The best and worst of times
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Some time ago maybe in March or April I used the word “godsend” in reference to world wars and Adolf Hitler. One of my readers texted to scold me. How dare I call Adolf Hitler a “Godsend”? I knew she did not understand what I meant so I did not reply. But predictably, I looked it up on Google. There I learned that “Godsend,” with a capital “G,” was the title of two movies — one horror, the other a tragedy — shown a long time ago. Then there is the word “godsend,” with a small “g,” which meant something like “a stroke of luck” or something “blessed,” neither of which I meant.

Somewhere in my soul, where I keep my list of definitions of English words because I’m an English writer, I sensed there were other meanings. I looked up the synonyms of the word “godsend” and found: “The best 17 synonyms for godsend, including benefit, gift, boon, blessing, scourge, bad fortune, setback, blow, bombshell, bad luck, boom and more.” I know I used the word to mean the noun “scourge,” which, according to Google has two meanings. One meaning is historical — an instrument of punishment, like a whip or a cat-o’-nine-tails or a strap, etc.  The other meaning is a person or thing that causes great trouble or suffering, as in “the scourge of mass unemployment.” It also means, among other things, “curse,” “plague,” “evil,” “cross to bear” or “thorn in one’s side.”

That’s the definition I meant to use when I wrote that the world wars, including but not limited to Adolf Hitler and the other bad characters of those wars, were “godsends,” meaning scourges on the world’s human populations. Who sends these scourges? In my mind and heart I know it is God. It is this belief that made me write the word godsend as “Godsend.”

How can I say that? Am I saying that God is capable of sending us punishment? Yes! As a good Catholic I know He does. He sent us His son and He punished His own son with crucifixion. Do you think He will spare us from punishment, especially when we all seem to be committing sin? Maybe He didn’t start the world wars but I am sure He decided when He would interfere, who would die and who would live. He hoped we would learn our lessons. Did we? In the beginning we did, but as time passed, we forgot again.

And now what we are seeing is the wrath of God. No world wars for us this time. We probably over-prepared for that. Just watch the Independence Day celebrations of other countries and note the number of soldiers, tanks, nuclear weapons they like to show off. This time God decided to send us a plague: COVID-19. A plague is another synonym for “scourge.” A plague is close to impossible to control. All we can do is follow the instructions: quarantine, wear masks, social distancing and prayer. Pray hard that God will save you because He is the only one who decides whether you live or die.

And this plague is complete. Strange leaders we have right now. One who is campaigning for reelection as his country is pushed downhill by COVID-19. In the US they have, as I write, three million sick, around 130,000 dead and there is no sign of improvement. The other obnoxious one has all sorts of schemes running around his leadership, signing into law bills in spite of much public protest, working surreptitious schemes to claim ownership of one of the country’s biggest networks. In Latin America the president has now revealed he has COVID-19 and has started to wear a mask. As their economies slide downhill, people lose their jobs, the poorest of the poor starve. What is the system that will help save the people who need saving? The leaders look up to the sky and inveigle to make their dreams come true.

For them, these must be the best of times. For us, these are the worst of times. That’s a paraphrased quote from A Tale of Two Cities that we studied when I was a freshman in high school. I only remember now that famous line about the best and the worst of times. It was something about the French Revolution, which brings to mind another unforgettable quote attributed to Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat cake.”

No, thank you, Marie Antoinette, and your new contemporary shadows. My husband and I prefer local sugar-free ice cream because we are both old and diabetic. We observe with our own eyes the old adage “History repeats itself” albeit with different approaches. Instead of World War III, a plague against which we have no nuclear weapons to quash. Instead we sit at home, watch television almost all day, pray earnestly in the morning and at night pray for our children and grandchildren, our friends, our staff, and the citizens of the world to please, please, please be saved.

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