Windham Life and Times April 17, 2020

What are You Afraid Of?

Living a life without fear, even in fearful times.

In the 19th century people were tough and resilient in the face of adversity. The Clark family pictured in the photograph above look as if they could have taken on just about anything. Their barn was burnt to the ground by a passing train. Look how the son, arms crossed,  models the determination of his father. Fear is one of man’s worst, latent, emotions, that gives rise to all of the evil found in the world. It lies behind hate, racism and oppression. We live in this world in order to find a path which overcomes fear. Jesus of Nazareth’s most commonly uttered line, in the face of disease, hatred or difficulty was, “Fear not!” I was always impressed by that, considering he was destined to be hung on a cross. The Buddhist insist that we should live as observers of the world, detached and utterly calm. After all they claim, all sentient beings, living organisms and even inanimate objects are connected; and our very act of observing brings the world, with God within all things, into existence. The Campbell Family is pictured below. The son doesn’t even have shoes to wear. They too look like they also could take on the world. Today, with all that we have, we certainly can too; fearlessly, with dignity and grace!

    A mother in the 18th and 19th century, faced the prospect of losing half of her large brood of children in one plague or another, that often swept through America.  That’s why people had large families. Doctors were few and far between, people couldn’t afford them anyway, so parents often had to face down devasting viruses and diseases alone in their homes. If you were badly hurt in a factory or on the farm you likely died or were forever maimed. There was no ambulance to rush you to a nearby hospital and no safety net to pay your bills. Yet, Americans faced the peril and went to work, unafraid. In the nineteenth century, it was common for embers of passing trains to cause huge forest fires that burned down many farms, even right here in Windham. Nobody gave a thought about banning trains. Hell, the settlers of Maine had to face down Indian attacks, scalping and forced slavery, in order to try to establish a home in America.

Morrison tells us in his history of Windham that, “Spotted Fever” Plagued Windham in 1812. “This alarming disease first appeared in the spring of 1812, and prevailed to an alarming extent that spring, but subsided somewhat during the warm weather.” (Because people were in the sun getting Vitamin D3 into their systems) “On the return of cold weather, it broke out afresh, but not with so much violence. Persons attacked with it would die in a few hours, and the disease was generally fatal. After this it prevailed for several years, but not so extensively (Because people exposed to the virus built up anti-bodies and immunity.)  Many persons died, three adults and thirteen children, a total of thirteen persons having died (in Windham) in one eight day period.”

“In the paper, “Character Trials, Managing Epidemic Disease in 19th Century America, PhD student John Runge states, “ ‘There is nothing that deprives men of the natural use of their reasoning powers so quickly and entirely as fear,’ a New Orleans newspaper reported in 1878. These written words, intended for the eyes of local yellow fever hysterians, speak to an unending struggle to cope with fear and its consequences. For those suffering from infectious disease, fear twists and fits into the very essence of a person or population, shaping the malleable perspective of the afflicted.”

“In the nineteenth century, infectious disease ravaged humans across the globe. Typhoid, cholera, the bubonic plague, and tuberculosis, to name a few, besieged the people of the world in epidemics and pandemics, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Cholera, a disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, killed roughly half of those who contracted it. In the nineteenth century, epidemics in 1832, 1849, and 1866 in the United States alone were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, so many that physicians, in some instances, ‘did not even bother to report their cases.’ Similarly the bubonic plague, known for its fourteenth century decimation of the European population, resurfaced in late nineteenth century Pacific-linked port cities like Hong Kong, Bombay, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and elsewhere. Tuberculosis, meanwhile, was the number one cause of death in Europe and the Americas from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century…”


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