Al Capone once had himself sent to jail because he was afraid the Bugs Moran gang would knock him off for massacring Moran’s goons on St. Valentine’s Day. To stay safe, Capone had to virtually surrender all his freedoms. In a way, America is facing that situation today – but the killer is not a bunch of machine gun-toting thugs. It is a different bug – a real one.
We can make ourselves safe – at least safer – commensurate with the amount of freedom we are willing to sacrifice. Many American are already on virtual house arrest. All that is missing are the ankle bracelet monitors.
The problem is … while we are hunkering down in our domestic bunkers, the infrastructure of our freedoms is beginning to collapse. Make no mistake. What some call a “pause” in our normal activities is really a termination of much of it if that “pause” goes on much longer. Without the vitality of a participating populace nurturing virtually everything that provides the platforms for our freedom are withering away – restaurants, gyms, bowling allies, churches, and almost every other place where we exercise our right of assembly.
Those who claim safety as the paramount concern tell us that we will never be able to go back to our old ways. We will forever have to stand six feet apart in queues. We will never enter a crowded restaurant. We will never again board a plane without cumbersome protocols. There will never again be a stadium filled with cheering sports fans.
Now if we do impose social distancing – or even too many folks impose it on themselves – much of America will die. Just as restaurants cannot survive if they are closed, they cannot survive on one-fourth or even one-half of their normal business. Already two of my favorite eateries have announced permanent closure – and that is the tip of the iceberg.
Airlines cannot survive if they cannot fill those middle seats. Already one airline has requested permission to stop serving a dozen cities. Under the new rules, they eventually will be unable to serve any city. That may make Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – who, in a characteristic moment of ignorance and irrationality – proposed the ending of air travel.
Hugging and kissing are essential to human wellbeing – as are handshakes and pats on the back. We humans are touchy-feely. Just ask Joe Biden. The idea that we can exist as some sort of bubble-encased individuals is the stuff of science fiction, perhaps – but it will never work in a free and healthy society.
When people say that saving lives is all that matters, they have no concept of freedom. Everything we enjoy doing as part of our personal freedom will cause the deaths of some people. Driving 65 miles an hour kills 30,000 people a year. People die constructing tall buildings … playing football … climbing mountains … and even going to work. Try to think of ANY human activity that has not caused death.
We can reduce the human death toll by simply confining ourselves to the home – and even that will not eliminate all avoidable deaths.
America is a great society – and a successful economy – because we DO NOT social distance. Gathering and interacting for our mutual good is ingrained in the human DNA. The inalienable right to assemble is recognized in our government Constitution. It was once said that “no man is an island,” and we cannot organize society to live as individual islands. We literally cannot survive that way.
In the name of saving some lives – which is a noble idea – we are snuffing out our social interaction. Left unchecked the disease of oppression will be taking more lives than it already has. Oppression – and that is what it is – is a far more dangerous human scourge than anything nature can throw at us.
We WILL be gathering together sometime in the future because we cannot survive if we do not. The only question is how much chaos, disruptions, destruction and death we will incur before we stop following Capone’s examples of giving up everything for a brief sense of (false) security.
So, there ’tis.