By Charlie Johnston
One of the things that has troubled me since this whole quarantine thing began is that one of the devil’s primary tools for damaging people is to isolate them. With much of the whole world now self-isolated, it can easily become the devil’s playground. Certainly, it has in some cases. I am utterly appalled at how many officials have assumed authoritarian power – and authoritarian power that has little relation to what is needed to navigate this trial.
I am utterly horrified at how many officials have shamelessly lied to leverage the crisis for more money or more influence. The old politician in me is baffled at how the establishment media and most of the Democratic Party could possibly think that playing Beavis and Butthead throughout the crisis is a good look for them that will pay long-term benefits. Democrats have constantly tried to leverage fear over the virus to try to enact their favored socialist policy enthusiasms. Holding people’s health hostage to accomplish what they can’t at the ballot box seems a striking brand of insanity to me. But even Democrats seem, at heart, to understand that this is not a winning play. Two high-level officials in their party have largely sought to deal responsibly with the crisis, putting the interests of their constituents first. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom have acted as serious, sober officials trying to manage a crisis. Now Democrats are frantically trying to figure out a way to draft Cuomo as their presidential nominee. It has not escaped my notice that they are looking to one of the few men in their party who has acted as a statesman rather than to one of the many Beavis’s in their ranks. I deeply disagree on most policy ideas of both Cuomo and Newsom, but they have acted as the great majority of officials acted in nobler times in this country – attacking the crisis on behalf of all their citizens rather than trying mainly to leverage it for partisan advantage. I think the cynicism of the philosophy of “never letting a crisis go to waste” is going to backfire mightily on Beavis and company.
Then we turn to Butthead, the establishment media. They are obviously and completely uninterested in finding and reporting information useful to getting through this crisis. In fact, they seem to gleefully cheer the crisis on – hoping that if enough Americans die or the economy is damaged enough it will hurt Donald Trump – all while sitting in the cocoon of their continuing paychecks. They routinely change positions on a dime, always guided by what is most likely to damage Trump. Just over a week ago, they were calling chloroquine a “false hope” purveyed cruelly by Trump. Now they are calling it a potential breakthrough and trying to pretend that Trump was not out in front on it. In a crisis that is novel, early positions do not matter as much as how a leader adapts to unfolding developments. Brit Hume posted video of Dr. Anthony Fauci minimizing the potential crisis on Jan. 21, not to discredit Fauci, but to demonstrate that it is a fool’s errand to demand that anyone have as much clarity of vision as a crisis unfolds as they will in hindsight. I hope that, when this ends, about 80 percent of the establishment media truly feel Americans’ pain by losing their jobs for having been such callous, deceptive low-lifes who reveled in Americans’ pain so long as they thought it could help them in their mad quest. They are so maliciously obsessed they make Captain Ahab and Inspector Javert look like the souls of moderation.
As it stands now, it has become clear that the Wuhan Virus is much more dangerous than a common cold or flu – but primarily to a targeted population. It is dramatically dangerous – and potentially fatal – to people who have other chronic conditions, such as a compromised immune system, diabetes, obesity and some other issues. Even older people generally seem to weather it well IF they do not have the other complicating factors. It is time to work diligently on how to re-open society and get the economy moving again, while enacting protocols to protect those cohorts which are most vulnerable to this. The service manager of an auto repair shop wrote a very nice piece on the real-world consequences to ordinary people of this shutdown.
I do not blame ordinary folks for obeying draconian rules, many of which were arbitrary and unnecessary. I do expect all of us, as this passes, to hold those leaders who exercised arbitrary power without reasonable cause, to account. Send them packing.
I don’t blame Bishops and religious leaders for shutting down services on the orders of secular authorities. I do expect them to prepare for a stand when many of those secular authorities, inevitably, try to use future crises to deny people freedom of religion and religious worship as a matter of ideological policy. Almost all the establishment media and many officials have thought this was a good excuse to act like China.
Yet if the devil seeks to first isolate many of those he would destroy, there is the old Russian concept of Poustinia. A Poustinia is a desert place where you go to meet the Lord, to contemplate Him, and to grow in holiness before Him. All the great prophets – and even Christ, Himself, went into the wilderness in preparation for their public ministry. The desert can be a place of madness and destruction or a place of growth into an iron faith and fortitude.
A few days ago, our commenter Victura made an absolutely inspired posting. Victura is a Priest in the upper Midwest. I have met him personally. I had the very good fortune of having him offer opening prayers at a presentation I gave a few years back. In order to keep us focused on living a Poustinia, rather than going to our destruction, I offer his comment in its entirety:
“I’ve been a priest for 22 years now, and one experience that has always amazed me is how the dying and the terminally ill are able to make decades of spiritual progress in a matter of months. A few examples: men who have struggled with ego all their lives who quickly find the grace of heartfelt humility; tight-fisted materialists who give away their possessions; entitled and privileged souls who discover the virtue of gratitude; some hardened by years of anger, who offer their heart’s forgiveness to those who have hurt them…all this they do within the span of months, or even weeks. Why such sudden progress? Because they suddenly see the truth of their human condition, and choose to act on the truth they see. The proximity of death drew a clear distinction between the things that matter, and the things that never did. However, I’ve seen some others who harden their hearts at the doorstep of death. Even faced with terminal illness, some refuse to discuss it, others sulk in a miasma of impenetrable sadness, and a few grow very angry. I remember one hospital visit in particular. The family of a terminally ill man had asked me to visit their loved one as he lay dying. As I approached his room, the man took sight of my Roman collar and asked, “are you a Catholic priest?” When I answered “yes,” he shouted aloud in a spine-chilling voice, “get out! GET OUT OF HERE!” What’s the difference between these two reactions? The difference is certainly not their circumstances. Rather, it’s the acceptance or denial of the truth of their condition. It reminds me of the two thieves who died side-by-side with Jesus on Good Friday. The good thief accepted his suffering, his mortality, and his place before God, and he repented. As Abp. Fulton Sheen used to say, “his very last theft was to steal paradise.” We don’t know what happened to the bad thief, but the last time we checked, things weren’t looking too good. None of us can control what might come from this crisis, but our sheer powerlessness makes our condition very much like the terminally ill, or a condemned criminal. I’m so grateful for the level-headed reasoning on this blog, now more than ever. What matters now is not what might happen next, but our faith-filled response to it. It’s a time to learn what Jesus meant when he said, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” Our faith and good cheer will be a fount of blessing much more for others than for ourselves. Did you know that many Roman pagans were converted to the faith when they witnessed the martyrdom of St Lawrence? Remember his faith and good cheer, how had the audacity to crack jokes as he was being grilled alive over an open flame? “You can turn me over now. I’m done on that side!” Even in a moment of torture, he was a sign of hope that brought salvation to many others. That is how we must act as well. Anything in life that makes mincemeat of our plans and brings us to our knees is a blessing in disguise, because it puts us face-to-face with the reality of ourselves, and of God’s providence. Forgive me all my rambling, but I see spiritual gold lying all over the face of the Earth right now, and we’d be fools not to simply bend over and take it.” – Victura
May this Palm Sunday be a Poustinia, a profound encounter with the living Christ for all of us.
(And yes, I did notice that the northern lights above the remote cabin look kind of like a squirrel-CJ)