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The Illusion of Control

What are we trading for this false sense of control over a virus? For a sense of control over others? These are questions we should ask ourselves daily as we continue to navigate this virus.

As any sentient adult could have predicted the virus wars have crept back into our discourse both off and online. My social media feeds are once again filled with mask arguments. I hear and read this phrase often: the state reopened too soon. I am a stickler for phrasing. “The state reopened too soon” isn’t an accurate way to phrase an explanation for rising cases. This explanation ignores a myriad of other factors that clearly facilitate the spread of a virus, and this phrase (likely intentionally) places blame for the spread of a virus at the feet of politicians and removes both blame and agency from their constituents. 

In addition to recent nationwide protests some choose to ignore when discussing the spread of the virus, any honest explanation of the continued spread of COVID should not discount human nature. As I wrote back in May, anyone who says we must remain in our homes until the virus is no longer a threat is ignoring both the nature of a virus as well as human nature. Only a fool thinks humans can be controlled indefinitely. After all, it was on this date in 1776 that the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution for independence from Britain. The assumption that had a state not eased restrictions people would have readily complied with a continued lockdown is naive. 

It is a virus. It was never going away because we sat at home for a few weeks. We were told to flatten the curve, spare the hospitals, and get on with life. That was in the middle of March. Today is July 2. 

We love the idea of control, we crave control, but human nature and viruses are not easily controlled. We want to believe experts know what they’re saying because they make us feel safe(r). We yell about masks because they are a tangible, visible way we think we can exert control over both people and the virus. As Rand Paul pointed out earlier this week, “We shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best.” This piece from Forbes, “Rand Paul is Right About Experts,” is worth a read. 

I suspect some people have ventured out and been careless because the masks give them a false sense of security. That might also be contributing to rising cases, because guess what? I am not convinced that thin piece of fabric is the germ-fighting machine you think it is.

In the last few months the government at all levels has imposed unprecedented restrictions on Americans. Government overreach has been and will continue to be my main concern. I cannot change human nature, and I cannot change the nature of a virus, but I can speak out about the dangers of government overreach as well as the dangers of cultivating a culture of fear. 

My seven-year-old son wanted to help a child at the park near my parents’ home recently. My mother, who was supervising the kids at the time, later told me my son said he didn’t help the child because, “he knew he couldn’t touch him.” Viewing other humans first and foremost as disease vectors is unhealthy. 

I want my kids to have Bible class this summer at some point, but that seems unlikely right now. Why? Because the Governor of Louisiana says they cannot. Despite the images of thousands of protesters I saw gathered across Louisiana a few weeks ago, despite the nation’s pediatricians recommending children return to school in August citing mounting evidence that COVID transmission by young children is uncommon, partly because they are less likely to contract it in the first place, the state of Louisiana continues to prohibit children gathering for Sunday morning Bible class citing public health concerns.  

What are we trading for this false sense of control over a virus? For a sense of control over others? These are questions we should ask ourselves daily as we continue to navigate this virus. As I tell my kids often, you control you. You do not control others even though the desire to do so is sometimes strong and even though sometimes it arises from a place of fear. Think twice before begging the government to control others on your behalf. 

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