About Andrew M. Wilk

Mr. Wilk received his BA from Yale University and MA from the University of Connecticut, and he holds a Professional Educator License in Illinois. In addition to teaching at both the secondary and college level, he worked for many years in the private sector, holding professional and administrative positions in advertising, journalism, and healthcare. Mr. Wilk has published over 100 commentaries on topics ranging from politics to education, and he has also published a novel, A Day at the Fair with Chili Boy. He now teaches both English and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Parkland College in Champaign, IL, and during the 2014-15 academic year he was nominated for the Teaching Excellence Award at the college in recognition of his work in the classroom.

Reality In The Age Of Coronavirus Panic

Federal, state, and local governments have taken near-total control of our lives and movements.  Businesses are shuttered, 25% of Americans have been fired or furloughed, schools have been closed, playground equipment is roped off as if it is a crime scene, and Americans are under house arrest in all but name, allowed outside only to run “essential” errands.  Fear reigns supreme.

As does an increasing sense of incredulity.

The zombie apocalypse we were told to expect simply has not occurred.  There are no dead bodies lining our streets, no open air morgues in the parks, no caravans of refrigerated trunks trundling millions of corpses out of town in the dead of night.  As of today, there have been 205,438 diagnosed Coronavirus cases in America, which has so far resulted in 4,528 documented deaths.  If you take a moment to do the math, this works out to a death rate of 2.2 %, which certainly justifies thoughtful precautions to protect the elderly and vulnerable who make up the bulk of these deaths, but we have yet to come close to the total number of deaths that we see in a single nasty flu season, which can reach 60,000-80,000.

Those American government officials who are busy instituting police checkpoints at state borders, refusing to let us go out and buy a cheeseburger, and shaming people for jogging will insist that the low number of deaths so far is proof positive that the shutdown of America has stemmed the tide of infections and saved lives.  The advocates of Coronavirus terror firmly believe that, if not for the extraordinary interventions that have upended our lives and crushed our finances, the original, astronomically high estimates of deaths—which we now know were based on deeply flawed statistical models—would have become the grim reality.  We can expect that awards, medals, honorary degrees, academic appointments, well paid positions in non-governmental organizations, and lucrative cable news contracts aplenty will be doled out to those public officials whose heroic actions “saved” us all from horrible, lingering deaths.

To question this mainstream narrative is, for the time being at least, totally unacceptable.  Those who fail to show the requisite gratitude are obviously stupid, uninformed, or hateful.  The insults hurled by true believers at “Coronavirus deniers” now live side by side with those heaped upon “climate change deniers” over the past few years—and you have to wonder if the mainstream acceptance of global warming alarmism has created the cultural conditions necessary to convince our nation to fall for the Coronavirus frenzy now engulfing us.

It is telling that the very same logic and language—“If we don’t take extraordinary emergency action right now, we’re all going to die tomorrow”—is employed for each of these extinction-level crises.  It could be that we are now living through the Green New Deal in the form of a health scare: a problem that scientific groupthink has inflated into an earth-shattering disaster, a frighteningly expensive solution, and a demand that our personal freedoms and choices be drastically curtailed for our own protection.  The script is virtually the same, and to object brings only the same derision and condemnation from the “experts” who obviously know better than you and me.

If you are going to deliberately destroy people’s jobs, drive entire business sectors into bankruptcy, rob children of their educations, financially cripple colleges and universities, blow out personal and governmental budgets, suspend basic civil liberties, and turn us all into fearful scurrying creatures who are thrilled when we spot a pack of toilet paper on a store shelf, we should be able to expect at least one huge rampaging reptile to emerge from the ocean—or maybe an armada of big-eyed space aliens landing here to steal our kidneys.  The hearty self-congratulations sure to be plastered across campaign websites for many years to come might do more to embitter than inspire voters whose lives and livelihoods have been irredeemable ruined by a supposedly conscientious and caring government.

There will, of course, be ongoing analyses of the Coronavirus crisis and its many aftereffects, and particular attention will be paid to the decisions leading to a near-shutdown of the U.S. and global economies in the name of infection prevention.  Whether this was a public health triumph of the first magnitude or an unprecedented overreaction that unnecessarily destroyed the developed world will be a topic of intense—and likely highly partisan—debate for many decades.  Every government official involved in pushing and enforcing this shutdown and lockdown will, of course, work to their dying breaths to present their actions to investigators and historians in the best light possible, and self-aggrandizement and deliberately weak memories will make it nearly impossible to discern exactly what happened—and why.

However, we can already recognize two distinct realities that will be with us for many, many years to come.

First and foremost, our debt-ridden nation and the equally debt-ridden planet on which we are spinning is in for a wrenching readjustment that will painfully restructure our lives today and our futures tomorrow.  

There is simply not enough government assistance available anywhere to make good on the many trillions of dollars of shaky municipal, state, federal, mortgage, and corporate borrowing that has been cushioning our egregious and irresponsible overspending for the past half-century, so we are going to see a cascade of structured debt settlements for pennies on the dollar—and many outright defaults—that are going to spell an end to the easy credit that launched an uncountable number of economically sketchy projects.  Planning on having taxpayers cover your new football stadium or multi-year study of slug reproduction? You might have just seen your window of opportunity slam shut—although a gusher of “stimulus” money may bring back business as usual for a bit.

The economic fallout of the coming credit-based catastrophe will impact every household in America as pension and retirement systems go belly up, business profits and spending shrivels, and every layer of government has to suddenly learn to spend only that which they have on hand.  Expect a very tight few years dead ahead as the financial system abruptly and painfully resets—and the stimulus salvation turns out to be a safety net for the fortunate few and not the suffering masses.  We have for many decades been playing a fiscal game of musical chairs that was always bound for failure; now the music has stopped, and the chairs left behind will be snatched up by our political and financial elites.

The second big change we will see is that government—which used to be everybody’s best friend—is going to be our friend no longer.  Taxes will rise to plug deficits, government jobs and programs will be drastically cut, and the many lovely goodies that politicians promise whenever an election comes around will be jerked from our hands.  If you were planning to vote for a candidate promising free college, free medical care, and free housing, you might as well not bother—it’s not going to happen.  We may, however, get a discounted block of cheddar cheese and a government pamphlet packed with handy tips regarding how to reduce our household expenses—so that we can pay our higher taxes.

At this juncture it is also worth remembering that crushing economic collapse tends to produce a populist fervor that shows little favor for insiders, fat cats, and elitists, so we can expect some portion of our politics going forward will become a question of who to punish and how best to punish them.  Whether the new political bosses sure to emerge from our collective anger will be any better than our old bosses is an open question.  However, as the dull pain of Coronavirus-induced financial distress settles over us like a shroud, those who speak out for insular American self-interest are likely to be a lot more popular with voters than the slick, smug internationalists who will find a way to turn our pain into their profit.  

However, the immediate problem—aside from the widespread economic wreckage all around us—is that honest evaluation and reflection regarding our national self-immolation is going to be in very, very short supply.  

Today’s politicians and bureaucrats would rather have their pancreas ripped out through their left nostrils than admit that they succumbed to irrational fears and crashed the economy for no good reason.  Those running for re-election will loudly, continuously—and frantically—insist that their reasoning and decisions were right and proper.  This is understandable, but these justifications and rationalizations will delay the reckoning that we will need in order to better understand how to avoid making the same errors in the future while we work to intelligently resolve the catastrophe caused by a panic unprecedented in human history.

The only good that ever comes from any mistake is the possibility of learning not to make the same one again.  Although it will be in the self-interest of today’s elected officials and global elites to spin their stupendous stupidity into a narrative that celebrates their own brilliance, the sooner we start to reject this mainstream mendacity, the sooner we can start to make smart decisions about how to clean up the mess that has been left behind.  Perhaps, like children forced to witness their parents’ spectacularly destructive divorce, we are going to develop a bit more maturity, realism, and resilience as a result of watching the “adults” royally screw up our lives.

Or so we can only hope….