By G. Wayne Dowdy
In another letter to Colonel J. M. Keating, managing editor of the Memphis Daily Appeal during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic, your correspondent ponders the number of deaths from Covid-19, expresses concern over the upcoming presidential election, and introduces you to a citizen determined to participate in national life.
Dear Colonel Keating:
Since I wrote last, I have attended the funerals of two good people who thought only of others and were a blessing to all they met. This unfortunately has become a common occurrence as the Covid pandemic has claimed 194,00 American lives.
When my Mom was suffering from cancer, Marie Bartnick opened her home and offered love and encouragement during a difficult time. After Mom passed, Marie watched over my Dad until his death 10 years later. Clarence “CJ” Jones, Jr. served the citizens of Memphis for 48 years at the Memphis Public Libraries. To thousands of children and adults, CJ was “the nice man at the library.” These deaths are but a sliver of the heartbreak engulfing our land, and sadly there will be many more.
Meanwhile another presidential campaign is underway which is bringing its own special kind of heartbreak. Day after day screams of conspiracy drown out common sense, and fierce loyalty to faction has replaced the country’s genius for compromise.
Normally I enjoy elections, despite the bunk employed by operatives and politicians. However, this year is different. Lies pile up like cordwood while the lunatic fringe is granted respect it does not deserve. I cannot wait for it to end.
Not long ago an older gentleman visited the library and asked for help with the Census. Because his computer skills were limited, we filled out the online form together. As he answered the questions, it was clear he wanted to participate in the Census for his community as well as himself. When I clicked submit, he asked, “has it been sent?” “Yes, sir,” I replied. “Are you sure, I want to be counted.” I assured him it had been submitted and he left knowing his participation mattered.
When the congregation at CJ’s funeral sang the W.B. Stevens hymn Farther Along, I thought of the thousands who have died, the limits of democracy, and the citizen who demanded to be counted.
Farther along we'll know more about it,
Farther along we'll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We'll understand it all by and by.
your faithful correspondent