OPINION: Lockdowns or open society?

OPINION: Lockdowns or open society?

By Lou Arata

In an interview with the N.Y. Times, Melinda Gates, in discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, admitted, “What did surprise us is we hadn’t really thought through the economic impacts.” Apparent through the interview, she is under the impression that it is the fault of the pandemic, not the lockdowns, which caused our economic devastation and the well documented ancillary tragedies.

Whether you like it or not, the pandemic exposed the failure of an experiment in social and economic management by shutting down travel, businesses, schools, churches and instituting stay-at-home directives, all of which smack of totalitarian stratagem. The resulting unemployment has been catastrophic for many families.

This article is not downplaying the suffering and deaths attributed to the virus. Rather, here is the other side of the pandemic response, which is not being realized or focused on by the mainstream media (MSM).

According to the National Vital Statistics System in 2019, there were 2,854,838 deaths in the United States. Of those, heart disease accounted for 659,041 and cancer 599,601.

Overall CDC data shows, as of the end of September 2020, the survival rate of contracting COVID-19 in the United States, to be:

Age 0-19    99.997%

Age 20-49    99.98%

Age 50-69    99.5%

Age 70+    94.6%

With over 2.8 million people dying in the USA yearly, it is always worth reminding ourselves that we, as humans, are indeed part of the circle of life, a part of nature and susceptible to her whims and wrath. Man will never dominate over nature in the long term and, unfortunately, the elderly and weakest among us are going to be the most susceptible to succumb to disease and calamity.

In their book, “Corporate Flight: The Causes and Consequences of Economic Dislocation,” published in 1982, authors Barry Bluestone, Bennett Harrison and Lawrence Baker brought to light the devastating outcome of unemployment in this country. Their data shows us that every 1% rise in our national unemployment rate correlates to an increase of 37,000 deaths — due mainly to depression, cardiovascular disease, suicide, the deterioration of mental health and many other illnesses that increase mortality.

M. Harvey Brenner of the Yale School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University, said, “Economic growth is the single most important factor to length of life.” He also added, “Employment is the essential element of social status and it establishes a person as a contributing member of society and also has very important implications for self-esteem.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, we all were told that we needed to “flatten the curve” so our medical facilities would not be overrun and compromised. That was the major premise of the actions taken and was an important goal. Beyond that, so much of what our leaders decided and implemented was, basically, uncharted waters and the blame-game was out in full force. Federal leaders and the scientific community flip-flopped on proper procedure and the estimation of the effects of the virus. State governors, who are ultimately responsible to their own citizenry, vacillated, resulting in differing outcomes. (Many became the sole arbiter of policy and power, via executive authority given them by the duly elected state representatives, whose job it actually is to legislate). Governors extended their strong-armed policies beyond the threshold of statute, ordering the closing down of commerce and religion. The First Amendment was under attack and the political divide deepened.

Interestingly, it was private businesses that were hurt the most. Public sector jobs were kept secure, some even enjoyed pay raises during the pandemic. Meanwhile, people with Main Street businesses were often not sure where their next meal was going to come from or if their businesses could survive. Not every business received PPP funds and some are still waiting for their monetary distribution. This was evidenced here in Connecticut and we are still dealing with the problems stemming from our governor’s orders done in the name of our safety. For all the appalling economic devastation, our survival rates have remained remarkably consistent. Pre-vaccine, for those under the age of 70, less than 1% died from contracting the virus.

Totalitarianism is defined by Wikipedia as a form of government or political system that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Communist China is a classic example.

This definition is dangerously close to what we are living today. Opposition views from government-issued directives are met with swift cancel culture attacks. The drumbeat of repetitive messaging from the MSM and evening news programming is that “We’re all in this together.” But all of us are not suffering the same realities from the ramifications of our governor’s orders. If you work for the government, then you’re okay. Government has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it takes care of itself and its own. If you work outside the comfortable walls of public service, such is not necessarily the case. What effect joblessness will have on society long-term is uncertain. Fortunately, unemployment coverage has been offered to tens of millions and extended in many cases; however, this situation cannot last forever.

Melinda Gates is above all the suffering. She and her family have financial resources on the order of $70 billion by some estimates, compared to the average citizen who earns $47,216 per year. The toll of the lockdowns and the impact on the collective mental health of our population will become evident in the future pandemic analysis. One thing is certain: The freedom we all once had is now gone, in the name of safety. 

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

While Franklin was addressing an issue of pending taxation, the current use of the quote is apropos. The common terminology of “listen to the experts” and “trust the science” is part of the dilemma of those who have been taught to think and to question authority. Many of those people tend to be conservative in nature. Regardless of the issue, the prosecution and the defense will always have their own “experts” to give the correct version of testimony. Both are experts, but each giving conflicting testimony on the same topic. What is the truth? Who is right, or more aptly put, who do you believe? 

The saying, “Follow the money,” usually aids in sourcing the motive behind public opinions. It is not until you are affected by something, that it becomes important. Human nature is that one is disinclined to consider much about matters that personally don’t affect them. Likewise, not until you have “skin in the game” will you take notice of something or take them seriously. By now, most of us know someone who has suffered with COVID-19 and it is fact that many of those who first walked around without a mask and thought the virus was a hoax, contracted it. They now think differently.

What is currently growing are the extremes of wealth, of those who have in excess and those who don’t have as much. Even as the middle class in this country continues to shrink, socialism is becoming more tolerated and taught in our schools. Not only in our public schools, but private institutions as well. Instead of calling someone a socialist or communist, they are openly referred to as progressive, and that somehow is okay. The attempt of many leftist leaders today is to try and rewrite our history through cancel culture. The only diversity that is not accepted is diversity of thought.

I offer two perfect examples of cancel culture and the forced silencing of debate, which the First Amendment is supposed to guarantee in this country. “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” On our college campuses, where civil debate and open-mindedness should always prevail — to question is for learning and understanding. Conservative advocates Ben Shapiro and Candace Owens have been forced to cancel speaking appearances by students and other organizations who threaten violence to those who oppose their thoughts. Why should their conservative voices not be heard, if offered in a peaceful manner? Just because you may not agree with the line of thought or politics, in no way does it give another the right to exclude them their constitutional rights in the exercising of their right to offer their opinions or to peaceably assemble.

If you thought such affronts weren’t happening to our most precious First Amendment rights, specifically the right to be able to voice your own thoughts without repercussion or government suppression, then today is the day you should start to let your voice be heard. It is even more dire that our government is plotting with corporate tech giants to silence, stifle and preclude free speech, monitor our every click and increase surveillance of our private lives. 

This is not a trend that bodes well for personal liberty, as outlined and guaranteed by our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. We hold these Truths to be self-evident. This is where this country is — half of the country does not think tearing up our founding documents is the correct course of action, nor the best road for the preservation of human freedom. If our new president is going to honestly unify our country as promised, then, according to The Associated Press, why in his first three days of office were 30 executive orders, presidential memorandums, and agency directives signed — all without the consent of Congress? Facts are facts and during his presidential campaign in October 2020, Biden himself said, “You can’t (legislate) by executive order unless you’re a dictator.”

On January 20 President Biden spoke often of the need for national unity. the President’s recent executive actions are more akin to divide-and-conquer. His actions are speaking (and dividing) louder than his words.

Lou Arata has been a candidate for the CT 83rd House District and is presently vice chairman of the Meriden Republican Town Committee and the Meriden Public Utilities Commission.

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