In the current political context, I am more traditional than progressive, although with a few liberal skeletons in my conservative closet.
But in my philosophical soul, I am a libertarian, with a fervent belief in individual rights and a tolerance for only the minimum government necessary to protect those rights.
A libertarian, not an anarchist, though it can be an admittedly fine line between them, a line I swear the government is making every effort to drag me across.
That is the thought uppermost in my mind as I note the disappearance of the Great COVID-19 Epidemic from the news. Have you noticed that, after two years of raging like a blazing inferno, COVID is now drifting away like the smoke from a dying campfire?
Certainly, one reason is the relentless onslaught of newer fascinations and anxieties. At home, we have spiraling inflation and our race and gender struggles; abroad, there is a war with global implications and real heroes and villains to admire and despise.
But there is also an element of crisis fatigue. We can keep our alert level only so high for so long, so finally we just let it go. Those still dying from COVID will no longer be icons, just victims, like those succumbing to the flu or perishing in one-car accidents on a rural road at night.
We finally just got tired of the whole thing. At least I did, since I should be careful not to project too much.
Tired of being lied to. Tired of being manipulated. Tired of being treated like a child one day, a prisoner of war the next, and a pawn on a chess board every day.
My respect for authority, marginal at best, was stretched to the breaking point. The government, always citing the unchallengeable truth of the great god science, issued contradictory edicts we were all expected to follow. The economy was upended, our schools crippled, lives lost or damaged not by disease but by stupidity. And when the mistakes in judgment became obvious, those in authority doubled down.
And the press, which we should have been able to look to for objective reporting and analysis, took sides and became just another player in the circus. COVID became one more manifestation of the red state-blue state battle to the death, angry mobs inflamed by media cheerleaders.
So, the question we should all be asking in this soon to be post-COVID world, is: What will we do next time? When there is an even greater crisis – and there will be one, perhaps with the survival of humanity in the balance – to whom should we give our trust?
The answer is what it has always been, forgotten though it may be. We should trust ourselves. We take in all the information we can from every source available, process it based on our own knowledge and experience, and use our own best judgment.
That’s the foundational principle of the United States, is it not? We are not ruled by the majority, nor by the wisdom of our best and brightest. We give public servants the ability to use their best judgment, and limit the authority they have in myriad ways, because we know that power is the greatest threat to individual autonomy, and the protection of individual autonomy is the only way to thwart tyranny.
We won’t find our salvation in our groups, whether they be defined by race, sex, gender identity, religion or even political-opposition-in-exile advocacy. One tribe’s advance is often another tribe’s retreat, with those in power defining the favored tribe of the moment.
Rights inhere in the individual. That is the great truth that makes our constitution the greatest document of freedom in history. And it is the truth we were in danger of abandoning even before Covid and that seems almost beyond reach today.
And we have to get it back. Without a firm belief in ourselves as individuals, we cannot summon even the minimal trust we must give the government, so we will forever cross another of those fine lines, from skepticism to cynicism. Even libertarians cannot survive long in that arid environment.