The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Autumn is always a time of the year with some uproar attached. With summer ending, kids are going back to school which lends an air to not only their lives, but adults as well that playtime is over and it’s time to go back to work. Even our games reflect that change. Baseball, a timeless game is being supplanted by the clock-driven urgency of football and basketball.
But this year has been altogether different. The world has been swept by the news of a series of disasters and tragedies, all compressed into an unimaginably small space of time. Three Cat 4 hurricanes made landfall, Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida and the Caribbean, and Maria which wiped out Puerto Rico. Nate also made landfall on the Gulf Coast, but as a mere Cat 1, didn’t get the headlines of the other three. A devastating 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico City, with the kind of death and destruction typical in a place where building codes are an afterthought. The drumbeat of terrorism continues with notable attacks in Canada and France, along with the depressingly regular toll of dead and wounded throughout the Middle East. On October 1st, Stephen Paddock, a real estate millionaire from Mesquite, Nevada executed a minutely planned mass shooting from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, firing into a crowd of some 22,000 attending a country western concert across the road. 59 died, over 500 were wounded. To this point, ten days after the shooting, his motivations remain a mystery.
Bad news is something to be expected in life, albeit in isolated doses. Rare is the time, however, when so much misery is thrown at the human race in so short a time span. People are resilient for the most part, but we all may be suffering from a form of mass combat fatigue, especially the poor folks for whom these tragedies have been up close and personal. While this spate of bad news has been terrible, this is not the only time we’ve been on a bad streak.
If you took the time to read a newspaper – any newspaper – between December 7, 1941 and June 30, 1942, you’d find the same daily dose of bad news. By all accounts, we were losing World War II. At home, government austerity measures, such as rationing, were being imposed on the civilian populace. On the east and gulf coasts, the horrors of war were brought home to people watching almost nightly as the pyres from torpedoed merchant ships lit the skies. On the west coast, people lived in fear that the Japanese combined fleet was about to show up off Los Angeles or San Francisco. Then there was the very personal tragedy of the dreaded yellow telegrams, opening with the words, “The Secretary of War regrets to inform you…”
But that was a tougher generation. Compared to them, we are all snowflakes.
Like it or not, it is us in these present times, and we still have to get through the tough stuff. Life must still be lived, despite what be going on elsewhere.
A question was asked of a terrorism expert shortly after 9/11 as to what would be the most effective response ordinary people could make to the attacks. He replied, “Go bowling.” That seems like a non sequitur, but I understand what he was trying to say. The terrorists wanted – and still want – Americans to live in fear. Hide inside, lock the doors and windows. Don’t go to work; in fact, don’t go anywhere. But we didn’t do that. We did go bowling, and to the mall. We took in movies and ballgames, and ate dinner out. We refused to live in fear. And when victims cried out for help, we responded. We gave generously and where possible, pitched in to help.
We have always taken shots to the jaw, individually and as a country. What has defined us has been our unwillingness to take it lying down. We took the punch, and got back up, defiantly.
Tragedies like the string of recent events author all manners of human miseries. But such times has also inspired acts of bravery, selfless sacrifice, and compassion. When we see others in distress, we drop our divisions and reach out to help. This, I think, is the thing we should remember about these tragedies and their aftermaths. We came together, literally giving the shirts off our backs to succor those in need.
In the movie “Apollo 13” there is a scene towards the end when the NASA PIO is speaking to Chris Craft. He enumerates the long string of challenges facing them, ending the list with the words, “This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever experienced.” The Flight Director, Gene Kranz, turns and says, “With all due respect, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”
We can give in to tragedy, and mourn destruction and human loss. Or, we can choose to pull together to make things right. If we can continue to do that, than this will not be the apocalypse, but instead it will be our finest hour.