“Paranoia Strikes Deep”* in 2020

By Jim Mullen
Emergency Management, Once Removed

The attention to a response to a major crisis can obscure a potentially more dangerous underlying threat.

The COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a national public health issue, which must be resolved before the national economy can be resuscitated and “normal” life can resume. But the reactions to the pandemic and the protective measures responsible government officials have taken has ripped the band aid off an even more diabolical threat to the stability of our country. A few of our fellow citizens seem to have concluded that the recommended protective measures suggest that governors are not willing to protect their “interests” which in their minds eclipse the interests of everyone else.

There are public officials who feed that paranoid view, claiming that governmental actions intended to minimize the spread of the pandemic encroach on the rights of others. But everyone has the right to be safe. Government’s highest calling is to preserve that safety. The “common good” is the central concept behind our social compact that we, as Americans, should honor.

Some county sheriffs cling to the sophomoric contention (apologies to sophomores, you are better than that!) that they are the senior law enforcement officials in the nation, as if 240 plus years of American governance through legislation never happened. Their “hands off” view of pandemic protection measures has appeal to white supremacists and outright anti -government radicals on the far right. And what I term the “trust deficit” leads many others to follow the path of blind political fundamentalism (sometimes disguised as religion) that regards the government as an enemy rather than a manifestation of our shared freedom to choose the direction of our nation.

Consider this: how huge a leap is it from refusing to honor and enforce existing laws to threatening to take up arms against the state or national government (which has and is happening), to refusing to accept election results?

The passions I refer to are not new: they have been with us since the inception of our democracy. But, the intensity of said passions has seldom been more dangerous. The security of our homeland cannot be left in the hands of law enforcers who decide which laws to enforce, or “moral leaders” who would jeopardize the lives of others during a pandemic for the sake of passing the collection plate; or even federal officials who choose to exploit combustible situations arising out of institutional racism, even when it is inescapably revealed on video. Can they possibly believe undermining our social compact, which includes freedom of speech, is good for their prospects?

We need to pay attention.

“There’s battle lines being drawn…*”

*(From “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Spingfield,1967)

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