28 May Lockdown Protesters are the American Spirit Personified
David Brooks, a house “conservative” at The New York Times, wittingly or unwittingly captured the anti-American leftist worldview when he wrote:
Aside from a few protesters and a depraved president, most of us have understood we need to suspend the old individualistic American creed. In the midst of a complex epidemiological disaster, to be anti-authority is to be ignorant. In the midst of a contagion, to act as if you are self-sufficient is just selfish.
A first reaction to such a paragraph brings to mind George Orwell, who once observed (paraphrasing) “some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them”. But Brooks is not a stupid man. He just doesn’t get the American spirit.
As an initial aside, Brooks’ assertion that anti-lockdown sentiment is represented by a ‘few protesters’ is simply ignorant of the facts. If he got out of the office and spent some time in flyover country, or even near the beaches of Florida and California and Virginia, he’d know better. The American people, by the millions, whether or not they wave signs near a city or state government building, have rejected the lockdowns and are protesting with their feet. Their ranks are growing every day.
The reference to ‘a depraved president’ is just the obligatory swipe at President Trump that assures Brooks is in good standing as a dues-paying member of the elite ‘bipartisan’ club of “Truly Smart People Who All Agree on Orange Man Bad”.
But that’s the minutia.
The more substantive proof that Brooks doesn’t get the American spirit begins with “…to be anti-authority is to be ignorant”.
Which ‘authority’ might that be?
The authority that says deaths in the US will be 1.5M to 2.2M, with a lethality rate of 3.5% of those infected, or the authority that says there may be 100,000 deaths with a lethality rate of 0.26% of those infected?
The authority that says social distancing has saved lives or the authority that says social distancing has no ‘science’ to it besides a 14 year old’s science fair project and no evidence it has been effective?
The authority (or authorities) who say hydroxychloroquine is curing Covid-19 better than any other treatment regimen, or the authority that says there can be no cure but an as yet undeveloped vaccine?
The authority who says contact tracing is critical to re-opening, or the authority who says contact tracing is ineffective and not worth the infringement on civil liberties?
With ‘authorities’ all over the map on just about every aspect of the pandemic—from initial diagnosis of the disease, to prescribed mitigation efforts, to varied treatments, to length and terms of lockdowns—it is manifestly ignorant to proceed as if there is one authority speaking with one voice.
So to be ‘anti-authority’ in these circumstances is to be intelligent, not ignorant—it is to be aware of the truth that there is no such thing as an infallible human authority on coronavirus pandemic treatment. For Brooks or anyone to advocate unquestioning obedience to what amounts to one body of human opinion is akin to the religious zealotry he and his fellow intellectuals are typically so proud to denounce—i.e., you shall put your faith in XYZ, and follow wherever XYZ leads as proof of your fidelity to the faith.
No thanks, Mr. Brooks.
You are projecting a precision and certainty to ‘epidemiological science’ that doesn’t exist. You may wish it did; you may feel better believing that it does. And referring to a ‘complex epidemiological disaster’ may sound so erudite and specific as to lead readers to believe that such precision and certainty surely does exist or there wouldn’t be such 25 cent words available to describe the problem. But the fact remains: it doesn’t. American protesters know it doesn’t.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of good, smart people trying to find more stable and lasting ‘epidemiological’ answers; it doesn’t mean Bill Gates or anyone else in the ‘almighty vaccine’ camp are bad people; it just means that the reality is what it is: there is no definitive, infallible, unwavering human authority to whom Americans (or ‘citizens of the world’, for that matter) owe unified allegiance. And that’s actually a healthy acknowledgement—it prevents development of trust in things that are not trustworthy.
Interestingly, that’s also the DNA of the American founding. Today’s context involves responding to a pandemic; in the founding era it was about responding to the ‘authorities’ who knew that human society required monarchies to be wisely and securely governed.
America’s founders were hardly ignorant, but they were ‘anti-authority’. They opted instead for reliance on limited centralized government and maximum self-government by the people–a model emphasizing individual freedom and responsibility under God—aka, a version of ‘self-sufficiency’. They were right; theirs was a better idea.
Which brings up Brooks’ further misguided attempt at waxing profound: “In the midst of a contagion, to act as if you are self-sufficient is just selfish.”
Ah yes, the Karen-meme that says masks and social distancing and sheltering-in-place…are not about you! They are about protecting others! Get over yourself; sacrifice for the greater good; don’t be so selfish!
Sorry, Mr. Brooks. The ‘selfish’ trope is the cherry on top of all the rest of the ‘authority’ nonsense. Sure, if one stipulates as infallible truths that (1) there would have been millions of deaths absent ‘flatten the curve’ protocols; (2) there is no mental or physical health cost to the economic devastation caused by the lockdowns, you might have at least a thin leg to stand on.
But there is no scientific evidence that the flatten the curve protocols had any ameliorative effect whatsoever (there are models that claim an ameliorative effect, but Americans long ago learned from climate change models: they assume and project what the model creator programs them to assume and project). And the mental and physical health cost of the economic devastation (suicides and other mental health flareups, and complications from non-covid treatments foregone during lockdown) is obvious and growing—by orders of magnitude, such that only the shallow or heartless could dismiss them as if they were simply petty afflictions of those ‘selfishly’ obsessed with money and greed.
Mr. Brooks is equating acting with a sense of self-sufficiency with acting stupidly. They are not the same thing. Intelligent, self-sufficient Americans can listen to medical expert opinion, evaluate its reliability, and decide to follow it partially, wholly or not at all…and not be even remotely selfish or self-centered. On the other hand, to agree to stop living any semblance of a normal life in blind obedience to the worst restrictions of an obviously flip-flopping and unscientific pandemic amelioration strategy is not to establish yourself as a paragon of unselfishness. It simply confirms you’re a very fearful person with limited capability to think–or limited willingness to think–for yourself.
Sort of like: you don’t understand the stuff that created and built America. And you don’t understand the stuff that can recover robustly from a pandemic. You don’t get the American spirit.
But you’ll be happy to piggyback on the shoulders of those thoroughbred Americans who do get it. So relax, Mr. Brooks, cut back on the intellectual pontificating, and let the American spirit of the deplorables and their depraved president make the world ready for your re-entry.
Eric Georgatos blogs at America Can We Talk?