Revelations 2020

Responses to the spread of the coronavirus vary considerably in different jurisdictions. In states of the U.S. that are dominated by massive cities, health constraints have tended to be severe, subjecting rural counties to the same crippling strictures as urban ghettoes. Relief from such broad-brush diktats often depends on discretionary enforcement by police, who can usually judge local needs better than governors. Here in New Hampshire, the outbreak has thus far struck a fairly light blow, perhaps because the Governor’s order fell a little more on the strict side than the situation originally seemed to warrant. He didn’t close the borders, but this time last …

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Kitchen Table University

Somewhere in my house must still be the cartoon my mother clipped out of a popular magazine from about 1950 and tucked into my baby album. It depicts a man just coming home from work in the traditional grey business suit, wearing a fedora and carrying a briefcase. He stands in the open doorway of a kitchen that looks as though a tornado has just passed through. Cooking utensils clutter the counters and dishes fill the sink, while baby spoons and cups and rattles lie scattered about. In the middle of the room stands an empty highchair, the tray of which is smeared and dripping. …

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Educating Billy

Early in the spring of 1963, we eighth-graders at Conway Junior High traipsed down Main Street to Kennett High School to sign up for our freshman programs. It did not occur to me, or perhaps to many of my classmates, that this event could have a significant impact on the future course of our lives. We saw the guidance counselor, who asked us a few questions and filled out some 5×7 cards before signing us up for a program. There were three general courses of instruction at Kennett. College prep consisted mainly of academic studies. General education began with fundamental English, math, history, and science, …

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America as Alcatraz

Meningitis broke out at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in the early weeks of 1969, where thousands of young men undergoing basic and advanced infantry training were packed into wooden WWII-era barracks. I knew only that meningitis could kill, and I felt a little uneasy as we formed ranks to hear the protocols we must follow. All the windows would remain open six inches, top and bottom, and trainees would make their bunks with the heads and feet alternating. In the chow line and at sick call, we had to stand two paces apart. That was it, I think. In all other aspects we were thrown together …

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