be done, the pools had to be shut down or a bunch of kids would end up paralyzed. But people complained, a lot. They just knew it couldn’t happen to their kids. Granddad Ballard weathered the storms, but he had the backing of the County. He didn’t have a boss undercutting him in the press for political gain. Claude Ballard was not an expert on a par with Anthony Fauci, but he knew his job and was trusted to do it. We trusted experts and trained professionals in those days. Now, loyalty to the CEO seems to be our main requirement. And if one knows more than the CEO, one had best be careful about saying so.
So, at this year’s Sturgis rally, Smash Mouth plays to throngs of drunken bikers who are without a doubt spreading the virus among each other to the detriment of the people of Sturgis S.D., and to everyone in far flung states that they bring it home to, big fat Hawg riding babies in brand new Harley branded black leather, happily shitting in the pool together. I never had any religion to lose, but maybe I’m losing my humanity. Because, this long into this mess, I don’t know for sure if I’d care so much, were it not that we are all in that same pool, with them.
ABOUT THE PHOTO:
The photo is of my maternal grandparents on the Jamestown Ferry, crossing near the mouth of the James River, Virginia, 1975 or so. It’s tucked in Granddad’s old Army cap from his dress uniform.