Between Two Childhood Plagues

Between Two Childhood Plagues (part I)

The following is the first part of a two part article with the same title. Part 2 will follow in next Thursday’s edition. In the event that readers want to get to Yaacov ben Moshe’s entire article quickly, a link to his original blog post can be found at the end of this excerpt.

By Yaacov ben Moshe – 3/8/21

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. And ’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, and 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 disunified 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 she realized she 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, also known 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 affected by polio alive.

One of the odd symmetries between the two plagues is that in 2020 in many states (New York and Massachusetts, for example) the vulnerable elderly were shut into nursing homes unsegregated from sick patients, leading to wild infection and death rates among residents. In the 1950s, 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 tend to do, we learn to compensate with age and experience. We “get serious” and “fit in.”

My problem in 1954 was that at five years old, I passed an IQ test with a high enough score 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’s and father’s faces as they tried to explain to me how very wrong and dangerous what I had done was. 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 COVID 19, 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.

(Part II will appear next week in Thursday’s edition)

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