I believe that we have finally reached the other side of this thing…

May 25, 2021, 9:37 PM

On Friday, May 14, 2021, a number of state governments rescinded emergency orders requiring the wearing of face masks in public for people who have had all of their shots for COVID-19, i.e. “fully vaccinated”, on the heels of earlier announcements providing dates for when nearly all COVID restrictions would be removed.  And with that, I think that it is safe to say that we’re finally on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that life will return to normal.  Ever since the middle of March 2020, when the response to a novel coronavirus started becoming out of proportion to the actual threat, and fear began driving the narrative, I’ve been looking forward to this time, when the world finally started returning to normal.

Truth be told, I took a dim view of the official response to this thing from the beginning.  From the outset, my stance has been that almost all of these various “precautions” were unnecessary, and that the best advice for the public was (A) wash your hands at frequent intervals, and (B) be careful about how much you touch your face.  This is the same advice that we give about nearly every communicable disease, and it’s served us quite well.  I didn’t see any reason why this one should have been any different.  Lockdowns, social distancing, masks, limits on gathering sizes, closed restaurants, closed drinking fountains, plexiglass shields, one-way aisles, contactless everything, the constant cleaning and “sanitizing”, temperature checks, and all of the rest of it is all just security theater, i.e. “the practice of taking security measures that are intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.”  In other words, these measures were there primarily to placate a certain vocal subset of people who were afraid, and their fear was then projected onto the rest of us.  In the end, though, as long as there was no vaccine for it, there was nothing that most of us could reasonably do to prevent its transmission.  It was a problem that was beyond most of our capabilities to solve.  With that in mind, I wasn’t worried about it, and trusted that the scientists whose job it was to solve it would come through.  For the rest of us, there was only one single action that was “doing our part”.  That action was getting vaccinated against COVID-19 when it became available.  Nothing else made a bit of difference.  But until that time came when a vaccine was available, we just had to wait.

Unfortunately, though, we all know how much people hate to be told that they have to wait for something to be solved, and can’t do anything about it in the meantime – especially when they’re scared.  And for a mass hysteria event, we apparently just can’t have that.  Unfortunately, telling people to wait doesn’t look good for politicians, whose constituents will demand that something be done about it after the media has whipped them up into a frenzy – especially during an election year when many of them were trying to keep their jobs.  You know that people would practically crucify any elected official who got up and said, “I’m sorry, but there is really nothing in my power that I can do to solve this at this time.  Until a vaccine becomes available, we just have to wait.”  So, instead, they pander to the masses, going out and doing things that make it look like they’re doing something, i.e. security theater.  When they make it look like they’re doing something, the masses eat it right up.  They stepped in and shut down businesses (and destroyed many people’s livelihoods in the process – see my Gordmans entry), enforced social distancing rules on everyone, and required masks.  Everyone was impacted in some way, and it sure looked like something was being done while we waited.  Especially with the use of mask mandates, they put the pandemic in your face – and on your face – all the bloody time.  As far as the politicians were concerned, mission accomplished.

What probably surprised me the most was not necessarily how politicized this issue became, but rather how the sides fell.  However, while we may have attempted to address one issue (poorly), we created more problems than we solved.  Every other social issue went by the wayside, and we ended up with some major economic devastation that came as a result of shutting everything down that has caused problems that are far worse and will likely be much longer lasting than the virus.  Nobody has yet convinced me that I’m wrong in this thinking.  Most of the arguments in favor of the song and dance that we endured for more than a year that I had gotten from people were not rooted in reason, but rather in emotion, which I typically tend to dismiss out of hand.  Most surprisingly to me, most of the pro-lockdown crowd has been on the left.  It’s been the Food & Water Watch types and the various other left-wing activists that have shouted the loudest that we should go bury our heads in the sand and keep all of our businesses closed.  That’s a bit different than the way that Mike Flugennock of characterized the two sides in 2008, where Republicans were described as “We’ll rule you like despots,” and Democrats were described as “Please, don’t hurt us.”  Meanwhile, it’s been the right-wingers that have tended to favor normalcy in order to help curb the economic damage that this has caused.  I observed all of this, and I was like, really?  The same folks that for decades preached “my body, my choice” when it came to reproductive rights were now demanding that I lock myself in my house and wear eight masks if I absolutely had to go out.  On the other hand, the Republicans were preaching normalcy and calm, despite that almost every other position that they take is repulsive.  I felt like I was the only person who was consistent about bodily autonomy, i.e. if it’s “my body, my choice” when it came to reproductive health, it also applied to every situation involving people’s bodies.

The arbitrariness of what would spread the virus and what things were considered safe also bothered me, especially when it came to activism.  Demonstrating for certain causes was considered safe, but the “wrong” causes would get us all killed because they would spread the virus to everyone.  The way that typically shook out was that left-wing causes, such as the George Floyd protests, were given special dispensation by the virus and therefore considered safe, while anti-lockdown demonstrations, typically attended by right-wingers, were OmG sUpErSpReAdEr!!!! events where the virus would take great joy in infecting all in attendance.  Likewise, I was appalled by the way that many on the left responded to the death of right-wing commentator and former presidential candidate Herman Cain from COVID-19 in July 2020 after attending a political rally.  People acted as though Cain, who also opposed mask mandates, somehow deserved to die because he contracted COVID-19 and died from it.  I’m sorry, but while many of us on the left disagreed with Herman Cain’s stances on almost everything, practically celebrating his death and treating his contracting and dying from a respiratory illness as a moral failing on his part is absolutely disgusting, and has no place in civilized political discourse, much like the way that I opposed celebrations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death.  In any case, what this sort of response ultimately told me was that activism was probably perfectly safe, but people were trying to suppress the other side by criticizing one side’s causes and celebrating another in light of the virus.

In any case, when it has come to politics in a pandemic, I have never felt more alienated all around for being an independent thinker.  For the left, while I agree with a lot of their stances, many of them went completely off of the deep end when it came to COVID, and left-wing politicians took a hardline stance on lockdowns and masks and such, and I absolutely could not get behind that.  For the right, I disagree with most of their positions, particularly on social issues, but when it came to COVID, they were preaching normalcy.  However, my pro-vaccination stance makes me quite unpopular with that crowd.  I’ve certainly discovered how much of a “small-L libertarian” I am, especially in this time of government overreach.

Masks particularly bothered me, because it felt like an invasion into my personal space.  Early on in the pandemic, before mandates, Elyse and I laughed about the people who wore masks in public, because we thought that they were being overly paranoid.  Once mandates started to become a thing, Elyse and I would travel to non-mask jurisdictions to do our errands when possible, and only went along with it once all of the states within a reasonable drive implemented it.   If it tells you anything, for a while, we were driving out to West Virginia on a somewhat regular basis for groceries, mainly to avoid masks, and would make a photography adventure out of it while we were out there.  That ended when West Virginia got in on the mask fad (don’t think that governments aren’t subject to fads of their own), and implemented their own mask mandate.  The problem with masks and the way that they were presented, and why everyone was being made to wear one was that, as the narrative went, we were not wearing them to protect ourselves.  We were allegedly wearing them to protect everyone else from us, and it does nothing at all for the wearer except fog up their glasses.  In other words, we were being asked to literally save the world by wearing a mask.  I considered that a ridiculous ask, especially if we were already supposed to social distance (if the virus allegedly can’t travel more than six feet in the first place, what’s the point of wearing a mask?).  That also meant that it failed the “What’s in this for me?” test.  If my mask doesn’t do anything to protect me, and my own protection requires the full compliance of every single other person in the world to be effective, then I don’t get any benefit from this, and I’m also not doing this out of a feeling of selflessness.  After all, people who do “selfless” things like donate to charity expect to get rewarded for it in the form of tax deductions.  It’s not totally selfless by any means.  Whenever I’ve done something truly selfless, I’ve tended to get burned for it.  So no completely selfless acts from me.

I especially loved the way that some people compared wearing masks to wearing seatbelts in a car.  It’s not the same thing at all.  With seat belts, that protects me and me only.  If I don’t wear my seat belt, I’m going through the windshield in the event of an accident.  My wearing my seatbelt won’t stop my passengers from going through the windshield if they’re not also wearing their seatbelts.  They have to do it for themselves, and it only protects them.  If it worked like the masks are alleged to work, wearing my seat belt would do nothing to benefit me, and if the passengers in my car didn’t all wear theirs, I would still be at risk of going through the windshield if someone was out of compliance, even though I had mine on.  Likewise, if they’re all wearing their seatbelts and I’m not, they’re all going through the windshield and I’m staying safe.  After all, my seat belt protects them, and their seat belts protect me.  Therefore, their seat belts are all protecting me, but I’m leaving them unprotected by not wearing mine.  I’m laughing while writing this because it’s that ridiculous, but you get the point.  It really all goes back to what I said about safety in my Journal entry about school buses.  Back then, I said:

It all leads me to think that the typical school bus stop arrangement is a bit unrealistic and not as safe as one would like to think that it is if the achievement of a safe stop requires factors that are entirely outside of the driver’s control to be in complete compliance.

In other words, if your method to ensure safety requires everyone to be in 100% compliance in order to be effective, then it is not safe at at all, because there are too many factors outside of any one person’s control.  If one person’s being out of compliance is going to kill us all, even if everyone else is properly covered, then it is not ensuring anyone’s safety.

What especially got me was when officials started saying that we should start wearing two masks, i.e. a cloth one and a disposable one.  We already knew that masks were security theater, and this seemed to confirm, without explicitly saying it, that wearing a single mask, like people had been doing for six or so months up to that point, didn’t do anything.  But double masking allegedly would do it.  Sure.  My first thought was, oh, the hell with that, as I dismissed it out of hand.  They were lucky to even get one mask out of me.  Like hell I was going to wear two.  If one allegedly doesn’t do anything, what gives me any reason to think that two will be any better?  Ultimately, masks became a talisman of sorts for a lot of people, i.e. if they wore their masks, they got a magical force field around them that would protect them from the disease-du-jour.

Masks also gave me a bit of pause when it came to supporting Joe Biden for president, and why my reaction to the election was tepid at best.  Biden supported a national mask mandate, which was a complete non-starter to me.  Then after he took office, his “national mask mandate” turned into a strong recommendation and about working with states and localities to get people to cover up.  I figured that we had dodged a bullet.  But then Biden issued an order through the CDC requiring the wearing of masks on all public modes of transportation.  I found this to be quite repugnant, because it as sent a very bad message, i.e. that it was not safe to ride public transportation, if it was necessary for everyone to wear a face mask in order to do it safely.  Transit has felt the effects of people’s staying home more often than not, carrying sparsely populated trains up and down the line through quiet stations.  I’m sorry, but I make my living taking people to and from work every day.  If people aren’t going to work at work, or are driving to work, then my job is in jeopardy.  Therefore, I don’t take kindly to this characterization of transit as unsafe because of the virus-du-jour.  And I especially didn’t appreciate Biden’s using my industry as a pawn to fulfill a campaign promise that was ridiculous in the first place.  Yeah, Biden made his national mask mandate, and my industry has to suffer for it.  Thanks for nothing.

Something else that’s bothered me now that people are shedding masks is the perception issue.  I’ve heard more than one person say that they will continue to wear masks because they don’t want to “look like a Republican”.  Every time I’ve heard that, I would look at them like, really? and roll my eyes.  That is perhaps the most ridiculous rationale ever.  Is your identity so wrapped up in your politics, and are you so politically polarized that you will wear a mask solely to show that you’re on the “correct” team?  Get over yourself with your virtue signaling.  The virtue signaling based on politics starts right at the top, though.  Biden made mask-wearing a big part of his campaign, and even though he was just about the first one to get vaccinated against COVID, he still wears that stupid mask all the time, even though he’s now immune.

I believe that I took the stance that I took about the pandemic because I have engaged in acceptance of a certain level of risk.  I understand and accept that the world is a very dirty place, and it’s always going to be that way, no matter how much cleaning and “sanitizing” we do.  I know that when I go out, many other people have touched the same surfaces that I will touch, and that many more will touch them after me.  I know that other people may have coughed or sneezed on these surfaces, or even done something unsanitary like pick their nose and eat it, and then touch a door handle.  I also know that such unsanitary behaviors by others are completely outside of my control, and I accept that.  So I do what I can to protect myself from this, like being mindful about how often I touch my face, and washing my hands on a regular basis.  I can’t control what everyone else does, and it would be futile to think that I could control that.  Additionally, every time I go out, I accept that there is a certain level of risk that comes along with it.  Any number of things could happen to me when I leave the house.  I could step on an uneven surface and break a bone.  I could get into a car accident.  I might have to escape a fire.  If I consider the risk acceptable, I go out.  If I consider the risk unacceptable, then I will reformulate my plans to find a way to execute them with lower risk, or reconsider whether or not I want to do that thing at all.  In any case, I accept what the world is, and then determine for myself how I want to interact with it.  On that same note, I also accept that we share a planet with lots of different kinds of microorganisms that may help or harm us if they enter our bodies, and that by going out, we might be exposed to some of them.  After all, there’s nothing like going out to eat and discovering later that the food that you ate was improperly prepared, and now you’re sick because of it.  But we take that risk any time that we go out.  Similarly, I could catch a cold while out.  Every time I leave the house, I run the risk of being exposed to other people’s germs.  I accept that risk as a part of life.  Life becomes a lot easier once you learn to accept things that you cannot control.  But I don’t project my fears onto everyone else, and I don’t try to force them to live in fear in order to placate me.

There’s also something else that I have come to realize and accept in my time on this planet: when it comes to the matter of man vs. nature, nature wins every single time.  Whenever humans try to “play god”, it never works out.  Whenever we start to think that we have bested nature, nature is quick to humble us again.  COVID-19 seems to be no exception, as we are once again being humbled by nature, this time with a pandemic.  When it comes to nature, you really have to roll with it, because nature plays the longest game around, to the tune of billions of years (i.e. geologic timescales).  How quickly man-made structures deteriorate once they are no longer being maintained should be a good indication of that.  Just look at the shape that the Bauers’ house and that Days Inn were in when we visited them.  According to public records, the Bauers’ house had been built in 1893, but once it was abandoned in 2002, it deteriorated quite quickly, and was beyond economic repair by the time that we visited in 2016 (it has since been demolished entirely).  Meanwhile, that Days Inn was built in 1991 and closed in 2013.  Having been closed for just seven years, nature took its toll on the place and rendered it beyond economic repair before a fire finished it off about six months after our visit.  In the end, nature always wins.

One thing that astonished me about this whole thing was how willing people were to give up their freedoms.  It goes to show that fear is a hell of a drug.  Some folks, including some who would have been very much up in arms if this had happened during the Bush era in response to 9/11, were more than happy to roll over and give up all of the things that we hold dear in the name of safety from a virus.  And to think that people made fun of Bush for saying that we needed to go shopping and live our normal lives following 9/11.  In the case of COVID, we gave an inch, and the government took a mile.  The original ask was for everyone to stay home for two weeks in order to “flatten the curve”, ostensibly to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.  The idea was to stay home and not venture out unless absolutely necessary, and the closure of all “non-essential” businesses was done to support that.  I thought that even just the two weeks was an unreasonable ask, but most people bought into it, and we began to see things shut down, ostensibly to slow the spread.  Then came more open-ended stay-at-home orders from our state governors, and mandated closures of “non-essential” businesses for an indefinite period of time.  And then came the orders to wear masks in public.  If you give an inch, they will take a mile.  And the goalposts gradually shifted, going from “flatten the curve” and “slow the spread” to “stop the spread” and “crush the curve” and eliminating the virus entirely, while the criteria for getting our lives back were rather nebulous.  It was also done in such a way that it sounded like it was our fault that they were doing this to us, and that if we just behaved ourselves and locked down harder, things would get better.  And if the case numbers go up, presumably because we were bad (because it’s not like a virus is doing its thing – no, it’s a moral failure on our part), we lost our privileges, as indoor dining was yanked a few times over the course of this.  You really do start to feel badly for restaurants, because they were the scapegoats throughout all of this.  One of the first things to happen was the banning of indoor dining, and depending on the jurisdiction, it was reinstated and revoked again on multiple occasions.  That’s not a sustainable way to run a business, if you are subject to the whims of a state governor or county executive to know how you are allowed to operate your business from day to day.

I’ve taken a dim view of nebulous criteria given for before certain things can happen for a long time, and I believe with good reason.  Nebulous criteria usually means that there is no criteria at all, and that the person making the determination is just going to do whatever they want regardless of anything else.  My distrust of it stems from fifth grade, when, after my teacher separated my desk from the rest of the class, she gave me some very nebulous criteria when I asked what it would take to rejoin the class.  Her true intent was likely, “Hell no, I’m planning to ostracize you for the rest of the year,” but instead of being honest and telling me that, she just fed me a line that would get no resistance from me, waiting for the day that I could rejoin the class, which ultimately would never come.  Ever since then, my distrust of such things has never been wrong.

I’ve also always been a strong proponent of getting vaccinated against diseases.  My stance from the outset was that vaccination was the only way out of this, i.e. building up a large enough subset the population with immunity to make the disease a non-issue.  There were two ways to achieve that: either everyone gets the disease directly, or we do an end run around it by vaccinating.  With the idea of a novel virus that no one had any preexisting immunity to, it was bound to be one or the other, and you essentially had a choice of which way you wanted to go.  I chose vaccination, because it’s much less messy than contracting the real disease.  I consider it a great milestone of human achievement to see diseases that were once considered a part of life become things of the past by vaccination.  My parents both got the measles.  I was vaccinated for it, so I never had to experience it, along with a number of other things that my parents had to deal with that I didn’t, thanks to vaccinations.  I got the chickenpox at age four, and gave it to my sister and my father(!).  My sister, being about one year old at the time, had an extremely mild case, but my father, in his mid thirties at the time, became legitimately sick from it, and had an extremely hard time with it.  Elyse got the chickenpox vaccine, which was not a thing yet when we all got it, and so she will never have to experience the absolute joy that is chickenpox (or be at risk of developing shingles later in life).  Plus there’s polio, smallpox, and other diseases that have either been eradicated or greatly reduced in their prevalence on account of vaccination programs.  So for me, getting the vaccination was always a no-brainer.  It was never a matter of “if”.  It was always a matter of “where do I sign up”.  And for the record, I got vaccinated in February and March, with the Pfizer version.  And for all of the naysayers, the way I see it, guys trust Pfizer to give them an erection when it’s not possible to do so naturally, and so I see no reason not to extend that same logic to this.  In other words, I have no reason to think that they don’t know what they are doing, and this is not their first rodeo when it comes to developing things like this.

One thing that I found a bit odd, though, was the insistence that people who had already contracted and recovered from COVID-19 get vaccinated against it anyway.  In other words, get vaccinated against a disease that you’ve already had and developed natural immunity against.  What’s the point?  I considered it the height of arrogance to tell people that even if they already had contracted and recovered from the actual disease, that they still needed to get vaccinated.  Clearly, people conveniently forgot about nature’s undefeated record against humans.  Any time that humans have tried to outdo nature, they always get spanked for it in the end.

I’m also going to be the first to say that the marketing for the vaccine was terrible.  They told us, “Get your vaccine!”  However, they also told us that you still had to practice social distancing and wear a mask even if you had gotten the complete series of vaccinations.  They also told us that you still could get COVID-19 even if you were vaccinated.  While I understand that no vaccine is 100% effective, that sort of messaging is not how you entice people to go out and get it done.  After all, based on that messaging, nothing in life changes, and it provides no protection against disease.  It is completely reasonable for someone to hear that messaging and say, “Then what’s the point of getting the vaccine?”  I find it hard to argue with that stance based on the way it’s been marketed.  All I know is that as far as I was concerned, the pandemic was over for me the moment that the second shot went in.  I was fully vaccinated, and therefore, I was out of the woods.  COVID-19 was no longer a concern for me, and I had even less patience for the security theater that I was being subjected to than I did before.

However, while I am a strong proponent for vaccinations, I also oppose implementing vaccination passports in daily life.  As I see it, vaccination records are a matter between a patient and their doctor, and none of anyone else’s business.  While a business’s checking vaccination status at the door is not something that is covered under HIPAA, it’s still none of their business.  I find so many companies’ making new mask policies that exempt vaccinated customers while continuing to require unvaccinated customers to wear masks to be laughable, because their customers’ vaccination status is none of their business.  Ultimately, there is no practical way to check vaccination status without alienating customers, and the businesses know that.  My COVID vaccination card is completed and sitting in a file cabinet, and that is where it will stay.  Ultimately, one is on their honor about vaccination status, and that’s how it should be.

On that note, one thing that I’m going to be happy to see go away is seeing corporate America “care” so much about my health.  If I had a nickel for every time I saw a sign from a big corporation telling me all about how much they’re concerned about my health and safety, I could retire right now.  I don’t find that comforting or reassuring.  Rather, I find it creepy.  It is not their job to worry about keeping me safe from a viral illness.  That’s an impossible task, akin to pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.  Their job is to sell me what is on the shelves and otherwise leave me the hell alone.  The only safety that I’m concerned about from them is the usual things to ensure my physical safety, like a building in good repair, spills and such cleaned up quickly, and no worry about falling objects.  That’s all I ask.  I don’t appreciate being micromanaged by employees of a place where the goal is ultimately to give them some of my money.  Similarly, I’ve abstained from going to most entertainment-type places that are open right now, as a matter of self-respect.  I respect myself more than to pay full price to suffer through a degraded experience where I’m subjected to much security theater and micromanaged out the wazoo for masks, distancing, and where many parts of the experience are simply not offered in the interest of “safety”.  I’ll pass for now, and revisit when things are normal again.  I’ve said throughout this whole thing that if you piss me off enough during a pandemic to the point that I don’t want to come back, I’m still not coming back even after the pandemic is over.  I suspect that most businesses did it for liability reasons, protecting themselves from getting sued if someone should catch COVID-19 in their establishments, but it was still completely unnecessary.  All of the micromanagement and such was why, during the debate about the second stimulus (the $600 one), when the Democrats wanted stimulus checks to go out, and the Republicans wanted liability protection for businesses when it came to COVID-19, I said that we should do both.  The two proposals were made out to be at odds with each other, as the Republicans didn’t want more stimulus checks going out, while the Democrats didn’t want liability protection for businesses.  But doing both just made sense.  The government directly caused the need for the stimulus, and therefore they should pony up for the economic recovery, and it’s also not the responsibility of a private business to protect anyone from an airborne virus.  That’s not their job.  They need to stay in their lane and conduct their business, and let the people determine what level of protection is best for themselves.

I’ve also found it disappointing how many people have shown who they really are during all of this.  I recently saw someone wearing a shirt that said, “Time exposes us for who we really are,” and it’s really rung true over the last year.  I have found out how judgmental, closed-minded, and short-sighted some people really are.  I’ve also discovered that many (most?) people really have no stances of their own, but instead simply jump on the bandwagon with whatever will make them look the most virtuous.

The short-sightedness is one thing that got me early on, where people were not only supporting, but actually encouraging the government’s shutting down the industries that they worked in under the guise of preventing viral spread.  I couldn’t help but think, ARE YOU NUTS?!? about these things.  After all, the pandemic would be over in due time.  But if one loses their job, and then loses their house and car because they can’t pay the bills because the government prevented them from being able to work, that’s going to have a far more devastating and lasting effect than a respiratory illness where there are very good odds of recovering.  But if someone did lose their livelihood on account of lockdowns, I’ll bet that they were keen on blaming “the virus” rather than the government.  Thing is, COVID-19 does not care about your job.  “Virus gonna virus”, after all.  The government is what took their jobs, but it felt like very few people were giving the government the proper credit for the economic devastation that they caused.  I remember on the Facebook discussion group that my union provides, one person wished out loud that our industry, public transportation, would be shut down in the name of “safety” (I also never thought that I would ever put “safety” in quotes like that while simultaneously rolling my eyes).  I responded to them in no uncertain terms that if they felt unsafe coming to work, then they could always quit, but that they had no right to project their fear onto me and try to prevent me from coming to work and continuing to earn my own livelihood.  It took all of the restraint that I could muster not to call them an idiot, but I maintained civility.  But it really amazed me how many people were willing to give up everything that they had worked for in their lives in exchange for a (false) sense of security.  Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  And in this case, in the end, the people lost both.  I felt like I was far away from most people when I advocated that what was going on was nuts, and should not happen in an allegedly free society.  I will never advocate for a policy of ordering businesses closed, specifically because it will cause devastating economic effects.  As I see it, it would have been one thing if the economy still tanked naturally with the onset of the pandemic and the related shifting of economic factors, but once the government forced large swaths of the economy to shut down, it was no longer attributable to a business cycle.  The government completely owned it, especially when they didn’t really put up to help people weather their shutdowns.

I also was amazed to see how many people in their social media posts were openly suggesting mocking people for opposing stances, and using “BuT wE’rE iN a PaNdEmIc!!!!!” as an excuse to be really lousy human beings.  A former coworker of mine, who I used to think was pretty open-minded, posted, “Are we allowed to quarantine shame people?”  I was like, really? over that one.  And then other people were agreeing with him, much to my amazement.  All I could think of was, “Dude, not cool.”  Then there was another time when I posted an article to my own Facebook timeline that articulated my stance on lockdowns.  One person didn’t even discuss the content of the article, but complained that it was from The Hill, which, according to them, was a right-wing source.  Another person didn’t even bother to comment on the content, either, instead, just saying, “Idiotic.  Bye.”  Then he unfriended me.  Yeah, love you, too.  I returned the favor by blocking him, making it permanent.  I’ve also found myself thinking to myself, I used to respect you, quite a bit in the last year or so about a number of people, as they’ve shown their true colors for all to see.

In the short term, I believe that the biggest challenge will be to convince some people that the world is safe to exist in again (not that it ever wasn’t).  Some people will likely continue to mask and distance and only venture out when absolutely necessary for a very long time.  The way that mask rules dropped like flies recently, though, both among states and among private businesses, gives me hope that normalcy will resume quickly.  In the longer term, I suspect that in eight or ten years or so, it will become accepted in hindsight that we overreacted to this pandemic, much like how it is now generally accepted that the Iraq War was a mistake.  In other words, with the passage of time, it will come out that we blew this one in a major way.  If the country had collectively kept its cool and didn’t burn the house down over a virus with a very high survival rate, we probably would have gotten through this much more easily than we did.  The early advice of “Keep calm and wash your hands” was all that ever needed to be said.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not discounting COVID-19 as a hoax or anything like that.  It is a legitimate health concern, but it’s not the sort of super-virus that will kill us all.  I considered the official response to have been been grossly out of proportion to the actual threat posed.  We greatly overreacted, and it this will likely go down in history as a major blunder because we shut down much of the economy and inflicted far more damage on society from our overreaction to the virus than the virus could have ever dreamed of doing on its own if we had left well enough alone.

One thing that I hope becomes a legacy of this pandemic is a reeling in of emergency powers.  The ability to act quickly in an emergency has its place, but this pandemic showed that those powers are probably too broad in scope, and are too subject to abuse.  To that end, we need to pass laws to prevent such a gross overreaction from ever happening again.  What I found most concerning about the use of emergency powers were these open-ended decrees that had real effects on people, made by the executive branch without consultation with the legislature.  Last I checked, that’s not how laws are made.  It is by design that laws go through a lot of hands and get a lot of signatures before being enacted.  That’s a way of ensuring the consent of the governed.  One person’s ruling by open-ended decrees is not that.  If I wanted to be ruled by an autocrat, I’d move to a country that has an autocratic system of government.  The thing is this: if a situation is truly an emergency and the measures being enacted are reasonable for the crisis at hand, then there should be no issue with getting some proper legislation passed, because the legislature will be behind them on the matters.  Bypassing the legislature and ruling by decree is a gigantic middle finger to the democratic process, which is not how we’re supposed do things in our country.  It tells me that the executive in question knows that they wouldn’t prevail in the legislature if they went through them, but they’re doing it anyway, because they just know better.  Laws that would rein that in would be quite welcome.

All in all, I’m glad that we’re finally able to put the events of the past year and change into the past and go forward in a more normal way.  Hopefully, we have learned some lessons from this experience, such that we will never have such a massive and destructive fear-driven overreaction to a virus ever again.