De Vos: Before the lights go out
July 13, 2017
My brother-in-law called the other night to see what our plans were for the big event. I stared blankly at the receiver because I had no idea what he was talking about, but then again, that's not so unusual. He lives southeast of Kansas City in a beautiful area of Missouri right next to good-sized creek where water moccasins and copperheads argue over the cool spot by his front door.
"The eclipse, of course!" he said with unbridled enthusiasm, "I've got a room booked in Madras, Oregon for Aug. 2 to be among the first to see totality, that point where the moon completely blocks the sun."
"Hmm, and that's when it gets dark enough to see the stars in the middle of the day?"
"Not quite, this time it starts at 43 seconds after six minutes after 9 a.m., Pacific Time, of course. The last time this happened was 99 years ago in 1918."
Ninety-nine years ago, upon the occasion of the last total eclipse to cross North America, folks had plenty of things to fear as we were inexorably drawn into The Great War.
"Why don't you just stay in KC and go outdoors at midnight? I understand dark happens pretty often there – with stars even. Sounds like you could save a few hundred bucks by staying home."
"Not the same."
"How about a broom closet and Christmas lights?"
"You don't need to get all sarcastic on me," he said, "come on, I got a double room, it'll be fun!"
"Thanks, but I'll just stay right here in Fraser and you can call me and tell me when to close my eyes and we'll watch it together."
Throughout history, one of the givens has been the regularity of the sun and the moon and their daily chase across the sky. Suddenly something bad happens to one or the other and ancients found it disruptive and frightening. Many cultures see it as wolves or bears or fiery demons, oh my!
The Hindu demon Rahu tried to steal an immortality elixir but he was spotted by the sun and moon and they ratted him out to Vishnu who decapitated him before he could swallow, leaving a corpse and a very angry immortal head. Understandably, head/Rahu is angry at the sun and moon, chasing and occasionally gulping them down whereupon a couple of minutes later, they fall out of his throat.
Ninety-nine years ago, upon the occasion of the last total eclipse to cross North America, folks had plenty of things to fear as we were inexorably drawn into The Great War. Armies were fighting around the globe with nations pouring soldiers into Europe and into the maw of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the deadliest in modern history. One-third of the world's population was infected resulting in 50 million deaths, 675,000 of them Americans. In a cruel twist, most of the victims were young and otherwise healthy, killed by overreacting immune systems.
Now, it's not like 99 years later we are completely worry-free because obviously, on a collision course with a nuclear North Korea, none of us can feel safe with an unproven commander at the helm of the shark-infested, self-serving swamp we call Congress. But possibly the worse danger is our own apathy. We dare not just sit back and wait for the future to devour America's middle class. Speak out! Call your senator, Cory Gardner, during office hours at (303) 391-5777 or in Washington at (202) 224-5941.
Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo, summed it best back in 1953, "We have met the enemy and he is us."