What does a 17th century nursery rhyme have to do with the current political situation facing the United States? There may be more parallels that you realize.
Long before there was social media or even newspapers, people managed to convey political or social messages in what seemed like innocuous ways. One of these was through nursery rhymes. This history of some of them is fascinating.
Did you know that “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” referred to Queen Mary I, otherwise known as “Bloody Mary.” According to the website rhymes.org.uk, the “silver bells and cockle shells” were euphemisms for instruments of torture, while the “pretty maids” were devices known at The Maiden used to execute people.
The nursery rhyme for this article is known as “Ring Around A Rosy” and describes the Great Plague of the 1600s. The verses are listed below:
Ring around a rosy,
Pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
One of the symptoms of bubonic plague are the large bubes, which resemble rosy splotches on the skin. In a vain attempt to ward off the disease, many people would fill their pockets with sweet smelling herbs and flowers, otherwise known as posies. But in the end, death was almost inevitable. Bodies were burned and buried in mass graves – ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
While there are differing theories, the commonly accepted cause for the transmission of the Plague, or the Black Death as it was also known, was by fleas who got it from infected rats.
There is a point to this history lesson. Today we are facing another, just as deadly plague, that is spreading throughout our country, and other countries in the world. That is the plague of Trumpism. And if you examine the parallels to the nursery rhyme, they are frightening.
Much like the Londoners of the 17th century, we can recognize the symptoms of Trumpism. The outbreak of overt racial and religious intolerance, something that those of us who had lived through the 1960s had hoped and prayed was a thing of the past, is just one of them.
The isolationist doctrine of “America First” didn’t work in the 1930s and is even less relevant in a world of global economics and geopolitics. Those who accused President Obama of “leading from behind” have yet to face the reality that we now have a president who no longer leads us anywhere. Our traditional role of “leader of the free world” has been openly abdicated to Germany and France.
Instead we have a president who embraces absolute monarchs like the King of Saudi Arabia and ruthless dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Edrogan of Turkey, and Duterte of the Philippines, while insulting our democratically elected allies in NATO.
The people of America need to wake up and realize that we are not just facing a national and international political crisis, we are fighting a plague that is invading the very fabric of our society. Sadly, there are still far too many who think that if they fill their pockets with sweet smelling flowers to mask the stench of the rotting corpses, all shall be well.
Not just ordinary citizens, but the leaders of Congress, along with the right-wing media like Fox News, think that sniffing the posies will keep them and us safe from disease when, in fact, they are themselves the rats carrying the plague of Trumpism, and through their words and actions (or inactions) are sending out the fleas to infect the rest of us.
There is a treatment for this plague, although many might deny it. It is called the truth. Only by speaking truth to power, and calling out Donald Trump on every single one of his daily and irresponsible lies can we hope to stop the spread of this disease. That it has already infected the body politic cannot be denied. But there is still a remedy, if we have the time left. That is to turn out the Republican Party, the party of diseased rats, from power.
We need leaders in Congress who will use the weapon of the truth to protect our nation and the world. As the prescient author George Orwell, writer of the book “1984” said “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Should we fail to act – should we fail to stop the spread of this plague – then our fate, like those of the victims of the Black Death will be sealed. And like them:
“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”