Joy. Pure unadulterated joy.
This is what I felt on the first of June when I stepped into my favorite coffee shop here in Front Royal, Virginia and found all of the employees except one without face coverings. Gone were the bandanas and surgical masks, and for the first time in a year I could actually see their faces, their smiles, and their lips moving as they talked to one another and to the customers.
The same exultation swept through me when I shopped hours later in our local grocery store. Just a few days earlier, most shoppers and all the employees were wearing face coverings, but now most patrons and some employees had ditched the ubiquitous masks. I may have looked like a fool, but as I strolled through the store, I kept smiling and nodding at everyone I passed, getting smiles back, and feeling as happy as a man released from prison.
All this joy because Governor Ralph Northam relaxed some of the mask restrictions and COVID-related orders. But the Energizer Bunnies in our government never quit, and the more they keep going and pressing their agenda, the more questions of nefarious dealings arise, and the more we must ask ourselves how we will deal with such government encroachments in the future.
On my arrival home, I looked up the mandate regulating masks and safe distancing in Virginia, and found an 18-page document detailing requirements that applied to everything from campgrounds and sports events, to schools and overnight summer camps. If I’m interpreting these orders correctly, all K-12 students must wear masks while on school property. Employees at campgrounds must wear masks. At indoor shooting ranges employees “must” and patrons “should” wear face coverings, and the equipment should be periodically sanitized.
At the end of each section are these ominous words: “If any such business cannot adhere to these requirements, it must close.”
Near the end of this latest government directive is a list of exceptions to the mask requirements. My favorite was the notation regarding restaurants that the rules don’t apply “while eating or drinking.”
The past few weeks have brought evidence, in large part via Dr. Anthony Fauci’s emails, that much of what the “experts” told us about the pandemic was either guesswork or outright fabrication. There is doubt whether the masks worked at all. It’s beginning to be clear that COVID-19 originated in a laboratory rather than in a “wet” market, and worse, that the United States government had a hand in the research in that laboratory. It is clear as well, and has been since the beginning of the pandemic, that the Chinese Communist Party knew about the virus in Wuhan, yet continued to allow international flights out of that city, thereby spreading the virus worldwide.
We can’t even truly measure the effects of this disaster statistically. We don’t really know if COVID-19 deaths were accurately recorded. We will never be able to fully measure the costs of the lockdowns in terms of people who remained at home and so perished from untreated illnesses, those who became addicted to alcohol or drugs, or those who committed suicide. We will never gauge the cost to our young people in terms of their education and social development.
To many of us, it seems our government at both the state and federal level has made a royal mess out of this pandemic. “Follow the science!” was the battle cry in the war on COVID-19, but all too often power, politics, and money knocked science to the canvas. Many politicians and bureaucrats behaved like tyrants, trampling on First Amendment liberties without a qualm. The fearmongering of the press brought television networks higher ratings and advertising money. The attacks on drugs such as hydroxychloroquine for fighting COVID-19 were motivated in part by a visceral hatred for Donald Trump, which leaves us to wonder how many thousands of Americans died unnecessarily because of this gross and ugly prejudice. Meanwhile, some pharmaceutical companies are raking in billions from vaccines.
After all this time, so many questions remain unanswered. Why? Is it because those who instituted these policies fear being blamed for their bad decisions? Or are they afraid to surrender power, a heavy-handed control based on fear?
Next time this happens—and some of those in charge are counting on a next time—the rest of us must hope the American people will rebel. We must hope they will demand hard data and facts before slipping on masks or obeying the “experts.” We must hope that old dictum “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” rings true.
If faced with another such crisis—I’m betting on climate control and energy restrictions—and if we return to the path of obedience we have followed this past year without question or pause, we Americans will continue to make ourselves slaves and lose our freedom.
Some are counting on our subservience.
Let’s not give them that satisfaction.
Jeff Minick lives in Front Royal, Virginia, and may be found online at jeffminick.com. He is the author of two novels, Amanda Bell and Dust on Their Wings, and two works of non-fiction, Learning as I Go and Movies Make the Man.