If the only tool you have is power, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a crisis that requires the government to spend a lot of money and the people to surrender their liberty. It is difficult to remember the last time America was not in a state of emergency, panic, or fear. In the corridors of power, there is always a nail to hammer, either at home or abroad. As George Orwell famously wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” Yet, after the challenge fails to live up to the hysteria, are the people no longer convinced?
The War on Everything
The government enjoys declaring wars on any problem that festers in the Land of the Free. In the 1920s, it was the war on alcohol. Then, in the 1960s, it was the war on poverty. A decade later, it was the war on drugs. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Washington declared war on terror. Today, the U.S. has now embarked upon the war on COVID-19.
Politicians have ostensibly been successful in generating trepidation over these troubles, demanding that the public please think of the children! For far too long, the American people have been overwhelmed by consternation over marijuana, believing that every user would metastasize into a character from an episode of Cheech and Chong. At the turn of the century, the esteemed representatives on Capitol Hill were successful in mustering widespread support for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because of bearded and backward men hiding in caves. In 2020, the authorities placed the entire country under house arrest, forcing millions to be worried about a virus that turned out to be primarily a nursing-home epidemic.
There is one thing that all these issues have in common: people eventually give up being scared.
The Leviathan is successful in whipping the population into a frenzy, making average folk as hysterical as the bureaucrats. From “Just Say No!” to Freedom Fries to lockdowns, the government excels at manipulating the populace at the beginning of these wars because people want certainty, and they expect the experts to know what is best. However, as time passes and the government repeatedly fails to achieve its objectives, public support wanes. Across the U.S., people have gotten fed up with the irrational response to the Coronavirus pandemic. They no longer wish to lose their livelihood to over-the-top power-grabbing measures that serve more as measures included in the ten-week free trial of communism than grappling with a public health crisis.
Americans have always been reasonable people. Despite an inherent knack for detecting the mendacity of the state, they are willing to do their part in tackling something that is considered a possible threat to civilized society. But prolonging the agony without results and clarity produces frustration, eventually triggering dissension among the citizenry.
That frustration made Americans sing Happy Days Are Here Again when prohibition was abolished. It made Americans protest the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, and it is why polls find most Americans support drug legalization. Also, that frustration is why several recent surveys reveal that most Americans want to reopen the nation.
Whenever cynics doubt statist orthodoxy on a myriad of issues, they are denounced and labeled with clever and derogatory names, such as climate-deniers or “covidiots.” But history has been kind to the skeptics, proving them to be correct nine times out of ten, as the great H.L. Mencken would say. Mencken also humorously pontificated: “A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.” It is easy to rush into the arms of a coquettish Leviathan – for comfort and security – at times of uncertainty. But if the little man inside you harbors a modicum of skepticism, it may be for good reason.
A Minority of One
When the people rise, it is bedlam inside the alarmist, milquetoast, neoliberal establishment. The men and women in charge throw a petulant tantrum amid peaceful rebellion, threatening the public with the choice of abiding by their decrees or facing their wrath. Governors and mayors wield their power by shutting down senior citizen barbers, while bureaucrats target little girls and their lemonade stands. These acts add fuel to everyone’s dubiety in anything inscribed on the 3×5 card of acceptable opinion. It is common to be in the minority of one at the start of a government-sanctioned crisis, which can make you start questioning your sanity. But as Orwell scribbled in his seminal novel: “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” Truth is indeed a crime in the empire of deception.
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