Friday, March 13, 2020

Lent 2020: Fear Is a Virus

And so here we are.

Schools, colleges, sports leagues, parades, conferences, major festivals -- all shutting down.

One case of COVID-19 shut down two major professional sports leagues. One case.

March Madness? There's plenty of madness going around this March, but there won't be any on the basketball courts.

Seattle, meanwhile, becomes a ghost town, as all public gatherings of 250 or more are banned.

Seattle's Catholic diocese suspends all Masses until further notice.

And many nations in Europe are effectively shut down, with their people under virtual house arrest.

As we see Seattle slowly slipping into martial law, and willingly so, we can only sit back and watch as the same hysteria-driven overreach overtakes the rest of the nation.

Fear is a virus, and it's spreading faster than COVID-19.

It's spreading with the aid of a ratings-driven media that cares more about making money off panic than about responsibly informing people.

It's spreading like wildfire in a nation of infantilized adults who were already predisposed to run shrieking from one panic to the next. People who call the police over petty matters because they don't know how to solve conflicts. People who need safe spaces and trigger warnings. People who are so fragile that they want to ban what others can say so no one's feelings get hurt. People who were given coloring books at cry-ins after Donald Trump was elected.

It is this thumb-sucking, Chicken Little environment that has allowed hysteria to disrupt our everyday way of life. It is this panic-stricken population that could very well grind commerce to a halt and crash the markets, sending us spiraling into an economic depression.

So far, about 0.0003% of the U.S. population has contracted the virus. We're shutting down the country for that. For a virus that the overwhelming majority of people will recover from completely. A virus that will take far fewer lives than the flu will this year.

Where, in this land where people are hoarding bottled water and toilet paper, has our critical thinking gone? Where is our common sense?

Common sense dictates that if you're sick, if you're old, or if your immunities are compromised, you should make your best judgment about whether to stay home or go out. It dictates to the rest of us that we take commonsense precautions, like following good hygiene habits.

It does not dictate turning your house into a bunker and shutting down the entire world.

It does not justify allowing an authoritarian government to restrict your freedom of movement until it tells you otherwise.

I am far less scared of a virus than I am of a human race that allows itself to be so illogically paralyzed by fear. If we ever do face a real crisis, I tremble to think how people will act.

I am far less scared of a microscopic bug than I am of people who willingly allow the state to restrict their movements. Because a government that seizes power rarely gives it back. What you allow to be normalized now will become commonplace once you're desensitized to it. You'll allow even greater intrusions into your life the next time someone tells you to panic, because "we have to be careful."

A terrified populace is an irrational populace that will willingly hand over its autonomy in hopes of being saved from every supposed nefarious threat.

This is what we're sacrificing, all because we've allowed the media to instill us with panic. We're freely allowing them to tighten a noose around our lives.

What happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave? I didn't even see people freak out this much over 9/11.

People seriously need to get a grip. You can't erase risk from life. You take a risk every time you step out your front door. If one person dies in a car crash, we don't ban cars. We just remember to drive more safely.

Even worse than all this, though, are the churches going along with the insanity.

Instead of offering more Masses to accommodate crowds of 250 of less, Seattle's bishop decided to deprive every Catholic in the diocese of the opportunity to come to Mass and receive the Eucharist. In the midst of the Lenten season -- the time when we recall how Jesus went fearlessly to the cross, enduring torture and death for those he loved. He did that, and we can't even handle a virus.

This is the same Christian church whose faithful visited and healed the sick when others refused to touch them. Who went to their deaths for refusing to bend the knee to tyrants. Who were tortured, imprisoned, abused, fed to lions for remaining steadfast to their faith. Who met in secret at risk to their lives when the state made Christianity illegal. But now our church leaders act as if the sky is falling and shut down their places of worship -- places that, more now than ever, should be beacons of faith and hope in a world overtaken by fear. Who boldly tell the rest of the world: Be not afraid.

"Let your light shine before men," Jesus said. Well, today's church seems more intent on shining no lights at all, but rather turning out the lights and sending people away. The saints and martyrs must be shaking their heads in utter disbelief.

I'll probably still observe Lent, but my faith in the church is gone. I will seek out the churches that haven't lost their minds and caved in to fear, but I imagine it's just a matter of time until even they capitulate.

The bottom line is, I can no longer hide my contempt for about 99% of the human race. I try my best from day to day, but I just can't do it. I guess this is what I need to work on during Lent, and man, is it hard. The fact is, my wife and I have always felt like aliens on this planet. I'm glad I have her, or I think I would have lost my mind by now.

"Must I fear what others fear?" asks Chapter 20 of the Tao Te Ching. "What nonsense!"

Seems Lao-tzu had more wisdom than most of our civic and religious leaders combined. And that's to say nothing of the terrified lemmings who have sacrificed their common sense and critical thinking on the altar of irrational fear -- the church included.

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