Being Plagued

In 541 AD, rats from Africa came on ships to Constantinople controlled by Emperor Justinian.  The rats were sick with a plague. The city dwellers did not pay much attention at first to what they called the Plague of Justinian until it ravaged the city and moved on to others. Actually it raged on until 750 AD and killed a total of 25 million people. Death does not give up easily. The Black Death began on ships returning from the Far East to Venice in 1347. Italians recognized the sickliness of the first sailors that came into the city and established a law to keep the ships and their men outside the harbor for Quaranta Giorni or 40 days. This is how we came to use the word quarantine. Even with the quarantine, the men and the fleas and rats in their baggage, generated a pestilence that killed 60 million people and lasted six years.

Pestilence of one kind or another carried on. From 1665 to 1666 in London 75,000 died of “The Pestilence.”  In 1795 mosquitos came out of the swamps surrounding the US Capitol of Philadelphia and killed one in every 10 people in the city. In 1855 in the Chinese city of Yunan, infected fleas infected rats and rats infected people. This plague reached 6 continents and was called the Third Plague Pandemic by European scientists. 15 million people around the world died.

In 1983, a very angry gay man named Larry Kramer wrote an article for a NYC gay journal that some called a screed and some called a mandate. Kramer harshly pounded out on his keyboard the warning about an epidemic from a virus captured from African chimpanzees that was already in New York.  He had heard that serum from monkeys used as an inoculation against polio was about to explode the gay community. Kramer was an outrageous fellow who never spoke when he could shout and never used gentile vocabulary when obscenities were called for. For a long time Kramer was hearkening in the dark. But his essays, his plays, his speeches reached the ear of a young, quiet but extremely observant epidemiologist who was listening. And that man’s name was Dr. Anthony Fauci. In the course of their parallel work together Kramer and Fauci witnessed  and tried to waylay the deaths of 32 million people killed by the disease that we know as AIDS. 

Why share all this history? For two reasons: COVID-19 is part of a long and terrible history that is not the past but the present. And the way we are being alternately frightened and reassured and frightened again is splitting us into shaken masses.

There is no time to waste listening to the false words and the despicable pretenses of the White House leadership. Protect yourself. Protect those who you love and those you know. Do all you can to quell this horrible slice of catastrophic history unfolding before your eyes. Donald Trump’s lies and counter lies are a plague of their own, confusing us with one statement one day and the next day another. He specializes in denigrating our better leaders, slicing holes into our Constitution and getting his craven followers to nod when he comes up with more and more ideas to destroy the remnants of our Democracy.

The second reason is because the more you listen to the lies and watch the foul actions of fascism arising from Washington, the more you will be undercut and despairing in your thinking and your life. In every way you can protest this tyranny. Contact your representatives. Tell them to ACT! Remind them of the desecration of the people’s rights – your rights, the rights of people the same as you and different from you. Contact your representatives on every level. Take care and be a watchdog for the protection of children – keeping them out of harm’s way, whether it’s resisting pressure to send them to massive school rooms, or being urged to let visit friends and families they miss and love. Be safe. Be careful. Very careful.

Change your life – eat well, sleep well, stay home, don’t drive your car, work from your kitchen table. Yes, the wait is long and tedious. But death is forever. And we need you healthy and fighting strong and sharing your voice in every way you can. Don’t be cowed or waylaid. Vote. Insist on your place in the election. Insist on a fair and honest election.

It’s not just fleas, and rats, and the blood of sick animals that endanger us. It is the narcissism of leaders eager to make of our lives a meaningless game. 

Don’t get played. 

Mary Ann Maggiore

Mary Ann Maggiore is a former Mayor of Fairfax elected on an environmental platform and founder of the Affordable Housing initiative and Youth Advisory there. At the same time Mary Ann served as the Executive Director of Girl Scouts Save the Bay serving 55,000 girls. Mary Ann's work has been honored by the CA Senate, CA Assembly, Working Solutions Community Innovator Award and the City of San Francisco. Today Mary Ann continues her commitment to youth as ED of LAUNCH!, Guiding Young People 18 to 30 to Meaningful Work.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Jeanine Alexander

    Thank you, for the incredible history lesson and meaningful advice. It gives a much needed clarity.

  2. Ann Geddes

    Brilliant—I hadn’t looked at this from an historical perspective. This gives me insight hope and courage. Thanks for your insight.

  3. Leslie Lawton

    What a fascinating and passionate history lesson, Mary Ann. And you are right. We have to stay home and be safe. And your last line, “Don’t get played.” Brilliant writing.

  4. Peter A. Howley

    Excellent information on past disasters. The current book, “End Times” addresses these possible events. I also think we’re blessed to have Trump as president versus Hillary and such dishonest scams.

  5. Ellen Williams

    Thank you, Mary Ann Maggiore for putting all this research together in such a meaningful way. The parallels you drew are undeniable. Please continue to speak truth in every way you can. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide and protect you. Thank you!

  6. Jay Gilman

    Great lesson, reminder, inspiration! thanks for sharing!

    1. Gina Brownstein

      Wow! That really puts things into context!

  7. Sandra Luna

    Great article, thank you so much, MaryAnn!!

  8. Mary Ann maggiore

    Thank you all for your attention to my work on this topic. History has much to teach us. And as the adage says “It repeats itself.” How we react and learn is so very important, I think we all agree.

  9. Jean Krapf

    As ever, well-researched, informed, cogent, compelling; thank you, Mary Ann!

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