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Minnich: History is a continual loop

The world has been coming to an end at least every 100 years or so, no doubt going back to even before the great flood of the Bible.

Dad was born a preemie during the great “Spanish” influenza that swept the world in 1918-19. That pandemic killed 50 million world-wide, including 675,000 Americans. It reportedly started in military camps in the United States and was carried overseas, but it was called the Spanish Flu because the Spanish news media was printing stories about it while U. S. papers were trying to downplay the horrific scenario. It was bad for our image.

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The end of the world again seemed possible with the advent of World War II.  America saved the world and dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, but that was OK because we were the good guys and we used it to save the world for democracy. We didn’t dwell on the collateral damage the bombs caused to innocent civilians until later, when we considered that it might happen to us as we sat in our American schools and played on our playgrounds.

Polio scares kept families away from public places during the summer months in the 1950s. Swimming pools and the new air-conditioned movie theaters were off-limits, and we were shown newspaper pictures of children in iron lungs and on crutches. Mothers didn’t sleep nights if their children developed a case of summer sniffles.

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After the war and for the next 30-plus years we danced with the devil of nuclear holocaust. We had the world’s most lethal weapon and we were on the right side of God, but now the Russians had one, too, and other countries not as righteous as we were had been trying to make their own.

My bride-to-be and I listened to a radio broadcast about the looming threat of radioactive fallout that would head around the world if the U. S. and Russia continued on a collision course over Soviet missile sites in Cuba. Would we be around for our wedding? Would we raise a family? Was there a future?

Four years later young couples changed their life plans as the young men were drafted into military forces to stand up to the spread of communism in Vietnam and the rest of Asia. We spent more than 55,000 American lives and a million or so Vietnamese soldiers and civilians only to walk away after more than 10 years of chaos.

Then there was the near meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in nearby Pennsylvania in 1979. The paper printed front-page maps with circles radiating out from the plant site showing how far radioactivity would reach. How many other plants posed a threat? Then there was Chernobyl, then the Japanese plant meltdown. A loop of terrors.

Just about the time we felt we had the nuclear genie back in the bottle, some irritating news began circulating that perhaps the real threat was climate damage, caused by good hard-working, industrious, prosperous human beings — and short-sighted financial profiteering and greedy accumulation of great wealth.

Ironically, much of that great wealth was aided by shifting American jobs out of small-town America to cheaper factory labor in parts of the world that had been enemies of America or who had been exploited by colonial powers for hundreds of years.

And today you can wear underwear made in Vietnam and sold in American stores for companies with investors in China. America first? We’re all in this together.

We thought the world was ending with the Civil War, the riots of the ‘60s, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center — which tilted the world forever as all major events do — but the world likely will not end with the passing through of the COVID-19 virus: Not for everyone. But it will for some of us, just as it always has, and will.

Dean Minnich retired from a journalism career and served two terms as a county commissioner. He lives in Westminster. His column appears on Thursdays. His email address is dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

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