Does Anyone Ever Win a War?

In the book I am currently reading, two of the characters are talking about wars generally as well as World War II specifically. About the latter, one fellow says with great satisfaction, “We won that one.” The other responded, “So they say.”

Which makes me wonder: does anyone ever win a war? I know what we are supposed to believe, that yes, wars are won, but when you count up all the losses, can even a significant victory be considered a victory?

Which then led me to remember those times when soldiers killed innocent people. In a war, is anyone innocent? Is anyone guilty? Aren’t the soldiers innocent, too, at least those who were drafted? You force a kid to fight, you arm him or her, send her into battle when perhaps all the kid wants to do is sit and read or play football or watch movies, and then the leaders of the countries — the only ones who should bear the guilt of war — sit back and play a war game with real people. So, from that stand point, aren’t the draftees innocent, too?

It always irritates me when people say humans are a war-loving lot, because the truth is, most of us abhor violence and wars and being forced to do what we don’t want to do. When the draft was instigated in WWI, many of the draftees simply ignored the notices. The war had nothing to do with them or with protecting their families, their counties, their states, and they had more important things to do, such as raising crops or raising a family or perhaps even raising Cain in a localized manner. To force these kids to do their duty, the government took action and went after the slackers. Even those who registered as conscientious objectors were thrown into prison, where some died of the privations and harsh discipline

Sometimes, those who didn’t want to go to war were coerced to register by the women who, of course, didn’t have to go to war and who believed the romantic ideal of war that was being propagated.

I never considered those who enlisted as innocent, especially in recent years, because they should have known what they were getting into, but considering the ongoing propaganda, the lies that were told to get folks to enlist (that they can choose their assignments, they can learn the trade they want, that it’s simply a job opportunity, that that it’s primarily a way to earn their way into an educational system), and even the court involvement (being given a choice of jail or the military) I don’t even know any more about the innocence or guilt of the enlistees.

As for our natural human propensity for killing: In WWII, the kill rate was low, with many of the soldiers firing wildly on purpose, or not firing at all, so the war-mongering leaders set out to fix that. The simplest and least intrusive way was simply to switch the classic round target with the silhouette of a person, but some people were also subjected to various war games (the origin of video games) and by the time Vietnam came around, the kill rate was high, and the number of people refusing to shoot was low.

So who here is innocent? Who is guilty? Who won?

I don’t know the answer. I don’t imagine anyone does.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Too Much Time Alone?

The book I am currently reading is about a computer genius, which makes me wonder: what did computer geniuses do before computers? Were those the folks back in prehistoric times who notched rocks to tally up goods or time or simply as the development of mathematical thought? Or were these the folks the village idiots, unable to do anything practical because the tools of their trade had not yet been developed? Or perhaps these are the folks in insane asylums, banging their heads against the walls because they have no other way of processing the codes they can see inside their minds?

Or did our brains evolve along with the computer? Since obviously there was no need for computer geniuses until the computer was invented, did the universe or natural selection or whatever it is that decides these things, keep our brain development in line with our tool development?

Can you tell I am spending too much time alone? With no other stimulation than the books I read, the computer game I play, or interacting with people via this blog, I am pretty much left to my own devices, which means wondering about foolish things.

It could be worse, though. I talked to an acquaintance today who was off work for two months battling The Bob.

I’m always hesitant to wish for things because whoever it is or whatever it is that grants our wished is utterly diabolical. A couple of months ago, this person wished he had more time at home with his wife, and do I need to tell you what happened? Yep, both got sick, so they got to spend a lot of time together.

They’re both mostly doing okay now, which is nice because others I know didn’t survive.

Since I no longer follow any news source, my only news comes in the form of sporadic gossip, so I don’t know the truth of this or not, but supposedly, they are expecting The Bob to be around and causing havoc for the next seven years.

Ouch.

I do have hermit tendencies, but seven years of mostly being isolated? At the end of that time, the questions spinning around my head probably won’t be anywhere near as cogent as the ones plaguing me now.

But who knows — by then, I might even have come up with a few answers.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Saying “No” to Outrage

In a cold war spy novel I am currently reading, I came across the sentence, “Outrage is a luxury available only in the West.” It was meant to explain the stolidity of the Russian workers, and I might not have even noticed the sentence if not for all the outrage that is so prevalent. Outrage in the USA is growing, and was most especially noticeable during the last presidency. Too many people thought they were the only ones who knew the truth, were the only ones who knew the best thing for the country. It didn’t matter what side of the line they were on, they were outraged at the folks on the other side for being liars, cheaters, racists, communists, sexist, for not caring enough about the poor, not caring enough about the economy, and on and on and on.

Outrage has been called a drug, one we really can get addicted to because it makes us feel smarter than other people, more in the know, more powerful. When outraged folk make comments, in their mind, it’s not opinion, it’s fact, even though the comment is no such thing — no matter how widespread, an opinion is just that — what something assumes is the truth.

Even worse are the outraged folks who do “research,” which means they read an article or two on the internet that solidifies their opinion.

Worst of all, of course, are those who try to ruin other people’s lives and careers because those other people deserve it for not agreeing with the current party line. And the person who did the ruining gets to feel puffed up and self-righteous when all they are is ignorant and arrogant.

Still, whatever the truth of the assertion that outrage is a luxury available only in the West, and however dangerous outrage is, outrage does seem to be one of the last freedoms we have.

Over the years, our freedoms have gradually been eroded in the name of safety. (Which is why I wrapped the story of Bob, The Right Hand of God around the theme of freedom vs safety. How much freedom we’re willing to give up for safety, and how much safety we’re willing to give up for freedom.)

Until outrage came along, the mainstay of freedom was the ability to say “no,” which is basically a power of the powerless, but gradually, that freedom is being taken away. For example, at the moment, it’s a choice whether one gets the current vaccine, though some people want to make it mandatory. In other words, saying “no” is no longer always possible. We’re so used to going along with the flow, doing what we’re told, that most of us no longer even think to say “no,” even when it is possible.

So what’s left is outrage. A luxury, perhaps. A freedom still.

Personally, I have no interest in being outraged about anything, which is why, except to see if someone left me a comment, I no longer spend any time on Facebook, watching the news, reading novels based on current policies, or anything that might draw me into the outrage culture.

It’s simply not worth it.

Luckily, I still have the freedom to say, “no.”

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Cold War Spy Story

I’m reading a spy novel from the early eighties. Back then, the story would have been straight from the news and a real nail biter. Many decades later, I would have thought it would be more of a curiosity than a compelling novel. After all, there was that whole glasnost and perestroika thing in the late eighties, which should have relegated all these old cold war era book obsolete, but here we are, once again, in a competition with the Russians.

And so this old book is, for the second time, straight from the news.

I’m still rather mystified by the whole thing. I mean, there we were in the nineties and aughts, one big happy family, with only the middle eastern terrorists spiking our Kool-Aid. Makes me wonder what the heck is really going on now.

To be honest, the cold war conflict wasn’t much of a war. Oh, we were told it was, and the newspapers did their job of riling up folks, but behind it all, if you dig deep enough, you can find western countries (most notably the USA), parceling out technology to both sides. Apparently, Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex” was too complex to willingly let go of all the power they’d garnered during WWII and then Korea. And so they kept us frantic about the possibility of a wide-scale nuclear conflict. (Nu-clee-ar, not nuc-u-lar!) [If you’re curious, Anthony C. Sutton, a British-American economist, historian, professor, and writer, was one of the incredibly knowledgeable researchers who tended to find out the truth of such matters.]

Still, the cold war hostilities did come to an end for whatever reason. Probably because nuclear power became old hat. Other means of annihilation are so much more efficient. Just think what would happen if some erstwhile favored country didn’t like the USA’s new economics policy that tried to even out the trade deficit, and instead of unleashing their nuclear weapons in a great show of force, they gradually let out a lethal bio-weapon that killed off the old and feeble rather than the young and healthy as the old way of war did. A lot of people would become causalities of a war they didn’t even know was being so stealthily fought.

Of course, that could never happen to such news savvy people as we are.

And anyway, we are back to the old days where Russia is once again the enemy. I have no idea what happened to glasnost and perestroika. Apparently, I was so busy reading about the past, I neglected to keep up with the present, so it came as a shock to find that Russia is once again up to their old anti-American spy tricks. (Or perhaps being put up to their old tricks?)

The end of the movie Blast from the Past was supposed to be humorous, with good old Christopher Walken unable to believe the truth that the Russians were no longer the enemy. Knowing how wily they were, he immediately began planning a new bomb shelter to protect his family from them. And what do you know — the ending of the movie turns out to be less than simply humorous and a lot more prescient.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

Yang and Yanger

When I was young, I thought the world would be a different place when women began to run things. Oh, my — what was I thinking?

Looking back, I suppose I was thinking that the women who would achieve leadership would bring feminine attributes to the position, a mother earth (or earth mother) who sees all, gently ushers us to peace and prosperity, shows us the way to kindness and caring, displays wisdom and understanding and especially creativity — an outflowing of life-giving forces that take us where we need to be.

Instead, what we have are a whole slew of Lucrezia Borgias and Lizzie Bordens. Women who will do anything to achieve their ends (their ends, not our ends), to do what is best for them (best for them, not best for us). Women who, it seems, will bludgeon us with their power and if that doesn’t work, they’ll bring out the axes. (I’m probably maligning Lucrezia and Lizzie for the sake of parallelism, but they were the first names that come to mind for examples of women who are seen as more vicious than men.)

I know the consensus is that women have to be more ruthless than men (unless you were a supreme court judge, then you needed to be simply ruth), stronger and more aggressive to get ahead, but if this is the case, then what do we need women in power for? We already have men playing those games. Instead of the balance of yin and yang, we now have yang and yanger. This doesn’t bode well for a well-rounded world, which, in fact, isn’t round but is an oblate spheroid or oblate ellipsoid, but you get my point.

Their point, the point of those in power, that is, has nothing to do with a well-rounded society at peace with itself and the world. It has everything to do with . . .

I had to stop here and think. What is the point of those in power? What are they trying to gain? More power for themselves, of course, as well as a ton of money, but other than that, I haven’t a clue. All I know is that both men and women are struggling for a power that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with making us or our lives better.

It’s disappointing to me (the me that was once young and idealistic) that women are settling for so little. I thought we were better than that.

Apparently not.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

The Death of Satire

Satire cannot live in a world that is already an exaggeration. This world is already lampooning itself by its very existence, provides a daily example of egregious stupidity and unbelievable irony.

For example, at the end of January, travel from China was restricted in an effort to help stop the spread of The Bob into the USA. Back then, this was considered to be an overreaction, and yet today, people are screaming that this administration underreacted. Huh? Can’t have it both ways. Though I could be mistaken.

Then, when the riots came, people started screaming that the president wasn’t doing anything to stop them, ignoring the fact that this is still The United STATES of America, and states have some autonomy, less than what was planned by the founders, more than what the big government folks want. As of now, unless the governors invite federal intervention (or unless a state of emergency is declared as well as a few other exceptions), a president cannot simply send troops to invade a state.

Those aren’t especially good examples. A better example was laid out in an article I read today about Minneapolis defunding their police department. Now the council members don’t understand why crime is rising and why the police aren’t doing anything. Really? What did they think was going to happen? Did they think the presence of the police caused crime and removing them would immediately remove incidences of crime? Logic 101 — lawlessness equals lawlessness.

How can you possibly lampoon any of this? You can’t. Reality has killed satire. Done for. Dead. There’s no need for satire when the whole world reads like a satiric novel.

If all the ridiculousness was of a civil or political nature, that would be one thing, but it’s not. The past couple of days, we’ve had cloudless days here in Colorado, but the skies aren’t clear. We’re gasping in the smoky west coast air. It’s not as bad here, a thousand miles away, as it is there, but it’s enough to make breathing difficult and to obscure the beautiful blue September sky.

I remember when I went to California to look after my dad, I mentioned to some people there that when I had lived on the western slope of Colorado, I could always tell when there were forest fires in California because I could smell them. People thought I was absurd, and absolutely refused to give any credence to my explanation of air currents. But here we Coloradans are, suffocating in western coast smoke.

One final example of a world gone beyond satire — here it is almost winter, and my spring bulbs decided to pop up. Perhaps they thought that snowstorm we had was winter, and the warm days presage spring. Who knows. All I know is that there that jaunty bit of greenery sits.

And I know that satire has been out-satired by reality.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

A Relative State of Ignorance

A friend texted me yesterday after reading my blog post. She seemed to take exception to my final sentence (Besides, nothing in this new world is more redundant than an old woman, no matter how perspicacious her thoughts might be) and sent me information about Maggie Kuhn, the woman who started the Gray Panthers, as an example of how important an old woman’s ideas can be.

My response? “And yet here we are, still redundant.”

I went on to say, “Actually, I should have qualified my half-facetious closing remark to refer to what’s going on today. In a war for the hearts and minds of the young, the old don’t matter. By the time their brave new world is operational, I’ll be dead.” Though, come to think of it, with the way things are changing so rapidly, I might still be alive enough to be affected by that world. Not a pleasant thought!

I also told my friend: “I have a hard time dealing with things today that I thought were taken care of in my youth, like civil rights, women’s rights, elder rights, environmental issues, and Russian conflicts. It was really a shock after living in the cocoon of Jeff’s illness and death and my grief to come out of it into a world that seems to have regressed tremendously. Russia an enemy? Really? What happened to Glasnost? And civil rights riots? Really? I thought that things had improved, but according to some sources, it’s even worse now than in our younger days.”

She responded: “I couldn’t agree more. The cultural information is not being passed down, I have felt for some time. And each newly read or watched program feels like another piece of who I thought we were as a country and any good memories I do have are taken away. So very hard to put it into words. And never have so many marched for so long in my memory and then I realize they can — because of the pandemic they are unemployed.”

My response: “Funny. I just came to that very same realization yesterday about protests and the pandemic. It’s hard for me to try to refrain from putting a conspiratorial slant on things.”

Her brilliant comment: “Isn’t it? The only thing that saves me is the thought that if we could work together to put on a worldwide pandemic successfully, SURELY we would have made a better world.”

Me again: “What worries me is that this is exactly the world we (they) want.”

The more I think about it, the more some sort of conspiracy seems to be a real possibility, and that the riots (oh, excuse me, the “mostly peaceful protests”) were spontaneously on purpose scheduled for this very time.

Beyond that, it’s not just about the information not being handed down or being unheeded. It’s not just that we thought things were progressing on all the various “rights” fronts and so we forgot about it.

There’s something more at work, and the only thing I can think of is that social progress was not just stalled but undone. Apparently, it’s hard to keep building a power base on the backs of the oppressed if the oppressed are no longer oppressed. So the plan seems to have been to re-oppress people so they can be re-unoppressed. Hence the déjà vu times we are living in. (Déjà vu to us older folks. Something brand new and radical to younger ones.)

Whether I’m right or way, way wrong, I’m beginning to see a bigger picture, big enough maybe, that I can stop thinking about all this, put it to rest in my mind, and go back to my relative state of ignorance, which isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Benjamin Hardy PhD believes that selective ignorance is a good thing. “It’s not the avoidance of learning. It’s also not the avoidance of getting feedback. It’s simply the intelligence of knowing that with certain things and people, the juice will never be worth the squeeze. It’s knowing what to avoid.”

And to me, a lot of what is going on the world today is best avoided even in my thoughts.

I just hope I can act on this resolve for ignorance!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Odds and Ends

Yesterday I got the courage to get down on the floor to do some stretching exercises. Ever since I damaged my left knee, I haven’t ventured to floor in case I couldn’t get back up. Although I am right-handed, I am left-legged, and I didn’t want to stress the knee. It was a bit iffy, but I managed to get back on my feet. Oddly, it was harder getting down than up. I’m not going to try it again for a while. I’ll continue to do other knee exercises, as well as walking. I walked a mile today — walked, not trudged! The muscles around the knee are a bit sore, but I hope that they will soon get back in shape.

Do you care? Probably not. I don’t blame you. Other people’s ills get to be a bore.

I’m sure my talk of the tarot is every bit as boring. The only interesting thing (to me, anyway) is that except for an occasional card warning me not to take things for granted, to accept what comes, to live each day to the fullest, and to make good choices when it comes to opportunity, most of the cards speak of harmony, of peace, of good fortune, of being in the right place. It’s possible I’d read these things into any card because that’s my current situation. Also, if I don’t like the first interpretation I find, I search around for another interpretation. (For example, the ten of swords is a card of death and misfortune, but since I refused to accept such a meaning, I delved deeper and found that the card could also mean a renewal or even simply accepting your present circumstances.)

I mentioned yesterday I’ve been reading a series of spy/adventure novels. I remember back in the days of Glasnost thinking that a whole genre of cold war spy novels, Russia vs the USA, had suddenly become defunct, and that sure seemed to be true. In the following years, spy novels centered more on the Mideast, which killed any interest I had in the genre. But now, all these years later, those old Russia vs. USA novels are current again. And the mention in one of these book about the Chinese and their bioweapons program sure struck a chord.

Come to think of it, at the beginning of The Bob, people talked about the Chinese being held accountable, and then suddenly, that whole topic of news disappeared. I wonder what that’s about? I could create all sorts of scenarios based on these old spy books, but to be honest, it doesn’t really matter where it came from. It’s here, it’s killing people as well as destroying a way of life and the world economy, and no reparations can ever make up for all the problems it caused. (Hmm. I didn’t realize I’d adopted such a laissez faire attitude. Maybe it’s because I’m abstaining from the nastiness of Facebook.)

For some reason, the sun yesterday was exceptionally hot. It seared my skin and desiccated the plants that had been watered the day before. All summer, watering every other day was fine, and yesterday? Not the hottest day of the year, but it sure seemed like it!

Today is supposed to be a bit cooler, though I’m glad I got my walking in early. And my blogging. Now I can sit back and read for the rest of the day.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Feeling Incredibly Old

I haven’t admitted to being old, only to growing older. The way I figure, the “elderly” moniker comes next birthday when I reach that age when I can no longer fudge the demographics to convince myself I’m not old, that I’m just in late, late, late middle age.

But now I’m feeling incredibly old. And disheartened. And vulnerable. Admittedly, the vulnerability comes from a slowly-heeling bum knee that has nothing to do with anything that is going on in the world, but all the rhetoric about protecting the elderly (of whom, apparently, I am one, at least according to The Bob statistics) has put me firmly in the old age category, and not being able to easily get around offers additional proof.

Even worse than all that is the truth — I’ve lived through pandemics, large outbreaks of terrifying and highly infectious diseases, horrendous flu seasons, wide-scale disseminations of dubious vaccinations that came close to being mandated. Comparatively speaking, The Bob is just another over-exploited, would-be end of the world scenario that was conveniently forgotten when a more immediate (and more obvious) threat came into being.

I’ve lived through violent times, too. Protests, both political and racial; civil unrest; fathers fighting sons; riots; burning; looting; terrorist tactics perpetrated by US citizens on US citizens. I’ve also seen men with criminal records upheld as heroes because of cop brutality, as if being beaten up or killed suddenly erases their unsavory past. (Oddly, both men at the heart of two of the worst race riots were substance abusers who perpetrated crimes on women — one was a wife beater and abuser, the other a man who once held a knife to a pregnant woman’s belly while his friends ransacked and looted her house.)

Too much, too much, too much.

It’s hard to remember that for many people, all of this — The Bob and the riots (and yes, a riot by any other name is still a riot) — is new.

A young man waited on me the other day when I went to the store, a new employee, who I hadn’t yet met. I didn’t know the etiquette of the situation —I wasn’t sure if I should reach out because of what was going on or simply ignore our skin color differences and pretend all was well in the world — so I did what I always do: err on the side of connection.

I asked if he was okay, and made a gesture indicating the world at large. He gave me a closed-off look and turned away from me. Then, apparently deciding to answer in kind, he looked at me and smiled and said, “Thank you for asking. I’m okay here in this bubble.” (And it does seem as if this area is a protective bubble.) Then, with tears in his eyes, he admitted that he was worried because even though he was safe, he had family in big cities. I offered words of sympathy, and he responded, “But everything will be better after this.”

That’s when I realized I really am old, not just in years, but in experience. Things might be better after this — I suppose it’s possible. But I’ve seen too much, been around too long, been pulled this way and that by too many power struggles of all kinds (including those in the volatile interracial neighborhood I grew up in) — to believe in easy answers and simple words.

One good thing about being old — I don’t have to pretend to have any answers. I can leave the world to the young, and maybe that’s as it should be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Unspeakable Truths

I don’t know the truth of what’s going on. No one knows, though most of us read a few articles, see a few videos, watch the news, talk to friends, and so we think we do. Not even the people the “conspiracy theorists” think are behind the current situation know the truth. There are folks so deeply entrenched into the power structure of the world economy and have been for so many years, that we see only their minions.

Although I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, I have spent most of my life researching conspiracies, trying to find the truth. (Keep in mind that researching back then wasn’t a matter of googling a few sites and watching a couple of videos. It meant books, and books, and more books. It meant studying research papers and tracking information through various sources.)

That’s all I’ve ever been interested in — the truth. Whether it’s the truth of religion, politics, history, science, life, death, it’s all fair game to me. Truth has been a lifelong pursuit. In fact, when I was in eighth grade, we were assigned to create the front page of a newspaper, including headlines, articles, etc. My newspaper was all about the meaning of nursery rhymes, and back then it took some digging to find out some of those meanings. For example, “Ring-around the rosy” originated as a rhyming song about the black death —“We all fall down.” Mary, Mary, quite contrary supposedly tells a grim tale about Mary Tudor.

One thing I did learn during a lifetime of research (two lifetimes if you include Jeff’s historical research in addition to mine) is that often a so-called conspiracy is merely a plan someone or a group of someones makes and doesn’t tell anyone.

Is what’s going on today fulfilling some people’s agendas? Probably. However it started, however anything starts — whether by accident or design — there is always someone who is ready to make a profit from it, either in money or power. There will also always be people who believe there is an agenda even if they can’t agree on what that agenda might be, and there will always be those who don’t. It doesn’t make a difference, really. We still have to deal with each day as it comes and to protect ourselves however we can.

Although I have been trying to find out how some influential people are using this situation to promote themselves and their businesses (destroying small businesses in the process), I don’t know if I care what the truth is. Whether this is the simple pandemic we’re told it is or whether there is some nefarious purpose behind it, knowing won’t change anything. Besides, the truth doesn’t always set us free. Sometimes it only serves to make us sad and weary and so very, very discouraged.

When I was writing A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about biological warfare that mirrors this situation in sometimes eerie ways, I needed a substory and, as often happens, I found a clue in the very next book I read, and the pursuit of that clue led me to a place called Pingfan and added a depth to my novel I could never have imagined.

By that time, I thought my knowledge of man’s and woman’s inhumanity to their own kind made me shockproof, but even I was appalled to learn about Pingfan. For those who have read A Spark of Heavenly Fire — no, I did not create Pingfan. I don’t have that sort of inhumane brain. General Ishii created the place.

General Ishii was the leader of the Japanese germ warfare program. It’s ironic, but the Japanese had no interest in biological warfare until the Geneva Protocol’s 1932 ban on biological weapons. Ishii concluded the ban meant they were an effective means of fighting a war, so he persuaded the imperial army to let him establish a biological warfare installation. The army granted permission in 1937.

They built the installation in Manchuria near a village called Pingfan, forty miles outside of Harbin, and it was huge—a town in itself, actually, and self-supporting. In addition to living quarters and the research facilities, which included a separate compound for plague research, there was a school, a railroad siding, an administration building, a crematorium, a powerhouse, a hospital, an airbase, and farms for raising food and livestock. A high wall topped with barbed wire hid the facility from view. A moat lay beyond the wall to trap any intruders, and an electrified fence surrounded the inner perimeter to prevent escapes.

Three thousand doctors, scientists, technicians, and soldiers worked there. The output was staggering. They grew and experimented with all kinds of diseases and bio-weapons. And they had the capacity for producing twenty million doses of vaccine annually. Radiating out from Pingfan were eighteen other biological warfare stations, each staffed with three hundred people. Many of those stations were on mainland China. The whole program was administered by an organization with the innocuous name of Boeki Kyusuibu, which means Anti-Epidemic Water Supply Unit.

The Japanese conducted their experiments on Chinese villagers and POWs—mostly Chinese, but also American, British and Australian prisoners. (Many of the soldiers from the Bataan death march ended up there.)

Hundreds of American POWs died torturous deaths, and if by chance any of them survived one experiment, they were immediately put to use in another. Thousands upon thousands of Chinese were also killed—at least a hundred thousand, perhaps as many as a million—but the Japanese admitted to only a thousand. (And now the Chinese have their own bio-labs.)

The Japanese conducted all sorts of experiments.

Using planes, they scattered rice and wheat mixed with plague.

They dropped anthrax bombs designed to shatter into a thousand pieces of shrapnel. A single scratch from one of those fragments caused death in ninety percent of its victims.

They injected their victims with diseases, fed them cultures of diseases, exposed them to clouds of diseases in gas chambers, then killed them at various stages of the diseases, and performed autopsies on them. They performed some autopsies while the victim still lived.

They poisoned thousands of wells in Manchuria with cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Interestingly, a regiment of Japanese soldiers unknowingly drank from one of those wells. Thousands died.

They also infected fleas with botulism, put them in balloons, and let them go, hoping they’d reach the United States. Many of the balloons did reach the western coast, but luckily the fleas had all died.

In addition to bacteriological experiments, the doctors had conducted experiments on frostbite. Victims were taken outside in the coldest months of the year and forced to immerse their hands and feet in barrels of cold water. They were kept outside until their extremities froze, then were taken back inside so the doctors could investigate means of treating frostbite.

The doctors had also done blood work experiments. In an effort to discover if blood other than human could be used to treat wounded soldiers, prisoners had been drained of their own blood and infused with horse’s blood. All died.

After the war, Ishii ended up in the custody of the United States. He told them about his germ warfare program in exchange for immunity. The U.S. concluded that the potential benefits of the research outweighed the demands of justice. No war crimes were ever brought against Ishii, and the whole thing was covered up. Ishii retired to a village named Wakamatsu-cho, where he lived on a pension provided by the U.S. government until his death in 1959.

None of the other doctors involved ever charged with war crimes, either.

The pathology squad leader who had conducted live autopsies became a professor at Kyoto University. He later became a professor emeritus of the university and a medical director of the Kinki University at Osaka.

The doctor who had fed typhoid germs in milk to prisoners, and who had been responsible for certain types of germ bombs, became a professor of bacteriology at Kyoto University.

The frostbite expert joined the faculty of Kyoto Prefectural Medical College and later became its president.

The premier germ bomb expert joined the Japanese National Institute of Health, where he continued his bacteriological research.

The hematologist opened a blood bank that eventually became one of the most successful multi-national medical supply and pharmaceutical companies in the world.

The only reason any of this became public knowledge is that many years later, when some of the American victims applied for help through the VA, they were told their records were sealed, and that what they had experienced had never happened. They fought for their truth, and won.

Was that the end? Of course not. There’s always someone trying to make a bad thing worse. For example, the Russians built an underground facility capable of growing eighty to one hundred tons—tons!—of the smallpox virus every year. Even worse, they modified it genetically, combining the smallpox with Ebola and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, a brain virus. Worst of all, the collapse of the Soviet Union left hundreds of biological research scientists unemployed. Many of them took the smallpox with them when they went to work for other countries like Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, India, and maybe even Israel and Pakistan. And of course, the United States.

So, do I think some powerful people are using this current situation for their own ends? You bet. Do I know that those ends are? I can guess, but even that would fall short of the truth, because some truths are so horrific and unspeakable that only masterful psychopaths can imagine them. I no longer even have the heart to write about such crimes, which is why only my first four books are based on various conspiracies.

If you’re interested in reading A Spark of Heavenly Fire, it’s still available as a free download from Smashwords. Click here to get your free ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.