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There was a time when people pulled together

Despite some memory lapses, I’m all too well aware of what’s going on in our world. I don’t understand how what can only be described as lunacy now characterizes daily life.

First, though, I’ll stagger down memory lane and recount as best I can what life was like before today’s madness.

I vividly remember Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II for our country. I went to the movies alone, though I was only 11 years old. In my hometown, Waukegan, Illinois (yes, Jack Benny’s hometown), kids who could ride two-wheel bikes could go anywhere without checking in every 10 minutes with their parents. I always showed up at a reasonable time and of course abided by the 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak to strangers.”

World War ll seemed to bring out the best in everyone. People kept curtains and drapes drawn at night to minimize light enemy bombers might see should any be in the area.

Adults were generous in their purchase of savings bonds. Schools set aside time each week for students to buy savings stamps. The windows of homes proudly displayed blue star flags representing family members in the armed forces, with some sadly changing to gold as the war continued.

Factories never wanted for men and women to put out the necessities of war as fast as possible. No one complained about rationing.

Unfortunately our country always seemed to be engaged in more conflicts. Just before I graduated from college in June 1952, the fiance of one of my classmates was killed. He’d been a naval aviator in Korea.

Polio reared its ugly head, causing no end of fear and caution. Waukegan’s Lake Michigan beach was closed for the summer. I was certainly not a happy camper, as that meant running under a sprinkler in our yard was the only substitute for the lake, and a poor one at that.

Things heated up considerably with Vietnam. Some young men moved to Canada to avoid serving in our armed forces there. Many young people were restless and rebellious. As a solution to their unhappiness and misery drugs became a way of life.

Now here I am, 90 years old, looking at the United States as a nation going in far too many directions at once. A virus that should have been controlled long ago is spreading at an alarming rate.

Those who want to protect themselves and others by wearing masks, avoiding large groups, distancing, staying home as much as possible, and washing their hands frequently — mine have lost 10 pounds from all the washing — are up against those who thumb their noses at COVID-19, seemingly not caring that their actions may keep the virus alive for months and ignoring every bit of medical advice.

The daredevil “I have my rights no matter what” syndrome is blending in with other protests, to the point where I fear our nation has become one nation, under siege, drastically divided, and with liberty and justice a sham.

Mary Ann Johnson lives in Jacksonville.

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