‘Chicken Little’ culture is worrisome


There are several things that concern me as our nation’s does battle with the COVID-19 virus.

I begin by quoting John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary Magazine who said that “…. I am by nature both an optimist and an anti-alarmist. My usual reaction to warnings about dangers is a deep skepticism followed by an almost irrational annoyance. This is due in part to the common discussion in the United States over the past half century. It inclines toward hysteria — hysteria that usually has a larger ideological and often anti-capitalist purpose.”

Podhoretz cites a number of things that we have been warned about in the last 50 years that will kill us or end the world in 12 years. Some are common things like eggs, salt, saccharin, nitrites in our hot dogs and also include potential calamities that would destroy civilization.

These include the population explosion predicted in the 1960s, acid rain, nuclear winter and of course the latest threat to life on earth climate change. Then there is a family of life-threatening viruses like Ebola, Bird flu, SARS, MERS and H1N1 that we were told could destroy humanity, but happily didn’t. Podhoretz says all these predictions of gloom and doom have created a “Chicken Little” culture in our society.

The constant warnings of our impending destruction have been manifested in movies and television shows featuring zombie apocalypses, Space alien invasions and a host of other apocalyptic events. It is also shown in the growth of the prepper movement where citizens spend huge amounts of time, effort and money to survive apocalyptic events and who seem to expect Earth’s destruction at any time.

Podhoretz’s fear is that this preconditioning that led to our “Chicken Little” culture could cause our leaders to make serious errors in meeting the COVID-19 Virus cries either by over reacting or under reacting at critical points.

It is a mindset that I believe has led to some of the overreaction in the current crises and to the panic buying of toilet paper, bread, canned food and really just any food in recent days. For reasons I can’t understand bottled water of any kind including distilled was gobbled up. When last I checked, the taps were still running and the dishwasher is still washing.

I am concerned about our economy in light of statements from various government officials about our national lockdown lasting until early June. Certainly, we want to protect our population from the virus but at some point, to be determined based on the best scientific and medical information we need to begin firing up our economy. If we do not, we run the risk of unforeseen economic consequences that could be as bad as the COVID-19 virus.

To delay too long runs the risk of serious damage to our economy. Despite checks sent to citizens and help given to businesses, many may find themselves cash poor and businesses may have ceased to exist along with the jobs they provided.

Therefore, President Donald Trump’s desire to begin restarting the economy beginning on Easter Sunday was a worthy goal. However, as President Trump said the decision to extend the current CDC guidelines regarding social distancing and self-quarantine until April 30 is essential to “flattening the curve.”

Some have concerns using antivirals like chloroquine to treat the COVID-19 Virus. However, fifty years ago I took daily a dose of chloroquine for one year to prevent malaria while in Vietnam. It was discovered in 1934 and in wide use since the 1940s. I believe that despite incomplete clinical trials Chloroquine and possibly other antivirals should be administered to patients seriously ill with the virus.

Some actions taken by state and local authorities that may be seen as protecting citizens may be abridging the rights of citizens. For instance, the governors of several states have issued orders closing retail stores, restaurants, bars, and other locations. These closings and the threat of arrest of persons gathering in groups of more than 10 made by the Major of Chicago can easily be seen as an abridgement of our First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.

Actions like those above combined with threats of what amounts to summary justice seem to interfere with our right as citizens to due process as spelled out in section one of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. That section states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law….”

In another questionable action California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order that insureds can delay payment of insurance premiums for two months. Other states may follow suit. This action deprives insurance companies of funds to operate and to pay claims and seems to be a clear violation of the Contracts Clause of the Constitution found in Article I, Section 10 which states that “No state shall … pass any … law impairing the obligation of contracts.”

In my opinion after the crises cools, there must be a careful examination of the measures taken. This needs to be not just an examination of what worked and what didn’t but of what actions needlessly abridged the constitutional rights of citizens.

Some will accuse me of putting the observance of constitutional rights ahead of protecting citizens from the virus but that is not so. Contrary to the opinion of some the words of the Constitution are the guiding hand of our governance and must be honored even in times of crises. If we fail to do so we will defeat the virus but lose something of who and what we are as a nation.

Finally, to everyone out there: We will get through this crisis even those of us considered “old.” So, hang in there, and perhaps don’t watch too much news but of course read the OBSERVER, and when the “Sun passes over the yardarm” or whatever the expression is, have a sip of your favorite adult beverage.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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