Last week this column focused on the deadly Spanish Flu that spread across the globe like wildfire, killing millions in 1918. The medical community was helpless, and scientists searched for some clue to fighting this mysterious disease. While thousands of soldiers sickened in Europe, doctors at home were hampered by limited knowledge, a cloak of wartime fear, and by a shortage of medical personnel.
The recent Ebola scare brings to mind the horrible devastation caused throughout history by diseases, especially during wartime. Soldiers, who were always moving and crowded together in unsanitary conditions, provided (and still continue to provide) the perfect vehicle for transmission of contagious pathogens. The “Spanish flu” as it came to be called, was an example of this method’s deadly efficiency.
Behind the rhetoric of November elections, lies a nearly universal desire for community. Historically, Anoka County’s citizens have always had a handle on that concept. From the communal cabin raisings of our earliest pioneers to the many civic organizations that exist today, Anoka County folks have always known that grass roots efforts can achieve what government often cannot.
Throughout history there have been times when social custom or law allowed people to hate. I’ve lived long enough to see African-Americans, women, gays, and Muslims have to fight for the rights that should automatically be theirs as Americans. Hate usually goes hand-in-hand with fear, and throughout history it has been difficult to determine if hate is the cause or the effect of war.
World War I was called “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars.” On April 12, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson formally asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. He argued, “The world must be made safe for democracy.”
I cleaned out a storeroom last month and found a box of letters that my husband had sent to me while he was in the army in Viet Nam. The thin paper envelopes held the hopes and dreams of our youth, scrawled in cursive handwriting on pale blue stationary. I wrote him every single day of his one year tour, just to let him know that he was on my mind. He often told me how very much those letters meant to him when home seemed so far away.
I got a call the other day from a friend in St. Louis. She had seen television reports about the awful flooding in Minnesota and was concerned about us. I assured her we were fine, but I couldn’t explain why. Why is most of Anoka County dry only a few hours after a heavy rain?
Occasionally some new idea captures the fancy of the general public to such a degree that its popularity exceeds all reasonable expectations. Such was the case with rock gardens in the 1930s. The July 15, 1931 Anoka Union newspaper explains, “Never in the history of Anoka have people been so interested in rock gardens and flowers of all kinds as this summer of 1931.”