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31 August 2020
Several months ago, on March 4, I published The Panic Room in which I chronicled my extensive history with severe anxiety (OCD), how I learned to defeat it, and how those lessons apply to the rising panic over Covid-19. In the second half of the article, I made several key points:
After publishing that article, I received many heartfelt expressions of sympathy over my struggle with OCD. I was very touched by these expressions, but I have come to believe that the more important topic—my warnings about what would happen if we did not face Covid-19 clear-headed—got overlooked. In fact, at least one social media friend who expressed much sympathy at my article became quite angry at my criticisms of our national and local response to the virus less than a month later. She wished to give politicians the benefit of the doubt. I know better.
For those who don’t know me personally, I have been involved in politics extensively for the past four and a half years. I’m married to a politician (one of the good ones). I know how politicians behave because I watch them do it from January to May every year in the South Carolina State House. But too many people don’t understand politics. They like to think well of politicians, at least the ones they voted for. This naivety is dangerous as the last four months have demonstrated. Everything I predicted could happen in response to the virus, has happened and worse.
Having a huge breakthrough in life is useless if you can’t apply that insight to other seemingly unrelated issues. As a fearful person, I have had to realize that fear/anxiety is a vulnerability and a liability. When you are fearful, you are easily manipulated. Abusers know this. Control freaks know this. Politicians know this. Although fear is a natural part of life, it should never be the dominating factor in life for those reasons. That’s why, even when you feel fear, you have to get wise and know fear’s number.
So, I’m going to make my most important points again. This is the panic room revisited.
Covid-19 is real. It’s not a scam. It’s not a hoax. Real people have become ill with it. Sadly, many people have died of it. I have to reiterate this because any time I speak out about the innumerably inept, and frankly illegal, ways our government officials have handled the response, I get accused of being a conspiracy theorist.
“You believe it’s a hoax just to get Trump out of office!”
“You don’t wear a mask because you’re afraid you’ll look funny!”
Or my personal favorite, “You only say that because you’re selfish and want people to die!”
Let’s clear up these misunderstandings once and for all: I know Covid is real and can be extremely life-threatening for some. I know this because I am an educated human being and can read. For what it’s worth, I also have a nurse in my family who works at a hospital where Covid patients have been treated and have died.
As for the last accusation, selfishness is a common human sin. I am not free of selfishness, to be sure, though I am constantly working to renounce it and mortify it like I do every other sin. However, my life is not characterized by selfishness which you would quickly understand if you knew me at all. Secondly, I do not want people to die. I guess you’re going to have to take my word on that. But as there are probably very few true psychopaths in this world (if psychopaths exist at all, which I doubt), the odds of me turning out to be a psychopath are slim to none. I only wish you could spend a few moments in my over-active conscience (a hallmark of OCD), and you would have no doubts.
Furthermore, I’ve had Lyme disease for 20 years. I have zero delusions of invincibility. My immune system leaves somewhat to be desired because of the Lyme, and I really don’t know how my body would handle Covid-19 should I contract it. So, there’s that.
Media sells fear. You can take this to the bank. In our culture, advertisers use sex or discontentment to sell stuff. But media doesn’t just use fear to sell, it literally sells fear.
Think about it: why do you buy a newspaper or a magazine, or click on a headline as you scroll Facebook, or hit the play button on a Fox news video? Be honest. It’s fear. (Or voyeurism. Or a sick combination of fear and voyeurism. Yuck. We’ll save that for another day.) We are the only species who will hand over valuable resources to read or watch something which relays the worst possible spin on something that’s happening in the world and end up scared half to death. And then we’ll get up tomorrow morning and do it all over again and wonder why we’re miserable. What’s worse, the fear the news peddles has become our manner of entertainment. Some might find that difficult to believe. But it’s true in the sense that news is addictive or at least habit forming, it’s dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, and a steady diet of this renders the consumer incapable of anything approaching a genuine thought.
“In America, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and it is certainly useful to have a few when a pollster shows up. But these are opinions of a quite different [caliber] from eighteenth- or nineteenth-century opinions. It is probably more accurate to call them emotions rather than opinions, which would account for the fact that they change from week to week, as the pollsters tell us. What is happening here is that television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. I am using this word almost in the precise sense in which it is used by spies in the CIA or KGB. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information–misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information–information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing. In saying this, I do not mean to imply that television news deliberately aims to deprive Americans of a coherent, contextual understanding of their world. I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result. And in saying that the television news show entertains but does not inform, I am saying something far more serious thn that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”
When it is reported on April 14 that a young healthy nurse dropped dead in her own home with symptoms of Covid-19, and a few months later on July 29, (does it really take that long to get an autopsy done or an autopsy report?!) new information comes out that what she actually died of was a kidney infection—well, it’s disinformation when the latter isn’t front page news on every outlet. It’s not as profitable telling readers that young, healthy people actually don’t die of Covid that often. But the first terrifying possibility is.
It is also notable that newspapers all over the place dropped their pay walls for any Covid related articles and are only now beginning to put them back up. “But,” you ask, “doesn’t this prove their altruistic motives? Dropping paywalls for important information?” No. They’re making money hand over fist through ads every time you click the headline.
When I told you all to turn off the news in March, I really meant it. Stop giving these people money. They don’t deserve it.
Fear is not a healthy state, not even during pandemics. Or maybe I should say, especially during pandemics. By the way, what does pandemic mean? According to Merriam Webster:
pan·dem·ic \ pan-ˈde-mik \
Definition of pandemic
: an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population : a pandemic outbreak of a disease
Pandemic does not mean, “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area, affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population, and kills almost everyone infected.” Sometimes that’s what pandemics are like. This one isn’t. But you might get the former idea if you don’t turn off the news and look up some actual numbers and do some actual math. But I digress.
Fear breeds irrational behavior. Fear breeds hatred. Fear can cause you to do the opposite of what is actually necessary, resulting in bad outcomes.
Not that long ago, I spent months of my life, terrorized by a small pin prick of a symptom that I could not quite figure out. It sometimes kept me awake at night, and I was irrationally afraid that I had a parasite. Odd, yes? But you might recall I have OCD, so not terribly odd for me. This led to obsessive googling of symptoms, which led to more horrible possibilities, which led to more anxiety, which led to more lost sleep, which led to more stress on my system–a nightmare I concocted for myself. Part of me knew that I was being irrational and that the symptom was probably nothing that bad. But I couldn’t seem to lay my anxieties to rest, and the outcome was severe insomnia which I believe helped bring on my chronic health issues today. The symptom would go away and come back, go away and come back without rhyme or reason.
A year ago, I noticed that it was always accompanied by an ache in my tailbone. My chiropractor confirmed that my tailbone was, indeed, crooked. He adjusted it, and my annoying symptom vanished. For some weird reason, my tailbone was triggering a nervous twitch somewhere else. Once I realized for good and all that my issue was chiropractic and not parasitic, I felt like an absolute noob. Because I was. I let my fears run away with me and make me periodically miserable.
Fear made me look at my problem in a purely one-sided fashion. All interventions I tried were unnecessary because they did not address the real problem. Fear made me think that a parasite was the only explanation and discount any other explanation and any other solution. Fear made me look at my problem as if it were a nail and a hammer was my only option.
If you are controlled by fear, you will listen to the experts when they say that the only thing to stop the virus is to stay home and shut down all nonessential businesses indefinitely, even though many other experts just as smart and educated are saying that suppression strategy doesn’t work.
If you are controlled by fear, you will believe the people who say that we have no options other than to wait for a vaccine, even when other experts say that a vaccine is probably not going to be a viable option because the virus mutates too quickly and that a better strategy would be to allow young healthy people to get the virus while protecting the very old and immune compromised.
If you are controlled by fear, you will believe the experts that are now telling us our only option to slow the spread is to wear masks everywhere there are people, while other experts are patiently explaining that there is no evidence that masks make any difference whatsoever and if you scour the news waves hard enough, you’ll hear quiet reports that Japan, where masking is a part of the culture, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Hong Kong are having more and more Covid cases in spite of the strict mask mandates.
Are you seeing a common theme here? “This is the only way…” “If everyone would just wear a mask, we know that the spread would slow…” “Shutdowns are the only option until the vaccine gets here.” Beware of language like that, because there are always better options. It’s the language of fear, and it’s meant to control you. Which leads me to my next point…
Politicians like crises. A crisis is frightening, and frightened people are like putty in a politician’s hands. This is my hardest point to nail home, because people just won’t believe that our leaders would use a crisis to gain more power and erode our civil liberties. In spite of being a jaded, sarcastic bunch, we still haven’t lost that tiny shred of naivety which allows bad politicians to manipulate us for personal gain or to advance an agenda.
We still can’t believe that the shutdowns were unnecessary and counterproductive. We still can’t believe that the reason Gavin Newsom is trying to shut down John MacArthur’s church is because he’s enjoying calling the shots and can’t give it up, not because he cares about our health. We can’t believe that my governor who has just given his 12th state of emergency is doing it because he likes the federal dollars and political power he gets out of it, not because death counts are flying up at a dramatic rate. (Look the numbers up in SC if you don’t believe me.)
Let me to show you what our fear has allowed our leaders to do to us. They have made us afraid of one another. They have turned us into the kind of people who call the authorities on someone for having friends over to their house. They have forbidden us to sing in our churches. They have made us redefine naked. “She’s not wearing a mask,” is breathed out in the same shocked tone now as some busybody years ago would have sputtered, “Did you see how low her neckline is?!!!” They have masked us in the heat, even while exercising. You can now receive a ticket in Charleston for walking by yourself inside the city limits without wearing a mask. They have shut down small businesses while letting Walmart, Lowes, and Target hum along unimpeded. They have drastically lowered access to healthcare by frightening people out of seeking medical attention. They made thousands of people die alone, surrounded by strangers, unable to say goodbye for the last time. They have shut in countless children and other vulnerable people with their abusers. They have forced thousands out of work. They have caused financial crises for thousands of people, such that many can’t pay their mortgages and are being evicted as I write. They have closed thousands of small businesses for good.
While those who supported the shutdowns enjoyed their unexpected staycations with their large bank accounts, and large houses, the rest of America sweated it out in close quarters and shrinking bank accounts waiting for unemployment insurance that never came, wondering how they would survive their “staycation.”
And they’ve done it all to get federal money, to enact “emergency” gun bans, to convince us to vote absentee or mail ballots in instead of vote in person setting us up for rampant voter fraud, and to violate our privacy through intrusive contact tracing.
Those, who for the past two years, have passed egregious forced vaccination laws in California, Colorado, New York, and New Jersey are practically salivating over our fear, because they know that we won’t just tolerate more forced vaccinations, we’ll beg for them. Our governor, through this situation, has become so powerful, that no one can stand in his way. The only people who can are the state representatives and senators, and only about 4 out of 170 of them have tried. He can keep renewing his states of emergency indefinitely and horde that power, or he can do as he should and return to a form of government where power is distributed between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. But don’t hold your breath. He’ll have to be forced to do it.
Numbers are gradually going down. “See!” the politicians cry, “It was our mask mandate and all of our restrictions.” But what they don’t want you to notice is that what comes up must come down—for sticks and rocks thrown up into the air, and for Covid cases. As Harry Browne once said, “Government is [politicians are] good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, ‘See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.’” Then they chuckle as they contemplate how easy it will be to control the masses the next time influenza gets rowdier than normal.
All of this has happened in four months’ time. Freedom of association? Gone. Pursuit of happiness by means of gainful employment? Gone. (Yes, it really is if a governor can order it away.) Freedom to make your own medical decisions? Fading, and fading fast. Freedom to walk down the street without breathing through a mask? Fading and in some places gone. And unfortunately, the Christians who pride themselves as being gentle as doves have failed to be wise as serpents and gone along with everything, even consenting to be extensions of the government in their churches—requiring masks to attend, limiting attendance, collecting personal information from each attendee to give over to the government should the government require it, disobeying God’s Word by refusing to sing, and generally failing to see the forest for the trees. Thankfully, at least John MacArthur reversed theological course a few weeks ago and admitted that there are times when the church must defy earthly authorities. But after a decades-long ministry of urging Christians to do the opposite, I wonder if it’s soon enough. Perhaps not soon enough to keep him out of prison.
So, what can we do about it?
Well, some of you will laugh, deride and mock me and then yell at your kid for taking off his mask. Go for it. It’s your own funeral. You’re helping the politicians pull the rug out from under your own feet.
But for the rest of you, you can start owning your no. You can say no to your fear. You can say no to all of this. You can say no every time you want to grab the remote. You can say no while you’re scrolling Facebook and go do something better with your time. You can say no, kindly and politely and firmly, to the mask nazis and the Covid scolds. You can make your home available for friends who need to see your face and need your encouragement. You can say no to the immune-weakening isolation. You can say no by proactively cleaning up your diet and addressing immunity through nutrition and exercise.
Some of what I’m suggesting may cost you friendships or more. But it’s worth it.
And finally, you can say no to the politicians. How? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Stay tuned.