It wouldn’t shock anyone who knows me to hear that I’m not favorably disposed to the Occupy Wall Street crowd. But my opinion was reinforced while reading the latest novel by my favorite author, Philip Roth. Anyone who reads Nemesis would quickly conclude that the entire Occupy generation is a bunch of soft, overindulged whiners.
Although fictional, Nemesis accurately describes conditions in Newark, New Jersey, toward the end of World War II. While many brave Americans were overseas risking their lives to fight fascism, the home front was battling the scourge of polio that was devastating the nation’s youth. The novel takes place during the summer months, when risks were highest and fear consumed large segments of the community. People had to endure sweltering heat in cramped apartments, constantly challenged by the dual tragedies of war and disease.
By the time I was born (in 1953), polio was still ravaging American children. The year before, polio had its worst outbreak: 58,000 cases, 3,145 dead, thousands paralyzed, and parents everywhere utterly petrified. I vividly remember the never-ending line to receive my sugar cube with the vaccine created by Jonas Salk, aka the “miracle worker.”