• A Few Tips on Expecting the Worst

    by Donald K. Sanders

    Eons ago, somewhere around here (I consider my home town to be the Garden of Eden) the first of men, on his dying bed, rock, or whatever, passed his knowledge on to his descendents. I’m not sure what knowledge he passed on, but I do know that it was probably one of the more important tidbits of information that he had gathered during his lifetime.

    Here’s how I think this moment in time went down. Picture, if you will, a naked man, lying on a rock because he was too weak to prevent the young man kneeling next to him from stealing his bearskins and bling. I imagine the dialog went something like this: “Son, I don’t know if I am really your father but there’s something I need to tell you. It’s very important that you remember it because it could save your life someday.”

    The young man leaned over so that he could hear the old man saying, “Always expect the worst!” At this, the old man made a last-ditch effort to steal the bearskin back before he keeled over dead.

    Always expect the worst. In the past, this knowledge was passed on from father to son but in this modern day, it is no longer so. Any lessons that are not of a positive nature are considered as out of fashion and outdated. To the dismay of many who must learn this lesson through life experience, it is sometimes learned a little too late.

    I was taught to expect the worst as a very young child. Through no fault of my own, I was forced to live in a large Catholic Orphanage in Little Rock. I wasn’t looking for the worst but it found me just the same.

    For a child, getting dumped off in a place like that is about as bad as it can get. If you weren’t there, then you have no idea just how bad it can be. Sometimes the worst is unbearable.

    Like anyplace else, a large children’s home has every type of person that you can imagine. There are bullies, gangs, thieves and perverts. It’s sort of like Paris in the springtime.

    When you report for military training, the first thing you’re taught is to expect the worst. As a matter of fact, it’s so important that it ranks right up there with “Don’t drop the soap in the shower.”

    Should you receive any military training, expecting the worst is actually one of the most important lessons that you will learn. This is true simply because if you don’t expect the worst and if you are not prepared for it when it comes, you and your fellow soldiers are dead.

    It’s a common occurrence that in the world of man and animals, the worst will happen naturally. You don’t have to look for the worst, it will find you and it is not nice. Everybody knows this to be true.

    The problem is that sometimes what you consider to be the worst may not actually be the worst. A good example of this is the fact that there were 58,000 American soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. However, when you consider the fact that over 120,000 Vietnam Veterans have committed suicide, everything changes.

    Can you see what I mean.

    Let’s jump ahead to the Iraqi and Afghan wars. Nobody knows what the worst things about these wars are, but it’s true that 19 American soldiers in today’s military will commit suicide every day. That’s 133 every week and 1,596 every year.

    Some consider the monetary cost of warfare to be the worst, but consider the fact that when the war is over, the cost will increase tenfold, and it will never end as long as one veteran is alive.

    I don’t know in which direction our country is headed — neither do you. It’s virtually impossible to change anything in our government in a quick manner. Change comes hard and it takes years to see even the smallest of changes on a national level. Change does not happen in Congress, nor the Senate.

    Change comes from millions of Americans taking to the streets day after day after day, for years.

    I hear people complain about President Obama. This I cannot understand. What is there to complain about? He is uniquely honest and forthright, he’s not bad looking, he has a wonderful wife and children of whom anyone would be proud. Consider the last president, who chose to surround himself with bullies, gangs, thieves and perverts, you sort of know what Paris in the springtime is like.

    It all goes back to the lesson, “Expect the worst.” If you really know what the worst is, then you can prepare for it. If you want my opinion on what action you should take, this is it: Start storing as much food, water, medical supplies and survival gear as you can afford.

      • David

      • March 13, 2011 at 9:00 am
      • Reply

      Like Weinshilboum’s piece this was a stellar perspective on both history and the present (with a glimpse at an uncertain future.)

      I also always love certain rhetorical turns-of-phrases you make.

      Going to print this one and Weinshilboum’s out and take them to IVC for my students to read and discuss.

    • Then I am ready Donald. I have my earthquake items in every room and car (live in California), I have water packets and some type of army food to last a mere lifetime. I grew up with Jewish parents-need I say more about preparedness. My mom and I played a game (yes a game) called “What if” and we went through all the worse scenarios we could imagine for me when I was frightened and anxious. You heard me. Since none of those doomsday events actually happened I actually prospered with that philosophy. Today it is so ingrained in me but now I see things happening that were never in my wildest imagination of worry-what am I to do now, dear Donald?????

      • Madge,
        I suspect that the Japanese are reconsidering what they pictured as the worst of senerios. Were I a man of prayer I would say a million for them. Think of the frame of mind that your mother and grandmother had of world events. Horrible. I’m just a cheery kind of guy huh?

      • Judy

      • March 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm
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      This gave me a chill—a good thing. I also wondered if you meant the food and water to be metaphorical–as in prepare yourself mentally for things like the potentially disastrous outcome of the attacks on labor being carried out in Wisconsin and in other states. Or was the food and water literal, as in prepare for the next physical disaster? Perhaps both. Living a quarter mile from the Hayward fault, with Japan much on my mind, I can’t help but think about the literal meaning but the metaphorical applications scare me more.
      Oh and Madge you are a model. We had to throw out the old cans and our earthquake kit now contains only several gallons of bourbon.

      • Judy,
        Thank you for your comments. I’m afraid I’m not as deep as you suspect. I’d like to be but it simply is not so. I wanted to say that preparedness is a necessity, for the very next step you take may be the worst mistake of your life. Nature has ways of countering the bad things in life, ie. “shock” and loss of memory…
        No matter how bad things get, they can always get worse.
        Aren’t I just the cheeriest fellow you have ever met. I’m sorry for that but I’m unable to change. I do however try to write humorous columns.
        ps. I think that maybe, either you or Madge would have done a better job at writing this col. Lately, I have found so many strong and intelligent women. I’m so stupid that I didn’t notice that they have been all around me all of my life. I want you ladies to know that I do see how strong women have to be and why. I am ashamed that I used to think that the male was the strength of the species and for the life of me I cannot understand why I thought it to be so. It is so readily appearant.

      • Judy

      • March 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm
      • Reply

      Dear Donald, You’re as deep as you need to be. I wouldn’t have done a better job but thanks for the tribute to women. Even now days it takes depth and sensitivity to say that kind of thing.

      • Denise O'Connor

      • March 18, 2011 at 10:02 am
      • Reply

      Excellent article. You know, don’t you, how politically incorrect it is in some circles to to use your powerful mind to expect the worst? I’m thinking what they’re missing is that you can’t transmute or fix or cope with anything you won’t acknowledge. Good on you, Don.

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