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Looking back on the covid era

by Preston Jones | March 8, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

We're coming up on the third anniversary of what will be remembered as a time when American society, and much of the world, slipped into mass hysteria and inflicted great harm on itself. The response to covid was different in kind but similar in fearful and authoritarian spirit to the Salem Witch Trials, the radical phase of the French Revolution, China's Cultural Revolution and the worst elements of the Red Scare of the 1950s.

The covid debate is over. The face masks were pretty much worthless in terms of preventing the spread of the virus but highly effective at inflicting psychological harm on millions of young people, among whom suicidal ideation has skyrocketed. Closing the schools was an appalling mistake. More than 200,000 young people have simply disappeared from school rolls. Today's wealth-wrecking inflation is the price we pay for yesterday's "covid relief." And preventing loved ones from being with their dying relatives in hospice because, according to the logic of the time, dying alone is better than catching covid was just plain evil. Incredibly, supposedly Christian hospitals played along.

It was a time when we needed exercise more than ever, but the gyms were shuttered and the playgrounds closed. The covid pandemic was made worse by the prior epidemic of obesity. But the covid polices led to the country becoming more -- more -- obese. Such was the wondrous work of our leading health "experts."

We're at the place now where some historical perspective is possible. Below is most of an article, published in mid-2020 in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, that responded to face mask pressure. It's hard to believe now that such an essay could trigger social media meltdowns, Internet attacks, lost jobs, broken relationships and a social fabric in tatters.

July 2, 2020

"Herd often wrong: Shakespeare among the facemaks"

This essay is about face masks but it begins at Eisenhower High School in Rialto, Calif. -- a school I semi dropped-out of when I was a sophomore, first, because getting and being there was dangerous and, second, because it was a waste of time. Eisenhower in the 1980s was on the leading edge of what's now a sad national reality: Urban schools inhabited by poorly educated and uninspiring teachers producing even more poorly educated graduates. Enabling this were parents and pseudo-leaders who only pretended to care.

There were two teacher exceptions. One was Charles Grande, my hero. The other was Bonnie Rucker. In the mid-1980s, both were near retirement. From Mr. Grande, a living Socrates, I learned an approach to life. From Mrs. Rucker I learned about a character named Cordelia in Shakespeare's play King Lear.

At the drama's beginning, Cordelia's dad concocts a stupid game for his daughters to play before he announces their inheritances. Cordelia's two sisters go along. Cordelia refuses and, as a result, loses her inheritance.

Students of the scene might say that Cordelia was too abrupt. She could have responded more softly. She loved her father, though this isn't immediately obvious. But at her core -- in her heart -- was an ideal or a principle she would not violate. She wouldn't play along just for the sake of getting goodies or for peace purchased at the expense of her own integrity.

I quickly forgot everything I learned about King Lear except this scene involving Cordelia. Since 1985 she has been among my key mentors. And she's telling me not to bow to the face mask pressure. Here's why.

Since mid-March, this country has been roiled by a pandemic that, by historical standards, is minor. Yes, the virus is real. Yes, it is dangerous to some populations. Yes, basic social distancing is wise. But we're now nearly four months into a real-life version of the Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." And I don't assent.

I don't assent to the unnecessary damaging and killing of thousands of Arkansas businesses in the name of "safety." I don't assent to the robbery of thousands of people's basic life experiences like graduations and funerals. I don't assent to the extreme measure of completely shuttering places of worship, even as liquor stores thrive. I don't assent to the disruption of everyone's life, because we have known from the beginning who needed protection, and the healthy ten-year-olds pushed from schools into the streets aren't among them.

So the people who did all this now implore us to don the suddenly-sacred face mask, wrapping the message in moral blackmail of the "this-is-how-you-show-you-care" variety. I'm sorry. You folks overreached, brought great, unnecessary damage to many people, and enough is enough.

Of course, the madness went on another year and eventually morphed in a cultural war over vaccines, which we now know haven't come close in efficacy to what the experts promised. At the moment, they appear to be doing more harm to the young than good.

Will the people who inflicted this social disaster on us, along with their legions of collaborators in every walk of life, ever apologize?

Preston Jones lives in Siloam Springs and works on numerous educational projects, including "War and Life: Discussions with Veterans," which can be found at The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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