A Letter From Sacramento, Where Fear Grows as Flowers Bloom

A Survivor of 1954’s Polio Epidemic Welcomes Social Distancers to His Garden

SACRAMENTO—Our front garden hit peak bloom just as the COVID-19 death toll passed 200 in California. As usual, the California golden poppies seized control of the gravel borders along the driveway and, in a brazen move, advanced this spring into the chipped bark meant to provide walking space around the raised planter boxes. Now the last daffodils poke their heads out among the crimson flutter of the Greek poppies. The irises are flaunting wings and beards, each according to its wont, in random pairings around the yard. And the redbud …

Stop Blaming Bats for This Pandemic | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Stop Blaming Bats for This Pandemic

Misguided Fears of These Flying Mammals Distract From the Real Reasons New Viruses Can Lead to Epidemics

It has been a bad decade for bats. Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, they were already in severe decline worldwide. Now, they are blamed as the culprits behind one …

Leprosy Demonstrates How Fears of Disease Spread—and Then Live Forever | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Leprosy Demonstrates How Fears of Disease Spread—and Then Live Forever

From Hawai‘i to China to Europe, This Ancient Malady Has Long Been a Magnet for Wider Political and Cultural Anxieties

What is it, exactly? How do you catch it? How do you diagnose it? How do you treat it? Can it be cured? If not, how do you manage it? …

Why Believing in Monsters Is a Rite of Passage

Creatures of the Night Give Shape to Fears and Put Our Moxie to the Test

Ours was a safe neighborhood. Postwar cinderblock cottages stood unlocked in the shade of date palms that in summer cluttered our yards with vinegary, fermenting medjools and at trimming time …