About thirty years ago, I saw the film “Malcolm X”, starring Denzel Washington in the lead role. Something that always stuck with me was how differently the protagonist was portrayed to have spoken to audiences of different races. When talking to white people, he was calm, measured, even empathetic sounding. With black audiences, he was fiery and combative, successfully riling up the crowd to his cause. While I don’t pretend to be an expert on the man himself, and biopics are infamous with playing fast and loose with facts, it seems highly plausible that this particular aspect of his speeches was portrayed accurately.
I bring this up because I think about the best way to discuss my core beliefs, many of which do not conform to polite society. With like-minded folks, I speak more openly and freely, but somewhat by definition, these people are few and far between. (In other words, if there WERE more people who thought this way, I wouldn’t need to be so careful in the first place!) But as we go deeper and deeper into this new (sur)reality, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep quiet about my thoughts on what is happening to our society.
What Is Happening To Our Society?
Before addressing anything else, dear reader, you first need to recognize two basic truths-
1) The 2020 coronavirus pandemic, now referred to commonly as “COVID”, was (thankfully) not nearly as deadly as initially forecast.
2) Since the initial “flatten the curve” decree in mid-March, the goalpost on getting society “back to normal” has been moved dramatically.
(If you finding yourself shaking your head in disagreement at either of these, you might as well not read the rest of this post, because everything from this point forward is derived from those two statements. Otherwise? Keep going.)
When news of COVID spread throughout the Western world, the Trump administration, and President Trump in particular, did not appear to take the threat especially seriously. While shutting down travel from China- a move that was largely criticized at the time, but turned out to be prudent- little else was done, until early March. In fact, up until that point, President Trump made bold statements (is there any other kind for him?) that the virus would be a non-factor, with all his usual media allies falling in line. Once the first noticeable outbreak occurred in Washington state, the administration reversed course (along with those same media allies), declaring a state of emergency, and effectively putting the country on lockdown. In order to stop spread of the virus and ensure that the healthcare system was not overrun, we would need to do this for fifteen days, and see what would happen. Or so we were told.
At the beginning of the lockdown, I came out firmly against the idea of shutting down the country for a couple of weeks, while at least acknowledging that the risk of COVID was frightening. It just seemed highly implausible that the shutdown would only last for two weeks, and that the fallout from the shutdown would likely be greater overall threat than the virus itself. As strongly as I believed this, I considered the possibility that I wasn’t assessing the situation correctly. It turned out that I wasn’t, but not for the reasons I feared- in hindsight, my thinking didn’t go far enough.
What Have We Done?!
While there is plenty of heated debate on the proper way to analyze the data we’ve collected over the past two months, there’s zero doubt that the curve has been flattened. Most of the resources for coronavirus throughout the country went unused. Even in the hottest of hotspots- namely New York City and its surrounding areas- the healthcare system (luckily) did not break. There were certainly a fair number of hospitals dealing with severe conditions for a period of time, and bless every single person who fought through- both patients and professionals alike. But at this point, the worst of it occurred more than a month before this blog post was written. Outside of the Northeast Megalopolis and a few inner city areas- most notably Detroit and New Orleans- there never even was a pandemic.
This is where the real trouble begins. Rather than thank our lucky stars that COVID wasn’t nearly as devastating as predicted on the whole, solely concentrating on the few localized places that do need restrictions, most politicians and high-ranking government officials doubled down, calling for statewide lockdown extensions, restrictions to public land, and suspension of all kinds of activities that we previously took for granted in a free and prosperous country. Even more jaw-dropping, the governors along the West Coast, widely praised by most for their handling of the crisis, have enacted some of the most restrictive lockdown rules in the United States. At least back in the mid-Atlantic, an argument can be made for supporting restrictions, since that’s where the greatest impact of the virus took place. (The success of the strategy itself is another matter, but we’ll get to that later.) As of May 9th, there were less than 4,000 total deaths on the West Coast from COVID. While every individual death is a tragedy, our entire society is being transformed based on the presumptions of how deadly this virus is. To put this in perspective, 4,000 people is a smaller number than a typical crowd for a Mariners afternoon game in Seattle- you now, back when we actually HAD baseball.
On the flip side, there have been a few governors that have been brave- or foolhardy, depending on your point of view (not mine, though)- going against conventional wisdom and slowly opening up their states, at great political risk. Outrage and predictions of mass death were aimed in their direction. Nothing even close has come to pass as of yet, but rather than reconsider their hostility and predictions of impending doom, the lockdown advocates simply move on to their next target, usually in the form of their fellow citizens, most of whom are just looking to get fresh air or make a living, without having to worry about being taken to jail for it.
And where is public opinion on this? Well, from the point of view of “COVIDIOTS” like myself, the signs are not encouraging. While those skeptical from the start of this have been galvanized, so has the pro-lockdown crowd- and the numbers are not in the skeptics’ favor. Most polls seem to show American support of the lockdown outnumber those against it by nearly 2-to-1. Considering the virus wasn’t nearly as dangerous as advertised, this is very alarming, if not surprising.
Although the media’s reputation has taken a well-deserved and long overdue hit during the Trump years, the sad truth is that they still control the narrative. At times, social media works as a much needed check on the old monopoly, often challenging and occasionally overpowering what gets spoon fed to the masses. But when this pushback works properly, it only works for a segment of the population. Even more challenging is when the media engages in a certain subtlety that can be hard to detect. Such is the case with all the fallout from the lockdown. The damage to employment, small businesses, the food supply, mental health, and various other aspects of society, has gotten far too big to ignore. If we had an honest press, this would presented in a straightforward manner, and some people, perhaps many, would certainly reconsider their support of the lockdown. Unfortunately, the media seem to be aware of this, and adjust their game accordingly.
“He who controls the language controls the masses”. –Saul Alinsky
A recent article in CNN broke open the news of catastrophic hunger that awaits many with the following sentence- “The world is facing multiple famines of “biblical proportions” in just a matter of months, the UN has said, warning that the coronavirus pandemic will push an additional 130 million people to the brink of starvation.”
See that? It’s subtle, yet unmistakable. By implicating the virus as a cause of these severe problems instead of the lockdown, the story manages to turn factors against the lockdown, and puts them in its favor. (In other words, “Wow- the coronavirus is causing hunger? It’s even more dangerous than we thought!”) Kent Brockman would be proud of such deception.
And how about all those politicians, who get to continue the lockdown without significant repercussions for their harmful policies? Oh sure, a few protesters will yell and howl, but that has only produced limited results so far. Occasionally, these protests even work in the lockdown’s favor, when the protesters live up to their crude stereotype, imagined by the crowd that has aligned with police state. (I’m talking to YOU, Michigan yokels! What was the point of going into a federal building, ARMED WITH WEAPONS?!) Of course, protesting SHOULD be encouraged in general, as well as more understated actions, such as sitting outside on the grass during a warm day. But these actions won’t be enough, if governors and other local politicians don’t share responsibility for the economic damage they are responsible for. Historically, economic damage falls in the lap of the President, and that’s during a “normal” election cycle, let alone one that involves a lightning rod like Donald Trump. So far blue state authoritarians to truly feel the pressure to do what’s right, they need to have their actions to be tied with the consequences.
There’s so much other ground to cover with everything that’s happened- particularly with the jaw dropping manipulation of the stock market- but this is plenty for now. Hopefully in the days to come, the lockdown extremists will be increasingly exposed for their ignorance, and those with an open mind will start to open their eyes to what’s really going on. As for those blue state governors, determined to keep us cramped up inside with our masks, Netflix, fast food and alcohol? (You know the ones!) They are free to lecture us about the value of saving every life, once they get a better handle on their nursing homes.
For my part, I’ll continue to adhere to any guidelines that keeps the authorities out of my way, while not forcing myself to the point of being miserable. In other words, I’ll wear a mask where they’re required, but don’t expect me to fear the inhalation or exhalation of a dangerous germs. For anyone who has been paralyzed be fear, take comfort in knowing that we’ve coexisted with these microscopic menaces throughout our entire existence, even if not always peacefully, and there’s no reason to make such extreme changes to the way we live our lives now. And even if it’s eventually proven that perhaps we should, I’m no more inclined to accept a fast tracked vaccine from the Microsoft guy, than I am willing to accept an explanation that God’s existence can be mathmatically proven by the MyPillow guy.