This corona virus is real and has real effects. I get that. Like its cousin SARS, the virus can be brutally hard-hitting to those who have compromised respiratory or immune systems. For perhaps as much as 95% of the population it can be no more harmful than a bad case of the flu, and a significant chunk of that 95% probably wouldn’t get it at all if they practiced simple basic hygiene as part of their everyday routine.
It has been an interesting saga to follow, though. The virus first appeared in the People’s Republic of China, and that nation’s government undertook a campaign of suppression and disinformation almost immediately. While they denied, hundreds of thousands of people who had potentially been exposed were allowed to travel around the world. By the time people around the world started figuring things out, it was too late, and the virus had landed in virtually every developed country.
I guess the lessons of the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 were just lessons, and who has the time to remember those anyway?
Once it got here the response on the part of some has been excellent, by others heavy handed and, in some cases, downright stupid. The president, for example, rightly closed all points of entry to travelers from China on January 30th. Predictably, he was lambasted in the media and by the “loyal opposition” as being heavy handed, xenophobic, racist and taking unnecessary, hateful steps. When, in February, cases of the virus began to multiply exponentially across Europe the president closed entry to travelers from there as well. Again, he was excoriated in the press, by Democrats and across social media. At the same time much of the media in the US has been tripping over itself to carry China’s water.
But the American people sensed that something was wrong. As February wore on, and cases associated to the virus began to be recognized in greater numbers, a panic driven run on consumables, particularly toilet paper, was well underway. People who were, for the most part, completely unprepared responded to the merest suggestion that because of the virus impact there might be disruption of supply chains. Herd mentality kicked in and within a couple of days store shelves were picked cleaner than a chicken’s neck at a backyard bar-b-que. Hoarders, and in some cases, black market profiteers looking for a quick score scooped up all manner of food and hygiene products.
Note to hoarders… toilet paper typically doesn’t come on a ship from China.
But while the president and his task force were urging caution, many state and local leaders were being a bit more cavalier. Speaker Pelosi urged people in her district to come on down to Chinatown. On March 3rd, Mayor Bill DiBlasio of New York City took to the airwaves to tell New Yorkers to ignore the virus and get on with their lives. As late as March 8th, when the scope of the situation was becoming quite clear New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that there was no need to panic, let alone shut down mass transit in his state’s urban core. Imagine their surprise when three days later the World Health Organization finally got around to declaring the virus a pandemic.
At that point, the media decided that the racist, xenophobic president had not done enough and that the entire mess was his fault. Funny how that works, eh?
That was where the politicians took over. First it was a lockdown to make sure the hospitals did not get overloaded. Here in Nevada, Governor Sisolak released a stream of emergency orders. Virtually all public places were closed… casinos, bars, restaurants, liquor stores, government offices. He even closed the cat houses statewide. The pot stores, on the other hand, were specifically exempted probably because our highest in the nation excise tax would mean that at least some revenue was still flowing into the state’s coffers. He also exempted the ongoing construction of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, a project Mr. Sisolak championed when he was chair of the Clark County board of commissioners and that his now wife, then girlfriend, helped broker. But the Las Vegas Strip and Reno’s Virginia Street, to name but two, have become ghost towns. As time has dragged on the governor’s bluster has only increased. Religious services were ordered closed and he ominously threatened extreme enforcement if families gathered for Easter supper. Even a drive in theater in North Las Vegas that offered sit in your own car to maintain distance religious services was shut down.
In the forty days since all this broke, Clark County (Las Vegas) and Washoe County (Reno / Sparks) have been where the virus has hit hardest… exactly as has been seen around the nation and around the world. The rate of contagion outside the metropolitan areas is shrinking, and the special Covid centric intake facilities at hospitals around the state are sitting idle. Several of the rural counties have had no cases at all and here in the four county capitol region where I live, with a population of ~150,000, we’ve had less than 100 cases and exactly one death. The numbers keep falling, the curve has been flattened locally.
Meanwhile, the state’s economy has been effectively destroyed for likely the next few years or, perhaps, longer. Rather than show some leadership and bring forward a plan to reopen the state in a regional, phased and measured way, the governor has adamantly maintained the need to keep the state on a full lock down until he decides it’s time to open. It’s become so obvious that he doesn’t have a plan that even news outlets that are his friends are calling it plain that he is failing badly. The chorus of anger raised by more than 300,000 Nevadans thrown out of work and kept that way as the governor and his team continue to fiddle has been growing with protest marches at the capital and the state building in Las Vegas where the governor spends most of his working time.
So today it was announced that Governor Sisolak has thrown in the state’s lot with a consortium of other states. In what looks like a classic case of kicking the problem upstairs, it will now be a group decision made by some manner of committee representing California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and now Nevada as to when we will begin to reopen and restart our economy. With a stroke of his pen, Mr. Sisolak has completely abrogated his responsibility to the people he was elected to serve. That it also raises the appearance of forging alliances and another, regional, layer of government is hard to ignore. When viewed through the filter of some recent comments by California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, about California flexing its power as a nation state, one can only wonder just exactly what Mr. Sisolak is really signing us up for.
With so many in media and government saying that this is the ‘new normal’, at the end of the day I can’t help but be concerned that we’ve been put on a path to something less than we were before this happened. As I look at much of the news coverage, as well as the ongoing responses of those on the left who bemoan the federal effort but laud the devastation that many governors are causing in their states with ham fisted, one size fits all, lock downs and the ways in which China is driving that coverage and those responses, I am becoming more convinced that this pandemic has morphed into something else. Something sinister. I shouldn’t have to, after all, read foreign press and media to get a clearer picture of what’s going on in the United States, should I?
Much of the response to the virus has taken the appearance of both a power grab by feckless bureaucrats with an agenda, and an orchestrated political hit, in an election year, as a means to an end of regime change, no matter what the cost. It has taken the appearance of many levels of government seizing power and curtailing the fundamental rights of citizens. Many Americans it seems are either blind to it, or they are swayed by low intel, emotion driven coverage dictated by Beijing, and their incessant desire for cheap Chinese goods at their favorite big box. While it sounds trite, we have seen government here in Nevada resort to something bordering on tyranny, done to protect us they say. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s commentary on the tyranny that can come from good intentions:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
If this really is being worked into a political hit, and an advance of the power of government, then our country as we know it is in deep, deep trouble. And if those political leaders advancing open ended lock downs and progressively more draconian controls are doing so to advance a political agenda, then maybe this is where the American dream finally comes to an end.