It took about two weeks longer than I thought and said I thought it would take in a post a few weeks ago, but the public mood has changed, and the politicians, epitomes of wind vanes that they are, have sensed it and are reacting. Many of you know that the Governor of our state has loosened the stay-at-home and business shutdown orders, although not to the degree they should be. So what has happened? As is usually the case, although it may take some time, eventually people figure out the truth and begin to consider situations in a more rational way.
Several factors have taken hold. The reality no longer matches the hype. The media and some politicians whipped everyone into a frenzy with doomsday predictions. Doomsday hasn’t and isn’t going to happen. The true nature of the epidemic, which was evident even in its nascent stage, has become apparent to the public. The virus is a serious threat, more serious than common infectious diseases like influenza, only to the infirm elderly and those with significant pre-existing conditions. Minnesota deserves credit for being transparent about the sources of deaths from the start; other states were not but have been forced to be. There are now a number of stories in almost every state about how many deaths come from long-term care facilities and how few from the general population.
The scope of the economic damage and the non-economic harm from the extreme shutdowns is also now obvious to all but the most hard-hearted or hard-headed. 30 million or more jobs. Children not getting vaccines from fear. Children missing educational and social experiences. Families riven with anxiety. Businesses closing forever that had been mainstays of their communities. Parents being arrested for trying to earn money to feed their families.
And the courts finally did their job. This has been a horrifically undemocratic process, we literally have been living in dictatorships. That is intolerable, and completely unnecessary, for any period beyond a day or two. Most of you are probably aware that the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down that state’s stay-at-home and business closure orders, on basic liberty and separation of powers grounds. Other courts were beginning to question the constitutionality of the orders in their states. Sanity and democracy return.
And politicians being politicians, don’t think that the results from two Congressional special elections last nite didn’t play a role. Those supporting a more rational approach won, somewhat surprisingly in California. And the states that either had no severe lockdown or have eased significantly recently, are doing no worse and often better, than states that embody the “we will destroy every life to save a few from dying of coronavirus” attitude. No politician wants to be on the wrong side of a wave of anger. A sizable segment of the population is going to come to feel misled, even duped, by the way the epidemic has been portrayed, and eventually outraged about the economic damage.
While relieved at the turn to sanity, I am saddened as well. I started writing about the epidemic because I was mortified by what was being done to the lives of low-income people in particular and what we were doing to the quality of life of our children and grandchildren. There was not any balance in the decision-making process. And it will be very, very hard to reverse that damage.
We can’t let up now, we must insist that decisions be made democratically, that the lives of all our citizens be considered, that we repair the damage done as quickly as possible and that we ensure that we never do this to ourselves again.
Having some time ago become fascinated with the human thought process and how behavior was shaped in groups and large organizations up to the scale of a society, I had read a fair number of works delving into mass hysteria and panic. A number of those works were mentioned in a post some time ago called “You Can’t Spell Pandemic Without Panic.” You learn the hard way to truly be skeptical about everything, hence the name of the blog. The best way to be comfortable you are resting on bedrock truth is to question everything, seek alternative explanations and, most of all, question your own assumptions and thought process. It is the surest way to avoid panicked or irrational decisions. That did not happen here and we are all paying the price.