Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Of Floods and the End of the World

The Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis, Tennes...

Image via Wikipedia

    For the umpteenth time, we’re told the Second Coming of Christ is imminent, this time on May 21 of this year. That’s the coming Saturday. So say some 1200 billboards nationwide, at a cost of $13 million.

The ugly thing about this prospect is that certain people will be taken up to heaven while the rest are left to a terrible fate, which is not a happy thought. So while some people will be okay, it means the end of the world as we know it.

    Actually, it’s already come to an end for some, given the Mississippi River’s latest rampage. I grew up on its banks and am here to say: it’s one kick-ass river. Those who set up shop or farm nearby know that one day they’re gonna get dope-slapped right out of home and livelihood. They’re very clear about that but when it comes, it still feels like Armageddon, big-time.

In the 1920s and 30s its floods set the standard by which today’s is measured and found to come up just short. A man named Herbert Hoover worked for the federal government at the time and dragged his feet on helping black citizens who were getting washed away. They had been Republicans since Lincoln but Hoover’s Folly made them Democrats ever since.

    An uncle of mine by marriage had been a grocer in what is now a godforsaken burg in southern Illinois named Olive Branch. After the Mighty Mississipp’ wiped him out he blamed God and never again darkened the door of a church. That made him a two-time loser, since blaming God for anything is as useful as spitting into the wind.

    He was also racist, and thence moved on to Cairo, IL which they pronouce “Kay-ro,” like the syrup, and why I don’t know since it’s named after a great Egyptian city. He liked Cairo because a white minority kept all the blacks from getting anywhere.

    As a kid, I saw countless cars packed with black folks going to and from church or on Sunday drives, tailpipes belching great clouds of smoke, and opined to my folks that if they ever got mad, they could take over the town. They laughed, but years later that’s just what happened: Cairo turned into an OK Corral and buildings burned like Gen. Sherman had just gone through.

    You’ll notice that just a few days ago the government took a page of advice from the Hoover days and breached a levee on the Missouri side in order to save, you guessed it: Cairo, Illinois. No sense making those folks Republican again.

    Long before that, my dear uncle had taken flight again to another town nearby where blacks were his sole clientele, but he never gave up thinking that, besides God, they were what was wrong with the world.

    We know now that the River has gone on to take further toll at Memphis (no way to mispronounce that) while on its way to Vicksburg and New Orleans, the latter a city convinced that God has it in for them. And to think that till recent years the Mississippi had been at low stages.

    The people who think Jesus arrives May 21 forget he said that even he didn’t know when that would be. That’s pretty much true for all bad surprises. The world is always ending for someone, somewhere, and so it has always been: history’s great plagues (and threats of them today: weren’t you just in a long line for your last vaccination?); world wars; tsunamis, earthquakes, acts of terror, and all the times the Red Sox lost playoffs or world series. One way or another, life’s a bitch and then we die.

    Not that reading about end-times isn’t fun. As with May 21, it takes one doofus with a gift of gab, add a bunch of impressionable people, give them some face-time on media, and therein hangs a silly tale. But we’ve seen it all before.

    The attraction was understandable when life was brief, cheap and there was no Lady Gaga. Death followed hard on the heels of birth, and there was no justice in between. Or as Thomas Hobbes put it: life was nasty, brutish and short. But not today, so why is looking for the end of the world a viable option? I credit, in part, certain institutions of lower learning, like some seminaries and Bible colleges.

    This is not to say the worst won’t happen sometime. An asteroid will do. Our sun is less of a worry, being billions of years from burning out; but that’s little comfort when you take out a mortgage on a home.

    Then there are those big and little deaths that come while we’re just hanging out on this mortal coil. Death itself is the end of every person’s world, and loss of love or a job can make anyone feel they’ve been whacked by Fate.

    So the world doesn’t have to come to an end all at once. It does quite well a little bit at a time. And when someone else falls out of the boat, we should pay attention to the splash. It could be us next time, whether by flood or asteroid.

    As for May 21, those of us not around the Mississippi River will probably sleep as well as any other day.

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One Response to “Of Floods and the End of the World”

  1. The heavy snow-pack has lead to swollen rivers and flooding in the mid-section of Canada as well but since most Canadians are secular I doubt that there are many “End of the world” bill-boards up maybe with the exception of a few crazed Evangelicals in Alberta. In the area I visit and have property , 2 lakes some 20 miles apart look like one and the lake-front properties are flooded. Some of us have the good luck to be high on the banks and won’t have to commence building an ark. Guess we should thank the Force or The Ground of all Being (as Unitarians say) for that. Hoover was worse than I knew and certainly helps to explain why Roosevelt was so well loved and revered. Even my Canadian parents heavily grieved his death.


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