COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER
“I’ve been framed (not)”
I’m seeing these “frames” appearing on more and more of my Facebook friends’ profiles and there’s a common theme:
Stay home – save lives
Stay home – stay safe
Stay home, stay home, stay home. I admit it bothers me a little. Maybe because somehow it reminds me of World War II Soviet propaganda posters.
Maybe I just don’t like being told what to do — and it seems to me especially inappropriate to command people to do or not do something as part of a picture that is supposed to represent you to your friends.
It’s not a very friendly message.
I guess I would feel differently if it said “I’m staying home and staying safe.” Hey, that’s your choice and your right. And if you want to tell the world what you’re choosing to do, I have no problem with that. I mean, the NRA frame says “I’m the NRA” — it doesn’t command you to join the NRA. The “I support our veterans” frame doesn’t command you to support our veterans. The “I love my sailor” frame doesn’t command you to love my sailor. Get the drift?
And maybe it wouldn’t rub me quite so much the wrong way if people weren’t being encouraged by some governors and mayors and regular citizens to report the people they see not staying home to the authorities so they can be “encouraged” to do so — through fines and jail if necessary. Yeah, this “tattle on your neighbors for doing perfectly normal and innocuous things” mentality doesn’t sit well with me.
Now, I know it’s very likely that the majority of those who slapped that frame on their profiles weren’t thinking they wanted to emulate Hitler. I’m guessing many of them did it for the same reason George Mallory climbed Mt. Everest: because it was there. Because other people were doing it. Because it seemed like the virtuous, supportive, we’re-all-in-this-together thing to do.
And hey, I’m not saying everyone doesn’t absolutely have the right to “wear” any frame on your profile picture that floats your boat. You do. And much as I dislike that particular frame, I would never, ever command you to not use it. Because just as I don’t like being told what to do, I also don’t like telling other people what do do. But it bothers me a little, nonetheless.
And maybe another reason it bothers me is because when I go to look at the available frames, I see a whole slew of “stay home” frames and I don’t see any that advocate opening up the country. I had to make my own. It would be nice if Facebook offered choices to those on both sides of the issue. But of course we already know which side Facebook is on — and we also know they tend to try to suppress the opinions of those who take stances opposite their own. Facebook removes posts promoting anti-quarantine protests.
Propaganda: information, especially of a biased nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
I guess my main concern with the “stay at home” propaganda (and that’s what it is) is the way it perpetuates the fear that the media, in furtherance of keeping people “tuning in,” and the government, as justification for keeping people under their iron control, have been fomenting throughout this good crisis that they would never let go to waste.
When did all our “fearless leaders” become so fearful, anyway? When did we as a people become so wimpy?
FDR was president of the U.S. during one of its most difficult times. He took office in the middle of the Great Depression, and arguably either saved the country from economic devastation or did irreparable harm to the country and the poor that has lasted for decades.
But whatever harm may have been done by his New Deal policies, he was a key figure in leading the Allied powers to eventual defeat of the Axis powers in World War II. And as much as I disagree with his social and economic programs, I will always admire him for uttering one sentence that lives on in history just surely as December 7th, 1941 lives in infamy:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
JFK wrote a book, back before he ran for president, called Profiles in Courage. He got a Pulitzer Prize for it. I was still a young child when I read it, but I remember how inspiring it was to read about the acts of bravery performed by eight different U.S. senators throughout history. And I’ll always remember him for this quote:
“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”
And yet here we are. We’ve surrendered our freedom and submitted to arbitrary, unproven, constantly changing edicts that we’re told are for our own protection. But each day brings new evidence that those measures are more about political power than public health. Are we no longer able to pay the cost of freedom — or is it just that not enough of us are willing?
Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.
— Winston Churchill
Fear, like the poor, will always be with us. Our reactions are automatic and out of our control. Our decisions aren’t. We can decide to deal with the fear in a way that doesn’t destroy us. So what in the world — and in the nation — happened here?
We as a country, along with most other nations of the world, seem to have been paralyzed by the fear of a virus. Some viruses are indeed very scary. But this is not a virus like rabies, from which only a handful of people with symptoms have ever recovered. It’s not a virus that’s like Ebola, with an average 50% fatality rate. We’re paralyzed by a virus that is much more similar to the flu. It’s a virus that’s being shown to be completely asymptomatic in a large percentage of those who contract it, a virus from which more than half a million people are known to have recovered as of April 18 and that has a fatality rate that’s likely to be far less than 1% (the CFR that Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted it would turn out to be, in his article Navigating the Uncharted in the New England Journal of Medicine in March.
We have allowed this fear (and make no mistake: it’s the fear, not the virus, that’s responsible) to force us to retreat into our homes, to retreat from the company of other people — including our most loved ones — and to retreat from life, from work, from school, from play, from friendship, from almost everything that makes human existence worthwhile.
We cannot advance against this virus, we cannot move forward to develop the herd immunity that’s necessary to defeat it, we cannot create the treatments to cure it, unless and until we get past the fear and stop letting it control us as individuals and as nations.
The ugly truth is this: all of us are afraid. Some are afraid of death from the virus and some are afraid of the loss of our rights and liberty and some are afraid of losing their jobs, homes, and financial security and some are afraid of losing their minds from the isolation. Whatever it is you’re afraid of, it’s okay to admit that you’re scared — but it’s time to face and conquer that fear.
“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
Courage isn’t about not being afraid. It’s about acting in spite of the fear. Hiding at home, terrified of a virus that very probably won’t kill you or even cause you serious illness is not what life is for.
P.S. I’m not suggesting that those who are vulnerable – those with health issues that make severity more likely – shouldn’t be isolated and protected. I’m not even suggesting that those who are young and healthy but cannot overcome their fears should be forced to leave their homes to go back to work and back to living their lives. I’m advocating for sensible precautions and freedom of choice. I’m advocating for the ideas that our founding fathers embedded in our governing documents. I’m advocating for the return of our personal freedom and responsibility to control our lives and our health. On an individual level, each of us should be free to decide to let the fear control our decisions or not. But on a municipal, state, and national level, those who make decisions that impact the rest of us should be acting out of logic and reason, not out of fear.