Having just seen most of the debate, even a member of the younger generation is shocked at just how much of a simple shouting match it is. Trump is Trump, he interrupts way too much and isn't a particularly patient man. Biden is better at not interrupting, but also told the moderator that he would not answer a question on whether he would pack the Supreme Court. Both had the opportunity to appear statesman-like, and, failing that, civil, but neither did. This debate proved that the use of actual debate of issues is, as Obi-Wan Kenobi described the lightsaber, “A more elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” This debate seems to prove that society is drifting away from civilization, not towards it. There was once a place for people to disagree but still act respectably to each other. Now, Trump calls Biden a “stupid person” and Biden calls Trump “evil” and “the worst president in history.” But it didn't start with the politicians, but with the populace.
When it becomes reasonable to insult one another on social media, do those same voters really want to watch people be civil to each other? Does the younger generation even have the attention span to watch people be civil to one another for an hour and a half? These debates are a symptom of the culture of the internet. What do I mean by the culture of the internet? That is to say that people now have the ability to communicate with people from all over the country. In the past, people haven't tended to spend much time caring about what is outside of their immediate surroundings. Why? Because they couldn't see what was going on there, and couldn't influence anyone outside of a certain area. When it becomes easier for a person to influence further afield, they often do so. With the internet, it can become intoxicating. I could go to the town meeting and speak there for a lower school budget, but then I would have to defend myself against people I can't ignore. I would suffer the consequences for whatever I said. If I have a social media argument with someone in California, who cares if they hate me? They are hardly likely to drive to New Hampshire. Thus, people become more extreme and derogatory to their opponents.
Why be moderate in your arguments when you can go to the logical extreme? In the past, people have had to be moderate so that they could cohabitate and be friendly with their family, extended family, and community. But with the ties of society like the family breaking down, so is the incentive to have a moderate opinion. Now that people have stronger ties over the internet than in their community, internet culture is becoming mainstream. So, now we have characters like Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They look for something to convince internet culture to come to their side, because they see that it is the future, and politicians always like to side with the future.
Of course, the internet is not a bad thing of itself, it is like anything from a car to a gun to a book. We can use it well, or we can choose not to. Without it, you wouldn’t be reading this. Many, especially of the younger generation, have failed the test of how to use the internet responsibly. Rather than using it, it has used them. We'll see if they grow out of it or not.
We are now well into summer and the 4th of July was yesterday. The country turns 244 years old. We are half-way through a troubling year. Now is the time to look back on the history of this country of ours. It is substantially shorter than some and has been a beacon of liberty to the world for as long as it has existed. It has not always been perfect, but it is always there, shining among nations. This era has proven no different. We are still the freest nation in the world. There are issues, but it is a year for issues. The whole world is awash with issues. America’s garner attention, because the world is watching, seeing if they can emulate what we do. We also are slightly biased, being Americans ourselves. What we must remember is that we have many blessings, even in these days.
It is amazing how time bends. The horrible George Floyd killing happened on May 25th, 40 days ago. It feels like a lot longer than that, doesn’t it? Things finally seem to be winding down. I haven’t heard of any major riots for a week. A bad cultural trend has worked out in our favor in this event. People have shorter attention spans than ever before, and so this has run out of steam. The rioters’ attention spans have run out. A bad trend, but good results in this one incident. The bigger problem now is the resurgence of coronavirus, the natural result of having rioters loot and burn cities for three weeks.
The numbers for coronavirus have been astonishing, as it appears that we move in on new heights. Let’s look at the statistics. Florida is a good example. I think that most Floridians, based on statistics, would think that a time around April 10th was the worst time of the first big outbreak. On April 10th, 1141 new cases were recorded, along with 198 hospitalizations. Current statistics often disagree with each other, but we can get the general idea. Anywhere from around 7,000 to 10,000 people tested positive for coronavirus. It looks like the number of hospitalizations is in the mid 500s. Thus in April 17% of people who had coronavirus were in the hospital. Now, roughly 6% of people who get coronavirus are going to the hospital. I think this stems from the fact that a lot of the cases that are now coming up are young people, who should recover quicker and go to the hospital less often. Coronavirus also has multiple strains. This is a reason why it takes so many different forms, some weaker, some stronger. If there is a higher case to hospitalization ratio, it may be because it is less severe. I think that the rate of hospitalization is a clear statistic with reporting that is not going to change from the past. People will go to the hospital today at the same severity they went in April. I think that is the best statistic to follow.
Remember that this is not the worst 4th of July America has faced. In 1814, the British were moving on Washington, D.C. to burn it. In 1917, the U.S. was sending its young men to die for a European war. In 1942, we were at war again, against a more formidable foe, both in the Pacific and in Europe. Think of the Bicentennial, in 1976. An unelected president was in power after the Watergate scandal. We were in the throes of oil shortages. Times weren’t much better than they are now. And, of course, we must remember 1776, when the British were landing at Staten Island, preparing to take New York. We’ve been in worse spots than this.
In recent days, it has seemed that the United States of America is scarcely united. As a matter of fact, we’ve had the secession of city blocks in Seattle with the formation of CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone). What are the problems that we face? How did we get to have these problems? And how can we fix them? All important questions. I’ll try to answer them.
So, what are the problems we have today? That is the easiest question. Obviously, there is some racial division. That is proved by the nature of the riots that have racked the nation in recent weeks. But I think the problem is more cultural than racial. As I have been saying in recent weeks, the bigger difference is in culture, whether it comes from the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban, or from different cultural backgrounds, such as is the case with many recent illegal and legal immigrants. Some of these cultural differences are intertwined with the racial issues, but I don’t think that racism is a pandemic in America. Sure, there might be a few bad apples, but there are bound to be among 300 million people. These differences are not new. They have existed throughout time. If we look back in time to the sixties, we will see two competing leaders of the civil rights movement. There was Martin Luther King, Jr., who advocated that whites stop being racist, and that we should all work together to make a better country. Then there was Malcolm X, who, on his complicated journey, seemed to advocate violence and African nationalism. For many years the nation has followed Dr. King. The election of former President Obama was an excellent example of that. I think that today the riots are indicative of a return to the thoughts of Malcolm X.
As I said last week, I think the riots are more economic than racial in nature. There is some racial background, however, and the longer this continues, the closer to the forefront this will get. The media has been very sympathetic to the riots, and has made the racial aspects of it the biggest part. We are facing a powerful dilemma. Either we can crack down on the rioters, or we can let them go free. If we crack down on the rioters, then there will be outcry from all over the nation for alleged racism, and there will also be a terrible human cost. If we let them go free, then we send the message to our own nation and to nations abroad that America allows buildings burned in our streets. That can not end well. So, how do we get out of the dilemma? Both options seem to be leading to trouble. I would suggest that we are currently following the second option, as Minneapolis voted through a resolution to abolish the police department.
As a solution, I would offer up this. I think we need to let people integrate into society again. The Internet echo, where you can go to Twitter and find any opinion you want, was bad before people were locked inside. Now, people are quickly radicalized to whatever viewpoint they leaned towards before, as they spend their time with people who agree with them. People need to go back to work, meet their co-workers, and realize they are not vicious monsters. I still think the economy is the centerpiece.
So, how did we get to this menagerie of different cultures and ideas in one country? America has always been a “nation of immigrants.” This didn’t stop America from growing at an amazing pace from 1865-1965. For that century, no country grew at a faster rate than America did. What changed? During the original wave of immigration, when people came here, they left despotic monarchies in Europe. America was a place where anyone could succeed if they were smart and could be useful, because the U.S. had the lowest government involvement in the economy of any western nation. This encouraged the immigrants, already from similar cultures in Europe, to adopt an American identity. This was the pattern of success, combined with a skyrocketing population, from both immigrants and natural growth. This changed of late, as immigration has now become a requirement to keep the economy growing, and we now have immigration from culturally different places, such as Asia and Central America. These nations have now come in and affected our culture. Now America has gone from a growing nation to a shrinking, ageing nation, one that needs immigrants to keep the population up. This has fundamentally changed the idea of America.
The change has been largely regional. The difference between rural Iowa, Houston and San Francisco is amazing. Talk to people in California, as opposed to northern Texas, and you will find a huge difference. These people are far from working together. The nation is divided along many different seams. We have been for years, but recent events have brought everything to the forefront.
What makes a nation? Nations can be united by ideas, by ethnicity or by success. The Romans were neither one ethnicity nor one ideology. They were just so successful that the places they conquered wanted nothing more than to be citizens. Look at smaller European nations like Hungary or the former Yugoslav states, and you see nations united by ethnicity. The United States of the past was united by ideology. They are no longer, as we have seen in bitter partisan fighting. The United States is not an ethnic country, and never really was. Its success was put on hold with the COVID epidemic. We have to find a new way forward.
So, the big question, can America be a country? Can it be one, united country? I think the proper way to approach things is greater regional autonomy. I just don’t think the conservative Midwest and California should be governed under the same set of rules. If both populations overwhelmingly want to live a certain way, why should they be forced to live under the same set of rules? I think that greater state autonomy is the way to go. This can assist in our problems, as people can live in the state that follows the rules they want to live under. I don’t think that this has to lead to a break-up of the Union, but greater autonomy domestically while still being a united entity in foreign policy would benefit the United States, in my opinion. We’ve seen state autonomy work in recent days, with the individual states handling COVID in many different ways, each taking into account their own states with their policies. I also think we’ve seen the disbenefits as states fail to contain riots within their borders. It is my theory that with greater autonomy we will see greater happiness in the long run, as we can have peaceful competition of ideas for the country, rather than the violent upheaval we’ve seen. I think if we don’t have some levels of autonomy, these problems of division will grow, and I think the damage to the United States would be greater in the long term.
[Editor's Note: This is homeschooling. The school year has ended and thus Wyatt has more time to devote to writing, setting his own goals and an ambitious schedule.]
It could be said that I am the absolute worst person to take the long view of current times. I’ve only been around for 15 years and haven’t known the slightest thing about current events until at most three years ago, when I took to them like a fish to water. And I live in New Hampshire, the whitest state in the Union. This is hardly beneficial to interpreting recent events, whether they be the long term effects of coronavirus, or the recent riots that have shaken the country. However, sometimes the unattached observer is best. It is a terribly interesting time, from a historical perspective. Of course, we must remember the Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.” I don’t think it was meant as good wishes.
First of all, things are not all doom and gloom. We must remember that the standard of living is higher today than ever before. We would all be living at the highest standard of living a major industrial country has ever had, if not for the coronavirus. The Spanish flu was just as deadly as the coronavirus. Yet, everyone went out, and many died. This was because, a hundred years ago, the world couldn’t afford to shut down. Now, we can all stay inside for three months, and our biggest concern is our social life. The sixties were a turbulent time, as turbulent as today politically. The seventies were marked by gas shortages. Life may have been better four months ago, but this is the first dip we’ve seen since the 2008 crash, and all the aftershocks of that. It has taken us all by surprise. We’ll be recovering from this for a long time. But, we will recover from it, in some form or fashion. How much we will lose forever, and how much will continue as it was before, remains to be seen, but we will recover.
I think that the recent riots are as much an indication of economic downturn, perceived as being forced by the authorities, as of the tragic death of George Floyd. The police have enforced lockdowns and have become quite unpopular in some places. It is a simple fact that, while the death of George Floyd is tragic, it is far from the first of its kind. Many examples of police brutality have taken place before, on both blacks and whites. So, why did these ones produce an unparalleled amount of rioting and destruction? I think it is the economic downturn, which has hurt many in the black community. Therefore, there are lots of poor people, black and white, who aren’t allowed to work. Thus, they have nothing to do, other than try and spend unemployment checks. They get into the streets because they dislike the police, and the police have given them another, poignant reason to dislike them. It is thrilling to finally break the social distancing guidelines, thrilling to put oneself at risk for a cause. Then, when they find out that the nation is by and large behind their message, some of the more reckless ones begin looting, and burning police stations. I think it is the natural result of keeping all these people locked up for so long. There was dry wood. The death of George Floyd was the match. That is how I view the situation.
It is amazing how swiftly social distancing was abandoned. If you protest and loot buildings, you are immune to coronavirus, apparently. The rapidity with which the social distancing rule was dropped was amazing. One day, nobody ever talked about anything else. The next, every major player in the world was silent, except for maybe right wing outlets, though I doubt that the protesters’ health is the first thing on their mind. Now, former Vice President Biden is going to attend George Floyd’s funeral, where no social distancing is being mandated. That is quite the risk for the Vice President, who is already elderly, the number one thing to make you vulnerable. It is now politically expedient to ignore social distancing, so it is ignored.
This is leading us into one of the most bitter games of political maneuvering I’ve ever seen, either myself or in history. Usually, when there is a crisis, the nation comes together. We did it in WWII, we did it in the Mexican war in the 1840’s, we did it in the Great Depression, we’ve done it many times. So, why can’t we do it now? It is because both parties have tried and succeeded to make things black and white. Democrats are terrible, say the Republicans, because they want to steal your money and give it to people who aren’t working. Republicans are racist, say the Democrats, because they don’t want to give their money to poor people, and everyone knows that colored people are poor because of Republicans’ racism. And so it goes, getting nastier and nastier, until each side has been convinced the other is entirely evil, and if “those people” get control of the country, it will fall apart. I think this has prevented us from coming together.
It has come up for an interesting election, in that if either candidate were not running against the other, I would assume that they would lose. Vice President Biden is going senile before our eyes, and I don’t think he can physically handle the presidency, the most stressful job on the planet, for four years. I cannot judge his chances until he picks his VP. President Trump was turned to by the Republicans as their last desperate hope. And it worked. However, while he started off well enough, events out of his control have led to him being in a bunker for fear that the White House might be stormed by protesters. Though no one could have stopped the coronavirus, any president that has to be in a bunker has begun to lose control of the country. This is why a European political system with more than two parties would be nice.
So, times may look grim these days. But, they are in some ways the nicest days ever. Remember that oil was once so sought after that wars were fought for it, repeatedly, in the Middle East, not so long ago. Now, we are pulling out of there, a place the United States has been fighting since before I was born, because we don’t need oil anymore. We will need oil again, surely, but I don’t think we’ll need as much for a long time, as people become more accustomed to not driving. It is a time of change. I don’t like it very much, and I think that some of the things being lost will hurt American culture for many years to come. But there are benefits, and I think that the world will come out a new place. The only question is to whom the prize of shaping it will go. Democrats or Republicans? The United States or China? Only time will tell.
The coronavirus has really brought out the culture differences throughout both the world and the country. It has sharply contrasted the mindset of China and the mindset of the West. Within America the divide between Urban and Rural has never been clearer. Both of these are interesting and important aspects of the future.
The Chinese got hit by this coronavirus first, and I’ve heard a lot about what they do from my dad, who works with Chinese kids, teaching them English. Since kids are less tight-lipped than adults, we probably know a lot more about China than most people and were hearing higher death numbers before they were revealed to everyone. China is the embodiment of the centralized state, at least in the modern day. The Communist party rules as a dictatorship. It first invented the lockdown, where everyone was kept inside. They exercised to the fullest their control over the population. And China managed to keep the counts low, as far as we could tell. Bigger numbers came out later. Because of the false numbers, the lockdown was considered the best and only way of beating the coronavirus. China is the most fertile ground for any virus, with many urban areas that Americans can only imagine. Beijing has 21.7 million people in it. California has less than double that with only 39.5 million. That is astounding. Because of this, and the poor nutrition of most Chinese, the virus has every reason to be rampant in China. Only now, as the temperature goes up, has it begun to melt away.
In the West, things went differently. First Italy was hit, and it stood against the Chinese way, and let their people take care of themselves. This led to disaster, from which Italy has not yet recovered. After that the West went into a panic, especially Europe. In America, it was mostly done in the form of suggestions, at least at the Federal level. In Europe things were shut down much quicker. In both, the end result has been the same. We’ve had a large amount of trouble in the urban areas, where people are closer together. In the rural areas, things aren’t that bad. This has been a chief cause of division between urban and rural.
The urban/rural debate has been going on throughout history. It has been brought to a head in recent times, however, as the urban population goes up, and the rural population goes down. That, combined with the partiality of the coronavirus towards urban areas, has led to this divide becoming sharp. The chief difference is this. In the city, everything is there. You work hard to be on the cutting edge, and everything is there. You have a lot of money, but everything costs a lot. You rely on public transportation. You pay high taxes, and get lots of benefits. The urban life is bustling, and is always on the cutting edge of culture. The cities have always had the ideas first. In Paris, the French Revolution was conceived. In Moscow, Communism was first practically considered. In the American and European cities, we’ve seen the ideas of the past thrown away for new ideas. The current divide is about whether they will spread.
The Rural population is “behind the times.” They live a simpler life. In one of the most rural states, Wisconsin, they opened up bars, because the state Supreme Court ruled that the lockdown order was unconstitutional. The Rural population is independent. As they say, “A country boy can survive.” The rural life is one of working without much intervention. People mostly just want to live the way they always have. The rural population is much older, and this is because the colleges are run by the urban population. These colleges then try to imprint the people who go to college with urban ideals. Thus, the rural population is rapidly ageing, while the younger generation goes from college to the urban centers, and from there the rural population loses the population battle, despite the fact that one of the urban ideals is having fewer people in the world. I suppose it is the natural result of living in such a crowded place. I describe it as a battle, and that may seem extreme. However, it really is not. It was the rural population that produced President Trump, who won by sweeping the Midwest and winning key states that have large rural populations, like Pennsylvania. The Urban population despises Trump for the most part, and they are not at all happy that the rural population, through the electoral college, defeated the superior population of the urban areas. The massive gap between these two populations can make the U. S. seem like two countries, with two radically different cultures and ideas being put forth for the governance of the country.
How will it go? I can’t say. The rural population is shrinking, but that was primarily due to college, in my opinion. If colleges become virtual, and young people stay in rural areas, perhaps they will have rural ideals. We shall see. We may have an exodus from urban areas like New York City when this is over. Who can say what effect that will have? Whatever the result, this will certainly be one of the most important issues of the next decade.
The new coronavirus has brought many changes to our lives. I do not think that we’ll ever go back to the way things used to be, as I once hoped. I think that there will be a new normal. What might that look like? Many things are changing. I believe that there are three things that could really change and do both good and bad things for us.
The first thing is education, and colleges in particular. College, in my opinion, has been suffering from having too many people that go there to continue high school, have some parties, and delay their entry into having to be responsible. Now, I have not been to college, but I have looked at some, and the fact that the “party scene” is an actual rating is somewhat disturbing. Also, because the government subsidizes college loans, almost everyone goes to college, which drives down the value of a college degree. The last and most important thing is the invention of the Internet. This puts all the information of the world at anybody’s fingertips. If you can sift through false information, then you hardly need to go into debt for the better part of your life just so you can learn from an “accredited” source. Think about math. You can only lie so much about math on the Internet. So, why do you need a professor? You might have to work harder to do it on your own, but it is a lot cheaper.
These problems were all there before coronavirus hit. But it has brought them to the light. With distance learning, people are realizing that they are getting only slightly better or more formal education than watching a YouTube video. They don’t get to talk to the professor, and they don’t get the party life. Some people are thriving in this environment. Some are not. This shows that college is itself not required for learning. Only the information is, regardless of the source. Academia is a powerful force, but I think the world will awaken to the reality of higher education eventually, perhaps sooner than we think.
Education is also changing at the lower levels. Distance learning looks as if it is going to eradicate snow days in New Hampshire, as that will be used instead of giving the students a day off.
This pandemic has been good for some things. It is forcing families to spend time together again. Previous to this, the family had been declining, to the detriment of Western Civilization. Almost 50% of families look at homeschooling more favorably now, according to some polls. Many of these families have found out about the greatest, most important secret that is kept: the intelligence of the U.S. is going down. We are a far cry from teaching algebra in fifth grade, as they did in the 1800’s. Now, it is a nasty secret that nearly 14% of American young adults are “functionally illiterate,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This covers people who are “able to locate easily identifiable information in short, commonplace prose text, but nothing more advanced.” This information once more comes from the National Center of Education Statistics. This is a travesty. The school system encourages it, because you can’t fail. This is the secret. No matter how bad you do, you cannot fail. You might have to do summer school, you might have special education courses, but you can’t fail.
This is where distance learning is showing that some kids can thrive in the homeschool environment. That is to say, where they can sit at a desk, alone, listen to music, and work without having to worry about anything but themselves. Some people need the social interaction, but those that don’t are going to have a rude awakening when they come back and return to the bustle, and the tediously long school days. I never could figure out how public schools make school last so long.
That’s one thing that could change. The education system will change forever I think, and for the better. However, watch out for the colleges to release their “studies” disenchanting people with homeschool. They have already started, Harvard deriding the “religious extremists” and the “non-socially conforming people” that are homeschoolers. If people want to pull out of the system, the system will not let go easily. If people leave the schools, they will learn that they can learn everything on the Internet. If they do that, they will be disenchanted with colleges. This is not what colleges want. So they will fight.
Another thing that will change is Main Street. I shouldn’t say that it is changing, because main street small businesses were already declining. But, they are going to fall significantly now. I think that business will barely be able to survive economically due to the shutdown. But for those that do, who will go? Why go to the local department store to risk exposure to COVID when you could order from Home Depot? Why go to the bookstore or the clothes store, when you can order from Amazon? Soon, I think, the main street businesses will have to innovate, or they will have to go extinct, eliminating a memory that, while I have never lived, seems to be one of people knowing people in their town, and much more of the economy staying inside the town. It sounds like a good memory to me.
Amazon will grow. I know my family's Amazon orders have not gone down. If anything, they’ve gone up, as anything we can get from there, we get, rather than going to the local stores. And it’s usually cheaper, too. Amazon is reaching critical mass. They are either going to become a power, or the government is going to break them up. Amazon does good things for the people. No Amazon agents came up to our door and made us purchase Amazon, we bought stuff from them freely. We got them because they are cheaper, and more convenient. So, is Amazon growing a bad thing? They have been paying people well in this pandemic, engendering loyalty to the company. Amazon has cut out the middle man of UPS and FedEx, and now delivers its own products. Soon, we’ll have drones delivering our packages. A natural monopoly is not a bad thing. If a company doesn’t have government benefits, and simply beats its competitors, then it is a good thing. It must keep its prices low in order to keep competition from springing up. That is good. I think that an Amazon natural monopoly is better than the government taxing it to death. Because if the government taxes it, Amazon’s prices must go up. Therefore, a tax on Amazon is a tax on all the people who purchase Amazon goods. I think that Amazon growing and Main Street declining is good for the economy, though it may not be good for the culture.
The culture will change. How people communicate with each other will change. I have not had a conversation with anyone outside of my family face to face since mid-March. That is two whole months. And yet I still play games with people, and still have lots of communication. I don’t want to give up face to face communication, but I can’t speak for the rest of my generation. Why do things with people you don’t agree with in town when you can find someone who perfectly matches your interests on the other side of the U.S.? The world may change and move towards this. The decline of Main Street and the changing of education both encourage this.
No one can predict how the world will change. I certainly can’t. I leave the information to you to sort out. There will be changes, some good and some bad. The world is always changing, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. We all have the power to change our world, though it be like a raging river at times. Throw a rock in a river, and it alters the currents. Enough rocks, in the right places, and a whirlpool is bound to form.
The following is another guest post from my "youthful correspondent," who now has a name: Wyatt. His previous contribution was "The Coronavirus Crisis: A Youthful Perspective." If Porter doesn't use too much of Wyatt's computer time allowance playing games, and his parents don't assign too much of his other time to school and chores, I expect to hear more from him in the future. That's why "Guest Posts" is a new blog category.
The Coronavirus has had the effect of frightening us all, and there have been many disparate measures taken to fight it. In some places the danger is all too real, as in New York City. In other places, like the Dakotas, it is hardly a presence. There are 47 states in between, and they all have different levels of severity. Stress brings out the best and the worst in people; we have seen that in every state, and at the highest levels of government. People are afraid and they want to vest more power in the government to deal with their fears and to feel safe again. The unfortunate issue is that, once the government gets power, it rarely lets it go.
Perhaps the scariest thing that has come about from this is that the government wants to track people who get Coronavirus by their phones. I don’t think that if the government got this power, they would give it up. I was not alive at 9/11, so I can’t claim to know what it was like. However, I imagine that people were scared, perhaps in a way comparable to now. When people were scared the Patriot Act came into effect, and this infringed greatly on people’s right to privacy. It passed unanimously without much thought being put into it, because people were scared. The same thing happened with the stimulus bill that just got passed. Everyone getting money across the board is hardly efficient. There were people like my family, who received a decent chunk of cash, even though we have yet to lose any work. My dad teaches kids in China, so he actually saw a boost in his amount of work when the Coronavirus hit China, because kids were stuck inside. My mom manages condominium associations, so she won’t stop being paid unless they go bankrupt. I would say that we hardly need the money, though we won’t refuse it on principle. So, although President Trump said that he would bring down the deficit, it continues to skyrocket.
This is not to say that the president had a whole lot of better options. To give people money with a bunch of red tape would be significantly worse than giving it to nobody, since the money wouldn’t arrive until the time period it was crafted for was long since over. The only other option was to simply let people deal with it themselves. Indeed, who would have thought that the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave would be under house arrest and be living on checks sent to them by the Federal Government? I doubt that things will ever go back to normal, not after people have experienced this shutdown. Either people will be disgusted with what governments do with their power, or they will be impressed by how well the government handled it. This will determine whether the level of government involvement goes up or down.
Of course, our rights are not under attack everywhere. In my home in New Hampshire, everything has been done by suggestion for the common people. Non-essential stores have still been forcibly shut down, but the average Joe can still do what he wants. My family has been in self-imposed isolation since late March, but our neighbors had three or four cars come over for Easter dinner, with people sitting next to each other talking outside. This is an admirable practice in normal times, but rather irresponsible now. But their right to freely associate with people is left uninfringed.
In New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio wants to permanently shut down religious groups who refuse to shut down public worship. Whatever one’s personal views, this is an abominable violation of the First Amendment. President Trump himself had a moment where he said that he had absolute power over the states. These political figures are under a lot of stress. Both have not followed through with their statements, as DeBlasio has yet to shut down a religious institution, and Trump has just turned the decision basically over to the states with his “guidelines” on when to reopen. However, this forebodes a darker time when these threats could become realities. If we get a second wave, for example, I am sure that restrictions will only be heavier, and the abuse of power only more widespread. The best that we can do is to keep calm, and do our best to keep ourselves safe.
It is a tough situation. It is rights vs. life. If Governor X orders storekeeper A to close his store, then the hypothetical person B is not going to get sick and die because he goes to storekeeper A’s store. All it takes is the suspension of person A’s rights. But if rights can be suspended whenever peoples’ lives are in danger, are rights worth anything? Let’s perform a reductio ad absurdum on the issue. If person A insults person B, it could drive person B to suicide. Person B’s life is thus in danger. Therefore, no one should be allowed to insult anyone. This would of course be in gross violation of the right to free speech, although almost everyone thinks the world would be better if there were no insults. Where is the line drawn?
Consider a real life example of where the government’s power to restrain anyone’s rights would be used to deadly effect. There are many people who suggest that fossil fuels will bring Armageddon to society. Such people do exist; several of them ran for president this year. They assume that, not only will millions die, but the whole human race will become extinct, if global warming continues. Thus, the rights of the fossil fuel companies would not be respected. Nor would the rights of anyone who tried to speak out against it. What price are some people’s rights compared to the saving of the human species? Now, perhaps if the human race was in danger of extinction, it would be worth it to remove rights. But the issue is that the choice comes down to a select few people, and human judgement has a terrible track record. It is a decision that the country needs to come to terms with, and soon. The current administration’s task is similar. They must decide how dangerous the Coronavirus is, and act accordingly. So, the next time the president snaps at a reporter, we can remember that he is under more stress than any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, or perhaps Nixon during Watergate.
The ultimate conclusion is that the government has been given a lot of power, and it has done some good and some bad with it. However, if the government does not subsequently relinquish this power, which I doubt it will, worse things will happen. The national debt is rising like the tide, and I don’t think that this tide is going to recede anytime soon. Eventually it is going to reach our beach hut, if we don’t push it back. No one, no matter who wins the election, is going to get us through these waters easily.
I will end with a bright note, however. The American people don’t like having their rights taken away. There have been greater protests in Michigan over confinement then there have been in Italy, and I think that Americans are not quite ready to lose their rights yet. And—for now—the American people can bring their government to heel at election time.
One of Porter's favorite board game partners self-quarantined well before most of us even thought about it.
Not that it was exactly self-quarantine. At the insistence of his father, the whole family was among the first to practice the social distancing now recommended for all of us. It's a good thing it's possible to play board games using the Internet!
Although he's not old enough to be in college, this young man has a passion for history and a good deal more sense than many college students. With his permission, I'm sharing some of his thoughts on current events.
The year 2020 will be remembered as a benchmark year in history. Many things are happening, and the Coronavirus will bring them all to a head. I think that the greatest result will be the government’s increasing authority. This is because we have come to a point where it is almost simply rights vs. lives.
My dad suggests that I should write a book, titled: Rights vs. Life: Coronavirus, the People, and the Government.
It would be quite the book.
We now find an astonishing number of people who are incapable of enjoying their liberties safely. People refuse to practice social distancing, even though it is obviously in their best interest.
There are many reasons for this, I think. First, people generally despise the major media outlets. Thus, when these said that the Coronavirus could be bad, people were inclined to think that they were wrong—because they usually are. Next, the alternative media pundits decided that it was a smart idea for them to say that the mainstream media was wrong, as a way of boosting their own popularity. Thus, the people’s idea that the Coronavirus was going to be a minor disease was confirmed in their minds.
We find now that same inclination towards the government.
The only reason my dad had us quarantine was that he works online with Chinese children, and he saw first hand what this disease did to China. If he was still in his previous job, I’m sure that we would soon be catching the virus ourselves.
Another reason that people are inclined to believe that the Coronavirus is not a problem is that people are very social. The family has fallen apart in too many places, and this has led to people becoming especially dependent on relationships outside of the family. Thus, people are more inclined than ever to underplay the risks of gathering together.
If it doesn't take too much time from the gaming that is keeping Porter from going stir crazy here, I would love to feature more guest posts from this young man. (And I'm certain that one of these days he will actually beat Porter in Afrika Korps.)