Jewish World Review Dec. 30, 2003/5 Teves, 5764

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

We're all supposed to be dead by now | Nobody addicted to TV news dares order a steak unless he has made out his will, and there's a new outbreak of SARS in China. Here we go again, maybe.

The good news for the ranchers is that somebody will find a poison carrot or a toxic cabbage sooner or later to quiet the vegan cheering, and for the rest of us the only hopeful news is that 'flu is likely to get us before SARS does. The rest of the news is scary. The terrorism alert is at Code Orange, a new infestation of bedbugs has swallowed Manhattan and is believed headed south, Paris Hilton is still employed, and Howard Dean is about to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Begone, wicked and malevolent 2003, and good riddance.

This is the season for applying meaningless superlatives to the calendar, for picking the Top Ten stories, personalities, events, diseases and curses. On the other hand, there's nothing new about fires, earthquakes, plagues, mudslides and presidential candidates. The year now ending is no worse on balance than a lot of other years, and 2003 has been considerably better than some. The fevers and plagues of yesteryear are dreadful on a scale unknown in modern times. That's why at the beginning of every winter we of the media dust off the scary accounts of the Great 'Flu Epidemic of 1918, when even the flies were dying like people.

Not just disease, either. Those of us old enough to remember World War II and the smaller wars in its wake can recall years that were very, very bad. My grandfather, who died many years ago, regarded Yankees as the standard of evil to measure the Japs and the Huns against. (Before he died, he had begun to think well of the Japs and the Huns.)

Comparisons are but thin consolation. If you have one foot in a fire and the other in a bucket of ice, a statistician could tell you that on average, you're warm. But we must take comfort wherever we can find it, and an anonymous Internet correspondent reminds me that some of us shouldn't even be here, given the givens. As Groucho Marx (the distinguished Dr. Hugo Z. Quackenbush) famously told his patient, as he was taking his pulse: "Either my watch has stopped, or you're dead."

Donate to JWR

Here's what my Internet correspondent reminded me of (and if you see it on the Internet, it must be so):

"According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s probably shouldn't have survived. Our mothers put us in cribs covered with bright-colored lead-based paint.

"There were no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bicycles into traffic (bike paths were unheard of), we had no helmets. If we didn't feel like pumping a bike up the hills, we could always hitch a ride with strangers. There were no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was particularly special.

"We drank water from an old garden hose, not from a bottle. One bottle of bellywash could be shared with up to four friends, drinking from the bottle, and no one died.

"We gorged on cakes, pies, candy, bread and butter, and anything we could find with lots of sugar in and on it, and we were never overweight because we were always running through the 'hood.

"We never heard of 'play dates,' and left home in the morning and played all day, and the only rule was to get home before the streetlights flickered on. No one could reach us because nobody had a cell phone.

"We spent hours building go-carts from lumber and nails scrounged from neighbors' garages and raced them down the hill to discover only at the bottom of the intersection that we forgot the brakes. Running into the bushes was good enough.

"We fell out of trees, played with BB guns until we got a .22 rifle on our 12th birthday, fought "war" with dirt clods, broke bones, lost teeth, stepped on nails and caught fishhooks in noses. Nobody's daddy had a lawyer.

"We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms, and most eyes survived intact (the worms didn't).

"We walked into our friends' houses whenever we felt like it. We chose up sides for ballgames, and if somebody didn't make the team, he learned to deal with it. There was nobody to counsel the losers (who would have felt insulted if there had been).

"The generations that suffered these deprivations made the best of it, producing the explosion of innovation and ideas that transformed the world.

"Kind of makes you want to run through the house with a pair of scissors, doesn't it?"

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

Wesley Pruden Archives

© 2004 Wes Pruden