Timid, Terrified, And Tortured

I must admit that the past year has surprised me.  After it became abundantly clear by mid-April of last year that the most apocalyptic projections regarding the impact of Covid-19 were seriously awry, I wrongly presumed that Americans would clamor for a quick reversal of the unprecedented restrictions that were locking us in our houses and out of our jobs, but we instead saw a nervous nation continue to comply with the intrusive and unbending home incarcerations demanded by government officials—who claimed there was no possible alternative.  

Public health experts have roundly condemned the recent reopenings of Texas and Florida, claiming they will result in dead bodies everywhere.  However, the plain fact that a return to normal life in these states did not cause any additional health problems has not changed the sledgehammer narrative of those invested in defending the ongoing necessity of lockdowns, shutdowns, face masks, and forced vaccinations.  We must, according to the most alarmist experts and media doomsayers, continue to wear our masks (two of them, in fact) for many years to come, and we should reconcile ourselves to limiting our human contacts to the bare minimum.  

To point out that the medical evidence does not support the type of extreme precautions that have been required this past year is extraordinarily unwelcome.  Rather than debating public health policies on their merits, believers brand dissenters as sociopaths who are no different than serial killers.  In addition, the self-proclaimed experts are now pushing for each of us to carry a “Covid Passport” that we will be compelled to present whenever we leave our homes—or we just won’t leave at all.  Ever again.  Welcome to the American gulag.

What are we to do about Florida, Texas, and other states that finally decide enough is enough?  Given my recent observations of some very agitated and high strung folks in the college town where I live, I have a mental image of tender Philosophy majors fleeing from visiting Floridians as if they were three-headed fiends risen from the swamplands—before pleading for sanctuary inside the nearest Starbucks.

Many quite naturally ask the same question: What the hell has happened to the tough, independent, fearless Americans who once populated our nation?  Are we now so incredibly fragile that our fears overrule our reason?

Imagine if, for example, an enemy military attack struck our nation today.  Would we need to send out intervention teams stocked with plush toy animals to rescue millions of paralyzed Americans who immediately took refuge under their beds with their cell phones and juice boxes clutched in their quivering hands?  An absurd exaggeration?  Maybe it is.  However, this sounds a lot closer to the reality we could experience than we might prefer to imagine.

I don’t mean to downplay the fears that have been implanted in the minds of many by the screeching disaster junkies in government and the media, and I certainly don’t wish to denigrate those with serious mental health problems that cause unwarranted anxieties, but I sometimes find it hard to believe how little grit, responsibility, and resilience we are often seeing today.

I am certain that I was not the only one who grimaced when recently encountering a new acronym that has entered our national dialogue: FOGO.  This apparently refers to a new and overwhelming problem that is afflicting a large portion of Americans: Fear Of Going Out.  As hard as it might be to believe, many want to continue to hunker down at home for the foreseeable future (or perhaps forever) and avoid any contact with people at all.  To even broach the topic of beginning to interact with the outside world again can, in fact, prompt a startlingly angry response from some.

I realize that nuanced discussion has not been on the national agenda  for many years, but the reality is that we now definitively know the very elderly and the already seriously ill are the only two populations who are at serious risk from the Covid-19 virus, so you need not live in a bunker unless you are quite old or in fragile health due to a pre-existing medical condition.  However, we seem past the point where simple logic and medical evidence matters, and the likelihood of this changing seems surpassingly small.

Although Americans were suffering from high rates of serious mental health problems, drug and alcohol addictions, and suicide well before the Covid-19 lockdowns and shutdowns began, we seem to have crossed over into some sort of national psychosis that is far more troubling and pernicious than any we have previously experienced in our nation’s history.  I believe this is a direct result of misguided governmental actions that have robbed us of our safety, security, and—most importantly—any sense of control over our own lives.

Those who study prisons coined a term many decades ago to describe the particular set of psychological problems that afflict those who are incarcerated: Institutionalization.  Those afflicted suffer from depression, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, social withdrawal, and uncontrollable aggression.  Even worse, these problems resulting from their confinements often persist even after they are released, which makes a return to any sort of normal life a near-impossibility.  If we stop and take a look at the unfocused rage, consuming fears, and self-isolation that is today impeding the abilities of many to re-engage with friends, loved ones, work, and school, there is an eerie and worrisome parallel that bears closer examination and thorough discussion.

Moreover, those who study the problem of Institutionalization have discovered that many of the worst mental health issues occur simply because imprisonment robs individuals of any sense of control over their own lives.  To have your activities restricted and monitored, to have your daily routine dictated by those with absolute power over your life, and to face punishment for infractions of rules imposed upon you by others is a prescription for eroding any vestige of individuality and crushing any resistance to those in charge.  The end result is a person who is docile but deeply—and perhaps irreversibly—damaged by an experience that is inhumane, degrading, and soul killing.  This process might go far toward explaining the timidity and terror that today seem to characterize the emotional lives of many Americans who seem strangely compliant when asked to surrender more and more of their precious personal liberties.  

The meek deference that has greeted so many harsh restrictions on individual movements and group gatherings has been astonishing and can only be explained as irrefutable evidence that our minds and spirits have been badly broken by what we have endured over the last year—plain and simple torture that has crushed our wills.

I am angry about what has been done to our country and to my fellow Americans by our leaders and their supposedly expert advisors who have stolen our happiness, squandered our wealth, and seized powers expressly forbidden to them by our Constitution.  Recovery from this national trauma will take time and require a wholesale personal and political repudiation of those who took advantage of our fears, lied to us throughout this self-created crisis, and refused to relinquish the illegitimate controls they exerted over our lives.

It is time for the frightened prisoners to raise their heads and look their jailers straight in the eye.  It will both liberate us and scare them silly, which is all to the good and must be encouraged.  Taking back our rights as Americans—and defending them against the stooges in our own government—is an overdue first step toward recovering from the traumas inflicted upon our nation, and it will be our best guarantee that this will not happen to America again.  It is time to remind ourselves that our freedoms are too important to be foolishly surrendered to our fears.  

Those who encourage us to be weak and afraid are exhibiting the most in-American of all attitudes and must be held accountable by voters across our great nation for their betrayal of our values.

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