A Weird Week In America (March 2020 Edition)

This past week has been a surpassingly strange one.  This was the week when America—and more importantly America’s leadership—decided that the best response to a public health problem was to succumb to panic, close down our nation, throw tens of millions of people out of school and work, and encourage us to sit at home in a fetal position with a roll of (now very scarce) toilet paper clutched in our quivering hand.  

Perspective was discarded, and anyone who offered the mildest warning that perhaps we are overreacting was shut down by a sensationalistic mainstream media mob determined to spread terror.  The reporting of rumors, the focus on the wildest possible speculation, and the desire to use this opportunity to punish a President they despise was on full display.  In the long term, this craziness will certainly be much more destructive that whatever the effects of the Coronavirus might ultimately be.

First, a reality check is in order:

Analysis of Top 5 Leading Causes of death in America in 2017, which are the most current full year statistics available (per a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report issued in 2019)

  • Diseases of the Heart​​:​ 647,457
  • Malignant Neoplasms​:​​ 599,108
  • Accidents​​​​:169,936
  • Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases​:160,201
  • Cerebrovascular Diseases​​:146,383

The CDC Top 10 List for 2017 is rounded out by Alzheimer Disease, Diabetes, Influenza and Pneumonia, Nephritis, and Suicide.  Collectively, the 10 Leading Causes of Death in America killed 2,813,503 of us.

Total Coronavirus Deaths in United States: 62 (of 3,252 confirmed cases)

In addition, it is already clear that Coronavirus is most likely to kill the elderly and those suffering from pre-existing health problems—in other words, those most likely to die from whatever other viral infection they might contract.  As with any infectious disease, there will be times when the young and healthy inexplicably expire, but it seems to be the case that those with one foot in the grave—and the other on a banana peel—will be most likely to die.  It is sad, but it is not surprising.

Those who advocate for panic believe that we are safer sheltering in place because one can never be 100% certain of the ultimate toll of any infectious disease—which is true.  However, in order to justify rolling up the sidewalks and locking the doors across our nation, the worst—and most egregiously inaccurate—parallels are continually drawn between Coronavirus and far more deadly viruses such as the 1918 Influenza, Bubonic Plague, and Ebola. This is not a prescription for a sound and sober assessment of risks—and it shows.

The problem we face is not our imminent demise.  We are instead suffering from the plague of the same three problems that have been driving our great nation into a ditch for many years: self-serving politicians, partisan journalists, and greedy lawyers.

Politicians, of course, see the public fear regarding this disease as a golden opportunity to enhance both their power and stature.  Understanding perfectly well that frightened citizens are more easily led and manipulated, the typical common sense restraints on governmental actions can now be tossed aside because of the “emergency” facing our nation.  Personal freedoms can be curtailed without cause, property can be seized without compensation, money can disbursed without oversight—and government can take control of virtually every facet of our daily lives.  

Balance and thoughtful consideration are unwelcome when visibility and influence are there for the taking and, most importantly, there is no way to be blamed—whatever the outcome might be.  If Coronavirus deaths should rise dramatically, it is obviously the fault of those who foolishly and unnecessarily caused a delay in granting emergency powers to government officials and agencies.  If infections decline, it is clear that the heroic and selfless work of government is what ultimately prevented the infectious apocalypse.  In light of this, it is understandable why so many elected officials have frantically rushed to “save” us from being one of the dozens of virus-related deaths in the U.S. thus far; the advent of Coronavirus has provided the greatest win-win opportunity in modern American political history.

Journalists have their own reasons for encouraging as much fear and panic as possible.

The first problem is that a measured and mature response to the appearance of Coronavirus is not going to attract readers, viewers, and listeners.  Scary speculations and fear mongering are the road to riches for our declining mainstream media; the “if it bleeds, it leads” dictum has ruled the remnants of local and national news reporting for decades.  Instead of cherry picking stories about car accidents and rising taxes, our news sources can now peddle the most outlandish theories and saddest tales of human woe from anywhere in the world in the name of “informing” the public.  Sadly, this works to build audience—but at a terrible cost to our nation.

The terror that these unbalanced news reports engender helps to rile up the public, which makes it far easier for politicians to push ahead with the most absurd and alarmist policies in the name of public safety.  In this regard, the bargain between news organizations and elected officials has become a scarily symbiotic one—each is benefiting from the spread of panic.  To stop, take a deep breath, and provide some useful context serves the purposes of neither.  Cool, calm, and collected is a losing strategy when you are chasing either audience or voters.

And then there is the problem of the lawyers to help make a bad situation even worse.  

The fear of lawsuits is doubtless on the minds of schools and businesses that are rapidly closing their doors to students and customers.  One can only imagine the uproar that would result—and the stampede of lawyers sure to follow—if a student or customer fell ill because a school or business decided to remain open.  When the closures started, it became incumbent upon others to follow suit in order to avoid charges they were irresponsible or uncaring.  

In order to help get America back in business, emergency legislation must be immediately passed to prohibit lawsuits against those schools and businesses that begin the—hopefully quick—return to normalcy.  If legislation providing immunity from liability is not quickly passed, we’re going to have a heck of a time restarting our nation even after the panic subsides.

In the meanwhile, we all must resist the urge to surrender to unreasonable fear, and we must tell our elected representatives to stop protecting us by destroying our country.  The difference between caution and calamity should now be clear to us all—and it is up to Americans to demand this nonsense stop before it causes irreparable damage to both our lives and our nation.