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I asked our team to pause for family time this week before kids return to school. The homepage is updated daily. The Digest returns on Monday, August 2. —Mark Alexander

Arnold Ahlert / May 4, 2020

A Character-Revealing Crisis

You either embrace total lockdown and economic armageddon or you’re a moral reprobate.

In normal times, few things are more annoying than the self-conferred moral superiority defined as “virtue-signaling.” During this devastating pandemic, annoying has not only become insufferably contemptible, but a mortal danger to our constitutional republic. We are witnessing tinpot totalitarians, masquerading themselves as purveyors of “conventional wisdom.” In short, you either embrace total lockdown and economic armageddon or you’re a moral reprobate.

“Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” declares headline from a piece published by Politico Magazine. The sub-heading is equally provocative: “The question is how many and how soon. In the pandemic, everyone is a moral relativist.”

Shutdown? In reality, millions of people we call essential workers are working day and night to keep this country from failing completely. They are genuine heroes and, truth be told, many are the very same “deplorables” too many virtue-signaling elitists routinely dismiss as beneath contempt. Moreover, if anyone is going to “admit” anything, maybe the virtue-signalers ought to have the decency to admit that they’re willing to let these workers risk their lives to pick up the garbage, deliver the mail, stock the grocery store shelves, etc., so they can remain comfortably ensconced at home — and boast about their moral superiority for doing so.

Moral relativism? Try perspective. And for perspective’s sake, some questions for those who insist lockdowns are the only way to go: Do you still have a job and paycheck, or enough wealth to endure any shutdown? Do you live in a nice place with plenty of food, or are you cramped in tiny surroundings — when you’re not standing in line for hours at an understocked food bank?

In other words, if one’s life in shutdown more closely resembles a time of “reflection” and “self-discovery” — as a series of insufferably elitist New York Times articles have described — as opposed to a catastrophic, life-scarring, hope-crushing slog, talk is cheap.

And very few Americans do more cheap-talking than some of the most nonessential people in the nation, better known as our political class. These well-paid and well-fed hacks, whose feet never quite touch the same ground as the protesters they despise, are the ones who issue sweeping declarations and constitutionally dubious orders. They seek to exploit the suffering of millions to realize partisan schemes, and they ignore the same draconian rules they advocate for “lesser” Americans.

In a fantasy world, they would all go without paychecks, gated neighborhoods, and body guards. In a show of “solidarity,” they would spend a couple of days each week (at least) serving food at the food banks they’ve engendered, or pay visits to those “sheltering” in tenement apartments with a couple of restless children. They would, as one former president smugly assured us, “feel your pain.”

In the real world? One day after former First Lady Michelle Obama urges black Americans to stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, former President Barack Obama plays golf at an exclusive country club in Gainesville, Virginia, 45 minutes from home. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker finds a question about why his wife has flown to their Florida equestrian estate, in apparent defiance of her own husband’s lockdown orders, “inappropriate” and “reprehensible.” In Elizabeth City, New Jersey, Mayor Chris Bollwage uses loudspeaker-equipped drones that hector people to stay home. And in Oregon, a power-besotted Gov. Kate Brown extends that state’s lockdown until July 6 — despite that state ranking 40th out of 50 in virus deaths.

What about the people who protest against economic calamity, blatant double standards, and tyranny? “I will not die of having wagered my life that TV carnival barkers, political halfwits and goobers in MAGA hats know more than experts with R.N.s, M.D.s, and Ph.D.s after their names,” columnist Leonard Pitts declares. “In other words, I will not die of stupid.”

Is arrogance fatal? How about ideologically induced blindness that ignores inconvenient facts at best or seeks to censor dissenting views at worst?

Experts with credentials? “I’ve worked the coronavirus front line — and I say it’s time to start opening up,” asserts Daniel G. Murphy, MD, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. Barnabas Hospital in The Bronx. “We are developing a significant degree of natural herd immunity,” Murphy adds. “Distancing works, but I am skeptical that it is playing as predominant a role as many think.”

More experts? Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, who’ve done extensive analyzation of coronavirus data, wholeheartedly agree. Moreover, they not only advocate against shutdowns, they explain how they’re adversely affecting a healthcare system whose hyper-focus on the virus has precipitated worker layoffs, and the cancellation of critical patient care that might ultimately force some healthcare facilities into bankruptcy — in the midst of a pandemic.

Genuine stupidity? Drs. Erickson and Massihi’s dissenting opinions being removed from YouTube for “violating community guidelines.”

In reality, the “violation of community guidelines” is a euphemism designed to obscure a burgeoning and cancerous mindset advocated by columnists Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane Woods. Almost unbelievably, both are American law professors. “Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet,” they assert, “and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values.”

How intellectually bankrupt does one have to be to miss the obvious question: Who defines society’s norms and values? Even more telling, how does anyone ostensibly tasked with disseminating the Rule of Law and the Constitution to future attorneys advocate for norms and values straight out of George Orwell’s 1984?

Violating community guidelines is also double-speak for failing to follow World Health Organization guidelines. The would be the same WHO that initially downplayed the virus, first insisted masks were unnecessary, and continues to far more resemble a clearinghouse for Chinese propaganda than a health organization.

But now, even WHO views lockdowns with skepticism. “Sweden represents a future model … if we wish to get back to a society in which we don’t have lockdowns,” the WHO’s Mike Ryan asserts.

Do we? Or will the capricious and exponential expansion of government power become America’s future model?

An old adage states that crisis doesn’t build character; it reveals it. During this pandemic, millions of fundamentally decent Americans are being relentlessly browbeaten into abject fear by a cadre of self-aggrandizing, power-addicted elitists and their useful-idiot followers, all of whom have revealed they are quite willing to be “compatible with society’s norms,” even when those norms threaten Liberty and individual rights with extinction.

People for whom the Constitution is optional, provided the crisis is sufficiently serious.

Who defines sufficiently serious? When a drone made in China is shouting orders at you from above, the answer is painfully — and ominously — obvious.

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