Liberty, Tyranny and The Madness of Clowns

The zombie apocalypse is on hold. There aren’t enough brains.

Liberty, Tyranny and The Madness of Clowns

There’s a hand-painted sign that got a fair bit of traction on the Internet in late April around the same time that flag waving anti-lockdown protesters dressed in the latest camo-attire from Walmart, and wielding AR 15’s, stormed the state legislature in Michigan (in what could only be described as a “freedom tantrum”) and demanded that the governor stop the lockdown and reopen the economy. “Libety or Tranny” one sign read. Another, with better spelling, read: “Give me Liberty or Give me Death.” Needless to say, I wondered if these armed terrorists, (all white and none of them with degrees in medicine or immunology) would soon be the COVID-19 equivalent of those nameless redshirted crewmen on the old Enterprise, beaming down to the planet Darwin to learn the laws of natural selection the hard way.

As far as vintages are concerned, 2020 will probably go down in the history books like a well-aged milk — spoiled, then very spoiled. I do understand everyone’s desire to get back to work and to get back to normal, whatever normal is. But for those who dispute, ridicule or even taunt dedicated public health professionals, I invite them to visit the grave of my great uncle, Graham Parsons, who is buried in a churchyard in North Wales; the victim of the Spanish flu of 1919, which killed 50 million people, including him. Or they could simply hang out at a few hospitals in New York City for a weekend armed only with their AR-15’s and their camo-attire to see how well they fare.

I have a morbid fascination with people who believe in freedom, but without any responsibilities. They complain about social distancing and the lockdown because their freedom to shop and go to the beach should trump my right not to get sick and die with millions of others (à la 1919). I’m equally fascinated by anti-vaxxers who call proponents of a COVID-19 vaccine “sheeple” and their relatives further down the conspiracy theory food chain who are burning down 5G cell towers in Europe. They claim the towers are helping to spread COVID-19 and that Bill Gates is to blame because he wants to vaccinate everyone and rule the world. Yes, they live among us.

Around the same time that deaths from the coronavirus in the US exceeded deaths of American servicemen in the Vietnam War, the President, (who previously dismissed COVID-19 as a hoax), deflected his inaction by defunding the WHO, blamed China, tried to humiliate those who he disagreed with, and suggested that Clorox and other disinfectants could be injected into the body to somehow stop the disease. And some American politicians and media gadflies have suggested that those over 70 might have to die to save the stock market. Perhaps the virus that would otherwise have caused the “zombie apocalypse” just gave up because there weren’t enough brains to eat.

There’s a New Yorker cartoon from 2016 where one of the passengers on a plane stands up with his hand held high and says “these smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?” Unfortunately, we seem to be living in an age where some people don’t believe in the importance of facts and science. When people without medical training or experience in immunology form their opinions by listening to Donald Trump, “Karen on Facebook,” or Google while sitting on the toilet — we’re seeing the madness of clowns in action. Sadly, there are those who prefer to believe conspiracy theories, con artists, and former reality show hosts rather than those with actual expertise. The reasoned opinions of those who have spent their entire lives in public health dealing with SARS, MERS, Aids and influenza are dismissed because they’re elites and out of touch. Or they relied too heavily on data from China. Or they were born in China. John Cleese was right — some people are so stupid, they lack the capacity to realize how stupid they really are.

To misquote Yeats, the centre cannot hold. The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

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