Fear, Freedom, and the Aftermath

by Harry Caines

On the first day of March 2020 Anno Domini, I boarded a train with a dear friend in Long Branch, New Jersey and headed to New York City to watch a hockey game. As the train headed north it became more packed at every station on the route, mostly with fellow hockey fans. A majority were wearing blue clothing proclaiming their allegiance to the New York Rangers. Some were in the orange and black of my beloved Philadelphia Flyers. 

For me, watching a hockey game in Madison Square Garden was a lifelong dream come true. The arena was packed. The atmosphere was euphoric. And the Flyers won! This was one of those memorable events that many Americans embrace as a privilege of our citizenship. 

It was a great day.

I am typing these words on the last day of March 2020 Anno Domini. In the interim, most of the world—and most assuredly the United States—has allowed itself to give in to the hysteria that has come with the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19. 

As a society, we have willfully given up our civil liberties to authoritarian control; and castigated those who argue against doing so. We have allowed for the obliteration of our unparalleled standard of living because we were told evidence was empirical regarding the death pall that would engulf us in the near future if we did not alter our behaviors. We allowed our elected leaders to put us under de facto house arrest for a crime we did not commit. We sat back tacitly as our government committed economic, social and societal suicide in the unreasonable belief that it was necessary for our safety. 

It was a horrific month. 

The main argument in favor of destroying everything Americans knew and cherished was the projected death tally from COVID-19 should Americans do nothing. The number that started this unreasonable and illogical hysteria was 2.2 million American deaths. This reckoning was offered by Dr. Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College of London. It was given the title the “Imperial Model” much like the illness can be referred to as the “Wuhan Virus” as we traditionally name things for their origins. 

The problem? This model, which was universally accepted as solid, has been amended by Ferguson himself.  The number of deaths he claimed his model could accurately predict was way off. It might top out in the U.S. at 50,000 dead, but likely lower. The scenario has the tally at 200K. That is hyperbolic, but the media ran with it instead of the lower numbers. If it bleeds, it leads. Ferguson claimed in a series of Twitter posts that the actions taken are why he re-aligned his numbers. It is a strange rhetorical device to say that you changed your hypothetical numbers because people listened to you. It is practically infallible because it is theoretically unprovable. 

50K would be a lot of people. But, is that number genuine? As of this writing, my research still cannot confirm if the total dead, which is counted as over 3,500 as I sit here, are people that died FROM COVID-19 or died WITH COVID-19. Some evidence, though I am not claiming at this time if it is correct, suggests that any autopsy that reveals the deceased to have the virus to be counted as dying because of it.

If this is, in fact, how the death toll is being reached, it is medically immoral and should make all of us reconsider why we let the same people who convinced us to ruin our lives because of this pandemic should be trusted to give us accurate numbers henceforth. One single confirmed mistake in estimating the death count on a subject of this magnitude should taint all we are told. Ferguson’s numbers were immensely downgraded, and that speaks against his legitimacy. 

And then there is the mortality rate. Oxford University came out last week with a study that says that millions of people around the world will have already had this virus and got over it with minimal fuss. This theory, which is referred to as herd immunity, would suggest that very few die of the virus. Possibly as low as 0.0001%. That is not an official percentage, but it certainly does not come off as a number that would allow for a society to cause economic collapse and the erosion of a social structure that kept millions of Americans happy and content with their lives. 

How many people do you personally know that are happy and content with their lives today? 

And this argument must be had loudly and incessantly: The emotional and mental health damage we are doing to ourselves will be far more devastating than the final death count from the virus. Whatever the actual number of people who die because of the virus may be, it will be paltry compared to the massive amount of people who will be traumatized by the sudden shift of American culture. 

On March 1st, Americans watched sports, went to church, took hikes, went to the gym, had a beer at the bar, ate inside restaurants, took in a movie at the theatre, visited friends and relatives on random Tuesdays, said hello to their neighbors and did as much work as was possible given their talent, desire and ambition. 

On March 31st, we sit in petrified self-isolation and slowly wither away. Many of us do not know if a job will be waiting for us when (if) this ends. We do not stare at our fellow Americans as good folk doing their best to be their best. We see other humans as harbingers of death who will kill us if we stand 71 inches or closer to us. 

Most of us cannot process that swift of a change in routine or thought. Shame on any person that thinks we can or should in the name of safety…real or imagined. 

“You are going to kill my grandma!”, some of you think in our heads, or type out on the comment sections of social networking sites to defend such a mammoth jolt to our habits. You feel great acrimony at those who didactically argue that the evidence regarding the impact of this virus is not reliable enough to allow the continued devastation to humans that will come after. 

I am sure you love your grandma. She might be a great person. But many died throughout our history—such as at Gettysburg and on the beaches of France—to keep this country the strongest nation in human existence. Your grandma isn’t more important than the totality of ruination that will come after she dies and we try to salvage some semblance of our previous lives. She just ain’t. 

Does that upset you? Are you morally outraged that I do not believe your mom-mom is more important than 230 years of constitutional constancy and personal freedom? Am I some hideously selfish monster for believing the financial ruin and mental erosion of millions outweighs the deaths caused by this virus? 

It is ironic if the answer to those questions is yes. For I look at anyone that capitulates to authoritarian rule and the destruction of America as terrified sheep unworthy of the sacrifices made by many so that we could live in an era of unprecedented wealth and prosperity, only to watch you fearfully give it all away based on unreliable data.

I am not monstrous. I do not think you are monstrous. It is truly pitiful that most people in America look at those they disagree with in such indignant terms.

The mental damage to many Americans after this passes will be incalculable. It can be seen by how far we have fallen from the single-mindedness of our previous major national crisis. Namely, 9/11. 

In the time after 9/11, there was unity in America. We wore hats emblazoned with “NYPD” and “FDNY” to show our solidarity with those brave Americans that ran into the burning towers in a heroic effort to save lives. Many adopted New York City sports teams as their own. We were one.

19 years later, governors are flat out ignoring the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution by stopping vehicles with New York license plates from entering. By their use of language and force, governors and armed law enforcement officers suggest all 8 million+ residents of New York City are diseased instruments of death. The message is clear: “Do not come here!”

From 2001 to 2020, we went from being united with New Yorkers to seeing them as apocalyptic zombies. 

“They” will kill us all. And after the government officials graciously allow us to have our freedoms back, do any of you really believe we will forget the verbiage used to disparage each other? Will the paranoia ever subside? Should it? How bitter will the retail worker that cannot find a job be at the intellectual snob that defended their decision to support this societal destruction by completely discounting their hardships? 

More people are going to die from COVID-19. And many more will feel their physical and mental healths deteriorate under house arrest and the knowledge that on March 1st they were living life as best they can and, now, on March 31st, all they had was stripped from them against their will and without a plan to get it all back.

The aftermath will be grotesque. It is the greatest tragedy I have witnessed that many of us did not consider this when we let fear alter our lives in the worst ways possible. 

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