3-1-20 Covid-19 and the Benefits of Hindsight

We don’t have any hindsight, yet, on the outbreak and management of the COVID-19 virus, the latest viral pathogen to cause a public hysteria which seems to be at the beginning of a dangerous, accelerating curve. Curves bring with them their own set of hazards, which include a lack of response coupled with a too-strident response, each contributing to its own set of exacerbating problems. Today, there is no right answer.

Nearly every headline on today’s news, except for a few concerning the results of the Democratic Primary in South Carolina, has COVID-19 at its root. Alarmists are taking over. The alarmists may yet prove right, but some of their alarms will contribute to self-fulfillment. After three cases of COVID-19 and one death, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced plans to declare a public emergency and to activate the state’s national guard. Activate the national guard for what purpose, one wonders? To go house to house rounding up everyone with a runny nose? With a fever? Those who were singled out by clandestine finger-pointers who may have coughed the previous day in a public place?

That’s him,” they whispered and pointed.

Who?” others asked.

Him,” they said, pointing harder. “He coughed and then blew his nose while standing on the sidewalk this morning. We all saw him.” Immediately, a dozen fingers dialed 911, including fingers belonging to those who saw nothing at all.

A truck load of Washington National Guard troops soon arrived at this unfortunate allergy-sufferer’s house, sporting assault weapons of the real kind and loaded him up, sequestering him to a safe place for the monitoring of his own health and safety, as well as the safety of his community. The community felt better for this, I’m sure.

Lieut. Gen. John L. DeWitt, commanding general of the Fourth Army and the Western Defense Command was once quoted as saying this, as he prepared to round up American citizens of Japanese descent in 1942, “Considerations of national security come first.” He may as well have said, “Considerations of public safety come first.”

Beware of things done in the name of public safety,” history almost shouts at us. Our ears seem to be plugged. We are deaf to history.

Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” declared the French Republic’s Committee for Public Safety, which ironically proved unsafe for everyone, though everyone was equally granted a most fraternal trip to the guillotine. The French Revolution’s leaders were consumed by their own invention. They may have preferred Louis XVI to what they got.

Today’s news headlines warn us of impending worldwide economic collapse, which if true may reveal to us the benefits of a local, independent economy over the global economy that allows us to receive consumer goods shipped directly from China, thanks to Amazon. Warning of empty grocery stores, impediments to interstate commerce in addition to impediments on global commerce, fuel lines, trucks prevented from deliveries to stores, toilet paper hoarding, overwhelmed health care facilities, lack of response by the Federal government, excessive response by the Federal government, the experts coming out of the woodwork are tantamount to a man who once bought a box of band-aids telling us of doomsday scenarios that you may survive by buying his freeze dried foods. Every forum shouts at us.

Imagine, if you can, the terror, suspicion, and treachery in 13th and 14th century Europe at the height of The Black Death, which was not a single event, but came in wave after wave. Everyone was suspect. Whole towns collapsed in fear, or collapsed when their populations were wiped out, perhaps proving that their fears were not without some merit.

In Jan. 2019, the World Health Organization indicated there were 1.4 – 4.0 million cases of Cholera, resulting in 21,000 to 143,000 deaths. They also say that in 2018 there were 228,000,000 cases of Malaria resulting in 405,000 deaths. They also say that 770,000 people died as a direct result of complications from HIV in 2018. The CDC says that in 2009 the H1N1 virus infected 61,000,000 Americans resulting in 12,469 deaths, and as many as 575,400 worldwide. The CDC also says that when combined with CDiff (Clostridioides difficile), infections with antibiotic resistant bacteria exceeded 3,000,000 cases and 48,000 deaths. Hospitals are no safe space; one is likely to be in the greatest danger confined there. Then, there are waves of locusts invading Africa, the middle east, and the Indian sub-continent. I am thankful for all the people who worked and are working on behalf of humanity to stop these from being worse, but I am not certain that their work was as effective as they think it was. It may be that the pandemic/epidemics play themselves out, though perhaps with much mischief.

But there is so much that we don’t know about COVID-19,” the experts agree. I agree, too. Let’s make terrific plans and efforts based on all the things we don’t know. Hindsight will tell us if we were on the right track. Short of that, we’ll likely never know.

What we do know is that Herculean governmental efforts to keep us safe may keep us safe from one thing while greatly imperiling us to another.

When it’s all settled down, hindsight will judge our efforts. And, if everyone succumbs to the disease but me, I will be safe with no point in having survived, and no one to tell.

The round-up ramrod spurred his horse into action one moonless night as he shouted instructions to his trail-hands. The lone thirty pound, hungry coyote had looked longingly at the herd and let out his baleful wail. This made the cattle nervous until their nervousness reached a critical mass and they began their stampede over the hills, through the arroyos and rocky canyons. When it was all over, several hundred of the herd had been scattered to the four winds, many trampled to death by their fellow cows fleeing unseen demons in the darkness, reacting in fear not only to the lone coyote, which was not sufficient enough a predator to have claimed anything except the youngest of calves, but reacting to the fear of each other.

What a waste,” the ramrod said to himself, thinking how stupid cows were, adding, as he held an outstretched coffee cup towards the pot of boiling coffee on the fire, “What the herd thinks, the herd does.”

Cool heads prevail. Cool heads also succumb. You must decide for yourself how cool you head will be.

Keeping abreast of things in the news will not help one bit.

©2020 Mississippi Chris Sharp

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