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Fossil Dad: Tragedy from the frontline of the new reality

One of my best friends of 40 years passed away from COVID-19. We met in Los Angeles decades ago, when we were young and foolish, and he later followed me with his family to Seattle. We worked together, argued together, laughed together, dreamed together, ate together, flew to Greece together.
Taso Lagos is program director for Hellenic studies in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Photo credit: Patrick Luhrs.

Mill Creek resident Taso Lagos blogs about what it’s like being a middle-aged new parent in Mill Creek.

Dear Mill Creekers,

One of my best friends of 40 years passed away from COVID-19.

We met in Los Angeles decades ago, when we were young and foolish, and he later followed me with his family to Seattle. We worked together, argued together, laughed together, dreamed together, ate together, flew to Greece together, and each time we deepened our friendship. His last few years were difficult ones; a restaurant he opened did not succeed and it left him financially strained.           

Now this.

I wonder if matters could have been different. The Chinese doctor who first noted the virus in Wuhan and spread the word to colleagues was reprimanded by government officials. Valuable time was lost before their government kicked into gear and locked down affected areas.

I think about our leadership and how it initially reacted, knee jerk style, by labeling Democrats’ criticism of his handling of the situation a “hoax.” Others wondered if the Dems were not simply attempting to rid our president by virus after impeachment failed.

China and other Asian nations had a head start. We could see before our eyes the devastating impact of this evil virus. We wasted valuable time to prepare ourselves for the danger.

Now we are at the epicenter of this awful plague. We lead the world in infections and deaths. Who that I know will be next to die?

The buck once stopped at the White House. No longer. Everyone else is to blame. The World Health Organization, for politicizing the virus. Governor Andrew Cuomo and all the other state leaders who took swift action against the virus. Let’s shut down Congress, instead, and make life difficult for voters.  And rip up our Constitution and really have some fun!

I was young when Greece came under military dictatorship. I saw army jeeps enter my village, stop at the home of one man while he ate dinner with his family, throw out his furniture and haul him away. Never to be seen again. No search warrant. Just disappearance.

We left for America, the wonder land, after this. The day we arrived my father bent down on his hands and knees and kissed the doormat of the little apartment where we stayed. No dictatorship here.  Liberty, life and the pursuit of dreams. And we pursued. My parents ran a successful restaurant. We are an American success story.

The current leadership is wanted by many folks who must think they'd died and gone heaven right now. For these women and men, no greater leader in history exists than the man in the White House.

I am not one of them. Not after my friend died.

Greece is a tiny country. It is still bankrupt after a decade of economic ruin. Yet, it stepped up to fight the virus. A country dependent on tourism for survival shut its doors and requires written permission from local police authorities for anyone to go outside. As of this writing, there are about 2,200 infections and just over 100 deaths there. Compared to neighbors Italy and Turkey and compared to us, miniscule.  The country’s economy will shrink around 5 to 10% as a result. Yet, lives saved.

Is America no longer America? 

On my daily constitutional, I pass friendly neighbors and regularly see signs of decency and care. I related the words sprayed on the sidewalk last week. Then this on a fence along 132nd near Thomas Lake Center: “The end is near.” Not the world collapsing but the disease receding. Even the Nobel Peace Prize-winning clerks at my local Bartell smile these days.

I don’t need a politician’s speech to tell me we are a decent, peace-loving, honest people. But why does our leadership no longer reflect these values?

Presidents do awful things to keep our nation strong. Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and was a dictator to keep the nation united. The master manipulator Franklin Roosevelt tried everything in his power, and more, to get the country back to work. It took World War II for him to succeed. You could argue with their methods, but they led in difficult times.

I feel unsafe. Our leaders work for the privileged. The law doesn’t know equality. I worry my daughter will grow up ignoring the power of her vote. The color of your skin matters. We no longer light the world.

So, this missive. It’s the least I can do for a country that gave us so much, that I love so much, that gave us hope when none existed. The incompetence of the military colonels in Greece finally did them in. Lives were lost.

I just don't want to lose any more friends.

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