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It was getting to be too much for us. Even the thought of February made me shudder back in December. So it was against frugality we made plans for a week in Costa Rica again. It was something to look forward to in the darkest, coldest months.
As I laze under palm trees moving against an azure sky, I am reading about Mark Twain (still Samuel Clemens) in Cuba on the eve of the Civil War. Against his better intellect, he is musing about having to pick sides in the coming conflict and reckons he will be a Confederate, though he has little personal affinity for slavery, the supposed cause celebre. He notes that the slaves in Cuba are treated with less violence than he has witnessed in the States. It is a white man’s privilege to note such a thing.
During the last year, our own United States has been torn with conflict. From the Black Lives Matter movement to Me Too to the immigration debate about DACA and the Muslim ban to Russian interference in our elections, it seems we have been fighting each other in a new kind of Civil War. All this conflict keeps our eyes away from the daily, unending wars our government fights and perpetuates all over the globe. And from the kind of slavery that goes on in the economy of the 1%.
The President recently mused aloud about a General Kelly, armed as a history teacher in the new Amerika, fighting off a school shooter while teaching his charges about “how to win wars.” The absurdity of this delusion is multiplied when you consider that the last war we “won” ended in 1945.
Costa Rica is a country without an army, internationally neutral, that has universal health care and free education through college. It is not without violence, however. Their murder rate has reached new highs in recent years due to drug-gang violence, mostly on the Caribbean side of the country. Gun laws restrict possession of a firearm to legal residents and civilian ownership of automatic weapons is forbidden. The President’s fantasy about General Kelly would not fly here, as guns are banned from educational facilities.
On Valentine’s Day 2018, shortly before we left for our brief vacation, the worst happened, again. A school shooting that took the lives of 17 and destroyed the lives of many more. We now know how our government is responding to this crisis, with visions of AR-15s dancing in their heads.
Samuel Clemens joined the Confederate Army as a private first class and rose to the rank of first lieutenant within two weeks. His unit was filled with brigadier generals. On Clemens’ first patrol, they came upon a figure in the night they could not identify as friend or foe. They shot him dead. He was alone, they discovered, after killing him.
Clemens as Twain, addressing a gathering of Union Army veterans years later, characterized the “battle” as the one with the greatest outcome of all battles. A 100% kill ratio. He told the flabbergasted audience that he decided then and there to retire from the army, “to give the Union Army a fighting chance.” Would that any of our current political leaders had the wit or will of a Mark Twain. Finally, pay special attention to a cough that lingers beyond the normal lifespan of the flu, as influenza can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. If a cough doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and especially if it seems to be getting worse, have it checked out by a medical professional.