Autumn Equinox

The Autumnal Equinox is officially the first day of Fall, but such hard demarcations have little relevance in the natural world.  The temperatures always lag behind the changes in angle and duration of sunlight that create the differences in season to our tilted Earth.  For months the Georgia air grew more oppressively hot even though the sun has been easing southward since late June.  For the past month or so, I’ve watched as the daily temperatures crept down; highs solidly in the 90s have given way to the 70s.  Warm evenings, thick and heavy with moisture and the distant rumble of thunder make me feel sluggish, and ready to shelter in a climate controlled room. But tonight is pleasantly cool, and I think we are safely done with summer temperatures.  A scattering of trees are showing their colors, but it will be late October or so before the wave of reds and yellows that has already begun north of the border will sweep into Georgia.  The changing of the seasons, and the turning of the leaves, is more abrupt and decisive around Athens than it was in Waynesboro; mark it down to a difference of 70 miles of latitude and 400 feet of elevation. My seasons are muted and indistinct by comparison to, say, New England, with their long summer days, long winter nights, and winters as brutally cold as ours are brutally hot.  

Of course, as we look towards shorter days, the inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere have had their first official day of Spring as their days lengthen.  People in their temperate zones are enjoying the warming air and breaking buds as we did 6 months previously.

Spring is nice. but Fall is my favorite season, and the promise whispered on every cool puff of air whets the anticipation.  

COVID’s Fifth Column

I must say, a submicroscopic agent is proving to be more efficient than any army, navy, or air force our country has ever faced.

The Axis powers of World War II couldn’t kill Americans nearly as fast as this virus.  It took them 44 months to kill 405,000 Americans.  In a little over 18 months, COVID-19 has taken the lives of 662,000 Americans.  The virus will soon kill more Americans than all of the combined militaries ever arrayed against the U.S. (not counting the Civil War).  This coronavirus is quite an efficient killer. 

It doesn’t deserve all the credit, though.  It has had considerable help from fifth columnists – celebrities, politicians, radio hosts, and social media influencers – who spread lies about vaccines or about the medical professionals who have tried to stem the tide of this disease.

Politicians were, and continue to be, powerful agents of the fifth column.  From Trump – who downplayed the threat from the beginning and throughout, even after he himself fell ill – to DeSantis’ efforts to keep schools from requiring masks in the classrooms, those with authority can sabotage a nation’s defensive capability. 

But ordinary citizens can do their part at undermining their communities as well. Anyone can get a social media account and write text or shoot a commentary video on their phones.  They can add their voices to the echo chambers, fan the flames of petulance, and sow the seeds of doubt in ground fertile for such a weed.  Enough popularity may earn them a radio spot or a sponsorship for more videos, and thus more credibility for their incredible opinions. 

I see reports from the front lines: from hospital workers I know who struggle to go to work swathed in protective gear, working long shifts because so many of their coworkers are sick, or dead, or have killed themselves.  These workers, no matter what department they worked in previously, are pressed to care for the sick, hold the hands of the dying, bag the dead.  Beds line the hallways, stretchers and cots lie where they can fit.  I know a fellow who can’t book a surgery for his cancer because the hospital is filled with COVID patients. 

And yet.  I also know people who feel a mask is an offense against their dignity, even an offense against their God. So many people around me believe wearing a mask or getting a shot is an individual choice, and that they have no responsibility to their community. They believe the vaccine is somehow not worth the risk, or (what the hell?) contains tracking devices. 

I don’t listen to radio talk shows as a rule, but while surfing channels last week I heard a host defending the use of ivermectin – you know, the dewormer commonly used by veterinarians.  He sounded quite exasperated, in the “Why is the Left still going on about this?” sort of way.  Not that the Left doesn’t have their fringe conspiracy nuts as well.  The virus doesn’t care which end of the political spectrum you cling to, though; it only wants a foothold in your body.

Several talk show hosts have gotten sick or died, their systems overrun by the virus.  Some have gone on record saying they wished they took it seriously and gotten the vaccine.  But there are plenty of other voices to take their places, to drown them out.

I know this new fifth column isn’t deliberately working for the disease.  I mean, the disease will kill them as quickly as anyone else.  No, they have their own agendas: votes, ratings, adulation, fear of da gummit, or whatever.  But at the end of the day, they still serve a virus.