It all started the other day when I turned on the radio in my car and the newscaster said: “President Trump said today …”
I never even heard what it was that President Trump said. For that one instant I had this odd sensation that somehow, when I wasn’t paying close attention, I had been transported to an alternate universe.
President Trump? It took me a second to remember that, yes, we did have an election and, yes, he really did get elected.
I hadn’t quite gotten over this when I ran into a friend at the grocery store. He is involved in trying to find solutions to the heroin epidemic that has swept much of the country. Maybe, I thought, I didn’t get sent to an alternate universe, I just got sent back in time to the 1970s.
But no, that couldn’t be the case, because while I knew a lot of people who did drugs of one kind or another back then, almost none of them did heroin. That was for the real hard-core people. It was way too dangerous to mess with. I thought it had pretty much been replaced by other drugs over the years.
Yet here we are today with more deaths due to drug overdoses in this country than deaths due to firearms or auto accidents.
Heroin is really cheap these days. The drug cartels south of the border are shipping a lot more of it this way, in part because a nationwide crackdown on illegal use of prescription drugs has made them much more expensive. I guess it’s a kind of, “if you build it, they will come.”
More than a few stories have been written about how the war on terror has had an unintended consequence. The Taliban in Afghanistan actually discouraged poppy production and subsidized other crops. After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, farmers returned to growing poppies. The war on terror is bigger than the war on drugs, so little has been done to stop that increase in production. The result: lots of opium at cheaper prices.
I was still wondering how all this came about when my wife told me about some cases of whooping cough that she heard about in local schools. Wait a minute, I said, I thought whooping cough was virtually eliminated.
It turns out it almost was, but there are new mutant strands out there that seem to be able to get around vaccinations. Plus, modern versions of the vaccine just don’t do the job as well as the old ones — not to mention there are a growing number of people who refuse to get vaccinations at all. So whooping cough is making a comeback.
Here’s another one that hasn’t turned out the way we expected: When the Iron Curtain came down, it was going to herald a new age where humans all got along — and, since the U.S. was the only superpower left, everyone would listen to us.
We’re still fighting with the Russians and now you can add the Chinese in there, too, not to mention all those guys from the Middle East who are lobbing bombs all over the place. So much for world peace. It probably would be a cinch if it weren’t for human beings.
Other things that seem like they shouldn’t have happened? Well, the Cubs won the World Series. Talk about living in an alternate universe!
I guess what I’m trying to say is the only thing that is certain about this world is that it is a very uncertain place. The things we think are in our rearview mirror suddenly pop up again in the road in front of us. This probably has more to say about the human condition than it does any specific event. The weapons and the means of self-destruction might change, but the stories are basically the same.