Rational people have done their best to work together and do what needs to be done to navigate through a global pandemic. Our government has lied, hidden information, mandated policies based on faulty assumptions, and refused to follow its own orders. It is time for it to end — all of it.
We all remember the beginning. Hearing “COVID-19” for the first time in early 2020 quickly gave way to the world-changing as most had never seen before. Businesses closed, working from home, schooling moved virtual, toilet paper shelves bare, and this all in the first couple of weeks. Soon came masks, social distancing, the concept of “essential workers” and the now-infamous “15 days to slow the spread.” In the following months, 39 states enforced mask mandates and 30 states imposed some variety of a stay-at-home order. No matter what, cases and deaths continued to climb.
For most the middle months, or perhaps as long as a year seems hazy when looking back. It’s hard to remember when a certain policy was ordered, how long it lasted, or even to remember a time before it was considered the norm. We’ve forgotten when we reached 100,000 deaths — 300,000 deaths — half a million deaths in our own country. It’s hard to recall what nonsense our president was saying at what time or which equally ridiculous narratives the media was responding to him with. Hidden by the noise of blathering politicians and exasperating talking heads, one’s opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done to defend against a deadly virus became a litmus test for being labeled an ally or an enemy by half the country. Then an election. Then a vaccine.
An opportunity to heal the country was dodged without a moment’s thought by an incoming administration that promised to be everything their historically bad predecessors were not. With an effective and safe option available for the majority of Americans who wanted it, they could have actually done things differently. They could have offered only the best and most accurate information available, made the most informed suggestions possible, and treated all with respect and humanity to allow them to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. It is tragic that such an opportunity was so intentionally rejected. The vaccine rollout began and from the moment that jabs were available to all adults, Democratic leadership began decisively demonizing anyone who wasn’t ready to immediately pull up their sleeve. This happened even though not six months earlier both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were spreading vaccine hesitancy with their own worries about taking a vaccine produced under then President Trump. Both these sanctimonious hypocrites knew that Trump himself had nothing whatsoever to do with the production of the vaccine, nor would he have any say in approving it for distribution; but it served their campaign and their own political goals to sow doubt before the election. The pivot to complete and undying trust in the vaccine was abrupt, and just another in the long list of examples of why reasonable Americans do not feel like they can trust their government.
Along with making an about-face on trusting the vaccine, President Biden followed in the Trump administration’s footsteps by putting a heavy dose of confidence and authority in Dr. Fauci. While there have been plenty of claims made about the man that range from utter nonsense to disturbingly unclear to unfortunately true, what was evident to sensible adults was that Dr. Fauci was wrong on a number of important details since the beginning of the pandemic. His propensity to make declarative statements without humility or nuance and then refuse to admit to being wrong when that was provably so, took him away from being seen as a trustworthy medical professional and rendered him as someone unreliable and wholly unhelpful: a politician. His errors, and attempts to conceal them, led huge swaths of the public to seek out alternative medical information online. Many found sources that provided reliable information shared with empathy and understanding. Many others found charlatans and unstable characters who drove their viewers further away from being able to deal with the mess we are all in.
And yet, onward our government took us down the path to more tribal division and soft tyranny. Marking one year after his election, President Biden addressed the American people like a confused and curmudgeonly substitute teacher whose students questioned him one too many times. In this address, he also introduced the newest authoritarian measure to conquer the dreaded virus — a vaccine mandate. For business owners who employed more than 100 workers, Biden trampled their right to run their companies as they would choose. To employees, he offered the choice of complying, with or without their concerns being alleviated, or finding themselves unemployed. Thanks to the rot of tribalism that decades of right vs. left thinking has infected so many with, those who were once the loudest champions for bodily autonomy now celebrated as their fellow Americans were being stripped of that absolute right. While that mandate makes its way to the Supreme Court, five states have implemented a vaccine passport of sorts, and twenty states have mandated AGAINST the use of vaccine passports – all exercising unconstitutional authority over individuals.
This madness has brought our country into an exhausting and demoralizing constant state of confrontation. With a new spike in cases brought on by the far more contagious and seemingly far less deadly Omicron variant, testing sites are once again overflowing, and schools employing fully vaccinated, double-masked teachers are closing or returning to virtual classes. As long as Republicans and Democrats alike continue to demand that their followers reject the things we can all plainly see, the rift in our country will only continue to widen.
This has to end. All of it.
In every state in the nation, more than 80% of those at the highest risk are fully vaccinated, and all have access to a booster. More than 70% of all Americans over 12 are fully vaccinated. No thanks to the federal or state governments, businesses and schools, and everyday people are learning how to go on in a post-COVID world. No one is unaware that getting vaccinated is proven to be effective at stopping severe symptoms in most cases with minimal risk. Reasonable people understand this and weigh out the risk that does exist with their families and doctors, and the majority have already chosen to protect themselves. Others chose not to believe the data that is available, and no mandate or show of force is going to make them change their minds. How could it? When a government that has proven incompetent and untrustworthy on well-near every major concern in our lifetime is the voice demanding to be trusted, it’s hardly a surprise that those without a grounding in something more reliable will dig in deeper to their own beliefs.
There is one thing that the government at every level can do to stop the last chapter of the pandemic from being a complete failure like each one before it — stop getting in the way. Right away every lockdown order still in place should be lifted, every government-issued mask and vaccine mandate should be ended, and for the love of all that is good, let airlines make policies for their own operations so we can end the civil war in the skies. Stop the spinning of half-truths to fit your predictions. Stop disparaging anyone you have failed to convince to trust you. Stop disrupting our kids’ education and their families’ ability to plan more than a week at a time. Stop pridefully pretending you’ve always known what to do — you haven’t, and everyone knows it.
For better or for worse, the current variant is spreading faster than any we’ve seen before, and even those with only an elementary school level of knowledge about such things know that we are moving from a pandemic to an endemic. COVID will always be with us, even though eventually many won’t even notice. However, we must not only reject the lingering of COVID-era policies, we must be keenly aware that any future health scare will be addressed with the same disastrous and shameful methods by all on the red/blue spectrum. We aren’t fooled by late-night monologues and Twitter spats that make our eyes roll. Our politicians have made decisions day after day based not on what is best for their constituents and what is within their authority, but based on what will keep them in power. It is disgusting and it is evil.
In his essay on the difference between authoritarians and libertarians, Leonard E. Read said, “Let anyone do anything he pleases, so long as it is peaceful; the role of government, then, is to keep the peace.” Any elected official from city councilman to president of the United States who not only failed to help keep the peace, but actively sowed discord and division should see their future electoral attempts fail spectacularly.
We know we cannot depend on our government to return us to a state of peace; that job is our own. As Libertarians, we seek a world of peace, and we must demonstrate that without inhibition in times when it is most tempting to abandon it.