“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” ~ President John F. Kennedy

When I was growing up, that quote from the 35th president's 1961 inaugural address to the nation was a big deal.

But, since I was still just 11 years old, it took a while for it to sink in. Decades, in fact.

When I think today what America has become in 2021 from what seems even longer than the 60 years ago those words were first uttered, I barely recognize America.

Change is inevitable, sometimes good, sometimes not.

I was looking back on past world civilizations and empires and large areas of the world that grew and prospered, but at some point collapsed or just simply lapsed into mediocrity. It’s rather depressing.

But I found one common thread that seems to link that fall — disease.

Now, we have earth, wind, fire and water to contend with on a daily basis.

I don’t care who you are, you probably have been or will be affected by one of those four constants in nature. There are earthquake, tornadoes and hurricanes, fires, floods and drought. All are the result of earth, wind, fire and water (or lack of it).

Now, history has proven over and over again that disease is the greatest killer on planet Earth, overwhelming even those four daily facts of life.

Aside from accidents, earth, wind, fire and water — and death at the hands of another human either by war or deliberate action — disease is going to kill the vast majority of us.

Think about that. If you can avoid succumbing to any of the hurdles nature sometimes hurl at us, you will die of disease.

I have a number of death certificates I’ve accumulated over the years in my ongoing family genealogical research, and every single one of them has some disease as cause of death.

Stroke, miocardial infarction, cancer, pneumonia, aortic aneurism, diabetes — you name it, that was the cause of death.

Didn’t see any “died of old age” as the cause of death.

In the end — our end — most of us die from disease.

That is a fact of life, a fact of the history of humankind.

Many years ago, illness like smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and even measles killed people — before vaccines were developed to help control and even rid the human race of these maladies.

I was lucky enough that my parents made me get vaccines for polio, smallpox and the old dip-tet shot we all lined up for in grade school — and hated with a passion.

My parents were a lot smarter than I realized at the time.

Unfortunately, we are now faced with a new disease in COVID-19 that continues to morph into newly contagious variants the longer it sticks around.

As I’ve said before and will continue to reiterate, disease doesn’t care who you are or what you believe or how you vote or if you are a genius or a moron. It’s going to try and get into your body and do its thing.

Germs have been doing their thing for millennia, and it took mankind tens of thousands of years to finally figure out how to combat it.

The United States is a great civilization, but we live on the vagaries of earth, wind, fire, water and disease, just as other great civilizations did in history past.

The Anasazi here on this continent, the Tiwanaku civilization of ancient Bolivia, the Akkadians of Mesopotamia, the Mayans, the Roman Empire and many others, all came apart at the seams from drought, disease or turmoil from within.

We can only speculate — conjecture by historians is simply conjecture.

What is certain is the fact disease almost always is a factor in the fall, or the hastening of the fall, of all great civilizations and empires.

Many coincided with abrupt climate changes, usually droughts.

Today we are seeing climate changes on a worldwide scale, so we shouldn’t be surprised by it. It is inevitable, even though we have an unprecedented opportunity to help mitigate climate change if we put out minds to it.

Collapse of earlier civilizations occurred when societies overshot the carrying capacity of their environment.

We have today what preceding cultures did not have when it comes to fighting disease. We know how to fight disease with vaccines.

This nation will not survive the way it is headed. It’s not a prediction, it's an inevitability.

For the unvaccinated: a hospital stay and bill to treat COVID-19 is from $17,000 to $78,000. The COVID-19 vaccination is free.

We've seen first-hand what a pandemic does to the economy and the workforce. Do the math.

I leave you with my update on the JFK quote I began with: Ask not what you can just do for yourself, ask what you can do for yourself and your country.

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Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Visit his column blog at www.tinyurl.com/Column-Blog.


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3rd-generation journalist, Univ. of Oklahoma School of Journalism 1968-1972, OU Sports Information Office, sports editor Sherman (Texas) Democrat, editor weekly Waukomis Hornet, news editor Enid News & Eagle. Retired 27-year volunteer firefighter and EMT.

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