When I was a child, nobody hugged or kissed anybody unless they were sweethearts or perhaps, occasionally, mother and child. People felt no need to get closer than arms length and nobody breathed on anybody. Then along came bleeding heart liberals and day-time TV shows and voila! Hugging was de rigueur.


Suddenly, perfect strangers were greeting one another as if they were Romeo and Juliet. I say it’s time to return to those not so thrilling days of yesteryear. It is not like people did not love one another before the 1980s. After all, the human species has thrived for thousands of years without faux hugs and kisses and families used to have lots more kids. But no one thought less of you back then if you did not invade their space. Maybe social distancing is a recommendation we can live with. Thank you, Tony Fauci!


Peg and I would appreciate it if the rest of the world, except for family and delivery drivers, would stay away for the next few months. Maybe by then we will have a vaccine for COVID-19. One caveat, it is important that computers continue to create funny money pursuant to an on-going Congressional Resolution so that we can receive our Social Security checks. In return, Peg and I will pledge to leave everyone else alone and not attend any public events. No one would be there anyway, since the rest of the world will be in their basements watching such enlightening Netflix entertainments as “Tiger King.”


By the way, I just saw a report on cable news that they may make a movie about Joe Exotic and his big cat petting zoo and crazy conspiracy theories. As announced from prison, Joe wants Brad Pitt to play Joe in the movie. I bet Brad is proud. Actually, Peg and I had never heard of the “Tiger King” until our erstwhile neighbors, Chuck and Bonnie Minnette of New Harmony, Indiana, called to ask us about it. I guess since we recently moved to Oklahoma and there’s hardly anyone out here, the neighbors thought we might know Joe; we do not!


Regardless, back to the column at hand. Other than cable TV, with the COVID-19 panic about the only social activity left to any of us is contemplation of conspiracy theories such as those of Joe Exotic. I know we Americans have always been able to find boogeymen, et al, everywhere from Salem, Massachusetts to Roswell, New Mexico. But our current situation of a total national shutdown has caused a paradigm shift in our public psyche.


If the news reports can be credited, some in the Communist Chinese government posited, and maybe actually believed, that the original outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China in December 2019 was deliberately started by American soldiers. Then some in America floated the idea the pandemic may have been a deliberate creation of the virus as a weapon by China or Iran.


Those two conspiracy theories are about as credible as the reasons given by railroad engineer Eduardo Moreno who, once again according to news media reports, on April 2, 2020 attempted to ram a ship by driving his train’s engine off the tracks to within a few hundred yards of the U.S. naval ship Mercy. The Mercy is a military hospital ship sent by our government to aid the residents of Los Angeles during the COVID-19 crisis. Moreno told the police he believed the ship was part of a government conspiracy to take over America. I had no idea a train could even travel that far off its tracks. Anyway, I think Mr. Moreno has been watching too much cable TV news.


Then there are the gun rights advocates who see a business lockdown as a government attempt to take away our right to self-defense. Also, there are those Religious Right devotees who see a nefarious plot behind the urgent government push to find an inoculation for the Coronavirus. Apparently, their fear is that such ideas as espoused by Bill Gates to implant computer chips in people for health reasons is really a cover to allow universal monitoring and control of our lives.


Well, Gentle Reader, you may know of other conspiracy theories. Heck, you may have one or two of your own. I know I sure do. However, as for Peg and me and social distancing, as long as our Social Security checks and the delivery workers keep coming, we are OK with whatever theory floats your boat. That is, as long as you keep six feet away and wear a mask. Don’t worry; we promise to neither hug nor kiss you.


— James (Jim) M. Redwine was born in Pawhuska, Osage County, Oklahoma. He is a graduate of Pawhuska High School, Indiana University, I.U. School of Law, the Indiana Graduate Judges College and the National Judicial College. He lives at JPeg Osage Ranch in rural Osage County, Oklahoma with his wife, Peg. Jim and Peg have 3 grown children, 7 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.