As the nation continues to struggle with the CCP virus and its after-effects, it’s not terribly surprising that—like everything else these days—the response to the pandemic is both highly politicized and deeply divisive.
At this point in a putative “two weeks to flatten the curve” cycle that has now gone on for more than five months, the debate is no longer over whether the Chinese Communist Party virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, is an unprecedented global health peril or a slightly more potent version of the flu that has been weaponized against the world’s economies.
The debate is whether the reaction—or overreaction—has been worth it. And, by any reasonable historical standard, the answer is no.
In a world that abides by the cautious motto, “safety first” and “if it saves just one life,” this sounds cruel. Prior to March, when it seemed that the government’s goal—“fifteen days to slow the spread”—was an entirely reasonable price to pay, these were sentiments most Americans readily shared.
A few reasonable precautions—including most importantly “if you feel sick, stay home” and “if someone in your household has tested positive for the Coronavirus, keep the entire household at home”—and a warning to seniors and those with serious comorbidities that they were at heightened risk would have done the trick.
After all, that’s what civilized societies have always done: quarantine the sick and those closest to them, and protect the most vulnerable. The word “quarantine,” in fact, comes from the medieval Venetian practice of keeping ships arriving from plague cities anchored for 40 days (quaranta giorni) before being allowed to land.
Instead, the nation’s governors—particularly Andrew Cuomo in New York, Gavin Newsom in California, and J.B. Pritzker in Illinois, blue states all—seized upon the medical uncertainty to impose draconian and blatantly unconstitutional mandates to lock down their states, forbidding the freedom of assembly and free exercise of religion, and annihilating their states’ business sectors. We’ll be paying the price—in lives and money—for years if not decades.
The definition of tyranny is not malevolence but capriciousness; one day you are best friends with Stalin and the next day you are, literally, erased from history, like Nikolai Yezhov, a hapless secret police official who ran afoul of the dictator’s whims in 1938 and was not only executed but excised from the photographic legacy: disappeared.
Today, we call this fascism the “cancel culture,” in which Twitter mobs lynch the politically incorrect, and Black Lives Matter and Antifa mobs trash and burn American cities on the slightest pretext and pull down statues of historic figures out of anarchic rage. The lawful efforts of the police have been criminalized, and lawlessness is celebrated by the anti-American mainstream media.
The result has been a descent into savagery the likes of which we’ve never seen in modern America, with feral bands of revolutionaries manqué taking out their educationally acquired hatred on the country that gives them shelter—and, in many cases, official encouragement.
So, with the election looming in just over three months, we’ve reached another inflection point in U.S. history: how much more of this are we going to take? Surely, no one in the Trump administration envisioned the profound economic, social, and cultural damage that would result from its earnest efforts to protect the public health while at the same time preserving the roaring economy that had all but assured the president of re-election.
Why did they do it? The answer has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with politics. According to the numbers for global deaths, Covid-19 at its worst during the first week of April (7,500 deaths per day) couldn’t hold a candle in lethality compared with cardiovascular disease (49,000), cancer (26,000) and respiratory diseases (11,000). The latest figures from the CDC, on Aug. 25, show that the total deaths from the CCP virus in the United States—just over 163,000, out of a total death count of 1.7 million—were only 9 percent higher than the norm.
This relatively small number of deaths, when compared to the total American population of roughly 330 million, yields a lethality figure of roughly 0.00049 or 0.049 percent. And America is hardly a global outlier.
In that light, therefore, consider this: According to a new CBS poll, 57 percent of registered Republicans feel the reported death toll from the Wuhan virus is “acceptable,” while only 10 percent of Democrats feel the same way.
Since polling itself by the principal organs of the mainstream media now has a solely partisan political objective, these numbers are meant to indicate that Trump supporters are heartless beasts, callous layabouts, and lotus-eaters indifferent to the sufferings of their fellow man.
But is the conservative/Republican attitude wrong? What if one rejects the unrealistic “if it saves one life” mantra, and instead takes a cold-eyed, actuarial—the only attitude that makes any economic and cultural sense—look at the numbers? In that case, Covid-19 is just a blip on the radar, next to nothing compared with past disasters such as the Spanish Flu, the American Civil War, and the two World Wars.
Further, Covid-19 is just one disease among many. Is the death toll from heart attacks acceptable? From breast cancer? We don’t panic over these entirely predictable morbidities, but rather accept them as part of our brief lives on this planet. No one lives forever, and the acceptance of our human mortality has long been considered a part of the cost of doing business as human beings. That we can be greater than the sum of our actuarial tables never seems to occur to the Marxist Left.
What Is to Be Done?
Is something like the coronavirus, which is all likelihood came out of a Chinese lab in Wuhan, worth shutting down the world’s economies, commerce, travel, and social interaction? Is it worth the “social distancing” (an odious phrase) that asks us to look upon our neighbors as potential carriers of the Dreaded Covid? Is it worth masking ourselves and our children, as if there really was something for them to fear? Is it worth the loss of social interaction, human conviviality, and fun to a bureaucrat’s say-so?
The answer is, unequivocally, no. Name a single event in world history to which the correct response was to quarantine the healthy and effect the willful destruction of a nation’s economy and social well-being.
London survived both the Plague and the Great Fire in 1665–66, and rose to become the greatest city in the world. Even during the Black Death of the mid-14th century, which killed a third of Europe’s population, and also coincided with the beginning of the Little Ice Age, life went on, including the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.
As I’ve written in my forthcoming book, “Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost,” there are times when we must put aside considerations of own personal welfare in order to serve the larger cultural picture.
But the larger cultural picture has become, in these parlous times, secondary to the current political narrative, which demands the subordination of personal freedom to the diktats of the state. No wonder many on the Right see the lockdowns and sheer picayune arbitrariness of the rules governing which businesses may open and which may not as a warmup for further restrictions in the name of “climate change” or some other whimsy, and indeed that is already happening.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a siren call for stronger action in the face of global threats,” says a report from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, based in Canada. “Rather than being discrete threats that just happen to collide, pandemics and climate change are, in effect, co-travellers.”
Note also the barely disguised glee with which such corrupt outfits as the World Health Organization freely speak of living with Covid-19 forever. “The critical question that all countries will face in the coming months is how to live with this virus. That is the new normal,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in June.
So be warned: If you think the petty tyrants currently making your lives miserable are going to willingly relinquish their illicit powers, think again. They’ve got a taste for it now. No matter how flat the curve gets, no matter how slow the spread becomes, they don’t intend to give up control without a fight.
The question is: what are you going to do about it?
Michael Walsh is the editor of The-Pipeline.org and the author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” and “The Fiery Angel,” both published by Encounter Books. His latest book, “Last Stands,” a cultural study of military history from the Greeks to the Korean War, will be published in December by St. Martin’s Press.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.