By Stephen Doherty
May 5th, 2020
“What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate balance between freedom ‘to’ and freedom ‘from’.” -Marilyn vos Savant
I’ve often wondered what is the more impactful freedom restored when someone’s incarceration has been completed and they are released from prison. Is it the absence of bricks and bars restricting their movements or is it the restoration of the rights and liberties that let them choose how they live their lives? Bricks and bars are hardly the only means of imprisoning a populace or compromising basic human rights. Few things are more destructive to the human spirit than the denial of choice over how we live.
Tomorrow, America begins “allowing” its citizens to emerge from their basements and family rooms and begin reclaiming their lives and livelihoods in tiny increments. The economic damage this virus has wrought in the form of mandatory quarantines and sequestrations is incalculable. The psychological harm to the legions of Americans who will surely suffer economic devastation has yet to be measured. Equally disturbing was how easily America capitulated to government control and the incredible assault on our rights and liberties. We calmly sat in our homes with the knowledge that millions of our jobs would never return and thousands of businesses would be forever shuttered.
I’m not going to comment on the moral or legal implications of what our government and political leaders are doing. History will be the ultimate judge of whether the “cure” was more destructive than the virus. That said, the absence of discussion on the lethality of economic ruin in the form of suicides, drug addictions, and domestic violence is troubling to me. The sight of a New York mayor appearing on television to encourage his citizens to inform on their neighbors in violation of social distancing mandates- infuriates me. The spectacle of police ticketing and harassing churchgoers who are parked in their cars with their windows rolled up, saddens me. I actually watched in disbelief as three police officers jumped in a boat to chase down a surfer who was by himself- hundreds of yards from shore–to arrest him for violating “social distancing” guidelines.
I will go to my grave with the certainty that America is the greatest nation, by virtually any measure, in the chronicles of mankind. Being a student of history, I know what Americans are capable of in terms of sacrifice and commitment for the greater good or against unspeakable evils. Our ability to come together as a nation when called upon is unprecedented. The world sleeps a bit easier knowing that America provides the ultimate firewall between them and the always pervasive global evils seeking world domination. I have faith that our country will rebound and thrive again as we have following so many other calamities. I still believe in America’s greatness.
However, I’d be lying if I claimed no deep misgivings about what we’ve just inflicted unto ourselves. In 1969, the Hong Kong flu peaked in America, killing over 100,000 Americans. Amazingly, Congress passed no laws or Legislation to deal with this deadly pandemic. The stock market didn’t crash. Nothing was closed by force. Schools stayed open. Businesses did too. You could go to the movies. You could go to bars and restaurants. The Federal Reserve did nothing. Not a single governor acted to enforce social distancing, curve flattening (even though hundreds of thousands of people were hospitalized), or banning of crowds. Media covered the pandemic but it never became a big issue.
Oh, and one more thing. 400,000 people attended a 4-day rock-and-roll extravaganza in upstate New York called Woodstock…and no one got the flu. Two different ways of dealing with a deadly national emergency. Head on while living life…or shutting down the country and watching life from the safety of our basement windows. We will all ponder that question…until the next time.
“This nation will remain the land of the free
only so long as it is the home of the brave.”