Well, here we are on July 2, 2020, a few short days before the Fourth of July weekend and the fifth – or is it sixth?- month of the global pandemic caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. And because we live in a troubled and extremely divisive period exacerbated by Donald Trump’s woeful Presidency, I find it difficult to feel in any way like celebrating my country’s 243rd birthday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown, once and for all, the high price that all Americans, no matter what their beliefs – political, religious, or cultural – may be, are paying for the dark aftermath of the Vietnam/Watergate years. The conservative drift to the far right that began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 (which itself was a reaction to the way that Richard Nixon was forced to resign as a result of the Watergate scandal) has led us to the brink of a precipice, Trump and his enablers in and out of Congress are taking the nation into a path that will lead to a right-wing dictatorship where freedom of the press is stifled, opposition voices will be shouted down by the so-called “deplorables” who seem intent in creating a Christian theocracy straight out of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and don’t care if Vladimir Putin’s favorite puppet installs a one-party regime that benefits only Russia and the misbegotten Trump family.
Consider, for instance, the fact that the wearing of masks and following “social distancing” measures that are intended to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus have become a politically divisive issue rather than being universally embraced in order to flatten the curve.
While millions of Americans conscientiously buy or make their own masks and wear them whenever they go out to buy groceries and run essential errands, there are those (mostly conservative and totally idiotic) individuals who flat-out refuse to take prophylactic measures to stem the spread of the dangerous and contagious virus-borne disease.
In my home state of Florida, we are seeing a surge of new cases of COVID-19, most of them caused by (a) Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ refusal to issue statewide “mandatory mask use” orders and “reopening” the state in the middle of what is only the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and (b) selfish, thoughtless, and reckless fools who will not wear masks or stop their pre-pandemic behaviors.
Many Floridians (mostly liberals like me) have criticized DeSantis, Trump, and Republicans in general for their mishandling of one of the worst public health crises in world history, but ordinary citizens who are only interested in themselves are contributing to the spikes in COVID-19 cases.
As I wrote in a comment on an NBC News story about the sudden (but not unexpected) upsurge in new coronavirus cases in Florida and elsewhere:
We’re also in this because many – not all, but enough – Americans are acting like irresponsible children who think that the virus is not as dangerous as it is and put their own selfish desires ahead of the general welfare. It’s “Oh, I don’t care about other people’s health/safety. I want to get a haircut/see a movie/have drinks at a bar/go around without a face mask.” No,…the governors are NOT causing the worst economic crisis in the history of the planet. People besotted by the notion that “this is a free country and I’ll do as I please” are.
But the pandemic will continue to have a negative effect on the United States so long as there are “COVID-19 Minimizers” who say idiotic things like “It’s no different then the flu- if your [sic] worried stay home, I’m going to continue living my life like the majority of people I know and see everyday. I’m not living in fear. It’s a virus and viruses spread. We are going to continue living just like before. My dad is 70 and works everything, my mother is 68 retired and working part-time at dollar tree. Her part-time went from 3 days to 6 because there’s people who don’t want to work. My sisters, my kids, my nieces and nephews, ect. We are all out living our lives, and not stressing out. People should turn off their tv and love their neighbors, things would be much better then I’m sure. We don’t hide in the house or close the country for the flu so why now? I could understand at first because we didn’t have that much information but now we have the numbers and it’s a 98% per recovery rate and I’m sorry but I don’t feel the need to panic over that.”
Gaming Keeps Me Sane in an Insane World
So, yeah. in these weird and scary times, you have to find ways to stay sane and relatively content. Otherwise….
Although I prefer to be productive and write on a daily basis, I also like to relieve stress by playing computer games, especially those with aviation or military themes. (I do have a couple of Star Wars games, but I don’t play those as much.)
Today I saw that Steam had a sale for some games that I’d added to my Wishlist last year. I didn’t buy them then because one (Cold Waters) was still too “new” and – at $39.99 – too pricey for my taste, and the other one – Fleet Defender: The F-14 Tomcat Simulation – is a flight sim that might be a bit more complex than the ones I’m used to. (Well, that, and the fact that even though Tommo’s Retroism brand has made it compatible with Windows 10, the graphics are dated by today’s standards.) Well, the prices dropped just enough to justify the expense of using my credit card, so I ordered three games:
- 2017’s Cold Waters, Killerfish Games’ spiritual heir to MicroProse’s 1989 nuclear submarine warfare sim Red Storm Rising.
- 1994’s Fleet Defender: The F-14 Tomcat Simulation
- 1998’s Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3-D
As I’ve explained before, I can’t be online during the day unless the other people who live here don’t have to study or work remotely from home (which is why my weekday posts are usually published after 5 PM my time). So if I’m not in the mood to read books or listen to music on my Amazon Music app, I game. Not every day or even every week, but I do enjoy this pastime.
Oddly enough, Fleet Defender is one of the last games I bought in the 1990s at the Babbage’s store in the Miami International Mall. It was also a game that I never got to play; the two times that I tried installing it into my compatible MS-DOS-based PCs, it never worked. I followed all of the instructions in the manual’s section on installation and system requirements, but it just never booted up.
Maybe it was the memory of that frustration that kept me from buying it when it was priced at $6.99 – I originally paid $39.99 for the GOLD edition back in 1995 – but when I saw it was available for $1.97 I finally caved in and ordered it from Steam.
I used to have all my manuals to my MS-DOS and Windows-based games, but I threw most of them away after my last move. I thought I would not need them again; most of the installation disks were the 3.5 floppy diskettes, including the ones for Fleet Defender, and because I don’t have a PC with floppy drives, they just took up valuable shelfspace.
(Oddly enough, the one game that I kept the manual for is Rogue Squadron 3-D, which was a factor in my decision to get it. I also still have the CD-ROM for that game, which I received as a parting gift many years ago when my friend and former neighbor Geno left Miami for a new life in New York City.)
I’m not going to play with those games today; I have to read the manuals to at least learn how to play them before I attempt to command a nuclear sub, fly an F-14 Tomcat, and tangle with Imperial TIE Fighters and probe droids with my fellow Rogue Squadron pilots. But I now have something else to distract me on those rare days when writing alone does not suffice to maintain my sanity.