The breeding of thuggery

Tragedy stalks humanity every day. It’s life in this fallen world. We die from waterborne diseases, opioids, pestilences, cancers, accidents… Now, it’s a virus.

In the midst of this most recent global pandemic that is the most sensational of all viruses in recent history, there’s an even more insidious contagion brewing. It’s not new, though. The Nazis and Soviets had it, and Chinese Communists still have it. It’s not a sickness one can inherit and not everyone is affected. Sadly, neither medication nor vaccines will temper this illness.

As people define the current health situation, there is no one-size fits all approach. Some doctors claim the virus is no more virulent than the common annual influenza, which, sadly, kills upwards of 60K people a year. In fact, initial models from the CDC had predicted upward of 240K people dying; then the model’s data were retracted twice as the numbers proved to be inaccurate. The latest prediction of deaths is down to about 63K, the equivalent of the common flu virus data.

But why all the initial hype over a new virus? No vaccine yet? Despite the flu vaccine, there are still tens of thousands who perish. There’s been H1N1, Sars, Mers, to name a few others. They’ve also killed. But never has the US economy shut down because of them. Had the media been so concerned before?

In the name of safety for all concerned, state-by-state lock downs to remain quarantined at home has been the course of action. But one has to ask for how long? It’s been close to two months now of being home bound for most states, while society is fracturing due to the closing down of schools and businesses. Millions of jobs have been lost.

While everyone is sequestered, there are the personal tragedies of peoples’ deaths in the news. The heartbreaking story of a husband and wife dying six minutes apart, another a day apart, or the Facebook pictures depicting a day in the life of a doctor or nurse and their personal experiences with witnessing death. Our hearts bleed. We wish it weren’t so. But viral deaths are only the latest deaths.

There’s a common sense need for protection and safety for the sake of health, and there’s also a line where that protection turns into control. Oddly, while some Walmart stores are open, other mom-and-pop hardware stores are closed. Abortion clinics are open while hospital elective surgery opportunities are shut down. One can buy lawn furniture at big box stores but not the cushions that go on furniture. One can buy alcohol and lottery tickets but not tomato seeds. How is this protection?

There are church pastors in Florida, who’ve been arrested for conducting services, and there are people who’ve attended church services in their cars in parking lots who’ve been fined. There are parents who’ve been seen playing ball with their child in the park who’ve been fined and handcuffed. Fines have been imposed by people sitting in cars watching the sun set in California. A man was recently arrested for praying outside of an abortion clinic. Conducting private services like haircuts in their own homes have become the business of the police department now. How is this common sense?

While the dissenters to the seemingly never-ending mandates speak up, some wish to project their own personal animus by shaming them. While we all, understandably, bemoan COVID-19, some cast aspersions of “selfishness” toward others and decry as heartless those who see the virus as something more than a contagion or something with a political motive.

Squelching the dissenters into silence is the new contagion. It’s called emotional thuggery. It appears those who wish to make it all about the virus are myopic. They cannot see beyond the personal tragedy of the virus victims into the many other victims also in peril—those who’ve lost their livelihood, business, job, not to mention the desperate and suicidal. The price of closing down the nation’s economy eventually will affect us all in one way or the other.

Those who have differing opinions about how to deal with the virus for themselves and their families are encountering push back. They’re being ratted out by their neighbors. Isn’t this what happened in Nazi Germany? Does anyone remember the story of Anne Frank? How is this helping anyone?

Pictures and stories of those affected by COVID-19 are tragic. And those who use them to intimidate others into submitting to the rigors of a heavy-handed mandate to hunker down inside our houses should think again. Sympathy over the tragedies of those who’ve succumbed to a vile contagion while keeping an eye on the civil rights of American citizens are not mutually exclusive.

Locking in place forever is not a solution; it will kill an already fragmented society. We must not allow emotion to rule our lives. Empathy is necessary, but to become subject to control is something else. If we’re going to be mastered by death, then we’ll never be able to live.

There was a famous man who once said, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. But there is something more to fear:  those who manipulate others’ fears in order to control them. America is not Nazi Germany nor the Peoples’ Republic of China. At least, not yet.

There’s a time to mourn and a time to live; there’s a time to gather and a time to sow. We must not lose ourselves in the process.