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GARY SMITH: Mileage may vary

In each crisis, there’s no guarantee the ‘good guys’ win by Gary Smith | January 15, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, my father was in the Air Force, which means I spent most of my formative years on Air Force bases, going to Air Force stores, living in Air Force housing and, when necessary, attending Air Force schools.

On these bases, wherever we went we could see, along with the typical signs that help direct life in any community, placards informing us that this or that building was a bomb shelter to be used in case of a nuclear attack. Because we thought about the possibility of a nuclear attack just about every day.

But another thought that occurred on a regular basis was, if something terrible did happen and we got to the shelters and survived and emerged, what would we be coming out to find? What would the world look like after?

It had been a while for me since world events were as ominous and threatening as they were back then. Lately, it's been an almost constant consideration. What will we be coming out of our bunkers to find? What will the world look like after?

Obviously, current events aren't as drastic as nuclear war. But the idea that mushroom clouds and ICBMs are the only thing we need to fear, the only threat we need to face, is as antiquated and pointless as the idea that crawling under a cheap school desk or hiding out in the basement of a movie theater would keep us safe.

So, as we go forward, come out of our bunkers and from under our desks, what will the world look like?

When a sufficient number of us have been vaccinated and the pandemic that ravages the globe is brought under control, what comes next? As we've seen, that universally expected "happy day" will most likely be a series of very personal "happy days" when we can hug loved ones, go to public places, travel and even exchange a handshake without fear.

But will we have changed? Will those of us who have lived with the upheaval and uncertainty of this disease ever be comfortable in a movie theater or a ball game again? How soon will we return to normal or will we become like our grandparents, forever stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer in reaction to covid-19 like they saved aluminum foil and string in a reaction to the shortages of World War II?

Will we of a certain generation always have a face mask somewhere around us, always nag our grandchildren into massive eye-rolling on the need to "sing the birthday song twice while you wash your hands!"

And what will our nation look like if and when the rage of the moment subsides? When tempers, having flared, cool and whatever passes for reason and calm in the world's most successfully functioning democracy prevail?

Do we forget the sight of armed insurrectionists storming the U.S. Capitol? Or, again, do we regale our grandchildren with stories they have no way of appreciating, like our children have no way of appreciating our stories of Kent State or the 1968 Holy Week Uprising sparked by Martin Luther King's assassination or the Los Angeles riots that resulted from the beating of Rodney King?

Can we come to grips with what is increasingly apparent – that there is a portion of our country that would rather believe blatant lies that reaffirm their world view and are prepared to act violently in support of those lies than will accept a truth that disappoints them?

To say this is the greatest governmental crisis to ever face our nation is to overlook, at least, a bloody Civil War. To say this is the greatest health crisis to ever face America is to overlook, at least, the Spanish Flu epidemic that killed more than 600,000 Americans.

And to claim the world faces its greatest challenge ever is to forget we still have living among us men and women who left their homes and traveled halfway across the world to fight a far greater existential threat.

But those were someone else's events, and these are ours. History is, unfortunately more linear then cyclical. It's only human nature and the tendency to react the same way to stimuli that cause us to believe it repeats itself and that the same positive conclusions of the past will replicate going forward. Unfortunately, past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future success.

When we come out of our bunkers, what will the world look like? And will we recognize it?

Gary Smith is a recovering journalist living in Rogers.


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