This blog is not intended to be a political or opinion blog, but these are strange times we live in, are they not? Like most of you, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I spend most of my time indoors. I shelter-in-place, focused on news about the pandemic. Just a few weeks ago, I was consumed by news about the wildfires in Australia. Today, it is the coronavirus. To me, the world has become even scarier than it ever was. I am sure many of you feel the same way.
That said, I am probably not going to earn many points by writing this article. However, I am compelled to write about a recurring theme I have noticed being espoused by the media and the President and a disturbing trend. Perhaps, some readers may agree; others may not. So be it.
The theme I am speaking of is that this pandemic is "unprecedented" or that it was "unforeseeable." For sensational effect, the media loves to describe coronavirus as "unprecedented" or words of like meaning. Even advertisers have jumped on this bandwagon, if you have not noticed, releasing numerous ads that begin with the refrain, "In these unprecedented times...", to hock whatever goods or services they can while we are on lockdown.
Similarly, when pressed for an explanation as to why the U.S. government was so slow to act, President Trump is fond of blathering on that no one could have possibly foreseen this pandemic. In fact, his own advisers warned him that a pandemic eerily similar to coronavirus was a threat to the U.S.
All of this talk is just a myth; it is spin. It gains traction only because we forget the lessons of history too quickly and are drowned in a 24/7 news cycle that cares little for substance.
In fact, three, more deadly pandemics have struck the U.S. in just the last 100 years. The first pandemic, the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic (pejoratively known as the "Spanish flu"), was the most lethal pandemic since the Black Death in the Middle Ages. 500 million people – one-third of the world’s population at the time – became infected. An estimated 50-100 million people worldwide died. The 1918-1919 flu pandemic killed more people than World War I. 675,000 deaths occurred in the U.S. alone.
Think about that number for a moment - 675,000. The estimated population of the U.S. in 1918 was only 103,000,000, so approximately 0.5 percent of the population died during the 1918-1919 pandemic. However, the pandemic infected 25% of the entire population and, according to the National Archives, in one year, it caused the overall life expectancy in the U.S. to drop by 12 years.
Unfortunately, little to nothing is taught in American schools about the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, leading some scholars to refer to it as the "forgotten pandemic," as in this video from Stanford University:
By comparison to the 1918-1919 pandemic, as of the time of this writing, coronavirus has killed 5,983 in the U.S., which now is over three times larger at 327,200,000 people. This is a much smaller number of deaths, both in raw numbers and in terms of a percentage. Yet, the media continues to hype the pandemic as "unprecedented."
Two more pandemics would strike the U.S. before the 20th century came to a close. The second flu pandemic occurred in 1957 and killed 116,000 people in the U.S. The third flu pandemic struck in 1968 and killed 100,000 in the U.S. How many of you have ever even heard of these two pandemics? I had not heard of either pandemic until I did some research, and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about history. Even as compared to these "less-lethal" pandemics, coronavirus has some catching up to do.
Please do not mistake my intent. None of my words should be interpreted as suggesting that we disregard the coronavirus, or that it is not deadly. Clearly, we should take the coronavirus seriously, and undoubtedly, it is deadly. None of us should be "covidiots." We should heed the reasonable advice of qualified health professionals. We should even follow reasonable restrictions imposed by public health officials that have a scientific basis for impeding the spread of the virus. I am doing so myself.
At the same time, however, those of us living in the U.S. should remain vigilant that our civil liberties are not eroded by government restrictions that go too far or have a shelf life that lasts beyond a reasonable expiration date. Some of the worst atrocities in history have been committed in the name of science and "public health."
|Sensationalist article about "Typhoid Mary"|
In fact, questions about the proper role of government in response to disease outbreak have not been fully resolved in the U.S. since the infamous case of Mary Mallon, a poor, Irish cook also known as "Typhoid Mary," who was imprisoned against her will on an island for 28 years until her death in 1938. This was justified as a public health quarantine.
Such draconian measures have not been employed since Mallon's case. However, today, millions of Americans are on forced lockdown, including hundreds of thousands who are not even sick or infected with the coronavirus. That brings me to the disturbing trend I am noticing. Signs are already emerging that politicians may be using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to trample on the U.S. Constitution, or that they may be taking their powers to new, illegal levels. Consider these articles from just the past two weeks:
DOJ Wants to Suspend Certain Constitutional Rights During Coronavirus Emergency, Rolling Stone, March 21, 2020
Rhode Island Sending Cops, National Guard To Find New Yorkers Seeking Refuge From Coronavirus, March 28, 2020
It remains to be seen how far government officials will go in a month, two months, or longer. How far will Americans let them go?
Coronavirus is anything but "unprecedented" or "unforeseeable." What may be unprecedented or unforeseeable, however, is the extent to which our civil liberties could be threatened in the name of public health. I fear the longer this pandemic lasts, the greater the threat will be. Serious questions exist as to whether the government even has the power to quarantine and isolate people who are not sick or infected, or who have not come into contact with those who are sick or infected. Forcing well people to remain indoors, away from their friends and family, or to close their businesses could constitute a violation of freedom of movement, freedom of association, or be a seizure of private property.
The notion that we must trade "liberty for security" is a false and dangerous myth. Coercive governmental tactics rarely promote public health. Moreover, in the context of public health, governmental action easily becomes a never-ending, self-justifying proposition for the suppression of civil liberties. Diseases and plagues have affected humans since before recorded history. There will always be another pandemic waiting to spread havoc. Does that mean we lose all our civil rights? I think not.
We should try to keep this pandemic in perspective and not panic. For more on pandemics and plagues throughout history, this infographic is quite informative, if already a bit dated as it pertains to COVID-19:
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is often floated as a potential running mate for Democratic Presidential hopeful, Joe Biden. On Friday, April 10, 2020, she extended Michigan's stay-at-home order to ban travel between two, private residences within the state, subject to certain, limited exceptions. Under the order, Michigan residents can no longer visit friends or relatives. When asked about the order, Gov. Whitmer justified it by saying it would be work out in the long run. Doesn't all government overreaching work out that way? The order goes into effect on April 11, 2020.
Dr. Fauci acknowledged on April 10, 2020 that the U.S. federal government is openly discussing requiring Americans to carry coronavirus immunity cards. "I think it might actually have some merit," Fauci said.
In China, citizens are already required to display colored codes on their smartphones indicating their contagion risk, so why not do something similar in the U.S. to further stigmatize the populace and marginalize the sick? And, since we now know coronavirus is disproportionately affecting communities of color, requiring coronavirus immunity cards will disproporationately disadvantage those same communities even further.
But, honestly, what could go wrong, Dr. Fauci? For my part, I cannot imagine anything going wrong with this plan, can you? No employers would ever demand to see a person's coronavirus immunity card as a condition of employment, for example, or demand to see the card before providing services at a movie theater, store, or other facility. Nah, that would never happen.
Fauci, you are losing credibility on a daily basis. Perhaps, you have been standing too close to Trump for too long.